FRANCIACORTA DOSAGGIO ZERO, ARCARI + DANESI
Grape: 90% Chardonnay, 10% Pinot Bianco
Region: Franciacorta (Lombardy)
Pairings: a perfect aperitive, meaning pairs with nearly anything
Drink by: now until 2020
Notes: secondary fermentation in the bottle (metodo classico/champenoise), on yeasts for 30 months, no dosage added
Description: Sometimes it’s best to trust and follow the experts (in this situation, the French). But sometimes you need to recognize your differences and break from what everyone else is doing in order to find your own genius. SoloUva was born from this idea. Nico and Giovanni started by studying Champagne but noted that Franciacorta (Alpine region) wasn’t Champagne (a continental region), and chose to work with what their terroir could give them in a unique way. Traditionally grapes were picked early in Franciacorta and Champagne to maintain the high acidity, but by letting the grapes ripen to more phenolic ripeness they realized they wouldn’t have to add foreign sugars to spark the secondary fermentation – any sugars added come only from the grape must – hence their wine ‘SoloUva’ (Only Grapes). Chardonnay, terroir, and that is it in this bottle. Made in the method champenoise or traditional method (but technically in the SoloUva method), no overly-yeasty aromas, no sweetness, just a crisp, refreshing minerality and linear feel on the palate, maintaining the perfect balance of fruit and acidity. Not sure of the main dish being prepared for a dinner party you’re invited to but need to bring some wine? This wine works as a perfect aperitive that can carry you all the way through dinner.
MALVASIA BIANCA 'OCCHIO DI TERRA' CHIANU CRUCI 2017, CARAVAGLIO
Grape: Malvasia bianca from Lipari and Catarratto.
Region: Salina (Sicily)
Pairings: fresh goat cheese, grilled fish, scallops, and most seafood.
Drink by: now or by 2022
Notes: organic farming, mainly non-grafted vines, volcanic/sandy soils, indigenous yeasts, skin contact for 15 days
Description: Oh my goodness - the Aeolian Islands. Are you planning your honeymoon? Looking for the right place to celebrate your 10 year anniversary or a break-up?
This small group of volcanic islands facing Mount Etna are more than magical. Black soil of lively volcanos, with thermal muds and lava flows and vines and fruit trees and capers and all the possible aromatic herbs. And quietness (at least in June) and the color of water that looks like a beautiful impressionist painting. The blue of the sea and darkness of the volcanic soil and I’ll stop here because I don’t want to sound like the cheesy Sicilian version of Under the Tuscan sun.
I was there with my beloved Lindsay a few months ago and I still have in my eyes and my nose all the aromas and the colors. Our only visit to a winery was Nino Caravaglio to both his vineyards, on Lipari and Salina. Lipari is the main island, with the bigger village, still really small. A suggestive middle age castle and a small dock surrounded by fish markets and nice little restaurants. The seaside is amazing, nice beaches with a crystalline water. Is that all? Actually, if you’re not into wine, yes. But if you’re lucky as I am, you’ll discover another hidden Lipari and a Salina. The coast of the Mediterranean, especially in Sicily and nearby was not a safe place. Pirates and Saracens forced the locals to stay in the inner part of the island where some of the best vineyards still remain. What you see in the video is the beautiful natural amphitheater that protects from the strong wind the plants. A soil that is beyond fertile. Non-grafted 200 year old plants. Grape varieties like Corinto Nero (maybe next wine club) that only exist here and nowhere else in the world.
That day, in the beautiful hidden garden I felt like Sam Neil when he arrives in Jurassic Park. I couldn’t believe that here and now, in this fancy Cabs Sauv, Chards and oaky world could exist a place like this.
Later on that day at Signum (an amazing Michelin restaurant facing the sea in Salina) we tried this new wine Occhio di Terra Salina bianco.
Do I sound over the top if I say this is the best white wine I’ve tried in the last 3 years? It was Lindsay, myself and the son of Kermit Lynch (one of the greatest wine importers from US) and we had an amazing time, drinking Champagne and Salina Bianco, facing the Mediterranean Sea, smelling notes of candy oranges, dry apricots, bitter honey, smokey volcanic soil and rosemary and lemon and herbs and all the Sicilian island's flavors in one glass.
But what really shocks you about this wine is the after taste, which you would expect to be sweet but isn’t. Crispy, salty, marine, refreshing, a tinge of smokiness. An endless experience of pure local pleasure.
SCHIAVA (VERNATSCH) RISERVA 'SANKT ANNA' 2012, IN DER EBEN
Grape: 100% Schiava (Vernatsch)
Region: Trentino Alto Adige
Pairings: meat dishes, or dishes made with mushrooms and speck, lamb, strong gamey dishes and venison
Drink by: now until 2028
Notes: biodynamic, indigenous yeasts, aged in 5hl casks, non-filtered, maximum respect for the land
Description: Arriving in the Alto Adige, I could have easily mistaken that I was in another country across the Alps. The street signs are first in German, and second in Italian. The architecture is chalet-like for all the shops, and the restaurants there smell of wurtstel, apple strudel, and speck. And while many can speak Italian, you know by their pronunciation and simple, formal speaking that it's not their first language.
The Alto Adige with a heritage of nearly 3,000 years of winemaking has been called home by various peoples throughout the centuries . To briefly introduce you to this area, it was initially inhabited by Latins in the Roman times, but saw heavy Germanic settlement from the Renaissance to the 1900s. It became territory of the Hapsburgs (Austria) in 1803, then after a defeat became part of Bavaria (Germany) under Napoleon, had a short moment of French rule before Napoleon would be defeated in 1815 and it would return to Austria. Then during WWII, Italians we able to occupy and annex the area which Mussolini would control with heavy Italianization. Later in 1943, the Italians would sign a pact with the Allies which put again in German control, which would end with the end of the Nazi regime and put it back in the hands of Italy. I'll digress there but it's technically more complex.
As you can imagine, no one agrees on anything here, and finally, it was decided to allow both languages in the area. It's an area with racial discrimination, where many don't feel they belong to the 'Italian' culture and nearly half don't even wish to be Italian. The grape, Schiava, or as many may call it Vernatsch (the German translation) is the dominant red grape in this predominantly white wine area planted much to Sauvignon, Gwertztraminer, Pinot Bianco and Chardonnay. The vineyards of In der Eben were only planted to this grape until Urban took it over from his parents and planted a handful of other local varieties. He's a young guy with a world of dreams ahead of him, trying to make quality, age-worthy wines in his region. He continues to improve nearly 30 years of organic winemaking with biodynamic practices even in a region where some switch away from organics because they say 'it's simply too difficult'. In my opinion, he's one you'll want to watch and pay attention to in this area.
Schiava, or Vernatsch, is usually a fresh easy wine. Nice, fruity and earthy someone called it, wrongly I think, the light Pinot Noir. You would never expect from a light Pinot Noir to age for more than 20-30 years (I tried once a Schiava Scxhleier 1976 that was more lively than most of the Oregon Pinot Noir). That said, we chose In der Eben over more than 200 different producers of Schiava from Alto Adige to demonstrate that this grape variety can give you wines that are not simply light Pinot Noir. Fruit and cherries and wild strawberries in the 2015, with a palate that is metallic, refreshing and deep. A wine that is almost 4 years old and taste like a baby.
Vineyards, as Urban says in the video, are 60-70 years old (the cellar is more than 700 years old), and you can feel it, taste it, especially with the Riserva Sanct Anne. The Riserva 2012 for a wine could perfectly stay beside a big Barolo in a blind taste (and the price is also in that range).
CESANESE DEL PIGLIO SUPERIORE RISERVA 2017, ALBERTO GIACOBBE
Grape: 100% Cesanese d'Affile
Region: Piglio (Lazio)
Pairings: savory dishes like stews, roasted and grilled lamb, traditional pasta dishes from Rome like Amatriciana, Carbonara and Cacio e Pepe, good quality salami and hams, medium aged cheeses.
Drink by: now until 2023
Notes: at least 12 months in steel, and at least 18 in bottle, Rimessa purchased nearly all their production
Description: Alberto Giacobbe has a story that starts like many of ours. He went to school and was preparing to be an accountant (let's face it, following the family heritage of growing grapes wasn't going to pay much more than the bills), until that is that he fell in love with his family's vineyards and choose to take a complete turn in life. In the recent years, certain producers of Cesanese have made improvements, even if this isn't a 'marketable' grape to be sold to the masses. This wine is one of them. 65 year old vines from a specific clone not easy to find these days from a small village Affile planted by his grandfather (unfortunately he lost both father and grandfather just recently), coupled with organic practices and love and passion for what he is doing in life and out comes a wine that gives you a wine that could almost compete with some Burgundian wines, but at a fraction of the price. This complex yet easy drinking wine is best paired with a homemade dinner and great friends, and a perfect way to surprise them with a lesser known, indigenous grape that has been cultivated in Lazio for thousands of years. Nice fruit, but a more interesting refreshing minerality that comes from the soil of an old volcanic lake bed in the area.
CHIANTI CLASSICO RISERVA 'GROSSO SANESE' 2012, IL PALAZZINO
Grape: Sangiovese with tiny blend of other indigenous grapes
Region: Monti in Chianti (Tuscany)
Pairings: pasta dishes, medium-aged cheeses, pork dishes and cured meats.
Drink by: now until 2021
Notes: certified organic, indigenous yeasts, extreme minimum of sulfites added, 25,000 bottles produced
Description: Love it, love it, love it! I really like Edoardo and Alessandro Sderci, I like their vineyards, their simple winemaking approach, and how a father and a son can work perfectly together without arguing and fighting (that's what it looks like). It makes me want to have a child and run a winery together.
Their wines again represent Tuscany in all it's simplicity, without, the perfect shapes of the perfect hills without Cabs and Merlot, without the stupid suffix Super in front of the region.
Wish you had a Brunello di Montalcino? Grosso Sanese is often preferred to a Brunello beside it. It's warming, powerful, round with structure, full bodied with a refreshing acidity that explodes with persistency on your palate.
BARBARESCO 2015, CASCINA MORASSINO
Grape: 100% Nebbiolo
Region: Barbaresco (Piedmont)
Pairings: prime rib, steak, red meat
Drink by: 2030, best in a few years
Description: I can’t really tell you at the end if Roberto Bianco is a good winemaker, nor could I about Palladino, Sobrero, Conterno, Rinaldi. All of them - nice people, who make great wines, but what if they are just lucky. Lucky to have vineyards in one of the most distinctive wine regions in the world.
At minute 1.23 you can see the famous blue marl (Marna Blu). That’s the secret. All you have to do, if you’re a winemaker with a vineyard with that soil, is to stay behind the wine, as a tutor, as a supporting actor. Henry Jayer used to say: the less I do, the better my wine. He meant: the less I struggle with barrels, fancy machines, roto-macerators, selected yeasts, heavy fertilizations (Napa Valley wines, in synthesis), the better my wine is. In which sense better? Better in the sense that the soil, the climate, the place, the grape variety the soul of the wine come out. And that’s what I want from a wine, to tell a local story, to reveal a unique local flavor, to be different. And that’s what you should like about this wine club. Because if you don’t, if you’re looking for predictable flavors, for those wines that constantly repeat the same game, play the same music with notes of oak, too much fruit extraction, predetermined flavors from scientifically selected yeast, well it might just be better to cancel your subscription, because you’re wasting your time and money.
So, that’s the big conflict - to drink a wine which is easy, soft and average, but absolutely anonymous, or a wine that is unique, complex and with a strong personality but unpleasant and disturbing?
In the ‘90s in Barolo and Barbaresco there were two parties: The modern ones: lots of small new oak barrels, fruity, soft flavors, sometimes illegal blends, modern technology, and the traditionalists: old big barrels, hard tannins, high acidity, no fruit. But in between this conflict there were wineries like Cascina Morassino. His vineyards are 100mt from the Barbaresco village and as I said he’s been lucky enough to have spots on the top of the hill. Lots of light and sun, dry and windy. Wines there are fruity and mineral, modern and traditional at the same time. This is one of the few Barbaresco that can be drank both when young and old.