The Inside Story from Italian Wine Merchants

Expert Picks: Per Linda and Canalicchio di Sopra

Two expert selections from Will Di Nunzio

will expertI admit that I take full advantage of working in the wine industry and don’t hesitate to taste the greatest wines—from Barolo to Brunello, from Amarone to grand cru Burgundy, all are incredible, and I feel very fortunate to have had these experiences I’ve had. I love all these legendary wines for different reasons.

But then I think about the rest of the wines, those from the “little guys,” the “I’ve never heard of it” wines. Perhaps these bottles are not as well rated, but they are also enjoyable in their own right. These are the wines that have given many of us in the industry a beacon to follow. They’re the ones that make us ask the big questions: What is the next best thing I can get my hands on? What else is out there that is waiting for me to try? How can people not know this? It’s amazing!

Today, I’ve chosen two wines that are simple, delicious and straightforward. These two wines that are a surprise and an unexpected joy, and so much fun: Per Linda’s 2014 Trebbiano d’Abbruzzo and Canalicchio’s 2014 Rosso di Montalcino. They exude the easy life of Italy with no pretension—just simple living and a reminder to take life one day and one wine at a time.

Per Linda 2014 Trebbiano d’Abruzzo $12.99

Is it true that you have to spend a lot of money to get good wine? This common question has two answers; it’s both yes and no because it depends completely on what you’re doing and at where your palate experience lays. I believe that the true wine connoisseur appreciates all levels of wines, including entry-level wines like this phenomenal Trebbiano d’Abbruzzo from Per Linda. If you have heard of Per Linda, you know that this estate makes very affordable and delicious wines. You also know that they are simple, easy and perfect for anything. With a full body and great structure, this Trebbiano offers some beautiful citrusy notes and a clean finish; it’s perfect for the summer months ahead and certainly a “non-bank-breaking” bottle to open whenever you feel like a good glass of white.

Canalicchio di Sopra 2014 Rosso di Montalcino $34.99

Ah, Rosso di Montalcino, one of my absolute favorites and this one comes from our friend Francesco Ripaccioli of Canalicchio di Sopra. We had the great pleasure of tasting this wine recently with Francesco, and, as usual, it is a sublime bottle of wine. Rossos are meant to be enjoyed young; they have playful fruit, but they also have tannins that are grippy enough for some great dishes like pork or turkey. Moreover, they are every bit a great Italian red as their older brother Brunello. The nice thing here is that a Rosso di Montalcino tends to be half the price and go down a lot faster. This is another wine I have at the ready in my home cellar for last minute guests. This Canalicchio bottle is quintessentially Italian.

Expert Picks: Raffaele Palma and Giuseppe Quintarelli

Two expert selections from Will Di Nunzio

will expertThe cult producers are always the ones we keep going back to, not just because they make great wines, but because we want to better understand their glorious, moving wines. One beloved, well-known cult winemaker is Quintarelli. Giuseppe Quintarelli was one of the first in the modern age to master Amarone and Valpolicella, and he took the market by storm making his wines his way—unmatched and leaving everyone in the dust. Contrast Quintarelli’s renown with the relative obscurity of cult winemaker Raffaele Palma, a producer you probably never heard of until IWM started talking about him. From the early 2000s, Palma made his organic wines, three of them, his way, and has no intention of changing his methods any time soon. Right off the Amalfi Coast, Palma makes some of the most impressive wines of Campania, and we at IWM all agree will be the next big thing in Campania. I’ve chosen two wines from cult producers that will make you think differently about cult wines—and almost certainly will bring you back to them again and again.

Raffaele Palma 2011 Salicerchi $74.99

What is this wine and why do we keep talking about it? It was likely one of the best kept secrets of the Amalfi Coast—until Sergio let the cat out of the bag. Raffaele Palma is small producer right on the Costa Amalfitana, and its home sits atop a ridge 450 meters high with vineyards that plummet all the way down to the sea. With only one row of vines per step, it takes you several hours to navigate the windy footpath down to the water, and yet the team at this estate does this everyday. Of the three wines Raffaele makes, Salicerchi is my favorite; it’s one of the most interesting Rosatos I have ever had—only Edoardo Valentini can challenge it. Big, structured yet holding true to its rosé beauty, the Salicerchi is perfect year-round bottle to accompany antipasti, fish and white meats.

Giuseppe Quintarelli 2007 Valpolicella $84.99

This ’07 Valpolicella is another great vintage from the Quintarelli family and it’s an unequivocal masterpiece from the cellars of the Master of the Veneto. Even with its warm weather, the 2007 produced a Valpolicella that offers balanced acidity, glorious elegance, and a crowd-pleasing personality; it doesn’t surprise me that we sell out of every allocation we get. Last week, I had the pleasure of enjoying this wine and once more I was blown away by its on-point balance and velvetiness. What an incredible bottle of wine to enjoy with a little cheese and a lot of friends!

Expert Picks: Valle dell’Acate and Venturini

Two expert selections from Will Di Nunzio

will expertIt’s November and you would think that it is fall wine drinking season—that there would be cold weather, crisp air and perhaps the occasion to light a fire in your home if you have such a luxury. But it’s been 70 degree weather in NYC, so it has been confusing as to what fall is actually doing. Being prepared for a range of weather seems like a good idea. A good wine drinker, like a good Boy Scout, needs to be prepared, so I chose a light, fruity Sicilian wine for warm days and a giant, velvety beast for the cold days.

Valle dell’Acate 2014 Il Frappato Vittoria $21.99

Since I first started here at IWM, Valle dell’Acate’s wines have always impressed me. One of the few Sicilian winemakers we have always carried over the years, Valle dell’Acate’s bottles are simply delicious. Frappato is a grape varietal found in Sicily; light and elegant like a pinot noir with beautiful fruit, Frappato makes a wine with cherry-like notes. It’s a no-brainer when it comes to Thanksgiving amuse-bouche and a delightful start to any meal.

Venturini 2005 Amarone Campomasua $64.99

Venturini delivers a massive Amarone in this bottling, yet it’s elegant and approachable. Campomasua (or the “field of Masua”) is a special vineyard that sists at 250 meters above sea level and is strategically positioned for optimal exposure on Mount Masua in the Valpolicella Valley. Founded in 1963, the Venturini estate has excelled and now produces eight incredible wines. The Campomasua bottling is very special and a perfect wine for the cold months ahead; my favorite thing to pair this wine with is chunks of Parmiggiano Reggiano drizzled with honey drizzle at the end of a meal. It’s a pure delight.

Expert Picks: Venturini Massimino and Nicolis

Two expert selections from Will Di Nunzio

will expertLast week, I had the great pleasure of spending some time with an old friend and client. He is hosting a Veneto-themed party, and we decided to taste through a number of incredible wines from the Valpolicella. Many of us forget, or do not know, that the Valpolicella Valley is quite big and is actually three valleys. While wines are made across all three, the ones you and I know about are mainly from the western-most valley called zona classica. This is where Valpolicella’s great winemakers reside, including Quintarelli, Dal Forno, Bussola and many, many others. It’s not often that you get to have a tasting dedicated only to Valpolicella wines, and I was really stunned by two wines that we’ve carried for a long time. I’m sharing them with you.

Venturini Massimino 2014 Valpolicella Classico $15.99

A beautiful estate extending over 110 hectares and at 812 feet above sea level, Venturini has an insane view of the Valpolicella Valley. Located in San Floriano (southwest of Negrar, home of Quintarelli) Venturini produces five extraordinary wines and this Valpolicella is no exception. A blend of Corvina, Rondinella and Molinara, the Valpolicella Classico is a playful, light-bodied red wine that offers delicate fruit, a pretty bouquet and lovely elegance for your small bites this fall. A truly perfect Tuesday night wine!

Nicolis 2006 Amarone della Valpolicella Ambrosan $89.70

San Pietro in Cariano, sits in the heart of Valpolicella’s zona classica. It’s a small village at best, and it’s where Angelo Nicolis founded his winery in 1951. Back then, Amarone was not Amarone; it was Recioto. With the discovery of the “bitter” version of this sweet wine came Recioto della Valpolicella Amarone, a wine that finally got its own DOC in 1969, forever changing the world of wine. Velvety, layered, dimensional, bold, Amarone is a “thinking wine” that’s unique to the Valpolicella Valley. Nicolis, like Giuseppe Quintarelli, understood the wine’s specialness and consistently improved on his Amarone, fine-tuning it to be the masterpiece it is today. Of the many Amarones at this price point, Nicolis’s Ambrosan is likely the best value out there. Tasting it this time gave me the opportunity to concentrate on it, spend time with it and revisit it later that evening. What outstanding balance! Gloriously put together, with fine tannins, and luscious fruit, it was the perfect match for a piece of Parmiggiano Reggiano with a little honey drizzled over it. This was the wine of the night for me.

Expert Picks: Fantinel and Rocche dei Manzoni

Two expert selections from Will Di Nunzio

will expertTwo of the most influential and historic Italian wines you can find are on extreme opposite sides of the spectrum: Prosecco and Barolo. Prosecco is one of the most ancient varietals grown and consumed in Italy—people have been drinking its wines for a few thousand years, actually—yet it’s almost always regarded as the ugly stepsister to Champagne or Spumante. Well, nay I say, Prosecco is a gorgeous little wine. Affordable yes, but that makes it even better. The beginning of every party in Italy, Prosecc’s bubbles bring happiness, and it’s the beverage of choice for “aperitivo” in Italy, so it gets the hunger going as well.

This week I enjoyed a glorious 10-year-old Barolo. Considered to be the most important wine of Italy by the average Italian, Barolo is the wine Italians open on 18th birthday parties, wedding days, anniversaries—you name it. If the occasion is important, Barolo gets opened; it’s a ritual, a process, and there is much gratitude by the participants. Barolo is an icon. It’s elegant, luxurious, smooth and noble; it’s a wine that you can bet you’ll keep enjoying over and over again throughout the years. I’ve chosen an emblematic Prosecco and that bottle of decade-old Barolo to share with you today.

Fantinel NV Prosecco Brut Extra Dry $16.00

Drinking a bottle of this Prosecco recently, I was impressed with Fantinel’s work, very impressed actually. I had forgotten how beautifully playful this wine is—it’s so pretty, with delicate bubbles, fresh flowers and peaches. Some citrus notes dance around in the glass as you sip, and you are instantly revived and happy when you taste it. It was an unexpected experience for me, and I was delighted. The Fantinel family began as restaurateurs and they have made quite a name for themselves since patriarch Marco Fantinel first purchased his vineyards in 1969. This Prosecco reminded me of how incredible a winemaker Fantinel is.

Rocche dei Manzoni 2005 Barolo Vigna d’la Roul $89.99

My first month at IWM so many years ago, I remember being struck by a wine from Rocche Manzoni. At the time, we had a selection of Barolos from the mid-to-late ‘90s, and they were simply incredible. I could not believe the quality-to-price value these wines delivered, and all these years later, I still can’t. To no surprise, the 2005 Vigna Roul was exactly what I wanted: it’s smooth, elegant, balanced, properly aged, and a vintage I love. Barolo doesn’t get much better than this! All three of Rocche dei Manzoni’s Barolos—the estate’s Big d’Big, St Stefano and Roul—are phenomenal bottles of wine to pick up for the season ahead.

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