The Inside Story from Italian Wine Merchants

It’s the Season for Summer Wines (That will Surprise)

Light and refreshing isn’t the only way to go

Unusual summer wines, but great for the grill

To celebrate the summer, IWM is focusing on bringing in wines that are a reflection of the season. One of them, specifically Rosé, is generally a style of wine that gets dismissed too  easily, but all wine should be treated equally, even if they are pink! One thing that I require from my summer wines is that pair very well with an assortment of foods.  You can’t beat crisp whites and elegant reds to beat the heat, but I heard that today is National Pink Day, so I also wanted to give you some of my favorite Rosés in honor of that distinction.

While summer isn’t the only time to enjoy lighter wines, it definitely gets you in the mood for wine’s more delicate and refreshing nature. Here are a few of my personal favorites, and ones that I don’t hesitate to recommend to my clients (or to pick up for myself and my own summer celebrations):

Domaine Vouette et Sorbée Cuvee Rosé Saignée de Sorbée NV

  • The reaction our clients have given us when pouring this Champagne have been unbelievable.  Made with 100% Pinot Noir, this is more of a full-bodied and savory bubbly that you can pair with mushroom risotta or grilled salmon and is the perfect accompaniment to a Sunday brunch!

Artadi Artazuri Rosado 2010

  • Artadi is Spain’s hottest winery these days.  Spanish Rosé tends to be very fruit driven and soft due to the use of Tempranillo. The hot  weather contributes to the suppleness of this wine.  Pair with a tuna and tomato salad for a treat!

Chateau Musar Jeune Rosé 2009

  • Who has ever even heard of a fine wine from Lebanon?  This is something you have to experience with yourself! Savory and chewy with rounded acidity this will pair wonderfully with cured meats and fresh cheeses.

Gilbert Picq Chablis 2009

  • Chablis is the ultimate summer white.  Vibrant, crisp and extremely refreshing on the palate, these wines reach new heights when paired with a cold seafood platter!

Montevertine Rosso 2007

  • This is the wine you should be drinking all year, never mind the summer!  I can’t begin to explain how balanced and smooth this wine is.  Only at 13% alcohol, this red won’t weigh you down, but don’t be fooled, this wine has some serious flavor that flows on a backbone of silky-smooth tannins.  Not to be missed!  Perfect for that pasta dish and grilled fare.

I also think its too cliché to drink only “light and refreshing “ wines in the summer.  Bottom line is that if you have a excellent bottle of wine, it is going to be enjoyable any time of year.  Heck as long as you have good A/C, you can drink all the Amarone and Super Tuscans you want!

True Love/Tiffany Blue/Italian Wine

A match made in wine heaven

Just in case you missed the ongoing coverage of these blog posts (we’ve been updating them on our Twitter and our Facebook pages), here’s a one-stop spot about our recent venture with Tiffany & Co. and their “What Makes Love True” initiative. To kick off “What Makes Love True,” a digital guide to romance built for the web and for smartphones, Tiffany hosted an event that toured romantic locales around Manhattan–including the IWM Vintage Tasting room. Tiffany invited a group of gorgeous, chic and altogether charming high-end bloggers, who wrote beautiful posts about their experience.

Here’s a recap:

Stylite was impressed with our food, especially our salmon and our fresh mozzarella.

Second City Style was also wowed by our mozzarella, and they gave props to our Vintage Tasting room. The many pictures on this site makes it a visual treat.

Upping the photo ante is The Lovely 20s, who features two of our favorite sommeliers.

The Examiner calls our food “scrumptious.” We are inclined to agree.

NAAG is impressed with Movia’s Puro, despite having to wait and watch the operatic opening of this unusual sparkler.

And finally, this Facebook page for “What Makes Love True” offers a highly interactive recap for the event.

Thanks to all who attended, and we look forward to all of you popping the question in our Vintage Tasting Room. Just not all at once, please, the room seats only four couples.

The Storybook Heritage of Paolo Bea’s Sagrantino

Making a wine come alive

Wine professionals and wine drinkers alike always wrestle with the realities of wine and production. Sometimes the industry, in the pursuit of a numerical standard, seems to be trying to eliminate the personal connection we all enjoy from wine appreciation. I guess the thought is if we make ourselves numb to the story of a wine we can let the wine speak for itself. However, there’s no innate value to wine without personal experiences. I feel that the proper collecting of great wines demands that my clients know what I call the “storybook” of a wine. They must know the philosophies and the history behind the winemaker, estate, region, and varietals in that bottle. Without that knowledge, we lose the pleasures associated with how wine affects our body and our mind. Wine stimulates us sensorial in a way that can transport our minds to times in the past, or remind of us of the culture and ways of a people.

One producer who continuously inspires me and illustrates why I chose to work in the wine industry is Paolo Bea. In my eyes his storybook elevates his wines, which already speak for themselves. Paolo Bea is an elder of Montefalco, Umbria and specializes in a lesser-known full-bodied red grape – Sagrantino. This varietal is shrouded in mystery. Few people can agree where it originates; some theorize that it was brought by colonizing Greeks, while others believe the Franciscan Friars brought plantings to Umbria, and a third group believes it was brought from the Middle East directly by St. Francis of Assisi for use in sacramental ceremonies. Whoever is correct, Sagrantino has had a long history in Italy that is rooted culturally in Montefalco, Umbria. This little hilltop town benefits both from the Mediterranean heat of central Italy, but it also receives the cooling breezes of the Apennine Mountains, which preserve the subtle aromatics behind layers of ripe fruit. Part of what makes Sagrantino even more valuable is that Montefalco is the only place in the world where Sagrantino is traditionally grown. Only 250 acres total are planted in the DOCG zone, and yet there have been few producers who have championed its nuances.

Paolo Bea essentially stands alone in his ability to create a traditional Sagrantino, and his wines are the hardest to locate of all Sagrantino producers, due in large part to the  small scale of his operation. Of his five-hectare farm, three hectares are dedicated to Sagrantino, where Paolo Bea (now in his seventies) organically produces his wine by hand alongside his two sons Giuseppe and Giampiero. The deep, rich Sagrantinos of Bea’s family have an aging potential that is in line with the likes of Nebbiolo grapes of Barolo, and they need five to seven  years of age before they enter an early drinking phase; in the long term have up to 20 to 30 years of age potential within the bottle. As could be expected form such age-ability, a Paolo Bea Sagrantino is deeply tannic and masculine, showing a plum and ruby color in the glass. Without filtering or fining you can expect this wine to throw some sediment as it ages.

Luckily for all of IWM’s clients, we are receiving a small allocation of Paolo Bea 2005 Sagrantino di Montefalco Pagliaro at our NYC cellar this month. I am looking forward to opening a few bottles with my closer clients and spreading the word about this lesser known red varietal. Traditional grapes like Sagrantino and reflective, passionate producers like Paolo Bea amplify the pleasure of drinking heritage wine and showing the connectivity we all share to a cultured past. Without knowing that storybook how can we truly appreciate the rarity and quality of Bea’s Sagrantino, as well as the benefit IWM gives in making such premier wines all the more accessible.

Go-To-Wine Tuesday

Bruna Pigato Le Russeghine 2009

Highlighted by the Russeghine vineyard on the steep terraces that rise out of the Mediterranean, Riccardo Bruna’s native Pigato is a one-stop shop for your summer drinking wine.  Normally when I consider Italian whites, Pinot Grigio, Verdicchio, Ribolla Gialla come to mind, but after pulling Pigato’s cork, they’ll have to take a backseat for a while, at least. I really fell in love with this Bruna Pigato Le Russeghine 2009.

Although I have tasted this wine many times before, I found particular enjoyment in this glass, which I drunk while I was cleaning my apartment.  My Swiffer shuffle was interrupted by a moment of profound conscientiousness.  “Wait.  What is this wine again?”  Right.  Pigato.  I began to recall memories of my trip to Liguria where I rented a house with some friends along the coast.  I was much younger then (and far less interested in wine), but at that particular time, I was having the best time of my life. This wine is slightly viscous, with meyer lemon and citrus on a palate, a very refreshing salinity and long finish.  The nose is packed with white flowers, citrus, and sweeping saltwater mist. It smacks of Liguria.

And so I continued to dust the surfaces of my kitchen counter-tops and followed my wet dust-ridden mop into the bedroom with a big smile with hopes that someday down the road I might pick up a glass of wine and recall my young life in New York and what a great thought that will be.

Every Winery is the Same (Except for When It’s Not)

On producers, individuality, animus and wine

It was the best of wineries, it was the worst of wineries. I lost count of how many wineries I visited during my four-month stay in Italy. So many giant wooden vats, so much red tile, so many labeling machines, so much endless vines stretching off as far as my sometimes tired eyes could see. In many ways, every winery is exactly like every other winery. They all have that winey-dark smell and that winey-dark dark. They all have vats and hoses. They all have some large, always wooden, often rustic, tasting table. They all have plaques and awards, and their owners are almost always happy to point out their label maker.

Wine producers, or those giving the tours, have a tendency to offer up the same kinds of facts in the same order. Visit enough wineries, and you start to assemble a checklist of factoids that you can tick off in your head. There’s a lot of talk about green harvests and vine yields, of rootstock and treatments. Barriques come up often, and passionately. There’s history and there’s the ubiquitous platitude of how this wine is made on the vines—and not in the cellar.

There’s a lot of pride that circulates around the use of technology—or the abjuring of it. The technology changes, as does its sophistication, but the pride is a constant. There’s often olive trees and talk of olive oil. Maceration comes up a lot. So do “pumping over,” “punching down,” “disgorgement,” and other vaguely pornographic terms.

And yet somehow the sheer number of similarities among wineries does a surprising thing: it serves to highlight the differences. Because if there is one lesson I gleaned from visiting all these wineries and meeting so many producers it would be that each one has its own individual animus. The spirit that animates Valdicava is not the spirit that animates is not the spirit that animates Il Palazzone is not the spirit that animates Poggio di Sotto—even if they’re all making Brunellos of similar gravitas. Likewise any other winemakers; they’re all beautiful snowflakes no less different from one another than they are different.

Often the zeitgeist of a winery is apparent in its wines. Tua Rita, for example, has a charming ramshackle serendipity about it, a kind of “oh gosh, we’re successful!” feel, and the estate’s wines reflect that exuberance and glee. Castello dei Rampolla’s thoughtful biodynamic approach appears in its complex, rich and so-vibrant-they’re-nearly-vibrating wines. Grattamacco and Montevertine share a geeky sensibility, and the estates both make wines that embody this gleeful, unassuming eggheadery (and I say this as a compliment; I’m a former Ph.D. candidate). Bartolo Mascarello has a warm, iconoclastic feel, and the estate’s Barolos seem to shine with familial pride.

Other times, the zeitgeist is absent in the wines. Poggio di Sotto has a cellar so clean you could eat off it (except for the floors they keep wet to maintain proper humidity; these you could slurp off of). It’s a wonder of organization, color-coded hoses curled with naval precision, and tanks so bright and shiny you could use their reflection to line your lips. After touring the cellar, I expected a wine with military corners, something architectural and linear, meticulous and mathematic. I could not have been more wrong. If anything, all that cleaning makes the wine more aromatic and ferally pretty.

I’m only sad that I didn’t get to visit some of my very favorite wineries—I had to save Paolo Bea, Gravner, Movia and COS for another visit. There’s always this fall and harvest.


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