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.

Inside IWM, March 21-24, 2016: It’s Spring (and Easter)!

A look back at the week that was

IMG_2225This weekend is Easter Sunday, which is preoccupying much, although not all, of IWM’s staff. We finished the week with Garrett Kowalsky’s ode to pork and his picks for pairing with ham (there’s even a poem from a lauded poet). Our go-to wine, coincidentally, would be a find suggestion for this Sunday’s feast; Sean Collins wrote about a$22 Sartarelli Verdicchio so good it makes converts out of red wine lovers.

John Camacho Vidal offered a brief history lesson before picking two Italian Cabernet Franc wines, both from Antinori. Michael Adler looks forward to 2014 Burgundies by selecting a pair of beloved 2013 Chassagne-Montrachet bottles. When it comes to pairing with spring’s tender bounty, Crystal Edgar turns to Umbria’s Castello della Sala, another Antinori holding, for her selections. And Francesco Vigorito has your value Burgundy needs covered with two lovely Pinot Noir bottles, both under $40.

Cheers to you, your family and to spring, however you’re celebrating it!

What to Pour with Your Easter Ham

Balancing fruit and acidity is a challenge–here’s how to meet it

IMG_2225I love celebrating Easter. In addition to all of the religious ceremony, my family celebrates with a feast—a veritable cornucopia of dishes and dressings as far as the eye can see or the table can handle. At the center of it all, as with many families, sits a large, glistening, succulent ham. (A couple of years ago, the NY Times offered a helpful article on how to pick out a good ham.) It’s a tradition, and it makes me very, very happy.

But the eternal question is this: what wine do you pair with a ham? I am glad you asked. Here are a few ideas kicking around my head to bring home this weekend, and one wine immediately popped into my head. The 2014 Sartarelli Verdicchio Castelli di Jesi for under $18. I would be shocked if you had not already heard me sing the praises of the region of Le Marche and what its  doing with the Verdicchio grape. In my humble opinion, this remarkably refreshing yet detailed and crisp grape is poised to be the Next Big Thing in Italian Whites.

As for the red selection, you need a wine with bountiful fruit. Trying to combat the savory meat with a tannin-laden wine will end in your cursing the decisions you’ve made. Your bottle should be bright, vibrant and relatively devoid of mouth-puckering tannins. I have picked up a few bottles of the Domaine Faiveley Mercurey 2012 Clos des Myglands for just under $60. It’s dense and rich; juicy raspberries explode from the glass and match the festive mood of the occasion. Velvety tannins work in harmony with the dish to result in an altogether charming experience.

Here’s wishing you all a very Happy Easter. Enjoy the time you spend with your family!

P.S. I would like to leave you with a favorite poem of mine regarding the joys of pork.

ODE TO PORK

I wouldn’t be here
without you. Without you
I’d be umpteen
pounds lighter & a lot
less alive. You stuck
round my ribs even
when I treated you like a dog
dirty, I dare not eat.
I know you’re the blues
because loving you
may kill me—but still you
rock me down slow
as hamhocks on the stove.
Anyway you come
fried, cued, burnt
to within one inch
of your life I love. Babe,
I revere your every
nickname—bacon, chitlin
craklin, sin.
Some call you murder,
shame’s stepsister—
then dress you up
& declare you white
& healthy, but you always
come back, sauced, to me.
Adam himself gave up
a rib to see yours
piled pink beside him.
Your heaven is the only one
worth wanting—
you keep me all night
cursing your four—
letter name, the next
begging for you again.

—from Dear Darkness

Kevin Young

Distinguished Poet and National Book Award Finalist

Go-To-Wine Tuesday: Sartarelli 2013 Verdicchio Tralivio

A $22 white that makes converts out of red wine lovers

WH1822-2When the sun is out and the sky is blue, there’s nothing like a good white wine. You hear a lot of wine drinkers say, “I’m just more of a red person. With all deference to these people, I think they haven’t been properly introduced to a great white wine. I decided to put this theory to the test this past weekend, using my roommates, avowed red wine lovers, as the test subjects. I went with the Sartarelli 2013 Verdicchio Tralivio, an excellent starter wine, and the result was just what I was looking for.

Sartarelli began its career selling its grape production every year; however, in 1972 the property starting making its own wine. Picking fruit only from the oldest vines and selecting the finest grapes in its vineyards, Sartarelli produces a unique, rustic, and full-bodied wine. Verdicchio holds a reputation as being one of Italy’s finest white grapes, lending its floral and fruity character to many beloved Italian white wines. However well known, Verdicchio reaches great heights with the talents of Sartarelli’s winemaker Alberto Mazzoni. Sartarelli grows only Verdicchio, and the estate consistently crafts excellent quality wines. By sticking to traditional cultivation methods, meticulously searching for the best low-yield grapes, and perfecting its aging protocol, Sartarelli creates an intense and complex Verdicchio that most producers can only dream about.

This Verdicchio Tralivio was a terrific starter wine, especially given the $22 price tag. As I had anticipated, the expressions on my red-wine-loving roommates’ faces changed as they were hit with notes of lemon and pineapple followed by a wave of flowers, all followed by a surprising late hint of smokiness. As it crossed the palate, this wine revealed an excellent feel and consistency, likely due to the meticulous aging process put forth by these masters of Verdicchio.  This Sartarelli Verdicchio is very food-friendly, particularly with white meat and greens, and, more importantly, its easy drinkability made white wine fans out of my red-wine friends.

It’s National Artichoke Heart Day!

What should you use to toast your artichoke?

artichokes_bkgrdIt’s National Artichoke Heart Day. A member of the thistle family, artichokes are delicious, if sometimes prickly. I’m a big fan of their mealy, rubbery, fibrous texture, and their slightly sweet, herbaceous flesh that’s reminiscent of fennel. Rarely have I encountered an artichoke I haven’t enjoyed eating. I like them small and fried, big and steamed, chilled with hollandaise, hearted and pickled. I like them mashed into tapenade, stuffed with breadcrumbs, barbecued in the Spanish style, even turned into liqueur, as they are in Cynar, an aperitif made by Campari.

I love artichokes, but they are notoriously difficult to pair with wine. For one thing, artichokes contain cynarin, a compound that makes food taste sweet, and putting them with red wine makes the wine taste weirdly metallic. Like green beans and asparagus, artichokes can be the death of wines. But, as the adage goes, what grows together goes together, and from Rome to Sicilia, artichokes are a mainstay of Italian cooking.

I turned the question over to IWM’s authorities to see how they handle the thorny issue of pairing artichokes and wines.

Francesco Vigorito:

Sardinia is big into artichokes, so maybe a Vermentio di Galura for white, or you could also go for a Punica if you’re looking for a red. If you do floured fried baby artichokes with a squeeze of lemon, then a sparkler to cut through the fry would be nice. Maybe something with a good fruitiness to it like the Barone Pizzini’s Rose Franciacorta, the slight sweetness in the wine should cut the artichoke quite nicely.

 

Crystal Edgar:

As a rule of thumb with wine and food pairings, the stronger the acid in the food, the more challenging the pairing. Vegetables like artichokes, asparagus spinach and other bitter greens are rather acidic but can be tamed by adding sweetness and/or richness, which helps to mute the acidity. Without going to sweet on the spectrum, I would recommend Pinot Gris from Alsace or Oregon, Friulano from Italy, Grüner Veltliner from Austria or another weighty white with some residual sweetness.

Garrett Kowalsky:

Pairing artichokes with wine is always a difficult task. Many times I opt for other beverages, but that is not always an option for my clients. My suggestion is to pick a high acid white with little to no oak. A bottle like that will be less likely to be thrown off by the strong flavors in the food. Think Sauvignon Blanc, or if you really prefer Chardonnay, then lean towards the wines from Chablis. Finally, don’t forget some of the delightful bottlings from Italy like Verdicchio and Vermentino.

John Camacho Vidal:

I have played around with different wines to pair with artichokes and have found that a very dry, high acid wine or a Fino Sherry with floral notes always does well. I’m also a big fan of orange wines, and I think they pair great with artichokes. I suggest clients they try their favorite artichoke dish with Gravner anfora white. Gravner’s oxidative quality mixed with the wine’s fruit will really bring the flavors together.

 

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