The Inside Story from Italian Wine Merchants

Expert Picks: Antinori and Querciabella

Two expert selections from John Camacho Vidal

CamachoLately I have been focusing on Super Tuscans, those Tuscan wines that don’t conform to DOCG laws. When we talk about Super Tuscan wines, we’re usually referring normally refer to red wines that producers often make with international varietals using modern forms of vinification to create a more international style. Super Tuscans tend to be big red wines, but we often forget that Super-Tuscan producers also make great white wines. I want to present two white Tuscan wines that are primarily Chardonnay-based. Chardonnay traces its origins to the Burgundy region of France; however the grape also thrives in Italy and expresses the place of origin with noticeable characteristics and its own personality. These two bottles come from great Super-Tuscan producers, Querciabella, a biodynamic estate, and Antinori, an ancient winemaking family; they’re terrific introductions to white grape Super Tuscans (although technically the Castello della Sala is a Super-Umbrian wine).

Castello della Sala 2013 Cervaro della Sala Chardonnay $54.99

Cervaro della Sala is the flagship wine of Antinori’s Umbrian Castello della Sala estate, so you know it’s special. A blend of Chardonnay and Grechetto, an indigenous grape of Italy, the wine is fermented and aged in barriques and then matures in the bottles for ten months in the medieval cellars of the Castle. It shines a pretty yellow color and bursts with a nose full of citrus notes and sage. The palate is sharp and crisp with nice acidity balanced with stone minerality; the finish is round with traces of vanilla and a slight buttery note that lingers. Drink now to 2020.

Querciabella 2006 Batàr $89.99

An homage to white Burgundy, Querciabella’s Batàr is owner Guiseppe Castiglioni’s interpretation of Bâtard-Montrachet with an Italian twist.A blend of 50% Chardonnay and 50% Pinot Blanc, Batàr is very distinctive—and delicious. This full-bodied, elegant wine wafts with peaches, apples and hints of honeydew melon, followed by minerals and white flowers, all leading to slight hints of vanilla from the oak. The palate is full and clean with a nice, tart, tangy acidity that mellows out and finishes perfectly balanced. Drink now to 2020.

Inside IWM, March 21-24, 2016: It’s Spring (and Easter)!

A look back at the week that was

IMG_2225This weekend is Easter Sunday, which is preoccupying much, although not all, of IWM’s staff. We finished the week with Garrett Kowalsky’s ode to pork and his picks for pairing with ham (there’s even a poem from a lauded poet). Our go-to wine, coincidentally, would be a find suggestion for this Sunday’s feast; Sean Collins wrote about a$22 Sartarelli Verdicchio so good it makes converts out of red wine lovers.

John Camacho Vidal offered a brief history lesson before picking two Italian Cabernet Franc wines, both from Antinori. Michael Adler looks forward to 2014 Burgundies by selecting a pair of beloved 2013 Chassagne-Montrachet bottles. When it comes to pairing with spring’s tender bounty, Crystal Edgar turns to Umbria’s Castello della Sala, another Antinori holding, for her selections. And Francesco Vigorito has your value Burgundy needs covered with two lovely Pinot Noir bottles, both under $40.

Cheers to you, your family and to spring, however you’re celebrating it!

Expert Picks: Antinori and…Antinori!

Two expert selections from John Camacho Vidal

CamachoWhen we think about Cabernet Franc in Italy, we automatically think of Super-Tuscan wines. While Cabernet Franc is considered an international varietal since its origins are in Bordeaux, France, it has been grown in Italy since ancient Roman times, when it was known as Biturca, the name of a tribe in southwest France’s Gironde region. Eighteenth-century records indicate that Cabernet Franc was called Uva Francesca, and although Cabernet Franc was planted throughout Italy after the phylloxera devastation of the nineteenth century, most of the Cabernet vines that remained were mostly in the north where it grew well and thrived. Modern Italy is the second largest producer of Cabernet Franc, after France, and the most well known Italian region for Cabernet Franc is Tuscany. I want to present two Super Tuscan wines that are prime examples of how good Cabernet Franc from Italy can be. One, Antinori’s Tignanello, is a blend of Sangiovese and Cabernet Franc and the other, Antinori’s Matarocchio, is an elegant mono-varietal Cabernet Franc.

Antinori 2012 Tignanello $121.99

The nose of this ’12 Tignanello is ethereal with cherry and spice, hints of tar and tobacco and a slight balsamic note. The palate is powerful, dry with noticeable acidity and chewy tannins. A blend of 85% Sangiovese, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon and 5% Cabernet Franc, Tignanello was the first Super Tuscan to blend Sangiovese with non-indigenous grape varieties; the wine ages in barrique for a period of twelve months with another twelve months in bottle before release. Drink 2018 to 2032.

Antinori 2011 Matarocchio $349.00

The Antinori family has been making wine for 600 years, and they believe that Il Matarocchio is the maximum expression of both mono-varietal wine and a cru; it’s a wine that best shows the meeting of a single grape variety and a single vineyard, and together, they make a wine that shows its place of origin. 100% Cabernet Franc, this wine shows elegance from the start. It’s dark and dense with a nose full of cedar, spice and eucalyptus followed by minerality, loads of black fruit, leather, and a smoky herbal note. The palate is well balanced with strong grippy tannins and a spicy finish that lingers nicely. Drink 2019 to 2031.


Expert Picks: Castello della Sala and…Castelle della Sala!

Two expert selections from Crystal Edgar

Crystal 2014Local farmer’s markets are beginning to bring forth the first bounties of spring, and we are recalibrating our wine choices to match springtime’s tender produce. During the colder months I love a rich, meaty red that not only keeps me warm but also satiates the cravings for rich flavors and textures. Now that we are moving into spring, I have been reaching for more whites and light reds, I’ve been saving a variety of off-dry and sweet wines that pair well with a wide variety of dishes.

Today, I hand the microphone over to Umbria where Antinori’s Castello della Sala estate is located. Here, the Antinori family creates a range of delicious whites, elegant red offerings, and decadent sweet wines. All of these Umbrian wines possess the characteristics that has made us fall in love with Antinori’s wines time and time again. Rather than review the whole lineup, I am highlighting two beauties that have recently left me thirsting for more.

Castello della Sala 2013 Pinot Nero $59.99

This Pinot Noir offers a nod to Burgundy, and this 2013 is probably the most expressive I have tasted from Italy. Beautifully aromatic, the nose recalls delicate aromas that range from spices to floral notes of violets and roses to rich red berry fruit. The silky and polished palate is supple and tasty with elegant tannins, and the finish is long and balanced; the wine is already drinking well but it can certainly hang in the cellar if you have the patience. This is an ideal match with roasted pork, duck or a delicate pasta with fresh tomato and basil.

Castello della Sala 2008 Muffato Della Sala 1.5L $175.00

Muffato della Sala is a majestic blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Grechetto, with touches of Semillon, Gewurztraminer and Riesling depending on the vintage. “Muffa” refers to the special rot or mold botrytis or “noble rot,” which affects grapes allowed additional hang-time and which draws out the moisture from the grape berries, allowing the sugars and flavors to concentrate. The resulting wine is nectar and ambrosia. Antinori produces its Muffato dellaSala in very limited quantities, and we are fortunate enough to get a range of vintages and bottle formats. This 2008, in magnum, offers tropical fruit and honey character and is perfect end to any meal. It also pairs very well with spicy seafood.

Inside IWM, March14-17, 2016: Under the Tuscan Sun

A look back at the week that was

IMG_2452We have been living under Under the Tuscan Sun for twenty years! It’s true; Frances Mayes book was published this month in 1996, and we kicked off our week with a literary consideration of Tuscany. There’s no question that Mayes’ book, and the resulting movie, colored America’s consciousness, and in some ways, IWM itself is a result of America’s love affair with Italy. For these reasons, it’s only right that this week was mostly centered in Tusconay. On Tuesday, Sean Collins wrote about a beautiful $27 Super Tuscan from Antinori’s Maremma Estate, Le Mortelle, and on Wednesday, we discussed wines to pair with our favorite thistle, the artichoke, in honor of National Artichoke Hearts Day.

Two of our Experts stuck with the Tuscan theme. Garrett Kowalsky picked a pair of wines from Valdicava, one of IWM’s favorite makers of Brunello and Rosso di Montalcino. And John Camacho Vidal explored what’s so super about the Super Tuscan, and then he chose two that he loves, Sammarco from Castello dei Rampolla and Flaccianello from Fontodi. Only Crystal Edgar strayed outside of Toscana, but given that she calls Jean-Philippe Fichet’s Meursault wines “love at first sip,” we can understand why.

Cheers to you and your love of Tuscany, a love we share with you–and most of the world.

keep looking »