The Inside Story from Italian Wine Merchants

Expert Picks: Les Cretes and Tua Rita

Two expert selections from Francesco Vigorito

Francesco_1Today I want to talk about two different paths one can take when choosing wine: the one less traveled and “Main Street.” Wine should be just as much a treat for the mind as the palate, so when I come across something that is off the beaten path, I always want relay my experience and let you know what you might enjoy.  “Main Street” is the road most traveled, and, consequently you can find Italy’s best wines down this road—the Super Tuscans, Barolos, Brunellos, Amarones, and all the other names that rattle off your tongue. The paths less traveled, though, are wines that only a few people know about. They’re obscure, but they’re worth seeking out. Sometimes you don’t want to be in a crowd; other times, you like company. Here are two wines that give you a choice which path to take.

Les Cretes Coteau La Tour 2008 $36.60

Syrah from Valle d’Aosta? Sign me up! This region boasts some of the highest vineyards in all of Europe, and for that reason, freshness and lithe character define the wines from this region. Les Cretes is easily on the finest producers and this smoky, full-bodied, soft and complex Syrah will no doubt make you not only rethink this grape but also this beautiful Alpine region. Drink: 2013-2018

Tua Rita Giusto di Notri 2010 $66.75

We are all pretty familiar with Super Tuscans these days, but perhaps not as familiar with Tua Rita and her Giusto di Notri. Hailing from Suvereto, not Bolgheri, this Cab blend is very intense, powerful, polished and built for the long haul. Tua Rita produces only 1,600 cases of this prized wine a year, and we are the only merchants to carry this Super Tuscan. Drink 2015-2025

In Hong Kong, as in Wine, Timing is Everything

Introducing wines and influencing people

As with many aspects of life, timing is so important in the business of introducing wines to wine-lovers. When we opened IWM Hong Kong, we chose Tua Rita as our first e-letter offer because we saw so many similarities between the up-and-coming, forward-thinking, under-the-radar estate and ourselves. The letter seemed to resonate because we receives many “welcome to the neighborhood” replies and new subscribers.

The first wines that we brought to market were the biodynamic whites of Slovenia’s Movia. While these wines have been personal favorites of mine for many years, and I believe every wine drinker should experience Movia, it was a somewhat confusing way to explain our Italian-focused company with New York roots. The wine itself wasn’t the issue; it was just wasn’t the right time yet. Movia has since become one of our best-selling and most loved producers.

Yesterday, I shared a bottle of Miani’s 2009 Bianco, a pristine blend of Friulano, Malvasia and Ribolla, with a few restaurateur friends who were intrigued by our Miani eLetter. All were thrilled by the minerality and elegance of the wine and how well it would work with their menus. The fact that Miani as a whole produces just 800 cases total of their celebrated wines means that to open a bottle is to break a rare case and diminish a tiny allocation. So knowing who to share it with and when to share it are key. My friends all had the same reaction–a resounding “where has this been?” But had I led with Miani when entering Hong Kong, it might not have been the same.

The same is even more true with the wines of Josko Gravner. As you may have read, IWM Hong Kong is now the official agent for Gravner wines in Hong Kong, a tremendous addition to our portfolio and a perfect example of our desire to share the very best and most interesting with our clients. While I know Gravner’s iconoclastic wines won’t suit everyone’s taste, to say the least, there is no debating the exquisite quality of these wines. As much as we at IWM Love (with a capital L) Gravner wines, we needed to carefully pick the right time to introduce them.

When I arrived in HK two-and-a-half years ago, I remember proudly offering a glass of Gravner Ribolla Anfora to a Bordeaux-only collector and being told “It’s bad wine.”  This was the inverse reaction I’d expected. Gravner can change someone’s entire worldview, but only if one is open-minded. Some time later, I felt a bit of redemption as a prominent Hong Kong Bordeaux collector sat with a glass of the same Gravner Ribolla for quite a long time, perplexed, and told me that it was “the most inquisitive wine” he could remember tasting. We’d known each other for a while, and I believe he understand IWM’s approach to wine selection, which certainly allowed him to give Gravner an open-minded chance. I don’t know that I’d have gotten the same reaction if we’d only just met or if the wine was not paired with the right meal.

Over time, I’ve learned so much about how and when to share the right wines at the right time. Whether offering wines for mid-Autumn festival gifts, or suggesting that a restaurant introduce Refosco by the glass to an unfamiliar audience, too soon or too late can make the difference. And like opening a fine bottle at the right age or decanting in general, we wine merchants should be extra attentive to the timing of our service.

When Wines Get Mythic and Prodigious

In unabashed praise of Tua Rita

The cellar at Tua Rita

Wine writers, due to the nature of the business and the desire to elevate not only the wine they are describing but themselves as well,  often use high impact words as descriptors to entice the  public into believing that a particular vintage or offering is  absolutely essential for their cellar or palate.  You hear words like “epic,” “mythical,” and “prodigious.” More often than not, I get annoyed with these efforts to canonize or deify a particular effort and only very rarely does a wine live up to this kind of effusive praise.

But sometimes it does happen.

Tua Rita's vineyards in spring

Call it luck, call it intuition, call it epic and mythical and prodigious all at once, but in 1984, the Virgilio family purchased a small vineyard in Suvereto as a place to spend their retirement and follow their passion, cultivating the land. The wines they made for their own family were so well loved that they decided to start marketing them, and Tua Rita was born. The estate’s medium textured, predominately clay soil that is especially rich in iron and zinc so well suits the international varietals of Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon that Tua Rita almost instantly created some of Tuscany’s most revered cult wines. The specific minerality of the terrior at Tua Rita combined with the care and craft of this family-run estate helped it to produce truly top-notch wines almost from the estate’s inception. Giusto di Notri, Perlato del Bosco, and the  small production Redigaffi receive effusive praise from every corner of the wine world, and even I must agree with these beatific descriptors.

The beatified wines of Tua Rita

This week I was thrilled to see the 2008 vintages from Tua Rita arrive in our showroom cellar, and yesterday a most remarkable event occurred.  One of our senior Portfolio Managers had a client lunch scheduled in our Vintage Room.  Excited to share these tastes with his client, he opened both the Perlato del Bosco and Giusto di Notri about ninety minutes before the lunch. He discovered that the Perlato was spectacular, tight right out of the bottle but opening beautifully within the hour.  The Giusto remained completely shut down on the nose, taut and complex in the mouth, a contemplative experience that was not yet presenting its essence and potential. Not wanting his clients first taste of this beauty to mislead them, he made the executive decision not to serve it.

Two hours later, he walked into our newly renovated second floor sales office, decanter  in hand, and said, “Grab a glass.”  Needless to say we needed no second invitation.  It had softened into lush fruit, currant and dark berry, an aromatic beauty of mythic proportions.  Epic, my mind said to itself, and while I winced at the descriptor, I couldn’t disagree.

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