The Inside Story from Italian Wine Merchants

Expert Picks: Fiorano and…Fiorano!

Two expert selections from John Camacho Vidal

CamachoWe collect wine for different reasons and one is that the wine’s vintage holds sentimental value. Be it a birth year or anniversary, it’s nice to open a bottle that commemorates an event or a memory. Through the years I have been able to acquire bottles of my son Lucas’s birth year, always choosing wines from producers who are special to me and whose passion shows in their wines. This past Sunday I opened one of these special birth year bottles for Lucas’s graduation from UNC Chapel Hill. It was a special moment and I needed a special wine.

I have always been fascinated by the wines from the Fiorano Estate in Lazio made by the prince of Venosa, Alberico Boncompagni Ludovisi. The story of how the Prince meticulously tended his vines and then later burned them down to ensure that his legacy gives a fairytale-like explanation for why these wines are a rarity. Their scarcity makes them more special, but even if you don’t know their backstory, these wines are majestic elixirs in a bottle. If you are not familiar with the story of the Prince and his wine, I encourage you to read about it.

To celebrate Lucas’s graduation, we had a family dinner at Lantern, a local Chapel Hill restaurant. The chef was the 2011 winner of the James Beard award for Best Chef for his unique marriage of Asian flavors and North Carolina ingredients that he sources from local farms and fisheries. We were all looking forward to a great meal, and I brought the 1994 Fiorano No. 46 Bianco and 1994 Fiorano No. 47 Semillon to pair with it. The wines showed spectacular with the family-style dishes accented by Asian spices, making the evening even more enchanting.

Fiorano 1994 No. 47 Sémillon $124.00

This Fiorano shows a golden yellow hue and offers a nose full of melon and honey tones followed by caramel mixed with apricots and kumquat. Airing the glass gives you baked green apples and slight tropical notes. This Sémillon has a soft, creamy palate with slight tangy acidic minerality with lingering sherry-like notes of almonds on a nice, soft, long, mineral-inflected finish. Drink now and for the next decade.

Fiorano 1994 No. 46 Bianco $165.00

This Bianco was a little brighter than the Semillon with a nose of apricot and crushed stones mingled with melon and honey. With air, the wine opens up layers of herbal notes followed by soft peach and tropical fruits. The palate is crisp with a soft, balanced acidity that lingers nicely on a long, nutty, tangy finish that does not let go. Drink now to 2041.

The Beauty of Old Wines

What you learn from drinking mature bottles

1-very-old-wine-carl-purcellI used to prefer New World, full, oaky wines with lots of vanilla and fruit. But the more I taste, the more I have come to appreciate not only a plethora of varietals, styles, regions and producers. Above all, I have also grown to love old, mature wines.

A common question that people always asked in the showroom is “How long do you think this wine will last?” The truth is that there are so many factors at play that it is really difficult to measure how a wine will age. Most of the time, all we have to go on is by tasting older vintages next to younger ones to compare past performances, but wine is a living thing and each vintage has its own personality, making this method inexact.

IMG_20150206_203403Putting aside vintage, the main factor that we tend to miss is our own personal preference. The more wine we taste, the more our palates change. I believe that appreciating old wine is an acquired taste that comes with experience. I have also found with little exceptions that someone who is new in the journey of wine will tend to not like the taste of older wine, preferring instead the fresh fruit and the primary aromatics of young wines. However, with time, anyone can come to appreciate the nuances offered by a well-aged bottle with its secondary and tertiary aromas. And, of course, there is an ideal period where the flavors of both youth and maturity are balanced, although finding that sweet spot is hard to gauge.

One important fact is this: 95 to 99 percent of all the wine produced in the world is intended to be drunk while it is young and fresh (within five years of release). Although all wines change and usually improve with some age, wine maturity does have its limits. Because wine is a living thing, it too will die. It’s not just the wine’s type, grape composition, vinification protocol or vintage that decides its lifespan; chemical composition and storage conditions also contribute to a wine’s evolution.

IMG_20150206_192058Young wine drinkers don’t really know what to expect when they have a mature wine—and here I’m going to limit my discussion to red. (While whites can age too, they have a very different, possibly even stranger evolution–that said, the organic whites of Fiorano are extraordinary.) As a wine evolves, its primary aromas of blackberries, cherry, plum and cassis fade or dissipate and with time they give way to notes of tobacco, truffle, earth, smoke, cedar wood, cigar box, forest floor, chocolate, licorice, and leather—just to name a few. These earthier, more complex scents are prized by some collectors because they indicate maturity and complexity.

If you are an average wine drinker that enjoys a glass of wine every now and again or mostly on special occasions and holidays, save your cash and save the mature wine for someone who will appreciate it. But if you’re curious and want to expand your palate, be patient. If you truly get passionate about wine, you will develop a hunger for fine matured wine; you’ll seek it out, and you’ll learn about it. And to answer the question as to how to know when a wine has reached its peak or begun to fade away pull the cork and take a taste and judge for yourself. It’s a personal preferences, and what one wine lover adores, another may pour down the sink.

If you’re interested in enjoying some mature wines, here are some bottles from 1995 and here are bottles from 1990.

Inside IWM September 8-10, 2015: People Make a Difference

A look back at the week that was

Lionel Cousin of Cupano

Lionello Cousin of Cupano

We finished the week with an origin story. Every great wine palate has a beginning, and Stephane Menard tells his. It begins with a bottle of birth-year Bordeaux and moves from there. Another IWM writer reflected on drinking Cupano’s Super-Tuscan wine, Sant’Antimo Ombrone, with the people who made it, and how that wine will always taste like friendship.

Our experts are focused this short week on bringing people and wines together. Michael Adler picks a pair of cru Barolo for your fall and winter wine enjoyment. Will Di Nunzio reflects on a recent dinner to select two knockout wines that were totally unexpected pleasures. And David Gwo set his sights on Cupano’s 2008 vintage for a pair of beautiful wines to enjoy now–or years from now.

Cheers to you and the people in your life. They make life beautiful.


Expert Picks: François Gay and Fiorano

Two expert selections from Will Di Nunzio

will expertLast week, I had the pleasure of hosting one our longtime clients and his family for a dinner. After some bubbly and a little tour of the cellar, we sat down and enjoyed Chef Mike Marcelli’s amazing food—from his never-ending antipasti to the Waygu sirloin, it was all just an incredible meal. Of course, the wines were just glorious, and the two that stood out for me in particular were the François Gay Aloxe Corton 2013 and the Fiorano Sémillon N 42 1987. While very different, these two wines were exceptional in their own.

François Gay Aloxe-Corton 2013 $59.99

This little estate on the north face of the Côte de Beaune is run by François Gay, a man who seems to really care less about status and prestige. François makes great wine, and all he wants to do is make his wines the best he possibly can. Interestingly enough, he has no premier cru vineyards, although all of his vines grow in premier cru locations, meaning that his wines carry all the quality of this AOC level without the price. This Aloxe-Corton should be twice the price at least. Light, elegant, silky and a wine you can drink all night, this 2013 Aloxe-Corton is a magical little bottle of wine for any occasion.

Fiorano 1987 No. 42 Sémillon $149.00

The story of Fiorano is now well known, and this bottle is a cult wine that you would be hard pressed to get your hands on. Fortunately for everyone, Sergio Esposito, IWM’s founder, was able to get an incredible allocation many years ago, so our cellars are one of the guardians of this estate’s odd, astounding, and impossible wines. Why impossible? There are not many wines in the world—white wines that is—that show the way this 1987 does. That night, we opened an ‘88 and an ‘87 side by side. While the ‘88 showed great notes of nutmeg and almonds, some earth and port-like aromas, it was a little tired. The ’87, however, was brilliant, clear, bright and fresh. As we tasted this wine, we couldn’t believe what our heads were whispering to us. “This is a 1987?” we kept asking. It didn’t make sense; it was impossible. That is Fiorano at work—an unbelievable experience.

Expert Picks: Ferrando La Torrazza and Fiorano

Two expert selections from Crystal Edgar

Crystal 2014Spring is officially upon us—at least that is what I am telling myself here in New York. It’s time to bring out the whites wines to welcome the warmth! Today I am excited to introduce two wines that dwell far off the beaten path. I do love a nice, crisp Chablis, Sancerre, Friulano, Gavi and other bright and refreshing whites; however, I like variety. Seeking a bit of adventure, I find myself reaching for unique producers, grapes, or styles of wine. Here are two of my favorites, an Erbaluce, which can be enjoyed anytime, and a Fiorano, which requires more attention and a few very good friends to share the magic with.

Ferrando La Torrazza Erbaluce di Caluso 2012 $19.99

This fresh, dry, mineral-driven wine is produced exclusively from the Erbaluce grape in the northernly Canavese region. Technically part of Piedmont, Canavese is located at the frontier of the Valle d’Aosta, the very edge of Piedmont, an area renowned for its steeply terraced vineyards, which offers distinctive character and quality to the wine. The Erbaluce grape is an ancient white variety that originates in these alpine foothills. This ‘12 has a bright acidity, an elegant underlying minerality, and a complex structure that makes it the ultimate flexible wine. This wine is delightful to enjoy with a range of fresh seafood and antipasti but also acts as the perfect aperitif on a warm day.

Fiorano No. 47 Semillon 1988 $149

Last night I tasted this “cerebral” white from 1988 with a few clients, and once again, I fell in love with the fairytale of Fiorano. Of all of the white wines that we offer, Fiorano’s Semillon might just be the most unique and complex, carrying one of the best wine stories ever told. It’s hard not to contemplate the notions of death, myth and legacy while approaching Tenuta di Fiorano, a sprawling noble estate southeast of Rome and bordered by the Via Appia Antica. “The greatness of Fiorano is a secret shared by a few,” wrote Burton Anderson in “Vino,” his 1980 guide to Italian wine. This statement has remained true because there are not many bottles to go around! The elderly proprietor, Alberico Boncompagni Ludovisi, the prince of Venosa, decided to tear out his vines and abandon his estate to live in a hotel, where he spent his final years. He passed away in 2005, and the last of the remarkable wines he made was produced in 1995. There may never be more wine made like this (although Allegra Antinori is revamping the estate—fingers crossed!), so now is the time to get your hands on the few precious bottles that still remain in our cellar! Enjoy it now or over the next few years with roasted seafood, pasta carbonara, mushroom risotto, quiche, or a simple croquet monsieur.

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