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One of the standouts of the fabulous Brovia 2013s is the Barolo; that is, the Barolo Classico; the ‘straight’ Barolo; the Barolo Normale (a term that producers don’t care for). In the classic manner, Brovia’s Barolo is a blend of 5 sites, each of which brings its character and thus complexity to what is a particularly good bottle of wine. The development of single-vineyard bottlings in Piedmont has been hugely important for our appreciation and understanding of the individual vineyards, but we sometimes miss out because we are distracted by their prestige, while there are blended wines that are every bit as good – and in the case of this wine – better than most other producers top wines. This one is very fine, with great lift, lovely subtle fruit, and ripe tannins. It’s medium to full-bodied and showing quite rich; like the other 2013s it’s a wine for the cellar. Jamie Wolff
A consistently excellent wine — we've been lucky to get to taste this several times in the last few years. It needs a lot of time to breathe, and then it provides a classic example of fully mature Nebbiolo. Jamie Wolff
Ferdinando Principiano is part of the next generation in Barolo who are guaranteeing that our kids and grandkids are ensured a supply of brilliant wines (some of the others on my short list are the Brovia family, Mario Fontana, Giacomo Fenocchio, Elio Sandri, Fabio Alessandria at Burlotto, Gianni Canonica – not kids, but experienced wine makers in their prime). I’ve told the story before about how around 2008 Ferdinando completely changed course from making full-on modern style wine to full-on traditional wines, which is a courageous move under any circumstance, and one which is yielding beautiful wines. And beautiful vines: his vineyards are also gorgeous.The Barolo is a blend of fruit from Boscaretto, Baudana, and Leirano – all Serralunga vineyards. It’s very good indeed, harmonious and balanced, with lovely fruit, fine tannin, and surprisingly accessible (when tasted in May 2017). Jamie Wolff
Allowing for the fact that wine is a very subjective experience, I like to think that I call it as I see it. So I believe I’d know if it was a disaster, but otherwise I’m irrational and unreliable on the subject of G. Rinaldi. When I’m there, I wander around in a kind of stupor of infatuation with the wines. My penetrating notes (for 2013 Tre Tine, for example) say things like “super-great” [full stop]. I suppose if I have to have a wine crush, it might as well be on one of the best wineries in the world. Jamie WolffPS: Please don’t shoot the messenger. We don’t make the prices (neither, so far as I can tell, do the Rinaldis, because the wines leave the cellar at very reasonable prices). We’re well into the world of luxury goods here, and all I can do is sigh and make puppy dog eyes at the bottles while they’re in the shop. I do think it’s an objective fact that these are great wines and even if it’s a gratuitous comparison, they are the superior of many far more expensive wines.
Last May we tried a ton of Dolcetto in the company of two distinguished tasters who kept saying they didn’t like Dolcetto, which tends to put a damper on the experience. Sandri’s, however, made them sit up and take notice, so I give them credit for staying alert and flexible enough to change their minds. It’s bracingly juicy with wild brambly fruit that’s balanced with savoury herbs and chalky stone. Medium-bodied, very lively and lifted, it’s long and complete. I happen to like Dolcetto, but if they were all half as good as this one I might say I love it. Jamie Wolff
Frascole is doing an amazing job of making old-school Chianti at bargain prices. This is really an honest wine (made from organic grapes) that’s fairly full-bodied but with good balance, nice dry fruit, and classic Chianti earthiness. A perfect wintry red for a cold night around the fire (electronic or otherwise), and a total steal.
From very old vines (replanted in 2015), this is very much in the same mold as the Chianti – and was vinified identically – but is considerably deeper and rounder without any additional wood, alcohol, or extract – just a direct expression of the old vines. I think this is remarkable – it strikes a fascinating balance between palate-enveloping darker fruit and finesse. Really a super wine. Jamie Wolff
Sa’etta is a cuvee dedicated to the best terroir of the Monte Bernardi estate: the oldest vines planted 45 years ago in the distinct compact sandstone of the area known as Pietraforte. The wine made from the best bunches of Sangiovese which are fermented on skins for 4 weeks and aged in used Slavonian and Austrian Botti for at least 2 years. The nose is intense and forward with a deep earthy tone layered with notes of tobacco, thyme, and rosemary followed by black cherry fruit. Full with grippy tannins and plenty of acidity, the palate is quite structured without being heavy or over-extracted leading into a intensely mineral finish. An assertive wine that is all the better without the presence of new oak or other “prestigious” flourishes. Perfect for the cellar, I would recommend decanting if drinking now and pairing with any full-flavored foods. For me it will always be the perfect match for a roasted leg of lamb. Andy Paynter
The Fiasco from Monte Bernardi is a more playful cuvee, but the wine inside the bottle is no less serious for the packaging. Produced from certified organic Sangiovese farmed at high altitude, fermented with native yeast, and aged for a year in tank it is meant to be fresh and easy going. Red cherries and raspberries overlay fresh mint and sage on the nose with a slight tone of red roses. The palate is light and juicy with only a bit of tannin and a slightly bitter finish. All in all this is a classic Italian table wine, able to match with whatever happens to be for dinner though certainly perfect for your next pizza night. Andy Paynter
Retromarcia means “to back up” or “to reverse” and is Michael Schmelzer’s reference to an old approach to Chianti that is hard to find today, focused on allowing the character of Sangiovese to show above everything else. The wine is made from 100% Sangiovese composed of young vines planted on a mix of galestro and sandstone soils. The grapes are fermented with native yeast on the skins for 2 weeks in stainless steel and then raised in a mixture of old barrels and unlined concrete tanks for 18 months before being bottled unfiltered. This wine to me is always quite pretty and the 2015 vintage is no exception. Pale ruby in the glass, it smells of bright red cherry fruit, violets, and woody herbs with slightly darker earthy tone underneath. On the palate, it is light and quite refreshing with great acidity and lots of sour cherry fruit backed by delicate tannins. As a classic Chianti should be the acidity is mouthwatering, warming up the palate for a range of food; try it with everything from classic red sauce pastas, sauteed greens, and saltier cheeses all the way to richer food like roasted lamb or game birds. Andy Paynter
San Fernando’s Ciliegiolo is a perfect example of how delightful the grape Ciliegiolo can be when made as a varietal wine. The wine comes from a 1.7 hectare parcel of young vines planted at 320 meters on a deep sandy soil over clay. The grapes are fermented with native yeasts over 12 days, rested on the lees for five months, and bottled unfined with only a light filtration. The wine smells of sour cherries, raspberries, woody green herbs, and just a whiff of lavender. The palate is playful, with refreshing acidity and very soft tannins giving the wine a juicy feel. This is an honest, quaffable wine that will pair effortlessly with all sorts of food: try it with caprese salad, cured salmon, soft cheese, salami, braised pork or enjoy it on its own. Andy Paynter
This is a fantastic straw hued Soave (Garganega) from the mother-daughter team at Adalia in the Veneto. Crisp and dry with a hint of grassy texture and a long mineral finish. Eben Lillie
Falanghina seems to be one of the great success stories of southern Italy, emerging from relative obscurity despite being a truly ancient variety into a nearly ubiquitous staple on the market. That has lead regrettably (and predictably) to any number of wines that fail to show the real virtues of the grape. Agnanum Falanghina is anything but predictable; produced from terraced vineyards of own-rooted vines ranging in age from 10 to 60 years old, possible only because of the particular soil of the area, the wine is pure and piercingly mineral. The nose is tart, showing pithy lemon and orange with delicate white florals, notes of mint and lemon balm and a characteristic hint of peach pit. The wine is almost airy on the palate with a fairly soft texture and fresh acidity showing a more deliberately stone fruit character of yellow peach and fresh apricot with a delicate saline finish. it is an obvious match to simple fish dishes but would be equally suited to a wide range of food: try it with goats milk cheese, olives, chicken, or egg dishes. Andy Paynter
Bettigna Vermentino is a classic example of the grape from a region known for Vermentino (or is it known for Pigato?): the Colli di Luni straddling the border of Liguria and Tuscany. Fairly deep and golden in the glass, the nose is dense with ripe stone fruit and golden apples with subtle notes of honeysuckle and thyme and a whiff of zesty citrus. Medium weight on the palate with real focus, the acidity and mineral tones of the wine make the fruit seem leaner but in a refreshing way with a saline and slightly bitter finish. Fairly bracing by itself, the wine shines with food; it would suit flounder simply fried, skate with pesto, or any delicate fish quite well. Andy Paynter
The 2016 Lombardo Gavi is another fantastic vintage from our favorite producer of Cortese. The grapes are hand-harvest, gently pressed, rested briefly on their skins and then held on the lees 5 months before being bottled. The nose shows bright lemon zest and with a slightly pithy tone and tart white peaches with a distinct note of beeswax and subtle white flowers. It is bright on the palate with crisp acidity but is still mid-weight with a slight leesy quality and a grippy mineral finish. Lombardo’s Gavi would be well suited to fresh goat or sheep's cheese like chèvre, broiled fish, chicken dishes, or citrusy salads. AP
Timorasso is a golden-colored grape from Piedmont's Colli Tortonese. Aside from Gavi and Moscato, Piedmont is not well known for white wines, and Timorasso has a bit more richness and weight compared to most white wine grapes. There's a bit of spice and an almost nutty character that complements marmalade and orange fruit tones. This wine is very interesting to try as an example of an heirloom variety that almost went extinct, and it is extremely capable at the dinner table for anything from seafood, Middle Eastern food, or rich pastas. John Rankin
The 2014 Sant’Erasmo Bianco is a striking wine grown on the island of San Erasmo within the lagoon of Venice. Premised on Malvasia Istriana but comprised of a number of other local cultivars all planted on its own root stock, the wine is deeply colored in the glass, with a nose reminiscent of ripe golden apples and honeysuckle undercut by a salty tone. The palate is bold, with an initial attack of juicy orchard fruit and rich texture, followed by a honeyed note giving way to a long savory finish. More than anything else, the Orto shows a stern backbone of minerality bracing its mellow acidity and weight on the palate. I served it with shrimp cooked with their own stock and butter, but this wine would pair beautifully with anything out of the sea, soft cheese, or rich vegetable dishes. Open early and serve slightly chilled. Andy Paynter
Ronchi di Cialla is most famous for their role in reviving the grape Schioppettino, and rightfully so, but the Ribolla Gialla will always be my favorite. It is a distinctive expression of Ribolla from 30-year-old vines exposed to the south west that shows a delicate fruit character and crunchy minerality. The wine is vinified in stainless steel, held in contact with the lees for three months with frequent batonnage, and then bottled unfiltered. Quite pale in the glass, the nose shows a mix of lemon pith and clementines over ripe golden apples, white flowers with a woodsy note of sage and underbrush. Medium bodied with crisp acidity, it has a light texture with juicy citrus fruit and has a sharply mineral finish. A lovely wine it would pair beautifully with pan seared scallops, fried flounder, or skate dressed with herbs and served with fresh spring peas. Andy Paynter
The wines of Azienda Agricola Adalia are endlessly enjoyable, none more so than their very traditional Valpolicella. The wine is produced from a blend of Corvina and Corvina Grossa with small percentages of Rondinella and Molinara trained in pergola and farmed biodynamically. The grapes are destemmed and fermented with native yeast in 40 hectoliter oak vats on the skins for one week. Malolactic occurs naturally in stainless steel where the wine is rested for a few months before bottling. The nose shows tart red fruit and a bit of orange zest over herbal notes of sage, mint, and a whiff of pungent spices. The wine is light on the palate with bright acidity and restrained tannins offering a slightly bitter, mineral finish. Adalia’s Valpolicella is a perfect match for a herbed stuffing, roast turkey with gravy, green bean casserole, or for game meats prepared simply. Andy Paynter
The Brecciaro cuvée from Bussoletti plays on a different characteristic of Ciliegiolo than many other wines made with the grape, emphasizing the grape’s particular soft texture. Ciliegiolo never yields a tannic wine but it also is never faint or airy on the palate. Brecciaro is fermented in steel and then aged for a year, about 70% in stainless steel on the fine lees and 30% in old French oak botti. The wine is then blended and held in bottle for another six months. The nose is redolent of roses, cherries, and ripe strawberries but it is the texture of the wine, silky with delicate acidity and whispery tannins, that is really appealing. It is certainly a more sultry expression of the grape. I paired the wine with braised pork shoulder but it would be excellent with risotto, creamy polenta dishes, duck breast, or sweet potatoes. Andy Paynter
Bussoletti’s Ciliegiolo di Narni “0535” is a fresh, easygoing red wine from central Umbria and shows exactly why I have fallen in love with the grape. Produced from a four hectare plot of younger vines planted facing north to encourage elegance over ripeness, the wine is fermented with ambient yeast in steel tank and bottled after resting for six months. The nose is rich with fresh red cherries and rose floral notes with delicate tones of black pepper. Juicy on the palate with restrained acidity and very little tannin, it shows more strawberry and raspberry fruit. This is a wine that can lift through richer foods: try it as a foil to creamy or cheesy pasta dishes, as a pairing for charcuterie, or enjoy it on its own. The lion on the label is a reference to C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia which were inspired by images of the medieval castle in Narni (also pictured). Andy Paynter
High atop the Murge Plateau in Puglia, Cantine Carpentiere is a small family-owned winery that produces two indigenous Puglian grape varieties: Nero di Troia and Bombino Nero. Made from 70-year-old Bombino Nero vines, this is the only rosato in Southern Italy that has DOCG status. At 450 meters above sea level, the vineyards are rich in limestone and surrounded by stone walls originally built to protect local flocks of sheep. Tannins from the maceration process make this a great food wine, but it retains its freshness and acidity from the 5-6% of white grapes that are naturally included in each cluster of Bombino Nero. Ripe watermelon and wild strawberries with hints of pepper, try pairing it with a salmon salad, orecchiette with broccoli rabe or even a juicy burger. Christine Manula
High atop the Murge Plateau, Cantine Carpentiere is a small family-owned winery that produces two indigenous Puglian grape varieties: Nero di Troia and Bombino Nero. Uva di Troia is an ancient grape apparently named after the Puglian town of Troia, which was founded after the siege of ancient Troy. Carpentiere’s Nero di Troia is on the lighter side of some of their neighbors, with raspberry, cranberry and a hint of spice and vanilla on the nose. It starts off quite floral and develops into a more rustic wine as it opens, with touches of cranberry, rose petals, spice and smoky cloves. I think this is a great summer red and perfect for barbecuing ribs, burgers or a hanger steak. Christine Manula
Dry Lambrusco rosato still seems to be a bit of a rarity, which is baffling when examples like Corte Paglieri’s rosato are available. A deep bronze-hued ruby, the aromas of the wine practically jump out of the glass showing rhubarb, tart cherries, citrus zest with a deep violet floral tone. The palate is crisp, almost searingly so with out food, with a very delicate bubble and very low tannin, and notes of peaches and juicy strawberries. While not suited to the richest foods, this would be a perfect match for soft cheese, bitter veggies like fiddle head ferns, fatty fish, roast chicken, or pork chops with rhubarb compote. Andy Paynter
Torre Nova is 100% Negroamaro from 30-60 year old vines grown on clay and rocky pebbles. The 2015 is quite light and a bit higher in acid than the last vintage, but it’s really pretty on the palate. Think tart cherries and red plums, it’s very herbaceous with a hint of nuts and pepper on the finish. Try pairing this with roast pigeon, a simply prepared fish or even beef tartare. Christine Manula
Named after Natalino’s wife Anne, this Negroamaro is from 30-60 year old vines grown on clay and chalk. At harvest, Natalino destems and presses the grapes 2 -3 times, puts it in cement tanks for five days of skin contact, racks the wine and then leaves it in cement from September to March. Before bottling, he puts the wine in stainless steel for a few weeks to refine and then adds a very low dose of sulfur at bottling. The result is a medium bodied wine with good tannins that tastes of dark cherries and cocoa, with a hint of nuts and pepper. Try pairing it with a traditional Pugliese dish like pasta with chickpeas and anchovies, slow cooked lamb with potatoes, or just throw a tuna steak on the grill. Christine Manula
“Nataly” is named after Natalino himself. The wine is fermented and aged in concrete tanks and underground concrete vats, with a very low dose of sulfur at bottling. It’s bit fuller in body than the Negroamaro with meatier tannins, juicy dark plums, violets, anise and a hint of pepper on the finish. Try pairing Primitivo with Spaghetti Puttanesca, Seafood Jambalaya, Short Ribs or hard cheeses like Edam or Smoked Gouda. Christine Manula
Pitch-perfect weeknight Nero d’Avola: light on its feet, with a vibrant acidity and ripe berry and juicy plum fruits. The bright, playful palate is balanced by just the right hint of dried herbs and spices to underscore any red sauce, pie or pasta. The Rossojbleo is dry farmed from about ten hectares of head-trained bush vines without the use of any chemicals or machines. Gulfi’s commitment to a manual harvest, along with organic practices in the vineyard and vinification using native yeasts, makes for a seriously satisfying young wine. And while this definitely holds up on day two, it’s pretty hard to resist finishing the bottle!
Il Fortunato aced it with their Rosato Spumante; another lively sparkler produced from organic vineyards with only a minimal addition of sulfur. The nose is playful with a mix of bright berry fruits and fresh red cherries cut by tart apple skins. On the palate, a delicate mousse lifts the wine showing some weight, great acidity, and just touch of sugar. Absolutely lovely! Pair with charcuterie, simple pasta, or simply drink on its own. Andy Paynter
Drogone comes from a small parcel of vines planted in 1964. The wine is aged for two years in older, large tonneau of French oak, and then for years in bottle — the 2007 is the current release. A wine of great depth and considerable density, it shares the elegance and finesse of all Madonna delle Grazie wines. It's very cool to taste the highest quality Aglianico that has some age; we're happy that it's still available at such a fair price. John Rankin and Jamie Wolff
Lagrein is a grape that shares many similarities with Syrah: deep berry fruit, a savory smoky character, and distinct herbal tones. In the hands of Martin Gojer it yields a full-bodied wine that nonetheless captures a sense of alpine freshness. The wine is fermented with 70% whole clusters for four weeks with a submerged cap for the first two. It is then raised in old, small barrels for two years and bottled without fining or filtration. The wine shows savory aromas of ripe blackberry, turned earth, leather, tobacco, and black pepper. The palate is full and quite smooth, with grippy tannins, focused acidity, and more flavors of forest floor and rich black fruit. It is well suited to rich foods; try it with game meat or lamb, smoked sausage, cured cheese, hearty vegetable dishes, or with stew. Andy Paynter
Of all the wines made by Martin Gojer at Pranzegg, the Schiava is to me the most interesting. Schiava wines are often pleasant thirst-quenchers of little substance but Martin saw greater potential in his vines. Sourced from a 50 year-old parcel of Schiava trained in pergola and farmed biodynamically, this is a more profound expression of the grape. The wine is fermented with 30% stem inclusion and macerates for 6 weeks in large conical vats followed by elevage in old oak and cement tank for 10 months. Tart cherries and raspberries leap out on the nose over aromas of lavender, black pepper, and slight hint of leather. The palate is medium bodied, with great acidity, delicate tannins and a lifted mineral finish. Martin described it as a “really charming full bodied wine that is on the other hand drinkable,” and I couldn't agree more. Try it with duck or wild boar, charcuterie, hard cheese, mushroom dishes, or rich pasta. Andy Paynter
Pranzegg 2016 Vino Rosso Leggero From our charming friends in the Alto Aldige, this is a blend of Lagrein and Schavia. A unique note to this wine is its fermentation on white grapes skins. Truly a light red (“Rosso Leggero”) wine, this fresh and vibrant wine captures the spirit of the European vin de soif, meant to quench our thirst while bringing us great happiness.
Saetti is wine that shows how deeply appealing natural wine can be when made with care; vinified completely without additives including SO2 it is not the least bit funky. It has a deep ruby color with a nose redolent of brambly red berries, dried violets, delicate hints of sweet spices, and a slight meaty tone. The wine is more frothy than it is fully sparkling, with a velvety texture cut by bright acidity with a slight tannic bite. On its own, it shows more overtly floral and quite juicy but, as a good Lambrusco should, it shines with food. Try it with charcuterie, pasta bolognese, pepperoni pizza, or as a match to any rich dish (burgers!). Andy Paynter
Tasting Vinica’s Tintilia makes me wonder how this grape ever fell out of favor in Molise in the first place. It seems particularly well adapted to the high altitude vineyards of the region, showing a balance between ripe fruit and fresh acidity. The grapes are crushed at low pressure and allowed to ferment naturally in open top vessels before being held in steel tanks for two years. There is no temperature control at any point, which allows malolactic fermentation to occur naturally over time. The wine has a pleasant herbal tone of green pepper that peaks out on the nose over tart berry fruit, red roses, and moist earth. The palate is quite fresh and marked by bright acidity and soft tannins with a pleasant, earthy finish. This may not be a wine to cellar for ten years but it is a wine that casually conveys a sense of joy and is a carefree food pairing choice. Give it a try with rich pasta dishes, roast pork, stuffed mushrooms or open it at your next summer barbeque. Andy Paynter