The Inside Story from Italian Wine Merchants

It’s National Artichoke Heart Day!

What should you use to toast your artichoke?

artichokes_bkgrdIt’s National Artichoke Heart Day. A member of the thistle family, artichokes are delicious, if sometimes prickly. I’m a big fan of their mealy, rubbery, fibrous texture, and their slightly sweet, herbaceous flesh that’s reminiscent of fennel. Rarely have I encountered an artichoke I haven’t enjoyed eating. I like them small and fried, big and steamed, chilled with hollandaise, hearted and pickled. I like them mashed into tapenade, stuffed with breadcrumbs, barbecued in the Spanish style, even turned into liqueur, as they are in Cynar, an aperitif made by Campari.

I love artichokes, but they are notoriously difficult to pair with wine. For one thing, artichokes contain cynarin, a compound that makes food taste sweet, and putting them with red wine makes the wine taste weirdly metallic. Like green beans and asparagus, artichokes can be the death of wines. But, as the adage goes, what grows together goes together, and from Rome to Sicilia, artichokes are a mainstay of Italian cooking.

I turned the question over to IWM’s authorities to see how they handle the thorny issue of pairing artichokes and wines.

Francesco Vigorito:

Sardinia is big into artichokes, so maybe a Vermentio di Galura for white, or you could also go for a Punica if you’re looking for a red. If you do floured fried baby artichokes with a squeeze of lemon, then a sparkler to cut through the fry would be nice. Maybe something with a good fruitiness to it like the Barone Pizzini’s Rose Franciacorta, the slight sweetness in the wine should cut the artichoke quite nicely.


Crystal Edgar:

As a rule of thumb with wine and food pairings, the stronger the acid in the food, the more challenging the pairing. Vegetables like artichokes, asparagus spinach and other bitter greens are rather acidic but can be tamed by adding sweetness and/or richness, which helps to mute the acidity. Without going to sweet on the spectrum, I would recommend Pinot Gris from Alsace or Oregon, Friulano from Italy, Grüner Veltliner from Austria or another weighty white with some residual sweetness.

Garrett Kowalsky:

Pairing artichokes with wine is always a difficult task. Many times I opt for other beverages, but that is not always an option for my clients. My suggestion is to pick a high acid white with little to no oak. A bottle like that will be less likely to be thrown off by the strong flavors in the food. Think Sauvignon Blanc, or if you really prefer Chardonnay, then lean towards the wines from Chablis. Finally, don’t forget some of the delightful bottlings from Italy like Verdicchio and Vermentino.

John Camacho Vidal:

I have played around with different wines to pair with artichokes and have found that a very dry, high acid wine or a Fino Sherry with floral notes always does well. I’m also a big fan of orange wines, and I think they pair great with artichokes. I suggest clients they try their favorite artichoke dish with Gravner anfora white. Gravner’s oxidative quality mixed with the wine’s fruit will really bring the flavors together.


Go-to-Wine Tuesday: Guado al Tasso 2014 Bolgheri Vermentino

A bright, juicy under $23 Antinori Vermentino with a perfect recipe complement

WH1916-2Today, I’m going to share a great Italian recipe with you: “Rombo al forno con le Patate.” Even better, I’m going to put it with the perfect wine pairing, Guado al Tasso 2014 Bolgheri Vermentino from Antinori, a sharp and floral new release from this Bolgheri estate. This classic Italian recipe is as good as it is healthy; it’s also simple and focuses on the high quality of one of the most noble fish from the Mediterranean: the Turbot.

One of the most prestigious wine producers in Italy, Antinori gained international renown for crafting the world-famous Tignanello, Solaia, Cervaro della Sala and, of course, Guado al Tasso, the flagship wine of the estate of the same name. The Guado al Tasso estate is located near Bolgheri on the Tuscan coast, 60 miles southwest of Florence. Its 750 acres of vineyards sit in the center of the so-called “Bolgheri amphitheater,” the rolling hillsides that surround a splendid plain that slopes gently towards the sea; it’s a microclimate with unique characteristics.

In the glass, this ’14 Vermetino is almost straw yellow kissed with green highlights, and its nose is quite floral but delicate. The fresh and precise, palate is mineral laden, and it holds the typical notes of a Bolgheri Vermentino such as citrus fruit, and flowers. Fresh and acidic, this wine’s balance is perfect and it has a long and savory finish. Less than $23 a bottle, this Vermentino is especially good for the price!

Now, here’s your ideal pairing, “Rombo al forno con le Patate”


One small Turbot, 1 ½ lb per person

3-4 Yukon Potatoes



Black pepper

Extra virgin olive oil


Pre-heat the oven at 375F

IMG_3516Peel the potatoes, and put them in a water bowl to minimize starch and avoid oxidation.

Slice the potatoes thinly with a mandoline slicer and make a layer on a baking sheet, add olive oil, salt, pepper and fresh rosemary



IMG_3518Add the Turbot on top, incise the fish on the top and add some olive oil




IMG_3520Cook in the oven for 20-25 minutes at 375F




IMG_3522Serve the fish with the potatoes with a delicious fresh glass of Guado al Tasso Bolgheri Vermentino 2014 and enjoy the rest of the evening


Buon appetito!


Fall Weather Cavatelli Pasta alla Amatriciana

Eating for cold weather warmth

Kevin Sippel at workAs cooler weather starts to roll into New York, our appetites change for something a little heartier and warming to our tastes. IWM’s kitchen has a recommendation on what we should be eating now.  The IWM kitchen, helmed by Chef Mike Marcelli, provides our IWM tasting menus with Italian delicacies that dance in your mouth and comfort your stomach, creating the perfect compliment to the magic in our glasses.  This fall pasta recipe based on a Roman dish incorporating pasta that looks like miniature hot dog buns and guanciale (otherwise known as pig cheeks).

Cavatelli Pasta alla Amatriciana


1 lb. ricotta

1 lb. flour

A Pinch of salt

1/2 cup of water Making Cavatelli by hand, as our kitchen does, takes some time–even if you use a pasta bike. If you want to make it by hand, this site gives a good tutorial. There’s no shame in buying it.


Cook on low heat for 45 minutes:

16 oz. canned tomatoes

1 Tbs. kosher salt

Combine following ingredients and fry for 15 minutes on low heat:

2 cup Olive oil

1 bunch Basil

1 head Garlic

1 tsp. Crushed red pepper

Strain reserve oil and add to tomatoes, mixing thoroughly until emulsified.

Then take 6 oz. guanciale

Slice guanciale thin, cut into small dice and render it down until crispy.

Add to sauce.

Combine pasta with sauce and cook for 1 minute, turn fire off and add the following:

1 Tps. chopped arugula

3 Tbs. grana pandano cheese

1 Tbs. butter

Serve and enjoy.

You can try this at home and enjoy with your favorite bottle of wine.  We suggest the Agricola Punica 2010 Barrua or Montevertine 2013 Pian del Ciampolo, both great wines that will complement this dish with style–or you can pick another great food-friendly wine, like Tenuta San Guido 2013 Le Difese or La Maialina 2010 Chianti Classico.

Inside IWM, November 9-12, 2015: Surprising Wine Edition!

A look back at the week that was

All roads lead to Chianti

All roads lead to Chianti

We kicked off the week with a history lesson in Italian wine, most specifically how we got Chianti Classico (and it wasn’t a simple journey). Then Stephane Menard poured out a terrific under $25 Chianti Classico with a delicious ragù Toscano, recipe included! Finally, John Camacho Vidal wrote about his melting pot Thanksgiving and suggested three palate-pleasing wines that are versatile enough to accompany a wide array of foods.

Our experts split along French and Italian lines this week. On the French side of the divide are Crystal, who picked a pair of Pousse d’Or Volnays, and Garrett, who opted for two Etienne Sauzet Puligny-Montrachet bottles. On the Italian side, both Francesco and Michael chose a red bottle and a rosato bottle. Francesco’s are from Il Conventino and Cupano, while Michael’s are from Biondi-Santi and Le Macchiole; all are surprising!

Here’s to being always surprised by wine, its history, its differences, its range, and our love for it!

Go-To-Wine Tuesday: Castello di Selvole 2012 Chianti Classico  

A tasty under $25 Sangiovese Chianti Classico that’s anything but ordinary!

RD9047-2When you think about Tuscany, you probably think of Chianti, one of the most famous wines in the world. The beautiful Castello di Selvole Chianti Classico 2012 is not your ordinary Chianti. A historic producer whose roots stretch back to 1070, Castello di Selvole embodies the role that Chianti Classico has had in shaping Tuscan identity. This Chianti Classico, which is among my personal favorites, is crafted in a mix of traditional and international protocol; this wine ages in barrique before bottling, where it rests for three months before release. It’s a delicious, evocative Chianti Classico that makes food sing.

As fall is unfolding with its beautiful light and colors, I wanted to make a comforting dish that would be ideal for the crisp weather. The ragù Toscano that I chose to cook is actually the first Italian recipe I learned how to prepare. When I first moved to Italy, one of my good friends named Giovanni was an apprentice chef and shared with me this recipe he originally got from his Tuscan grandmother.

I highly recommend opening the beautiful Castello di Selvole Chianti Classico a couple hours before tasting. The high acidity of the Sangiovese grape is perfect for the tomato-based ragù, and it pairs perfectly. This ’12 Chianti Classico has great balance, and after aerating for a couple of hours, it shows beautifully. Open a couple of bottles of this $25 Chianti Classico, invite a bunch of your friends, and celebrate the fall with my friend Giovanni’s recipe for ragù Toscano.

Ingredients for fettuccine al ragù for 8-10 people:

Extra virgin olive oil

1 large onion, finely diced

3 garlic cloves, peeled and cut in half

2 carrots, finely diced

4 celery sticks, finely diced

One bunch of Italian flat-leaf parsley

Three sprigs of thyme

One sprig of rosemary

A few fresh basil leaves

2 bay leaves

2 bottles of Castello selvole Chianti Classico

3 Pounds of ground meat (ideally 50% beef and 50% veal)

2 classic Italian sausages.

Canned peeled San Marzano DOP tomatoes (approximately 70 oz)

3 teaspoons of tomato concentrate

Salt and pepper to taste

soffrittoFinely dice the onion, carrots, and celery and mix them together.

In a very large pot gently heat some extra virgin olive oil and add the vegetables, let cook this soffritto for 5 min at medium heat or until the vegetables have softened.

ragu meatIn the meantime, open up the sausages and mix together with the ground meat in a very large bowl.

Add some olive oil, salt, pepper, minced parsley, thyme and rosemary to the meat. Mix well.

ragu meat cookingAdd the meat and the garlic cloves to the vegetables in the pot; increase the heat to HIGH and stir well. Once the water released by the meat evaporates, add ¾ of bottle of Chianti Classico. Keep the heat on HIGH to let the alcohol evaporate for approximately 7 minutes.

tomato cookingOnce the alcohol has evaporated, add the peeled tomatoes, 2 teaspoons of tomato concentrate and a cup of water. Adjust the salt level. Mix well and bring to a boil.

ragu near finishedLower the heat to LOW and cover. Let cook for 3 hours.

You can stir gently every 45 minutes. For the last 45 minutes of cooking, you can take the lid off and let your ragù evaporate a little bit to reach desired consistency.

Toss the pasta in a 5-quart pot filled with salted water. Once the pasta is cooked, put it in a large plate, cover with the ragu sauce and add some leaves of fresh basil. You can use long pasta like pappardelle, tagliatelle, spaghetti, or you can use short pasta like paccheri, or rigatoni.

Tm6aWg0MS1vV5TNA2ZWPlEKRr26KMmBMNC-zKftjoLGKMGUlh5Purs3VC1HOE21H-tbtSg=s2048Then settle back and enjoy the warmth of friendship, home cooking, and Chianti Classico!

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