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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
The Nebbiolo Manascarda from Chiesa exemplifies the qualities I love most in Roero Nebbiolo: it is highly aromatic with an uncommon delicacy on the palate. Produced from 50-65 year old vines planted in sandy soil with a steep eastern exposure, the grapes are fermented with a submerged cap for 20 days followed by a year in old, large botti. The nose is simply seductive; Ripe sour cherries, orange zest, and roses are layered over more autumnal notes of porcini mushrooms and fresh fallen leaves. Medium body with very fine tannins the palate is defined by fresh acidity and bright red fruits with a slightly mineral finish. This is an ethereal expression of Nebbiolo, almost as much fun to swirl and smell as it is to drink. Try it with lighter food like grilled fish, poached chicken, fresh pasta dishes, or to lift through denser dishes like risotto or pan-seared pork chops. Andy Paynter
The Langhe Nebbiolo from Chiesa is a wine that shows lovely characteristic Nebbiolo perfume with softer edges than many other Langhe reds: frankly it is a wine that makes me smile. Produced from a plot of vines planted between 1998 and 2004 on slopes of sandy soil the grapes are hand harvested, fermented in steel with a submerged cap for 12 days, and then raised in steel tank for 6 months to preserve the varietal character of the wine. The nose is quite aromatic and smells of fruity cherries with the scents of violets, dusty earth, and a slight pepper spice coming through. There is a bit of weight on the palate with slightly tacky tannins but overall it is refreshing with great acidity and a lifted taste of orange zest on the finish. Neither high-toned nor too heavy, it straddles a stylistic middle ground and is no less tasty for it. I paired the wine with a simple charcuterie plate but it would be well suited to everything from meatier cuts of fish, chicken and pork dishes, soft cheese, or vegetarian pastas. The 2015 Langhe would be a perfect fit for the Thanksgiving table as well, especially suited to a glazed ham or brussels sprouts with pancetta. Andy Paynter
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
The Ravera 2013 is very aromatic with great balance between fruit and savory / floral / herbal. It has pronounced grip, but the tannins are elegant. Another excellent wine for the cellar. 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
Black cherry and kirsch flavors are underlined by subtle hints of bresaola, dark chocolate, and fresh earth. It's not a powerful vintage, but nevertheless impresses with its lightness, litheness, and elegance (2/28/16). Jonas Mendoza
Brambly black cherry with undertones of black raisin and sweet dirt. Quite developed with secondary/tertiary notes of hoisin, dried mushroom, and dried meat. After 40 years, it still has plenty of structure and only started to reveal itself after being double-decanted eight hours earlier (1/17/17)! Jonas Mendoza
Medium ruby color with hints of brick on rim. Black cherry and black tea flavors with prominent notes of hoisin and balsamic. Quite along its development, but still has firm tannins and resonant acidity (1/17/17). Jonas Mendoza
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
The 2012 Brunello from Fornacina is another exciting vintage of one of my favorite producers in the region. The estate was certified organic in 2004 and only produces the Brunello from their own grapes in a traditional style: native yeast fermentation, raised in Slavonian botti for 3 years, and rested in bottle for 1 year. The wine shows deep, ripe cherry fruit on the nose with notes of tobacco and rosemary. It shows interesting contrast on the palate with chewy tannins and rich flavors of tar and moist earth lifted by bright acidity and a distinct mineral tone on the finish. A lovely wine now with a short decant, this will continue to age for many years to come. Try it with leg of lamb, grilled steak, or especially rich pasta dishes. Andy Paynter
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 2013 Chianti Classico Riserva is a more serious reflection of the same principles underlying Retromarcia. It is produced from a plot of 40 year-old Sangiovese vines that contain around 5% Canaiolo Nero and naturally yield about half as much fruit as the young vines used for Retromarcia. The wine is fermented for 3-4 weeks on skins in steel and then aged for 2 years in old wooden botti and unlined cement tanks. It is rich on the nose with dark cherry fruit, spicy notes of cedar and allspice, and hints of rosemary and resinous herbs. Elegant rather than heavy on the palate with ripe tannins and restrained acidity, persistent and cherry fruit lead into an earthy finish. Lovely and open now, this is will improve for years to come in the cellar. 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 Ciliegiolo is a perfect example of how delightful the grape Ciliegiolo can be when made as a varietal wine. Produced from a 1.7 Hectare parcel of young vines 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, cured salami, braised pork or enjoy it on its own. AP
Bussoletti’s Ciliegiolo di Narni is a fresh, easy going red wine from central Umbria and a perfect example of why I have fallen in love with the grape. More commonly used as a blending partner for Sangiovese, Ciliegiolo produced as a varietal wine gives soft aromatic reds that are a joy to drink. Produced from a 4 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 6 months. The nose is rich with fresh red cherries and deep red floral notes with delicate herbal tones and bit of black pepper spice. 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 mac'n'cheese, as pairing for charcuterie, or enjoy it on its own. 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
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
Defino comes from organically farmed grapes (a friend who is one of Tuscany’s best winemakers consults on the winemaking), and it’s a really lovely fresh red, light and juicy but with plenty of intensity on the palate. This is on the short list for the ultimate pizza wine, but really we mean that in reference to: “it’s Tuesday night, and we want a glass of something delicious that doesn’t break the bank”. Actually Frappato is a terrific food wine — a red-wine-with-fish wine, and very versatile.
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
Masseria del Pino’s I Nove Fratelli is a great example of why people get so excited about the wines of Mount Etna. Produced from one hectare of organically farmed 120 year-old bush trained vines of Nerello Mascalese and Nerello Cappuccio, the wine is elegant and frankly delicious. The nose shows a smoky character up front with layers of tart black cherries and black raspberries over crushed violets and dusty earth. The palate is structured but lifted by bright acidity with flavors of ripe cherry fruit, blood orange,and woody herbs; I’d like to avoid any kind of pandering cliché here, but the wine tastes like it was made on the side of a volcano – like sun-baked lava – which a lot more tasty than it might sound. The tannins are bold and ripe but fade harmoniously towards a grippy mineral finish. I would recommend decanting for a few hours to enjoy this wine at its very best. Try it with fennel stuffed pork loin, roast game bird, grilled sausages, cured cheese, or rich mushroom dishes. Andy Paynter He took the words out of my mouth! Tasting notes are subjective, but Andy and I seem to agree about this one pretty much down the line (although for fruit analogs I was more on blackberry and cranberry). Also, I think this (like many of the other best wines from Etna) is very versatile when it comes to food pairings; I don’t disagree with Andy’s suggestions (he’s a damn fine home cook, btw), but you shouldn’t feel limited by them. Last night we had grilled swordfish with a sauce of fresh tomato, capers, and herbs, and it was a great match – our guests, who are not wine people, seemed to love it. Jamie Wolff
One of our favorite Italian winemakers is actually American. Michael Schmelzer moved to Italy in 2003 with his family and purchased 10 hectares of organic vineyards in the "belly button of Chianti Classico" at Monte Bernardi. Since that time he has branched out and started making wines from Sicilian grapes as well. This spring he introduced his Tetra Pak Rosato which is made from 100% Nero d'Avola grapes. Don't let the vibrant pink carton fool you. It's more subtle on the inside - fresh and energetic with great acidity and a slight grip. Raspberry, strawberry, and fresh watermelon fruit make this the perfect beach or picnic wine. An added bonus is that Tetra Pak cartons use 54% less energy, create 80% less greenhouse gasses, and produce 60% less solid waste volume than a 750ml glass wine bottle. So you can celebrate summer and save the environment. Christine Manula
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.
We’ve met Maria Teresa several times at Angiolino Maule’s fantastic natural wine fair, Villa Favorita. She’s the image of a charming southern Italian lady with a broad smile and an aura of generosity and hospitality. We finally made the decision to buy some of her wines, and we couldn’t be happier with how they’re showing. This is an Aglianico from vineyards close to the Roccamonfina nature reserve, among Starnalia’s almost 100 acres of organic grapes, olives and chestnuts. The 2010 has delicious flavors of dark plum and a deep, spicy mineral presence. The Aglianico’s formidable tannins and vibrant acidity have been tamed by extra age in the bottle — drink now with hearty, red sauces and other rustic Italian fare. John Rankin
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