Things wine people say…the Grandi Marchi

DelPostoSpecial invitation to a guided tasting with many top Italian wine producers hosted by Del Posto restaurant. The food and service at this restaurant are impeccable. A perfect venue for an extraordinary event.

The Institute of Fine Italian Wines – The Grandi Marchi is a who’s who of the Italian winemaking world.

If you are in a restaurant or retail shop and need a no-fail recommendation, simply select one of these 19 member wines:

Alois Lageder, Ambrogio e Giovanni Folonari Tenute, Antinori, Argiolas, Biondi Santi, Ca’ del Bosco, Carpenè Malvolti, Donnafugata, Gaja, Jermann, Lungarotti, Masi, Mastroberardino, Michele Chiarlo, Pio Cesare, Rivera, Tasca d’Almerita, Tenuta San Guido, Umani Ronchi.

GM_panelParaphrasing the President of the organization, Piero Mastroberardino describing the Grandi Marchi member organization:

“these are not just good wines…this is a synergy of friendship…of these family brands and their terriors. (They are) defenders of their terroir.

Moderator Gloria Maroti Frazee described this tasting as the ultimate insiders guide of where to go (visit) in Italy. D’ACCORDO! (agreed in italian)

Although I was tempted to post tasting notes for each wine, I found the colorful commentary of the wine presenters much more interesting so I will share that with you.

lineup_laterThe wine order:

  • Ca del Bosco – Cuvée Annamaria Clementi, Franciacorta Riserva D.O.C.G.

Maurizio Zanella explained the difference between La Franciacorta (the girl) which describes the region and Il Franciacorta (the boy) which describes the wine.

  • Gaja – Ca’ Marcanda Vistamare, Toscana I.G.T. 2014

Seema Parthasarathy shared the story of the naming of the wine which I had read before. The name Ca’ Marcanda is a contraction of the word ca’ (casa), meaning “house,” and marcanda, meaning “long negotiations.”. It took them over 10 years of meetings to obtain the property.

Vistamare is a pun on the term “ocean view” which many small hotels advertise to lure guests. The vineyard, and it’s wines have noticeable ocean influence.

Seema also described their use of neutral oak as “a pat of butter” (on rye toast) to indicate the subtle but helpful influence of barrel aging for this wine.

  • Umani Ronchi – Vecchie Vigne, Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi Classico Superiore D.O.C. 2013

belardinoDavid Di Belardino explained that the he appreciated how the owner is able to “keep his heart in the past but focus on the future.”

Interesting fact:  In Le Marche (the region where their wine is grown) residents consume the most wine in Europe, and, they have the longest life expectancy.

  • Tenuta San Guido – Sassicaia, Bolgheri Sassicaia D.O.C. 2012

IncisaRochettaPiero Incisa della Rochetta described Bolgheri (the area that his ancestors chose to plant wine) as “forgotten by man and God…only known by pirates”.

The vineyards of Sassicaia are planted higher than most in the region and on well drained soils because “plants are like us…they don’t like to get their feet wet.”

He also shared that he often says that Tenuta San Guido makes “the most Pinot of Cabernets” because they aim to make them less concentrated with well integrated, finer tannins. This produces a lighter, delicate, expression of a grape that can sometimes be overpowering and unapproachable when young.

  • Michele Chiarlo – Cerequio, Barolo D.O.C.G. 2011

Luca De Marco explained that it is the heavy minerals (magnesium and others) that allow Barolo in their terroir to produce so many unique and interesting flavors like balsamic, mint and rose leaves.

  • Pio Cesare – Barolo D.O.C.G 2011

pioboffaPio Boffa shared their philosophy “..we do not depend on the skill of the winemaker but rather of Mother Nature,” to explain their non interventionalist style of winemaking.

Pio Cesare is 4th generation- making wine since 1881. As Pio explained “we only put Barolo on the label (nothing more)…we think that is enough.”

  • Ambrogio e Giovanni Folonari Tenute – Cabreo Il Borgo, Toscana I.G.T. 2012

Claudio Andreani‘s definition of a “well integrated” for a Super Tuscan, is when you can distinctly taste each component of the wine (Sangiovese, Cabernet, etc.)

  • Antinori – Pian Delle Vigne, Brunello di Montalcino D.O.C.G 2010 presented by Niccolo Maltinti.

The vineyards in Montalcino are closer to the ocean (dotted-line) than the vineyards of Chianti or Montepulcino so they believe they have a coastal influence. They shared that they don’t feel that Sangiovese grown outside of Italy lives up to their standards even though specific clones from Poggio di Sotto where brought into the U.S., and planted on what they believed was the best location (Atlas Peak).

  • Argiolas – Turriga, Isola Dei Nuraghi I.G.T 2011 presented by Antonio Agriolas
  • Tasca d’Almerita – Rosso del Conte, Contea di Sclafani D.O.C. 2011

Alberto Tasca related that this wine translates to “red of the Count”, which means “I am making this wine for the Count (me), no one else”. He also called this wine a “Super Tascan” wine which drew laughs from the crown.

  • Mostraberardino – Radici Taurasi D.O.C.G. 2009 presented by Piero Mastroberaradino
  • Rivera, Il Falcone, Castel del Monte Riserva D.O.C. 2009 presented by Sebastiano de Corato

Historically the blend of this wine was dictated by the planting of 2 rows of Nero di Troia for every 1 row of Montepulciano, this became a blend of 70%/30%.

  • Lungarotti – Torgiano Rosso Riserva Rubesco Vigna Monticchio D.O.C.G 2008 

Annamaria Palomba described Umbria as “the Green Heart of Italy.”

  • Masi – Riserva Di Costasera Amarone Classico D.O.C. 2009

 The traditional blend for Amarone is predominately Corvina, with Rondinella and Molinara. This one also uses 10% Oseleta which has small berries and thick skins which adds tannin and structure which is usually the part played by the Rondinella.

Raffaele Boscaini believes that Amarone should be put away for awhile before drinking. He described the 15-18 year window, after vintage, as “the teenage years…better to leave them (the wines) in their room and wait until they mature.”

  • Donnafugata – Ben Ryé Passito di Pantelleria D.O.C. 2008 Limited Edition presented by Antonio Rallo. The name comes from the Arabic term “Son of the Wind.” A typical bottle of this wine needs 4kg of grapes to produce. This results in concentrated sugar as well as acidity which produces 27 proof (14.5%) alcohol.

Northern Italian Reds


Dolcetto_NizzaWines of the Week

wines chosen for the 2nd Italian Wine Professional class: The red wines of Northern Italy

starting in the North East the best known grapes are:


• Barbera

premiere regions: Barbera d’Asti DOCG, Barbera d’Alba DOC, Nizza DOCG.

• Nebbiolo

premiere regions: Barolo DOCG, Barbaresco DOCG, Roero DOCG, Ghemme DOCG, Gattinara DOCG (Piedmont), Valtellina Superiore DOCG (Lombardy).

To discover less expensive regions click here…

• Dolcetto

premiere regions: Dogliani DOCG, Ovada DOCG, Diano d’Alba DOCG, Dolcetto D’Alba DOC, Dolcetto d’Asti DOC, Dolcetto d’Acqui DOC.

The wines:

PioCesare_DolcettoDolcetto means little sweet one but the wines are not sweet. Dolcetto is the least “serious” of the Piedmont wines and is the everyday wine in this region. You drink Dolcetto while your Barolos and Barbaresco’s are aging. This wine from traditional producer Pio Cesare- 2012 Dolcetto d’Alba is stainless steel fermented and aged. It is an elegant wine and like all of the other Dolcetto denominations it is 100% Dolcetto (not a blend).

Prunotto_NizzaBarbera is the most widely grown grape in Piedmont. It can be used to produce various styles of wine depending on the wine maker. The 2009 Prunotto Costamiole Nizza is pretty spectacular on it’s own but is even better with food. The Nizza denomination was a sub zone of Barbera d’Asti until 2014 now Nizza is the only denomination that requires 100% Barbera (also not a blend).


Italian International Wines

Wine(s) of the Week

The theme of this week’s Italian wines class was regions that have International influence. The following regions in Italy border other countries:

Liguria- France

Piedmont- France/Switzerland

Valle d’Aosta- France/Switzerland

Lombardy- Switzerland

Trentino- Alto Adige- Switzerland/Austria

Veneto- Austria

Friuli-Venezia Giulia- Austria/Slovenia

Wines chosen:

SanMichele_ai_Pianoni2003 San Michele al Pianoni Profondo di San Michele Riserva Oltrepo Pavese– $30

A beautiful wine with earthy, rusty elements but also great acidity and fresh red fruit flavors. An excellent, aged wine for the money– From Lombardy


GrosJean_Gamay2013 Grosjean Gamay Valle d’Aosta – $18

An interesting producer that uses French varietalswhere else are you going to find “Beaujolais” in Italy. Very nice cranberry, tea flavors. Good value compared to Cru Beaujolais. Notice the different spelling of the region “Valée d’Aoste.”


Vintage Charts…how to use them.

3BrunellosMany of us believe that the best wine is the highest rated wine…not necessarily true..

WS_VintageChartWhat do vintage charts mean and how to use them…

Hold (cellar)This wine is not really ready to drink. It will probably be very tannic and require some aging. If you do want to drink it now you should open it up and decant it (pour it into a larger container and swirl it around) then wait a few hours before serving it. This helps the wine soften and open up.

Drinkno explanation needed here.

Drink/Hold– Gets a little more complicated. Whether it will drink well right now depends on the producer, where the grapes were grown and what the weather conditions were like that year.

A real world example using a Wine Spectator vintage chart (app) for one of the greats- Brunello di Montalcino from Tuscany, Italy.

2010ScoponeLooking at the chart for the highest rated wine, would indicate that you should buy the 2010. 2010 produced some amazing wines and they are well priced BUT they really aren’t ready (see Hold above). If you want to hold this wine for 5-10 years this would be a great purchase.



2004IlPatrizieFor a splurge and drinking now, the next highest rated would be 2004. This is what you want! 2004 was an excellent vintage for this wine and they are perfect right now. They may be a little difficult to find and a little pricey, but the search is worth it.



2005CortePavoneFor value drinking you will need to stay away from the top rated vintages. A good strategy is to look at wines that fall in between 2 great vintages. 2005 was between the high rated vintages of 2004 and 2006. This is what the wine pros buy because they are more readily available and the best buy.


Please share your favorite Vintage tips

WTF…aged Chardonnay from…China?

2004Grace_Chardonnay_China A good friend brought me a Chardonnay from China.

The 2004 Grace Chardonnay was provided in a beautiful box, but not being able to find out much about the wine I had no idea if it would be a decent (drinkable) wine or not.

Most wine professionals know very little about Chinese wines so I put the wine away and waited for the right time to open it with some other wine drinkers.


Chardonnay_lineupI am a member of a tasting group full of non industry wine aficionados. These folks KNOW wine. When it was my turn to host I put this wine (now 11 years old) in a blind tasting with some other Chardonnays from around the world that were much younger


This was not a very fair comparison. The other wines that were served were around 10 years younger and were fresh and vibrant.

The Chinese Chardonnay had a funky, oxidized nose but this eventually dissipated and the wine was actually very interesting. Some thought it was a Chenin Blanc, others a late harvest wine, but all were amazed that a Chinese wine displayed this amount of complexity after 10 years in the bottle.

Will keep an eye on wines from China as they are ramping up to become a grape growing powerhouse…

Here is some more information about the winery and wines of China:

Wall Street Journal article on Chinese wines

Distributor website

Winery website (if you read Chinese)

Introducing…WTF wines

Dogliani1Assuming you know what WTF stands for…

I consider WTF wines to be wines that:

• contain an obscure (less common) wine grape… and/or

• are produced in an unusual region…and/or

• are created with an unorthodox method

Most importantly, when you look at the bottle containing a WTF wine it is extremely difficult to determine what is actually in the bottle OR if you will like it.

Because I am not afraid to try new things I will highlight these wines but only my recommend ones. I will give you some solid information about them and hopefully you will find something NEW and delicious.

Dogliani2My first WTF wine has a simple label that tells the average consumer very little. This wine is made from 100% Dolcetto grapes from Piedmont Italy. It doesn’t say either anywhere, on the front or back label, so you will have to trust me. Dogliani is the region and it is has achieved the top quality level (DOCG). The laws from this region insist that the wine is made from 100% Dolcetto. Oddly enough, Dolcetto means “little sweet” in Italian but Dolcetto is usually used for dry (not sweet) wines. Although Nebbiolo (Barolo/Barberesco) and Barbera (d’Asti/d’Alba) are probably better known, outside of Italy, Dolcetto is a very popular, “goes with anything” wine for Italians. And it is enjoyable young so you can drink Dolcetto while your Barolo’s and Barbaresco’s are aging for the next 10-20 years.

If you can’t find this wine try another 100% Dolcetto from these denominations:

Dogliani DOCG

Dolcetto d’Acqui

Diano d’Alba DOCG

Ovada DOCG

More to come…


A few of my favorite things…

Summer Edition:

Here are a few of my favorite wine accessories for the summer:

• Stainless flasks

I purchased the Klean Kanteen Wine Karafe a few years ago. It is the perfect size (800mL fits 1 bottle of wine), chills quickly, and is more practical to put into a cooler than a standard bottle of wine. This became a popular gift for me as everyone I know travels with wine.

For some reason, it isn’t manufactured (branded as a wine carrier) anymore??? Strange because they now have beer specific containers. Also the original lid was made of the same material as the neck it screws into 18/8 stainless.

Others I recommend:

Klean Kanteen (general purpose) 27oz.Note: the lid is now made of plastic (harder to seal than the original Wine Karafe).

Hydro Flask- 24oz. Note: A standard bottle of wine is 25.4 oz. Not sure why they chose to manufacture this size?? You can pour a small overflow glass to “check” the wine before you pack it for the beach.

Since wine is acidic be careful not to use inexpensive “knockoffs” and especially NOT plastic or aluminum which can leach into your drink.

NEW PRODUCT: Corkcicle 25oz.– a new entry in the wine canteen business. I have not tried this but it seems very promising- “keeps drinks ice cold for up to 25 hours.”


Rabbit® wine stoppers

Wine stoppers…I have tried them all. These are brightly colored (fun) and with the flanged ridges provide a really good seal for your wine. Since they are flat on top they don’t make the bottle significantly taller which helps if you are going to put the wine back into the fridge.