The Inside Story from Italian Wine Merchants

Expert Picks: Giacosa and Biondi-Santi

Two expert selections from Francesco Vigorito

Francesco 2014Does Italian wine get any better than my two selections for today, Barbaresco from Bruno Giacosa and Brunello from Biondi-Santi? It might depend on whom you ask, but both Giacosa and Biondi are at the top of their games in 1998 and 1995 respectively. Not only were these great vintages from these legendary winemakers, but these bottles are about as classic as Italian wines can get, and now that these bottles have the necessary maturity, you will get to experience these wines in all their glory—while they last!

Bruno Giacosa 1998 Barbaresco Santo Stefano Riserva $349.00
Giacosa only puts out his Red Label bottlings in the best of vintages, and this is one winemaker who prefers warmer vintages like 1998. This is benchmark Barbaresco at its finest. Loaded with sweet cherries, licorice, flowers, and tobacco, this wine shows complexities for days. It’s a wine that you don’t even have to drink to enjoy; simply looking at its light ruby color and giving the occasional swirl to coax out the aromas is enough, seriously. Of course, you’re going to want to drink it, and you’ll be amazed when you do.

Biondi-Santi Il Greppo 1995 Brunello di Montalcino $225.00

This ‘95 is finally ready to drink after twenty years! If you have 1995 Riservas, still hold onto those and drink these ‘95 Biondi-Santi normale bottlingss because they are right on point. People generally have bad experiences with Biondi-Santi Brunello because they drank the wine too early when they are too austere. If you are one of those people, here is your chance to have a Biondi-Santi Brunello from a great vintage that is drinking in its prime right now. Our allocations are very limited, so get them while you can.

A Field Guide To Building The Ideal Italian Wine Collection, Part 2: Piemonte

The first pillar of an Italian wine collection: Piedmont 

The sinuous hills that are home to Barolo

The sinuous hills that are home to Barolo

Originally posted at the blog of Revel Cellars, a company that builds custom wine cellars, this post is the second part in a series by Francesco Vigorito ofIWM Aspen; here is part one.

No Italian wine collection would be complete without wines from Piemonte, home of collectable, age-worthy wines revered around the globe. Let’s start today with the “King” and “Queen” of Italian wine, Barolo and Barbaresco. Both are composed exclusively of the indigenous Nebbiolo grape, one of the world’s most tannic and acid-driven varieties, characters that allow their wines to mature and age gracefully for over 10-70 years.   Not all Barolo and Barbaresco are created equally—in fact, there are only a handful of producers in these tiny regions that should garner your attention as far as collections go.

Leading that charge in Barolo is Giacomo Conterno and its Barolo Riserva Monfortino. Words simply can’t describe the experience of drinking this wine from a standout vintage. The 1955 is the best bottle of Italian wine to ever touch my palate, and I still think about today, even though I drank it about a year ago! Barolo Monfortino is the most sought-after Barolo made, and with fewer than 600 cases produced in the vintages when Conterno chooses to make it, there isn’t much to go around. If these bottles are ever offered to you, make sure not to hesitate to pick them up. Without Monfortino in your collection, you really can’t call it an Italian wine collection. If we wanted to make a comparison to Burgundy, Conterno’s Monfortino is the DRC Romanée-Conti of Barolo; perhaps that puts it in perspective.

With Barolo Riserva Monfortino at the top, there are a couple of other producers right on its tail, most notably Aldo Conterno’s Granbussia, Bartolo Mascarello’s Barolo (the estate’s only Barolo), Luciano Sandrone’s Barolo Cannubi Boschis (no Riservas made here), Bruno Giacosa’s Red Label Barolo Riservas, Giacosa’s Barolo Collina Rionda (no longer produced), and last but absolutely not least, Guiseppe Rinaldi’s Brunate-Le Coste (also no longer produced). Certainly, there are other producers making exceptional Barolos that are not on my list, but to my thinking, these six represent the finest and most collectible out there.

Let’s now turn to Barbaresco. Producing roughly a third less wine than Barolo and lying only 10-15 miles to the northwest, the wines are very similar in profile, but Barbarescos tend to bring a more elegant style of Nebbiolo to the game. Because there is less Barbaresco produced, it really comes down to two producers who craft totally different styles of wine, but both have the same respect for the Nebbiolo grape and the Barbaresco region. These producers would most definitely be Angelo Gaja and Bruno Giacosa.

You can’t say enough about Gaja and all that he has done for the Italian wine scene, both his contributions to spurring quality winemaking practices as well as the attention he drew to Italian wines through his deft hand at marketing. Gaja’s single vineyard “Barbarescos”—I use quotes here because they are technically not Barbarescos due to the addition of Barbera—are the flagship wines in his portfolio. With their black and white labels, showcasing his name “GAJA” in all caps, you cannot miss these bottles in any wine shop or wine cellar. The Gaja family is originally from Spain, but these wines are as Italian as Italian wines get and will be the cherry atop many Italian wine collections.

Another vital Barbaresco you cannot miss are Bruno Giacosa’s Red Label Riservas that he produces only in the finest vintages. His wines present a more refined and suave style than Gaja’s, attracting more the Burgundy collector because of the nuance and elegance in his mature wines. One word of advice: don’t go opening up a Giacosa Red Label prematurely or you will run into a wall of tannins that can scrape the plaque off your teeth and leave you with a bad experience. All of this said, Giacosa’s famous Red Label Riservas, wheter Barbaresco or Barolo, garner serious attention from collectors world-wide because of their sheer rareness, deliciousness and performance on the auction block. If I had just one producer of Barbaresco in my cellar, it would have to be Bruno Giacosa.

So here we have the backbone of the superior Piedmont collection. From Conterno’s Barolo Riserva Monfortino to Giacosa’s Red Label Barbaresco Riservas, these recommendations will guarantee more than a lifetime of joy and great drinking. If you enjoy Sangiovese, Cabernet and Merlot, stay tuned for part three later when I detail the collectible wines of Tuscany.


Inside IWM, February 2-5, 2015: Great People and Great Wine

A look back at the week that was

Wines poured at IWM NYC's winemaker dinner with Axel Heinz

Wines poured at IWM NYC’s winemaker dinner with Axel Heinz

Last night, IWM NYC hosted a winemaker dinner with Tenuta dell’Ornellaia’s renowned Axel Heinz, and we’ve got that after-party feeling of exhaustion mixed with exhilaration. We finished the week with Robin Kelley O’Connor’s account of a lunch honoring renowned Bordeaux winemaker Patrick Léon, so you can’t fault us for feeling the party spirit. We began with a look back at Montalcino’s storied history and BBS11, the grape that launched this town and Brunello into greatness. David Gwo actually samples a bottle of Montalcino’s glory in Fuligni 2012 Rosso di Montalcino, an under $28 extraordinary wine. And Jessica Catelli asks the all-important question: Should you buy a wine by its label? The answer’s not as superficial as you might suspect.

Two of our experts stayed true to one producer in their selections this week. Garrett Kowalsky proclaimed his affection for Ada Nada’s affordable cru Barbarescos, and Crystal Edgar finds surprise and intrigue in Bodega Chacra’s old-vine Patagonian Pinot Noir. Our other two experts let recent wine experiences serve as their guides for their picks. Will Di Nunzio (who hosts this Saturday’s Big Red tasting) chose great wines from San Giuliano and Tenuta San Guido, and Francesco opted for a pair of vintage beauties from two Italian icons, Roberto Voerzio and Giuseppe Rinaldi.

It’s cold out there throughout much of the country. Here’s to great wine–and great company–to keep you warm!

Expert Picks: San Giuliano and Tenuta San Guido

Two expert selections from Will Di Nunzio

Will_B_8.6.14_72dpiThere is an enormous number of different wines in Italy, so many that it’s difficult to navigate all the producers, grapes, regions, styles and vintages by yourself. For these reasons, it makes sense that Sergio came up with the concept of IWM’s portfolio managers; we are educators, guides and trusted wine friends who can steer you in the right direction. I have served all these functions for my clients over the years, and the question they most often ask is “What should I get?”

Obviously the answer depends completely on personal preferences, wine occasion and wine budget. Today I wanted to give two perspectives of high quality in a high and low range, and I chose two of my recent favorites from our cellars. The first is an extremely well priced Barbaresco from the San Giuliano estate, a wine we carry year in and year out and arguably the best value in Barbaresco. The second bottle is all-out collectible wine you can enjoy right now. If you’re going to put down the cash you may as well drink some of the best and most collected wine from Italy: Sassicaia.

San Giuliano Barbaresco 2010 $52.25

Piemonte – Nebbiolo

Crafting a mere 400 cases average per year of this Barbaresco, the owner of San Giuliano, Giulio Pastura, is consistent in his efforts to produce high quality wine at low cost. Like other serious wine makers in Italy, his interest, and his grandfather’s interest before him, is to make impeccable wine that is terroir driven, but Giulio is also invested in making wines that are accessible early on. The San Giuliano 2010 Barbaresco is a gorgeous wine for its price point. Traditional, lean, great tannic structure indicating great potential to age, this little wine will be a big reward in a few years!

Tenuta San Guido Sassicaia 1999 $309.00

Toscana – Cab Sauv, Cab Franc

We all know this story, don’t we? Boy meets girl, boy gets girl, girl happens to be in love with Bordeaux, so boy makes Bordeaux-styled wines in Italy and changes the Italian wine industry forever. If you have not had the most collected Italian wine there is, today is your lucky day. Sassicaia is likely one of the most delicious and beautiful wines you’ll ever touch to your lips, but this 1999 in particular is stunning. I had a bottle over New Year’s, and it was a wondrous experience—perfectly balanced, smooth, this wine’s dark berries and incredible earth tones made it a delight for my friends and me. This ’99 is ready to drink, so if you own it I recommend opening it, and if you buy it, I recommend opening it. What a great bottle!


Expert Picks: Ada Nada and…Ada Nada!

Two expert selections from Garrett Kowalsky

Garrett_8.6.14_72dpiJanuary 2015 was by far the busiest month for me professionally since I joined IWM and my personal life might just have equaled its pace. When last weekend arrived, I just wanted to kick back, have a friend or two over, and enjoy some wine. But whenever I do this, I always like to make the experience a little educational both for my friends and for myself. With that in mind, I took a look to the Ada Nada estate in Barbaresco, which has been under the ownership of the Nada family for almost 100 years (96 to be exact), to pick out a pair of single-vineyard Barbarecos. You can drink these two wines now, or you can hold onto them and drink them years down the road, and seeing that these wines are well under $50 a bottle, you’re going to want to.

Ada Nada Barbaresco Cichin 2009 $44.99

The hillside vineyards of Ada Nada all maintain their own micro-climates. Because of this variety, there are distinct differences from grapes procured practically alongside one another. The Cichin (my Italian colleague told me to say “chicken” like a tourist) is the more austere of these two wines, and it exhibits wonderful structure. It needed to be open an hour or so before pouring, but it was truly splendid. Drink now and for the next ten years.

Ada Nada Barbaresco Elisa 2009 $47.55

Ada Nada also produces the Elisa on this ten-hectare estate. Far more gracious in style, the Elisa is elegant as it passes over the palate, but there is no shortage of round fruit and spice. Both wines are superb examples of Nebbiolo from this tiny region, but the Elisa is ready to go now. Drink now and for the next ten years.

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