The Inside Story from Italian Wine Merchants

Go-To-Wine Tuesday: Casa Vinicola Bruno Giacosa 2014 Dolcetto d’Alba

A delicious, fresh everyday Giacosa bottle!

31TqXXO1wyLThis past weekend was Mothers Day,and we all honored our mothers for raising us, loving us, and supporting us. Honestly, is there a better way to show your appreciation than with a bottle of wine? You really can’t go wrong when the name Bruno Giacosa is on the bottle, so I chose the delicious, yet affordable Casa Vinicola Bruno Giacosa 2014 Dolcetto d’Alba.

Bruno Giacosa is one of the finest producers of Barolo and Barbaresco. His highly sought-after wines are often intense in character and rich in flavor. This Dolcetto, however, represents the more approachable side of Giacosa; it’s a balanced everyday wine that’s under $30 a bottle. Giacosa’s estates have been crafting high quality wine for decades, so it may surprise you that Giacosa once purchased all of his grapes from outside suppliers. This explains why the name Casa Vinicola appears before his name on this wine. The Giacosa estate does not own the vineyards in its Casa Vinicola bottlings; rather, it hand-selects the finest and most desirable grapes from farmers whom the Giacosa team trusts.

Dolcetto roughly translates to “little sweet one,” but this translation does not do the wine justice. This Dolcetto bursts with fruit, but it’s balanced by a bright acidity. The result is an easy, approachable wine that goes well with pretty much anything. I had mine with grilled chicken and vegetables, but, due to its versatility, it can just as easily be enjoyed with pasta or even pizza. This wine is an instant crowd-pleaser and an ideal wine to have on hand for any occasion.

Inside IWM, January 25-28, 2016: Learning is FUNdamental

A look back at the week that was

A pretty illustration of Freisa

A pretty illustration of Freisa

We kicked off the week with a new post in our series on Italian red wine grapes, this one looking at grapes from Dolcetto (the “little sweet one”) to Grignolino (“many pips”). Learn more than you thought you would by checking in on this multi-post extravaganza. On Tuesday, Stephane Menard explained why every day is a good day for Prosecco, and he explores an authentic $22 bottle from Col Vetoraz to show why. And Francesco Vigorito talked tannins–what they are, how they work, and why wines with sturdy tannins are his favorites.

Crystal Edgar chose her expert selections of Alain Burguet Burgundies because Burgundy is like Manhattan–it’s all about location, location, location. John Camacho Vidal looked to southern Italy for his expert picks inspiration, and he selected two wines from Campania that are insanely good. Michael Adler looked even farther afield; journeying to Argentina’s Patagonia region, Michael picked out a pair of Bodega Chacra old-vine Pinot Noirs that proves Francesco right and poses a challenge to Crystal.

However you do it, learning is fundamental, and learning about wine is the most fun of all. Cheers to you and what’s in your glass this weekend!

Italian Red Wine Grapes: Dolcetto to Grignolino!

The third in our series looking at the grapes that comprise Italy’s best loved red wines!

Last summer, we took a look at Italian white grape varietals (here’s the last installment of the white grape series with links to each part), so it feels right to take a wander through red grapes this winter. This winter, we’re detailing the red wine grapes of Italy. From the well-known to the obscure, this alphabetical list offers insight into the grapes that make your favorite Italian red wines. Here is the first installment, Abbuoto to Brachetto, and the second, Cabernet Franc to Croatina, in case you missed them!

A cluster of Dolcetto grapes

A cluster of Dolcetto grapes

Dolcetto (dohl-CHET-toh)

Its name translates to the “little sweet one,” but Dolcetto is a deceptive little bugger. Those who expect a sweet red wine from Dolcetto will likely be disappointed. Although its name suggests sweetness, it’s the grape–not the wine–that is sweet. In fact, a common characteristic of Dolcetto is its satisfying slight bitterness, a result of fermentation of the fruit’s high level of sugar. Another reason for its name is the berry’s low acidity; less acid means less competition with the sugar, thereby emphasizing its sweet flavor. A Piemonte native, Dolcetto makes for spicy light to medium-bodied wine that is primarily grown in the Langhe region. Produced under seven different DOC classifications, d’Alba, d’Asti, and di Dogliani are the best known.

Frappato (frah-PAH-toh)

Grown only in Sicilia, Frappato provides lively berry notes, cherry-red color and bouncy acidity to other Sicilian varietals, most often Nero d’Avola. It’s unclear whether this grape is indigenous to the area or whether it arrived, as did many of Sicilia’s other grapes, from Spain.

A pretty illustration of Freisa

A pretty illustration of Freisa

Freisa (FRAY-zah)

Grown predominantly in Piemonte, the indigenous Freisa has a chameleon-like ability to change. It also has the questionable ability to polarize wine drinkers, who seem to either love or hate the grape, but experience either emotion with passion. Freisa’s blue-black grapes make a cherry-red wine with a nose and a palate of raspberry. Both quite tannic and highly acidic, Freisa is vinified into wines that range from dry to sweet, and flat to fizzy or sparkling. Once grown everywhere from the Veneto to Piemonte, this grape varietal has decreased substantially, but due to its acrobatic flexibility, Freisa is currently making a comeback.

Fumin (foo-MEEN, FOO-mehn)

This varietal is indigenous to Valle d’Aosta in northwestern Italy. Similar in heft to Syrah, Fumin most often provided dark ruby color and a zesty kick to easy-drinking blends, but now it is being used to create its own wines, which demand ageing. Fumin is an extremely finicky grape to grow with a high degree of sensitivity to its microclimate, thereby explaining its dearth of appearances in other winemaking regions.

Ripening Gaglioppo

Ripening Gaglioppo

Gaglioppo (gah-LYOHP-poh)

The most important grape in Calabria, Gaglioppo is a component of all of the area’s DOC wines. While this varietal also grows in Campania, Le Marche and Umbria, it is most visible in the simple, robust red wines of Calabria. Gaglioppo is a hardy varietal that flourishes in the hot, dry south of Italy–recent genetic testing suggests that it is related to Sicilia’s Frappato. Ruby in color, refreshing to the nose, somewhat tannic, and replete with scents of tar and rose hip tea, Gaglioppo does well with some aging in the bottle.

Gamay (ga-MAY)

Gamay, a predominantly French grape varietal, is best known for being the grape used in Beaujolais, but it also grows to great effect in the tiny Valle d’Aosta in the north of Italy. This very vigorous grape grows easily and abundantly, and while it tends to be extremely acidic, its acidity is tamed by the acidic soil of the Valle d’Aosta.

A single bunch of Grignolino

A single bunch of Grignolino

Grignolino (gree-nyoh-LEE-noh)

This varietal indigenous to Piemonte seems to have a personality conflict. High in tannins yet light-bodied, Grignolino gets its name from the term for “many pips,” for this grape usually holds around three seeds per fruit. When pressed carefully, the tannins can be held at bay to create a light-bodied red with a nose of alpine flowers and herbs, a perfect accompaniment for chicken or fish. Like Dolcetto, Grignolino is a precocious vine, and its wines are best drunk young, and like the wines vinified from Dolcetto, those from Grignolino can be consumed while other Piemontese are still aging.


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!

Inside IWM, April 27-30, 2015: People who Drink Wine with People

A look back at the week that was

IMG_2282We began the week with a blog post of Italy travel tips, and we closed with an Italian who traveled to us–Nicola Chionetti, heir apparent at the Quinto Chionetti estate in Piemonte. Matt Di Nunzio sat down with Nicola and drank a bunch of his soon-to-be-released stellar Dolcettos. In between, Emery Long was transported to Sicilia by a bottle of Agricola Punica Montessu (it’s under $30 and delicious). And David Gwo gave four hot wines to cool down your summertime–and each is super yummy and very affordable.

Our Experts were stoked to share their expertise and experiences this week. Will Di Nunzio offered up the two favorite Antinori wines from our recent event with Allegra Antinori (spoiler alert: they’re not what you’d expect). Robin Kelley O’Connor selected two of his favorite Burgundies from two of his favorite Burgundy makers, Maison Louis Jadot and Bouchard Père & Fils. Francesco Vigorito focused on one wine from one producer, choosing two vintages of Luciano Sandrone Barolo Cannubi Boschis. And like Francesco, John Camacho Vidal couldn’t help but give Barolo some love, opting for bottles from Massolino and Domenico Clerico.

Cheers to you and the people with whom you enjoy your wine. They are indeed the luckiest people.

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