The Inside Story from Italian Wine Merchants

Expert Picks: Castello dei Rampolla and…Castello dei Rampolla!

Two expert selections from Francesco Vigorito

Francesco 2014Castello dei Rampolla’s Vigna d’Alceo is definitely a wine that flies under the radar of most Italian wine buyers, when it should sit at the forefront with Sassicaia, Ornellaia, Solaia, and the rest of the Super-Tuscan greats. Hailing from Chianti Classico, instead of the coastal region of Bolgheri, Castello dei Rampolla is a gem of an estate that utilizes a full biodynamic regimen, giving their wines a unique sense of terroir. The Vigna d’Alceo is the flagship wine, composed of Cabernet Sauvignon and touch of Petit Verdot.

Castello dei Rampolla 1997 Vigna d’Alceo $380.80

This is a massive wine that displays a wealth of power, fruit, concentration, body and tannins. It’s gorgeous in stature, but this monster is going to require some time to open up in the glass. When it does, we are going to have something truly special on our hands. Get the ’97 Vigna d’Alceo while they are available. Finding vintage Vigna d’Alceo is super difficult, so if you are reading this, do not hesitate to pick them up!

Castello dei Rampolla 2001 Vigna d’Alceo $249.00

Another well endowed, structured and incredible vintage for the Alceo, the ’01 has tons of class but it’s not as exuberant as the flashy ‘97. More classic in style and long lived, the 2001 has a bright, promising future ahead of it, even though its starting to drink great today. It is perhaps the finest Vigna d’Alceo made!

Expert Picks: Fontodi and Bartolo Mascarello

Two expert selections from Will Di Nunzio

will expertAlmost everyday I hear, “Will, what should I get?” or “There are just so many wines, I get lost, what’s good?” If you’re new to Italian wine, it’s completely normal to feel a little lost; the strange language, Italy’s 20 regions, its 3,000 different grape varietals, and then your own questions over whether you should drink or cellar wines can make choosing a wine feel overwhelming. It’s a lot to know and we too are constantly learning more and more about new wines being released and new ways of perfecting wines.

In the end, there are only a few wines that can consistently hold their own every vintage, just a few that can bring quality to the table every time, and even fewer that keep their estate’s traditions and show their maker’s passion. These producers’ wines are the ones that I champion and the ones that I urge my clients use as the foundation for their collections. Today are two examples of IWM staples, and these wines are always, always amazing!

Fontodi 2000 Flaccianello $169.00

Toscana – Sangiovese

In 1981, Giovanni Manetti, a talented winemaker in Chianti, made a very risky decision when he decided to bottle a mono-varietal Sangiovese wine and called it Flaccianello. Like Montevertine’s Le Pergole Torte, Flaccianello stood outside of the Chianti DOCG rules and regulations, but Giovanni was out to show just how impressive a pure Sangiovese wine could be. Over the years, Fontodi has revised Flaccianello’s vinification processes, and the quality of Flaccianello improved exponentially and, thanks to aging in barrique, the wine is smooth, round and rich—almost the perfect Super Tuscan. This wine is a real delight in the 2000 vintage, and it’s drinking right now. Only a few bottles remain in our cellar, if you are lucky enough to try it.

Bartolo Mascarello 2009 Barolo $129.99

Piemonte – Nebbiolo

Bartolo is the mecca of traditional Italian winemaking, and no producers have kept as firmly to traditional beliefs than Bartolo Mascarello did in his lifetime of winemaking. His daughter, Maria Teresa, has filled her father’s shoes quite nicely, and she is producing some of the best Barolo. She makes it, as her father did, in Slavonian oak casks—no barrique has ever or will it eve be used here—making for elegant, precise and beautiful wines meant to age a few decades. The advantage of a ripe vintage like 2009 is that it offers some approachability, which is a good thing especially for Mascarello because you normally can’t even look at them for 10 years. If you can resist a few more years and open this bottle towards the end of the decade, you’ll be blown away and will be glad to have saved a bit on the less popular vintages. Mascarello Barolos are all so great!

Expert Picks: Castello dei Rampolla and Querciabella

Two expert selections from Garrett Kowalsky

Garrett_8.6.14_72dpiA lot of wine passes through IWM’s cellar here in Manhattan. I constantly marvel at the treasures that lurk beneath our operations, but I am always equally thrilled with the impending arrival of more treasured bottles of vino. I got excited when I spotted an upcoming delivery of two of my favorite (and arguably underappreciated) Super-Tuscan wines. I’ve enjoyed both the ’09 Sammarco and the ’10 Camartina in the past and was completely blown away by them. Here they are for you, available again and delicious now—and for the next decade.

Castello dei Rampolla 2009 Sammarco $79.99

Castello dei Rampolla is located in the Chianti region of Tuscany and dates back to the 1300’s. However, the Super-Tuscan did not debut until 1980 when Alceo Napoli dreamed up a blend of his own as an homage to the great Sassicaia (a personal favorite of his). His twist however was making sure the Sangiovese, the quintessential Italian grape, was in the mix. 2009 was a splendid and warm vintage in Chianti that produced approachable and fruit-forward wines. Do not be fooled, however: this ’09 may drink well now but it has the stuffing to go another 15-20 years if you let it.

Querciabella 2010 Camartina $129.99

Querciabella is another elite estate from Chianti, however the root of this property date back to just the 1970’s. Almost falling in line with Sammarco, the Camartina debuted in 1981 but where it differs is in the blend. Its rich texture comes from being predominantly Cabernet Sauvignon, but Camartina uses a higher percentage of—about 30 percent to Sammarco’s 5 percent. Also of note to wine lovers, the estate has been organic since 1988 and biodynamic since 2000, one of the first in the region to receive their certification, although Castello dei Rampolla has also gone completely biodynamic. Dark fruit and spice abound in this wine, which makes me dream of enjoying it alongside a NY strip steak. With decanting, drink now or cellar to  2030.

Expert Picks: Montevertine and Fontodi

Two expert selections from John Camacho Vidal

CamachoSangiovese is considered the grape that defines Italian wine. The most planted grape varietal in Italy, one in every 10 vines in Italy is Sangiovese, and it is the core of some of the country’s greatest wines. The Sangiovese grape adjusts to its environment, allowing for very different tasting wines that express their region’s terroir, providing a range of delicate floral strawberry aromas to intensely dark earthy and tannic wines.

Two Sangiovese purists are Fontodi and Montevertine. Fontodi’s Flaccianello and Montevertine’s Le Pergole Torte are both mono-varietal Sangiovese and both are elegant and expressive Sangiovese wines. Fontodi is located in the heart of Chianti Classico, south of the town of Panzano, in a region called the “Conca d’Oro” (the golden shell) because of its amphitheatre shape. A certified organic estate, Fontodi has been making wine since 1968. Montevertine lies within the heart of the Chianti hills, in the community of Radda at an altitude of 425 meters above sea level. This high altitude allows the Sangiovese to retain its perfect acidity and show a bright clean expression. Sergio Manetti purchased Montevertine in 1967 as a vacation house. As a hobby, he planted two hectares of vines and built a small cellar, with an idea of making wine for family and friends. As his enthusiasm grew, Sergio decided to dedicate all his efforts exclusively to winemaking.

The passion and respect for Sangiovese is very present in both of these wines, and if you’re a real Italian wine enthusiast, you owe it to yourself to experience both of these great Sangiovese expressions.

Montevertine 2008 Le Pergole Torte $129.99

This wine is all about elegance. The nose is full of dense black fruits, spices, slight earthiness, and smoky mineraity. With some air, you get forest notes and cocoa mixed with black cherries. The palate is firm with raspy tannins and a well-integrated sharp acidity that lingers nicely. The 2008 is approachable now with some air, but it’ll keep in the cellar. Drink now and for the next decade.

Fontodi 1999 Flaccianello $179.99

I’ve tasted this vintage a few times and each time it surprises me with something new. This ’99 Flaccianello’s nose is full of dried roses, hints of tobacco and earth with soft wood notes in the background, but then black cherry and strawberry notes pop out of the glass. The palate is super silky with great acidity and well-balanced tannins with a nice long finish. Drink now.

Go-to-Wine Tuesday: Guado al Tasso Vermentino 2013

Fresh, fleshy and under $20 Vermentino from Antinori

WH1916-2After a long winter, it’s nice to glimpse the summer to come. The weather has been unusually hot this week, and wanting to take advantage of the warm evening, last night I opened a bottle of Guado al Tasso Vermentino 2013.

Common wine knowledge says that Vermentino traditionally grows in Liguria and Toscana, but recent DNA has confirmed that Vermentino is identical to the Pigato grape of Liguria and the Favorita of Piedmont. However, winemakers don’t need DNA test to confirm what they already know: Vermentino makes a great wine for warm weather drinking. Its loads of minerality, citrus tones and refreshing acidity make it a natural for summertime sipping.

The bottle of Vermentino I enjoyed last night comes from the makers of the famed Super-Tuscan Tignanello, among others. Winemakers since 1385, the Antinori family is now in its 26th generation of making wine that shows their respect for tradition and for the land. Guado al Tasso, located near Bolgheri in the upper Maremma coastline, made its first vintage of Vermentino in 1996. One thing you can say about the Antinori family is that they have never rested easy on their past successes.

Vermentino seems to thrive under the hot Tuscan sun but the cool Mediterranean breezes allow it to retain its acidic kick, crispy floral aromatics and elegance. Guado al Tasso estate harvests the grapes different plots at different ripening stages, and then ferments the lots separately in temperature-controlled tanks. This process allows the different aromas and flavors of the single-vineyard parcels to shine through. After a month of fermentation, the single-parcel wines are tasted and Guado al Tasso makes a selection for the final blend.

Perfect for the balmy weather of last night, this ’13 Vermentino is bright with a gentle yet pronounced minerality that gives way to soft citrus, orchard fruit, and floral tones. As you drink it, this wine nips at the palate with a pleasing acidity that lingers on the finish, but its round, almost fleshy mouth-feel balances out this acidity nicely. It’s hard to go wrong with any Antinori wine, but this Vermentino, under $20, is a glass that brims with summertime win.

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