The Inside Story from Italian Wine Merchants

Go-To-Tuesday Wine: Sartarelli 2014 Verdicchio Castelli di Jesi Classico

A lively, vivacious under $18 Italian white!

WH1883-2TFinally, some consistent white wine weather (or just spring weather for the rest of us). As the mercury rises in New York, it means only one thing: it’s the perfect time for a lively, vivacious white. I decided to enjoy my weekend with Sartarelli 2014 Verdicchio Castelli di Jesi Classico.

This wine was born in a region called Castelli di Jesi, arguably the best region for Italy’s Verdicchio grape. Situated around 1,000 feet above sea level where nothing blocks the cool sea breezes coming off the coast of Ancona,  Sartarelli’s vineyards impart the estate’s wines with a rich minerality. This mineral core balances out the wines’ fruitiness and adds substantive structure. Despite the seemingly ideal landscape for Verdicchio,  the talents of winemaker Alberto Mazzoni make Sartarelli wines something special. Dedicating Sartarelli entirely to Verdicchio, Mazzoni uses his experience with the ancient grape to create wines with a silky texture.

Like most of Sartarelli’s wines, this Verdicchio Castelli di Jesi Classico is an easy starter wine and a real crowd-pleaser. And did I mention that this wine is under $18? Yes, this white is probably one of the best value wines we offer at IWM. I shared this with my friends and heard nothing but excellent reviews as we drank it with linguine and shellfish. Although it has powerful fruity aromatics, this Verdicchio is very well balanced and goes well with almost any food as its flavor will not overpower any dish. However, I will say we particularly enjoyed it with seafood. Its minerality and almost almondy finish just seemed to lend itself perfectly to mussels, clams, and linguine. I full-heartedly recommend keeping a few bottles (or cases) of this on-hand for the warm weather ahead.

Expert Picks: Mas de Gourgonnier and Château Pradeaux

Two expert selections from Michael Adler

Michael Adler 5.29.15Drinking Provençal rosé always makes me happy. In addition to being universally delicious and food-friendly, these wines transport me to the region’s country roads and gorgeous coast, studded with rocky “calanques,” or inlets. Every sip brings back fond memories that are as fresh as the juice in my glass. Provence has earned its place as France’s go-to region for blush wines, for the wines tend to exhibit a greater degree of complexity and saline mineral nuance than the rosés from just about any other region. And unlike many other regions in France, you can find hundreds of amazing wines for less than $40 that will make you very, very happy. I’ve chosen two for you to enjoy now, this spring, and all summer long.

Mas de Gourgonnier 2014 Rosé $18.99

An organic estate located midway between Avignon and Marseilles in the heart of Provence, Mas de Gourgonnier produces excellent wines and offers one of the best values in quality rosé on the market today. Mas de Gourgonnier harvests its 47 acres of vines by hand, and its vinification protocol is equally traditional. Juicy raspberries and strawberries mingle with fresh-cut grass and mineral notes in this wine that will surprise you with its complexity and delicacy for the price. Drink early and often!

Château Pradeaux 2014 Bandol Rosé $33.99

In addition to making killer wines in Bandol, Château Pradeaux, located midway between Marseille and Toulon, is steeped in French history. A domaine since 1752, the estate was ravaged during the French Revolution and again during WWII; in 1985, Cyrille Portalis, whose family has owned the property for generations, rescued the estate and brought it back to health and prominence. Mostly Mourvedre, this spicy, mineral-driven rosé bursts with juice red fruit flavors and a hint of salinity that persists through the long, lingering finish. Be prepared to be transported!

Expert Picks: La Maialina and Castello dei Rampolla

Two expert selections from John Camacho Vidal

CamachoChianti Classico may feel synonymous with Italy, but it has changed a lot over the years. Once associated with the straw-covered bottle (a fiasco), Chianti was ubiquitous at every pizza restaurant. However, Chianti Classico has been evolving for over 700 years and its DOC and DOCG criteria are still changing today. Produced in central Italy’s Tuscany, the Chianti region extends between Florence and Siena with the Chianti Classico region covering around 100 square miles. For Chianti to be Chianti, it must come from the Chianti region and be made from at least 80% Sangiovese grapes. Chianti Classico can be earthy and rustic with great acidity, which allows it to pair well with an array of foods. The characteristic aromas include strawberries, violets, cherries and its high acidity on the palate.

In addition to a DOCG for Chianti, there are three DOCGs for Chianti Classico: Chianti Classico, wherein grapes are from the Chianti Classico zone and the wine must age a minimum of 12 months; Chianti Classico Riserva, where the wine ages a minimum of 24 months; and Chianti Classico Gran Selezione, wherein grapes must be estate grown and wine aged a minimum of 30 months. It’s important to note that Chianti Classico and Chianti Classico Riserva wines both have the Gallo Nero seal (black rooster) on the neck of the bottle, each with different colored borders, red for the Chianto Classico and gold for the Riserva.

Today, I’ve chosen two Chianti Classico that provide great expressions of the Classico region, one from La Maialina and one from Castello dei Rampolla. Both of these wines are delicious, and each offers insight into its individual estate and maker.

La Maialina 2010 Chianti Classico $18.99

La Maialina makes its Chianti Classico to express the essence of the territory, and this wine is a deep ruby color; the nose is full of juicy red fruit followed by aromas of violet and rose petal that slowly open up to some earth notes. The palate is silky with tamed tannins that linger nicely with black and red fruit on the finish. This wine’s quality-to-price ratio is unmatched, and it drinks like a higher priced Chianti Classico. The estate’s name refers to a breed of pig (Cinta Senese) that originated in the Siena area during the 1300’s and is the only Tuscan native pig to survive extinction. This is a gem of a wine that will not burn a hole in your pocket; I suggest you buy it by the case.

Castello dei Rampolla 2012 Chianti Classico $37.99

Castello dei Rampolla uses biodynamic practices, which I love. Mostly known for its Super-Tuscan Sammarco and Vigna d’Alceo, Castello dei Rampolla started out making Chianti, and in my opinion its one of the best Chianti Classicos from the zone. This Chianti has a little smokiness on the nose, which gives way to aromas of cherry, red currant followed by some hints of balsamic, rosemary and slight herbal notes. The palate is full and a bit savory with notes of leather and hints of oak. The finish is loaded with spicy, raspy tannins that cling nicely. Drink now and for the next few years.

Expert Picks: Sartarelli and…Sartarelli!

Two expert selections from Crystal Edgar

Crystal 2014Italian whites must fight for a share of the spotlight—not because they are undeserving but because they have an undeservedly bad rap. Sure, there are some highly commercial wines that have somewhat tarnished the category as a whole, but if you know where to look, Italy offers some of the most refreshing, compelling, unique and beguiling whites in the world! As with wines from any country or region, you should pay attention to the producer name along with the style of the region when making your purchasing or ordering decisions.

Today I want to highlight Sartarelli’s delightful expressions of the Verdicchio grape from the Le Marche region of Italy. One of the premier producers of fine Verdicchio, Sartarelli makes meticulous and wonderfully terroir-driven wines with impressive finesse and complexity. Gifted with a unique terroir and located in the heart of the Marche, Sartarelli vines are perched on slopes 1000 feet above sea level and range from 20-33 years in age. No oak is used for any of the wines, allowing for the purity of the fruit to come through, and the estate’s wines are clean, soft and layered with complex minerality and notes of honey, peach and white flowers.

Below are two offerings that offer exceptional value and drinking pleasure. The refreshing Verdicchio Castelli di Jesi Classico is released right out of the gate, while the Travilio trails one year after the harvest. Always impressive, these wines offer unbeatable value and are wonderful to drink with a variety of foods, flavors and friends.

Sartarelli 2014 Verdicchio Castelli di Jesi Classico $17.99

This lovely Verdicchio Castelli di Jesi Classico delivers a clean, crisp and elegant expression of Verdicchio; it’s perfect for those “anytime” moments. The fruit and green grass on the nose marries perfectly with the fresh minerality and bright acidity on the palate, making it ideal for a simple lunch of pasta primavera or classic raw bar favorites. Easily among the best value whites here at IWM.

Sartarelli 2013 Verdicchio Tralivio $21.99

Sartarelli sources its Tralivio from specially selected grapes from the winemaker’s oldest vineyards. Yields for the Tralivio are limited, translating into a wine with softness and finesse. This crisp yet full-bodied white offers floral tones on the nose followed by Verdicchio’s unmistakable raw almond and white peach. If you are looking for a lovely, unoaked white that gives an abundance of flavor and aroma, you can’t go wrong with this special Verdicchio. Another exceptional value under $25!

Go-To-Wine Tuesday: Fantinel Prosecco Extra Brut

A bright, bubbly, flexible $16 Prosecco

SPK91-2I am extremely biased when it comes to any sort of bubbly and quite frankly there is never a bad time for it. Great Prosecco offers decadence without a big price tag—stick with solid producers and you can grab a case for the price of one or two great bottle of Champagne. For anytime moments Fantinel’s Prosecco Extra Brut is the perfect go-to bubbly. Just $16 a bottle, it’s ideal for parties, groups, or gifts, but it also pairs well with a bubble bath and book.

I had the great pleasure of meeting Marco Fantinel in Hong Kong, when he was on his whirlwind wine tour of Asia. IWM’s outpost in Hong Kong worked with private clients as well as restaurants and hotels, and I have to say that Marco’s extra dry Prosecco was a hit across all groups. We hosted a dinner together in one of Macau’s largest hotel casinos and I had guests on all sides of me asking me how much Marco’s “Champagne” cost.

When I told them that it was not Champagne and revealed the price, they all gasped and said, “You should raise the price, this should be more expensive otherwise people may not buy it!” In certain parts of Asia it is not uncommon to think that reasonably priced wines are automatically considered cheap and inferior; in fact, restaurants often create a high combination of “lucky” price numbers and always point out the most expensive bottles as these are clearly the “best.”

This vibrant Prosecco quickly became the “go-to” sparkling wine choice for many of the top restaurants, hotels and private clubs in Hong Kong and Macau, and I had to ask Marco time and time again to ship more wine to meet the growing demand. On the nose and palate, the wine offers fresh stone fruit character without being sweet, vibrant bubbles and acidity without being too “dry” and a mousse-y finish that leaves a soft trail of bubbles and minerals. It’s a chameleon in the kitchen and pairs very well with fresh seafood, cured meats, pizza, spanikopita, roasted chicken, fish & chips and many other dishes. Just open and bottle and don’t be bashful.

I still recommend this wine to my clients, bring bottles to personal events, send them as gifts and keep bottles stock in my own little cellar for popcorn and movie nights. You really cannot go wrong here, so I invite you to grab a glass, bottle or case, whatever strikes your fancy) and toast to the holidays and a great 2016!

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