The Inside Story from Italian Wine Merchants

Expert Picks: Bruno Giacosa and Giuseppe Rinaldi

Two expert selections from Francesco Vigorito

Francesco 2014Bruno Giacosa and Giuseppe Rinaldi are two of the best Barolo producers known, and if there were a Mt. Rushmore of Barolisti, these guys’ heads would absolutely be on it! Both winemakers craft a very classic style of Barolo that embody the traditions and meanings of “Barolo” and “Nebbiolo.” I’ve chosen a pair of Barolos that share the commonality of being from riper years, making them approachable and medium-term wines, which is nice given the string of intensely structured vintages like 2004, 2006, 2008 and 2010 that make you wait to enjoy them.

Bruno Giacosa 2003 Barolo Le Rocche Falletto 159.99

Currently drinking in all of its glory, the 2003 Le Rocche shouldn’t be missed if you need a beautifully drinking Barolo at a killer price. Everything is right where it needs to be in this wine: the aromatics leap from the glass and the structure has integrated, leaving firm yet ripe tannins on a lasting finish that lets you know you are drinking classic Barolo from one of the Piedmont greats!

Giuseppe Rinaldi 2007 Barolo Brunate Le Coste 159.99

After having enjoyed the 1994, 1996, 2000 and 2004 bottlings of this wine, Rinaldi Barolo Brunate Le Coste has easily become one of my favorites. Rinaldi’s wines have gathered a cult-like following, and these Barolos have proven to be very hard to get, especially back vintages—Rinaldi simply doesn’t make enough wine. 2007 was an anomaly in Barolo; the combination of ripe fruit, aromatics and fresh structure are rarely in this kind of equilibrium. 2007 one of my favorite vintages in Barolo, and it just doesn’t get any better than Giuseppe Rinaldi!

Go-To-Wine Tuesday: De Conciliis 2012 Donnaluna Fiano

A fresh, delicious, under $30 southern Italian white

WH1864-2TWhen I lived in Italy, I used to go down the coast and visit Napoli on the weekends to go sailing with my friends. One of our favorites wines was Fiano, a delicious white wine made with the indigenous Campania grape. Like Falanghina, another Campania white, Fiano is part of the southern Italian culture and identity, and as soon as you put your nose into the glass, images of the Amalfi coast immediately arise. Whenever, I smell Fiano, I see the warm night of the summer by the sea, eating some pasta alle vongole and a fresh glass of mineral-laden, aromatic white wine.

Fiano has been growingin southern Italy for hundreds of years’ the first mention of Fiano comes in the thirteenth century. While the most famous expression of Fiano is Fiano di Avellino DOCG, it’s not the only Fiano worth enjoying. I just discovered the fantastic Donnaluna Fiano 2012 from De Conciliis. Golden in the glass, this wine explodes with notes of golden apple, green fig, and white currant with accents of honeysuckle and star anise. Apple dominates on the medium-bodied palate, but it gets support from  citrus notes of  lemon and a suggestion of honey-roasted hazelnuts. This Bruno De Conciliis wine is a straightforward, very well made Fiano.

Terroir is particularly important for Fiano, and the wonderful terroir of Cilento with its volcanic soil surrounded by mountains and seas makes it thrive. Estate owner Bruno De Conciliis is one of a kind; he plays jazz in the cellars to keep his wines happy, which makes it difficult not to appreciate his aesthetic, and the deliciousness of his wines make it hard not to appreciate Bruno’s work with southern Italy’s great grape varietals. The family-run De Conciliis estate grows its grapes organically, but it’s transitioning to biodynamic protocol.

Bruno makes his Fiano in the “modern” style.  It’s a delicious, medium-acidic wine with a nice long finish; under $30, this wine comes at a fantastic price, and I highly recommend it.

Expert Picks: Nicolis and Dal Forno Romano

Two expert selections from John Vidal Camacho

CamachoThe first day of spring is soon approaching and I already have a list of wines I want to explore for the coming season. But in the meantime, I wanted to take advantage and pour some Amarone before the weather changes. Amarone and Valpolicciela come from the Veneto in the northeastern corner of Italy. Although sweet Recioto wine has been made in the area since Roman times, Amarone did not become popular until the 1950s, but in this short time it has become one of Italy’s great wines. Under the larger umbrella category of Amarone, there are five DOC classifications: Valpolicella Classico, Valpolicella Superiore, Valpolicella Superiore Ripasso, Amarone della Valpolicella and Recioto della Valpolicella. All must contain indigenous grapes Corvina, Molinara and Rondinella, but because of grape harvest time and production style, you get something different from each of the classifications.

Makers of Valpolicella almost always harvests the grapes, crushes and ferments them immediately. When producers make Amarone, on the other hand, they use the appassimento method, which means that the grapes are harvested late, usually mid-October. Then they are spread out on straw mats and left to dry. When at least 40% of the grapes moisture has evaporated, then they are crushed and fermented. The ageing requirement for Amarone is two years in wood but some producers go as far as five years. Appassimento provides an intense concentrated wine with opulent aromas on the nose and full on the palate.

This weekend I poured both an Amarone and a Valpolicella Superiore. I encourage you to open a few Amarone or Valpolicella before the weather starts asking for crisp whites and refreshing rosé wines.

Nicolis 2007 Amarone della Valpolicella Ambrosan $89.70
This Amarone is rich and elegant with a nose full black fruit. Cherry, plum, black licorice and hints of cinnamon give way to some herbal notes, cigar wrapper and earthy cedar. The palate is dense, soft, and silky with that deceptively dry Amarone raisened fruits; this wine has chewy, round tannins and it finishes with chocolate and spice. Nicolis is a small family operation that only makes approximately 600 cases of this cru Amarone a year. Drink now to 2022.

Dal Forno Romano 2009 Valpolicella Superiore $109.99
This Valpolicella is produced by Dal Foro Romano, who worked under Guiseppi Quintarelli for about twelve years, and I consider this wine to be a true baby Amarone as Dal Forno uses Amarone protocol in making it. It’s dark, dense and concentrated with a nose full of black cherry, plum and licorice, followed minerality and notes of olives and herbs; as the wine opens in the glass, aromas of chocolate and coffee emerge. The palate is equally as dense because Dal Forno dried the grapes for 45 days in the appassimento method for this Valpolicella, allowing for a concentrated, almost Amarone-like palate. This wine has a velvety texture and a finish studded with tannins that are spicy and sweet at the same time. Drink now to 2025.

Expert Picks: Aldo Conterno and…Aldo Conterno!

Two expert selections from Michael Adler

Michael Adler 5.29.15Forget for just a moment that it feels like spring; picture snow-covered sidewalks and feel the frigid wind snapping at your cheeks, draw your scarf tighter around your neck to conserve every bit of warmth and heat. What you need in the dead of winter to brighten your spirits and thaw your soul is a bottle of rich, warming, tannic and powerful red wine. I can think of no better wine for frozen winter evenings than Barolo. The Nebbiolo grape offers wine-lovers the perfect winter red to warm you from the inside: dense, opulent, palate-coating wines with ample acid, muscle and alcohol. What more could we ask for on a freezing winter evening?

To celebrate the pure, hedonistic pleasure of sipping a great Barolo alongside a hearty, warming stew or pot roast, I picked a pair of knockout-gorgeous bottles from the iconic Aldo Conterno estate, its ripe, structured 2011 Barolo Bussia and its dark, brooding 2011 Barolo Colonnello.

Aldo Conterno 2011 Barolo Bussia $82.99

The estate’s classic bottling, the ’11 Barolo Bussia is a towering testament to the enduring greatness of the Aldo Conterno estate. Muscular, textured and gripping, this  Barolo Bussia thunders out of the glass with intense aromas of ripe red and black fruits, rose petals, underbrush and earth, with a hefty dose of that unmistakable Barolo terroir. On the finish, its chewy tannins give way to a refreshing, mouth-watering acidity that keeps this massive wine texturally balanced. Nebbiolo lovers who appreciate a modern, powerful and fruit-driven Barolo will want to revisit this Barolo Bussia again and again.

Aldo Conterno 2011 Barolo Colonnello $149.99

Ever since Aldo Conterno split from the illustrious Giacomo Conterno estate, the master Barolo producer has shows a penchant for doing things his own way. For instance, he followed the lead of Angelo Gaja and Valentino Migliorini of Rocche dei Manzoni and began bottling a superb lineup of single-vineyard expressions of Barolo, which have since become collector staples worldwide. Deriving from a warmer vintage, this ’11 Barolo Colonnello is somewhat more approachable than other vintages. It delivers a cornucopia of red and black fruits along with savory herbal and meaty notes and a polished core of minerality. While it shows well in its youth with some decanting, it will only get better over the next decade and will continue to drink well through 2025 and beyond.

Go-To-Wine Tuesday: Venturini Massimino 2010 Valpolicella Ripasso Semonte Alto

A big, powerful, velvety Valpolicella that’s under $25

RD7841-2Winter is almost over, but before it ended, I wanted to have a “big” wine from Veneto. I chose Venturini Massimino 2010 Valpolicella Ripasso Semonte Alto. Venturini is a family run and operated estate. Massimino works with his children Daniele, Mirco and Giuseppina, and all take their parts in growing the grapes and crafting their delicious wines. IWM loves family producers like Venturini, who take care of their vines, following the growth of every single berry day after day and make their authentic, regional wines with love.

The Venturini estate sits in the heart of the Valpolicella Classica region. The estate’s flagship is called the “Semonte Alto,” and it’s a full-bodied red wine, with a rich, concentrated flavor and an intense and distinctive bouquet. The Semonte Alto is a blend of three indigenous grapes from the region: Corvina Veronese, Rondinella, and Molinara. The estate uses the traditional ripasso technique to make this wine, where the first press wine is re-fermented by running it over the lees of the grapes that the estate used to make Amarone. This technique adds intensity, deep color and body to the Valpolicella DOC Classico Superiore Ripasso, and makes it more suitable for maturing in Slovenian oak barrels.

Medium ruby in the glass, this Venturini Semonte Alto 2010 is not as dense as you might think it is, but don’t be fooled by its lighter color: this is definitely a big wine. You can feel the power and the strength bursting on your palate. Aromas of plum, dark cooked cherries, chocolate, and spice make it a really interesting and complex Valpolicella. With 14% of alcohol, it’s a also a wine that is as powerful as it feels. I really enjoyed this $25 bottle, and I would recommend decanting it for an hour or more before enjoying it with a hearty dish such as beef ribs, braised lamb or wild boar ragù.

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