The Inside Story from Italian Wine Merchants

Wine Gifts from the Heart

Posted on | December 7, 2015 | Written by Janice Cable | No Comments

Spring at the biodynamic Castello dei Rampolla estate in Panzano.

Spring at the biodynamic Castello dei Rampolla estate in Panzano.

Marcel Proust had a point when he bit into that madeleine. Our human sensory experiences sit inextricably twisted with our personal histories. That’s why, for example, I can’t smell a solid Brunello without being transported to this beautifully wabi-sabi stone villa I lived in for a month in Montalcino in 2011. Wine, like bread or salt, bonds the disparate elements in a meal, raising them to a higher plane than the components alone deserve. But unlike bread or salt, wine alone has the faculty of making company sparklier, words more meaningful, feelings more manifest, and people closer. For this reason, to give wine is akin to giving books: the best gift is steeped in sentiment.

Il Palazzone grows its grapes and its olives naturally

Il Palazzone grows its grapes and its olives naturally

Sentiment is why I once gave my dad a bottle of 2000 Il Palazzone Brunello. My dad had read my rapturous descriptions of Brunello and had responded as I’d intended: he wanted some. However, he’s a stolid, level-headed, frugal Vermonter, not given to buying hundred-dollar bottles of wine for himself. So he bought one for a friend as an anniversary gift. I sent him one for himself because he deserved to enjoy it, because I have spent many glorious days at Il Palazzone, and because its estate manager, Laura Gray, is both a friend of mine and shares the same birthday as my dad and myself. It’s kind of a mille feuille of feelings.

It’s pretty easy for me to pick out the wines I’d give as gifts because they’re the wines that make me clap my hands with glee. Anyone who knows me knows that this is something I don’t do often. This is why I would pick wines from Josko Gravner. The first time I had Gravner Breg and Gravner Ribolla Anfora, I was in Verona with IWM Founder Sergio Esposito for VinItaly. We had dinner with Filippo Polidori, one of Sergio’s close friends and the sales manager for Josko Gravner, at this café that was very clearly the industry spot. I can’t separate the heady, textured feel of drinking these wines from the glittery Verona night, its spectacular romance and the sense that the air was buzzing with everyone wine.

I’d give Castello dei Rampolla because I visited the estate on this insanely gorgeous April day, a visit that culminated with Lucca di Napoli drinking a bottle of wine with Eleanor Shannon, my guide at the time, and me. We didn’t even look at the cantina. We just toured the fields, talked for a couple of hours and drank. Every wine tour should be so generous and lovely. The wines are forever linked with spontaneous friendship.

Lionel Tondini of Cupano

Lionel Tondini of Cupano

I’d likewise give Cupano because its makers Ornella and Lionel are inspiring, beautiful, magical people, and their wines reflect their family’s fairytale existence. And Bodega Chacra, especially its entry-level Barda, because Piero Incisa della Rocchetta embodies a citizen-of-the-world glamor to which I can only aspire. I’d give Grattamacco because I fiercely love its unabashed geeky aesthetic, and Le Macchiole because Cinzia Merli spoke to me with such passion about understanding her wines as her children, and Bartolo Mascarello Barolo because Maria Teresa Mascarello is one strong, upright, forthright woman; an unmitigated badass, she commands instantaneous respect.

Having visited Italy, I have a rosy set of experiences from which to draw. But all wine-lovers have wines that they’ve come to love because of the people they drank them with, or because the wine was so glorious that it made a bad situation at least tolerable, or because they stumbled on the wine in some serendipitous way. These are the wines that make the best gifts because in giving them, we’re giving a piece of ourselves and our memories. And with these wines of sentiment we can make more memories—or help others, and that’s really what giving is all about.

For more suggestions, please leaf through IWM’s 2015 Holiday Gift Guide.

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