The Inside Story from Italian Wine Merchants

Expert Picks: Gravner and Cupano

Posted on | April 13, 2015 | Written by Crystal Edgar | No Comments

Crystal 2014I enjoy the thrill of the hunt when searching for hidden gems in the IWM cellar—or in the local wine shop. One place to find these gems is in overlooked vintages. We call these “winemaker” vintages; they are the years when nature didn’t provide offer the most ideal of conditions and the years when the skill of the winemaker truly shines through. Wines from off vintages are usually lower in price, more accessible when young, and, in many cases, extraordinarily aromatic and expressive.

Having tasted some incredible wines from vintages noted as “indifferent with variable quality,” I was most impressed tasting the 1987 vintage of Brunello di Montalcino from superstar Giulio Salvioni. Upon opening the bottle with a few clients, I was amazed at how aromatic and expressive the wine was. Hour after hour, the wine added layers of fruit, earth, dried herbs and flowers. In few words, it blew us all away! The moral of the story is to stick with solid and reputable producers whose goal is to focus on highlighting the character of each vintage, rather than attempting to conform to a house style year after year.

Today I would like to draw attention to two very different Italian wines from the rather challenging 2002 vintage. Having tasted them both recently, I can attest that they are two hidden treasures from our cellar!

Gravner 2002 Ribolla Gialla $99.63

Hailing from Friuli, this very special Ribolla Gialla offers a cerebral character that is not found in many other vintages. I had the great pleasure of tasting this wine with Jokso Gravner a few months back; his 2002 Ribolla shows off patches of botrytis that grew on a few of the grapes that year, which offered longer hang time for the grapes. This late harvest and botrytis offers additional concentration with hints of sweetness and a touch of that truffle-like funk. Josko dubbed this 2002 “his” wine, as it was the year he really hit his stride and began yielding results he had dreamed about. I recommend drinking this wine with a classic spring-influenced dish, such as risotto with morel mushrooms and fava beans.

Cupano 2002 Brunello di Montalcino $149.00

This was a year in the Tuscan region that did not impress many winemakers. However, Cupano certainly doesn’t disappoint. In fact, this Brunello is deeply impressive! Intense yet genial, elegant yet backed with power, harmonious yet delineated, the ’02 Cupano Brunello di Montalcino seems to offer all components one would expect for a top Brunello, and it succeeds admirably with all components in balance. Drink this with a grilled or roasted lamb or steak or classic spaghetti Bolognese.

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