The Inside Story from Italian Wine Merchants

Inside IWM, May 9 to May 12, 2016: Good-Bye and Thank You!

A look back at the blog that was











IMG_2066This week began with a visit to one of our favorite biodynamic winemakers, Castello dei Rampolla. It’s hard to understand the logic of biodynamic winemaking, but it’s easy to enjoy the fruits of these producers’ labor. Visiting Castello dei Rampolla was an undisputed highlight of my first visit to Italy in 2011, and I’m never going to forget sharing a bottle of wine with its maker, Luca di Napoli. He and I and Eleanor Shannon sat on the shady piazza of the ancient estate, the bees drowsily buzzing, and the Conca d’Oro unfurling in striated lines below us. It was magical.

I’ve never formally introduced myself, but I’ve been the editor of Inside IWM since it began in the fall of 2009. It has been my privilege to work with IWM’s writers as they reflected on their wine experiences, narrated their trips around the world, gave wine recommendations, and shared with you, our readers, their passion for wine and wine culture. Over the past six-and-a-half years, I’ve learned a lot from working with our writers, and I hope you have too.

This week, I learned about the beauty of Bruno Giacosa’s Dolcetto from Sean Collins; I learned about why birth year wines matter and of the specialness of Fiorano from John Camacho Vidal; I learned about the ambition and the success of Burgundy’s Domaine Faiveley from Michael Adler; and I celebrated the magic of Josko Gravner’s amber wines with Crystal Edgar. Each of these posts contributed a little more to my understanding of and love for wine and the people who dedicate their lives to making it.

Almost 2,000 posts later, this is the final blog post for Inside IWM, at least for now. I want to thank you for reading, and I want to thank all of the IWM writers who have contributed over the years.

On behalf of all of IWM, let’s raise a glass and toast to Inside IWM, the story behind the people and the wines that makes Italian Wine Merchants so very special.

Castello dei Rampolla’s Harmony with Nature

Why biodynamic agriculture doesn’t need to make sense to make great wines











Biodynamic Castello dei Rampolla

Biodynamic Castello dei Rampolla

Farmers who use biodynamic growing methods choose to plant, weed, treat, harvest and, if they’re winemakers, vinify in concert with the movement of the planets. The point of biodynamic growing, an agricultural movement that looks at organic farmers as folks who do something right if somewhat incompletely, is to look at the growth cycle of the entire field as one holistic unit. To those of us who bear an empirical mind and like to see cold, calculating and clear evidence to support assertions (and I do count myself among that number), biodynamic practices with their airy-fairy reliance on manure-filled and cow-horns that are buried and exhumed, water’s circular memory, and a vague tie between planetary movements and “energy” can make us roll our eyes.

Some people decry the ability of biodynamic agriculture to actually make a difference in winemaking. It’s too magical, too lacking in substance, too weird, and too unscientific, they argue. It is hard to understand exactly how or why water that has moved in one direction rather than another would affect a plant’s hydration, and it’s hard to see how burying a cow horn would do anything to affect a vineyard’s production. Being fairly empirically minded, I might accept these arguments had I not spent an afternoon with Luca di Napoli Rampolla at his biodynamically maintained Tuscan estate, Castello dei Rampolla. This afternoon changed my thinking about biodynamic methods, and even if I don’t understand them, I became a believer.

It might have been spending a couple of hours walking around the estate as Luca pulled up tufts of grass and named each plant in his hand. It might have been his patient explanation of the ways that his vines interact with the trees that surround them, with the soils that support them, and with the weather that touches them. It might have been the clear, unremitting commitment that Luca makes in every choice for his estate—from the solar panels on top of the vinification area to the placement of his chicken coop.

It might be all of that talking, walking and looking helped me grasp that choosing to prune according to how the alignment of the planets will affect the plants. Or it might be sitting on Luca’s terrace, drinking the wine that he made helped me believe. But on that Thursday afternoon, I became a biodynamic convert. I don’t really care how the science works. It’s clear to me that there’s something very special, very alive and very unique about this wine.

Italy, unlike the United States, is a place where people continue to believe in magic. I’ve never lived long enough in other areas of the world to make further comparisons, but while Americans might wistfully wish for magic, Italians feel it. It’s in the mountains and in the sea. It’s in the cities, like Venice and Rome, that shouldn’t exist, not as they do, not after all these centuries. It’s in the food and in the wine. And sometimes, I think, you just have to put science on hold, sit back, exhale, and enjoy the magic. It’s ephemeral, beautiful and vital. If it’s biodynamic, then it’s simply all the better.

IWM has the new 2011 Sammarco release coming from Castello dei Rampolla. Don’t miss this extraordinary biodynamic Super Tuscan!

Inside IWM, May 2 to May 5, 2016: Beautiful Wine Secrets

A look back at the week that was











photo-2-300x300This week, we took a peek under the hood of IWM and got a glimpse at the secret wine cellar where your IWM wines live, breathe, and age in temperature-controlled splendor. And Stephane Menard made a compelling case for enjoying the 2013 Le Volte, Tenuta dell’Ornellaia‘s “second” wine, early and often. This under-the-radar Super Tuscan is under $30 and completely delicious!

Garrett Kowalsky confessed that the first wine he fell in love with was a Bruno Giacosa Barolo, and he picked two wines to testify to the longevity of his passion. John Camacho Vidal explains the secrets of enjoying mature wines, selecting two beautifully aged Barolos for you to try. Michael Adler alerts you to a hard-to-find, little-known Burgundy producer, François Gay, by selecting a dynamic duo from this overlooked estate. And it’s no secret that Chablis is perfect for summer; Crystal Edgar picks a pair from William Fevre.

Cheers to your beautiful wine secrets–may you share them with the people you love!

IWM’s Secret Wine Cellar

The IWM difference–our temperature-controlled cellar and our cellarmen











Most IWM clients have never visited our cellar. They just know that their wine magically arrives in the dumbwaiter, gets tenderly wrapped by a sales associate, placed into a happy maroon box, and that’s it. But below the wooden floor of the IWM showroom sits a magical wonderland of wine and cellarmen. This is their story.

This picture shows your hypothetical bottle of Barolo. You want to buy it because it does look lovely on the shelf and you know it’ll be tasty; however, you don’t get this actual bottle of Barolo. Yours comes from the cellar, and your IWM sales associate sends the order downstairs, where it is received by one of several workers.
The workers downstairs in the cellar work really hard.  They don’t just fetch your bottle of wine (and mine); they also catalog, unpack, pack up, organize and otherwise keep the warren of the cellar in manageable order. It’s tight and cold in the cellar.  Shelves are crammed with bottles, making the space seem smaller than it is. The fans are loud and there are many, many boxes.

The boxes are, frankly, drool inspiring. If you look at this picture of Gaja and Sassicaia crates and don’t feel lust in your heart, you’re probably reading the wrong blog.

Likewise if this picture of shelves of Dal Forno don’t make you feel a bit like snatching and running..

The best part of the IWM cellar–other than the proximity of that much wine–is the link between the cellar and the store: the dumbwaiter. There’s a childlike wonder inherent to dumbwaiters, a kind of now-you-don’t-see it/now-you-do household prestidigitation. I also love that the IWM dumbwaiter is crafted from an Ornellaia box. It’s perfect that wine arrives in the casing of one of the most enchanting Super-Tuscan wines. Look down the shaft of the dumbwaiter and seeing the wine and the workers. It’s not quite seeing the White Rabbit or the Keebler elves, but it’s magical all the same.

Inside IWM, April 4-7, 2016: Weird, Wild, Wonderful Wines

A look back at the week that was











Gravner's "orange" Ribolla Gialla

Gravner’s “orange” Ribolla Gialla

What do you expect from a week that kicked off with Franciacorta, Italy’s only méthode champenoise sparkling wine? It’s going to be a little weird–and a lot wonderful. Lombardia is often overlooked, but its small Franciacorta region gives you a very good reason to explore it. We take a look at the beauty of Italy’s “Champagne.” Our go-to Tuesday wine bridges the gap between red and white, and it’s flexible enough to drink anytime of year. Sean Collins describes this delicious under $23 Rotberger Rosato. And we finished the week with Crystal’s take on the amber wines of Josko Gravner. She says to drink them with meat. Intrigued? Get to know Gravner!

Like Crystal, Michael Adler loves Josko Gravner, and he puts a special bottle of Breg Anfora in the company of another great orange wine from Paolo Bea; skin-contact rules! John Camacho Vidal looked to Chardonnay–Italian Chardonnay from Angelo Gaja. You really can’t go wrong with wines from this Piemonte maverick. And Francesco Vigorito kept it classic with two warm vintage wines from a pair of traditional Barolo makers, Bruno Giacosa and Giuseppe Rinaldi.

Here’s to exploring the weird, the wild, the wonderful–and the tried, true and trusted–in your wine glass.

keep looking »