The Inside Story from Italian Wine Merchants

Go-To-Wine Tuesday: Aldo Conterno 2009 Langhe Rosso

A super drinkable under $30 everyday wine from Aldo Conterno

RD8516-2The late Aldo Conterno was one of the pioneers of Barolo, able to mix tradition and innovation to change the face of Barolo. The son of Giacomo, Aldo actually lived in America for a number of years and served in the US Armed forces in the Korean War.  A well-travelled, newly bilingual Aldo returned to Italy a few years later, with a newfound sense of originality gained from his time abroad. Upon his return, he linked with his brother Giovanni to take over the Giacomo Conterno estate in Barolo. However, a rift eventually developed between the two brothers on differing winemaking philosophies.   Aldo eventually broke off and established Poderi Aldo Conterno. The estate is currently helmed by Aldo’s three sons, who make some of the most sought-after bottles in the world.

Although the Aldo Conterno estate is devoted to Barolo, the “king of wines,” the estate also produces an excellent Langhe Rosso at an accessible price point for everyday drinking. A blend of 80% Freisa, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon and 10% Merlot, this wine may lack the region’s all-star grape, but it shares the balance and approachability of its sister wines. I shared a bottle of the Aldo Conterno Langhe 2009 Rosso with a friend while we ate cheese and crackers. The most important thing I can say about this Rosso is that it’s super drinkable—fruity but balanced. It has good tartness and enjoyable tannins; it’s nice and acidic, but not overly so. Both of us liked the wine, which is no surprise given that it’s from Aldo Conterno. Priced at $29.99, this Langhe Rosso an absolute steal.

More Love for Valdicava 2011 Rosso di Montalcino

What makes this Rosso di Montalcino different from all others?

10172715_613630942038868_2603601698753564831_nAfter Vincenzo Abbruzzese took over the Valdicava estate in the late 1980’s, he quickly grew his Brunello into one of the most in-demand and collectible wines in all of Montalcino.  Abbruzzese has been a pioneer of sorts in Montalcino: he produced the first single-vineyard Brunello Riserva in all of Montalcino, his Madonna del Piano, which is now one of the most sought after wines in the region.  Hailing from a law-enforcement background, Abbruzzese applies his no-nonsense attitude to his estate. The winery property is all business, eschewing elaborate displays and placing little importance on meeting the needs of tourists.

An archetypal “Baby Brunello,” the Valdicava Rosso di Montalcino 2011 offers one of the best price-quality deals in all of Montalcino.  The fruit in 2011 did not meet Abbruzzese’s strict requirements, so he decided to take both the Brunello and Madonna del Piano grapes and include them in his Rosso bottling.   Abbruzzese undoubtedly sacrificed significant earnings by making this decision, and as a result we get to enjoy Brunello caliber juice at a fraction of the cost.  This wine has it all—bright red fruit, a nose of cinnamon-dusted fruit, a palate that takes these notes and adds earth and truffles, and a silky, velvety palate. At under $40, this bottle is a fantastic accompaniment to your Sunday meatballs—or any meal that cries out for Sangiovese Grosso.

Go-to-Wine Tuesday: Talenti 2010 Rosso di Montalcino

An under $25 taste of Montalcino’s beauty

RD8162-2The Talenti name is one of the most legendary, historic names in Montalcino. The winery was founded in 1980 by Pierluigi Talenti, who bought the eponymous estate after many years of revolutionizing Brunello di Montalcino at Il Poggione. IWM has long championed the Talenti label; year in and year out, Talenti has produced quality, approachable wines that appeal to both seasoned Brunello lovers and newcomers alike. I got a bottle of the estate’s 2010 Rosso di Montalcino to take home, and I was really impressed.

The late Pierluigi’s grandson, Riccardo Talenti, is continuing the family tradition by expanding the family’s expression of Sangiovese into the twenty-first century, while maintaining the traditionalist ideals that make his wine so enduring. While Talenti’s Brunello di Montalcino offers stunning quality and drinkability relative to its price, its baby-brother, Rosso di Montalcino, is a pleasurable go-to option for those lazy weekday nights. Lighter and fresher than its big brother Brunello, the Rosso di Montalcino offers a super-approachable Sangiovese experience that is sure to be a crowd pleaser.  Pour it alongside your favorite ragù and enjoy life. It’s under $25, so it makes for a very authentic Montalcino Sangiovese wine experience any night of the week.

What Do Millennials Want? A Wine with a Story

Finding meaning in a bottle of Movia Merlot

Findings by the Wine Market Council, graph from

Findings by the Wine Market Council, graph from

Being a kid in the 90’s was awesome. My days were typically spent rolling around town on my Razor Scooter, sipping on Capri Sun, listening to Now! Volume 7, and generally being boss in every imaginable way. But alas – one must grow up and enter the real world. As time passes and my generation, known as “Millennials,” enters adulthood, we bring with us a fresh set of tastes, preferences and values. And while I’m typically wary of such all-encompassing generational monikers, it is impossible to negate the effects that Millennials have had on the world of wine.

Now, at the ripe age of 24, I’ve been lucky enough to taste a lot of amazing wines at IWM. My unique position does not make me an outlier, however; nationwide, young people are encompassing an increasingly broader share of the consumer market. Twenty-somethings in 2014 drink a lot more wine than twenty-somethings in 1994. Wine bars are popping up all over the city.

Most importantly, the Millennial wine market is less concerned with “old-guard” standbys such as traditional rating systems. Younger wine drinkers value an intriguing story over a number. Quoted in a recent Fox Business piece on Millennial wine drinkers, Melissa Saunders of Communal Brands says, “Historically, wine has been marketed to older generations and came with a huge pretense. But this generation is blowing all of that out of the water. They don’t care about the pretentiousness of a wine, they want something that is authentic and speaks to them.” I know my own experience attests to the truth of Saunders’ assertion.

One of my favorite wines comes from Movia in Brda, the land that straddles the border of Italy and Slovenia). Centuries old, the Movia estate is rare in that it combines old-world traditionalism with new-world sensibilities. Ales Kristancic, owner of Movia produces all of his wines biodynamically, meaning that not only does he grow the grapes and make the wine without intervention, he uses the movements of the moon and the stars to guide his practices. You might be inclined to raise an eyebrow at the cosmological aspects of Kristancic’s winemaking process–that is, of course, until you actually taste his wine. I recently had the pleasure of tasting the Movia Merlot 2004, which I found lively while remaining smooth and gentle. The 2004 Merlot from Movia offers a delightful expression of terroir that is drinking beautifully today.

Maybe you’re a Millenial, in which case I suggest you open a bottle of this biodynamic beauty for your friends. And maybe you’re a Gen-X or Baby Boomer, in which case I suggest the same. A great wine is a great wine, and as long as you’re over 21, you’re adult enough to enjoy it.

Go-To-Wine Tuesday: Poderi Aldo Conterno Conca Tre Pile 2010

A great under $35 Barbera from an iconic Barolo producer

RD7661-2I love pizza. I love it. I love it with such a reckless abandon that on the rare occasion when I am not eating pizza, I am reading about pizza. I recently stumbled upon a list of the greatest pies that America has to offer. I was expecting the usual (Grimaldi’s, Di Fara, Chicago-style casserole), but I was pleasantly surprised when I saw my native New Haven’s own Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana placed as the number one pie in America according to this piece on The Daily Meal! Even sweeter, New Haven pizzerias also placed 7th and 11th in the nation for Sally’s Apizza and Modern Apizza’s respective efforts.

New Haven style pizza, aka Apizza (ah-BEETZ), is absolute treat.  In a New Haven-style pizzeria, a “plain” pizza is crust, oregano, and tomato sauce with a little bit of grated pecorino/Romano cheese sprinkled on. Mozzarella (known as “mootz” in the local dialect) is considered to be a topping; a customer who wants it must ask for it. You cannot go wrong with the white clam from Pepe’s, the Italian Bomb from Modern, or the Mashed Potato from BAR after a long night downtown in New Haven.

Why won’t I shut up about pizza? Because I am drinking an amazing Barbera from our cellar—Poderi Aldo Conterno Conca Tre Pile 2010! No beverage complements a pizza pie better than a well-balanced Barbera from the slopes of Piemonte. This wine is no ordinary Barbera; it grows on the high-end real estate of the Bussia Soprana hill in Monforte d`Alba (aka next door to where many of your favorite Baroli are nurtured, harvested, and crafted to be sold at a much higher price point). This 2010 Barbera from Aldo Conterno Conca provides the amazing balance between ripe, plush fruit and a perfect acidity to create the ultimate lively everyday drinker.

Now to return to my first love, pizza….