The Inside Story from Italian Wine Merchants

Expert Picks: Le Mortelle and Le Mortelle

Two expert selections from Garrett Kowalsky

Garrett_8.6.14_72dpiPart of what make working at Italian Wine Merchants fun is discovering little-known or hard-to-find houses that Sergio has developed relationships with in Italy. Recently, we received three wines in from one such estate: Le Mortelle. While this Maremma estate flies the flag of the Antinori family, IWM is the only US retailer that carries them. We had the opportunity to pop open all three of the estate’s recent selections last week, and the team was enamored. In fact, Le Mortelle’s white wine is already sold out! Have no fear though; the two very beautiful and very different reds are still available.

Le Mortelle 2012 Botrosecco Maremma Toscana IGT $26.99

A blend of 60% Cabernet Sauvignon and 40% Cabernet Franc, this wine bursts from the glass with bright red fruit and a verve that tickles the palate. This wine is the quintessential crowd pleaser—neither too delicate nor too complex, it’s a superb value. Drink it now and drink it often; this is a party wine for any Super-Tuscan lovers out there. Drink until 2018.

Le Mortelle 2011 Poggio alle Nane Maremma Toscana IGT $74.99

The Poggio alle Nane flips the blend on its head from the previous selection with 80% Cab Franc and 20% Cab Sauv. Green pepper and herbs are the first aromas that hit, but more juicy and savory notes follow in this decidedly large and serious bottling. Dark and brambly fruit underline this complex offering. Drink 2017 to 2024.

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Expert Picks: Tenuta San Guido and…Tenuta San Guido!

Two expert selections from Francesco Vigorito

Francesco 2014When we think of the most acclaimed Super-Tuscan vintages from the ’90s, we probably don’t think of 1993 and 1996, but this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Great winemakers have the ability to turn lemon years into lemonade, and one of the best lemonade producers out there is Tenuta San Guido. This estate’s flagship wine, Sassicaia, is an icon, and it’s always great regardless of the vintage. Mature, vintage Sassicaia is getting scarcer and more expensive by the day, and one of the main issues in getting these wines is obtaining them with pristine levels of provenance. IWM always has straight-line provenance for its vintage wines, and Sassicaia is no exception. Today, I’m highlighting a pair of vintage Sassicaia bottles that may have flown under the radar upon release, but they’re firing on all cylinders today.

Tenuta San Guido 1993 Sassicaia $219.00

The 1993 Sassicaia is now garnet in color, and it displays an amalgam of aromatics and flavors that remind of fine Bordeaux. Leather, graphite, cedar, dark currants, forest fruit, tobacco—you can go on and on discovering new notes as this wine unfolds. The most glorious aspect about this wine is how light it is on its feet. It’s smooth and silky on the palate, due to the tannins resolving and leaving an elegant framework for all those wonderful Cabernet flavors to ride on. And like most Italian wine, there is fine vein of acidity that keeps the experience fresh and lively!

Tenuta San Guido 1996 Sassicaia $275.00

The 1996 is a more powerful and concentrated vintage than the ‘93. The fruit is darker and denser, and the wine feels sturdier on the palate, making for a nice, satisfying mouth-feel. The tannins of this ’96 Sassicaia are still quite firm, and while it shows nicely with some decanting, it’s a wine that can hang out in your cellar for at least another five years, if not longer.

 

Great, Geeky, Gorgeous Grattamacco

A look at a Bolgheri pioneer

Vines growing at Grattamacco

Vines growing at Grattamacco

Founded in 1977, Grattamacco, one of the pioneers of Bolgheri and the Super-Tuscan movement, was the second winery in Bolgheri—Sassicaia was the first, and these two estates have vineyards that abut one another. In this respect, Grattamacco sits both literally and figuratively in the shadow of its more famous neighbor. But that seems to be a position that fits the unassuming Grattamacco. It’s a winery that revels in its intellectual approach to winemaking.

Grattamacco sits on a windy plain 100m above sea level. Winemaker Luca Marrone explained that the estate gets 300 sunny days a year and a steady breeze, which helps their organically grown grapes—Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Sangiovese, Petit Verdot and Vermentino—ripen without rot, and in an unusual move, Grattamacco sweeps through and picks all the different types of grapes for its blends in one shot. The estate takes tender loving care of their grapes, even to the point of inventing Rube Goldberg looking machinery that gently tips the sorted grapes into the vats to keep their skins from bruising and thus releasing harsh tannins.

IMG_1333Grattamacco’s wines are anything but also-rans, and in their tasty minerality, they speak of the stony soil (in Etruscan, it’s the “macco” of Grattamacco) where their grapes grew. And unlike neighboring Sassicaia, the flagship blend includes a percentage of Sangiovese, increasing that sense of place and history. The wines embody the estate’s personality, that of an A-level student whom you like as much for his brains as his sense of humor. It’s a gorgeous, geeky winery that makes joyfully intellectual wines.

Today’s eLetter offer spotlighted two recent vintages of Grattamacco’s flagship Bolgheri Rosso Superiore; read more here.

The Heart of Suvereto, Tua Rita

You really can’t go wrong with Tua Rita

IMG_1445 The day I visited Tua Rita, the grass had just been cut, and the air was filled with the green of grass tinged with the pointy scent of wild scallions that grow in and among the grass. It was a day of bright blue skies, wispy white clouds, and the heat of springtime sun warming the earth from its long winter nap. It was an ideal day to visit Suvereto’s Tua Rita, a winery that is pure heart.

There’s a cheery, open disposition to the winery, from the shambling gate of the estate’s old dog to the down-to-earth guide, Francesca, who didn’t proffer a business card. Like Le Macchiole’s Cinzia Campolmi who runs the estate after her husband Eugenio’s death, Tua Rita’s eponymous Rita runs the winery that she started with her late husband, Virgilio. The estate is the epitome of the cliché “labor of love.” Everything about the estate feels like a business run by a family who really enjoys what they do.

IMG_1455The smell of the air seemed to match the relaxed, convivial visit that ended with Francesca’s expansive opening of the estate’s entire line of wines, and her drinking the Syrah. “It’s my favorite,” she said conspiratorially. “Don’t tell anyone.” But, really, how could I not? There’s a wink in her eye, and a wink in all that Tua Rita does. While the surface seems to be all fun and warm love, there’s also a steely resolve and a serious entrepreneurial work ethic at Tua Rita. The wines taste like the salt of the earth, and that only makes them sweeter and more engaging.

IMG_1443Tua Rita’s wines are always favorites of clients, critics, and just about anyone who drinks them. It’s not hard to see why; Tua Rita’s wines throw their arms open and welcome you to their ample bosoms. It’s not that they they lack finesse or complexity. Rather, it’s that pure, unadulterated, even giddy pleasure is at the foundation of these wines. They taste delicious, and they make you smile, even when you remember them years later.

IWM presented the new 2013 release of Redigaffi, Tua Rita’s Merlot in today’s eLetter. It’s going fast.

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