• Montervertine Le Pergole Torte

    Montervertine Le Pergole Torte

    It's easy to look at Le Pergole Torte as the more powerful site expression compared to Montevertine's Rosso and Pian del Ciampolo, but I think that misses the point. Manetti believed in the greatness of 100% Sangiovese from this hillside, and Le Pergole Torte always shows its class in this stable through its level of precision and delineation. 

    The 18-hectare estate rests high at 425 meters in Radda, one of the coolest zones in Chianti Classico—Le Pergole Torte is sourced from the estate's oldest vines and highest elevation plantings. Montevertine's limestone soils coupled with climate has a sense of transparency and grace that stands out immediately. The deft use of French barrique (15% new oak maximum) is impressive, adding concentration and texture while still harnessing the pure, lithe qualities inherent in the site. 

    There is much confusion about the origin of the name Le Pergole Torte. When Sergio Manetti bought the property, his neighbor named Bruno had just planted three rows of vines trained in the old pergola fashion. The wine Bruno produced was so mesmerizing that it became the impetus for Manetti to plant two hectares at this vacation property in 1967. The first vintage (1971) received such a glowing response that Manetti began focusing on winemaking exclusively.

    Due to Chianti Classico laws, which required the addition of Trebbiano in the blend, Manetti chose to leave the consortium in 1981. This was a radical move, and even though the law changed in 1995 to allow 100% Sangiovese Chianti Classico, they still opt to maintain the "lower" IGT status. The estate gained a loyal following at home and abroad, with Sergio's son, Martino, taking an active role in 1989; Martino took over upon his father's passing in 2000.

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    Posted by Max Kogod
  • Mt. Etna Benchmark:  2019 I Vigneri Vino Rosso

    Mt. Etna Benchmark: 2019 I Vigneri Vino Rosso

    Both of Salvo Foti's Nerello Mascalese wines from Mt. Etna are benchmarks in their respective price points. June 2017's visit with Foti wove the whole story together for me on why these wines stand out from the pack. If I had to pick one Sicilian red wine to stock up on for my personal cellar, it would be Foti's Rosso.

    The Rosso is sourced from vineyards planted at 2,300 feet on the north side of Mt. Etna where you'll find the most structured and deeply concentrated Nerello Mascalese. These are among the highest altitude vineyards in all of Europe. With massive diurnal shifts, the preserved acidity here keeps sun-soaked vines capable of producing reds that are vibrant and full of freshness, despite the given ripeness.

    This particular wine sees concrete for fermentation and aging, giving this young Nerello Mascalese an approachability that makes it impossible to resist upon release. The comparison to Pinot Noir is difficult for Nerello to escape—while often I see more differences than similarities, in the hands of Foti, there's a striking harmony and sense of place that clicks with this resemblance.

    Foti's impact on the wines, vineyards, and producers of Etna is monumental. For many years, his work was tied to other top estates like Biondi and Benanti where he was an oenlogist and vineyard consultant. He began to focus nearly exclusively on his own project in 2001. The name, I Vigneri, derives from the 1435-established Maestranzi dei Vigneri, a collective of vineyard workers who influenced the foundation of these magnificent vines atop Etna.

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    Posted by Max Kogod
  • O.G. Abruzzo:  Valentini & Emidio Pepe

    O.G. Abruzzo: Valentini & Emidio Pepe

    Valentini and Emidio Pepe are kings of Abruzzo's Trebbiano and Montepulciano varieties. Valentini is famous for his disdain of paperwork and insistence on only bottling Montepulciano in select vintages when quality is sky-high. Emidio Pepe is known best for late releases of winery-aged Montepulciano, and the wines listed below came directly to us from their cellar!

    Both producers generally eschew sulfur, making them true models of a hands-off regimen in the cellar. Today's list also gives an honorable mention to Amorotti, our greatest Italian find of 2020. For those looking to familiarize themselves with Abruzzo before diving into the higher-priced cuvées, these are great introductory wines.

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    Posted by Vanessa Rason
  • From Mt. Vesuvius

    From Mt. Vesuvius

    Naples is famous for its Neapolitan-style pizza, but truth be told, its real magic is seafood. Situated just west of Mt. Vesuvius on the Mediterranean coast, the volcanic soils here and in Avellino are home to the white variety, Fiano, a perfect match for the ultra-fresh fare in Naples restaurants. Larger producers litter every wine list, but there's one particular small producer that's developed a cult following.

    Ciro Picariello's wines come from parcels in Montefredane and Summonte (1,600 feet and 2,100 feet above sea level, respectively). His secret is fastidious vineyard work, of course, but he's also exact in the cellar, from pressing plots individually to undisturbed aging on the wines' fine lees. The wines ferment by native yeast, something commercial wineries in Campania view as risky.

    Fiano speaks of apple, peach, almond paste, and flinty mineral quality. With time, the grape variety ages similarly to Loire Chenin Blanc, revealing honey, beeswax, and lavender notes. It's one of the most age-worthy white wines in Italy, and I always stock up on Ciro's top Fiano bottling, 906, which comes from his highest elevation plantings and sees an extra year of aging on fine lees.

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    Posted by Max Kogod
  • Alto Piemonte Comeback

    Alto Piemonte Comeback

    Before Barolo and Barbaresco earned their stronghold, there was a time when Alto Piemonte, just two hours northeast, was the more sought-after region for Nebbiolo. We have a handful of Alto Piemonte wines in our collection, but the name to know among its current revivalists is Cristiano Garella.

    Over the last decade, Garella has helped revive Alto Piemonte as a wine region, highlighting its distinctive varieties and terroir. He advises about 20 wineries, and Colombera & Garella is his project in partnership with Giacomo and Carlo Colombera, who've grown grapes in Bramaterra since the early 90s. They farm nine hectares using organic and low-intervention practices (native yeast, fermentation in concrete tanks, minimal sulfur, and 24-month élevage in neutral barrels). Currently, Pizzaguerra is the only wine in our collection from Lessona!

    Compared to Barolo and Barbaresco, Alto Piemonte has a cooler, rainier climate. The soils are significantly more acidic, with Bramaterra having reddish-brown sand from an ancient volcano, and Lessona has yellow sand from the sea. This terroir results in a more mineral-driven expression of Nebbiolo with fine tannins and nerving acidity, which make for more approachable and readily drinkable wines than their slower aging counterparts in Piedmont.

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    Posted by Sydney Love