The Inside Story from Italian Wine Merchants

Expert Picks: Tenuta dell’Ornellaia and Aldo Conterno

Two expert selections from Francesco Vigorito

Francesco 2014Today, I wanted to pick two wines I’ve drunk recently that I know you will love. They are terrific, and if you love Italian wines, you won’t want to miss them.

I can easily say that every time I taste a Le Volte, I always say “Now, that’s a great wine for the dollar!” That said, the 2013 is the best vintage I have yet tasted from Tenuta dell’Ornellaia’s entry-level wine. There is just something about the 2013 Tuscan wines in general that makes them stand out from the other vintages, and this Le Volte is a Super Tuscan to know and love. Next up is Poderi Aldo Conterno, the estate that bears the name of “he king of Barolo.” While Aldo Conterno’s wines are very well known, I’ve found they’re really exciting me these days. The estate’s 2011s are to die for and the best part is that they are so approachable and very delicious right now, especially the Colonnello.

Tenuta dell’Ornellaia 2013 Le Volte $29.99

Composed of 50% Merlot, 30% Sangiovese and 20% Cabernet Sauvignon, with all varieties vinified separately, this 2013 Le Volte bottling is the best I’ve had from Tenuta dell’Ornellaia. Rich, aromatic, voluptuous and exquisitely finessed for a $30 bottle of wine, this Super Tuscan has got everything you want and need. With winemaker like Axel Heinz behind it, you know it’s going to be good.

Poderi Aldo Conterno 2011 Barolo Colonnello $149.99

I’ve never smelled aromatics in a recent vintage Barolo quite like those in this ’11 Barolo Colonello—they’re complex, enticing and extraordinary. The Colonnello vineyard is known for wines with lighter structure, bursting aromatics and approachable nature, and this Conterno is so beautiful that it’s hard to keep your hand off of it. I just drank one of these ’11 Barolo Colonnellos on Monday, so it’s still fresh in mind—all I want is to find another reason to drink one. The beguilingly rich aromatics alone are worth the entrance fee!

Expert Picks: Tua Rita and…Tua Rita!

Two expert selections from John Camacho Vidal

CamachoYou might think that if you taste wine made from French grapes you would encounter pretty much the same taste no matter where the wine comes from—after all, Merlot is Merlot and Cab Franc is Cab Franc. However, that is definitely not the case. Grapes adapt to their various terroir and regions and develop individual personalities that express unique aromas and flavor profiles.

One producer that will make you think differently about French grapes is Italy’s Tua Rita estate. Started in 1984 by husband and wife Rita Tua and Virgilio Bisti, this estate makes big, bold, rich Super Tuscans that have reached cult status. The organically farmed vineyards sit near the medieval town of Suvereto between the Tyrrhenian Sea and the upper Maremma in a region known as the Colline Metallifere, or Metalliferous hills. This location is of special note because, as you might guess from the name, it imparts an iron-like nuance to the aromatics of the wine and lends a delicious hint of salinity and minerality on the palate. Tua Rita makes its wines in small production, so they’re difficult to obtain, but their big personalities let you know that they are from Italy.

Tua Rita 2012 Giusto di Notri $79.99

This classic Bordeaux-style blend speaks Italian, and it has become the estate’s signature wine. The grapes come from the first vineyard that Rita and Virgiolio planted, and is a tribute to Justus, the patron saint of Suvereto. Composed of 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot and 10% Cabernet Franc, the wine ages for 18 months in new and once-used French oak barriques before bottling. The elegant nose is full of black fruit and spice, followed by hints of tobacco menthol and minirality. The palate is nice and full with noticeable fruit that gives way to silky tannins and a slight sweet wood on the finish. The 2012 bottle commemorates the wine’s 20th anniversary and bears a specially designed label. Drink 2016-2024.

Tua Rita 2013 Redigaffi $299.99

This is an intense Merlot that shows the full expression of the region with a nose that wants to explode from the glass. Red cherry, plum, black licorice and spice all meld together with slight hints of balsamic and smoky leather traits. The palate is spicy with grippy tannins and bright acidity and a hint of cedar and vanilla on a lingering finish. This single-vineyard Merlot, named after the stream that runs through the vineyard, is aged for 18-20 months in new French oak barriques before being bottled. Drink 2018-2032.

Expert Picks: Castello dei Rampolla and Fontodi

Two expert selections from John Camacho Vidal

CamachoEarly on in my wine career I learned that Super-Tuscan wines are made in Toscana with non-indigenous grapes like Merlot and Cabernet. Because there is some truth to this, I had a common misconception that a Super Tuscan is always a Bordeaux-style blend. However, that is not always the case. Some Super Tuscans are made from 100% indigenous grapes such as Sangiovese, and others are Bordeaux blends, while still others blend international grapes and Sangiovese.

Super Tuscan winemakers are rebels who began breaking the DOC and DOCG rules in the 1960s. While DOC regulations help maintain the quality of Italian wine, there were winemakers that did not want to follow the rules and kept making wine in their own ways. But breaking the DOC rules meant that the wines had to be labeled simply Vino da Tavola, a low rating.  Fast-forward to the late 70’s, when American wine journalists decided to taste these controversial, supposedly awful wines. What they found were wines that were full-bodied and more intense, aged in French barrique instead of the traditional Slavonia barrel; they immediately fell in love. The journalists were so impressed with the wines that they could not call them simply “Vino da Tavola,” so they created a term they heard being used by the local rebel wine makers. Super-Tuscan wines were born.

In honor of the Tuscan rebels I would like to recommend two Super-Tuscan wines. One made of 100% Sangiovese, while the other has international grapes. Both offer astonishing Tuscan terroir and quality.

Castello dei Rampolla 2006 Sammarco $74.99

Near the town of Panzano in heart of Tuscany, Castello dei Rampolla has been making wine as far back as the thirteenth century. Sammarco is the original biodynamic Super Tuscan, and the estate pioneered the Tuscan blend by producing world-class wines. The 2006 Sammarco is a beautiful deep ruby color with a nose full of ripe red cherries followed by earth, spice and slight notes of balsamic and smoke. The palate is full, rich and opulent, showing minerals and grippy tannins that dance together, and it ends in a smooth elegant finish. Drink now to 2024.

Fontodi 2012 Flaccianello $119.00

Located in Chianti Classico, Tenuta Fontodi can track its origins back to the sixteenth century, and its Flaccianello is one of the first mono-varietal Super Tuscans made using the indigenous Sangiovese grape. First produced in 1981, Flaccianello quickly gained super status. The 2012 is deep and dark in appearance full with aromas of plum and licorice; with a bit of air, it gives way to notes of cedar and spice, followed by slight herbal and olive tones. The palate is silky and sexy, exuding elegance with a balanced mouth feel and tannins that seem to linger forever. Drink 2018 to 2030.


Go-To-Wine Tuesday: Le Mortelle 2012 Botrosecco Maremma Toscana

Rich, full and smooth $27 Super Tuscan from Antinori

RD8979-2What good is a nice bottle of wine without company to share it with? Visiting family this weekend, I was looking to impress with an Italian classic. After attending IWM’s North vs. South tasting last Saturday at IWM NYC, I was still in the mood for some northern hospitality, so I went with the sleek, spicy, and superb Le Mortelle 2012 Botrosecco Maremma Toscana. Being primarily from Ireland, my family typically doesn’t abide by the Mediterranean diet, but I figured a good wine could spark their interest in the region.

Hailing from the Maremma coastline near Grosseto, Le Mortelle, owned by the famed Antinori family, was once part of the larger La Badiola estate, and it gets its name from mortella, which is a type of wild myrrh that covers much of coastal Tuscany. Its characteristic fragrance and connection to old-world Italy made the shrub the perfect mascot for a traditional producer making aromatic wines. Antinori saw potential in the area and dedicated the estate to international grape varieties like Viognier, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Cabernet Franc, while maintaining eco-friendly methods of production through organically growing its grapes. Keeping to Antinori’s diverse vision of this estate, Le Mortelle’s Botrosecco Maremma Toscana is a smooth blend of 60% Cabernet Sauvignon and 40% Cabernet Franc aged for a year in oak barrels before release.

It is almost an understatement to say that my family and I were impressed by the 2012 Le Mortelle. It’s strikingly aromatic, rich, full, and smooth, and all seated around our dinner table exclaimed over this Antinori bottle. My family began the evening thinking that “Super Tuscan” was the title of the next Avengers film, but after trying the Le Mortelle, they were completely sold. Juicy, herby, dry, and above all spicy, this $27 go-to wine does what wine does best–it brings people together.

Inside IWM, February 22-26, 2016: Whaddaya Know?

A look back at the week that was

IMG_1647What do you know? Or, more accurately, what do you think you know? This week the blog challenged expectations. First, IWM’s writer tells about landing in Italy only to find that what she’d expected was even, somehow, better. Janice Cable on visiting Italy and drinking Italian wines with their makers. It’s no surprise to our blog’s readers that Stephane Menard is a wiz in the kitchen–his recipes are legend–but Stephane was pleasantly surprised by a delicious $23 Vermentino, which he paired with a simple Turbot recipe. You can read a wine’s label, but do you understand it? John Camacho Vidal shows you how to get the most from what’s on your bottle. And what do you really know about wines from the Veneto? From Amarone to Prosecco, we offer a quick tour.

Our experts relied on what they know to choose wines they’re sure you’ll love. Garrett Kowalsky spotlighted a delicious Super-Tuscan pair from an under-the-radar Antinori estate, Le Mortelle. Looking forward to the exceptional 2014 Burgundies, Crystal Edgar reflected on two wines she’s loved this year, both from Arnoux-Lachaux. And Michael Adler knows that everyone doesn’t have the patience to let their 2010 Brunellos age, so he picked two Sangiovese Grosso bottles you can enjoy right now.

Here’s to what you know, what you don’t, and enjoying delicious wine with people.

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