VINO NOBILE DI MONTEPULCIANO 2014, CONTUCCI
Grape: 80% Sangiovese (Prugnolo Gentile), 10% Canaiolo Nero, 10% Colorino
Region: Montepulciano (Tuscany)
Pairings: savory dishes like stews, roasted and grilled lamb, steak, grilled mushrooms, good quality salami and hams, medium aged cheeses.
Drink by: now until 2025
Notes: 24 months in 20hl barrels and 6-8 months in bottle, 30,000 bottles
Description: Tradition, history and heritage – 3 pillars that define the foundation of Montepulciano and Contucci. When Andrea Contucci walks you around their home (palace), vineyards and cellar, you sense his understated pride, nobleness and integrity without any sense of pretentiousness. Here you find a quality wine region dating back before 1000 AD, 1010 years of single-family ownership, 65 years of cellar work by the most passionate Italian man Adamo (80 years old now), a room of frescoes dating to 1701, a cellar constructed into the original walls of Montepulciano from the 13th century, traditional winemaking techniques with large barrels (not trendy French barrique), no technology or cellar gimmicks to make for a modern style of wine, a higher percentage of Prugnolo Gentile to give more traditional flavors of the region (never mixed with international grapes). What more do you want from a wine? Skip the highly marketed and often overpriced Super Tuscans and just pair this wine with some flavorful, authentic cured meats or a savory dish of beef, lamb or venison and you’ll be feeling as ‘noble’ as the Nobile.
RAMIE 2015, COUTANDIN
Grape: Avana, Avarenga, Barbera, Becuet and Chatus
Region: Pinerolese (Piemonte)
Pairings: red meat, steak, hearty dishes
Drink by: now, or by 2025
Notes: painstaking natural production with indigenous grapes, indigenous yeasts, no fining, no filtration, no treatments, no plowing, no sulfites, basically minimal intervention and maximum respect for the land. 2,000 total bottle production.
Description: This is EXTREME wine making, in every sense. Some 70% grade of the Alpine slopes, 700-900m up, the need to use a monorail (steeper than your typical slope for a rollercoaster) and this is like working with a wall instead of a vineyard. Whether you like this wine or not is not really the point, but you better have nothing but extreme reverence for those involved in making it. Period.
The other extreme part is the commitment to making as natural of a wine as possible, if the vineyard work wasn't already enduring enough. No sulfites, no fining/filtering, no pesticides, no herbicides, no to just about everything except grapes, Mother nature, copper and minimal intervention. Daniele is a rugged mountain man with great character and integrity in what he is doing. Nothing he does is commercial. He merely is living out a passion in a heroic way(painstaking albeit) with a commitment to his beliefs.
We should thank Daniele for maintaining biodiversity and indigenous grapes that would surely be lost (as you surely never go ask for an Avarenga or a Becuet would you?, nor do I remember seeing those grapes in Wine Spectator anytime recently). And despite some natural wines being so stinky and some even undrinkable, this one doesn't need to be categorized to be justified...it's just a good (great really) wine. Full bodied, yet not too heavy, it has a slightly tannic structure and will pair well with a steak or red meat for dinner.
PINTO NERO XX 2016, ANSITZ-DORNACH
Grape: 100% Pinot Nero (Pinot Noir)
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: certified organic, biodynamic, only indigenous yeasts, delicate and longer maceration, 22 months in French oak, maximum respect for the land
Description: 'I don't think we're in Kansas anymore'...was basically how I felt in this area as German was the main language yet we are in Italy. It's a cultural mish-mosh having traded hands some 15+ times in a few hundred years. Brush up on your German or Ladin, not your Italian, if you plan to visit. You'll find street signs in German first and you'll be eating kraut, schnitzel and strudel (from the abundant local apple tradition on the Adige valley floor).
'I have done away with the superfluous, in every sense of my life', says Patrick. And what was left is what you see today. A biodynamic/organic vineyard, a full ecosystem from Noah's arc, 3 dogs, and family more or less remains.
Patrick takes biodynamic to a new level. For him, it' not just a style of winemaking where he buys the necessary preparations (he makes them himself) to put the certification on his bottle, but a way to know himself. Every part of what he works with builds a deeper understanding and appreciation of who he is. Working with plants, vines and a bountiful garden. Working with cows, sheep, chickens, breeding them, connecting with them, and ultimately slaughtering them. All these layers help him to understand what it is to be human and to better be intimate with his life, purpose and nature.
BRUNELLO DI MONTALCINO 2013, LE RAGNAIE
Grape: 100% Sangiovese Grosso
Region: Montalcino (Tuscany)
Pairings: savory dishes like stews, bone steak, game, roasted and grilled lamb, good quality salami and hams, aged cheeses
Drink by: now until 2030, patience pays off
Notes: highest vines in Montalcino, certified organic farming, cement casks, no added yeast, 3 week maceration, 25hl Slavonian oak for 3 years, 26 avg. age vines
Description: Simply said, one of the best Brunello di Montalcino made and enjoyed by everyone we pour it for.
Sadly, it's almost an anomaly to find a 'good' Brunello (don't believe us? Take it from Adamo from Contucci). Most is coming from a forested area or the valley floor which is not ideal, nor was never included in the original 76 hectares (current size is some 2400+ hectares) in 1963. And whether or not you believe in the idea of global warming, being at the highest point of Montalcino where it's cooler helps in these warm years where the valley floor suffers. Maybe I'm partial to his wines since he has an American wife, or maybe it's just that everything tastes great when you're perched up on a hill with breathtaking panoramas and sipping 'under the Tuscan sun'... Or maybe it's Ricardo's love for Burgundy which inspires his style - elegant, powerful, complex and persistent on the palate, maybe not over-oaking his wines like most are to cover over bad wine, or maybe his various and complex terroirs (now even including a vineyard on the famous Montosoli cru) are what make his wines so beautiful but regardless, treat this wine with care and enjoy in a few more years if you can, with a nice t-bone steak or nestled up on a cold winter day by a fireplace with someone you love.
NERO DI TROIA RISERVA 'ARMENTARIO' 2012, CARPENTIERE
Grape: 100% Nero di Troia
Region: Castel del Monte (Puglia)
Pairings: red meat dishes
Drink by: now until 2021
Notes: indigenous yeasts, manually harvested, fermentation in steel and 24 months aging in large Slavonian oak for 2 years.
Description: Simply said, we make wines based on terroir, not based on market demands, even though the market rewards artificial wines. Tradition, heritage and terroir is what this wine is based on. A family vineyard that he continues to care for, as this land has been around for thousands of years and will be for possibly thousands more, and preserving and maintaining that heritage while he is there is the most important thing. This wine could possibly be called feminine on the nose, as it reminded me of roaming through the rose gardens in Rome, smelling all the 1100 varieties of roses planted there. The terroir of this region also gives the wine a unique minerality, and you'll likely pick up the bitter honey aromas as you come back to it. Just like a rose, this wine needs time to open up. Give it some time before you judge it, but I think you will find this to be one of the most unique wines in terms of its aromas and palate. Not just a 'girly' wine...this wine has a nice grip and depth to it as well.
BAROLO VIGNA LAZZIARASCO 2014, GUIDO PORRO
Grape: 100% Nebbiolo
Region: Serralunga d'Alba, Barolo (Piedmont) cru Lazzarito
Pairings: prime rib, steak, red meat
Drink by: 2030, patience pays off
Notes: No added yeast, average vine age is 45 years, 15-20 day maceration, 3 years in large Slavonian oak
Description: How do you describe Guido Porro? There is nothing wild or out of the norm that he is doing that I can show off to you. He's not some crazy guy with stories about giving a liter of wine to the cows everyday... He is a 4th generation winemaker, following the traditions of his family and heritage of the region and somehow that is enough. He lets the terroir speak in his wines, making his various cru wines in the same way and watching how different they can be based on their exposure and soils. In a fast-paced world where we often bounce from one shiny thing to the next, the Porro's have stayed put, and this was it often takes for wine regions to develop an important heritage and deeper understanding of their land and region.
This wine has spicy notes, hints of dried red fruits with notes of vanilla and licorice, and is possibly the bigger wine of the crus they make having more exposure to the sun. 2014 was a challenging year for just about everyone, so be cautious to judge them on a single wine. This vintage may not have quite the lasting power of others, but Serralunga d'Alba is known for full bodied wines with limestone-clay rich soils which can be held for a few years for more pleasure.