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.

Expert Picks: The Donnas and Aldo Conterno

Two expert selections from David Gwo

David Gwo 12.8.14Today’s wines feature ready-to-drink selections crafted in northwest Italy. One comes from the famed region of Piedmont, but it isn’t Barolo or Barbaresco, although it’s made by a famed Barolo namesake—Aldo Conterno. One comes from a region to the north of Piedmont called Vallee d’Aosta, and it hails from a collective of producers who eke out their viticulture from tiny vineyards carved into mountains!

Vallee d’Aosta is surrounded by the Alps, so the wines made here utilize cooler climate grapes—like Nebbiolo! The Donnas makes a Rosso that is a blend of Nebbiolo (or Picotendro, as the locals call it), Freisa, and Neyret. The Nebbiolo here differs from its Piedmont counterpart in that the flavors are softer, more elegant, and more mineral driven, versus the boldly structured and flavored wines from Barolo. If you’re looking for a unique and interesting expression of Nebbiolo that doesn’t require aging, look no further!

Aldo Conterno, who passed away a few years ago, was the son of Giacomo Conterno, one of the greatest producers of traditional Barolo, and brother to Giovanni Conterno. Giovanni took responsibility of the estate upon Giacomo’s passing, and Aldo parted ways so that he could craft his own style of wines. The wine today is Aldo Conterno’s Langhe Rosso, a blend of Freisa, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot. The Aldo Conterno estate is known for wines that lean towards the modern style and the Langhe Rosso demonstrates that with its blend of international varietals.

Donnas 2011 Vallee d’Aosta Rosso $24.99

I didn’t really know what to expect the first time I tasted this wine, but I was very pleasantly surprised. This wine is nothing like any of the Nebbiolo that comes out of Piedmont. I picked up a distinct eucalyptus or mint character on the nose with light berry flavors and a beam of minerality. The wine was absolutely delicious and clearly reflected the cool climate of its grapes. This selection is ready-to-go and may very well become your weekday pizza wine!

Poderi Aldo Conterno 2011 Langhe Rosso $29.99

If you want something a little bolder than the Donnas, then Aldo Conterno’s Langhe Rosso is the way to go. You don’t see too much Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot in Piedmont—they tend to be warm weather grapes—but they are used to great effect in this blend. The Cabernet adds structure, the Merlot adds a plush texture, and Freisa (an indigenous varietal) adds detail in the aromatics and flavor of the wine. While this Rosso is bigger than the Donnas, it’s still a wine that is meant to be consumed young, so enjoy!

Deceptive, Delicious Dolcetto

The approachable dark beauties of Piemonte’s Dolcetto wines

A cluster of Dolcetto grapes, as pictured on Wikipedia

A cluster of Dolcetto grapes, as pictured on Wikipedia

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. Ampelographers date the Dolcetto grape to fifteenth-century Dogliani, although according to legend an edict from the Marchese di Clavesana in 1303 ordered that only Dolcetto be planted in his territories under penalty of death. Understandably, the Doglianese believe their Dolcetto to be the truest representation of the grape and continue the revival effort underway since the 1980s as an area producing some of the finest Dolcetto.

Unlike the other two grapes that make up the great triumvirate of Piemontese red wine grapes—Dolcetto, Barbera, Nebbiolo–Dolcetto’s aromas tend toward black fruits: black cherries, black plum, black raspberries, and is reflected in its dark purple color. Notes of licorice and spice are not uncommon, and while complexity and fruit-fowardness in the wine can differ depending on producer and terroir, Dolcetto is best beloved for being food friendly and early drinking. Rather than overwhelming sweet fruit that fizzles with no finish, Dolcetto lingers on the palate with a pleasant hint of violets and anise.

Favored by Piemontese winemakers to drink with everyday meals, Dolcetto is a versatile wine that can be easily enjoyed with almost any food, but the cuisine of Piemonte makes for a particular piquant pairing. From hearty winter fare of bean casserole with mixed sausages to casual pizzas or pasta with a robust spicy tomato sauce, we recommend Dolcetto with almost anything. For those who prefer red wine year round, Dolcetto’s medium body and spicy dark fruits are perfect for summer drinking.

Because of its low acid and medium tannins, Dolcetto is best enjoyed young. The 2011 vintage is widely available and has been lauded by wine professionals as an excellent year in Piedmont. Often crafted by makers of Barolo, Dolcetto offers a no-wait, low-cost introduction into a producer’s style. IWM is particularly enamored of this under $28 cru Dolcetto di Dogliani from Chionetti–unlike other makers of the wine who supplement their Nebbiolo winemaking with this grape, Quinto Chionetti is devoted to Dolcetto, crafting serious, artisanal expressions. Of course, we can’t overlook these two bottlings from Bruno Giacosa–both his négociant house Casa Vinacola and his own estate makes Dolcettos very much worth drinking!

To learn more about the indigenous grapes of Italy, join us for our special tasting on Saturday, April 25, 2014 at our location in Union Square, New York City!

Go-To-Wine Tuesday: De Forville 2012 Lange Nebbiolo

A $20 Nebbiolo that drinks like $60 Barbaresco

RD8592-2While the name may not strike you as Italian, the DeForville family has been in Piemonte since emigrating from Belgium in the late 1840s. For decades, they sold their grapes in bulk to restaurants and stores who would bottle the wine for themselves, much like many other estates in the region. Only in 1940 did the estate start bottling their own wines and realized the gift that their property was. The estate spans 27 acres with most of it contained within Barbaresco proper. Now, while wine-lovers appreciate not just for its beauty, but also for its rarity, De Forville is a breath of fresh air for those looking to experience the grandeur and style of the region at a fraction of the cost of many other properties.

Last Friday I was lucky enough to pop the cork of the De Forville 2012 Lange Nebbiolo with a colleague of mine. I had ventured out into the city for a German white wine-tasting event, and after two hours of Gewurtz and Riesling, I needed a little red.  I returned to IWM to find that our events had finished for the evening, the space was free, and it was mere minutes before I had this bottle in my hands.

This wine was incredible and to be completely frank, it performed like a bottle that costs three times as much! The nose was sweet spice, like a cigar wrapped in a blanket of black cherry and dark fruit. The palate was surprisingly powerful and the sensation of the wine resonated across my tongue for a full minute after I finished my sip. It was like a lion in the circus, brooding and powerful, but also tamed and obliging. I simply could not believe that this wine cost only $19.99.

If you want to learn about the exceptional wines that Piemonte has to offer without breaking the bank, take a look at this gem from De Forville. Better yet, if you already know how great the wines in the region are, surprise yourself with the sensational quality of this everyday drink. Whatever the case, you will thank me later.