The Inside Story from Italian Wine Merchants

Expert Picks: Voerzio and Rinaldi

Two expert selections from Francesco Vigorito

Francesco 2014Today I am going to pay homage to two Piemonte greats: Roberto Voerzio and Bepi Rinaldi! Both producers are iconoclasts, even though they make wines that are in totally different styles. Nothing is more traditional than Rinaldi Barolo and today I’m highlighting the 1995 Le Coste, which is firing on all cylinders. Next, I just have to talk about Voerzio’s Barberas as they do not get the attention they deserve! I chose magnum bottles for both of these wines because wines this great deserve a large platform.

Giuseppe Rinaldi 1995 Barolo Brunate Le Coste (1.5L) $499.00

Over the past year, I have grown insanely in love with Rinaldi Barolo. His 1996 Le Coste is still on my mind from tasting it about a year ago, and while the 1995 won’t have the structure of 1996, this bottling provides an extremely elegant, floral and sophisticated Barolo loaded with nuance and all that aged Barolo goodness. Out of magnum, this wine has to be even better than that of a normal-sized bottle!

Voerzio 1997 Barbera Riserva Pozzo Annunziata (1.5L) $475.00

Mostly known for his Barolos, the “mad scientist” of Piemonte, Roberto Voerzio, has the lowest yields in the business! That said, he makes a single-vineyard Riserva Barbera that can hang with any Barolo, Barbaresco, Brunello or Super Tuscan. Supremely dense and concentrated, this is unlike any other Barbera I have tasted. The sheer concentration and density alone in a Barbera this old is unrivaled. Couple that density with the ripeness of the 1997 vintage, and you have something truly opulent and spectacular.

Expert Picks: Bruno Giacosa and…Bruno Giacosa!

Two expert selections from David Gwo

Dave Gwo_8.6.14_300dpiBruno Giacosa is a legend in the Italian wine world, specifically in Piedmont. His Barbarescos and Barolos are pieces of art that travel through time with the utmost grace and rank among the most desirable Italian wines in the world. He achieves these remarkable feats by being utterly obsessed with grape selection and staying true to time-honored traditional winemaking techniques. No tampering during the process, just a focus on maximizing the expression of the majestic Nebbiolo grape.

While Barolo and Barbaresco tends to steal the limelight, I’ve chosen two wines from ​two​ other fantastic grape varietals that Piedmont has to offer​, Dolcetto and Barbera​. Someone like Giacosa gives as much attention to these wines as he does his flagship Barbarescos and Barolos. These two bottles are absolutely delicious, and they’re ready to drink right now​—no need to wait. Giacosa makes estate-bottled versions of these wines from his iconic Falletto vineyards and he also bottles non-estate Dolcetto and Barbera under a different label (grapes are purchased from trusted growers). I’ve chosen the estate-bottled wines, but the Casa Vinicola bottlings are also great.

Bruno Giacosa Dolcetto d’Alba Falletto 2013 $34.99

Dolcetto can be overlooked or dismissed because it has a reputation of being the Beaujolais of Piedmont (which I also don’t like because there are many superb examples of Beaujolais). That comparison comes from the fact that many Dolcettos are inexpensive, fruit forward, and light, and thus they make great party wine rather than wines for serious enthusiasts. When you have a producer like Giacosa who puts forth the effort to craft the best example of whatever wine he’s making what you get is the true potential of the varietal. This Dolcetto has good structure backed by complex aromas and flavors of blackberry, black cherry, flowers, and spice. It’s a wine for people who really want to know what Dolcetto is about.

Bruno Giacosa Barbera d’Alba Falletto 2012 $77.99

Barbera is actually the most widely planted varietal in Piedmont with half of all vineyards dedicated to the grape. The local Piedmontese don’t drink Barolo or Barbaresco as table wine; instead Barbera is the preferred nightly drinker in the region. While you can find great examples of Barbera d’Asti and Barbera d’Alba for under $30, this is Giacosa’s Barbera. and it’s among the few age-worthy versions. Typically, Barbera is meant to be consumed young because it has low tannin and high acidity, making it a great food wine. Once Barbera ages and starts to lose its fruit, most examples don’t have the depth and complexity to keep it interesting, but this one has the stuffing to hold.

Expert Picks: Col Vetoraz and Giacomo Conterno

Two expert selections from Garrett Kowalsky

unnamed-3It dawned on me this past weekend that we are only a month away from the end of summer. That right, folks, it’s almost over, done, kaput! But don’t let that get you down. You’ve still got four more weekends to leave your mark on the summer of 2014. So call your friends, invite them over, cook some food and of course, pour some magnums of fine wine to quench everybody’s thirst. At least, that’s my plan.

Col Vetoraz Prosecco Valdobbiadene NV 1.5L Mag $49.99

Year in and year out this is our most popular Prosecco, so it stands to reason that when considering what Prosecco to have on hand in large format, this would be the one. I have spent many a morning, afternoon and night enjoying this wine’s vibrancy and lively feel. Never too sweet, never overly yeasty, this Prosecco is always just right for the occasion.  Drink now and for the next couple of years.

Giacomo Conterno Barbera d’Alba Cascina Francia 2011 1.5L Mag  $129.99

When it comes to Barbera, I feel that there are four estates that stand above the rest. Giacomo Conterno is most certainly on that list. This estate is incredibly talented at what it does, and this bottle is always smooth, approachable, lush and completely palate staining. I have poured this wine time and time again, and people never fail to heap praise upon their glass. It is a crowd pleaser to the “nth” degree, and that is why it is even more magical to share out of magnum. Drink into the next decade.

Go-To-Wine Tuesday, San Giuliano Barbera Fiore di Marcorino 2011

This under $21 Barbera will steal your heart–not your wallet!

fattoria-san-giuliano-fiore-di-marcorino-barbera-d-alba-piedmont-italy-10605375The grape Barbera not only makes a great value wine, and not only has this grape been growing in Italy for centuries, but also it’s a hearty grape, the sixth most planted Italian varietal, and a very adaptable vine. Considered in the past to be the wine of the bourgeois or commoner, Barbera has long been an everyday wine or Vino di Tavola, table wine.

Barbera is at the heart of Italian winemaking and it complements all types of classic Italian cuisine. Barbera is known for its strong, sprightly acidity and intense aromas that are deep and balanced, but the tannins are softer when compared to the traditional Barolos or Barbarescos that grow nearby. Known for good yields at harvest, Barbera sits at the core of the D.O.C Alba and represents the history of Piedmontese viticulture. Barbera d’Alba wines are robust and have good aging potential, and the best Barolos grow in this Piemonte region.

One of my favorite wines from Alba is San Giuliano Barbera Fiore di Marcorino 2011. San Giuliano is a family-owned vineyard known for its viticultural expertise, and this wine is delicious! Barbera has a strength that comes naturally from the Barbera grapes’ high acidity and alcohol volume. I love to grill all summer; this wine pairs perfectly with steaks, focaccia, smoked meats, and the soft cheeses I love. The nose is earthy and dense, and the wine’s flavors are expressive, fruity, and elegant with warm plump cherry and spice tones that the estate elicits with its use of stainless steel for fermentation and oak barrels for aging. The earthy notes and sharpness come from the terrior of Alba, offering a great taste of wines from this region.

Once called the “People’s Wine,” Barbera is now considered a noble vine that has a presence and structure to compete with Piemontese cult wines. Whatever you call it, I call it my queen; this wine has style and grace and it drinks in a class of its own. Pick up a bottle of the San Giuliano Barbera Fiore di Marcorino 2011, under $21 and absolutely delicious. I know that you’ll fall in love with this wine too.

Easy, Breezy, Beachy Summer Wines

Uncomplicated wines to bring to your beach house

10439508_10152644621759316_3393193485606291090_nAs much as I adore a big, heady, complicated bottle of Barolo, Brunello or Amarone, some summer days and some velvet summer nights call for bottles that are easy, lively, delicious and uncomplicated. I’m spending some time out on Fire Island this summer, where I live by different rhythms than those I live by in the city. Instead of the trains, the nightlife, the internet and the iPhone, I live by the beach, the tides, the grill, and the deck.

The little community where I stay is extremely quiet—for example, there are no cars. We get everywhere by bicycle, and we pull our groceries and our luggage by little red wagon. It seems out of place to drink big wines here (though I’ve certainly enjoyed bottles of Sammarco, Il Palazzone, and Quintarelli on special occasions). For my most recent trip out here, I shipped six bottles of easy-going delicious wines, none over $25. Three reds (Donnas Vallee d’Aosta Rosso 2009, San Giuliano Barbera Fiore di Marcorino 2010, and Graci Etna Rosso 2012), two whites (Sartarelli Verdicchio Castelli di Jesi Classico 2012 and De Conciliis Donnaluna Fiano 2012), and one rosato (Stefano Accordini Rosato Veronese Pastel Veneto 2013), this half-case is, well, kind of perfect for island life.

Thus far, I’ve yet drunk only the Barbera (perfect cherry red juiciness and tart acidity), the Verdicchio (like drinking lemon and peach infused sunshine), and the Rosato (steely and flowery in equal measure), and each has been absolutely delightful. Tonight, I’m opening the Donnas with some nice grilled sausages, which I’m serving with grilled baby broccoli, herbed potatoes with grilled onions, and a nice salad with roasted red peppers. Easy, summery and healthful—it’s hard to go wrong when everything is so simple and so right.

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