The Inside Story from Italian Wine Merchants

Expert Picks: Raffaele Palma and Giuseppe Quintarelli

Two expert selections from Will Di Nunzio

will expertThe cult producers are always the ones we keep going back to, not just because they make great wines, but because we want to better understand their glorious, moving wines. One beloved, well-known cult winemaker is Quintarelli. Giuseppe Quintarelli was one of the first in the modern age to master Amarone and Valpolicella, and he took the market by storm making his wines his way—unmatched and leaving everyone in the dust. Contrast Quintarelli’s renown with the relative obscurity of cult winemaker Raffaele Palma, a producer you probably never heard of until IWM started talking about him. From the early 2000s, Palma made his organic wines, three of them, his way, and has no intention of changing his methods any time soon. Right off the Amalfi Coast, Palma makes some of the most impressive wines of Campania, and we at IWM all agree will be the next big thing in Campania. I’ve chosen two wines from cult producers that will make you think differently about cult wines—and almost certainly will bring you back to them again and again.

Raffaele Palma 2011 Salicerchi $74.99

What is this wine and why do we keep talking about it? It was likely one of the best kept secrets of the Amalfi Coast—until Sergio let the cat out of the bag. Raffaele Palma is small producer right on the Costa Amalfitana, and its home sits atop a ridge 450 meters high with vineyards that plummet all the way down to the sea. With only one row of vines per step, it takes you several hours to navigate the windy footpath down to the water, and yet the team at this estate does this everyday. Of the three wines Raffaele makes, Salicerchi is my favorite; it’s one of the most interesting Rosatos I have ever had—only Edoardo Valentini can challenge it. Big, structured yet holding true to its rosé beauty, the Salicerchi is perfect year-round bottle to accompany antipasti, fish and white meats.

Giuseppe Quintarelli 2007 Valpolicella $84.99

This ’07 Valpolicella is another great vintage from the Quintarelli family and it’s an unequivocal masterpiece from the cellars of the Master of the Veneto. Even with its warm weather, the 2007 produced a Valpolicella that offers balanced acidity, glorious elegance, and a crowd-pleasing personality; it doesn’t surprise me that we sell out of every allocation we get. Last week, I had the pleasure of enjoying this wine and once more I was blown away by its on-point balance and velvetiness. What an incredible bottle of wine to enjoy with a little cheese and a lot of friends!

Inside IWM, June 1-4, 2015: All the Colors

A look back at the week that was

Cap and Terraces with Sea in background

Cap and Terraces with Sea in background

This week took us to Cassis, France, and to Aspen, Colorado, but we began with a consideration of orange, or skin-contact, wines. These wines made from white grapes in the manner of red wines are weird and beautiful, and they’re incredibly chic; one writer explores their appeal. On Tuesday, David Bertot drank a white-white from one of the great makers of Italian reds, Bruno Giacosa; this under $30 beauty is a must-have bottle! We welcomed Michael Adler, a new contributor, to the blog with his recounting of a trip to Cassis, which was magical and filled with rosé. And we finished the week with Aspenite Julia Punj looking forward to the Aspen Food & Wine Classic; this will be her fourth time at this world-famous foodie event!

Our experts broke down white, rosé, and red this week. Crystal Edgar took the lead with two whites from Antinori, both wines she has on hand for hot summer months. Garrett Kowalsky turned his gaze to serious, intense rosé expressions from the Rhone and the Amalfi Coast. And Will Di Nunzio couldn’t restrain himself from singing the praises of two extraordinary reds, one Amarone from Quintarelli and one vintage Super-Tuscan wine by Antinori.

Cheers to what’s in your glass: red, white, rosé, or orange!

Expert Picks: Quintarelli and Antinori

Two expert selections from Will Di Nunzio

will expertThis past Friday night I had the great pleasure of opening some amazing bottles of wine for some friends in town from Virginia. Having perfectly stored wines with perfect provenance that we can take our time to open and enjoy is what IWM is all about. Francesco Vigorito and I saw fit to assemble a beautiful line-up, and among the chosen wines were two truly beautiful bottles: Quintarelli Amarone 2004 and Antinori Tignanello 1982. You’d expect the ‘04 Amarone to be amazing, which it was, but the unexpected surprise was the Tignanello.

Giuseppe Quintarelli 2004 Amarone della Valpolicella $399

Veneto – Corvina, Molinara, Rondinella

This 2004 was absolutely mind-blowing. Every time I open one these bottles, I discover that it’s always better than the last. At this point, the only vintage that the ’04 Amarone has yet to beat is the 2000 Selezione Riserva, which remains my favorite. This silky smooth ‘04 had nice power and will age for a long time. Rich, intense fruit, fantastically layers, and a mesmerizing blue fruited nose made this wine a terrific complement to my favorite dessert, Parmiggiano Reggiano with honey drizzle and homemade chocolate biscotti. Wow, what an amazing wine!

Antinori 1982 Tignanello $275

Toscana – Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon

This was a truly unexpectedly delicious bottle of Tignanello. I was not expecting this wine to be so on point, but it was perfectly balanced with mature, elegant fruit. An incredible nose of leather and dried fruit, with fresh earthy tones led to a delicate palate that coats your mouth with fine tannins and then finishes cleanly and beautifully. All you need here are some meats and hard cheeses, and you’re in for one of the best treats you’ll have in a long time. This Tignanello was a show-stopper.

Amarone: The What, Who, How and Why It’s So Incredible

A look at the Veneto’s most emblematic, long-aging red

Quintarelli-MixThe Veneto is an unusual region, filled with grapes that grow nowhere else in Italy; not the least of these are the grapes that producers use to make Amarone della Valpolicella (as well as Valpolicella and Recioto). A finely made Amarone is a wine that confounds, confuses and ultimately rewards the senses. It’s a wine of delicious exaggerations that needs to be experienced to be believed. A wine of contradiction, Amarone starts with a ripe almost sweet-like note, but it finishes exceptionally dry. Between the beginning and the end is an endless range of flavors to experience: fig, raisin, cocoa, cherry, licorice, eucalyptus, coffee, sweet spice, minerals, tar, oak and so many more.

The wine is an exaggeration of flavors and structure–alcohol levels exceed 15-16 percent–but Amarone gets its structure and weight not through roto-fermentors or modern innovation but a technique called appassimento. This method requires producers to carefully select grapes and spread them out in single layers to dry on straw or plastic mats for 60 to 100 days. During this time the grapes lose much of their initial water weight, dramatically concentrating their sugar content. The raisinated grapes are then crushed and fully fermented into a heady and robust wine.

This means that when producers make Amarone, they can lose grapes to rot or mold; moreover, because Amarone derives from dried grapes, it takes more grapes to make a bottle of Amarone–a lot more! Indeed, your usual bottle of Chianti, Super-Tuscan or Barolo takes about two pounds of grapes to make it. Your Amarone requires at least 23 pounds of grapes. And the sheer intensity of labor, which matches Amarone’s intensity of flavor, also explains why the wine tends to be expensive.  While collectable Amarone from Quintarelli or Dal Forno can cost hundreds of dollars, some producers like Begali and Nicolis can make a compelling wine in the $50-$90 range, making it an affordable luxury to be savored slowly, as all Amarones should.

Watch for our upcoming eLetter offers for new releases from Quintarelli, the standard-bearer of Amarone.

Expert Picks: Castello della Sala and Quintarelli!

Two expert selections from Francesco Vigorito

Francesco 2014I believe sweet wines to be some of the most magical wines in the world—they are also some of the hardest wines to make, period. I think most people are deterred from drinking dessert wines because they have terrible experiences with wines are just too sweet and unbalanced. There is nothing like drinking a fine dessert wine, and when chosen properly, sweet wines can absolutely blow you away. Today, I’ve chosen two that will convert even the most die-hard dessert wine skeptic. Give either one a try and tell me you haven’t seen the light!

Castello della Sala 2008 Muffato Della Sala (500ml) $54.99

Here is something a little different: a wine that takes a page out of the Bordeaux book. Muffato in Italian literally means “with mold” so this Muffato is actually made from Botrytized grapes, just like in Sauternes. The same anomaly that happens in Sauternes also takes place in Umbria in fortunate vintages; the Noble Rot sweeps in, takes over the grapes, and transforms them into something magical. This can only happen in a couple of places in the entire world, and Umbria happens to have be one of those places. Lovers of Sauternes should look for something really unique in this wine from the Antinori family’s estate in Umbria!

Quintarelli 1993 Recioto Della Valpolicella (375ml) $235.00

This dessert wine comes from one of the finest winemakers ever to have lived. Mostly known for his Amarones, Quintarelli also crafts Italy’s finest sweet wines, and this 1993 Recioto will show you why. This Recioto is a wine you can simply smell all day long and never have to taste to enjoy—it’s that good. With 22 years of age, this wine could not get any better!

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