The Inside Story from Italian Wine Merchants

Inside IWM, December 14-17, 2015: Giving, Getting, Loving

A look back at the week that was

3 bottle basket 1What to give? What to get? What to drink? The holidays have us in a tizzy. We began the week with a salute to the traditional Italian gift wine, Barolo–learn its history, its specifics, and some of our very favorite producers. We ended the week with a guide for last-minute wine gifts, including beautiful, weird things like corkscrews and beautiful, useful things like Scott Conant’s new cookbook. John Camacho Vidal explored the many wines of Bruno Giacosa–including the esteemed producer’s everyday bottlings. And Stephane Medard toasted the recent warm New York City weather with a lovely Piemontese white, an under $27 Roero Arneis.

Francesco Vigorito can’t hide his love of Aldo Conterno, but his two picks are off this producer’s beaten path; don’t miss the value wine! Michael Adler can’t contain his enthusiasm for Anne & Sébastien Bidault; this domaine’s Burgundies are out of this world! And Crystal Edgar believes in Champagne all the time–but especially during the holidays. She picks bottles from Billecart-Salmon that ring in your celebrations with style.

Cheers to you and to yours and to your holiday season. May it be merry, bright, and delicious!

Everyday, Any Day Bruno Giacosa

Giacosa every day (and special days)!

A label from Azienda Agricola Falletto di Bruno Giacosa

A label from Azienda Agricola Falletto di Bruno Giacosa

Most of our clients already know and love Bruno Giacosa, but most don’t know that he’s responsible for two lines of wines: the estate’s négociant arm Casa Vinicola Giacosa as well as those from Bruno Giacosa’s own estate, labeled with legendary vineyard Falletto. Born in Neive in 1929, Bruno crafts some of the most prestigious Barolo and Barbaresco wines in Piemonte and holds the rank of one of the world’s most respected wine producers. One major point to know about Bruno Giacosa is that he never studied enology; he dropped out of school after the war at the age of 13 to work with his father Mario and grandfather Carlo, who had been making wine since the 1890’s.

Bruno spent his youth learning from both his father and grandfather in the vineyards, and the most important talent they passed down to him was how to select great fruit. This was very important as the Giacosas didn’t own any vineyards; instead, they purchased grapes from select network of growers. By being familiar with each of the cru vineyards in the region, Bruno was able to “cherry-pick” the finest grapes. With time, Giacosa noticed he had less and less fruit to choose from, and in 1982, he decided to purchase the Falletto vineyard in Barolo, and in 1996, he added the Rabajá and Asili vineyards in Barbaresco.

Starting in 1996, Giacosa has divided the estate into two winery names—Azienda Agricola Falletto di Bruno Giacosa and Casa Vinicola Bruno Giacosa. Azienda Agricola Falletto di Bruno Giacosa is located on top of the Falletto Vinyard approximately 400 meters above sea level and makes wines only from estate vineyards or from vineyards he owns. These are Barolo Falletto, Barolo Rocche del Falletto, Barbaresco Asili and Barbaresco Rabajà. Casa Vinicola Bruno Giacosa, on the other hand, is located in the town of Neive near Barbaresco and makes wines using grapes purchased from selected growers including Barbaresco Santo Stefano, Barbaresco Gallina and Barolo Villero.

A label from Casa Vinicola Bruno Giacosa

A label from Casa Vinicola Bruno Giacosa

The best way to distinguish the difference between the two is by the crest on the front of the label. Wines from the Azienda Agricola Falletto have the word FALLETTO in gold letters as well as a crest with a gold F on it. In addition the labels also feature a drawing of the vineyard and winery. The vineyard name on single-vineyard wines is always listed below the type of wine and above the vintage. The single-vineyard wines are also numbered. As opposed to the estate-bottled wines, labels from Casa Vinicola Giacosa say Casa Vinicula and have a crest with a crown on it and feature a drawing of the old castle of Neive on it.

Bruno Giacosa wines are a treat. Super elegant, marvelously perfumed, and full-bodied on the palate, Bruno Giacosa’s Barolo and Barbaresco wines require time and patience, but they will reward you with a spectacular experience. I had some leftover Barolo Falletto that I drank over the course of three days. This wine was like the every-ready bunny because it kept going and going. With each sip I experienced a new aroma or flavor: earth, fruit, minirality, cassis, tobacco, and crushed stone all mingled with elegant red fruit in the background. The only bad thing about it was when I tried to pour more and the bottle was empty.

Fortunately, I have the new Giacosa everyday bottles to console myself. The Casa Vinicola Bruno Giacosa Nebbiolo is particularly delicious!

Giving the Traditional Gift of Barolo

Why a bottle of Barolo is a fitting holiday gift

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The hills of Barolo

The traditional gift of respect between Italians, Barolo is a metaphor of elegance, longevity and excellent taste. One grape–Nebbiolo–interpreted multiple ways within a narrow perimeter of vinification makes Barolo, the wine often hyperbolically referred to as the “King of Wines and the Wine of Kings.” Magically evocative of tar and roses, flavored by dried red fruits, haughty and thoughtful, and requiring  protracted aging, Barolo is arguably the most famous, most collectable and most celebrated of all the Italian vintages. Situated in the Langhe Hills, just southwest of the town of Alba, Barolo DOCG covers a surface area of 4,285 acres or an area approximately five-by-seven miles. Although this geographical area is relatively small, it holds multiple microclimates that create variations in quality and style of Barolo, and its many individual producers extend Barolo’s range of expressions even further.

The Barolo district comprises 11 communes; the five most famous—La Morra, Barolo, Serralunga d’Alba, Castiglione Falletto, and Monforte d’Alba—produce 87% of the wine. These communes form the larger Central and Serralunga Valleys, where differing soil types lend varied characteristics to the wine. To the east is the Central Valley where the communes of La Morra and Barolo are situated. The Central Valley is comprised of compact Tortonian soil with calcareous marl, and it creates soft, elegant, approachable wines with exceptional fruit character and aromatics. To the west is the Serralunga Valley, where lie the Serralunga d’Alba, Castiglione Falletto, and Montforte d’Alba communes. This area consists of the poorer, chalkier Helvetian soil, and it creates long-lived, powerfully concentrated and structured wines. Of course, all of these generalities are problematized by the range of ways that producers themselves craft their wines.

Maria Teresa Mascarello in her cellar

Maria Teresa Mascarello in her cellar

Arguably more than any other wine (the exception possibly being Chianti and the Super-Tuscan movement), Barolo epitomizes the changes that the twentieth century has wrought on winemaking. In early Barolo production, all winemakers blended grapes from various vineyard sites. To a certain extent, necessity demanded this choice because vineyard ownership was extremely fragmented, and négociants, or wine merchants, created the majority of Barolos. However, people also believed that the “perfect Barolo” derived from multiple sources because the varied influences modified and enhanced one another: for example, La Morra (for fragrance, softness), Barolo (for grace and earthiness), Castiglione Falletto (for boldness and richness), Serralunga (for depth and power), Monforte (for concentration and structure). This ideal served Barolo producers until the early 1970s, when single-vineyard bottlings or crus began to appear from single producers, replacing the blends of the more dominant négociant houses. This development brought brand recognition to individual producer estates, and this change nudged Barolo into the modern era.

As Barolo production met the wine-drinking world of the mid-to-late twentieth century, changes in vinification techniques came to disrupt the previously peaceful–and staunchly traditional–Langhe Hills. To employ an essentialist split, and a divide that has become increasingly inaccurate as time has passed, traditional producers held on to traditional methods that made a Barolo more reflective of its specific terroir, while so-called modernists embraced technology that would make the often austere Nebbiolo conform to contemporary palates.

To be classed as Barolo DOCG, wines must be monovarietal bottlings made from Nebbiolo, a grape requiring high altitude, exceptional exposure, unique soil composition, and a cool climate. Outside Piemonte, the difficult Nebbiolo rarely finds its identity, for it truly is a vine of terroir: the Langhe’s growing conditions seem to be the ideal place for this thin skinned, late-ripener that is capable of delivering wines of exceptional power, intensity, complexity, and longevity. To obtain optimal ripeness in Barolo, harvest often takes place in mid-October or even November, when the nebbia, or fog, has begun to settle on the valley floor. By law the minimum ageing requirement for Barolo Superiore is three years, with at least two years in cask. Barolo Riserva, possessing stricter regulations, requires a minimum of four years aging, with at least three years treatment in cask.

Botti at Giacomo Conterno

Botti at Giacomo Conterno

Traditional-style producers like Bartolo Mascarello, Giuseppe Rinaldi, and Giacomo Conterno use extended maceration periods and aging in large oak casks to emphasize the leaner, more tannic side of Nebbiolo. However, other producers looked outside of Italy for inspiration, and these innovators—for example, Clerico, Sandrone,  Scavino, and Voerzio—adopted new production techniques such as shorter maceration periods, aging in new French oak barriques, and individual cru bottlings to create more approachable wines that were easier for many foreign consumers to understand and appreciate. This school quickly established a highly respected following, and its methodology is now accepted as a legitimate alternative to, or accompaniment of, traditional production. Whether modern or traditional, Barolo is the epitome of a “thinking wine,” one that privileges finesse and complexity.

IWM’s 2015 holiday gift guide has beautifully presented bottles of Barolo–along with many other fine gift selections.

Inside IWM, December 7-10, 2015: Feel the Love

A look back at the week that was

Antonio Ferrari Solaria Jonica 1959It’s a week filled with love. We ended with John Camacho Vidal on learning to love old wines, and we began with a guide on giving wines from the heart. In between, we really, really enjoyed a delicious under $20 Chianti Classico, and Emery Long poured out his delight in dessert wines–and showed how to give them as gifts.

Our experts were similarly motivated by their feelings. Garrett Kowalsky can’t contain his passion for Champagne, picking  a pair from Roger Coulon and Krug. Nebbiolo is Michael Adler’s grape of choice, but the two tasty Nebbiolo wines he chose could not be more different. Crystal Edgar shares this love for Nebbiolo, but she went for a pair of cru Barolo from Rocche dei Manzoni.

As you hit the holiday season in full stride, we hope your heart–and your glass–brims with good things.

More Time to Stock Your Cellar!

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