The Inside Story from Italian Wine Merchants

Inside IWM, June 22-25, 2015: Pop That Bottle!

A look back at the week that was

millesimatoThis past Sunday was summer solstice, and now that we’ve hit the high point of summer, things are very much heating up. Germane to this excitement is Matt Di Nunzio’s timely take on a $22 bottle of Prosecco–he served it at a summer feast, and all his guests fell in love with Col Vertoraz. We closed the week with tips on keeping your wine cool these summer months (seriously, car trunks are a killer!). In between, we offered up another installment of our Italian white wine grape guide (Inzolia to Nuragus!) and Emery Long detailed his move from IWM NYC to IWM Aspen–in time for the Aspen Food & Wine Classic!

Our Experts kicked off the week in style–David Gwo popped two gorgeous Billecart-Salmon Champagnes for you. John Camacho Vidal looked forward to pouring Brunello this summer, and chose a pair of vintage bottles from Lisini and Altesino. Garrett was reminded by his time at the Aspen Food & Wine Classic of the greatness of Domaine Lamarche. And Francesco Vigorito can’t hide his love for Luciano Sandrone, or the estate’s Barolo Cannubi Boschis.

Cheers to sharing what you love with the people you love, all across the USA!

Trading in Union Square for Aspen, Colorado

Trading in IWM NYC for IWM Aspen

Aspen Food and Wine 1Hopping from bustling Union Square in New York City to Aspen, Colorado, to join the IWM Aspen team during the 2015 Aspen Food & Wine Classic was quite the experience. Despite its remote location, Aspen is far from the sleepy one-horse ski-town I expected—especially during the Aspen Food & Wine Classic held every June. When I joined the IWM team last November, I’d read about our outpost in Aspen, and after receiving an offer to join the IWM Aspen team, I jumped at the opportunity to trade Gramercy Park for Aspen, Colorado.

Italian Wine Merchants Aspen’s store is located directly at the Little Nell, at the base of the Gondola at Aspen’s main mountain, 7,908 feet above sea level. The wines on display sit behind a glass door in a temperature-controlled cellar environment to shield them from the dry climate and high altitude. The shop has a select inventory; however, it’s just as exciting as New York’s, boasting iconic Italian wines from Gaja, Biondi-Santi, Tenuta San Guido Sassicaia, Giuseppe Quintarelli, and Cupano to name a few producers. The shelves at IWM Aspen also feature wines from around the world, including Burgundy, Bordeaux, Champagne, Rioja, Riberia del Duero, and Patagonia’s Rio Negro. Just as the Union Square location does, so IWM Aspen also hosts events and private tastings in the shop. The Aspen store is essentially its own vintage tasting room with seating for eight, surrounded by the glassed-in cellar.

Aspen Food and Wine 2This past weekend, I had the opportunity meet and greet the Aspenites at the Food & Wine classic, pouring wines at our booth, and while these wines were nice, the wines we poured in the store were incredible: 1997 Gaja Rennina, 2000 Poggio di Sotto Brunello di Montalcino, 2006 Aldo Conterno Granbussia, 2003 Rinaldi Barolo, 1973 Mastroberardino Taurasi, and a 1998 Sassicaia. We had a number of events, and I heard from many of our patrons, we were pouring the best wine in Aspen, which puts us in the running for the best wine pouring in the country.

Drop by if you find yourself in Aspen, and I’ll be glad to make your acquaintance, as well as help you find an ideal bottle of wine!

Anticipating the 2015 Aspen Food & Wine Classic

Looking forward to June 19-21

JPatFWFor three days in late June, Aspen, Colorado, becomes a hive of people, parties, booze and food. There is no place to park and there is no place to turn without bumping into a reveler, chef, winemaker or foodie. The Aspen Food and Wine Classic started as a small event for winemakers to showcase their wares. Local industry elite would walk the booths tasting wine and deciding what to serve for the next season. Now, Food & Wine has become the event of the year. It marks the end of off-season and the beginning of summer. Celebrities, famous Chefs and Top Chef watchers from around the globe fly into Aspen’s tiny airport on private jets and commercial airlines to drink, eat, and be merry for three straight days.

Aspen Food & Wine Classic begins on the third Friday of June and lasts until Sunday. For the lucky pass holders (passes sold out within a month this year) this means a total of five grand tasting events and six lecture events. The fun begins on Friday at around 11 am when while a line begins to form and stretches from the entrance of the Grand Tasting Tent at Wagner Park all the way down the cobblestone mall to not-quite-reach Paradise Bakery. Each person in the line wears a pass-holder’s lanyard and carries a cloth bag containing swag, magazines and notebooks.

Inside the park has been transformed into a wonderland. Each of the two Grand Tasting Tents are filled with row upon row of tables dressed in white table cloths with large blue signs detailing each winemaker or company. The corners of each tent anchored with large brands: Stella Artois pours chalices of golden beer paired with pork sliders; or Bombay Sapphire taunts you with paired offerings from Food & Wine Magazine’s best chefs and mixologists; and the Spanish tent features Iberican Hams are slices with wheels of manchego and wines such as Riojas and Tempranillos. The courtyard outside the tents offers a Patron Booth featuring refreshing Mojitos or Popsicles, or bookssignings, and water stations. Visitors lounge on chairs and tables taking in the beautiful visa of a green mountain set against a perfect bluebird sky.

I have been lucky enough to attend three years of Aspen F&W, once as a pass holder, once as a chef, and once as a wine representative. The first day I walked into my regular coffee spot, I locked eyes with Anthony Bordain and almost fainted. As the weekend went on I became accustomed to seeing famous people everywhere. Mario Batali at a lecture event, Tom Colicchio walking past on the street, Mario Lopez interviewing Jose Andres. After three days of grand tastings and lectures, I was unable to move.

My second F&W I helped create the menus and execute food for three parties, as well as poured spritzes in the tent. At the third I attended an aged-wine party, an Oyster and Tiki party, a Champagne Party and five industry events in two days. This year Italian Wine Merchants Aspen will have a booth inside the Grand Tasting Tent. We will be pouring classic IWM wines, and chatting with attendees about their wine tastes, needs and desires. If you plan to attend please drop by and say hello. We would love to meet you and give you the inside scoop to all the happening events!

Inside IWM, May 4-7, 2015: Winning Hearts and Minds

A look back at the week that was

11188270_791290737606220_6106356872160521462_nWe began the week with Will Di Nunzio’s detailed recollection of one special night spent with eight vintage Biondi-Santi Brunello Riserva bottles, each more memorable than the next. We closed with a Mother’s Day piece that questioned “feminine” wines and suggested some powerful bottles. In between, Julia Punj offered another lesson in classic mixology with her take on the 20th Century, a perfect dessert cocktail. And John Camacho Vidal enjoyed a delicious under $20 Vermentino from Antinori’s Bolgheri estate.

Guided by her love for unique wines, Crystal Edgar expertly picked a pair of vintage beauties from Antonio Ferrari. Robin Kelley O’Connor saluted two great Burgundy makers, Michel Lafarge and Simon Bize, with his selections. And Justin Kowalsky looked at the “little brothers” of wines, Bourgogne and Rosso di Montalcino, selecting a pair of bottles that are delicious–and affordable.

IWM is pleased to be taking part in Tinto for TECHO fundraising wine dinner again this year–join us on May 28, 2015 for a very special evening of wine and food at the Four Seasons, and help raise money for this organization that provides social development programs in education, health, and housing to extreme poverty communities in 19 countries across Latin America and the Caribbean.

Powerful Mother’s Day Wines

Why you should ditch “feminine” and “masculine”

Ornella Tondini at Cupano

Ornella Tondini at Cupano

This Sunday is Mother’s Day in the US (it’s in March in the UK). Historically, wine suggestions for Mother’s Day range from bubbly to rosé to white to sweet wines. These types of wines are stereotypically “feminine,” and it has as much to do with the way that we write about wines as it has to do with the way that we understand gender. It has very little, however, to do with the wines that women drink.

About a year ago in a post explaining some common wine terms, the Wine Enthusiast unintentionally raised consciousness about the gendered ways we talk about wine. Writing about the term “feminine,” Alexis Korman said:

Don’t automatically bristle at this gendered wine term. According to Ross Wheatley, director of food and beverage at Lucy Restaurant and Bar in Yountville, California, this terms is not only “easy to relate to,” it also perfectly describes wines that tend to be lower in alcohol and tannins.

“Imagine a wine that has similar characteristics to a woman and her best qualities,” says Wheatley. “A wine that is light, refined and delicate might be called feminine; the polar opposite of those so-called masculine qualities in wine—strong, muscular, larger and bigger.”

Wine writers leapt on this division where the “strong” and “muscular” are automatically male and the “refined” and “delicate” aren’t merely female—they’re a woman’s “best qualities.” Erika Szyanski at The Wineoscope wrote, “Women can and should be praised for being a lot more than that: strong, intelligent, capable, funny, and any other praiseworthy characteristic we appreciate in people.” And on The Grape Collective Jameson Fink chimed in, “Well my ‘auto-bristle’ mode engages when it comes to ascribing inherent characteristics based on gender.”

A cursory news search of “feminine wine” suggests that this act of putting the light, graceful wines in the ladies’ room and the robust, powerful wines over there in the men’s is far from over. Just today, Katie Kelly Bell, writing a Forbes piece questionably titled “50 Shades of Rosé,” describes one as “elegant and quite feminine.” And last Thursday, Alan Kingsbury segues from “the feminine charm of rosé to the robust masculinity” of Ribera del Duero. A week before that, Bill Zacharkiw, writing about Beaujolais for the Montreal Gazette, extolls the “feminine quality in Chiroubles, Chénas and Régnié“; from what I can tell, this quality includes the ability to go with fish.

Maybe you’re a feminist and you’re on board with me already, understanding that language shapes our understanding of not merely a wine but also the world. But maybe you’re not. Maybe your thinking runs along the lines that wine is like people, and like humans, wine shows characteristics that we tend to think of as falling into camps of masculine and feminine. I probably can’t argue you out of this kind of stereotypy. As much as I’d like you to understand that it’s important to women to be able to be strong, robust and powerful (and, I’d also argue, it’s important to men to be able to be refined, elegant and graceful), it’s likely that you’re not going to be swayed by me.

Rather, I’d suggest this: that every time you use “feminine” or “masculine” to describe a wine, you’re running the chance of alienating people. If you’re a wine marketer, as I am, this is important. I want everyone to feel comfortable drinking rosés, Barolos, Rioja, and Vin Santo. In fact, it’s my job to ensure that men want to buy traditionally “feminine” wines and that women want to buy traditionally “masculine” ones.

Maria Teresa Mascarello looks happy in her cantina

Maria Teresa Mascarello looks happy in her cantina

If you’re a wine critic, this choice is still important. You may not have a horse in the race of selling that wine, but you do have a choice about the “face” you show the world. When, as Allen Balik did, you defend using the terms “feminine” and “masculine” by saying, “There is nothing ‘sexist’ in the terminology and neither term should be interpreted as a negative descriptor,” you’re running the risk of turning off a whole host of readers: ie, people like me. Moreover, you’re showing yourself to be a person who will dismiss the question of sexism with a wave of your hand. The twenty-first century is no time for this stance.

Which still leaves you and your mom standing around wondering what you can drink. Maybe you have a mom who really likes stereotypically “feminine” wines (I do), or maybe you have a mom who gravitates toward towering big reds. You can make a choice that will not only delight your mom but will also honor the sentiment of the day: you can pick a wine made by a woman winemaker.

Allegra, Albiera and Alessia Antinori are all winemakers, and Albiera helms the Antinori’s estate in Piemonte while Alessia is spearheading the renovation of Fattoria di Fiorano in Lazio. Gaia Gaja has slowly been taking control from her father, Angelo, and Mateja Gravner is poised to take over for Josko. Maria Teresa Mascarello has been running Bartolo Mascarello for years; Marta Rinaldi is taking over for her father, Giuseppe; and Ornella Tondini works alongside her husband, Lionel Cousin, at Cupano. And Silvia Imparato—who makes a seriously brawny, decidedly sensual wine at her estate—has long been a winemaker. And that’s just a cursory list.

Please let me know your favorite women winemakers in the comments. You don’t have to be a mother to enjoy really, really good wine. You just have to have had one.

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