The Inside Story from Italian Wine Merchants

Expert Picks: Bruno Giacosa and Gaja

Two expert selections from Crystal Edgar

Crystal 2014Spring is officially upon us (at least that is what I am telling myself here in New York), and it is time to bring out the whites and rosé wines to welcome the warmth! Today I am excited to introduce a couple of my favorites, both of which dwell far off the beaten path. I do love crisp Chablis, Sancerre, Friulano, Gavi and other bright and refreshing whites, however I like to spice it up from time to time. Seeking a bit of adventure, I find myself reaching for unique producers, grapes or styles of wine. Here are two of my favorites, an Arneis that can be enjoyed anytime and Angelo Gaja’s Gaia & Rey Chardonnay, which requires more attention and contemplation as well as a few very good friends with whom to share the magic.

Arneis (pronounced are-NACE) is in my opinion a somewhat forgotten white grape, living in the shadows of its other Piemontese cousins. Its name translates to “little rascal” or “whimsy” in the local dialect and was so named due to its unpredictable nature and difficulty of cultivation. Although records of this grape date back to the 1400s in the Roero hills, it only gained traction in the late 1970s when winemakers began to realize its potential. Chardonnay, on the other hand, is more of a “household name” grape that’s produced in many countries throughout the world and shows different sides of its personality depending on where it is grown. Gaia & Rey might be not just Italy’s best Chardonnay, but the best white wine in any category to come out of the Boot. The grapes for this wine are sourced from Gaja’s first Chardonnay vineyard, and the wine is named for both his oldest daughter, Gaia Gaja, and his grandmother, Clotilde Rey, a marketing mastermind who taught Angelo the importance of promotional efforts.

Casa Vinicola Bruno Giacosa Roero Arneis 2014 $29.99

Aromatic, surprisingly intense, and deeply enjoyable, this zesty 2014 Arneis is a fresh and pretty white that shows a nice weight on the palate. White peaches, lemons, pie crust and floral aromatics comprise the flavor profile, and a tangy acidity tempered with a creamy mouth-feel and piquant minerality complete the experience. This is a fantastic wine with fresh seafood or simply as an aperitif before the meal.

Gaja Chardonnay Gaia & Rey 2009 (375ml) $129.00

Gaia & Rey is fermented with naturally occurring yeasts found on the grape skins and in the winery, endowing the wine with a touch of exoticism. It is a hedonistic wine, delivering lusciously ripe flavors of guava, tangerine, honey, marzipan, oak and spice. Impressively chewy in the mouth, the concentrated, ripe fruit is perfectly balanced by a lively acidity that persists through the long, lingering finish.

Expert Picks: William Fèvre and Christian Moreau

Two expert selections from Michael Adler

Michael Adler 5.29.15Thanks to the likes of E&J Gallo and Carlo Rossi, Americans historically understood Chablis almost exclusively as cheap mass-produced jug wine, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Chablis is one of my favorite appellations for white Burgundy because of its zippy crispness, ultra-refreshing acidity, and beguiling mineral-driven complexity in the glass. And in addition to being incredibly food-friendly, it’s also often an incredible value, in part because of the way Chablis was historically marketed in the States. For those of you who enjoy a cleaner style of Chardonnay that’s less influenced by oak and more focused on minerality and bright citrus notes, I urge you to revisit Chablis and fall in love as I have.

When we talk about the absolute best that Chablis has to offer, there’s a small handful of elite estates that come to mind: Raveneau, Dauvissat, Christian Moreau and William Fevre. Today I want to focus on the latter two of these four powerhouse winemakers, Domaine Christian Moreau and Domaine William Fevre. Domaine Christian Moreau, is one of my top three producers of white wines in all of Burgundy, and that’s not an exaggeration. Moreau’s wines are so delicate yet powerful, so mind-bendingly complex and delicious, and they impress me greatly year in and year out for their precise and artful representations of both site and grape. The wines of Domaine Fevre are renowned for their laser-precise flavors, zippy acidity and immaculate detail. Classic in every way, Fevre uses oak judiciously and only in its top wines, and each and every Fevre bottling is a textbook example of its respective terroir.

William Fèvre Chablis 1er Cru Montmains 2013 (375 ml) $29.99

Fevre’s 2013’s are stunning from top to bottom, and considering how tricky the 2013 vintage was, the estate’s wines are even more impressive. Winemaker Didier Séguier feels that the 2013’s will provide incredible pleasure to both the purists as well as those looking for a little more approachability. The 2013 Chablis 1er Cru Montmains that I’m featuring today in 375ml half bottles is the perfect pour for a quiet weeknight when you want to enjoy a great glass of wine but don’t quite need a full bottle, and the price is just as tantalizing and approachable as the juice itself! Bright citrus and tart green apple fruits leap from the glass, supported by zesty minerals, a hint of salinity and bountiful mouth-watering acidity.

Christian Moreau Chablis Grand Cru Les Clos 2013 $109.99

Deriving from a walled vineyard plot at the bottom of the hill, closes to the village of Chablis, Christian Moreau’s Chablis 2013 Les Clos is a powerful, muscular Chardonnay that will benefit immensely from another 5+ years in the cellar. Les Clos is one of the only two wines Moreau produces that sees time in oak, but this is not an oaky wine in any way – the wood is there only to provide additional structure, depth and complexity, and plays only a very minor role in the wine’s flavor profile. This is an insanely complex and delicious Chardonnay and one that easily holds its weight against the great masters in Puligny, Meursault and Corton-Charlemagne. The domaine is currently transitioning between generations of the Moreau family, with father Christian passing the torch to his son Fabien, who has already demonstrated his unique talent and ability to make some of the world’s very best Chardonnay in Chablis.

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!

Go-To-Wine Tuesday: De Conciliis 2012 Donnaluna Fiano

A fresh, delicious, under $30 southern Italian white

WH1864-2TWhen I lived in Italy, I used to go down the coast and visit Napoli on the weekends to go sailing with my friends. One of our favorites wines was Fiano, a delicious white wine made with the indigenous Campania grape. Like Falanghina, another Campania white, Fiano is part of the southern Italian culture and identity, and as soon as you put your nose into the glass, images of the Amalfi coast immediately arise. Whenever, I smell Fiano, I see the warm night of the summer by the sea, eating some pasta alle vongole and a fresh glass of mineral-laden, aromatic white wine.

Fiano has been growingin southern Italy for hundreds of years’ the first mention of Fiano comes in the thirteenth century. While the most famous expression of Fiano is Fiano di Avellino DOCG, it’s not the only Fiano worth enjoying. I just discovered the fantastic Donnaluna Fiano 2012 from De Conciliis. Golden in the glass, this wine explodes with notes of golden apple, green fig, and white currant with accents of honeysuckle and star anise. Apple dominates on the medium-bodied palate, but it gets support from  citrus notes of  lemon and a suggestion of honey-roasted hazelnuts. This Bruno De Conciliis wine is a straightforward, very well made Fiano.

Terroir is particularly important for Fiano, and the wonderful terroir of Cilento with its volcanic soil surrounded by mountains and seas makes it thrive. Estate owner Bruno De Conciliis is one of a kind; he plays jazz in the cellars to keep his wines happy, which makes it difficult not to appreciate his aesthetic, and the deliciousness of his wines make it hard not to appreciate Bruno’s work with southern Italy’s great grape varietals. The family-run De Conciliis estate grows its grapes organically, but it’s transitioning to biodynamic protocol.

Bruno makes his Fiano in the “modern” style.  It’s a delicious, medium-acidic wine with a nice long finish; under $30, this wine comes at a fantastic price, and I highly recommend it.

Inside IWM, February 29 to March 3, 2016: You Gotta Have Heart

A look back at the week that was

Il Palazzone's olive trees in bloom

Il Palazzone’s olive trees in bloom

We kicked off the week with a look at the other great product from Italy–olive oil. Remembering her time in Italy, Janice Cable talked about why olive oil is good for your heart, both  literally and metaphorically. Sean Collins enjoyed an under $30 Aldo Conterno wine, and you bet your corkscrew it was delicious. And John Camacho Vidal went to Umbria, where he toured the iconic Paolo Bea estate–and got to meet Paolo himself!

Crystal Edgar looked forward to spring with two white Burgundies from Michel Niellon; these Chassagne-Montrachet bottlings will make you feel like flowers in bloom! Garrett Kowalsky also selected white wines to hurry spring’s arrival, but he chose bottles from Antinori’s San Giovanni della Sala and Burgundy’s Bachey-Legros. And Camacho Vidal dove into Chianti Classico, explaining the region’s DOCG laws and picking two favorites, La Maialina and Castello dei Rampolla.

Here’s to faith in warm weather and enjoying the wine you love, no matter the season!


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