The Inside Story from Italian Wine Merchants

Expert Picks: Il Conventino and Cupano

Two expert selections from Francesco Vigorito

Francesco 2014We all know that Thanksgiving Day is coming in just a couple of weeks, but the question of what to drink on that glorious smorgasbord of food day is still an open one. Red? White? Sparkling? Rose? Who knows! My favorite combinations tend to be good people, good food and good wines. Those three aspects inspire conversation and create lasting memories, so I don’t get too inventive about what to serve on Thanksgiving. If it helps you answer that all-important question of what to pour, here are two wines I am planning to drink!

Il Conventino 2014 Rosato $19.99

A 100% Sangiovese Rosato is not only a thing of beauty, but it is also pretty hard to come by. Most people do not think of Sangiovese being made into a rosato, which is why I want to bring this one to light today. This wine is extremely versatile due to its fresh and mildly fruity character, making it a dream to pair with many types of foods and palates. I always have a rosato on the table for most any family occasions, and the Il Conventino is one of my go-to bottles. It’s a great way to start a meal!

Cupano 2004 Rosso di Montalcino (1.5L) $94.99

More than likely you are going to have a large group of people at your Thanksgiving dinner, and one of my favorite things to do for a group is to open large format wines with a little bit of age. A Rosso di Montalcinos is perfect for a Thanksgiving feast because it is a very versatile wine that can pair with just about anything. This Cupano Rosso di Montalcino is elegant enough for turkey and rich enough to stand up to the more opulent side dishes. Cupano’s 2004 Rosso hails from one of the top recent vintages in Montalcino, so it’s a complete all-star.

How To Use Your Senses in Wine Tasting

One-two-three-four senses working overtime

Spitting_1-300x225Tasting wine and learning to verbalize that experience is no different than anything else in life; the only way to get better at it is to practice.  Whether you are tasting wine on a more formal level or just enjoying it with some friends, it’s always important to take a couple of seconds and describe to yourself what you have in front of you. Especially when blind tasting, your ability to recall previously tasted wines is a huge factor, so writing notes and going over them the next day are extremely helpful. Tasting is just like learning to exercise any other “muscle”: the more you work it the bigger it gets.

When you are done, you should be able to tell the type of the wine you tasted by just reading what you have written. Here is how I like to compose my notes (I’m looking specifically at red wine because it’s kind of the default setting for red wine. The process, though not the details, is mostly the same for white wines):

Sight: This might be the least helpful of them all, but it will still give you some clues as to what grape it could be and how old the wine is, especially when tasting red wine. Look at the wine in the glass; then swirl it and see how the legs, or the rivulets that run down the side of the glass look. Red wine starts our purple, then moves to ruby, red, brick and finally brown as it gets older. Also take note of the viscosity as this will help make confirmation of the weight on the palate. Don’t get too hung up on the legs, just take note on how prominent they are.

Smell: This sense is perhaps the most important. We have the ability to distinguish over a thousand aromatic compounds, and certain grapes show specific aromatics, making smell wildly helpful. I always check for the ripeness of the aromatics in every glass that comes close to my nose.  Riper aromas will give a good indication of warmer climates and vice versa. Also, it is important to note the maturity of the fruit.  Are the aromas still primary?  Or have they evolved secondary and tertiary characteristics? Secondary and tertiary characteristics—notes such as leather, cigar tobacco and tar—can indicate an older vintage or a wine that’s mature despite its chronological age.

Spitting_2-300x225Taste: This sense is smell’s conjoined twin. What you taste in your mouth is more or less an extension of what you smell, but despite that closeness in physical processes, the aroma of a wine and the taste of a wine can be very different–or very much the same. See what aromatics get replicated, amplified, or excluded from the wine’s taste. See also whether the taste changes. Many wines start out fruity and end dry, or build from woody to flowery, or undergo some other transformation. Note too how “clean” the flavors are, whether they seem to unfold in the glass or over time, and how long they last.

Feel:  This part, when assessed correctly, is the most helpful part in describing a wine to someone. In your mouth, does it feel more like water or more like cream?  Does the wine feel angular on the palate or round and smooth?  Also take note on how dry the wine is and how much you can feel the alcohol, as these will both give indication as to origin and variety. Now it’s time to look at the structure as this will determine how long a wine can last.  Tannins can either be very prominent or very light.  Are they rough or silky? Green or ripe? Harsh green tannins are never good, but round silky tannins are a sign of balance and maturity.

Conclusion:  The finish of wine might be the most important quality. After all, if you are drinking a $100 bottle, you should let that delicious flavor linger for a while!  You also want to take what you have written down qualitatively and transform it into a brief tasting note.  This is what you will ultimately remember, and it can help you buy wine that you suspect you’ll like even when you’ve never had it before. It’s also fun to impress your friends with your newfound skills.

Join us for one of our wine events to help hone your palate. There’s nothing like experience–delicious, delicious experience.

Expert Picks: Tenuta San Guido and…Tenuta San Guido!

Two expert selections from Francesco Vigorito

Francesco 2014When we think of the most acclaimed Super-Tuscan vintages from the ’90s, we probably don’t think of 1993 and 1996, but this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Great winemakers have the ability to turn lemon years into lemonade, and one of the best lemonade producers out there is Tenuta San Guido. This estate’s flagship wine, Sassicaia, is an icon, and it’s always great regardless of the vintage. Mature, vintage Sassicaia is getting scarcer and more expensive by the day, and one of the main issues in getting these wines is obtaining them with pristine levels of provenance. IWM always has straight-line provenance for its vintage wines, and Sassicaia is no exception. Today, I’m highlighting a pair of vintage Sassicaia bottles that may have flown under the radar upon release, but they’re firing on all cylinders today.

Tenuta San Guido 1993 Sassicaia $219.00

The 1993 Sassicaia is now garnet in color, and it displays an amalgam of aromatics and flavors that remind of fine Bordeaux. Leather, graphite, cedar, dark currants, forest fruit, tobacco—you can go on and on discovering new notes as this wine unfolds. The most glorious aspect about this wine is how light it is on its feet. It’s smooth and silky on the palate, due to the tannins resolving and leaving an elegant framework for all those wonderful Cabernet flavors to ride on. And like most Italian wine, there is fine vein of acidity that keeps the experience fresh and lively!

Tenuta San Guido 1996 Sassicaia $275.00

The 1996 is a more powerful and concentrated vintage than the ‘93. The fruit is darker and denser, and the wine feels sturdier on the palate, making for a nice, satisfying mouth-feel. The tannins of this ’96 Sassicaia are still quite firm, and while it shows nicely with some decanting, it’s a wine that can hang out in your cellar for at least another five years, if not longer.


Expert Picks: Miani and…Miani!

Two expert selections from Francesco Vigorito

Francesco 2014Enzo Pontoni, owner of cult estate Miani in Friuli, is arguably one of Italy’s finest winemakers. If you have ever tasted his wines, you know why. If you have not, then you are missing out one of Italy’s very best. With Enzo’s reputation and the scarce amount of wine that he makes, his wines are impossibly rare and extremely sought after. Time after time, IWM has the best allocation of Miani wines, and anytime you find the opportunity to snap up Miani’s wines, you absolutely should.

Miani 2010 Rosso $99.99

In 2010 Enzo chose not to bottle any of his top single-vineyard reds, which command prices of over $300, he to put all that wonderful and expensive fruit into his Rosso bottling. I was blown away when I tasted this wine last in April. The nose is so powerful that I could smell the aromas with out even swirling. The flavors are dark, ripe and juicy to the core, and the wine displays an extraordinary class and elegance.

Miani 2013 Chardonnay $104.99

One of the best expressions of Italian Chardonnay that I have come across! Crisp, mineral-laden, deep, and heavily concentrated, this Chardonnay can rattle your bones from head to toe. The more approachable Chardonnay in Miani’s lineup, this wine offers some ripe tropical and citrus notes with background of hazelnuts. It’s sublime!

Expert Picks: Montevertine and…Montevertine!

Two expert selections from Francesco Vigorito

Francesco 2014Montevertine is responsible not only for some of the best wines in Tuscany, but also in the entire world. The Le Pergole Torte is perhaps the finest Sangiovese produced in Chianti today, and you can see its extraordinary nature in the way the wine ages and develops. Today, I have two excellent vintages​—one for drinking and one for either cellaring or drinking. I can’t say enough about Montevertine wines, but year after year, they are always my favorites!

Montevertine 2012 Montevertine $54.99

Firm tannins, bright fruit, and a powerful yet elegant personality define this self-named wine from Monteverine. I have had vintages from the late ‘90s that are some of the best bottles of Italian wine I have ever tasted. The wine is absolutely seamless from start to finish and Sangiovese lovers should not miss out on this stunner! That said, ideally you’d want to hold off on drinking this for another five years, if possible.

Montevertine 1982 Le Pergole Torte $549

Perhaps one of the finest and rarest vintage of Torte produced, the 1982 Le Pergole Torte is a classic wine that demonstrates the true beauty of Sangiovese in its entirety: soft, luscious fruit strewn with cherry, tobacco, flowers and spice, all woven together by the finest and silkiest tannins you can imagine. This is a wine that can bring tears to your eyes and it’s also one of my very favorite wines-–and the fact that this bottle comes with extreme levels of provenance only means it’s aging spectacularly.


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