The Inside Story from Italian Wine Merchants

Expert Picks: Roger Coulon and Roger Coulon

Two expert selections from Crystal Edgar

Crystal 2014Regardless of the season, day of the week, or time of day, sparkling wines are always appropriate, and when you pour Champagne, simple moments become a celebration! My fridge always has at least a few cold bottles on standby for those times. In my opinion, bubbles are the best way to awaken the palate, bringing a glassful of joy to whomever partakes.  Today I highlight one of my favorite producers, Rober Coulon, who creates stunning wines that offer the best quality-to-price ratio I have yet to come across.

Situated in the prestigious area of La Montagne de Reims in Champagne lies the Coulon estate where eighth-generation farmers and winemakers Eric and Isabelle Coulon passionately craft Champagne. The vines grown here are almost equal parts Pinot Meunier, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, most of which derive from premier cru vineyards. Averaging 38 years of age, vines like this are a rarity in Champagne where older vines and their limited production are often considered a curse rather than a blessing. Using only wild yeasts, Roger Coulon produces a miniscule amount of Champagne each year. These special bubbles are some of the greatest values to be found while bringing a luxurious (and delicious) element to any occasion. These wines are perfect for gifts or just those afternoons or evenings when Champagne is required.

Roger Coulon Brut Réserve de l’Hommée 1er Cru NV $52.99

Bright, mineral-laden bubbles attack the palate and explode into a full bodied, rich and creamy mousse. Because of the percentage of reserve wine that is added to this cuvee, there are notes of toasted nuts and brioche wrapped in a blanket of citrus, stone fruit and pear; this wine is a great match with just a wide variety of antipasti, fish, poultry and even veal.

Roger Coulon Brut Millesime Blanc de Noirs 2007 $67.99

Made entirely of Pinot Meunier and Pinot Noir, this floral and enchanting bubbly deceives its fans into thinking it is younger than it is. Bright zesty stone fruit mingles with white and purple floral notes while surprising the palate with a rich and powerful backbone that carries the wine into what feels like a never-ending finish. This Blanc de Noirs is superb with seafood and salty foods.

Expert Picks: Pojer & Sandri and Alfred Gratien

Two expert selections from Crystal Edgar

Crystal 2014When you live in the North, usually the longest season is not winter, it’s the bridge between winter and spring. This year I am not sure what we would even call it given the dramatic temperature swings we have experienced over the past few months. When in doubt on whether to drink red or white, reach for the wine in the middle, rosé. And when I say rosé, I’m talking about serious wine.

Gone are the days when pink wine was dismissed. Sure, there are some pretty terrible examples available at the local supermarket, but I prefer to focus only on the wines that are not merely fruity and fun but also complex and cerebral, triggering all of the senses. Today I am highlighting two very different rosé expressions, one unique expression from Trentino Alto-Adige and another that’s bright with bubbles from a classical Champagne producer in France.

Pojer & Sandri 2013 Vin dei Molino Rosato $22.99

This Rosato is made from the strangely named Rotberger grape, a cross of Schiava and Riesling, and this wine is different from just about any other rosé I have tasted from Italy. Bone-dry but with an abundance of wild berries, this wine offers bright acidity with a rich mouth-feel and vibrant, tangy finish. It’s a wine that gives the satisfaction of a red while awakening the palate with the refreshing qualities of a mineral-laden white; in short, this is a perfect “anytime” wine.

Alfred Gratien Rosé Brut NV $59.99

This pinky-salmon rosé offers vibrant strawberry and orange zest aromas with hints of rose, white tea and chalky minerals. On the palate this bubbly is refreshingly tangy with bright red fruit character, impressive clarity and lingering stony finish. There is no wrong occasion for bubbly rosé, in my opinion!

A Brief Look at the History of Valentine’s Day

The holiday has a questionable past

Lupercalia as painted by Domenico di Pace Beccafumi

Lupercalia as painted by Domenico di Pace Beccafumi

Valentine’s Day is this week, and here the truth: Valentines Day is, was, and always will be a completely fictitious holiday. It is so grounded in fantasy that it makes the Easter bunny look real. The name, Valentine’s Day, supposedly comes from a Catholic saint, but he never existed. Finding St. Valentine is kind of like playing “What’s My Line” with three obscure saints, all called Valentine, all martyred at some point during the third century A.D., none of whom had anything to do with romantic love.

This holiday of love has its origins when in 426 the Catholic Church wanted to tame the savage beast of Lupercalia, a Roman holiday of love wherein would-be lovers engaged in a precursor to the ’70s swingers key parties and picked their partner’s name out of an urn, or merely celebrate as naked young men ran through the streets swatting women with leather thongs, depending upon your interpretation and time period. In the mid-fourteenth century, Valentine’s Day moved from the 15th of February to the 14th, the day when France and England celebrated the pairing of birds for mating season.

However, it wasn’t until 1847 when Esther A. Howland, the heir to a greeting card fortune, put those commercial wheels in motion and made the first mass-produced Valentine’s Day card that the Valentine’s Day we now know and love (and by love I mean love/hate/love) began.

The cynics among us may want to relish this tidbit, the Greeting Card Association has an “Esther A. Howland Award for a Greeting Card Visionary” honoring those people who can find a new way to make us buy highly colored, usually sentimental paper products. It should be noted that 85% of the Valentine’s Day cards purchased are bought by women. This is something that doesn’t make me particularly proud of my gender.

The sales of Valentine’s Day cards run second only to sales of Christmas Cards, but Halloween cards are taking a strong upsurge, symbolizing to the most cynical of us that Valentine’s Day, like mummies, vampires, and other ghouls, always returns. No matter how much or how often we try to kill it. We might as well give in and embrace the monster, I suppose.

I am of the sort who, almost by default but certainly by nature believes that Valentine’s Day is, aside from the delightful blank check to eat as much chocolate as you like, kind of beside the point. We should, if we’re lucky enough to find it, celebrate love daily and in our own ways.

That said, there’s nothing wrong with opening a lovely bottle of AmaroneChampagne or romantic Super Tuscan and sharing it with a friend on Valentine’s Day. Or just having a glass yourself. After all, as Oscar Wilde wisely said, “To love oneself is the beginning of a lifelong romance.”

Cheers to that.

Expert Picks: Billecart-Salmon and…Billecart-Salmon!

Two expert selections from Michael Adler

Michael Adler 5.29.15In honor of the sparkling wine sale in today’s eLetter (it goes live at around 2:00 p.m.), I wanted to focus on two fantastic Champagnes from a favorite IWM estate, Billecart-Salmon. Independent and family-owned for almost 200 years, Billecart-Salmon has been crafting some of the region’s very best wines for six generations. The estate sources fruit from 40 distinct sites, most of which lie within a 20 kilometer radius of Epernay, and it selects the best Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier grapes to assemble its delicate blends. The house style marries richness and structure with gorgeous acidity and finesse, yielding wines of incredible depth and complexity. If you’re not personally familiar with the joys of Billecart-Salmon, I urge you to try a bottle and allow yourself to be won over by its luxurious texture and undeniable charm.

Billecart-Salmon NV Brut Réserve $59.99

The estate’s tried and true “workhorse wine,” the non-vintage Brut Reserve is a cuvée of several vintages, blended together to create a consistent house style. Delicately textured and luxurious, the Brut Reserve receives a relatively modest dosage and shows less sweetness than many of its competitors. Subtle hints of toasted brioche dance with notes of lemon curd, orange blossoms and honey, with a distinct saline note revealing itself on the long, bright finish. Try it with a decadent triple-cream cheese, and you’ll be hooked!

Billecart-Salmon Brut Rosé $89.99

Billecart-Salmon’s Brut Rosé is a standard bearer for non-vintage rosé Champagne. Wonderfully aromatic and ultra-refined, it glides across the palate with mouth-watering notes of strawberries, raspberries, and roses, and it finishes with refreshing saline minerality. This is one of IWM’s all-time favorite Champagnes, and I invite you to see for yourself why it’s been such a hit with our clients and staff. You won’t regret it.

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!

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