The Grandi Marchi Experience: Symphonic

The Grandi Marchi – visionary winemakers from across Italy – are here today at Del Posto Restaurant in New York City to lead attendees through a seminar and guided wine tasting of some of Italy’s best terroirs.

Like the Philharmonic minutes before a concert, the “orchestra” Grandi Marchi, is tuning up.

As Grandi Marchi members take their seats, tasting glasses clink and jangle, papers rustle, polite chatter and excuse me’s whispered one after another.

Audience iPhone camera shutters clllick away.


What follows is to be an immensely informative seminar, with each producer/representative speaking with subject matter expert authority about their respective regions, production methods, and unique terroirs.

I won’t kid you – the tasting segment is ridiculously pleasant. And massively instructive. The elegance, vigor, joy and pleasure of Grandi Marchi wines is remarkable.

But, for anyone who is familiar with the Grandi Marchi – member names that include the likes of Gaja, Masi, and Antinori – icons of fine Italian wine – that much is not unexpected.

What has so impressed me at this Grandi Marchi tasting – more so than any single wine or producer – is that, as a group, the wines braid together 13 different appellations and 15 wineries in a way that speaks so vividly, so sonorously, of Italy’s rich and diverse wine tradition.

To put it another way, perhaps in musical terms, the Italian wine tradition is composed not of a single tone, but from many different tones which, as in good music, allow us to experience the symphony.

There are no short cuts to understanding Italian wine. There are, however, some very good places to begin the Sassicaiajourney. Grandi Marchi wines represent a point of departure that grant you exposure to a highly relevant cross-section of Italy’s most important grape varietals and regions, act as model reference points for what wines ought to be like within their respective categories, and help to communicate the cultural values and traditions that unite them.

For more information about the Grandi Marchi, I recommend you to follow the link to Grandi Marchi Institute of Fine Italian Wines.

Aglianico: Do-It-Yourself

Aglianico: Do-It-Yourself

For those of you pursuing an indie do-it-yourself wine education (Really, who else can do it for you?), you might like to take time to explore one of the great and most important grape varietals of Italy’s south, Aglianico.

You’ll probably notice pretty quickly two confounding things about Aglianico: a) that you won’t find it in every wine shop and, b) that when you do, you will likely encounter Aglianico wines from varied regions such as Campania, Sicily, Molise, Puglia, and Basilicata to name a few.

tenuta-del-portale-le-vigne-a-capanno-2009-1All the aforementioned regions produce noteworthy expressions of Aglianico and you must try them eventually. But, do yourself a favor: begin your exploration with Aglianico from Basilicata, Aglianico del Vulture to be specific (takes its name from the region’s dormant volcano Monte Vulture), or from Campania’s Taurasi appellation (named for one of the production area communities), as those two expressions of Aglianico generally set the bar for important Aglianico reference points.

Brief geography: Basilicata is that part of the Italian peninsula that forms the ankle on the boot. You can locate that pretty easily. With only slightly more effort, to find the area for Taurasi, zero in on the Province of Avellino in Campania and you’ll have the place (Hey, don’t complain, I did say “brief” geography, remember? It is do-it-yourself, afterall). Separated by just 40 or so miles, the very common denominator relating the del Vulture and Taurasi production zones is the volcanic soil on which they are situated and in which Aglianico seems to thrive.

I can offer a thumbnail sketch of how the Vulture and Taurasi wines compare: well, actually, I hate doing this kind of broad brush thing, because there are always exceptions, but as you force me:

Aglianico del Vulture wines tend to be wines of complexity and detail, with dark and red fruit tones underlined by mineral character (volcanic, right?) and firm, often dusty tannins, while Taurasi – again, generally speaking – is perhaps the more structured of the two, also has the mineral thing going on, a wine that can show incredible depth and a finish that can go on forever. When cellared, Aglianico wines from either del Vulture or Taurasi areas will reward your patience.

Descriptors for wines from either zone could include red cherry, black cherry, plum, violets, smoke, meat, leather, vanilla, cocoa, menthol and tobacco, and no, that is not a definitive list. Foodie’s will appreciate that Aglianico’s naturally high acidity makes it a great food wine (and also balances alcohol levels that can be north of 14%).

Recommended, reasonable price points and pretty good trade distribution as far as I know:

Bisceglia Aglianico del Vulture
Tenuta Portale Le Vigne a Capanno Aglianico del Vulture
Mastroberardino Radici Taurasi
Terredora di Paolo Taurasi Fatica Contadina

Cantele Salice Salentino Riserva 2009

Cantele Salice Salentino Riserva 2009

*** Red Wine of Stunning Quality & Value ***

Near Moody Street at Pine
100% Negromaro

Found June 21 2013

Has Sexy Black Label
Elegant Silver Letters
Reads: Cantele Salice Salentino Riserva 2009

Please Contact: Your Local Wine Shop

Miraculously, a red wine of stunning quality and value has been found unharmed. The bottle was discovered inside a local wine shop in excellent condition and is in good health 😉

cantele-salice-salentino-riserva-20091Certainly, I am not the first to “find” this bottle: the wine is a Tre Bicchieri winner (Gambero Rosso). But, neither shall I be the last. Wines that deliver this level of quality and value deserve to be talked about every day and put solidly on the buying radar of wine lovers new and old.

I’ll leave you a link below to an earlier post with more about Cantele. But, for now, more about this great Negromaro from Puglia:

Negromaro grapes grown in calcareous soil are de-stemmed and crushed. Maceration is carried out over 10 days. Fermentation using selected yeasts. After malolactic, the wine is aged between 6-12 months spent in 2nd / 3rd passage barriques.

Tasting Notes / Impressions:

Flavors of gorgeous, achingly ripe red and dark fruits, not at all cooked, really sing on a sensuous palate warmed by perfectly balanced alcohol. There is a sense of earthiness, yet in a very soft, polished way. Notes of milk chocolate, hint of herb. Good acidity keeps it all fresh. Love the sleek tannins. Hands down one of the best bargain bottles I have ever tasted.

Food Pairing Suggestions:

Just the right level of acidity makes this Salice a great table wine. Recommend baked ziti; roasted or grilled meats, especially good with grilled lamb scented with rosemary; eggplant parmigiana; medium aged cheeses.

Related post: Cantele Primitivo Salento

Tormaresca Neprica 2011

I am a cat. Stealth is my weapon. And waiting. Wait. Wait. Wait. A precautionary approach to avoid pouncing too soon at the influence of marketing. Aware of my psychology, examining my behavior, I advance. Collect enough information to make a successful purchase decision. Short, quick movements, pounce, grab the bottle and head to checkout.

tormaresca-neprica-2011On a recent evening in the wine shop, hard-wired for the hunt, I stopped to sniff the air for a bargain bottle. Thought I saw something flutter on the bottle rack: Tomaresca Neprica 2011. Eyes locked on the prey, I come in for a closer look.

Glad I did.

Tomaresca Neprica 2011 is a wine offering astonishing quality for price (I paid ~ $10.00 in Massachusetts) and great testimony that southern Italy deserves your attention when seeking out interesting, delicious, inexpensive wines of character and personality.

A project of the Antinori family begun in 1998, Tormaresca vineyards are located in Italy’s Puglia region, the “heel” of the Italian boot. (NOTE, for readers not familiar with the Antinori family wine dynasty: so important are the Antinori to Italian wine history, tradition, etc., that your Italian wine journey might well begin there with a bit of research.)

Produced from a blend of Negromaro, Primitivo and Cabernet Sauvignon (NePriCa), grapes are vinified separately in stainless steel. After malolactic fermentation, the wine is fined for eight months in steel tanks and four additional months in bottle.

Tasting Notes / Impressions:
Balanced tones of bright red fruit and dark, black cherry surrounded by violet perfume. Plump on the palate, love the somewhat viscous mouth-feel. Black cherry notes take just a bit of prominence as the wine gets air, with additional dimension gained from emerging scents of savory herb. Tannins are soft and in just the right order so as to not interrupt the great way this wine feels on the palate. Finishes with good density of flavor and generous length.

Food Pairing Suggestions:
This wine is an obvious winner served with red meat and roasts. That said, after tasting several bottles with a wide variety of foods, Tomaresca Neprica is simply a great partner to just about every kind of dish I introduce it to: all manner of pasta / sauces; grilled or roasted sausages; mashed potatoes with mascarpone, greasy olive oil roasted potatoes; risotto; grilled vegetables and assorted crostini; eggplant parmigiana; chicken with black olives served on couscous; spaghetti with langostini in spicy red sauce; grilled fish; panino of boiled meats, au jus and spicy sauce … you get the idea 🙂