The Inside Story from Italian Wine Merchants

Why the IWM Showroom is Different

It’s more than just our wines

Store 1I’ve often walked into wine shops–sometimes out of curiosity and sometimes because I’m looking for something specific–and each time I walk out of one, I appreciate more and more the way our showroom is set up.

I can easily see how the average wine-drinker, someone who has been recently kissed by the wine bug, or even someone with some wine experience, can feel intimidated or confused when shopping for wine. With few exceptions, I walk into wine shops to find a labyrinth of bottles scattered all over the place in no particular order and lacking the knowledgeable staff to guide me. Now that I do know a bit about wine, I’ve realized that the experience gets worse; so often I see a nice bottle from a great producer and a great vintage just sitting on a shelf under bright florescent bulbs. It’s enough to make me run out in disappointment or just grab anything out of frustration just to have something for dinner.

For the most, part people walk into IWM with something already in mind, but not always, so the other floor staff and I try to guide them. Since we are Italian Wine Merchants, everything on display is Italian (we do sell global wines, but these bottles are only rarely on display), but what sets us apart from all other wine sellers is the fact that we have only one bottle of each producer displayed on the shelf.  Well, this and our Vintage Tasting Room, whose brick walls are lined with killer bottles.

Store 3We don’t segregate between varietal or region; our organization is intuitive, simple and very friendly. The shelf is organized by price point, starting on the left with the lowest priced bottle increasing in price as you stroll to the right. Each bottle has a description of the region, varietal and tasting note next to it. We display only one bottle of each producer’s wine because everything from our delicious Per Linda Trebbiano d’Abruzzo (one of the best $11 bottles you’ll ever have) to the amazing six-liter bottle of 1999 Montevertine Le Pergole Torte (one of the best bottles you’ll ever have at 83 times that price) is kept in our temperature-controlled cellar. At any given time we have approximately 40-50,000 bottles in the cellar.

When people shop at IWM, chances are they will walk out with a smile. Maybe that’s why they keep coming back, though perhaps it’s the wine selection or our staff who’s eager to share their knowledge. I like to think it’s because of my charm, but in reality it’s a bit of all this combined.The other tool we have to better guide our clients is that we always have an open bottle so we can taste with them. This practice is extremely helpful, especially when we ask the clients if they are looking for anything in particular and they have no clue. Tasting with clients allows us firsthand to get a feel for clients’ palate and flavor profiles, what they like and dislike about the wine and point them in the direction of something they might enjoy at their particular price point. Once the client makes a selection, the bottle is sent up via dumbwaiter straight from the cellar at a cool 54°F to end up in the client’s warm hands. Everyone new to IWM always gets a kick out of watching the bottle pop up as if sent by the wine elves hidden in the cellar.

Go-To-Wine Tuesday: La Maialina 2010 Chianti Classico

A delicious, traditional Sangiovese Chianti Classico that’s just $19!

RD8749-2After spending Valentine’s Day with my girlfriend, we decided to sit down with her friends and enjoy some wine to close out the evening. I wanted to impress her friends, so I decided to bring a bottle of La Maialina 2010 Chianti Classico. The $19 Tuscan bottle became an instant hit. We were delighted by the wine’s complexity, its dark cherry nose, and its hints of smoke and spices.

La Maialina is a relatively new producer in Tuscany; however, this estate intends on maintaining the tradition of Tuscan winemaking. The name “La Maialina,” which means “little pig,” refers to the last indigenous pigs of Tuscany, and it acts as a reminder that this estate works to celebrate the region’s success. La Maialina keeps to its roots and creates a classic wine that builds on the Chianti’s 800 years of history. Utilizing some excellent local Tuscan grapes and time-tested Tuscan winemaking methods, La Maialina creates an elegant and complex wine with an almost ludicrously low price tag.

By the end of the night my fellow wine drinkers were convinced I had splurged on a bottle of wine for the occasion, and each of us fell in love with wine’s the delicate balance and the lingering sensation of sharp, acerbic fruit. This wine turned into a drinkable conversation piece and it served as the perfect icebreaker for the evening. The La Maialina Chianti Classico 2010 made me the hero of the night—not bad for a wine that costs less than $20.

Go-To-Wine Tuesday: Valle dell’Acate 2014 Frappato Vittoria

Juicy, zippy, delicious under $22 Frappato!

RD8758-2It was great to enjoy beautiful weather last weekend after being caged indoors from the blizzard the week before. The unseasonable warmth put me in a mood for something inexpensive, fruity, and good with a light meal. After doing a little research, I found this terrific catch, the Valle dell’Acate 2014 Frappato Vittoria. For a $22 bottle, this wine features noticeable depth and layers. Once I got past the smoothness, I was hit by a wave of red fruit and herbs, followed by a rush of juicy cherries.

Valle dell’Acate can trace its roots back to the nineteenth century; however that does not mean they’re afraid to embrace technology. Using a combination of classical winemaking and modern systems, this estate stresses eco-friendly sustainability, while also striving to use whatever means available to better its product. Rather than catering to market demands, the estate sticks to tradition and almost exclusively grows grapes native to Sicily. This vineyard uses Sicily’s indigenous Frappato grapes to create a velvety, yet distinctly fruity wine that is spectacular for its price range, and the result is an aromatic and velvety wine perfect for warm and light jacket weather.

My roommates and I were inspired me to forget last week’s blizzard and go exploring in the city for some of New York’s own indigenous plant life, so we visited Inwood Hill Park for its indigenous vegetation and spectacularly preserved Native American caves. Seeing New York’s natural side really helped further my appreciation of Valle dell’Acate’s commitment to sustainability and the pride this estate has in its heritage. After a long afternoon of exploring northern Manhattan, we returned home and enjoy some Sicilian history in a bottle. Just as we had hoped, a healthy meal of grilled chicken and green vegetables went perfectly with Valle dell’Acate’s Frappato Vittoria. This is an easy go-to wine choice for anyone looking for a touch of adventure, or just a day outside with friends.

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!

Go-To-Wine Tuesday: Cornarea 2014 Roero Arneis

A nicely acidic, floral Piemontese white that’s under $27

WH1992-2Arneis, also called Nebbiolo Bianco, stands alongside Gavi di Gavi as one of Piedmont’s most highly regarded white wines. Arneis almost went extinct, and it was rescued only in the 1970s when the Cornarea estate started replanting a 35-acre hillside vineyard with the grape, assuring its revival in the region. The DOCG Roero Arneis is located just northwest of Alba. Most wine producers here grow Nebbiolo, but Arneis has caught on in recent years.  Soils in Roero are primarily sandy, resulting in aromatic wines. Roero, like its neighboring regions, enjoys a continental climate, with altitudes edging around 1,300 feet above sea level, and the wines it produces tend to be highly structured, if more accessible than those of regions nearby.

Recently, IWM got in the , and I had to take a bottle home. Dry and crisp, this Roero Arneis bursts with blossom-like aromas complemented by flavors of fresh pear and stone fruits. This white is a great alternative to Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc. This ’14 has really nice acidity that makes it a perfect to complement a wide range of foods, from white meats to seafood. Given how freakishly warm the weather has been this fall, I’m glad I got more than one bottle of this Roero Arneis. Its versatility swings with the weather and my mood, and as we head toward the holidays, it’s great to have a delicious under $27 white on hand.

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