The Inside Story from Italian Wine Merchants

Inside IWM, February 29 to March 3, 2016: You Gotta Have Heart

A look back at the week that was

Il Palazzone's olive trees in bloom

Il Palazzone’s olive trees in bloom

We kicked off the week with a look at the other great product from Italy–olive oil. Remembering her time in Italy, Janice Cable talked about why olive oil is good for your heart, both  literally and metaphorically. Sean Collins enjoyed an under $30 Aldo Conterno wine, and you bet your corkscrew it was delicious. And John Camacho Vidal went to Umbria, where he toured the iconic Paolo Bea estate–and got to meet Paolo himself!

Crystal Edgar looked forward to spring with two white Burgundies from Michel Niellon; these Chassagne-Montrachet bottlings will make you feel like flowers in bloom! Garrett Kowalsky also selected white wines to hurry spring’s arrival, but he chose bottles from Antinori’s San Giovanni della Sala and Burgundy’s Bachey-Legros. And Camacho Vidal dove into Chianti Classico, explaining the region’s DOCG laws and picking two favorites, La Maialina and Castello dei Rampolla.

Here’s to faith in warm weather and enjoying the wine you love, no matter the season!


Expert Picks: La Maialina and Castello dei Rampolla

Two expert selections from John Camacho Vidal

CamachoChianti Classico may feel synonymous with Italy, but it has changed a lot over the years. Once associated with the straw-covered bottle (a fiasco), Chianti was ubiquitous at every pizza restaurant. However, Chianti Classico has been evolving for over 700 years and its DOC and DOCG criteria are still changing today. Produced in central Italy’s Tuscany, the Chianti region extends between Florence and Siena with the Chianti Classico region covering around 100 square miles. For Chianti to be Chianti, it must come from the Chianti region and be made from at least 80% Sangiovese grapes. Chianti Classico can be earthy and rustic with great acidity, which allows it to pair well with an array of foods. The characteristic aromas include strawberries, violets, cherries and its high acidity on the palate.

In addition to a DOCG for Chianti, there are three DOCGs for Chianti Classico: Chianti Classico, wherein grapes are from the Chianti Classico zone and the wine must age a minimum of 12 months; Chianti Classico Riserva, where the wine ages a minimum of 24 months; and Chianti Classico Gran Selezione, wherein grapes must be estate grown and wine aged a minimum of 30 months. It’s important to note that Chianti Classico and Chianti Classico Riserva wines both have the Gallo Nero seal (black rooster) on the neck of the bottle, each with different colored borders, red for the Chianto Classico and gold for the Riserva.

Today, I’ve chosen two Chianti Classico that provide great expressions of the Classico region, one from La Maialina and one from Castello dei Rampolla. Both of these wines are delicious, and each offers insight into its individual estate and maker.

La Maialina 2010 Chianti Classico $18.99

La Maialina makes its Chianti Classico to express the essence of the territory, and this wine is a deep ruby color; the nose is full of juicy red fruit followed by aromas of violet and rose petal that slowly open up to some earth notes. The palate is silky with tamed tannins that linger nicely with black and red fruit on the finish. This wine’s quality-to-price ratio is unmatched, and it drinks like a higher priced Chianti Classico. The estate’s name refers to a breed of pig (Cinta Senese) that originated in the Siena area during the 1300’s and is the only Tuscan native pig to survive extinction. This is a gem of a wine that will not burn a hole in your pocket; I suggest you buy it by the case.

Castello dei Rampolla 2012 Chianti Classico $37.99

Castello dei Rampolla uses biodynamic practices, which I love. Mostly known for its Super-Tuscan Sammarco and Vigna d’Alceo, Castello dei Rampolla started out making Chianti, and in my opinion its one of the best Chianti Classicos from the zone. This Chianti has a little smokiness on the nose, which gives way to aromas of cherry, red currant followed by some hints of balsamic, rosemary and slight herbal notes. The palate is full and a bit savory with notes of leather and hints of oak. The finish is loaded with spicy, raspy tannins that cling nicely. Drink now and for the next few years.

Inside IWM, February 16-18, 2016: Short but Intense Edition

A look back at the week that was

Growing Sangiovese Grosso vines

Growing Sangiovese Grosso vines

For Monday being a holiday, Inside IWM packed a lot into this week. Sean Collins told us how he wowed his friends with an unexpectedly delicious $19 bottle of Chianti Classico from La Maialina. We got an inside view of the IWM NYC showroom from John Camacho Vidal, who explained how what we do is different from every other wine shop. And we completed our series on Italian red wine grapes with a rousing post that details some of our favorites; from Refosco to Uva Rara, this exploration of red grapes expands your wine knowledge.

Our Experts were similarly intense. Crystal Edgar looks forward to summer with two fine Verdicchio wines from Sartarelli, one of our favorite Le Marche producers. Michael Adler looks at Meursault and “Meursault,” offering a pair of wines that will reward lovers of fine Chardonnay. And Will Di Nunzio picks a pair of under $35 quintessentially Italian wines, making sure that you can drink great wine any night of the week.

Here’s to making the most of your time–and enjoying it with terrific wine and even better people.

Go-To-Wine Tuesday: La Maialina 2010 Chianti Classico

A delicious, traditional Sangiovese Chianti Classico that’s just $19!

RD8749-2After spending Valentine’s Day with my girlfriend, we decided to sit down with her friends and enjoy some wine to close out the evening. I wanted to impress her friends, so I decided to bring a bottle of La Maialina 2010 Chianti Classico. The $19 Tuscan bottle became an instant hit. We were delighted by the wine’s complexity, its dark cherry nose, and its hints of smoke and spices.

La Maialina is a relatively new producer in Tuscany; however, this estate intends on maintaining the tradition of Tuscan winemaking. The name “La Maialina,” which means “little pig,” refers to the last indigenous pigs of Tuscany, and it acts as a reminder that this estate works to celebrate the region’s success. La Maialina keeps to its roots and creates a classic wine that builds on the Chianti’s 800 years of history. Utilizing some excellent local Tuscan grapes and time-tested Tuscan winemaking methods, La Maialina creates an elegant and complex wine with an almost ludicrously low price tag.

By the end of the night my fellow wine drinkers were convinced I had splurged on a bottle of wine for the occasion, and each of us fell in love with wine’s the delicate balance and the lingering sensation of sharp, acerbic fruit. This wine turned into a drinkable conversation piece and it served as the perfect icebreaker for the evening. The La Maialina Chianti Classico 2010 made me the hero of the night—not bad for a wine that costs less than $20.

Three Simple Tips to Gifting Wine

Go for simple, personal, immediate enjoyment

Prosecco_Flutes jpegWith the holiday season in full swing, I have been seeing some familiar faces in the showroom. A lot of clients come in looking for something to give to that important wine-lover. Our clients depend on our judgment. It’s easy to recommend a wine to clients with whom you have a relationship. Over time, you get to learn their palate likes and dislikes, so it’s almost second nature. However, when it comes to gifting wine to someone whose taste you are not familiar with, it can be frustrating–especially if you are a wine lover yourself.

My advice is to keep it simple. First, determine what the budget is. I always say, “Expensive does not mean better”; it’s all about the quality not the price.  It’s easy to stick to a budget when giving wine; in our showroom, we have exceptional wines available in every price point. I always urge people to stick to their budgets because there’s something delicious that fits it.

Second, I suggest you make it personal. In my own gift-giving, I’ve noticed that people appreciate that I take time and thought in the selection, so I always encourage others to write a personal note telling why you selected the wine; you want the recipient to know why you gave them that great bottle of Italian wine when they open it days, weeks or months later. If tasting notes are available, I always include them.

Third, think immediate gratification. I recommend that you look for wines that are easy to drink and enjoyable once opened. If the people you are gifting to have no real familiarity with drinking wine, you want to assure that they get something that they can enjoy—especially so that they remember you when they drink it.

Below are a few great values that are crowd pleasers. I’ve kept it easy by choosing a wine from three of the major wine regions in Italy, so even if your recipients are not wine connoisseurs, they’ll likely have heard of the wine. For example, most people have heard of Chianti, but not as many have tasted a really great one.

Nicolis 2008 Amarone della Valpolicella Classico $69.99

Nicolis makes wine in relatively small quantities and stays focused on quality and that is noticeable in its Amarone. This is a dense, powerful Amarone with a nose full of ripe plume, spice, cocoa, tobacco and slight hints of leather mingled with herb and earth. The palate is full and velvety with chewy tannins and a nice, lingering finish. It’s a rare, affordable Amarone, and it’s worth every penny.

Castello di Selvole 2011 Chianti Classico Riserva $34.99

A classic Chianti with a great pedigree and an even better price. This is always a crowd pleaser and almost everyone I have tasted it with has loved it. This wine has a great nose full of dark cherry mingled with some earthiness and a hint of vanilla popping through. On the palate it delivers delicious cherry flavors and a classic Chianti mouth-feel.

Rocche dei Manzoni 2009 Barolo Rocche $64.99

One of the best values in my opinion, this Rocche dei Manzoni Barolo is ready to drink now with some decanting, but your wine-loving friend can also cellar it and enjoy it well down the road.  Elegant, earthy, robust, ethereal, intense and classic.

keep looking »