Sangiovese is considered the grape that defines Italian wine. The most planted grape varietal in Italy, one in every 10 vines in Italy is Sangiovese, and it is the core of some of the country’s greatest wines. The Sangiovese grape adjusts to its environment, allowing for very different tasting wines that express their region’s terroir, providing a range of delicate floral strawberry aromas to intensely dark earthy and tannic wines.
Two Sangiovese purists are Fontodi and Montevertine. Fontodi’s Flaccianello and Montevertine’s Le Pergole Torte are both mono-varietal Sangiovese and both are elegant and expressive Sangiovese wines. Fontodi is located in the heart of Chianti Classico, south of the town of Panzano, in a region called the “Conca d’Oro” (the golden shell) because of its amphitheatre shape. A certified organic estate, Fontodi has been making wine since 1968. Montevertine lies within the heart of the Chianti hills, in the community of Radda at an altitude of 425 meters above sea level. This high altitude allows the Sangiovese to retain its perfect acidity and show a bright clean expression. Sergio Manetti purchased Montevertine in 1967 as a vacation house. As a hobby, he planted two hectares of vines and built a small cellar, with an idea of making wine for family and friends. As his enthusiasm grew, Sergio decided to dedicate all his efforts exclusively to winemaking.
The passion and respect for Sangiovese is very present in both of these wines, and if you’re a real Italian wine enthusiast, you owe it to yourself to experience both of these great Sangiovese expressions.
This wine is all about elegance. The nose is full of dense black fruits, spices, slight earthiness, and smoky mineraity. With some air, you get forest notes and cocoa mixed with black cherries. The palate is firm with raspy tannins and a well-integrated sharp acidity that lingers nicely. The 2008 is approachable now with some air, but it’ll keep in the cellar. Drink now and for the next decade.
Fontodi 1999 Flaccianello $179.99
I’ve tasted this vintage a few times and each time it surprises me with something new. This ’99 Flaccianello’s nose is full of dried roses, hints of tobacco and earth with soft wood notes in the background, but then black cherry and strawberry notes pop out of the glass. The palate is super silky with great acidity and well-balanced tannins with a nice long finish. Drink now.
The Veneto is an unusual region, filled with grapes that grow nowhere else in Italy; not the least of these are the grapes that producers use to make Amarone della Valpolicella (as well as Valpolicella and Recioto). A finely made Amarone is a wine that confounds, confuses and ultimately rewards the senses. It’s a wine of delicious exaggerations that needs to be experienced to be believed. A wine of contradiction, Amarone starts with a ripe almost sweet-like note, but it finishes exceptionally dry. Between the beginning and the end is an endless range of flavors to experience: fig, raisin, cocoa, cherry, licorice, eucalyptus, coffee, sweet spice, minerals, tar, oak and so many more.
The wine is an exaggeration of flavors and structure–alcohol levels exceed 15-16 percent–but Amarone gets its structure and weight not through roto-fermentors or modern innovation but a technique called appassimento. This method requires producers to carefully select grapes and spread them out in single layers to dry on straw or plastic mats for 60 to 100 days. During this time the grapes lose much of their initial water weight, dramatically concentrating their sugar content. The raisinated grapes are then crushed and fully fermented into a heady and robust wine.
This means that when producers make Amarone, they can lose grapes to rot or mold; moreover, because Amarone derives from dried grapes, it takes more grapes to make a bottle of Amarone–a lot more! Indeed, your usual bottle of Chianti, Super-Tuscan or Barolo takes about two pounds of grapes to make it. Your Amarone requires at least 23 pounds of grapes. And the sheer intensity of labor, which matches Amarone’s intensity of flavor, also explains why the wine tends to be expensive. While collectable Amarone from Quintarelli or Dal Forno can cost hundreds of dollars, some producers like Begali and Nicolis can make a compelling wine in the $50-$90 range, making it an affordable luxury to be savored slowly, as all Amarones should.
Watch for our upcoming eLetter offers for new releases from Quintarelli, the standard-bearer of Amarone.
When you live in the north, the longest season is not winter; it’s the bridge between winter and spring. Now that we have finally reached the finish line, what better way to celebrate than breaking out the rosé! And when I say rosé, I’m talking about serious wine.
Gone are the days when pink wine was dismissed. Sure, there are some pretty terrible examples available at the local supermarket, but I prefer to focus on the rosé wines that are more than just fruity and fun—they’re complex and cerebral, and they trigger the senses. Today I am highlighting two very different rosé expressions, one bright with bubbles from a classical Champagne producer in France, Billecart-Salmont, and another dramatic and delicious expression from Roucas Toumba in the Rhône Valley.
Billecart-Salmon Brut Rosé $89.99
A blend of 50% Chardonnay, 35% Pinot Noir and 15% Pinot Meunier, this pinky-salmon rosé offers vibrant strawberry and orange zest aromas with hints of rose, white tea and chalky minerals. On the palate, this bubbly is refreshingly tangy with bright red fruit character, impressive clarity and lingering stony finish. In my opinion, there is no wrong occasion for bubbly rosé!
Yes, this is AOC Vacqueyras! Saigné Grenache; Syrah in demi-muid; saigné Mourvèdre; Grenache and whites direct press, this wine is a vivid orange-pink. Lively red berry and citrus fruit aromas are complemented by a suave floral note and a hint of dusty minerals. This wine offers juicy raspberry and bitter cherry flavors that open up with air, picking up a touch of succulent herbs. Superbly concentrated, this is one of the biggest and most complex rosés you will ever taste. It’s a serious rosé that you can enjoy all by itself or with a variety of fuller flavored summer dishes.
Summer is coming. Emery wants you to be prepared. He offers a few helpful tips on how to keep wine safe, enjoyable and cool during the hot summer months. David Berot wants you to be satiated. He offers a simple recipe for ramps, that here-and-then-gone springtime edible. Matt Di Nunzio wants you to be happy. He picks out a delicious $12 Sangiovese that you’ll want to enjoy all summer long. And our staff wants you to be informed. We gave a quick, simple tour of Trentino-Alto Adige and the regions’ wine background.
Our experts similarly blended knowledge with their love of wine. Garrett Kowalsky explored his love of big bottles and picked out a pair for you to love. David Gwo discussed Tempranillo and selected two of Spain’s best, while Francesco Vigorito focussed on Sangiovese in its ultimate expression–Montevertine Le Pergole Torte. Finally Robin Kelley O’Connor prepared for his trip to Italy by choosing a pair of classic Italian bottlings, a Prosecco and a Brunello!
Cheers to your being happy, healthy, and wise–and never, ever out of wine!
Summer is swiftly approaching and it stirs a mix of emotions. I am most excited about longer sunny days, beautiful flowers, the cool shade of a new leaves, and dining outside with friends over a slew of national holidays. However, after the cold winter and brisk spring, I haven’t forgotten about the humidity, the heat, the traffic, and the hot smells of the earth thawing out. One thing for is sure: I’ll be diving head first into the season in style.
When I’m packing for a picnic, I usually leave the $100 a bottle wine behind, opting for bottles that I can chill very cold, letting them warm on my way to the event. For my “picnic pounder” I look for a wine that’s light, refreshing, effortless, bright, and cold—even bordering arctic. Something like Adam 2013 Pinot Grigio fits the bill. Under $12, this wine has all of the flavors I desire, and it also has a screw top in the off chance that a corkscrew didn’t make it in the bag
When you head out for a picnic, often glassware falls by the wayside. It would have to be a serious engagement to convince me to bring my set of Movia Crystal glassware into Central Park for a soirée. It’s all about having the right tool for the right job. I would serve my picnic wine in small, small portions in plastic cups to ensure that the beverage stays at the proper temperature in the bottle and to ensure that the sun doesn’t heat the wine in your cup. Smaller portions consumed quickly keep you from picking up won’t a plastic flavor from the cup.
When gearing up for a summer adventure, it’s always important to keep in mind the conditions of your journey along the way. On a short trip, a hot car traveling a few short hours can create a microclimate similar to a greenhouse—especially in your trunk—and unpredictable traffic can make your destination time unknown. Now start fretting about the delicious and delicate wine sitting in your trunk.
IWM’s wine cellars sit at a constant cool dark 56 degrees Fahrenheit, 13 degrees Celsius and 60% humidity, the ideal cellar temperature. This is a stark temperature difference to the projected typical summer high temperatures of 101 degrees, before factoring in the radiating heat from the asphalt, the reflection of a dark leather interior, and the fact that your companions want the sunroof open, windows down, AC blasting.
Don’t worry, I have come prepared with a few ideas on how to keep your wine secured like a pro. Serious enthusiasts can invest in a small 12-bottle electric wine cooler and an a/c converter for the vehicle; plug these in and let your worries fly out of your sunroof. If that’s not practical, I would suggest a small cooler bag that has been slightly chilled in advance. Wrap a minimal amount of cool ice packs—fewer ice packs than wine—in a small towel to encourage a cool temperature while not allowing the packs to have any direct contact of coolness of the ice packs. This method should be checked every few hours as it might take a few tries to get the size of ice packs dialed in as to make sure the bag and wine is not too cold or too warm.
To ensure that for whatever occasion you are celebrating or whatever color or type of wine you are enjoying, have a plan, stick to it, and be prepared to use a cooler bag. It’s all about preparation when your summer fun includes wine—and, really, that’s almost always.
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