With autumn around the corner and the real red wine drinking season ahead of us, the time is coming to open all of those amazing bottles everyone has been waiting for. Be it an upscale Barolo or an everyday Barbera, the winds of change are here and we move with those changes as we do each year. There is something fantastic about the wines of Piemonte, as with Burgundy, is simply magical and the reason why we keep going back to this region for our daily dose of wine buying. The great and most famed wines are Dolcetto, Barbera, Nebbiolo, Barbaresco and Barolo. There are many others, but people know these best and today I want to share a perfect pair with you; a Barbera and a Barolo from two of my favorite producers.
Giulio Pastura spearheads the operation at San Giuliano, keeping the traditions his grandfather instituted several decades ago. Although the San Giuliano estate is best known for their affordable yet excellent Barbarescos, their Barberas are not to be missed! With vines of nearly 60 yrs of age, this single vineyard Fiore di Macorino is a wine displaying silky tannins, ripe fruit and spice. It’s a beautiful wine to have on any occasion.
From the King of Barolo himself, the cuvée Barolo of Aldo Conterno is second to none at this price. After leaving his father’s estate and opening his own winery in the late 1960s, Aldo ventured around the region looking for the perfect way to showcase the greatness of Barolo through the beauty of the Nebbiolo grape. Through many different bottlings, small corrections in traditional practices and a strict selection, Poderi Aldo Conterno estate delivers some of the best Barolo’s available. This is a wine that can be enjoy now or with some cellar aging later. The ripe Poderi Aldo Conterno Barolo 09 is a delightful vintage with loads of supple fruit. This beauty will not disappoint!
With fall in the air, nothing excites me more then the thought of all the little joys fall has to offer—pumpkin spice, apple cider, oversized sweaters, the changing of autumn leaves, and, of course, delicious red wines. This Sunday I will be hosting a small brunch at my place for about 4-5 people and I’m thinking about the most important part: the cocktail of choice! I decided to go with sangria! Sangria is typically thought of as a hot-weather drink, so when the cold sets in it is often forgotten about. Which is why I’m thinking about spicing it up and trying it out. The recipe I selected is one I’ve adapted from the food blog My Life as a Missus, and it looks delicious!
Spiced Apple Cider Sangria:
1 bottle of wine
2 cups spiced apple cider (you can make your own by steeping cider with cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, ginger and cloves, or you can buy it already made)
1/2 cup orange juice
1/2 cup brandy
2 apples, sliced (pears are also good)
1 lemon, sliced
Mix these ingredients in a large pitcher and let them steep for a few hours. You can serve this sangria cold, room-temperature, or even slightly warm, depending on the weather!
I’ve chosen to make a Spiced Apple Cider Sangria because It’s simple, flavorful, and full of everything thing that screams “fall.” The sweet apple cider is perfectly spiced with the flavors of autumn, and when coupled with the warmth of the brandy and the earthy, dry flavor of the wine, this drink makes you want to bundle up and get cozy on a Sunday. Some options from our cellar at IWM for the red wine would be my three of my favorites, listed below. These bottles are great everyday drinking wines or also as amazing in mixed cocktails. On a side note I think it is important when making this kind of wine cocktail to use a wine of quality. Many times when ordering this beverage out, the establishment might opt for a cheaper wine; in my opinion, it should be wine that is best for everyday drinking. All these wines I have selected are inexpensive and all range under $30.
I always get excited when I see Aldo Conterno’s wines in our database. As one of the top producers in the region and one our core Barolo producers, Aldo Conterno is a producer you need to know about. From his cult Chardonnay Bussiador to his flagship Granbussia Barolo, Aldo’s wines hit all price points and palates.
This is a sexy and charming Chardonnay bursting with flavor, aromatics and succulence. The impeccable balance between fruit, oak, acid and minerality keeps this wine in extremely high demand. Those who know Chardonnay Bussiador know what I am talking about, and those who don’t need to see for themselves. There is a huge following around this wine as this is basically as good as Chardonnay gets in Piemonte.
This entry-level Barolo is one of the best out there. Made from 20-25 year old vines, this wine has a juicy and plump character, soft tannins and impeccable balance for a 2009. Looking for a Barolo to drink now from an iconic producer? Look no further!
For part one of Robin Kelley O’Connor’s series exploring Brunello di Montalcino, go here.
Few wine-lovers question that the wines of Brunello di Montalcino are the most illustrious manifestation of Sangiovese–but what makes this region so special? With the hilltop town of Montalcino serving a sits center, the region lies about 70 miles from Florence and just 20 miles southwest of Siena, and while the municipality of Montalcino surface area is 60,000 acres, only 15 percent of that is dedicated to the vine. This stunning area has breathtaking geographic features—rivers, mountains, precipitous hillsides, and ancient sea-beds, to name a few. Four rivers form a big square around Montalcino, with Ombrone, Asso, Arbia and Orcia binding its sides as well as running through it. To the south of the region is Mount Amiata at over 5,000 feet, which is a protective force against unwanted cloudburst and hailstorms. And all around hills rise and drop like notes in an aria.
Montalcino’s climate is typically Mediterranean and, in fact, as the crow flies it’s only 25 miles from the sea. The region is very hilly with many vineyards planted at fairly high altitudes, anywhere from 400 to over 2,000 feet above sea level, but most of the terrain is covered by forest with olive groves and other crops. Most of the rain comes in the spring and late fall, making the region fortunate to have generally consistent weather, particularly for the flowering of the vine in late May early June, with hot dry summers, but not too hot, moderate evenings that give the Sangiovese grapes 100 days after flowering an important opportunity for optimum ripening.
Historically speaking, Montalcino is one of Tuscany’s youngest wine-growing regions. It wasn’t until 1888 that Clemente Biondi-Santi of Tenuta Il Greppo bottled his first wine as Brunello di Montalcino, and by 1929 the region only had 2,300 acres under vine. Growth came fast; in 1960 there were eleven producers but by 2006 there were 230. During this same time period, the vineyard area expanded to nearly 30,000 acres under vine—a growth spurt of more than ten times! Brunello di Montalcino received a DOC, Denominazione di Origine Controllata, in 1966, and in 1980, along with Barolo, it became the first DOCG,.
Rules for producing Brunello share a standard for all production: the wines have to be made from 100% Sangiovese Grosso (aka Brunello), with a maximum yield of 9 tons to hectare (2.47 acres)—maximum yields are 55 hectoliters per hectare. The wines need to spend a least two years in wood and an additional four months in bottle (six months for the Riservas). Brunello can go on sale the first of January of the fifth year following the harvest (or sixth year for the Riservas). Rosso di Montalcino is also made from 100% Sangiovese Grosso, with maximum yields of 9 tons to hectare; the wines do not have to be age in wood (it’s optional) and they’re allowed to go on sale the first day of September on the year following the harvest.
One of the hot button topics among the producers is whether to divide the region into a series of sub-zones. The thought process is that creating a map of sub-zones, similar to the appellation system in Burgundy, will help the consumer better understand differences between the wines from different areas. Proponents believe the Conzorzio del Vino Brunello di Montalcino, Brunello producers’ governing body, should map the regions sub-zones and define the styles of the varying micro-terroirs; a division of twenty are under consideration. The proponents could see an almost Grand Cru style system being created.
On the other side of the debate are those winemakers who say that this division would never give the complete information within a single geographic sub-zone. They argue that this information would be too hard to navigate because of the different altitudes, messo-climates, and sun exposures. In short, they worry that division would create needless confusion for consumers, and rather than help wine-lovers understand the wine they love even better, it would be helpful to no one.
This debate rages on. Whatever the outcome, we are all lucky to have great Brunello di Montalcino and Rosso di Montalcino at our fingertips. We’ll be certain to keep you updated as the question of whether or not to create sub-zones comes to its conclusion.
There are a few producers whose wines, when tasted for the first time, make a resounding impact in your memory. For whatever reasons, the first sip of this wine will transform you into a devout follower, and it becomes a label that you’re excited to tell all of your friends about. “Hey,” you find yourself saying, “Have you ever tasted __________? No? You have to try this wine.”
For me, these wines often come from producers of Sangiovese, and I’ve experienced this kind of jaw-dropping beauty in wines by Gianfranco Soldera, Poggio di Sotto, and today’s pic, Montevertine. I remember the first time I tasted Le Pergole Torte my exact thoughts were “What…is…this?” Up until that point I had never tasted Sangiovese that achieved that level of complexity, precision, and finesse. I’d have to say Le Pergole strongly contends for a spot in my top five Tuscan wines and it is without a doubt one of the world’s elite wines.
Montevertine is located in Radda, one of the coolest and highest points in Chianti Classico. The estate was founded by Sergio Manetti in the 1970s and, at the time, regulations required that white grapes be blended into the wines of the region. Sergio was so avidly against this that he chose not to label his wines as Chianti Classico so that he could make his wine the way he wanted to—with a focus on superior Sangiovese. Today, I’ve chosen two wines from Montevertine, the estate’s value-conscious beauty, Pian del Ciampolo, and its flagship, Le Pergole Torte.
(Tuscany – Sangiovese, Colorino, Canaiolo)
Pian del Ciampolo is Montevertine’s entry-level wine, but don’t even think for a second that it is “entry” quality. The Sangiovese used in this wine comes from the same vineyards where the grapes for the flagship Le Pergole are sourced, just blended with a dab of Colorino and Canaiolo. This is a great introduction to the Montevertine style and line-up.
(Tuscany – Sangiovese)
From the moment you stick your nose into the glass this wine captivates. Cherry/red fruits, roses, spices, and herbs are some of the aromas and flavors which follow through to fine tannins, vibrant acidity, in a medium-full body and a finish that you wish would never end.
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