The Inside Story from Italian Wine Merchants

Expert Picks: Cupano and Aldo Conterno

Two expert selections from Will Di Nunzio

will expertOne of the many unique things about being part of the IWM family is that we encourage our team to host wine tastings—often. It’s a huge benefit to increasing our personal wine knowledge, and knowing our wines in theory and in practice is necessary and IWM provides the perfect stage for us to do so. Last night I hosted a wine dinner here with my friend Dan and a few friends. We enjoyed Chef Mike Macelli’s insanely delicious dishes—mixed Antipasti, Bucatini alla Matriciana, Waygu Steak over steamed Cabbage and Pancetta, finishing with the house desserts and Parmiggiano Reggiano with honey drizzle (my favorite). All courses were paired with a line-up of wines, each more impressive than the next! The two wines that stood out for me were Cupano’s 2007 Brunello (just can’t get enough) and a surprising Aldo Conterno Barolo Cicala 1993.

Cupano Brunello di Montalcino 2007 $129

Every tasting, every dinner and, really, anytime, this bottle is an instant crowd pleaser. This smooth Brunello’s perfect fruit, balanced tannins and incredible vibrancy made for a perfect glass next Chef Mike’s Buacatini. What a pair! We were all in awe. From southern Montalcino, Cupano is Sergio’s latest addition to the IWM portfolio, and it’s a label that has been on our shelves permanently since December 2013, consistently making our customers overjoyed with wine delight.

Aldo Conterno Barolo Cicala 1993 $149

​This was a surprise for me as it is very hard to find a 1993 Barolo that is this good. Only a few of the greats can say they made good wine this year, and very few can say that their wines are showing well now—or over twenty years later. Aldo knocked it out of the park. Not sure what to expect upon opening the bottle​, I was impressed at its structure, its notes of dry tobacco and dried red fruit that were touched with some earthy undertones. This ’93 was perfectly balanced, and all that you would want from an aged Nebbiolo. Just impressive! Dan and I looked at each other, and with a smile on his face, he said, “Now this is what I love!”

Inside IWM, January 20-22, 2015: Dense and Intense Edition

A look back at the week that was

gravner glassesWhen your week starts with a holiday, segues into personal journey into the heart of Montalcino, and finishes with seven vintages of Gravner, it has been one worthy of wine adjectives: dense, intense, complex, powerful, and heady. On his trip to Italy, David Bertot visited Il Palazzone, so his Go-To-Wine Tuesday post on Rosso del Palazzone, the estate’s answer to Rosso di Montalcino, isn’t just about this delicious wine; it’s also about his experience visiting the land whence it came. Speaking of Montalcino, Robin Kelley O’Connor gives us the insider’s view into the 2010 Brunello and 2013 Rosso di Montalcino! And Crystal finishes the week with her experience drinking a seven-vintage vertical of Gravner Ribolla Anfora, and her thoughts on what foods might match these peerless wines.

Our Experts showed a similar drive, verve and focus this week. Garrett Kowalsky picked a pair of dessert wines to deliciously punctuate your meal, one from Antinori’s outpost in Umbria and the other from the Veneto. Looking to Bordeaux and the wines inspired by this hallowed region, David Gwo selected two beauties, a Bordeaux-style blend from Tenuta Leonardo and a 2009 Bordeaux from Chateau Belair-Monange. Maybe it’s the mountain air in Aspen, but Francesco Vigorito is drawn to the vintage whites from one Alto-Adige collective, Cantina Terlano. Aficionados of mature white wines don’t want to miss these 30-year-old whites!

Cheers to your week, your wine, and your enjoying both, preferably in the company of people you love.

Brunello and Rosso di Montalcino, the Two Reasons to Love Sangiovese Grosso

Two favorite wines made from the same grape

Growing Sangiovese Grosso vines

Growing Sangiovese Grosso vines

Of the many reasons why I love wine, the getting tipsy part doesn’t even scrape the list.  I love wine for its myriad scents, its slow evanescent change as I sniff and sip, and the way it tingles, touches, caresses or wraps my tongue. I love wine for its color, whether briny yellow, blood-dark crimson, tender petal or nearly white. I love wine for its changeling, morphing tastes, for all those indescribable moments, those ineffable flavors, those mercurial notes that flit past my consciousness and get lost before they’re caught in language. Mostly, I love wine for its uncanny ability to evoke time and place, and for the way that in sharing it, you and yours become wrapped in a kind of magical bubble that hangs suspended apart from quotidian reality.

And for all these reasons, as I’ve averred early and often, my favorite grape is Sangiovese. I know that those who flock to Nebbiolo are wont to give me massive side-eye for that admission, and I’m okay with that. I like Nebbiolo–don’t get me wrong, I’m no savage–but Sangiovese, particularly Sangiovese Grosso, will always rule my heart. Brunello di Montalcino, the emblematic wine made from this grape, isn’t merely the wine I know best, nor is it only the wine that I love most, but it’s also the wine that evokes the most complete textual experience when I drink it. I’ve always wanted to be a synesthete–one of those rare people who “feel” tastes or “see” music–and Brunello di Montalcino offers me the closest approximation to that blurring of sense boundaries.

Vines at Il Palazzone

Vines at Il Palazzone

Or, when I’m not as expansive in the wallet, I go for a Rosso di Montalcino, which lets you experience Brunello di Montalcino–but do it earlier, more easily and less expensively. Brunello di Montalcino received its DOCG status in 1980, and with it, regulations for making the wine were set in place. By law, Brunello takes time to make. It’s a long macerating wine and the Normale bottling requires a minimum of 24 months spent in oak and four months in bottle before release (the Riserva bottling should age for at least six months in bottle, but most producers go longer than that). This means that even when producers move as swiftly as possible, there’s at least three years between harvest and release. That’s a long time to wait for revenue.

The answer was to create a wine that aged less, moved quickly from harvest to release, and, in an ideal world, allowed producers to showcase their styles as well as utilize their grapes from younger and less ideally situated vines. Thus, in 1983, the Consorzio di Vino Brunello di Montalcino created the Rosso di Montalcino, a wine that producers could release just a year after harvest, a wine made from the same Sangiovese clone and within the same geographic restrictions as the expensive and collectable Brunello di Montalcino, and a wine that offers a fresher, livelier, less expensive and happy drinking alternative to the age-worthy Brunello.

Whichever way you enjoy your Sangiovese Grosso, early and often in its Rosso di Montalcino form or adult-like and meditative in its Brunello di Montalcino form, this grape makes a beautiful wine. I can’t recommend it enough.

Our next two weeks of eLetter offers will feature Gianni Brunelli 2009 Brunello di Montalcino and Fuligni 2012 Rosso di Montalcino Ginestreto, two beautiful Sangiovese Grosso wines that are also beautifully priced. Don’t miss them!


Expert Picks: Antinori Pian delle Vigne and Tenute dell’Ornellaia

Two expert selections from Will Di Nunzio

Will_B_8.6.14_72dpiTwo wines from Toscana came truly stood out for me last week during one of my tastings: Antinori Pian delle Vigne Brunello 2008 and Tenuta dell’Ornellaia Ornellaia 2008. These two labels always deliver and for the same simple reason—they come from two world-class wine-producing estates where true skill comes into play. These two wines were by far the hit of the tasting and they each kept getting better and better with more and more breathing time. Hands down, this is the ideal duo for your home and collection.

Antinori Pian delle Vigne Brunello di Montalcino 2008 $69.99

Toscana – Sangiovese Grosso

The Pian delle Vigne estate was purchased in 1995 by the Antinori family and they wasted no time making changes, planting new vines and producing some of the best Brunello in the southern region of Montalcino. I have this wine across many vintages, and it is always a home run, offering a complex generous nose with mature aromas of cherries, red berries, tobacco and hints of coffee and cocoa powder. This Brunello’s multilayered structure with nicely balanced soft tannins, elegant fruit leads to a very lingering finish. Let it breathe for a few hours in the bottle and enjoy with roasted pork shoulder. Drink within the next 8-10 years.

Tenuta dell’Ornellaia Ornellaia 2008 $199.99

Toscana – Cab Sauv, Merlot, Cab Franc, Petit Verdot

It’s hard not to like this wine—it is Ornellaia, after all. The 2008 vintage has received some questionable press when released; people said, “It’s not a good one,” or “it was rainy,” and “so and so said not to buy it.” As always, a vintage’s weather is about 60% of the wine, but what about that 40%? That’s all the winemaker. Italian, specifically Tuscan, winemakers saw 2008 as a classically styled vintage because it challenged them to excellence. Ornellaia has managed to produce a beautiful, elegant, well-balanced and approachable bottle of wine in this vintage. I would not hesitate to drink this wine; it is absolutely stunning. You certainly will not be disappointed if you enjoy this next to a grilled sirloin. Drink now until 2023.

August 25-28, 2014: Labor Day Edition

A look back at the week that was

IMG_2764Maybe it’s the three-day weekend, Labor Day and the end of summer, but IWM was in a mood for exploration. We kicked off the week with a look at the role that smell takes in making wine memories, and we closed it with a bit of Brunello di Montalcino history, courtesy of Robin Kelley O’Connor. In between, we enjoyed a lovely under $30 white, De Conciliis Donnaluna Fiano, from Campania (this is a super memorable wine, fyi). And tied in with smell, memory and great wines, we enjoyed a salute to–and an explanation of–the love of funky wines from John Camacho Vidal.

Our experts seemed quite preoccupied with the significance of this final week in August. Justin Kowalsky offered a pair of delicious Burgundies you can enjoy right now. His brother, Garrett, suggests you celebrate this weekend with magnums of bubbly (and one’s under $50!). Wanting to expand your palate, David Gwo offers up a pair of reds from Campanian cult estate Palari. And Will reminisces about a very good lunch with very excellent wine, including Raffaele Palma and Paolo Scavino.

However you enjoy your last weekend of summer 2014, we hope you do it with people you love. Happy Labor Day!

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