The Inside Story from Italian Wine Merchants

Expert Picks: Michel Niellon and Poggio di Sotto

Two expert selections from Garrett Kowalsky

Garrett_8.6.14_72dpiIt’s very easy to read an article or watch a clip on television and learn about the “biggest” or “flashiest” names in wine. While the connectivity of the wine world ensures you’re always on top of the latest and greatest, these wines are not the only bottles deserving of your attention. Palate subjectivity is king when it comes to choosing wine, and there is an endless supply of great vino out there. Below you will find two producers that consistently give me the chills with their celestial offerings. I know this because I’ve tasted many of these producers’ wines, experienced them again and again, and most importantly, they were so good that I remembered them.

Michel Niellon 2012 Chassagne-Montrachet Les Vergers 1er Cru $79.99

Michel Niellon is a small family-owned domaine currently helmed by the third generation of the family. Niellon’s vineyards show an absurdly high vine age, which leads to low grape yields and intense, dense, concentrated wines with a cornucopia of flavors. The style of this Chassagne-Montrachet Les Vergers is mineral laden, but it’s a powerful wine and closely trails Caillerets in terms of desirability. An absolute delight, this ’12 bottling will “wow” you now if you give it about an hour of aeration before enjoyment. Drink now until 2025.

Poggio di Sotto 2011 Rosso di Montalcino $99.00

All you have to do is talk to me about for five minutes or so and you’ll find out how much I adore Poggio di Sotto Brunellos. They are elegance and class embodied, but they still maintain all that is rustic and unique about Italy. Given how great the Brunellos are, it’s easy to overlook just how darn good the estate’s Rosso di Montalcino is. I was reminded of this recently as we opened a bottle of the ’06 that belonged to a colleague of mine. At nine years old, this “Rosso” is better than the majority of the Brunello made in 2006. While we do not have any ’06 left, I know the ’11 Poggio di Sotto Rosso offers more of the same beauty. Drink now to 2024.

Go-To Wine Tuesday: Collemattoni 2013 Rosso di Montalcino

A delicious, ripe, harmonious Rosso that’s under $25

2013-ROSSO-DI-MONTALCINO-Collemattoni.240x700.13301Rosso di Montalcino is often called a “baby” Brunello, but that doesn’t do justice to the wine, which is among the best Sangiovese wines made in Tuscany. As winter temperatures finally arrive, and you are looking for a rich and rustic wine to pair with your warm Lasagna, Ragu, or grilled meat—without breaking the bank. Priced at just $25 a bottle, Collemattoni 2013 Rosso di Montalcino would be one of my top picks!

The Collemattoni estate is situated on the hill of the south side of the Montalcino, near the “medieval suburb” Sant’Angelo in Colle. The estate is run by Marcello Bucci, whose family has been in Montalcino since 1798. The Bucci use protocol that sits halfway between traditional and modern winemaking, and they use a light touch of technology to make wines that show their passion for the grapes and their terroir. The Bucci family cultivates the land as their ancestors did, producing wine and olive oil (also honey, but just for the passion, not for sale). The estate received the official organic certification in 2012.

This wonderful 2013 Rosso from Collemattoni is dense, rich and suave, with creamy flavors of very ripe red and black fruits, pepper and sweet spices that are given shape and lift by a bright, harmonious acidity. It finishes with very fine tannins and outstanding persistence. I was very impressed the first time I had it, especially for the price! Very concentrated, sappy and rich, this wine offers a rare blend of power and elegance for a Rosso di Montalcino—it’s definitely not a baby! Winter is coming, and if you want my recipe for ragu, please have a look at my previous post where I give my own personal favorite. It’ll warm you through the cold winter nights.

Why I Love Sangiovese Grosso

The marvel of Montalcino

Sangiovese Grosso vines grow on the hills of Montalcino

Sangiovese Grosso vines grow on the hills of Montalcino

Mods or rockers, cats or dogs, chunky or smooth, Star Trek or Star Wars: these are the dividing lines in popular culture. In aligning yourself with one or the other, you are in or out, one of us or one of them, a kindred spirit or a disrespected enemy. If you had to draw a line in the sand of Italian wine, you’d draw that line between Nebbiolo, the emblematic grape of Italy’s North, and Sangiovese, the obvious choice. Nebbiolo is fine, really. Barolo is lovely; Barbaresco is lovely. They’re great. Really.

But they’re not Sangiovese.

I have previously expressed my passionate love of Sangiovese in general andSangiovese Grosso, the clone particular to Tuscany’s region of Montalcino, in specific. Part of my love derives from the fact that this is where I’ve spent the most time, where I’ve drunk the most wine, fallen in love with the most winemakers, and shared the most good times. I’ve passed through Barolo and Piemonte a couple of times, but the time, love and experiences I’ve had pales in comparison to those I’ve enjoyed in Montalcino, and thus my love of the region’s wines runs a distant second. My roots, shallow as they are, run deepest in Toscana, and thus my heart belongs to Sangiovese.

Plus, I really like the grape. It’s acidic and pointy, and it smells like cherries took a tumble in autumn leaves, wrestled with a sprig of rosemary, and took it to heart in the dirt. I like the gut punch that a well wrought young Sangiovese offers, and I love the mellow outlaw-turned-legitimate businessperson vibe that a mature Sangiovese gives off. I also tend to rally behind the underdogs, and while Brunello was born an aristocrat, this isn’t true for the vast swatch of Sangiovese wines.

I also love Sangiovese—and specifically again Sangiovese Grosso—for its ability to be immediately enjoyable and spunky in a Rosso di Montalcino and for its regal, elegant age-worthiness as a Brunello. Even wine professionals can’t drink expensive bottles every night, but I can afford to drink a Rosso di Montalcino from Talenti, Collemattoni or Castiglion de Bosco on a regular basis. Brunello di Montalcino’s early-drinking little brother, Rosso di Montalcino usually comes from younger vines and is always aged for less time, giving a tasty introduction to an estate’s style. And without question, Cupano’s wines, whether the estate’s Rosso or Brunello di Montalcino or its Super-Tuscan Ombrone, slay me every time.

One of my favorite memories from the first time I was in Montalcino was sitting at the table of Pietro Buffo, the owner and winemaker at the rustic estate of Baricci, drinking his Rosso, eating the fennel cinghiale sausage his wife made, and feeling like the cosmos was knitting together in seamless logic. One taste built on the other, and together the wine and the sausage and the fine saltless Tuscan bread worked together in a harmony no less than the stars’.

It’s cool if you’re not a Sangiovese fanatic. We can still get along. My heart has room for many grapes, both red and white. We can appreciate the beauty of your Nebbiolo, your Sagrantino, your Cabernet—even your Amarone, your Super Tuscan or your cult white. But at the end of the hard work day, I’m going to gravitate to my first love, Sangiovese, if that’s all right with you.

For the record, I am a rocker, a dog person, all for chunky and more Star Wars than Trek. Now let’s pour a glass of Rosso di Montalcino and hug it out.

This week’s e-letter offers include a Brunello from Poggio di Sotto and a Rosso from Valdicava; both are perfect for lovers of Sangiovese Grosso.

Inside IWM, May 4-7, 2015: Winning Hearts and Minds

A look back at the week that was

11188270_791290737606220_6106356872160521462_nWe began the week with Will Di Nunzio’s detailed recollection of one special night spent with eight vintage Biondi-Santi Brunello Riserva bottles, each more memorable than the next. We closed with a Mother’s Day piece that questioned “feminine” wines and suggested some powerful bottles. In between, Julia Punj offered another lesson in classic mixology with her take on the 20th Century, a perfect dessert cocktail. And John Camacho Vidal enjoyed a delicious under $20 Vermentino from Antinori’s Bolgheri estate.

Guided by her love for unique wines, Crystal Edgar expertly picked a pair of vintage beauties from Antonio Ferrari. Robin Kelley O’Connor saluted two great Burgundy makers, Michel Lafarge and Simon Bize, with his selections. And Justin Kowalsky looked at the “little brothers” of wines, Bourgogne and Rosso di Montalcino, selecting a pair of bottles that are delicious–and affordable.

IWM is pleased to be taking part in Tinto for TECHO fundraising wine dinner again this year–join us on May 28, 2015 for a very special evening of wine and food at the Four Seasons, and help raise money for this organization that provides social development programs in education, health, and housing to extreme poverty communities in 19 countries across Latin America and the Caribbean.

Go-To Wine Tuesday: Fuligni Rosso di Montalcino Ginestreto 2012

An elegant under $27 Rosso di Montalcino that’s bold, balanced and simply delicious

RD8485-2The wines of Montalcino’s Fuligni family have reached international recognition for their original expression, strong foundation, and their balanced acidity with polished tannins. While Fuligni is most famous for its Brunello, the estate also makes a cru Rosso di Montalcino, which comes from its Ginestreto vineyard, a specific slope of clay and tufa. From the outset, Fuligni designates this vineyard’s wine as a Rosso, and this allows for the wine to have its own identiy while being more approachable at a much younger age than its “big brother” Brunello. I enjoy this wine not just because it’s a great go-to bottle but also because Fuligni abides by a motto of simplicity. This family just wants to produce easy wines customers can enjoy with friends.

Last Friday evening, a friend joined me for a glass of the Fuligni Rosso di Montalcino Ginestreto 2012. I noticed three words came to mind while enjoying this wine: simple, friendship, enjoyable. I wanted to pair this wine with some light appetizers, so I picked up some cheeses, some cured meats, and some grapes. These nice treats a created a great spread—soft, thinly sliced prosciutto, Comté cheese, pecorino, Parmesan Reggiano, red grapes, and some mixed olives. This all accompanied the wine nicely, if I do say so myself. On the nose this ’12 Rosso was elegant, with hints of bold red fruit. Light in the glass with a softer more approachable Brunello style wine. It flows nicely with ​hints of cherry-like sweet fruit, tobacco, light chestnut, and a hint of spice.​ Leaving a satisfying finish, this under $27 Rosso was a perfect bottle to share with my friend.

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