The Inside Story from Italian Wine Merchants

Exercises in Enjoyment

Reading the signs of satisfaction

There is a moment we are trained to watch for.  It ranges from a split second to full minutes.  It can reveal itself in sound, in motion, in words – sometimes it can be nothing except a widening of the eyes, a relaxation in the shoulders, a tilt of the head.  I am speaking, of course, of genuine enjoyment.  Reading people is a big part of what we do when we’re selling wine.  We use our knowledge and expertise to lead our clients to producers and vintages that will draw from them a deep sense of satisfaction.

The nature of enjoyment is a very personal thing and we all experience as well as express it differently, but I’ve found there are some common instinctive traits that can reveal the true impression of a particular experience.  When it comes to tasting wine, there is often more to be learned from body language and facial expressions than in a verbal descriptive analysis.

A few days ago, when our shipments of 1999 and 2000 Case Basse di Soldera Brunello di Montalcino arrived, management called us all down to the Studio del Gusto to acquaint ourselves with the vintages.  We stood and sipped and discussed the attributes of each, and though I could hear the words excitedly pouring from the mouths of my colleagues, I didn’t really discern their meaning.  All I could hear were warm tones of appreciation and time seemed momentarily suspended as the energy in the room became buoyant.  Eyelids lowered to half squints, there was much gesticulating and wide smiles.  A few people became over animated, others became still as stone.  Awash in this sea of expressive stimuli, I found myself marveling in the individual reactions on display.

Soldera, of course, has the capacity to please the most discerning wine aficionados, and it’s practically guaranteed to put an “O” on their face.  With more reasonable every day wines, the job of discerning enjoyment becomes much more of a poker like experience.  No matter the wine, whoever the person, very day here at IWM we study and taste and talk in order to discover and explore as many ways to please you as possible.  And if you doubt our sincerity, just take a good look at our faces.

A Tasting with Burgundy’s Joseph Drouhin

How hard work makes for high quality

IWM sometimes offers wines from areas outside of Italy for our Cellar Selections and Investor Club clients. This post takes a look at one of the producers of a recent offering, Drouhin-Laroze from Burgundy. If you’re interested having access to these offerings, go here for more information.

Wednesday, we had the great fortune of meeting with a fantastic and historical producer from Burgundy, Domaine Joseph Drouhin. Laurent Drouhin, the founder’s great grandson, director of the US market, came to tell us a bit about their philosophy and to give us the opportunity taste some wines. I wanted to highlight a few key points that I think really differentiate this estate from others in the region. (Here’s a blog post from Francesco that looks at the region of Burgundy itself.)

Joseph Drouhin shows a commitment to showcasing the natural terroir of Burgundy and its appellations. In order to do this, they have been practicing organic viticulture and recently got certified as organic, making them the largest estate in Burgundy to be certified. They also use biodynamic growing methods in some of their vineyards. Laurent explained that by being “organic you’re feeding the soil, otherwise you’re feeding the roots.” The difference is that you want to make the soil rich so that the vines dig deep and search for the nutrients and get the essence of the land, whereas if you feed the roots directly they don’t have to try and develop less flavor.

Not only is Joseph Drouhin organic, but they are also family run. This makes a big difference, because they don’t have to make decisions based on making money for the shareholders. Laurent emphasized that the estate’s reputation was on the line in every single bottle that went out to the market because their family name is right on the label. A great example of this is how in 2004 they declassified their Clos de Mouches and mixed it with their Cote de Beaune because there was a hailstorm that rendered the grapes sub-par to the norm for Clos de Mouches. An estate with shareholders could feel pressure to make a different decision that privileges money over quality.

60% of the wines that Joseph Drouhin produces are either Premier or Grand Cru, and if you remove their Chablis wines from the total, that percentage rises to 90%. Consider those percentages with the knowledge that only 1.6% of wines produced in Burgundy are Grand Cru, and you’ll see an estate with a commitment to producing quality wines. Even further, this estate goes so far as to choose their own trees to find wood for their wine barrels and aging that wood for three years at their facility before giving it to a cooper to craft the barrels themselves.

The wines that we had speak for themselves; they were amazing. However, it’s important to remember the context of how Joseph Drouhin made them and the effort the estate put into creating them. It’s breathtaking to consider, and it’s reflected in the taste of these Burgundies. I’m happy that Joseph Drouhin do what they do, and I am excited to be able to share with you my experience and help you in finding wines I know you’ll love.

Vino 2011 and the Future of Italian Wine

Our own Sergio Esposito takes on the heady topic of taking Italian wine forward

Vino 2011, the third annual Italian Wine Week conference that both celebrates and promotes Italian wines, concluded yesterday. The conference held multiple seminars and press conferences, and our Founder, Sergio Esposito, appeared on two panels. The second, held yesterday, took on the heady topic of the future of Italian Wine. Fortunate for those of us who weren’t able to attend, Vinography: A Wine Blog has posted a transcript of the talk.

Here’s a brief excerpt of what Sergio had to say about his history with–and future for–Italian luxury wines:

In 1997 I walked around a New York with a plan in my hands to build an Italian-only wine store that would cater only to collectors and sell only at the highest price points and I was laughed out of so many offices. People said, “There aren’t that many good Italian wines. The collectors will block what you’re doing. They want blue chip French.” I guess it was the little Neapolitan kid in me that just kept swinging.

Now I’ve been walking around town for two years with an idea for a wine investment fund for only Italian wines. I’ve had a slightly better reception. People are now looking at wine as an asset, and perhaps, for the first time at Italian wines as an asset.

When we speak about Italian wines, we root for italy, and we root for the South, and we root for the inexpensive. That’s what we champion. Italy will always hold that market. The way we Italians eat and drink every day is about fairly priced and honest wine that will please you.

Go here to read the remainder of Sergio’s talk–along with those of his co-panelists, wine industry consultant Jon A. Fredrickson; CEO and Founder of Winebow, Leonardo LoCascio; Cristina Mariana-May, proprietor of Banfi wineries; Dr. Vino blogger Ty Colman; and the moderator, Elin McCoy, wine columnist for Bloomberg News. It’s pretty interesting stuff if you’re interested in Italian wine, and if you’re reading Inside IWM, you probably are.

Five Questions with Perry Porricelli

A few thoughts on wine, women and song

Perry Porricelli, the President of Italian Wine Merchants, is a mysterious and insightful gentleman, whom I’ve had the pleasure of working with for several months now. I’ve seen how he educates others about wine and his style appears very carefree, yet his ideas and clarifications are calculated and distinct. In order to understand him further, I asked him several personal questions about wine. The responses I received further support my beliefs that Perry is an honest and passionate man. I hope you find his responses as inspiring and intriguing as I did.

Me: Let’s talk a little bit about your own personal cellar. Imagine it’s on fire, and you only have time to grab three bottles of wine. What are they?

Well I would say it would have to say one would be a bottle of Soldera. I would take any vintage, but if I had time to search, I’d choose the 1990. Next I would grab a Monfortino, ideally the 1996. Finally, I’d have to take a bottle of Aldo Conterno Granbussia 1989.

Me: If you had to attribute a bottle of wine to these people, what would it be? A) Robert Plant B) Your wife C) Barack Obama

For Robert Plant I would definitely choose a Valentini Montepulciano. This wine has such a cult-like following and Robert Plant has this mysterious aura following him. As for my wife, she has always had a great talent for appreciating old wines. I would have to giver her a Mascarello 1982. If I attempted to give her a newer wine we would immediately have an issue. She’s just unique like that, she gets the older wine like few people do. As for Barack Obama, he might as well have something good. He has to carry so much on his shoulders. He deserves no less than Soldera (any vintage he wants).

Me: You have a trademark cool, but something makes you really, really angry. What is it?

There isn’t much that makes me angry, but it does upset me when people ask me if a wine from our selection is good. My partner Sergio puts so much effort into selecting each wine in our cellar. Each wine is the best it can be and offers the best expression of the grape. The only way one of the wines could be “bad” is if it is corked and you cant help if a wine is corked.

Me: You get to share a bottle of wine with any historical figure, living or dead. Who’s the person and what’s the wine?

I would have to say Eric Clapton. He is so good at what he does and he is one of the artists that is always on my iPod. My son James, who is a budding guitarist, plays several of his songs and finds him to be a great inspiration. He has been through so much, drugs, personal issues, and yet he always rises above. Even though he doesn’t drink much anymore, if he were to indulge one night I would crack open one of the three bottles I chose to save from my burning cellar. He deserves the best that I have and I would love to get his opinion on them.

Me: So sorry, but you’ve been condemned to death. What’s your last meal?

I would have to say Kevin, our chef’s, amatriciana along with short ribs, and some turbot. I wouldn’t say no to some truffles either, but really – I’m a simple kind of guy.

Me: What three qualities do you look for in a woman? In a man? And in a bottle of wine?

I really appreciate honesty in a woman, no matter what. I like a woman that has some substance. A woman is like a piece of artwork – it’s very important the way she presents herself. It doesn’t matter what she wears, but how she holds herself. A woman can look great in a t-shirt and jeans if she feels good and portrays who she is. As long as a woman shows up the way she wants to I like it. The same is true for wine. A wine should never try to be something it’s not. While women are more of an art form than men, I appreciate honesty in them as well, but most importantly they need to know their limitations.

Pairing Wine and Pop

A post from another blogger

We love it when people write about having good experiences with us. This post comes from a blog called vino/stereo, and it mostly talks about wine and music, two of our favorite pleasures. Here’s what  the writer had to say:

A co-worker of mine introduced me to the amazing Italian Wine Merchants for the first time, about a month ago; and we were so intrigued by the salesman’s pitch of the 1996 Rocche dei Manzoni Bricco Manzoni that we both bought a bottle on the spot.

Do you remember the fruit snack “Gushers”? Do they sill make them? Well, this is how I’d always imagined them tasting, yet in wine formation (and not as sappy sweet).

And then she continues on to make a musical pairing for the Bricco Manzoni. It’s so delicious that I don’t dare to ruin it by blurting it out. Just click on the link and hear it for yourself.

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