The Inside Story from Italian Wine Merchants

Go-To-Wine Tuesday: Fantinel Prosecco Extra Dry

Your perfect picnic Prosecco popper at $16!

SPK91-2Aspen Colorado is blessed with amazing music venues. The Benedict Music Tent at the Aspen Meadows is one of these beautiful spots. Most Friday and Sunday afternoons during the summer, the Aspen Music Festival holds a concert in this amazing structure, which is completely covered yet open to the air. Outside the tent, the rolling green lawn hosts picnickers clustered close to the tent, blanket spread and baskets open. A picnic in Aspen is a fantastic affair, full folded tables, mason jars holding flowers, locally sourced charcuterie and cheese, and, of course, wine.

This week I spent some time deciding bottle to take with me to my weekly picnic. We would be listening to Vivaldi’s Four Seasons and I would be meeting a journalist friend, who would be laden with a selection of cheeses from across the US. We were planning on tasting and evaluating the cheese, paired with bread made that morning at a local shop. I wanted a wine that would not overpower the cheese, that would cleanse our palates between each bite, and that would enhance the picnic atmosphere. A dry, slightly sweet, bubbly wine sounded perfect.

inside music tentI decided that out of all the bottles in my cellar, the Fantinel Prosecco Extra Dry would fit the best. This is a lively, dry and fruity sparkling wine made with Prosecco grapes grown in lush Fantinel vineyards that lie in the Denominazione di Origine Controllata (DOC) areas of Collio Goriziano, Grave del Friuli and Colli Orientali del Friuli in the famed Friuli-Venezia Giulia wine region of northern Italy. As with most Prosecco, Fantinel makes its in the Charmat or tank method secondary fermentation in bucket tanks and bottled under pressure. The Fantinel Prosécco is a pale straw color with light aromas of fruit and honeysuckle followed by crisp flavors of citrus, pears, and peaches.

BMT tentSitting on our blanket listening to beautifully played classical notes, my friend and I both agreed that I made the right choice. The crisp, dry bubbles stripped the fat from the cheese from our palates and allowed each bite to feel fresh and delicious. We enjoyed soft cheese from New England, fig wrapped and whiskey dipped hard cheese from Tennessee, and a blue from somewhere in the middle—everything went perfectly with the Fantinel Prosecco! In Aspen, this wine retails for $20, and this Prosecco makes a perfectly delicious, perfect picnic wine.

Italian White Wine Grapes A-Z: Pagadebit to Riesling Renano!

The fourth in our multi-part series on Italian white wine grapes

Each Monday for the next few weeks, we’ll be detailing the white wine grapes of Italy. From the well-known to the obscure, this alphabetical list offers insight into the grapes that make your favorite Italian white wines. First, we looked at grapes beginning with A, B and C, or Albana to Cortese, and then we continued with Drupeggio to Grillo, and Inzolia to Nuragus. Today, is the fourth installment, Pagadebit to Riesling Renano!

Pagadebit (pah-gah-DEH-bit)

Pagadebit, or “debt-payer,” is the name that Bombino Bianco goes by in Emilia-Romagna; Pagadebit di Romagna is a DOC appellation. Also known as Debit, Pagadebit’s name comes from the easy fecundity of this varietal–if you planted it, it would grow. Unfortunately, this easy quantity often led to poor quality, and winemakers who favor the latter over the former must engage in judicious, if ruthless, pruning. Confusingly, other varietals share both the Pagadebit’s easy-growing nature and its name; Sardegna’s Nuragus is also known as Pagadebit.

Petite Arvine (PEHT-eet TAHR-veen)

This obscure varietal is indigenous to the Valais region of Switzerland, but it is also cultivated in Trentino-Alto Adige in the uppermost northwest corner of Italy. Wines vinified from Petite Arvine can be light to medium-bodied, and while the Swiss versions range from dry to sweet, those from Trentino-Alto Adige tend towards dryness. Petite Arvine is an interesting grape characterized by a nose of grapefruit that’s echoed on the palate and a piquant saline finish.

Picolit, the panda of the grape world

Picolit, the panda of the grape world

Picolit (PEEK-oh-lee)

Friuli’s Picolit may very well be the panda of the wine grape world. Poorly pollinating, prone to flower abortion, something of a cult object, and awfully cute, Picolit has simultaneously been poised on the brink of extinction and been the unwitting recipient of extreme popularity for a number of decades. Picolit gets its name from its severely low crop yields, as well from its tiny berries, and these two factors have presented problems when Picolit gets swept up in a fad, as it was in the mid-eighteenth century and again in the 1970’s. Grown only in two regions of Friuli, Gorizio and Udine–Picolit’s main DOC is in the Colli Orientali–Picolit’s primary method of vinification requires the grape is partially, or fully, dried on mats. Rather than a desert wine, Picolit is a vino da meditazione, a wine to savor as you contemplate its golden color, lichee and stone fruit palate, and notes of green tea. Recently, some modern vintners have added Picolit to blended, dry table wines to some success.

Pigato (pee-GAH-toh)

This Ligurian grape varietal is related both to Vermentino, which is also cultivated in Liguria, and Favorita, which is grown in Piemonte–some ampelographers claim all three are actually identical. Like Vermentino, Pigato makes a unique, refreshing, medium to full-bodied, dry white wine that is characterized by citrus and a deep herbal quality that’s redolent of mint and fennel, and a saline finish. It goes quite nicely with pesto.

Pinot Bianco (pee-noh bee-AHN-koh)

Pinot Bianco is the Italian name for the French varietal Pinot Blanc, which is itself a derivation of the Pinot family of grapes (the parent grape is Pinot Nero and another mutation is Pinot Grigio). In Italy, Pinot Bianco is grown in Trentino-Alto Adige, the Veneto, Friuli and Lombardia, and while the grape used to be cultivated widely, it has been greatly supplanted by Chardonnay and Pinot Grigio. In contrast to France’s preferred method of vinification, Italy likes to make a high-acid version of Pinot Grigio that is accented by slight carbonation, or spritz; this varietal is also a common choice for Spumante. Arguably, the grape is taken most seriously in Trentino-Alto Adige, where winemakers endeavor to keep the yields low and to use oak in vinification to make a Chardonnay-style dry wine.

Pinot Grigio grapes

Pinot Grigio grapes

Pinot Grigio (pee-noh GREE-joe)

Possibly the most famous genetic mutation of Pinot Nero (known in France as Pinot Noir), sales of Pinot Grigio have recently started to surpass those of Chardonnay at restaurants. Pinot Grigio, or Pinot Gris in French, got its name either for the grey cast of its ripening grapes or for the fog that engulfs the hills where it grows. Grown throughout all of Italy except Calabria, Pinot Grigio’s main cultivation areas are in the northeast of Italy. Because of Pinot Grigio’s current market cachet, many producers crank out oceans of banal, indistinguishable wine; many of these producers are in Lombardia. Higher-quality expressions of Pinot Grigio that make full use of the grape’s abilities come out of the very north of Italy, mainly Trentino-Alto Adige. There, Pinot Grigio wines can range in hue from straw to gold to copper, depending on how long the producers leave on the skins in maceration, and the wines will have a fresh acidity complemented by a nose and palate of green apples, peaches, herbs and cream.

Procanico (pro-KAH-nee-koh)

One of the very many Trebbiano clones, Procanico is cultivated in Umbria. There are some who believe that this clone is superior to the high-acid, low-flavor Trebbiano.

Prosecco (praw-ZEHK-koh, pro-ZEHK-koh)

This grape varietal, formerly known also as Glera and Seprina, is indigenous to Friuli, but it’s best known in the Veneto, where Prosecco is responsible for the wine that bears its name. Though Prosecco is sometimes vinified in a still version, it most often appears in Frizzante (fizzy) or Spumante (sparkling) versions that can range from dry to sweet. Unlike champagne, which is vinified secondarily in the bottle, Prosecco is made by the Charmat method that holds its second vinification in vats. Prosecco is no different from other white wines in that when wine producers unrestrainedly grow the grape they end up with a very neutrally flavored wine. When, however, producers opt to cultivate Prosecco judiciously, the resulting wine is more complex, in Prosecco’s case crisp with light floral perfumes, and an appley palate.

Josko Gravner's Ribolla Gialla, image from Vinous Media

Josko Gravner’s Ribolla Gialla, image from Vinous Media

Ribolla Gialla (ree-BOH-lah JAHL-lah)

Descended from the Greek varietal Rebula, Ribolla Gialla dates back to 1289 in Friuli, and although its popularity has diminished in recent years, this grape varietal was popular enough to inspire Giovanni Boccaccio to include it in a diatribe against gluttony in the fourteenth century. There are two main types of Ribolla, and they are not created equal. Ribolla Gialla, or yellow Ribolla, is different from the Ribolla Verde, or green Ribolla, which is a less interesting and less cultivated clone. The primarily grown, Ribolla Gialla is probably also related to the Schioppettino, which is sometimes called Ribolla Nero. Ribolla Gialla makes quite full-bodied wines with great structure, qualities that seem at odds with its often neutral palate. When it veers away from its trademark neutrality, Ribolla Gialla can make wines with a sassy acidity that complicates its full texture in compelling ways; it holds delicate flavors of Golden Delicious apples, cantaloupe, and butterscotch. Josko Gravner is its most famous maker.

Riesling Italico (REES-ling ee-TAH-lee-koh)

Riesling Italico is unrelated to German Riesling, or Riesling Renano as it is called in Italy. Known elsewhere as Welschriesling, Riesling Italico is cultivated in Friuli near Serbia, as well as Trentino-Alto Adige and Lombardia although to a lesser extent. This varietal produces a floral wine with a jaunty acidity and a delicate, crisp, floral palate.

Riesling Renano (REES-ling reh-NAH-noh)

German Riesling is known as Riesling Renano in Friuli, Trentino-Alto Adige and Lombardia. Riesling is perhaps the world’s most flexible white wine grape. Readily reflecting the terroir in which it is cultivated, Riesling can make wines that range between honeyed and flinty, between bone dry and syrupy sweet. Riesling distinguishes itself by having an insouciant acidity, a high extract (the concentration of non-volatile substances in a wine, or the solid matter that gives wine its flavor), a full and compelling aroma, and the propensity toward ageing. Italian interpretations of Riesling, or Riesling Renano, tend to be delicately aromatic, floral, and nuanced expressions laden with a palate of stone fruits.

Inside IWM, June 22-25, 2015: Pop That Bottle!

A look back at the week that was

millesimatoThis past Sunday was summer solstice, and now that we’ve hit the high point of summer, things are very much heating up. Germane to this excitement is Matt Di Nunzio’s timely take on a $22 bottle of Prosecco–he served it at a summer feast, and all his guests fell in love with Col Vertoraz. We closed the week with tips on keeping your wine cool these summer months (seriously, car trunks are a killer!). In between, we offered up another installment of our Italian white wine grape guide (Inzolia to Nuragus!) and Emery Long detailed his move from IWM NYC to IWM Aspen–in time for the Aspen Food & Wine Classic!

Our Experts kicked off the week in style–David Gwo popped two gorgeous Billecart-Salmon Champagnes for you. John Camacho Vidal looked forward to pouring Brunello this summer, and chose a pair of vintage bottles from Lisini and Altesino. Garrett was reminded by his time at the Aspen Food & Wine Classic of the greatness of Domaine Lamarche. And Francesco Vigorito can’t hide his love for Luciano Sandrone, or the estate’s Barolo Cannubi Boschis.

Cheers to sharing what you love with the people you love, all across the USA!

Go-To-Wine Tuesday: Col Vetoraz 2013 Prosecco di Valdobbiadene

Fresh, bright, food-friendly and under $22 Prosecco

millesimatoWhen I lived in Italy, I often used to hear the phrase “Italians do it better.” I would think to myself, “Who do they think they’re kidding?” Truth be told, they’re not kidding. When it comes to the finer things in life, the things they believe in, and the things that comprise their culture, Italians truly do it better.

This weekend, my wife and I had some guests over for dinner and we put out a full spread. We served antipasti consisting of salamis, cheeses, fresh vegetables and fruit, followed by a vegetable pasta course. Then came a choice of grilled salmon or chicken breast accompanied by grilled eggplant and zucchini, a side salad, and dessert to finish. Our plan was to serve a Prosecco for the antipasti, followed by a choice of a white and a rosé for the rest, then more Prosecco for dessert—but that plan didn’t quite work out. The Prosecco was so good that we ended up enjoying it during the entire meal. It was an instant crowd-pleaser, and it paired with literally everything we served, especially the strawberries, which it made burst with freshness.

This sparkler was Col Vetoraz 2013 Prosecco di Valdobbiadene, under $22 and absolutely delicious. It was fresh, bright, and balanced with tones of citrus, honey and flowers, yet it was also well rounded with a hint of spice and notes of ripe green and peach fruits. Big dry bubbles balanced the mild acidity as it went down, and the finish was crisp, leaving our mouths watering for more. It’s perfect for aperitifs and any light meals, and its freshness makes it ideal to drink all summer long. This Prosecco is a true testament to how Italians do, and to how they really do it better!

Inside IWM, June 8-11, 2015: Your Body of Knowledge

A look back at the week that was

A bunch of Albana grapes

A bunch of Albana grapes

It’s all about adding to your body of knowledge, your skill set, and your enjoyment this week on the blog. We began with kick-off to our series Italian White Wine Grapes and this week’s look at grapes from Albana to Cortese. We closed with Garrett Kowalsky’s three simple steps to conquering the wine list (and making you master of their domaines). In between, Crystal taught you how to celebrate the everyday ordinary beauty with Fantinel’s delicious $16 Prosecco, and John Camacho Vidal gives you two cocktail recipes to use up anywine that might be leftover, sparkling Sangria and Mojitos!

By the end this week’s series of blog posts, you know what you’re drinking, how to choose it, and how to make the most of it!

But don’t miss our experts’ body of knowledge. On Monday, Garrett gives you two cool, sophisticated white Burgundies for summer drinking. On Tuesday, John shows you how to pair Jamón Ibérico with Spanish wines for ultimate flair. David Gwo offers a brace of affordable Vosne-Romanée on Wednesday. And Francesco closes out the week by telling you exactly how and why Roberto Voerzio and Giuseppe Rinaldi are classic, iconic Italian winemakers.

Now go out into the world and use what you’ve learned. The wines are waiting for you to drink them!

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