With the holiday season upon us, it’s time to start thinking of wines to pour at dinners and parties. I love Sangiovese Grosso; it’s one of my favorite indigenous Italian. In the right hands this wonderful grape makes spectacular wines, specifically Brunello di Montacino and Rosso di Montalcino.
The DOCG for Brunello di Montaccino require that the wine age for a minimum of 3 ½ years in oak of any type or size. Traditionally Brunello aged in large Slovenian oak, not small French oak barriques (a barrique holds 225 liters or 300 bottles and it’s the most common used barrel in winemaking). Traditionalists use large Slovenian oak casks because they believe Sangiovese Grosso doesn’t need all the characteristics that the smaller barrique imparts. Others argue that barrique aging can be beneficial, balancing out what the grape is lacking naturally. Although Brunello can be age in either large or small casks, the typical aromatics of the region stay the same: sour cherry, herbs, aged balsamic, and earth; with some age, the wine also shows fig, sweet tobacco, espresso, and leather. I’ve chosen two of my recent favorite Sangiovese Grosso bottlings for you today.
Unlike Brunello, sibling wine Rosso di Montacino only requires to spend six months aging in oak and one year total aging before release. However, the Valdicava estate makes what can only be a baby Brunello because the wine ages for12 to 15 months in cask before bottling. This 2012 is dense and extracted with a very pretty nose that’s full of plum, red and blue fruits, spice, cigar and hints of leather. The palate is warm in inviting with tannins that slowly latch on, allowing for a nice lingering finish. Drink now and for the next couple of years.
This estate was started in the 1980s by Pierluigi Talenti; now led by his grandson Ricardo Talenti, what Talenti so particular is that the estate crafts traditional Brunello that still allows for earlier approachability. Talenti’s Brunello offer intensity and freshness combined with a nice mineral backbone and well-balanced tannins. This 2008 is full of blackberry, cherry, plum, chocolate and a bit of spicy tobacco on the nose. The palate is fresh with silky tannins and an ethereal finish. Drink now to 2022.
Riding shotgun in an old truck with Marco Sassetti, general manager of the Il Palazzone estate on one late November afternoon, I was privy to a conversation between him and an old friend.
“Dove vai?” his friend asked, shouting across the narrow dirt road. Where are you going?
“Festa del tacchino!” Marco responded with a chuckle, and even I with my limited English had to laugh. What else would an Italian call Thanksgiving but the “Turkey feast”?
It’s tough to be an ex-pat on national holidays. In late November 2011, I was in Montalcino, in Tuscany, where I lived for two months stretching from just before Halloween to early December. I had been staying at this ramshackle seventeenth-century villa rented by Lauren Cicione, an Italian-American who’d rented it and then unexpectedly found herself working in Piedmont, and I got to experience the glory of the tiny town of Montalcino as late fall crept towards winter. I watched the leaves on the trees and on the vines turn gold and fall off; I felt the air turn crisp and then cold.
National holidays elicit nostalgia. The fourth Thursday in November creeps up on the calendar, and just about every American will find his or her tongue twitching for cranberries. There are no cranberries in Italy. Cranberries are a purely American thing. Turkeys originated in North America, but while they are flightless birds, they have managed to make the leap to Europe. Still, they are strange to Italians. Italians are not big on turkey, and, really, it’s difficult to make an argument about why they should be. Turkey, removed from the warm fuzzy feelings and the accouterments has little to recommend it. Thanksgiving celebrates the mythic roots of America, after all. How could it be anything but foreign to Italy?
The year I was in Italy, Thanksgiving came and went—it was just another work day for Italians, after all, but on the following Saturday, Lauren pulled together a Thanksgiving feast for about three ex-pat Americans and a sprawling company of twenty or so Europeans, most Italians. The table groaned under a huge toddler-sized turkey, sides both traditional (stuffing, green beans, carrots, mashed potatoes, gravy) and not (pasta, risotto, sautéed wild mushrooms, polenta). There was copious wine, mostly Brunello, as you’d expect, and the Italians drank freely—I think “tacchino” is an acquired taste. There were pies too; they looked and tasted a bit like they’d passed through a long game of recipe telephone on the way to their creation. I was thankful for it all.
As this Thanksgiving approaches, I find myself thinking of that festa di tacchino, the ragtag bunch of people gathered at a villa perched on the side of hill trying to recreate a meal that was alien to most of them. We spoke no fewer than five languages at that table, but it didn’t really matter. The company was gracious, the food was abundant, the wine was excellent, and we were united in gratitude.
It’s almost here! Thanksgiving Day, the day when we gorge ourselves with copious amounts of turkey, stuffing, cranberries beans, and potatoes—all of it smothered with a healthy dose of gravy. Thanksgiving means we get to indulge ourselves in order to give thanks for the bounty we have in our lives, and many of us gather to be with family, friends and to share a meal and to share our homes with one another. Of course, what would an event like this be without wine? Wine, perhaps more than any other beverage, brings us together. Many of my colleagues have been giving you their recommendations, and I wanted to let you know what the Kowalsky household will be drinking this Thanksgiving!
Greeting guests in the family room with some passed hors d’oeuvres is a tradition at my family’s house. These appetizer flavors include meats, cheeses, dips, and veggies, so I need a versatile wine. I know my family prefers red, so the Le Difese is perfect. Not only is the price point very wallet friendly, but you also get a glimpse of a heralded estate and the fruit is prominent, while maintaining that rustic Italian style. This ’13 Le Difese is a versatile bottle that is ready to go. Drink now until 2020.
The first Burgundy vintage I was a part of selling when I started at IWM was the 2009, and this year came with much hype. All these years later, these wines are starting to show their ripe qualities and complex flavors. Drouhin-Laroze is a favorite producer of mine, and while this estate may own many tiny plots throughout the region, it takes great care to produce sensational wines, particularly when it comes to the grand crus. This magnum should be more than enough to satiate my family, pairing wild dark berries and warm spice with the rich flavors on the table. Drink to 2024.
As we swing around the corner into the holiday season, IWM finds it hard to contain our enthusiasm. Crystal finds wine pairings for all of your Thanksgiving Day needs, from cheese-ball to green-bean casserole, all the way to dessert! Out at IWM Aspen, Emery Long pops open a $20 bottle of delicious Rosso di Montepulciano for his apres-ski pasta dinner. Janice Cable expresses her passion for orange wines, the overlooked, food-friendly option for holiday drinking.
Speaking of orange wines, Crystal picks a pair from Josko Gravner for her expert selections. Michael Adler confesses his affection for family-owned domaines, and provides a pair of Alain Burguet Burgundies to prove his love. And John Camacho Vidal has room in his heart for bottles of both vintage and new release Barolo; his picks give you a pair to try at home.
Speaking of holidays on the horizon, don’t miss IWM NYC’s Black Friday tasting event. It’s complimentary, amazing, and a whole lot of fun. Take a shopping break and enjoy more than twenty wines from around the world–but reserve your spot! This event is filling up fast.
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