The Inside Story from Italian Wine Merchants

Go-To-Wine Tuesday: Fantinel Prosecco Extra Brut

A bright, bubbly, flexible $16 Prosecco

SPK91-2I am extremely biased when it comes to any sort of bubbly and quite frankly there is never a bad time for it. Great Prosecco offers decadence without a big price tag—stick with solid producers and you can grab a case for the price of one or two great bottle of Champagne. For anytime moments Fantinel’s Prosecco Extra Brut is the perfect go-to bubbly. Just $16 a bottle, it’s ideal for parties, groups, or gifts, but it also pairs well with a bubble bath and book.

I had the great pleasure of meeting Marco Fantinel in Hong Kong, when he was on his whirlwind wine tour of Asia. IWM’s outpost in Hong Kong worked with private clients as well as restaurants and hotels, and I have to say that Marco’s extra dry Prosecco was a hit across all groups. We hosted a dinner together in one of Macau’s largest hotel casinos and I had guests on all sides of me asking me how much Marco’s “Champagne” cost.

When I told them that it was not Champagne and revealed the price, they all gasped and said, “You should raise the price, this should be more expensive otherwise people may not buy it!” In certain parts of Asia it is not uncommon to think that reasonably priced wines are automatically considered cheap and inferior; in fact, restaurants often create a high combination of “lucky” price numbers and always point out the most expensive bottles as these are clearly the “best.”

This vibrant Prosecco quickly became the “go-to” sparkling wine choice for many of the top restaurants, hotels and private clubs in Hong Kong and Macau, and I had to ask Marco time and time again to ship more wine to meet the growing demand. On the nose and palate, the wine offers fresh stone fruit character without being sweet, vibrant bubbles and acidity without being too “dry” and a mousse-y finish that leaves a soft trail of bubbles and minerals. It’s a chameleon in the kitchen and pairs very well with fresh seafood, cured meats, pizza, spanikopita, roasted chicken, fish & chips and many other dishes. Just open and bottle and don’t be bashful.

I still recommend this wine to my clients, bring bottles to personal events, send them as gifts and keep bottles stock in my own little cellar for popcorn and movie nights. You really cannot go wrong here, so I invite you to grab a glass, bottle or case, whatever strikes your fancy) and toast to the holidays and a great 2016!

How To Gift a Dessert Wine

Why you should give the unexpected gift of sweetness

Antonio Ferrari Solaria Jonica 1959Dessert wines come in a cornucopia of styles and flavors, and Italy produces some of the best, if not the best, selection of these voluptuous elixirs—and just about all of them are perfect pairings for one holiday treat or another. They’re also tremendous gifts. Today, I’d like to help guide you in selecting a sweet wine for the holidays, whether for yourself or for a fortunate recipient.

First, consider whether this gift is for someone with a lighter palate, a person who appreciates less complicated, fruity and light desserts—or if it’s destined for an individual with a decadent palate who reaches for heavier, cream-driven desserts. Perhaps you’re shopping for a collector who would be floored by a limited edition bottle—or maybe the wine is for someone who is just getting into wine. There are dessert wines to fit all these palate constraints.

Some dessert wines are used to refresh and tempt the palate, like a Bracchetto d’Aqui whose light effervescence and spritzy summer fruit flavors are easy to understand (and really great to pair with chocolate). Some dessert wines stir the senses through contrasting aromas, textures, and flavors; Antinori’s Castello della Sala Muffatto blends Sauvignon Blanc, Grechetto, Traminer, and Riesling, four grapes prized for their textural and aromatic qualities. Still other dessert wines are used to wake up your tired palate after the large meal, like Begali’s Recioto della Valpolicella Classico with its savory-sweet oscillation between deep, dark flavors; these help you to appreciate the decadent dessert to come.

Unlike Prosecco, dessert wines are not typically wines to dance and laugh your way through care-free nights. No, dessert wines are an enigma, a symphonic offering from winemakers that invites its drinker to indulge in the rich flavor and urges you to stay at the table for one more drink. When giving dessert wines, think about not just the wine, but also what kind of dessert or meal your gift recipient enjoys. This imbues the wine with a sense of place and purpose.

Desserts wine pair with sweet treats that range from light sugar cookies, decadent but airy cakes, chocolates, confections, candied fruit, traditional Christmas pudding—the list is endless. When selecting a dessert wine for a gift, it’s all about the pairing. Keep in mind your aim of the bottle: whether you want to contrast or complement flavor, texture, or aroma. To complement, think about matching acidities with a warm lemon cake paired with a bright and citrusy Tuscan dessert wine. Or use the wine to contrast textures with sleek dark chocolate and a velvety Antonio Ferrari Solaria Jonica 1959.

A gift of your home-baked cookies and a bottle of dessert wine takes your humble, heartfelt treats and raises them to a new, sophisticated level. More than an unexpected joy, dessert wines remind the people on your holiday list that life is sweet, and they should savor every moment.

Pour One Out with Your Candy Corn

Pairing wines with your Halloween goodies

782px-Candy-CornHalloween isn’t just about dressing yourself, your kids or your pets as your favorite Star Wars characters. As every kid knows, it’s also about candy. While the pure sugar rush is fine for the under 21 set, we of legal age might like to pair our Skittles, Snickers, Candy Corn, Bottle Caps, Red Hots or Hershey Kisses with an adult beverage. After all, just because Halloween isn’t traditionally a wine holiday doesn’t mean that you can’t bend the rules a bit to help it become one.

But what goes with what? Assaulted with the multicolored wrappers teeming in a plastic pumpkin head, anyone can feel overwhelmed I asked some select members of the IWM staff for their suggestions for the most delicious pairings.

Garrett Kowalsky suggests pairing Snickers with Begali Recioto della Valpolicella Classico 2010. He explains, “The Begali Recioto is rich, lush and velvety. A deep dark way to close a meal, this wine should pair well with the candy bar’s chocolate and the salty notes the peanuts give.” One could extrapolate and potentially pair this wine with Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups too.

Another IWM expert says, “I’d probably stick to sparklers including Brachetto and Prosecco; Moscato d’Astis; Reciotos; Malvasia style wines; and maybe Sauternes.” No matter what combination works, the experimentation would be fun.

John Camacho Vidal muses the question. “Mmmm,” he says, “Something sparkling or a nice crisp Verdicchio. I’d probably go for Fantinel Brut Rosé or Raventos i Blanc.”

Another expert listed a litany of potential pairings. She said, “Ca dei Mandorli Bracchetto for the Snickers, an unoaked Chardonnay like Antinori’s Cervaro della Sala for Skittles, a nice Gruner Veltliner with candy corn, and Ornellaia’s Le Volte with Bottle Caps because the cola notes in the Cabernet Sauvignon will match up with the cola notes in the candy.”

Trick, treat, sip, treat, sip. There’s more than one way to celebrate Halloween. I’ll take my candy corn with bourbon, neat.

Inside IWM, October 5-8, 2015: Fall is in the Air

A look back at the week that was

Picking Nebbiolo

Picking Nebbiolo

The frost has yet to hit the pumpkin in the greater Tri-State area, but fall is definitely in the air. This week, Julia Punj makes a compelling argument for Nebbiolo as fall’s grape–and she includes a recipe to help you usher in this season of scarves, sweaters, and rustling leaves. Garrett Kowalsky, on the other hand, warms up with Chianti Classico Riserva in this week’s go-to wine post; he makes this $35 Riserva bottling from Castello di Selvole sound like heaven. We began the week with a visit to Tenuta San Guido, the maker of Sassicaia and the birthplace of the Super-Tuscan revolution, and we closed it with a look at decanting wine–how to, what you get out of it, and when you should.

Our experts were similarly excited about the changing seasons, although they expressed it in very individual ways. Crystal Edgar looked to the Rhône Valley’s M. Chapoutier for a pair of super-expressive recent Hermitage bottlings. Like Crystal, Michael Adler also looked to theRhône, but he selected his wines from Domaine du Pegau for pure Châteauneuf-du-Pape delight. Italy-born-and-raised, Will Di Nunzio chose two emblematic wines from Italy that could not be more different, Prosecco and Barolo. And John Camacho Vidal took his cue from Super-Tuscan wines, selecting one from Le Macchiole and one from Angelo Gaja’s Ca’ Marcanda estate, both in Bolgheri.

This Monday is Columbus Day, and IWM’s offices and stores will be closed. We hope that you will spend your holiday as we will: with loved ones, great food, and terrific wine!

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.

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