The Inside Story from Italian Wine Merchants

Go-To-Wine Tuesday (Forgive Us, Wednesday)

Le Pupille’s Morellino di Scansano

So there’s no question that Le Pupille’s Morellino di Scansano 2007 is value wine at $12.00. That said, it’s a value wine that would benefit from cellaring (at least three years) or some serious decanting.

My good friend Arthur and I enjoyed this wine several nights ago. We opened the bottle merely to assess it, but we soon found that we needed food to do it properly. The wine displayed a rustic quality and an overly assertive herbal quality. The wine was initially tight on opening but offered hints of dark fruits, bitter green vegetal notes and a noticeable saline quality. It was, let’s face it, a little off-putting.

However, a day after opening, the wine’s flavors seemed to have integrated. The “green” aspects had retreated (although they hadn’t entirely disappeared). The generic dark fruit flavors that were in the background upon opening had blessedly moved to the front. In fact, these flavors had become focused and emerged from dark fruit into cherry flavors, which is common in wines from Maremma. The wine initially had this strange saline aspect—something you see a lot more often in white than red—but it too had retreated, accenting the wine’s cherry flavors.

They say that you only have one chance to give a first impression, but Le Pupille’s Morellino di Scansano redeemed itself after a rather unpleasant first taste. It’s a pretty, charming wine, served best on a second day, definitely with food, maybe with yummy leftover Christmas ham.

Family Meal at IWM

sometimes a mystery, always a treat

The kitchen staff awaits the onslaught.

The kitchen staff awaits the onslaught.

Nearly every day at around 12:30pm, a call is made.

“Lunch!” someone screams from the back of the room, and people suddenly
pop up from their desks like meerkats and rush the elevator like buffalo.
Everyday, the IWM staff is treated to “Family Meal,” a banquet-style lunch
in the Studio del Gusto that includes salad, a selection of vegetables,
one or more meat options, along with an occasional bonus assortment of
Italian cheeses and desserts. Carefully prepared by the IWM’s culinary
team, it’s a great way for the staff to experience one of the services
that IWM does so well: events. Moreover, we get the opportunity to enjoy
IWM staff, converse like normal people, and flesh out ideas.

It’s true that occasionally lunch can be so much a mystery that while
devouring it, we’re all questioning what it’s in dish x, we appreciate
this IWM perk. It’s always a fabulous experience because it allows us to
bond, and it brings us closer to the kitchen staff, and they to us. H

Because a picture’s worth a thousand words (and I’ve given you only a
couple hundred), here are some photo opportunities from a recent “Family

IWM staff lines up for lunch

IWM staff lines up for lunch

Senior Wine Portfolio Manager, Will Di Nunzio looks debonaire with chicken.

Senior Wine Portfolio Manager, Will Di Nunzio looks debonaire with chicken.

The Studio del Gusto, a cook's eye view

The Studio del Gusto, a cook's eye view

Prosecco Earns its Place

Looking at the new DOC and DOCG

Perhaps more than other wines that have successfully established their identities, Prosecco is a wine in transition. While it has been around since ancient Rome, the wine is finally achieving the status its pedigree and history demand.  Effective April 1, 2010, the term “Prosecco” refers to a specific place: Veneto and parts of Friuli-Venezia Giulia in the northeastern corner of Italy. These two regions, along with nine other specific provinces, geographically define the current Prosecco DOC. While Prosecco is actually the name of a town near the city of Trieste in Friuli-Venezia Giulia, the wine’s major grape, formerly known as Prosecco, will now go by the ancient name of Glera, a name unfamiliar even to the people within the region.  However, only the name has changed; Italian Prosecco has always been made with Glera, though lesser known varieties have figured into the wine’s composition in rather negligible amounts over time.

The incorporation of the new DOCG classification (Conegliano-Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore) ensures that wines from the two most prominent zones will face stricter controls and be given the highest guarantee. Comprised of fifteen communes (or townships), the Conegliano-Valdobbiadene zone is a hilly region with very steep slopes that require vineyard operations to be performed by hand, a practice that has been in place for over three centuries. In addition to the general designation, wines that derive from a single hillside will, in conjunction with standard DOCG labeling, include the term rive, which refers to the finest vineyards and those receiving favorable exposure.

According to Decanter, these “new regulations will also regulate yield for both the new DOC and DOCG zones should be reduced. The DOC will show the most drastic decrease – from the current 180hl/ha to 126hl/ha. There will also be a small reduction in yields in the DOCG zone, from 95hl/ha to 90hl/ha.”

What all this tech talk means for wine consumers is that we can expect a rise in the quality of Prosecco—that’s good news for us. Full of refreshing acidity, pleasant aromatics and delicate flavors of peach and green apple, Prosecco is a perfect sparkler for summer. And its reasonable price point and easy-drinking nature doesn’t hurt, either. However, because of these recent changes, Prosecco may become a more serious wine.

While Prosecco hasn’t carried the same prestige or fastidious production as Champagne— where secondary fermentation is carried out in bottle (méthode champenoise) as opposed to stainless steel tanks (the charmat method)—with the spanky new DOC/G areas and the accompanying raising of standards, it has a reason to take itself more seriously—even if it remains a seriously fun wine to drink!

Regrets, Radikon and Evolution

The too-short story of a bottle of wine

Having heard that my bottle of 1994 Radikon Merlot was in danger of evolving past its peak, I uncorked my bottle to enjoy it. The wine was pleasant upon opening, emitting scents of dried strawberries, along with Christmas spices and tea leaves. The wine felt initially giving and complex on the palate and possessed minerality and a vibrant acidity, a sign the grapes were picked early. I noted a presence of a green vegetal quality—also an indication of an early harvest— that was initially kept in balance by the wonderful dried strawberry notes. Within a few minutes the wine changed, the front and mid-palate began picking up bitterness from the seeds, while the back palate reeled from the explosion of long and intense fruit flavors. This was an intriguing development; in a wine of lesser quality, fruit flavors appear on the palate initially, and recede to be replaced by the bitter phenols from the seeds. However, the Radikon was doing the reverse.

“Where was this heading?” I asked myself. There was no denying that this light-bodied wine packed a powerful strawberry wallop in the initial moments in the glass. I wondered, “Would this wine reveal more or would it end soon, having shown its all?”  It seemed too much to ask from a sixteen-year-old wine for its performance to remain at this intense level.  Eventually, I regretfully observed, the Radikon’s delightful dried fruit flavors dissipated, leaving behind the bitter notes of the seeds. I wondered what more this wine could have expressed had it been opened earlier.

And yet, wine evolves. Two hours later a new aroma began emanating from my glass. “What was this?” I thought, “Surely the wine had gone past its way.” I tasted again and found a wine that was coming into itself. The flavors and the acids had become integrated and expressive of cherries, in a tangy, savory, umami way; the bitter tannins were now non-existent. The green quality had also dissipated and was replaced by a musky quality. It was a delicious revelation.

Wine evolves, as the truism goes, and this bottle of Radikon proves the veracity of that idea. Indeed, I’m reminded that getting to know a wine means having more than just one bottle of it. A bottle holds only a small portion of the entire vintage. Each bottle upon opening tells the story of where it came from, and where it may go. To truly know the wine and the vintage you’d have to possess several bottles from the vintage and experience them over the course of time.

This ’94 Merlot’s performance indicates it could have been cellared longer. However, I have no regrets about opening it. Rather, having experienced this Radikon, I regret not having more of it—and being able to taste more of it over time. Wine evolves, and remarkable wine evolves remarkably. Unquestionably, this ’94 Radikon is a remarkable wine.