The Inside Story from Italian Wine Merchants

Inside IWM, February 22-26, 2016: Whaddaya Know?

A look back at the week that was

IMG_1647What do you know? Or, more accurately, what do you think you know? This week the blog challenged expectations. First, IWM’s writer tells about landing in Italy only to find that what she’d expected was even, somehow, better. Janice Cable on visiting Italy and drinking Italian wines with their makers. It’s no surprise to our blog’s readers that Stephane Menard is a wiz in the kitchen–his recipes are legend–but Stephane was pleasantly surprised by a delicious $23 Vermentino, which he paired with a simple Turbot recipe. You can read a wine’s label, but do you understand it? John Camacho Vidal shows you how to get the most from what’s on your bottle. And what do you really know about wines from the Veneto? From Amarone to Prosecco, we offer a quick tour.

Our experts relied on what they know to choose wines they’re sure you’ll love. Garrett Kowalsky spotlighted a delicious Super-Tuscan pair from an under-the-radar Antinori estate, Le Mortelle. Looking forward to the exceptional 2014 Burgundies, Crystal Edgar reflected on two wines she’s loved this year, both from Arnoux-Lachaux. And Michael Adler knows that everyone doesn’t have the patience to let their 2010 Brunellos age, so he picked two Sangiovese Grosso bottles you can enjoy right now.

Here’s to what you know, what you don’t, and enjoying delicious wine with people.

Visiting the Veneto, from Amarone to Prosecco

The many, splendored, and often appassimento wines of the Veneto

Venice at night

Venice at night

The setting of several Shakespearian works, the Veneto also delivers great performances in its vineyards, offering a range of wines that star in both casual and refined settings. In each of the three principal wine categories, the Veneto provides a fairly famous offering that essentially defines its respective genre. The leading sparkler (Prosecco) and red (Amarone) of the Veneto region provide a consummate study in contrast, with the distance between the two placing them at opposite ends of a broad stylistic spectrum. The dominant presence in the sparkling category is Prosecco, a light and simple Charmat-method sparkler derived from the eponymous grape. While mass produced, the DOC status for the crafting of Prosecco, Conegliano-Valdobbiadene, is well suited to the production of sparkling wine. Simplicity is, perhaps, its hallmark virtue, though more substantive versions are produced in the prime vineyard areas of Cartizze.

The Veneto’s most well-known still white wine is Soave, a designation that has been compromised through both viticultural and vinification methods and the enlargement of the zone. While Soave is not the only white DOC, the others, Lugana and Gambellara, primarily involve the same varietals. The former (which is shared with Lombardia), privileges Trebbiano di Soave, and some bottlings realize a substantive aromatic presence. With respect to the latter, Garganega exercises its dominance, as it represents a minimum of 80% of the blend. The category also includes several varietally labeled wines that are fairly simple in character.

Valpolicella is, in many respects, the red counterpart to Soave, as its image has suffered from mass production. However, unlike Soave, it operates a stylistic hierarchy: Valpolicella Classico, Valpolicella Superiore and/or Ripasso, Amarone della Valpolicella, and Recioto della Valpolicella generally comprise the grape trio of Corvina, Rondinella, and Molinara. Valpolicella Classico (Classico denoting a wine made in the inner, superior Valpolicella zone) is the simplest expression of the Valpolicella quartet. At the Superiore level, Valpolicella must achieve higher alcohol content, receive longer aging, and display more body and structure than the simple Valpolicella. To realize these qualities, many Superiore are treated via one of two techniques: “governo alla Toscana” or ripasso. Under the “governo alla Toscana” method, producers blend the finished Valpolicella with a small percentage of Amarone remaining from a previous batch. Others employ the ripasso method, enriching the Valpolicella wine through direct contact with (or passing through) the Amarone’s lees.

Whatever the degree of extraction realized, however, a Valpolicella Superiore offers but a modest suggestion of Amarone, the intensity and depth of which is achieved through the appassimento process. During this regimen, during which winemakers spread out carefully selected grapes in single layers to dry on straw or plastic mats for 60 to 100 days. During this time, the grapes lose a substantive amount of water weight, dramatically concentrating their sugars. Thereafter, the raisined grapes are crushed and fully fermented into a dry, full-bodied wine marked by high alcohol. The Veneto’s drama is at its most intense in Recioto della Valpolicella, the sweet member of the Valpolicella quartet that dates back to the Romans, who are credited with having developed theappassimento process. The sweetness derives from an arrested fermentation, a procedure that stops the conversion of sugar into alcohol, thereby leaving residual sugar. It is in this mode that the unexceptional Soave finds an empathetic medium, achieving a substantive upgrade in a reserved sweetness.

While Valpolicella may seem to dominate the red wine landscape, winemakers outside Verona are achieving notable success without relying on Italy’s own, privileging Bordeaux’s famed triumvirate of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc. In fact, it is believed that Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot actually hold a fairly traditional place in zones such as the Colli Berici and Colli Euganei.

Expert Picks: Collemattoni and Canaliccio di Sopra

Two expert selections from Michael Adler

Michael Adler 5.29.15The past year has been a whirlwind of phenomenal 2010 Brunello di Montalcino, but we Brunello lovers clamor for wines that we can enjoy while our 2010s mature in the cellar. IWM has what you need: wines to drink in the near to mid-term that will keep you from opening your ’10 Brunellos too early. I’d like to direct your attention towards a pair of outstanding wines that are in stock now and ready to drink, the 2013 Collemattoni Rosso di Montalcino and the 2011 Brunello di Montalcino from Canalicchio di Sopra. These terrific wines embody the very best of what Montalcino has to offer, while requiring none of the patience demanded by the long-aging 2010s. These wines will reward savvy palates early and often; I recommend mixing up a case before they both fly out of our cellar!

Collemattoni 2013 Rosso di Montalcino $24.99

This ‘13 Rosso offers beguiling aromas of ripe red fruits, potpourri, black pepper and brambly undertones, all held together by fine, silky tannins. Medium-bodied on the palate, it is perfect complement for your winter pasta Bolognese, risotto or grilled meats. Located on a hill in the southern zone of Montalcino, the Collemattoni estate is run by Marcello Bucci, whose family has cultivating the land in Montalcino since the late 1700s. Protocol in the vineyards remains quite traditional, though the Bucci family has opted to employ some more modern technology in their vinification such as temperature-controlled stainless steel tanks for fermentation.

Canalicchio di Sopra 2011 Brunello di Montalcino $89.00

A couple weeks ago we had the pleasure of tasting this outstanding 2011 Brunello with its maker, and the entire IWM sales team was very impressed. After the amazing 2010 vintage, we didn’t know what to expect from the 2011s. This phenomenal 2011 Brunello from Canalicchio di Sopra put our concerns to rest immediately. From our first whiff, we knew this ’11 Canalicchio Brunello is clearly a world-class wine that deserves every bit as much attention as its predecessor. Gorgeous and expressive right out of the gate, this ’11 Brunello explodes with concentrated aromas of red and black fruits, dried herbs, and flowers, and it coats the palate with rich, sappy extract as it builds to a lingering finish that’s balanced by mouth-watering acidity. It’s an impressive effort that will thrill Brunello-lovers while we wait for our 2010s to come around. Don’t miss out here!


Expert Picks: Per Linda and Canalicchio di Sopra

Two expert selections from Will Di Nunzio

will expertI admit that I take full advantage of working in the wine industry and don’t hesitate to taste the greatest wines—from Barolo to Brunello, from Amarone to grand cru Burgundy, all are incredible, and I feel very fortunate to have had these experiences I’ve had. I love all these legendary wines for different reasons.

But then I think about the rest of the wines, those from the “little guys,” the “I’ve never heard of it” wines. Perhaps these bottles are not as well rated, but they are also enjoyable in their own right. These are the wines that have given many of us in the industry a beacon to follow. They’re the ones that make us ask the big questions: What is the next best thing I can get my hands on? What else is out there that is waiting for me to try? How can people not know this? It’s amazing!

Today, I’ve chosen two wines that are simple, delicious and straightforward. These two wines that are a surprise and an unexpected joy, and so much fun: Per Linda’s 2014 Trebbiano d’Abbruzzo and Canalicchio’s 2014 Rosso di Montalcino. They exude the easy life of Italy with no pretension—just simple living and a reminder to take life one day and one wine at a time.

Per Linda 2014 Trebbiano d’Abruzzo $12.99

Is it true that you have to spend a lot of money to get good wine? This common question has two answers; it’s both yes and no because it depends completely on what you’re doing and at where your palate experience lays. I believe that the true wine connoisseur appreciates all levels of wines, including entry-level wines like this phenomenal Trebbiano d’Abbruzzo from Per Linda. If you have heard of Per Linda, you know that this estate makes very affordable and delicious wines. You also know that they are simple, easy and perfect for anything. With a full body and great structure, this Trebbiano offers some beautiful citrusy notes and a clean finish; it’s perfect for the summer months ahead and certainly a “non-bank-breaking” bottle to open whenever you feel like a good glass of white.

Canalicchio di Sopra 2014 Rosso di Montalcino $34.99

Ah, Rosso di Montalcino, one of my absolute favorites and this one comes from our friend Francesco Ripaccioli of Canalicchio di Sopra. We had the great pleasure of tasting this wine recently with Francesco, and, as usual, it is a sublime bottle of wine. Rossos are meant to be enjoyed young; they have playful fruit, but they also have tannins that are grippy enough for some great dishes like pork or turkey. Moreover, they are every bit a great Italian red as their older brother Brunello. The nice thing here is that a Rosso di Montalcino tends to be half the price and go down a lot faster. This is another wine I have at the ready in my home cellar for last minute guests. This Canalicchio bottle is quintessentially Italian.

Go-To-Wine Tuesday: La Maialina 2010 Chianti Classico

A delicious, traditional Sangiovese Chianti Classico that’s just $19!

RD8749-2After spending Valentine’s Day with my girlfriend, we decided to sit down with her friends and enjoy some wine to close out the evening. I wanted to impress her friends, so I decided to bring a bottle of La Maialina 2010 Chianti Classico. The $19 Tuscan bottle became an instant hit. We were delighted by the wine’s complexity, its dark cherry nose, and its hints of smoke and spices.

La Maialina is a relatively new producer in Tuscany; however, this estate intends on maintaining the tradition of Tuscan winemaking. The name “La Maialina,” which means “little pig,” refers to the last indigenous pigs of Tuscany, and it acts as a reminder that this estate works to celebrate the region’s success. La Maialina keeps to its roots and creates a classic wine that builds on the Chianti’s 800 years of history. Utilizing some excellent local Tuscan grapes and time-tested Tuscan winemaking methods, La Maialina creates an elegant and complex wine with an almost ludicrously low price tag.

By the end of the night my fellow wine drinkers were convinced I had splurged on a bottle of wine for the occasion, and each of us fell in love with wine’s the delicate balance and the lingering sensation of sharp, acerbic fruit. This wine turned into a drinkable conversation piece and it served as the perfect icebreaker for the evening. The La Maialina Chianti Classico 2010 made me the hero of the night—not bad for a wine that costs less than $20.

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