The Inside Story from Italian Wine Merchants

A Brief Look at the History of Valentine’s Day

The holiday has a questionable past

Lupercalia as painted by Domenico di Pace Beccafumi

Lupercalia as painted by Domenico di Pace Beccafumi

Valentine’s Day is this week, and here the truth: Valentines Day is, was, and always will be a completely fictitious holiday. It is so grounded in fantasy that it makes the Easter bunny look real. The name, Valentine’s Day, supposedly comes from a Catholic saint, but he never existed. Finding St. Valentine is kind of like playing “What’s My Line” with three obscure saints, all called Valentine, all martyred at some point during the third century A.D., none of whom had anything to do with romantic love.

This holiday of love has its origins when in 426 the Catholic Church wanted to tame the savage beast of Lupercalia, a Roman holiday of love wherein would-be lovers engaged in a precursor to the ’70s swingers key parties and picked their partner’s name out of an urn, or merely celebrate as naked young men ran through the streets swatting women with leather thongs, depending upon your interpretation and time period. In the mid-fourteenth century, Valentine’s Day moved from the 15th of February to the 14th, the day when France and England celebrated the pairing of birds for mating season.

However, it wasn’t until 1847 when Esther A. Howland, the heir to a greeting card fortune, put those commercial wheels in motion and made the first mass-produced Valentine’s Day card that the Valentine’s Day we now know and love (and by love I mean love/hate/love) began.

The cynics among us may want to relish this tidbit, the Greeting Card Association has an “Esther A. Howland Award for a Greeting Card Visionary” honoring those people who can find a new way to make us buy highly colored, usually sentimental paper products. It should be noted that 85% of the Valentine’s Day cards purchased are bought by women. This is something that doesn’t make me particularly proud of my gender.

The sales of Valentine’s Day cards run second only to sales of Christmas Cards, but Halloween cards are taking a strong upsurge, symbolizing to the most cynical of us that Valentine’s Day, like mummies, vampires, and other ghouls, always returns. No matter how much or how often we try to kill it. We might as well give in and embrace the monster, I suppose.

I am of the sort who, almost by default but certainly by nature believes that Valentine’s Day is, aside from the delightful blank check to eat as much chocolate as you like, kind of beside the point. We should, if we’re lucky enough to find it, celebrate love daily and in our own ways.

That said, there’s nothing wrong with opening a lovely bottle of AmaroneChampagne or romantic Super Tuscan and sharing it with a friend on Valentine’s Day. Or just having a glass yourself. After all, as Oscar Wilde wisely said, “To love oneself is the beginning of a lifelong romance.”

Cheers to that.

Expert Picks: Biondi-Santi and Le Macchiole

Two expert selections from Michael Adler

Michael Adler 5.29.15Today I’ve chosen exceptional Tuscan wines from the stellar 2010 vintage made by two of the region’s very best estates: Biondi-Santi and Le Macchiole. While both estates are frontrunners in their respective appellations, they differ from one another in many ways. For example, while Biondi-Santi was established over 150 years ago and grows only one grape–Montalcino’s iconic Sangiovese Grosso; Le Macchiole is a relative newcomer to the Super-Tuscan scene and is dedicated to three grape varieties of French origin: Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Syrah.

Located right next to Tenuta dell’Ornellaia, Le Macchiole is a very cool estate run by the very talented Cinzia Merli, who took control of the winery’s operations after the death of her husband, Eugenio Campolmi, who founded the estate in 1983. Le Macchiole has distinguished itself among Bolgheri’s elite Super-Tuscan producers for its three organically-grown, single-vineyard mono-varietal flagship wines: Scrio, a Syrah; Messorio, a Merlot; and Paleo, the wine I’m featuring today, which is crafted from Cabernet Franc.

Biondi-Santi, on the other hand, needs very little introduction. This is the Brunello estate, responsible not only for the DOCG’s creation in 1968 but for discovering and popularizing the Brunello clone, Sangiovese Grosso, in the late nineteenth century. The estate’s Brunello di Montalcino Riserva is a wine of unparalleled beauty, age-worthiness and collectability; in my opinion, it is the pinnacle of all Italian winemaking. The estate’s outstanding Rosato di Toscana was, until recently, only available to those lucky enough to visit the estate; however, IWM is now proud to be the sole US retailer of this rare and tantalizing treat—fortunate for our lucky Brunello-loving clients!

Biondi-Santi Il Greppo 2010 Rosato di Toscana IGT $79.99

This mono-varietal Sangiovese Grosso Rosato is in the running for the most unique, historic and special rosé wine in all of Italy. Medium-bodied and highly aromatic, this rosato sings with lively notes of ripe strawberries and raspberries, fresh flowers and steely minerals. Crisp, clean, bright, complex and seriously delicious, Biondi-Santi’s 2010 Rosato di Toscana is a rare treat for Brunello collectors and Biondi-Santi enthusiasts, and it’s only available at IWM.

Le Macchiole 2010 Paleo Rosso $109.99

The ‘10 Paleo Rosso is a dense, layered and opulent expression of Cabernet Franc that has a very long life ahead of it. Dark blue and black fruits are supported by secondary notes of tobacco, mineral, leather, violets and herbs in this massive, structured wine. The 2010 will benefit greatly from additional time in the cellar as its firm, chewy tannins will mellow and soften, becoming more refined, finessed and integrated with age.


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!

Go-To-Wine Tuesday: Guado al Tasso 2014 Scalabrone

A delicious $25 Rosato available at IWM Aspen!

scalabrone-okIt’s Tuesday, and I want to pick a nice bottle to share with friends. What wine am I going to drink? I need something crisp, simple, and on-point with the summer season. I want refreshing but balanced glass of wine that can hold up to any course, that will cost less than my dinner bill, but gives my guests an “oh my god, you’re a genius” reaction to my pairing.

Antinori’s Guado al Tasso Estate, situated 80 miles southwest of Florence at the base of the foothills overlooking the Mediterranean, delivers vintage after vintage with an always stunning Super-Tuscan style rosato, Scalabrone. Forty percent Cabernet Sauvignon, with the rest split between Merlot and Syrah, the ‘14 Scalabrone’s flavors of raspberry and Bing cherry are delicate and subtle, yet they reward the palate by persisting through the finish. Antinori blends this wine’s grapes to create a lighter style that focuses on seamlessly melding the wine’s notes of succulent red fruit, crushed wildflowers, spice and fresh-cut herbs.

Food friendly, delicious and just $25, Guado al Tasso 2014 Scalabrone is available at IWM Aspen, but if you live outside of the Aspen area and want another rosé, our website has many to choose from. However, this Tuesday, I’m excited to be pouring the iconic Scalabrone, the perfect rosato for the grotto.

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.

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