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Camerani Marinella, of Corta Sant’Alda fame, and her eldest daughter produce this remarkably fresh wine from 5 hectares of vines in Valpolicella. The grapes (35% Corvina, 35% Corvina Grossa, 20% Rondinella, and 10% Molinara) are hand harvested, destemmed, and gently pressed. In the cellar, the juice is vinified using native yeasts in stainless steel. The nose is floral, with dark flowers. There is a hint of tilled earth along with more pronounced aromas of cured meat and red berry. The mouthfeel is relaxed, with exceptionally low tannin, and a thread of acidity that works to carry the cherry fruit on the palate. Pairing with hearty, earthy foods like Thanksgiving carrots, potatoes, and yams will work beautifully. David Hatzopoulos
Ausonia’s Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Anfora is made using an ancient method of fermenting and storing wine in clay vessel (or amphora) which originated in Georgia and was used by the Greeks and Romans for centuries. The amphora helps protect the wine from oxidation and gives the wine a tannic and earthy, yet mineral-driven character. Ruby red in color, this Montepulciano has an intense aroma of red fruits, sweet spices, dried flowers and turned earth. The palate is full-bodied and complex with a dense core, lush tannins, bright acidity, and flavors of ripe cherry, raspberry compote, dark chocolate, dried violets and a distinct minerality. The finish is long and earthy and full of licorice and herbal notes. This wine would make an excellent complement to hearty dishes, red meats, roasted vegetables, and grilled mushrooms. Anna DeBeer
Ausonia’s Montepulciano d’Abuzzo “Apollo” is named for the Parnassius apollo butterfly that lives in the mountains near the estate. The wine is made from biodynamically grown grapes, hand harvested and fermented with indigenous yeasts in stainless steel, and bottled without filtration. Deep and ruby in the glass, aromas of red and black berries jump out first, followed by light baking spices and a touch of thyme and oregano. On the palate bright red cherry, juicy blackberry, raspberry and a dusting of spices are wrapped around velvety tannins, with a slightly herbal and earthy finish. Medium-bodied and juicy with refreshing acidity, this is a great example of why Abruzzo’s cooling Adriatic breezes and warm sunshine are capable of producing such delicious wines. This one is easily enjoyed on its own or paired with grilled meats, pasta with meat sauce, and aged cheeses.
Sicilian wine is generally perfectly suited for the Thanksgiving meal, as it goes so well with the mash up of savory and sweet sour that characterizes the island’s food - and our national feast. I’m a great fan of Frappato but rarely find compelling wines; COS makes the benchmark version, retaining freshness and avoiding the unfortunate opacity of flavor that most versions slip into. The COS Frappato is distinguished by haunting complexity, balancing fruit and earth and herbs, and showing depth and intensity, all with 12% alcohol. This wine is a crowd pleaser, satisfying the casual drinker and any serious geeks at your table. I’m now determined that we need some at our house! Jamie Wolff
Natalino Del Prete farms 10 hectares of mostly Negroamaro and Primitivo vines just north of Lecce in southern Puglia. Certified organic since 1994, his vineyards are never treated with any chemicals (they look quite wild!) and the vinification is decidely old-school, with minimal intervention and no sulfur added at any point, including bottling. The 2017 Negroamaro Anne is from a plot of 30 to 60 year old vines planted on clay soils. Rustic and slightly barnyardy on the nose, this wine opens with black cherry, black plum and a general medley of dark fruits, and finishes with notes of dark cocoa and earth. Medium plus bodied, with very good acidity, this is a wonderful example of "farmhouse" wine from the Italian South. Oskar Kostecki
Natalino Del Prete farms 10 hectares of mostly Negroamaro and Primitivo vines just north of Lecce in southern Puglia. Certified organic since 1994, his vineyards are never treated with any chemicals (they look quite wild!) and the vinification is decidedly old-school, with minimal intervention and no sulfur added at any point, including bottling. The 2017 Primitivo is from 30 to 60 year-old vines planted on clay soils. An elegant, deep and inviting nose leads to a bright palate of red plum, black plum, dark raspberry, blackberry, earth and spice. There is a hint of something wild about all the Del Prete wines, but in my personal opinion it leads to a bit more depth, complexity, and curiosity. I really like the spirit of these wines. Jules Dressner calls them "unpretentious peasant wine " and while that is a great description, I think there is a little more to them than just that. They speak to a certain vision, in a certain place, one maybe not necessarily associated with "natural wine". Oskar Kostecki
Foradori's Teroldego feels like a benchmark. Not that there is excessive opportunity to do comparative tastings of this lesser-known grape, but of the ones that we've tried, this wine is neither over-oaked, nor reedy and thin, but always perfectly balanced in its intensity and expression. A medley of brambly red and dark fruit (blackberries, plum) interwoven with dark spice, earth and green notes of blackcurrant leaf. The 2016 vintage is quite reserved when first opened, but some air reveals its true potential. One of my favorite pairings with roast pork. It's a great testament to Elisabetta Foradori and her family, and the hard work that has been done in the vineyards and winery for nearly 40 years, that this expression of Teroldego has risen from relative obscurity to be a true staple. Oskar Kostecki
Cesanese is perhaps the most “important” indigenous red grape of Lazio, capable of making fresh red wines with intense perfume and delicate structure. The reds from La Visciola are all varietal Cesanese from different plots showing distinct features of this underappreciated grape. The Mozzatta is the most assertive cuvée from the estate, made from 60-year-old vines planted on a “grey, clay soil,” that is a clay with some degree of incorporated limestone. Like the other reds it is vinified with native yeast in lined-cement (though with the addition of 20% whole cluster rather than being entirely destemmed) and then rested in large barrels for around a year. The result is a much more assertive style of Cesanese with more earthy flavors. The nose is brooding, showing pine needle and forest floor over ripe red fruit and black pepper spice. The body is quite full with grippy tannins and plenty of acidity though it shows deeper flavors rather than extra weight on the palate. The finish is dry and quite mineral. Try it with grilled sausage, chops, rich vegetable dishes, carbonara or other full-flavored pastas. Andy Paynter
Cesanese is perhaps the most “important” indigenous red grape of Lazio, capable of making fresh red wines with intense perfume and delicate structure. The reds from La Visciola are all varietal Cesanese from different plots showing distinct features of this underappreciated grape. The Vignale plot was planted in the 1960s on a soil of mixed sand and clay. It is vinified with native yeast in lined-cement, and rested in large barrels for around a year. The Vignale shows a more definitely spicy nose with black pepper, allspice, and fruit tones of cherry and orange zest with dried bay leaves. The palate has a fairly rich texture with fine-grained tannin and restrained acidity, showing poise but with a bit more heft than the Ju Quarto. The Vignale will pair easily and widely; try it with everything from pizza and simple veggie dishes to carbonara, pork chops, or roasted mushrooms. Andy Paynter
Azienda Agricola Le Strie is a tiny property located in Valtellina, composing a little over 1 hectare of vines located in Sassella and Valgella subzones, producing around 7,500 bottles annually. The grapes are farmed organically, hand-harvested, and fermented with indigenous yeasts in stainless steel. The subsequent wine ages for about 18 months in large botti. The Le Strie Rosso di Valtellina has a wonderful nose of raspberries, red and black cherries, red plum, rose, and crushed violets. The palate is precise, at once delicate and lifted, but also carrying intensity, with soft tannins and bright acidity. With a hint of earthiness, this wine worked beautifully with a mushroom risotto. Oskar Kostecki
A quite notorious vintage in northern Italy, 1994 was marred by weeks of rainfall in September, diluting the quality across much of the renowned growing regions of Barolo and Barbaresco. While it's hard to find concrete vintage reports on Oltrepo Pavese, we can assume some similarity; indeed the 1994 Barbacarlo is lighter in both color and mouthfeel than other vintages tasted from the 90s. Yet in no way would I say this is a lesser vintage, and as with all Maga wines, bottle age knits it together in beautiful ways. A bottle opened in Verona in April showed slightly fresher, with more raspberry, currant, and ripe red fruit. The bottle tasted in New York in September was slightly more muted on the fruit side, but showing beautiful notes of development; sage, nutmeg, baking spice, hints of cedar and tobacco leaves wonderfully integrating with notes of dried cherry and dried cranberry. There is amazing vivacity to all the Barbacarlo's I've tasted, and this is no exception. It will throw a bit of sediment, so decanting an hour before serving is recommended.
Lino Maga described the 2011 vintage as "ampio-abboccato" meaning broad and slightly sweet, though it is already showing some signs of development. Slightly darker in profile than the vintages it proceeds, the nose opens with dark plum, blackberry, cassis, and licorice. The palate introduces a bit of development, with earth, fresh cut hay, and a hint of cedar, as well as an herbaceous quality of sage. Still great acidity, and a lot of energy on the palate. With a bit of time open it starts to reveal fresher characteristics, and gains in vivacity. As with all Lino Maga wines, a healthy decant is recommended. Oskar Kostecki
The bishop of Broni comes each year to sample Signore Maga's wines, and upon tasting the 2016 proclaimed it "mystical." So now Lino has a handmade plaque above his door that reads "We make mystical wine" and we as consumers have the opportunity to savor something divine. The 2016 will age tremendously. It is one of those vintages that has a touch of residual sugar, and a plumpness to the fruit quality. The nose is full of dark and enticing notes of plum, violet, black currant and baking spice. The palate is full of energy, with great acidity giving lift to the density; it also introduces red currant, ripe raspberry, dried orange peel, along with more nutmeg and spice. With a few hours open this wine harmonizes beautifully, carrying great complexity, softness, and depth. I've had this wine three times in the past two months and each bottle was spectacular. Just a baby right now, the 2016 will age for the next 40 years easily. If you do decide to open now (and it is delicious now), a few hour decant is highly recommended. Oskar Kostecki
We had the great pleasure of tasting with the winemaker from Marabino recently, and the Rosso Contrada was a stand out. Sourced from four different parcels and a mixed range of soil types, fermented whole cluster, with the intent of doing an "infusion" style with very little extraction. Maceration is long and slow, over 2 weeks, to respect the fruit and give longer structure to the tannins. Aging has been in large 60 hl barrels for a bit over a year, though they are thinking about using some stainless steel in the future, as oak brings out more sweetness and they are after the saltiness of Nero D'Avola and of the soils of Sicily. Each of the four parcels are vinified separately and then blended after malo-lactic fermentation, with minimal added sulfites before bottling (total 26mg/l SO2). As for how it tasted, the wine was ethereal, with vibrant black cherry fruit and fine, elegant tannins. A wine to spend some time with, and likely one that will improve nicely in the next 5 years. -EL
From a one hectare site of 120 year-old vines planted on the slopes of Mount Etna, this is volcanic wine at its best. The nose opens with a lovely bouquet of ripe raspberry and overripe strawberry, red currant, macerated cherry, deep red forest fruits, and dried orange peel. There are hints of nutmeg and other pungent spices, sage, thyme, and a hint of something green, perhaps tomato vine. On the palate it is medium bodied, with bright acidity and medium but soft, very finely integrated tannins. The palate introduces more citrus (blood orange) and pomegranate on top of the red fruit. The volcanic minerality really shines here, melding the fruit and herbal notes with ash and smoke. There is beautiful grip and intensity on the palate, which leads to an incredibly long finish. Paired perfectly with grilled sausages, but this is a very versatile food wine. Drink now with an hour's decant, this will continue improving for the next 10+ years. Oskar Kostecki
Danila Pisano took over the family estate in 1990 and received organic certification in 1996. The vineyards themselves are not young, with some of the terraces aging back to 1931. She has not had to plow or fertilize her vineyards for the last three years, and the cover crop is lush and filled with lovely flowers. Her plots are spread over several hills, and even include a sandy section that has many un-grafted vines that have been resistant to phylloxera. Although Dolceacqua is known for a weightier style of Rossese, Danila's wines always have freshness without sacrificing the distinctive spice and crushed plum fruit that the region is celebrated for.
From 15 year old vines planted in both guyot and pergola training systems, Pranzegg's Lagrien is fermented with submerged cap for 4 weeks, and is a deeper expression of "mountain wine."Notes of dark fruit (blackberry, plum, and cassis) mingle with mineral notes wet stone and graphite. Framed by quite bright acidity, this is a great food wine, and will pair well with anything from a steak or roast pork, to a burger or barbacue. Oskar Kostecki
Pranzegg 2014 Schiava (Vernatsch) Campill. From 50-year-old biodynamically farmed vines fermented partial whole cluster. 12% abv. Medium dark garnet translucent robe. The nose offers an array of brambly hedge fruits with black and red currant, wild blackberry, and pomegranate aromas dominating, with faint notes of wet bark, dusty violets, blackberry seed, and game peeking around the edges. On the lighter-side-of-mid-weight palate, the wild berry flavors vie with salty and ferrous soil notes for attention, giving way to to notes of plum skin, and cassis, with a mouthwatering, savory acidity propelling the finish. Great balance between fruit, earth, and freshness. A fine pairing with tagliolini with Prosciutto San Daniele, radicchio, and poppy seeds, but I could see this with roasted pigeon on red wine bruschetta, or gnocchi with speck and Grana Padano. Martin Gojer makes such vibrant and gratifying wines. It’s almost embarrassing that I don’t drink them with more frequency. John McIlwain
Sourced from 50 year-old vines trained in pergola and farmed biodynamically, this is a more profound expression of the grape Schiava than one usually finds. 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. 2015 was a warmer year, and the wine shows more exuberance than previous vintages. The nose is full of dark cherry, ripe plums, plum skin, dark wild forest fruit, violets, cracked black pepper, and blackcurrant leaf (my original note reads: "smells like a pristine forest"). The palate introduces more red fruit: raspberry and cherry. The wine has great verve and acidity, with medium tannins that are quite soft and well integrated. Well-rounded and well-balanced, this is at a great moment now, showing a bit of development, yet still retaining nice primary elements. Very giving, yet relaxed. An engaging food wine, that has the ability to pair with a wide range of dishes. One of my first choices for Thanksgiving dinner. Oskar Kostecki
The Allegracore bottling from Romeo del Castello is from the younger part of their vineyard, planted in 2004. An elegant and approachable Etna Rosso, it has been a Chambers Street favorite since the 2009 vintage! 2017 was a hot year in Sicily, but the wine is very balanced thanks to an earlier harvest and aging in stainless steel. A blend of Nerello Mascalese and Nerello Cappucio, though from my understanding, primarily Mascalese. Chiara says that in the past Cappucio was use more to give color and boldness, while the structure comes from the Mascalese. -EL
The Ronchi di Cialla Rosato is made entirely from Refosco dal Peduncolo Rosso and in the few years that it has been produced has quickly become a feature on our shelves every spring. It is certified organic, fermented on native yeast in steel tanks, and bottled after a few months on the lees. The 2018 has wonderful bright acidity and fine structure, with elegant, husky minerality on the nose and a bit of funk on the palate wrapped in fine, fresh strawberry notes. Perfect as an aperitif or with any manner of Mediterranean feasting options like mezze, cured olives, anchovies, aged sheep's milk cheese, hummus, or the traditional Istrian stew of Trieste, Jota. Andrew Farquhar
In the words of our friend Ernest from PortoVino: "It’s the mediaeval elixir that the monks saved in the monasteries when Rome was burning." 2013 was the first vintage that Luigi Tecce has released of this wine, a small parcel of ancient Aglianico clones planted in 2000 using the cordone speronato trellising system. The yields here are about half of Tecce's other vineyards, and the wine carries a depth and density that justifies its name. There is beautiful intensity on both the nose and palate, with heady aromas of macerated black cherry, blueberry, and fig, with a smoky mineral/volcanic underbelly and a touch of balsamic. The 2013 is starting to show some slight notes of development, but its still clearly a baby, and will be rewarded with decades in the cellar. Oskar Kostecki
2016 was a near perfect vintage in Taurasi, with just the right amount of rain and temperatures remaining stable throughout the growing season, leading to very classic, structured wines with a lot of tension. Satyricon comes from a 1.5 ha, southwest-facing parcel at 550 meters above sea level. Notes of black cherry, kirsch, and wild black forest fruit interweave with hints of tar, roasted meat, and bitter dark chocolate. The wine has great structure, with very well-integrated medium plus tannins offset by great acidity. A pleasure now, this will have a long life ahead of it, and I wouldn't hesitate aging this for ten to fifteen years. Oskar Kostecki
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