The Inside Story from Italian Wine Merchants

Inside IWM, May 11-14, 2015: Everything from Alto Adige to Ramps

A look back at the week that was

tenuta01Summer is coming. Emery wants you to be prepared. He offers a few helpful tips on how to keep wine safe, enjoyable and cool during the hot summer months. David Berot wants you to be satiated. He offers a simple recipe for ramps, that here-and-then-gone springtime edible. Matt Di Nunzio wants you to be happy. He picks out a delicious $12 Sangiovese that you’ll want to enjoy all summer long. And our staff wants you to be informed. We gave a quick, simple tour of Trentino-Alto Adige and the regions’ wine background.

Our experts similarly blended knowledge with their love of wine. Garrett Kowalsky explored his love of big bottles and picked out a pair for you to love. David Gwo discussed Tempranillo and selected two of Spain’s best, while Francesco Vigorito focussed on Sangiovese in its ultimate expression–Montevertine Le Pergole Torte. Finally Robin Kelley O’Connor prepared for his trip to Italy by choosing a pair of classic Italian bottlings, a Prosecco and a Brunello!

Cheers to your being happy, healthy, and wise–and never, ever out of wine!

Inside IWM, March 23-26, 2015: Living Large

A look back at the week that was

Screen Shot 2015-03-23 at 2.31.09 PMWe began this week with our own Francesco Vigorito on Aspen television station Aspen 82’s television show The Lift talking about Italian Wine Merchants, Italian wine and Cupano Brunello. We ended the week with David Bertot’s flawless pairing of a California Cabernet and a juicy porterhouse steak. In between, John Camacho Vidal enjoyed a delicious under $28 artisanal Dolcetto and Julia Punj poured another amazing cocktail–an Italian twist on the French 75! It’s all in the service of living beautifully, deliciously and stylishly–and bringing a little bit of Italy’s La Dolce Vita to America.

Our Experts took a similarly cosmopolitan twist. David Gwo saluted Josko Gravner, Friuli’s most iconoclastic producer, with a pair of Gravner’s Anfora wines. Crystal went to California for her white wine selections from Kistler and Sine Qua Non. And Robin Kelley O’Connor hearkened back to his Bordeaux roots with choices of a Sauternes from Château Rieussec, and a Saint-Émilion from Château Bélair-Monange.

Cheers to you and to living well. It’s more than the best revenge; it’s gift you give yourself.


Cocktail Culture: An Italian Twist on the French 75

It’s cocktail hour with Julia Punj!

cocktail2The French 75 is one of the iconic cocktails created by the great, Harry MacElhone of Harry’s New York Bar in Paris. Harry is credited with creating scores of cocktails as well as some of the first cocktail recipe books. The French 75, named after the 75mm field gun used by the French army, has a few incarnations, and variations on the French 75 can include cognac, sloe gin, or St. Germain. The original recipe, written down in “Harry’s ABC of Mixing Cocktails,” calls for gin, lemon, a little simple, served in a Highball glass over ice. The Savoy Cocktail book claims a recipe of gin, powdered sugar, and lemon juice, tall over ice. In today’s bar scene, however, you would be hard pressed to find a gin-based French 75 in anything other than a champagne flute.

I think the French 75 combines the best of spirits drinking into one glass: floral and botanical notes from the gin, a healthy dose of acidity from the lemon, and the beautiful sparkling mousse from the champagne. Taking the French 75 to Italy is an easy jump. As in any cocktail, the ingredients are key, and they don’t need to be traditional. Finding the elements of the cocktail and creating a balance is the linchpin to a successful variation. I like to play with Prosecco, Limoncello, a hefty grappa, and even amortized wines such as Cocchi Americano—Italian sprits and liquors that lend themselves to the bright, acidic, and citrus flavors of lemon and gin.

It’s important to remember that the base of the cocktail is the mixing of the spirit and the citrus; therefore, playing with the balance and the strength of the two is the way to find your ideal French 75. Also, don’t forget the sweeting element—a French 75 should always have a bit of simple syrup, sugar, or sweet liquor to create a even keel between the acid and the spirit. This can be a straight simple syrup, a flavored syrup, powdered sugar, agave or even a sweet liquor. My favorite Italian variation of the French 75 uses gin, Limoncello, lemon juice and Prosecco. The viscous, boozy Limoncello adds a zesty punch and a bit of weight to the original cocktail, and it eliminates the need for added sugar. For a lighter more refreshing twist, try replacing the sweeting agent with Cocchi Americano. This will decrease sweetness while imparting more complex finish.

The effervescent and elegant element of the 75 is the sparkling wine. Arguably the only true “French” aspect of the cocktail, champagne helped a basic cocktail become a refined and inspirational drink. These days you can choose your bubbles from across the world—Cava from Spain, Prosecco from Italy, sparkling wine from Australia or the Americas. Each will impart the exciting sparkle required, but each will also give an extra flavor profile to the drink. My preference is to stay dry, a nice brut champagne is usually a go-to choice, but Prosecco is a more cost effective and, sometimes, a more flavorful substitute.

Building the French 75 is important. As in all cocktails, start with the least expensive ingredient first; in a shaker start with the sweeting element (unless you’re using the Limoncello, option, in which case add it later) add the citrus juice and spirit (gin, cognac, vodka). Shake vigorously, strain and pour in the glass. Gently pour the bubbly on top, careful not to fizz or over fill. Take your garnish, a twist of your citrus is the best choice, and rub it around the rim before placing it on top of the bubbly. You can build your 75 in a champagne flute, coupe, or highball glass. Don’t try to pre-batch this cocktail because you will lose the bubbles.

Here are a few of my favorite recipe variations:

The French 75

3/4oz Lemon juice

¼ oz Simple Syrup

1 oz London Dry Gin

Brute Champagne

Shake lemon, simple, and gin Champagne flute with a twist

Long Italian 75

3/4oz Limoncello

1 oz Vodka

½ oz Lemon Juice


Shake limoncello with vodka, and lemon juice, pour into a tall glass over ice, add a twist

Sloe Gin 75

3/4oz Lemon juice

1 tsp Powdered sugar

1.5 oz Hayman’s Sloe Gin


Mix the powdered sugar with the lemon, shake with the sloe gin and pour into your glass of choice. Layer with the Cava.

If you loved this Italian twist on a classic drink, don’t miss Julia’s post on Negroni.

Inside IWM, December 15-18, 2014: Everything is Delicious

A look back at the week that was

gravnerWinter is time to nestle into warm environs, all the better to eat and drink. That’s more or less what we did this past week on our blog! We finished the week with a recipe for Ossobuco, complete with wine pairings. Because no winter is complete without something sweet, we also gave you a recipe for IWM’s favorite flourless chocolate cake! We enjoyed a gorgeous $25 Rosso from Sicilia, and we sang the praises of winter whites, most specifically orange wines (which complement every season).

This week our Experts were in a French kind of mood. Garrett picked two beautiful wines from Domaine Lucien le Moine. David Gwo selected a gorgeous pair from Domaine des Lambrays. And RKO mixed it up a bit by picking one from Domaine Trapet and one from Bonneau du Martray.

Here’s to you snuggling, nestling, and enjoying your way through your penultimate weekend in 2014!

Enjoying the Winter with Ossobuco and Winter Wines!

There’s no season like snow season for Barolo and Osso Buco

The weather this winter has been relatively warm, allowing for ideal shipping conditions to most of the country this hectic December. Early this week was in the low 50s, practically like a cellar! I’m welcoming the 20s and 30s, when IWM’s wine shipments slow down. My favorite part of the winter season is staying indoors and cooking hearty, amazing meals. A classic Milanese veal Ossobuco is a surefire way to warm up the mind, body, and soul this winter. My wife and I had this dish in Milan this past October, and it was better than anything I was possibly expecting. Here is one of my favorite recipes:

Heat up a Dutch oven on high heat.

Dust eight seasoned veal shanks (center cut), 2 to 2 1/2 inches think, and sear in a little olive oil; set aside.

Lower heat to medium.

Add 2 chopped onions, 4 chopped ribs of celery, 2 chopped carrots, and 5 minced cloves of garlic to the Dutch oven, and sauté for 5 minutes in a few tablespoons of butter and olive oil.

Deglaze with half a bottle of a neutral tasting white wine (feel free to pour yourself a glass or 2).

Add 12 ounces of veal stock and a 14 ounce can of San Marzano tomatoes.

Add the veal shanks back to the Dutch oven and bring to a simmer.

Add rosemary, sage, thyme, and bay leaves as well as salt and pepper.

Cover the Dutch and put into a 350 degree oven for 2 hours.

Set aside the shanks.

Reduce sauce by half; taste and re-season, if needed.

Serve over saffron risotto, drizzling the sauce.

Serve extra sauce on the side for dipping.

Stick a 3 inch piece of rosemary in the shank bone for presentation and aroma.

Here are 3 simple tricks to add a tremendous depth to the flavor of the risotto:

  1. Instead of using chicken stock, use veal stock for more depth.
  2. Use bone marrow instead of butter.
  3. Increase the saffron threads by 50%.

Serves 4 to 6, with plenty of leftovers. If you are so inclined, broken down Ossobuco leftovers make an amazing filling for homemade raviolis.

Barolo is a spectacular choice for this classic Northern Italian dish. I highly recommend the 2007 Renzo Seghesio Barolo. I’ve enjoyed the 1996, 1998, 2004, and 2007 from Renzo Seghesio, and all of them were delicious. The freshness and zippiness of the 2007 will certainly complement this dish at first, but the complexity of the dish, and the wine’s development will finely sync as the meal progresses. There are also a few delicious Baroli from the stellar 2010 vintage available like the Massolino, but whichever you decide to pair with the Ossobuco you and your family will be happy.

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