The Inside Story from Italian Wine Merchants

Go-To-Wine Tuesday: Valle Dell’Acate 2014 Il Frappato Vittoria

A joyful, fresh and delicate Sicilian wine to drink right now

RD8758-2One wine that I’ve always enjoyed is the Valle dell’Acate Il Frappato Vittoria. I had a bottle of the 2014 that I had not tasted yet, so I thought I would open it. I love Frappato, an indigenous Sicilian grape. It has nice, delicate floral and cherry notes, and while it’s light enough to enjoy in warm weather, its supple tannins make it hold up when there is a slight chill in the air, and it pairs well with an array of foods.

Founded at the beginning of the nineteenth century, Valle dell’Acate has a long history; today it’s considered one of the top estates in Sicily. What makes this estate’s Frappato so unique is the soil composition of its vineyard. It’s located approximately 360 feet above sea level south of the winery and near the coast. The soil in this area is called “Milaro” by the locals, and it sports calcareous sandstone and layers of clay, which allow the vines to produce high quality grapes and gives the wine a distinct profile. Made with 100% Frappato, this wine ferments for 15 days in stainless steel tank with indigenous yeasts, and then ages six months (also in steel tank) with an additional three months in bottle before release.

A beautiful, bright red color in the glass, this wine’s nose is full of violet, sour cherry, spice, licorice, mineral and crushed red berries. With some twirling of the glass, I could smell the sandstone and clay soils that lie beneath the vineyard. On the palate, it is silky with noticeable red fruit and delicate herbal notes; the acidity is fresh and juicy. The tannins kick in mid point to mingle and balance with the fruit, and it finishes with spice, and tangy, savory black cherry. This Valle dell’Acate is a joyful easy wine to drink that has depth and layers and the price point, under $22, makes it easy to keep a case for when you are in the mood.

Expert Picks: Galardi and Raffaele Palma

Two expert selections from John Camacho Vidal

CamachoLast week I was invited to a tasting of wines from Campania. It was wonderful to be able to taste both white and red wines made from indigenous varietals from a region that is often overlooked. Located on the southwestern Italian Peninsula with the Mediterranean Sea bordering it on the west, Campania is considered the oldest winemaking region in Italy, with production dating back to the twelfth century, BCE. A plethora of grape varieties are indigenous to the area, and in some cases are found nowhere else but in native Campania. The most notable of these grapes is Aglianico, which likely was introduced to the area by the Greeks and later cultivated by the Romans. In the white spectrum you have Fiano and Greco di Tufo, which have been cultivated in the area for over 2000 years.

I tasted a lot of interesting wine at that tasting, both red and white. Some wines came from up-and-coming winemakers, while others came from established producers. Today, I’ve chosen wines from two relatively new producers, but both are spectacular: Galardi and Raffaele Palma.

Galardi is a true cult wine producer. The estate consists of 25 acres that sit 400 meters above sea level on volcanic slopes, and each vintage, Galardi makes approximately 2,500 cases of its one wine, Terra di Lavoro. And Raffaele Palma makes its three wines–a red, a white, and a rosé–all from indigenous grapes that it cultivates organically from vines that grow on the cliffs of the Amalfi Coast. Raffaele Palma’s terraces rest on cliffs that jut 50 meters above sea level to the highest point of 450 meters above sea level–imagine harvesting those grapes!

Galardi 2012 Terra di Lavoro $79.99

Aglianico with a kiss of Piedirosso, this ’12 Terra di Lavoro is still young and requires some patience, but it will reward you with a unique tasting experience. Aged in new oak barrels for twelve months, this wine is big, dark, and inky. Loads of tar, earth, tobacco and slight minerality–as well as pepper and licorice, all backed by elegant notes of cherry and cassis. The palate if full and velvety, with black cherry, leather and hints of plum; its tannins are full and clingy but well balanced with the acidity allowing for a nice, long finish. Drink 2018-2025.

Raffaele Palma 2011 Montecorvo $74.99

This wine is perfect for summertime BBQs or wintertime’s roasts—it’s a flexible, food-friendly stunner that will pull you back to the glass again and again. Raffaele Palma makes this Amalfi Coast red with the indigenous varietals Piedriosso, Aglianco and Tintore. A beautiful dark ruby color, this wine’s nose has slight hints of rose petal, blueberry, plum and spice mingling with minerals. The palate is silky and super elegant with grippy tannins that balance nicely with the wine’s fresh acidity. Finishing dry with slight herbal and leather notes, the Montevcorvo is a trip. Drink 2015-2024.

Go-To-Wine Tuesday: Donnas Vallee d’Aosta 2010 Rosso

A rustic, silky, fresh wine that’s under $25

RD8757-2We all know Barolo, Brunello, and Chianti, and while I love those wines, I have always been most excited about small production, unique winemakers and lesser-known regions, which makes the Donnas Vallee d’Aosta 2010 Rosso a perfect wine for my first Go-To-Wine Tuesday blog post.

Vallee d’Aosta is actually the smallest wine-producing region in Italy, but it was also the first in the area to attain DOC status in 1971. This incredible region, which features vineyards holding tightly to the slopes of the southern Alps, primarily grows Italian grapes Nebbiolo, Dolcetto and Moscato, and French grapes Pinot Noir, Gamay, Pinot Gris and Chardonnay, though there are also many grape varieties that are uniquely indigenous to the region.

Produced by the Caves Cooperative, a group of local producers who combine grape harvests, the Donnas Vallee d’Aosta Rosso is 85% Nebbiolo (or Picotendro, as the locals call it) and 15% local varieties Freisa and Neyret. It’s a rustic wine but it’s not without its silky side. Featuring cherries, strawberries and rose petal, this wine also offers bright acidity due to the cooler, high-altitude vineyard site, and that means this rosso is enjoyable even in these dog days of summer.

Priced at under $25, this Rosso would be a fantastic pairing with Capriolo alla valdostana, a dish traditional to Vallee d’Aosta that’s venison stewed in red wine with vegetables, herbs, grappa and cream. Alternatively, a paring this wine with Pappardelle with Venetian Duck Ragu would be equally fantastic.

Expert Picks: Giacomo Conterno and Roberto Voerzio

Two expert selections from Francesco Vigorito

Francesco 2014The more 1996 Barolo and Barbaresco I drink, the more I’m starting to realize just how historic this Piemonte vintage really is. At inception, the ’96 Barolos and Barbarescos were largely impenetrable due to the fierce wall of tannins and piercing acidities, so they were initially shunned by critics and the wine community. Now almost two decades old, these wines have finally reached adulthood, and they are really starting to strut their stuff. I’ve selected two of my recent favorites to share with you today, one from Giacomo Conterno and the other from Roberto Voerzio.

Giacomo Conterno 1996 Barolo Cascina Francia $259.99

This is basically as good as Barolo is going to get. Once at maturity, Conterno’s Barolos display mesmerizing complexity and aromatic pleasure. This ’96 Barolo Cascina Francia one of those wines that you will remember for the rest of your life. Giacomo Conterno makes wines that I can simply smell all day and never have to taste to truly enjoy. For a perfect Barolo experience, look no further than this ’96 Cascina Francia.

Roberto Voerzio 1996 Barolo Cerequio $199/btl

Silky, luxurious, concentrated and gripping are the words that remind me of the incredible drinking experience this ’96 Barolo Cerquio offers. Voerzio is simply a master and you get to see how good he is in top vintages like this. I think this ’96 Barolo is an absolute steal for $199 (new real eases sell for at least this price $199), and I am surprised that these bottles do not have home a yet.

Expert Picks: Raffaele Palma and Galardi

Two expert selections from David Gwo

David Gwo 12.8.14Let’s go a bit off the beaten path today and look at two wines from Campania in southern Italy. The grapes and wines coming out of southern Italy are completely different from those coming out of the North. The weather is warmer by comparison, although Campania enjoys a refreshing coastal climate. Over the last two decades there’s been an increased focus on fine wine production in this beautiful and agriculturally bountiful region. Campania is famous for three different white grapes—Fiano, Falanghina, Greco di Tufo—and one red grape—Aglianico. Both my selections today feature Aglianico.

The first selection is actually a rosé, which is fitting given the season, made by Raffaele Palma, a producer exclusive to IWM. When Sergio first tasted the wines of Raffaele Palma back in Italy, he immediately wanted them to sell in the US. Each Raffaele Palma is incredibly distinct and unique; I’ve poured them for clients during tastings on multiple occasions now, and they’ve impressed every time.

The second selection is one that is critically acclaimed and praised within the wine world, although many wine-lovers still don’t know about it. The estate is Galardi, and it is a prime example of the concerted effort that Campanian producers make in crafting high caliber wine. Galardi’s flagship wine, Terra di Lavoro, is a cellar-worthy selection. Galardi makes only a few thousand bottles every year, and it doesn’t break the bank!

Raffaele Palma 2011 Salicerchi $74.99

This rosé isn’t your stereotypical summertime sipper! I would describe this as a muscular rosé that screams food pairing, rather than sipping on its own during a hot day on the porch. Trust me, you’ve probably never had a rosé that smells or tastes like this—I hadn’t until I tasted it. The color of the wine is a dark pink, almost garnet, unlike most bright pink rosés. On the nose it’s savory and herbaceous, and on the palate it’s full-bodied and lush. This wine pairs magically with dishes like Risotto or “fishier” fish like Salmon.

Galardi 2011 Terra di Lavoro $69.99

If you’ve never experienced this wine before, prepare to get rocked! Aglianico produces wines that are full-bodied, firmly structured, and possessing a profile of dark fruits, herbs, and game. The Terra di Lavoro is a “big red” that rewards those wine-lovers who give it the proper patience. You can open it now if you’d like (decanting is a must), but with time the structure settles down, allowing you to experience the full array of characteristics that Aglianico can demonstrate. Made by a family of cousins, Galardi’s Terra di Lavoro is hands down one of the top examples of red wine from Campania.

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