The Inside Story from Italian Wine Merchants

Inside IWM, May 2 to May 5, 2016: Beautiful Wine Secrets

A look back at the week that was

photo-2-300x300This week, we took a peek under the hood of IWM and got a glimpse at the secret wine cellar where your IWM wines live, breathe, and age in temperature-controlled splendor. And Stephane Menard made a compelling case for enjoying the 2013 Le Volte, Tenuta dell’Ornellaia‘s “second” wine, early and often. This under-the-radar Super Tuscan is under $30 and completely delicious!

Garrett Kowalsky confessed that the first wine he fell in love with was a Bruno Giacosa Barolo, and he picked two wines to testify to the longevity of his passion. John Camacho Vidal explains the secrets of enjoying mature wines, selecting two beautifully aged Barolos for you to try. Michael Adler alerts you to a hard-to-find, little-known Burgundy producer, François Gay, by selecting a dynamic duo from this overlooked estate. And it’s no secret that Chablis is perfect for summer; Crystal Edgar picks a pair from William Fevre.

Cheers to your beautiful wine secrets–may you share them with the people you love!

Expert Picks: William Fèvre and…William Fèvre!

Two expert selections from Crystal Edgar

Crystal 2014We are all very excited here to welcome the 2014 whites from William Fèvre! Tis the season to bring out the crisp whites and I have some great bottles here for any wine lover. This is serious Chablis with fine pedigree, William Fèvre is recognized as one of the best producers in all of Chablis, sitting in the same league as Raveneau and Dauvissat and offering a range of distinguished premier and grand cru bottlings. Fèvre works forty acres of grand cru vineyards and another thirty acres of premier cru, all of which deserve attention. All fruit is harvested by hand and great caution is taken to ensure that the wines are precise, textured and mineral-driven with great structure and racy acidity. Fèvre works every vintage to find just the right balance between richness and minerality, and as these 2014 wines illustrate, Fèvre hit the bulls-eye!

Fèvre crafts some of the most exciting whites we receive each year, and if you have been keeping up with our offers for Burgundy’s 2014 vintage, this vintage is beyond exciting. Here are a few premier cru offerings that I would recommend to anyone who enjoys great white wine. These satisfy serious thirst while going easy on the pocketbook.

William Fèvre 2014 Chablis 1er Cru Montmains $54.99

This vibrant white offers loads of citrus, green peach and minerals with hints of almond and chalk on the finish. Saline minerals and citrusy acidity make this ’14 Chablis ideal to pour as an aperitif or with fresh or grilled oysters. Deriving from William Fèvre’s 4.3 acre parcel of Montmains, which faces southeast and sports emblematic Chablis soils rich in minerals and fossils, this wine vinifies in a combination of stainless steel oak barrels (30-50% used); the wine also ages for 10-15 months in a combination of in French oak barrels and stainless steel before bottling. Supple, structured and vibrant, this Chablis is very food friendly and nicely age-worthy.

William Fèvre 2014 Chablis 1er Cru Vaulorent $81.99

This premier cru is consistently one of my favorite as it adds lovely white floral notes on the notes and palate with added stone fruit character. Slightly more complex and concentrated than the Montmains this can stand up to a range of fresh and grilled seafood, poultry, goat cheese, prosciutto and other salted finger foods. Deriving from a fine eight-acre parcel of Fourchaume 1er Cru that directly abuts the grand cru Les Preuses, Vaulorent is considered the “baby grand cru” at Fèvre, and it consistently outperforms grand crus that cost many times as much.

Pairing Wines with Springtime’s Bounty

How to get creative with ramps, fiddlehead ferns, asparagus and more

Fiddlehead ferns, one of spring's most evanescent pleasures

Fiddlehead ferns, one of spring’s most evanescent pleasures

Spring and summer usher in a new batch of colorful vegetables, some of which throw a curveball when it comes to pairing them with wine. Now is the time to flex your creative muscles! It’s notoriously challenging to find proper wine matches for artichokes and asparagus; however, roasted root vegetables, stewed beans and earthy mushroom dishes lend themselves quite well to wine. From my experience, when in doubt pull out the bubbles, orange wine, sake or sherry.

I’m taking myself back to my days in culinary school, to offer these basic principles for creating great pairings:

Powerful flavors in food and richness call for powerful wines. Lighter food flavors require lighter wines. Spicy, salty, or smoky flavors in food welcome lighter, fruity reds, and off-dry to semi-sweet whites. You can pair food with wine by creating complementary pairings, where the food tastes like the wine (tomatoes with fresh herbs, olive oil, and olives paired with fresh, bright herbaceous Sauvignon Blanc). Or you can go the opposite direction with contrasting pairing where the food and the wine have opposite flavors and textures (for example, roasted asparagus with hollandaise paired with a vibrant sparkling wine).

Another consideration is how the dish is cooked. Roasting and caramelizing brings out the richer, sweeter flavors in vegetables. Steaming or sautéing can keep the flavors light and bright. Braising will bring out some of the deeper, more brooding and complex aspects of a vegetable or legume. Other components in a dish, from fresh herbs to spices, can also affect what you might pair with your vegetable of choice, so consider options at both ends of the light white to dark red wine spectrum.

Ok time to jump right in! Here are some tricky veggies with wine pairings that will almost always work together:

Artichokes: Artichokes are challenging because they contain a chemical acid called ‘cynarin’, which makes everything taste sweeter — especially the wine. To counter this I recommend serving a dry Fino sherry, smooth Soave from Italy, or a vibrant Txakoli from Spain.

Asparagus: A rustic vegetable that contains compounds like asparagusic acid, which, in case you were wondering, is an organosulfur carboxylic acid. Go for something citrusy, herbal and unoaked. For instance, you might choose a Sancerre or Pouilly Fumé from France’s Loire Valley; Grüner Veltliner from Austria; Alsace Riesling; Italian Sauvignon Blanc; or even unoaked Chardonnay, especially from a cooler region like Oregon’s Willamette Valley or Chablis from France.

Avocados: They are rich and sexy, and they work beautifully with voluptuously herbaceous, grassy and fruity whites, such as Torrontes from Argentina, Chardonnay from France or Italy, Albarino from Spain, or Moschofilero from Greece.

Mushrooms: Sure, there are a number of pairings here, but as far as a standouts go, you only need to remember two words and one wine: Pinot Noir. The earthy mushrooms and the fruit of the Pinot make for the “divine” contrast.

Nettles and Fiddlehead Ferns: These are some of the most highly sought after spring vegetables! These special veggies pair well with a soft, slightly fruity white like Pinot Gris from Oregon, Viognier from southern France, or Pinot Blanc from northern Italy.

Ramps: Make sure to avoid wines with a lot of oak/vanilla notes and wines that are super floral. You want a bright wine with green apple acidity and a hint of grassiness, arugula, or pepper to go with the bright, green, funk flavors in ramps. My picks are Friulano or Pinot Grigio from Friuli, Italy.

Olives: Because of the saltiness and briny flavors, Sake, Fino or Manzanilla Sherry, dry rosé from France, Italy or Spain and/or bubbles are the way to go.

The enjoyment of thoughtful wine and food pairing comes into play when you have special fresh market products on hand whose virtues you want to showcase and savor. That is the essence of the garden cook’s mission—to capture flavor at its peak. Why stop short of the beverage? By its very nature, no other liquid flatters the earth’s bounty better than vino, so cheers!

It’s National Artichoke Heart Day!

What should you use to toast your artichoke?

artichokes_bkgrdIt’s National Artichoke Heart Day. A member of the thistle family, artichokes are delicious, if sometimes prickly. I’m a big fan of their mealy, rubbery, fibrous texture, and their slightly sweet, herbaceous flesh that’s reminiscent of fennel. Rarely have I encountered an artichoke I haven’t enjoyed eating. I like them small and fried, big and steamed, chilled with hollandaise, hearted and pickled. I like them mashed into tapenade, stuffed with breadcrumbs, barbecued in the Spanish style, even turned into liqueur, as they are in Cynar, an aperitif made by Campari.

I love artichokes, but they are notoriously difficult to pair with wine. For one thing, artichokes contain cynarin, a compound that makes food taste sweet, and putting them with red wine makes the wine taste weirdly metallic. Like green beans and asparagus, artichokes can be the death of wines. But, as the adage goes, what grows together goes together, and from Rome to Sicilia, artichokes are a mainstay of Italian cooking.

I turned the question over to IWM’s authorities to see how they handle the thorny issue of pairing artichokes and wines.

Francesco Vigorito:

Sardinia is big into artichokes, so maybe a Vermentio di Galura for white, or you could also go for a Punica if you’re looking for a red. If you do floured fried baby artichokes with a squeeze of lemon, then a sparkler to cut through the fry would be nice. Maybe something with a good fruitiness to it like the Barone Pizzini’s Rose Franciacorta, the slight sweetness in the wine should cut the artichoke quite nicely.

 

Crystal Edgar:

As a rule of thumb with wine and food pairings, the stronger the acid in the food, the more challenging the pairing. Vegetables like artichokes, asparagus spinach and other bitter greens are rather acidic but can be tamed by adding sweetness and/or richness, which helps to mute the acidity. Without going to sweet on the spectrum, I would recommend Pinot Gris from Alsace or Oregon, Friulano from Italy, Grüner Veltliner from Austria or another weighty white with some residual sweetness.

Garrett Kowalsky:

Pairing artichokes with wine is always a difficult task. Many times I opt for other beverages, but that is not always an option for my clients. My suggestion is to pick a high acid white with little to no oak. A bottle like that will be less likely to be thrown off by the strong flavors in the food. Think Sauvignon Blanc, or if you really prefer Chardonnay, then lean towards the wines from Chablis. Finally, don’t forget some of the delightful bottlings from Italy like Verdicchio and Vermentino.

John Camacho Vidal:

I have played around with different wines to pair with artichokes and have found that a very dry, high acid wine or a Fino Sherry with floral notes always does well. I’m also a big fan of orange wines, and I think they pair great with artichokes. I suggest clients they try their favorite artichoke dish with Gravner anfora white. Gravner’s oxidative quality mixed with the wine’s fruit will really bring the flavors together.

 

Inside IWM, November 30 to December 3, 2015: Holidays Ahoy!

A look back at the week that was

patagonia llamasOur Cyber Monday event made this week short but sweet here on Inside IWM. Stephane Menard reflected on his recent trip to Patagonia as he enjoyed an insanely good bottle of Pinot Noir from Argentina. Made by Sassicaia scion Piero Incisa della Rocchetta, this Bodega Chacra Barda over-delivers on its $27 price tag. As the weather cools, we’re reaching for warming foods–and suspect you are too! Enjoy a recipe for Cavatelli Pasta alla Amatriciana from IWM’s own kitchens!

Our experts were unusually focused. Michael Adler wants you to fall in love with Chablis, and he picked a pair of extraordinary bottles to give you a push towards Chablis passion. John Camacho Vidal sees the winter holidays approaching fast, and he pulls two fine, affordable bottles from Veneto producer Nicolis out of his cellar. And Garrett Kowalsky shares his love of Domaine Gallois with two hand-picked bottles from this Burgundy great.

Cheers to you and yours as you head into the winter holidays–and don’t miss IWM’s 2015 Gift Guide!

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