The Inside Story from Italian Wine Merchants

Tasting Burgundy and Barolo with Their Makers

Experiential learning at its best

At IWM, we understand that most important thing we can do to help our clients make the right wine choices is to taste wine ourselves.  Our support staff is very good about making sure we taste the new wines that come through our cellar, and they’re are quick to crack a bottle so that we may answer the questions for ourselves.  But even more valuable is actually meeting with a winemaker and tasting several different bottles that they’ve produced. This allows us the maximum understanding of what the specific producer has to offer as well as an insight into specific vintages.

This month has been particularly special because we’ve had the opportunity to meet with two Burgundy winemakers, Jacques Lardier of Louis Jadot and Didier Seguier of William Fevre, as well as one of the most iconic Italian winemakers from Barolo, Guiseppe Rinaldi. In the case of the two Burgundian producers, we were able to taste between eight and ten wines from each of their respected domaines and then discuss the differences in the wines and in the houses.  In getting to know Burgundy, this kind of comparison could not be more valuable, for it is a region whose terroir is so specifically delimited that only someone who has spent years in all of these small vineyards can truly explain the differences between the wines each vineyard produces.

Our meeting with Guiseppe Rinaldi gave us a greater understanding of the work of this iconic Barolo producer.  This was his first visit ever to the United States, and we were able to sit in a room and listen to his thoughts on the region of Barolo, his wines, and most importantly, his vineyards. After gaining an understanding of his philosophy, I had the opportunity to taste several different vintages of his two Barolos. To taste the different vintages and see the difference based on the year is extremely though provoking.

Opportunities like these do not come around that often for most wine lovers, and we are fortunate that producers from estates like Louis Jadot, William Fevre, and Rinaldi come and visit us here at IWM.  It makes us feel like a crossroad in the wine world.  Of course, sharing our experience with our clients is the true reward, and if you are not familiar with the onsite events hosted by IWM then I recommend you come and join us.  You never know what you are going to learn, what you’re going to taste, or whom you’re going to meet.

A Weekend in Venice

Amarone and Birthday Cake

I recently went to Venice to celebrate being a year older and to eat well, drink well, and smile a lot—and I did just that. My family and I enjoyed culture, pigeons, and boats , including a splendid Gondola ride on Sunday morning after brunch. It was my third visit to this magical city, though I found it to be my favorite, not only for the time of year, but also for the simplicity of it all.

Venice tends to bring out my melancholic side as I remember what the city once meant to me when I was once single, wearing a very costly rented, romantic Renaissance dress like a total modern Cinderella and celebrating Carnevale nightlife among friends at an elegant 1920s themed party in a glorious palace along the Bridge of Sighs. I also remember it for the time I escaped from Verona’s VinItaly to Venice via train. I traveled  there and back to eat one magical dinner that started with a Bellini and ended with fegato (a typical dish of Venice) at Harry’s Bar, the original Cipriani Downtown “authentic Italian style” restaurant, to give a frame of reference for New Yorkers.

But this time it was different. I was accompanied by my beautiful daughter, Aurelia Costanza, and my Italian husband, Luca. I found simplicity strolling the streets of Venice with a map, looking at the architecture and churches off the beaten path by day, and indulging in spectacular Venetian dishes by night. My husband thankfully had an inside connection with Do Forni Ristorante through a close friend from Cittadella, a town close to Padova, so we had a very warm welcoming. My birthday present was a gorgeous bottle of 1998 Quintarelli Amarone Della Valpolicella. It was a lovely experience to have those flavors of rich, vibrant fruit unfold layer by layer as I savored each moment of delight. And it was symbolic to receive a bottle of Quintarelli as a birthday present because both the bottle and I are looking forward to getting better with age.

I preach the idea of simplicity, but really living this idea of wine-like life grows complicated in this modern world. The idea is this: as with a bottle of wine, you open it, live it, and enjoy it, no matter where you are, or when, and you let yourself drink deeply of love and happiness.


Go-To-Wine Tuesday

Carlo Hauner Salina Bianco 2010

Carlo Hauner is a man of many talents and proof that art and wine have more in common than people may think.  As a young man, no more than twenty years of age; Carlo was a painter of sorts and received international recognition for his designs.  As he matured, he traveled to the Aeolian Islands where his artistry melded with the grapes of Salina.  Carlo began experimenting with the Malvasia grape, joining the traditional methods with his own innovative techniques.

Today Carlo Hauner’s son runs the estate producing wines that are reflective of the island and the creativity once honed by Carlo himself.  Each of his wine label exhibits a reproduction of one of his art works.  The vibrant colors and bold interpretations are nothing more than a reflection of the wine inside.

I was able to try the Carlo Hauner Salina Bianco 2010.  The wine is a vibrant straw-yellow color and expresses notes of citrus and exotic fruit.  It is bursting with flavor on the palate and lingers slightly with a soft, crisp finish.  Served slightly colder than other wines, this is the perfect wine for the start of spring


A Lovely Book Review from Orlando

When good reading, good wines, and good people come together

One of our IWM friends, whose blog we’ve linked before, has written a lovely review of IWM Founder Sergio Esposito’s memoir, Passion on the Vine. He writes:

Sergio Esposito’s Passion on the Vine (Broadway Books 2008) is a funny, intriguing, thought-provoking, multi-layered discourse weaved around and through the central themes of the book: memories, food, wine, and family.  Esposito, the Founder and CEO of Italian Wine Merchants, sought to provide readers with an “intimate and evocative” memoir of his experiences living in Italy and the U.S.A. and his travels back to the old country as a part of his wine business.  The book more than delivers.

We love hearing from the people who really know wine, who really have passion for it, and who really understand what we try to do at IWM: celebrate the ways that wine brings people together. We hop you’ll take the time to read this review and comment!

Meeting the Great Beppe Rinaldi

When winemakers make all the difference

The buzz at Italian Wine Merchants in recent weeks has been all about Giuseppe Rinaldi. With a winemaker dinner featuring Rinaldi this Tuesday night and an exclusive offer going out on these iconic Barolos, we were so excited for  opportunity to finally meet the man responsible for these legendary wines, Giuseppe (“Beppe”) Rinaldi himself. Despite his Barolo being imported into the United States since the 1970’s, last week marked Beppe’s first ever visit to the US. Just shortly after arriving in NY, Beppe stopped by the IWM office to take a few moments to speak to the staff about his winemaking philosophies, giving us all increased insight into a wine we’ve stood behind for many years.

Taking pride in the family winery that is now in its fifth generation, Beppe makes wines that represent his true traditionalist spirit. Straying away from the “modernist” techniques of crafting with the objective of softening tannins, deepening color and appealing to a more vast palate, Beppe remains true to his family’s history and maintains the techniques his elders believed in. Possessing a cellar almost entirely filled with Slovenian oak for wine aging, he maintains that there is certainly no barrique allowed. While speaking with us, Beppe playfully emphasized his traditional beliefs by quoting his late cousin Bartolo Mascarello saying, “No Barriques, no Berlusconi.”

Rinaldi’s wines have very low production with less than 4.5 hectares of vineyards located in primarily the Barolo and La Morra communes. Similar to his cousin, Bartolo, Beppe believes in blending these different vineyards at various elevations in order to maintain a balance in his wines. As a result, Rinaldi bottles two Barolos, one consisting of grapes from the Cannubi-San Lorenzo-Ravera vineyards, and another from the Brunate-Le Coste vineyards.

Following Beppe’s visit to IWM, a small group of us headed out East to a reception at the warehouse of Rinaldi’s importers, Vinifera, where we reveled in a twelve-year vertical of Rinaldi’s two Barolos. We began with the 2006 vintages of Rinaldi’s both bottlings and finished with a 1994 Brunate. The wines showed true elegance, balance and depth with soft fruit flavors and sea mineral notes. (I personally elected the 1999 Brunate as my favorite of the evening; it’s just beginning to show more mature notes of fruit and tar, and it was a voluptuous wine with perfect integration.)

This week the Rinaldi energy continues as we welcome Beppe’s daughter, Marta Rinaldi, to IWM on Tuesday night for a special dinner event. And while the buzz around the office will inevitably slow down when the dinner is over, the excellence of Rinaldi’s wines never will.

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