The Inside Story from Italian Wine Merchants

Why the IWM Showroom is Different

It’s more than just our wines

Store 1I’ve often walked into wine shops–sometimes out of curiosity and sometimes because I’m looking for something specific–and each time I walk out of one, I appreciate more and more the way our showroom is set up.

I can easily see how the average wine-drinker, someone who has been recently kissed by the wine bug, or even someone with some wine experience, can feel intimidated or confused when shopping for wine. With few exceptions, I walk into wine shops to find a labyrinth of bottles scattered all over the place in no particular order and lacking the knowledgeable staff to guide me. Now that I do know a bit about wine, I’ve realized that the experience gets worse; so often I see a nice bottle from a great producer and a great vintage just sitting on a shelf under bright florescent bulbs. It’s enough to make me run out in disappointment or just grab anything out of frustration just to have something for dinner.

For the most, part people walk into IWM with something already in mind, but not always, so the other floor staff and I try to guide them. Since we are Italian Wine Merchants, everything on display is Italian (we do sell global wines, but these bottles are only rarely on display), but what sets us apart from all other wine sellers is the fact that we have only one bottle of each producer displayed on the shelf.  Well, this and our Vintage Tasting Room, whose brick walls are lined with killer bottles.

Store 3We don’t segregate between varietal or region; our organization is intuitive, simple and very friendly. The shelf is organized by price point, starting on the left with the lowest priced bottle increasing in price as you stroll to the right. Each bottle has a description of the region, varietal and tasting note next to it. We display only one bottle of each producer’s wine because everything from our delicious Per Linda Trebbiano d’Abruzzo (one of the best $11 bottles you’ll ever have) to the amazing six-liter bottle of 1999 Montevertine Le Pergole Torte (one of the best bottles you’ll ever have at 83 times that price) is kept in our temperature-controlled cellar. At any given time we have approximately 40-50,000 bottles in the cellar.

When people shop at IWM, chances are they will walk out with a smile. Maybe that’s why they keep coming back, though perhaps it’s the wine selection or our staff who’s eager to share their knowledge. I like to think it’s because of my charm, but in reality it’s a bit of all this combined.The other tool we have to better guide our clients is that we always have an open bottle so we can taste with them. This practice is extremely helpful, especially when we ask the clients if they are looking for anything in particular and they have no clue. Tasting with clients allows us firsthand to get a feel for clients’ palate and flavor profiles, what they like and dislike about the wine and point them in the direction of something they might enjoy at their particular price point. Once the client makes a selection, the bottle is sent up via dumbwaiter straight from the cellar at a cool 54°F to end up in the client’s warm hands. Everyone new to IWM always gets a kick out of watching the bottle pop up as if sent by the wine elves hidden in the cellar.

Summer Wines, Shipping, and Bottles

Why IWM won’t ship when it’s warm and two reds for summer drinking

The Abbey at Sant'Antimo

The Abbey at Sant’Antimo

Drinking summer wines are fantastic. A chilled dry rosé can be magnificent on a hot summer day on the beach, and few things on earth are better than Champagne on a sailboat or a crisp, cold pilsner on the way back to the marina at the end of a successful fishing trip. However, sometimes you need a cooler weather wine fix. The problem is that getting wines delivered to your home is risky business since wine gets severely damaged by heat. Wine is a living, evolving, sensitive creation. Heat speeds up chemical processes, and it alters the delicate flavors of the wine.

The IWM temperature-controlled supply chain is expensive and time consuming, but all the efforts are worth it. From the moment a wine leaves the producer it stays at 55 degrees Fahrenheit until it reaches the IWM cellar so that it’s optimal when you get it. For these reasons, we discourage clients from shipping in warm weather. Sometimes we have 24-to-72-hour windows of 50-degree days in the Northeast, but all bets are off on transcontinental ground shipments. The IWM Shipping Department is constantly on the lookout for these slivers of appropriate weather, and we immediately set up local shipments whenever possible.

I wanted to share a couple of wines I really like, starting with the Galardi Terra di Lavoro 2011. In my humble opinion, this is one of the best wines from southern Italy. The grapes for this wine grow on the mineral-rich volcanic slopes of Campania among chestnut groves, and the whole wine-loving world has to fight for the scant 10,000 bottles per year made by Galardi, who only makes this one wine. A blend of Aglianico (80%), Piedirosso, and even some Cabernet Sauvignon, Terra di Lavoro is dark purple in the glass, and this bold, complex wine is as intense on the palate as it is on the nose. It’s gorgeous, powerful, and drinkable for at least the next 10 to 15 years.

From Italy’s South, I now take you to its upper middle, Montalcino in Toscana, to be precise. The Uccelliera winery over-delivers in its tasty Brunellos and Brunello Riservas—the Rossos are not to be overlooked, either. Uccelliera 2010 Brunello di Montalcino is a great example of what a young Brunello can be in its infancy. Though it will benefit from age, it’s delicious now. My wife and I visited this property at sunset and were pleased to find that 700 meters away from the winery is the Abbey of Sant’Antimo. When my wife and I were there, the abbey’s ancient building seemed to glow in the sunset, just as the monks came out to chant their end of the day prayers. Both the winery and abbey are incredible places and must-visit sites to put on your Montalcino travel list.

One Amazing Night of Biondi-Santi Vintage Greats

One special night, eight legendary wines, and infinite lasting memories

11010543_788507394551221_3048614295789425300_nToday I want to write something from one​ ​Biondi-Santi lover​ ​to another, as I share the magnificent experience that thirty-two other people and I had the Friday before last at IWM’s incredible Biondi-Santi vintage wine dinner. Accompanied by dishes prepared in IWM’s own kitchen, we enjoyed some very, very special wines from Biondi-Santi.

You’ve heard of, read about, or have had the pleasure of meeting our Founder and CEO, Sergio Esposito. He is the one who knows, finds and selects IWM’s amazing wines. While this is always true, the incredible line-up we enjoyed from Biondi-Santi on Friday night illustrates Sergio’s amazing abilities. Comprising seven Biondi-Santi Brunello Riserva vintages, this is one collection that will go down in history as one of the most intelligent buys a wine lover could make.

We set ​long table  for​ ​our​ ​guests,​ ​Sergio and myself.​ ​Before everyone sat an array of open bottles of Biondi-Santi Brunello Riserva—1955, 1964, 1968, 1969, 1970, 1971 and 1975, each bottle pristine and immaculate. We all sat down and I introduced Sergio as our host for the evening. He gave a very straight and​ ​simple speech around these​ ​perfect bottles. “The wines are part of Italian history,​” ​he said,​ and added that ​no one else has them.

Sergio called the collection,​ ​“the legacy of Tancredi and Franco Biondi-Santi.” Sergio knew​ Franco well. Their great relationship allowed him access to this selection just months before​ ​Franco’s​ ​passing.​ ​It was destiny.

We began with the first pasta course and enjoyed the 1969 and the 1968, two wines that you would think would be over the hill, but no—these two wines were round, balanced and showed sweet fruit. The 1968 in particular had very good acidity and really nice complexity. As with all of the wines that night, opinions differed greatly; people went back and forth, liking the ‘69 over the ‘68 and then vice versa—it was a fun start.

11188270_791290737606220_6106356872160521462_nWith the second pasta course, we​ ​ enjoyed​ ​the 1975, 1971 and 1970. These wines were off the charts. The ‘75 and ‘71 were still young, bold, dark in color and showed loads​ ​of fruit. The ‘75 had great tannins and nice acidity; I could not believe this was a 40-year-old wine—just incredible. The ‘71 felt a little more austere at first; it’s a thinking wine that’s layered with​ ​delicious​ ​notes of earth, dark fruits, and a touch of tar—a very cool wine and impressive, to say the least. 1970 was a perfect bridge between the two decades of ‘60s and ‘70s, showing tar, smoke, and earth. Dark at the center with lighter garnet hues, dark red fruits and a smooth finish, this wine was unique and stood out on its own.

Although we had the ‘55 next with a beautiful roasted quail, I want to talk about the ‘64 first. The ‘64 was an impossible bottle of wine, and I say that with plenty of passion and love. This wine was young—​younger and fresher than the ‘75, just beautiful, with powerful tannins​, ​ ​ ​great acidity, bright red fruits and glorious structure. This is a wine that will age for another 20-30 years at least.​ ​What a killer wine! Wow!

Finally, let me talk about the legendary Biondi-Santi Brunello di Montalcino 1955 Riserva. This is the kind of wine that makes a wine lover like me want to cry. How can you have a perfect drinking Italian wine that is 60 years old? How many producers are there that could accomplish something like this? There really aren’t many, if any. This wine was smokin’. It was a symphony of dark fruits, delicate earth, and slight tobacco; there was so much balance, integrated tannins and silkiness to die for. Hands down, this ’55 is the best wine I have ever had. It took the gold as favorite wine of the evening, with ‘64 as a very close runner up, and ‘75 got the bronze.

Not only​ ​was this​ ​a rare and historical event, but it also gave a panoramic view of Biondi-Santi, with wines made by both father and son (‘55, ‘64, ‘68, ‘69 by Tancredi and ‘70, ‘71, ‘75 by Franco). Sergio was​ ​able to get​ ​a number​ ​of​ ​bottles from each of the​ ​seven vintages and they have been moving quickly, finding homes with our loyal IWM customers.

Visit our event page for a full listing of upcoming IWM NYC wine tasting events.

Inside IWM, March 16-19, 2014: Spreading the Love and the Knowledge

A look back at the week that was

1-very-old-wine-carl-purcellIt was all about education and wine this week on the blog. Monday was National Artichoke Hearts Day, so we kicked off the week with a round-up of expert wine suggestions to pair with this humble thistle–with a bonus recipe from Emery Long. We finished with a meditation on learning how to enjoy mature wines from John Camacho Vidal, a process he knows well. In between, Jessica really enjoyed an under $27 2012 cru Rosso di Montalcino from Fuligni, and we took a look at that sneaky indigenous grape Dolcetto–and its amazing, juicy wines.

Our experts were similarly instructive. Garrett offered a heartfelt toast to François Lamarche, picking a pair of this esteemed vigneron’s Burgundies, and Robin Kelley O’Connor picked up the Burgundy banner to choose two affordable luxuries, a Pouilly Fuissé and a Meursault. Will Di Nunzio shared the fruits of his recent wine dinner discoveries–bottles from Cupano and Aldo Conterno. And Francesco Vigorito wants you to learn to embrace dessert wines, so he picked a pair from Antinori and Quintarelli.

Cheers to you and your wines, old and new, as we enjoy the vernal equinox and slide into spring!


Inside IWM, March 9-12, 2015: Big Thoughts, Big Wines, and Lots of Nebbiolo

A look back at the week that was

The hills of Barolo

The hills of Barolo

This week was all about serious thinking here at Inside IWM. We kicked off the week with part two of Francesco Vigorito’s series on building a serious Italian wine collection. He laid the foundation in part one, and in part two, Francesco talked Piemonte wines that every collector should have. As if picking up Francesco’s cue, Robin Kelley O’Connor took a long look at Barolo and explained why this wine is hot on the auction and collector market. On Tuesday, David Bertot gave his impassioned take on the Donnas’ under $25 “Mountain Barolo.” And on Wednesday, Emery Long took on the divisive topic of natural wines in the effort of helping you decide when you should go natural–and when you should reach for its opposite.

As much as our writers were taken by big thoughts about big wines, our experts were gripped by spring fever and the sheer joy of enjoyment. Garrett Kowalsky poured out a pair of 1998 Super-Tuscan icons from Tenuta dell’Ornellaia and Tenuta San Guido. On Thursday, Garrett’s brother Justin reveled in the spring weather and chose two classic white Burgundies, one from Gilbert Picq and the other from Domaine Leflaive. Crystal Edgar appreciates unusual wines, and she picked a pair from Fantinel’s boutique estate, La Roncaia, that offer full flavors of Friuli. And like Crystal, David Gwo opted to celebrate a single estate, but he chose the Rhône Valley’s E. Guigal, selecting Hermitage–one white, one red, both gorgeous.

Cheers to you, whether you’re simply enjoying the weather or thinking big thoughts with big wines!

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