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: San Giuliano and Scarzello

Two expert selections from John Camacho Vidal

CamachoThis past Saturday I hosted the first tasting of 2016 at IWM. Being that it was Saturday January 2nd, I wanted to keep the theme simple, so I decided on a tasting devoted to everyday wines. I chose wines for any occasion that would not break the bank, and we learned firsthand that expensive does not necessarily mean better. I love this tasting theme, and I love it even more when I surprise people with a complex, enjoyable wine that turns out to be great value. We took a vote at the end of the tasting and were surprised by two wines that are approachable and enjoyable now, but these bottles will also hold in the cellar for a few more years.

San Giuliano 2010 Barbaresco $52.25

San Giuliano makes only 500-600 cases per vintage of its traditional Barbaresco, and classic Barbaresco is what they are all about. Aged in Slovenian botti and barriques for 18-24 months and an additional 16 months in the bottle before release, this Barbaresco offers juicy red fruit berries with slight cedar and cigar on the nose follow by earthy notes that transport you to its place of origin. The palate is perfectly balanced due to the great climatic conditions of 2010, with velvety tannins that linger nicely with earth and fruit notes. Just 400 cases produced in 2010. Drink now to the end of the decade.

Scarzello 2008 Barolo $69.99

Traditionally aged for 24 month in 25hl Slovenian oak barrels followed by one year in bottle, this Barolo offers balance and harmony. In the glass it has an elegant nose full of red strawberry fruit followed by soft rose petals, hints of black licorice, and soft minerality that leads to a nice earthy note. The palate is equally as elegant with silky, grippy tannins and a medium finish. Fewer than 500 cases were produced in 2008. Drink now to 2023.

Expert Picks: Fantinel and Rocche dei Manzoni

Two expert selections from Will Di Nunzio

will expertTwo of the most influential and historic Italian wines you can find are on extreme opposite sides of the spectrum: Prosecco and Barolo. Prosecco is one of the most ancient varietals grown and consumed in Italy—people have been drinking its wines for a few thousand years, actually—yet it’s almost always regarded as the ugly stepsister to Champagne or Spumante. Well, nay I say, Prosecco is a gorgeous little wine. Affordable yes, but that makes it even better. The beginning of every party in Italy, Prosecc’s bubbles bring happiness, and it’s the beverage of choice for “aperitivo” in Italy, so it gets the hunger going as well.

This week I enjoyed a glorious 10-year-old Barolo. Considered to be the most important wine of Italy by the average Italian, Barolo is the wine Italians open on 18th birthday parties, wedding days, anniversaries—you name it. If the occasion is important, Barolo gets opened; it’s a ritual, a process, and there is much gratitude by the participants. Barolo is an icon. It’s elegant, luxurious, smooth and noble; it’s a wine that you can bet you’ll keep enjoying over and over again throughout the years. I’ve chosen an emblematic Prosecco and that bottle of decade-old Barolo to share with you today.

Fantinel NV Prosecco Brut Extra Dry $16.00

Drinking a bottle of this Prosecco recently, I was impressed with Fantinel’s work, very impressed actually. I had forgotten how beautifully playful this wine is—it’s so pretty, with delicate bubbles, fresh flowers and peaches. Some citrus notes dance around in the glass as you sip, and you are instantly revived and happy when you taste it. It was an unexpected experience for me, and I was delighted. The Fantinel family began as restaurateurs and they have made quite a name for themselves since patriarch Marco Fantinel first purchased his vineyards in 1969. This Prosecco reminded me of how incredible a winemaker Fantinel is.

Rocche dei Manzoni 2005 Barolo Vigna d’la Roul $89.99

My first month at IWM so many years ago, I remember being struck by a wine from Rocche Manzoni. At the time, we had a selection of Barolos from the mid-to-late ‘90s, and they were simply incredible. I could not believe the quality-to-price value these wines delivered, and all these years later, I still can’t. To no surprise, the 2005 Vigna Roul was exactly what I wanted: it’s smooth, elegant, balanced, properly aged, and a vintage I love. Barolo doesn’t get much better than this! All three of Rocche dei Manzoni’s Barolos—the estate’s Big d’Big, St Stefano and Roul—are phenomenal bottles of wine to pick up for the season ahead.

Expert Picks: Rocche dei Manzoni and Angelo Gaja

Two expert selections from John Camacho Vidal

CamachoWhen we think about Super-Tuscan wines, we tend to think of international varietals such as Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah. We know that in the right hands these varietals make great wine, and wines like Sassicaia, Tignanello, Grattamaco and Solaia have made Super Tuscans famous around the world. But these international varietals also do well in other areas of Italy. I wanted to point out two producers who have been working with these grape varieties outside of Tuscany and making spectacular wines. Today, I’ve chosen two Super-Piemontese wines, one from Rocche dei Manzonni, who has relatively stayed under the radar, and one from Angelo Gaja who needs no introduction.

Rocche dei Manzoni is located in Piemonte’s Monforte d’Alba, where the vineyards take up the best real estate, and this estate captures the perfect balance between traditional winemaking and modern innovation. The estate’s Quatr Nas blends three international grapes with Nebbiolo, whose presence represents the typicity of the Piemontese terrior. The first vintage for this wine was in 1996, and the wine ages for 24 months in small barrique and 6 months in bottle before being released to the market.

Angelo Gaja is a native to Piemonte and is considered one of the rock stars of Italian wine, credited with transforming the image of Italian wine in the world. Over the past forty-five years, Gaja has become one of a handful of fine Italian winemakers who can compete with—and charge the same prices as—the top estate in Burgundy and Bordeaux. Angelo took over the estate in 1970, introduced the use of new barriques, and planted French grapes, thereby establishing Piedmont’s first Cabernet Sauvignon vineyard in more than a century. This vineyard is the source of Gaja’s Cabernet Sauvignon-based red wine called Darmagi, which translates to “what a pity” in the Piedmont dialect. It was Angelo’s father said when he saw Bordeaux varieties in Barbaresco, which gives you an idea about how radical an act it was.

Rocche dei Manzoni 2004 Quatr Nas $54.99

The blend is half Nebbiolo, with the remaining half divided between Pinot Nero, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, which give the wine its distinctive personality and character. The color is dense and dark with a nose full of violet, rose, and black fruit, all touched with a subtle but noticeable trace of oak from the barrique. The palate is full, elegant and inviting. The tannins are velvety but grippy, letting you know they are there. This wine finishes dry and lingers nicely. Drink now until the end of the decade.

Gaja 2010 Darmagi $219.00

A blend of 95% Cabernet Sauvignon, 3% Merlot, and 2% Cabernet Franc, Darmagi is opulent with concentrated layers of dark fruit, cassis and hints of eucalyptus, blackcurrant, spices, and chocolate tones. Its surprisingly approachable on the palate with juicy fruit balanced acidity and dusty tannins that linger through the long, caressing finish. You can drink right now with decanting, but it’ll be best to cellar for a couple of years and then enjoy for decades.

Expert Picks: Aldo Conterno and…Aldo Conterno!

Two expert selections from David Gwo

David Gwo 12.8.14Aldo Conterno is a name that you hear regularly from IWM. That’s because the late Aldo Conterno ranks among the most influential winemakers in Piedmont’s history. Aldo Conterno was the son of Giacomo Conterno, another great namesake, and brother to Giovanni Conterno. While Giovanni chose to uphold the Giacomo Conterno legacy and continue to make the wines of his father, Aldo wanted to see what he could do by incorporating aspects of modern winemaking, and he parted ways to found his own estate.

We describe Aldo Conterno’s style as an intermingling of the traditional and the modern. While he didn’t completely dismiss the teachings of his father and the traditional school, he did incorporate some modern winemaking techniques into the production of his wines. The result are Barolos that have the powerful structure reminiscent of traditional style, but matched by an enhanced expression of fruit that is characteristic of modern style wines.

The two wines featured here today are a great introduction to the wines of Aldo Conterno. The first doesn’t feature the region’s famed Nebbiolo, but rather Barbera, the grape that makes the everyday wine of the Piedmontese. The second selection does feature Nebbiolo, but it’s a younger-drinking version that will give you an idea of what Aldo’s Barolos are all about!

Poderi Aldo Conterno 2011 Conca Tre Pile Barbera d’Alba $38.99

Let’s forget about the majestic Nebbiolo for a minute and turn our heads towards Piedmont’s most planted red grape—Barbera. About half of the vineyards in this region are dedicated to this grape, but people often forget that Barbera is what Piedmontese natives regularly enjoy at the dinner table. What makes Barbera so appealing is that it’s an ideal food wine. When you pour it, the wine has a really dark color and you’d think that it’d be really heavy and full-bodied, but it’s not. Barbera is actually a light to medium-bodied red with softer tannins, but high acidity, which is a key component when pairing with food. On the nose and palate the Conca Tre Pile presents notes of black fruits, wildflowers, minerals, and spice.

Poderi Aldo Conterno 2011 Langhe Nebbiolo Il Favot $64.99

This wine is 100% Nebbiolo, just like Barolo or Barbaresco, except the fruit used to produce the wine comes from younger vines and sees less oak aging. This results in a wine made for near-term enjoyment, rather than 10 years down the road. Langhe Nebbiolos usually yield softer tannins and a tad less depth and concentration than their Barolo counterparts. However, with the single-vineyard Il Favot, this is hardly the case. This wine has all of the aromatic and flavor characteristics of Barolo, but it’s softer on the palate and an absolute pleasure to enjoy now. Dark fruits, violets, and a hint of tar in a med-full-bodied frame that’s backed by perceptible tannins and vibrant acidity.

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