La Dolce Italia
It seems like every visitor to Italy's Piemonte area
falls in love with the fresh, fragrant, mildly fizzy, low alcohol wines which bear the denominazione
of "Moscato d'Asti." For years, our government did not recognize these
5.5% alcohol beverages as "wine", as the legal definition required a 7% alcohol
Muscat grapes are cultivated from the Asti area south into the Barbaresco zone.
Winemakers crush and press the juice, holding it in its unfermented state under
refrigeration. As orders come in, they will ferment, partially, this juice to the
5.5% alcohol level, leaving the wine with a fair bit of sweetness. This insures the
freshness of the wine throughout the year.
For some reason, it seems the best Muscat makes its way into these lightly fizzy wines.
The more bubbly "Asti Spumante" are rarely as fine.
- Currently in stock:
SARACCO $ 14.99 Paolo
Saracco is one everyone's short list of TOP Moscato d'Asti producers.
His wine is delicious and arrives here, most importantly, in good
condition. Fresh. Lively. Fizzy and youthful. We
have the 2016. Wonderful wine!!
Most Moscato d'Asti comes from vineyards
fairly close to the town of Asti. Massolino's, we like to tell people,
is a "Moscato di Barolo."
That's because the fruit comes from the Barolo area of Serralunga.
When they drew up the delimited area for Moscato d'Asti, they included
Serralunga since the Fontanafredda winery made so much Moscato.
The Massolino family, whose winery is in beautiful downtown Serralunga (such
as it is), makes a delightful Moscato...very fresh and fruity with some
interesting herbal notes.
If you have not tasted this one, come grab a bottle...it's very charming,
not relying solely on sugar for its character.
CASCINETTA VIETTI $15.99 This brand is
made by a fellow name Soria and marketed here by Vietti. It is always quite good.
On a recent visit, I was buying some wines to drag back to Germany for Norbert
& Gaby. I called to ask if they wanted the new "half bottles" which
were available. Gaby's reply was something like, "No! FULL-BOTTLES!
Norbert & I can easily polish off a whole bottle. Half bottles are for
We have this wine only in 750ml bottles.
G.D. VAJRA $20.99 It's relatively
recently that this producer of elegant and very refined Barolo (and
Riesling, Pinot Noir and Freisa) has been making Moscato d'Asti. And
they do a fabulous job! Very fine, intensely "Muscat" and
CASCINA CASTLE'T MOSCATO D'ASTI $12.99 (750ml)
curiously labeled bottle depicts an insect atop the rim of a wine glass or
cup, drinking the wine through a straw.
I can recall a harvest season at a Piemontese winery...the little boy
arrived home, ran into the kitchen and had a serious "glug, glug"
right out of the bottle of their Moscato! Who needs a straw?
Anyway, Maria Borio makes this lovely little fizzy and it's sweet and
delicious. Tropical fruit notes along with the classic Muscat
fragrances and flavors...yum.
La Montecchia is a producer in the Veneto whose
owners can trace their history back hundreds of years. Maybe even a
The property is located near Padova and you'd only be 40 kilometers from Venice
here...an hour by car and you're in Verona!
There's a rather fancy villa on the property and
tourists can rent one of the three small agriturismo rental units.
If you're a golfer or swimmer, those options are open to visitors as well.
But we are more concerned with wine and happily this estate produces a really
It's made from the Orange Muscat grape and carries the name "Fior d'Arancio."
What a dangerously delicious wine! Here's a remarkably aromatic and fruity
bubbly. Sweet, but not heavy or syrupy.
Currently in stock: LA MONTECCHIA "Fior
Most Vin Santo comes from Tuscany, though we do have one from a
famous winery in neighboring Umbria. Typically the wine is made from Trebbiano and
Malvasia, though, apparently, other grapes are permitted.
The fruit is laid out on straw mats (or hung in the house or attic of the winery) where it
dries and shrivels. Once in its raisined state, the juice is then pressed and
fermented. Aging takes place in small barrels which are stoppered with a cement
covering over the bung. The wine is then matured for 3-5 years, sometimes longer.
This little cask of Vin Santo was thoroughly sealed with a
bung coated in wax...and this producer will not bottle this wine until 2013 or
A taste of a homemade Vin Santo at a Tuscan trattoria was outstanding. The wine was,
obviously, not very old so it had retained a wonderful grapey, fresh fruit quality.
The more traditional Vin Santo has a "nutty" character, not unlike a Sherry.
They also tend to be between 14-16% alcohol.
Some of the really top Vin Santo wines are quite pricey. They can be extraordinary!
However, most customers are merely looking for a wine in which to dip biscotti
(also known as croccanti, spacccadenti, ricciarelli and cantucci).
Currently in the Shop:
- Isole e Olena (375ml) (list
$60) SALE $51.99
- Outstanding! Very fine. Very
serious Vin Santo, traditionally made.
MONTELLORI 1998 Sold Out Presently
a dear old friend who's making some fine wines in Fucecchio, not far from
Lucca, we have a well-aged, beautifully balanced, sweet, nutty Vin
Santo. Highly recommended!
FELSINA SALE $39.99 (375ml)
Quite good, nutty, well-aged...long finish.
Avignonesi Vin Santo di Montepulciano
("Normale") Sold Out (375ml)
Avignonesi Vin Santo "Occhio di Pernice" $219.99
winery makes probably the finest, most sweet Vin Santo. Made from
Grechetto, Malvasia Toscana and Trebbiano Toscano, the wine is matured in
tiny barrels of 13 gallon capacity for 10 years. It is incredibly rich
and sweet. I have tasted this periodically and recall that each time
it was so sweet, it made by teeth hurt! It's the Château d'Yquem of
Vin Santo wines. Quite rare, too.
Even more rare is their special bottling called "Occhio di Pernice."
This is made not of white grapes, but of the Prugnolo Gentile (Sangiovese in
English)...even more intense and deep...mind boggling...nectar.
A small barrel of the 2001 Occhio di Pernice...aging patiently in the
cellar of Avignonesi.
PIAZZANO VIN SANTO SALE $29.99 (375ml)
Vin Santo comes from a little estate not too far from Pisa...
We had mostly been interested in their Chianti wines, but it seems they
have a delightful recipe for Vin Santo, too.
Trebbiano, Malvasia and Sancolombano comprise the blend...nicely nutty and
BADIA A COLTIBUONO VIN SANTO SALE
large estate has dozens of vineyard sites (something like 180 parcels!)
and more than three dozen olive groves.
Their Chianti wines gained a certain measure of prominence in the 1970s
and 1980s. These days they're certainly viewed as a 'reliable'
producer of Tuscan wines.
Vin Santo is made of a 50/50 blend of Trebbiano and Malvasia and it's
matured for about 4 years in wood. The resulting wine is sweet and
soft, showing some candied orange notes and a bit of a nutty, oxidized
sort of quality.
- LUCIGNANO VIN SANTO Sale $29.99 (375ml)
This wine is mostly Trebbiano with about 20% Malvasia...the juice
goes into barrel and is fermented and aged for about 8 years.
Nicely nutty and moderately sweet.
- OTHER ITALIAN DESSERT WINES
Antinori "Muffato della Sala"
Originally this was a dessert wine made from a blend similar
to that of Umbria's Orvieto. Over the years they've refined the blend and today it
is an excellent (and a relatively secret) blend of Sauvignon Blanc, Grechetto, Traminer
and Riesling. At least some of the grapes are affected with botrytis, as this is
wonderfully honeyed and rich. It is even matured in French oak for several months!
- Banfi Brachetto d'Acqui $19.99 (750ml) We view this as an after dinner beverage, but I know some Piemontese who
enjoy this sort of fizzy, slightly sweet red as a mid-afternoon wine. They also pair
it with some home-cured prosciutto and homemade salame.
I'd consider this with raspberry truffles or some sort of chocolate and
raspberry dessert of grand decadence.
Angelo, His Sister and Mrs. Angelo.
ROSSA "BIRBET" $21.99 (750ml)
Just a short drive from beautiful downtown
Canale is the winery of Angelo Ferrio, one of the most charismatic
characters in Piemonte!
He's a giant of a winemaker, though he's a short fellow with a deep voice,
perfect for radio and yet he laughs like a little kid (hee hee hee!).
They make some "serious" red wines at Cascina Ca' Rossa (the
'house' is sort of red...more pink as you can see in the photo above), but
there's also a delightfully frivolous Brachetto which is vinified to around
5% alcohol, leaving a nicely sweet, fizzy red wine. It's thoroughly
delicious and tastes like summer.
There's a nice touch of rose petals and raspberries to the flavor of this
- CASCINA GILLI
- Italy has
an amazing array of sweet wines and virtually every region offers something
particular to that locality.
Above, of course, we've posted notes on Vin Santo wines from Tuscany and
Moscato d'Asti bottlings from Piemonte.
There's a town near Asti that is well-regarded for a particular sweet wine
and the leading practitioner of the "art" of fizzy Malvasia is
Cascina Gilli in the environs of Castelnuovo Don Bosco.
- The wine is much appreciated by "those who know," and
it's been five years since we've been able to offer this amazing wine.
The previous importer was distracted by hugely expensive Barolo's and
ignored this little treasure. We've stayed in touch with the folks
at Cascina Gilli and, finally, have access to their Malvasia.
The wine undergoes a secondary fermentation in reinforced stainless steel
tanks and bottled with the carbon dioxide, so the wine is mildly
bubbly. The color this vintage is fairly deep and the aromas are
wild: sweet strawberries, ripe raspberries and hints of floral notes
in the background.
It's not high in alcohol, so this is dangerously drinkable, especially
with fruit desserts.
It's, essentially, "summer in a bottle."
Chill a bottle for your next dinner festa and you'll soon hear the
"oohs" and "aahs."
Currently in stock: CASCINA GILLI "MALVASIA" $17.99
Vineyards at Cascina Gilli
The Allegrini family, "the" leading family in Valpolicella, makes a
small amount of a wonder "Recioto." The grapes are dried for several
months and the wine is aged for more than a year in oak. Some people will tell you
this is the "sweet" version of Amarone. The producers in the Veneto
say this is incorrect. "Amarone is the dry version of a Recioto."
It's quite rare. Some liken it to Port, given that the wine is very berryish and
fruity, though lower in alcohol. Chocolate, dried fruits or biscotti call for this
Available in 500ml bottles: $51.99
Colosi name is highly regarded for its Malvasia delle Lipari wines.
Now in its third generation, the winery has about 7 hectares of vines on the
tiny island of Salina north of places like Palermo and Messina.
If we understand correctly, Colosi's father has been working with Carlo
Hauner (see below).
We have a couple of wines from Colosi. Piero Colosi's Malvasia
delle Lipari, like Hauner's, is blended with 5% Corinto Nero and has a floral, slightly
nutty character. It's sweet, of course, with lots of honeyed and
- Also available is Colosi's "Passito di
Pantelleria," a wine of similar blend but made of grapes that have been
dried or raisined. The resulting wine is quite intense, with candied
orange and nut-like aromas and flavors. As only a few people
know these wines, we usually have but a bottle or two in stock (but can
usually order more rather quickly).
Currently in stock: Malvasia
delle Lipari $36.99 (375ml)
Passito di Pantelleria $36.99 (500ml)
Hauner was, as a youngster, a painter (the artist kind of painter).
He had some success and this afforded him the opportunity to travel a bit
and travel he did, finding the islands just north of Sicily to be a warm
and welcoming region. Hauner hailed from Italy's Brescia, about
halfway between Milano and Verona.
In the 1970s he moved to Salina, one of the Aeolian islands near
Lipari. Hauner was intrigued by the local wine production and
studied the workings of the vine growers in the area before taking the
plunge and buying a modest amount of land. Acquiring the land was not
especially difficult, since so many people from the area had abandoned
their homeland, seeking their fortunes in far-off Australia or
America. With about 20 hectares of land Hauner set about
planting the Malvasia grape and it's with this variety the region is most
Soon Hauner became a major ambassador for the area, finding a receptive
audience for his marvelous Malvasia delle Lipari. His wine was
lauded by Italy's top wine critic at the time, Luigi Veronelli. Soon
his wine was being exported to France, the US, Japan and Great Britain.
Hauner saw how the old-timers dried their grapes on straw mats, but he
experimented with drying the fruit on the vine. He figured out how
to ferment the juice at low temperatures to retain more aromatics and
brighter flavors, so he was regarded as quite the innovator.
He also got into the business of caperi or capers...caper berries
can be found bearing the Hauner label.
Carlo passed away in 1996, but the winery and its vineyards (scattered
around Salina) are capably operated by Hauner's son, Carlo Jr.
The Malvasia delle Lipari is a delight...aromatic and nicely sweet.
You'll find notes of dates and figs along with the floral, fruity
qualities of good Malvasia.
Currently in stock: HAUNER Malvasia delle
Lipari $29.99 (375ml)
- We have a
wonderful example of Moscato made as a Passito wine from the Pellegrino
winery. Pantelleria is the home of this wine, some 80 miles south of
where Marsala is made in Sicilia.
The island of Pantelleria is a bit isolated and many vineyards used to be
shielded from the sea breezes by rock walls.
This is fairly sweet, with a mildly raisin-like note.
Pellegrino Passito $28.99 (750ml)
is a wine made by the Rallo family, a familiar name to those who know some
of the names associated with Marsala wines.
Donnafugata is a "new" project for the Rallo family, having been
started in 1983.
We like their exceptional sweet wine from the island of Pantelleria, called
Ben Rye. This is produced from the local Zibibbo grape (known
elsewhere as Moscato d'Alessandria) and the vines produce a small crop--less
than two tons per acre! The grapes are usually harvest in August and
left to dry until mid to late September when the juice is
vinified. The resulting wine, which is costly to produce, offers an
amazing fragrance of apricots, baked peach, caramel and toasted nuts.
Some people enjoy this with Foie Gras, but it's exceptionally fine with
coffee or mocha-flavored desserts. Very fine. A bit rare.
Currently in stock: BEN RYE Passito di Pantelleria
- Though not always a "dessert wine," Marsala is one of Italy's most famous
exports. It comes from the provinces of Palermo, Trapani and Agrigento in Sicily.
The grape varieties found here include Catarratto, Grillo and sometimes Inzolia.
You'll find both dry and sweet versions, dry typically being used for chicken and
We often receive telephone calls inquiring if Sherry can be substituted for Marsala, since
virtually none of the home chefs in the region think of stocking the cupboard with
Marsala. In fact, the wines are not terribly similar, as Marsala is made from
concentrated grapes. Its minimum aging period for those designated "fine"
is but four months, while those noted as "superiore" are a degree
higher in alcohol and aged 2 years. Those matured for five years can be called
Watch out for those labeled "speciali"
as these are typically flavored with coffee or eggs. We used to have some bottles of
"VOV," a Marsala with eggs which is basically liquid "zabaglione."
There's not much of a market for especially fine Marsala. We have a special bottling
from the house of Florio at a special price... The distributor no longer offers this due to
the lack of interest.
But recently we've had access to some seriously good Marsala.
MARCO DE BARTOLI (The Marsala Winery)
de Bartoli took over his mother's farm in the 1970s and although he could
have made 'simple' Marsala wines, he took another direction and became a
world famous winemaker. But before committing himself to wine, he had
a fling with race cars.
In fact, De Bartoli had two wine businesses, one making wine in the region
famed for Marsala and a second cellar on Pantelleria where he's made a wine
De Bartoli passed away and today his sons runs the business, making some
Marco's story is remarkable and it's reminiscent of a movie thriller or pulp
fiction novel, except it's not fiction.
He was born into a Marsala family, that of Pellegrino, one of the industrial
producers in Sicily. He worked there for five years. Later he
worked for another industrial winery that was part of his family tree,
Mirabella. Disenchanted with "factory" winemaking, he began
dabbling in making his own wine using artisanal techniques which were no
longer used by the commercial (and somewhat economically-successful)
De Bartoli also used organic farming practices and "natural"
winemaking. Certainly family members must have thought he had inhaled
too many fumes during his days on the race car circuit.
- He grew Inzolia to make something called a "Mistella," the juice
of those grapes with alcohol. This was an old technique used to
fortify Marsala and nobody does this anymore. It's too much
time-consuming work and too costly. Producers find it easier to add
cooked Mistella to their Marsala, feeling this is a cost-effective way to
make something which doesn't require lengthy aging.
In the early 1990s, as if he didn't have enough work already, De Bartoli
took over running the Istituto Regionale delle Vite e del Vino.
He tried to convince growers and wineries that they had to do a better
job. De Bartoli lobbied for quality and preached to a disinterested
congregation the benefits of "connoisseur" caliber wines.
They didn't want to hear this sort of sermonizing and, as a result, De
Bartoli was vilified by some people.
Less than two years into his stint as the Capo dei Tutti Capi of the wine
bureau, the Sicilian constabulary descended upon his little winemaking
establishment. The Carabinieri demanded he turn over winery documents
as he was suspected of some sort of shenanigans regarding his avant-garde,
yet old-school winemaking.
How could this be? He was making classic, unfussed-with wines.
They were far more pure than the industrial plonk which flooded the Marsala
The issue, as it turned out, was in labeling. De Bartoli's
"Marsala" did not conform to the day's disciplinario for
winemaking. It seems Vecchio Samperi was branded as a vino da
tavola, though it had the requisite alcohol level without short-cuts to
be Marsala. Since it was not "fortified" with alcohol, it
was technically a vino liquoroso, but this was a designation for an
inferior wine, so De Bartoli called his as simple table wine. The
problem there was that vino de tavola can't be more than 15% alcohol
and Vecchio Samperi was in the neighborhood of 17%.
Of course, this isn't exactly "cheating." He was making a
good quality product and his legal entanglements took something like 5
vintages to resolve. And it took until he finished his term as head of
the Istituto for this to wrap up. The court found him not
guilty of any shady shenanigans and De Bartoli was able to resume making the
top artisan Marsala.
These days the problem is they're making some amazingly good wines for a
world that has forgotten Marsala.
If you look to another part of the wine world, Portugal's Douro Valley,
you find more table wines being made and somewhat less emphasis on
Porto. We predict one day, maybe a hundred or two hundred years from
now, an enterprising individual will read some old wine book and say
"Hey, can you imagine, in the 1900s people made sweet, fortified
wines from these vineyards!"
Marsala's problem has been that its wine has been relegated to a sauté
pan and very few people consider it worthy of being poured into a wine
glass and consumed with food.
The industrial producers further damaged their image by blending Marsala
with other flavorings...egg yolks, for one thing! Yes, there
were (and maybe still are) eggnog-like wines called "Cremovo"
which is Marsala laced with egg yolks. And coffee-flavored Marsalas,
along with some fruit-flavored ones, may have been a short-term success,
but the demand for those is rather minimal.
In a restaurant you might find Chicken or Veal Marsala on the menu, but
it's a rare dining spot that has a Marsala on its wine list.
Here's the recipe for how they make wines, as diagrammed on a chalkboard in
the De Bartoli cellar:
One of their secrets is, as you can see in the diagram above,
the Grillo grape. That's the original grape of Marsala, though some
wineries use Catarratto and Inzolia (which had been considered more of a table
grape some decades ago). Grillo tends to retain a high level of acidity, a
The De Bartoli vineyards of Grillo were planted between 1970 and 1996 and though
the density of these is not especially high, yields are similar to those of good
estates in France's Sauternes region.
The wine they make called Vecchio Samperi is an unfortified wine, a sort of
throwback to the early days of Marsala production. You see, in the
late 1700s a British wine merchant brought the notion of fortifying the
wines so they'd be more stable for transport from the region of production
Vecchio Samperi is made using the Solera system as they do in Spain's Jerez
where they make Sherry. They have older wines in the tiers of barrels
and once they bottle a percentage of the bottom row, they replenish the
stock from the next level. This means the young wine is racked into
the top row of barrels where it begins its maturation. This in
perpetuum system, if the wine spends sufficient time in the solera
barrels, yields a wine of potent octane as a result of high sugar grapes and
some evaporation the the wine when it's in wood.
We have some bottles of the Vigna La Miccia, a "Marsala
Superiore," a wine made entirely of the Grillo grape and matured for 4
years in French oak. It's not a solera-type Marsala but comes under
the heading of "Conciato." It's an extraordinary wine,
fairly sweet but with a fine balance so it's not syrupy or
We like the notes of dried apricots and the mildly nutty character
here...nothing like it and if you want to show guests something they've
probably not tasted previously, put a bottle of this on the table with some
Gorgonzola at the end of a meal...or an Apple Crisp with a rich Vanilla Ice
We expect to have some of their other wines shortly...stay tuned.
- Currently in stock: DE BARTOLI "VIGNA LA MICCIA"
MARSALA SUPERIORE ORO Sale $39.99 (500ml bottle)
- VITO CURATOLO ARINI
claim to be the oldest family-operated winery making Marsala and their
story goes back to 1875 when young Vito Curatolo decided to build a winery
and start producing Marsala.
He added his mother's maiden name, Arini, to his to further distinguish
himself from other producers.
They make a single vintage Marsala which attracted our attention.
It's a 1988 vintage and is a blend of Grillo and Cataratto grapes.
As the wine is fermenting, they arrest the fermentation by adding "mistella,"
a mix of fresh juice and high-proof alcohol. And then they blend in
some "Mosto Cotto," or "cooked" grape juice.
The wine then is put into neutral wood such as Slavonian oak and it spends
a couple of decades maturing. The 1988 was bottled just before the
harvest of 2011!
The wine is deep amber in color and the nose shows notes of dried apricots
and brown spices. It's fairly sweet, so pairing it with a sweet
dessert is ideal...baked apples with honey and walnuts...desserts with
maple, perhaps...an Apricot Tart...you get the idea.
Currently in stock: VITO CURATOLO ARINI 1988
Riserva Storica MARSALA $24.99 (750ml)
is the most famous label in the US market for Marsala wines. Though
they do make some special bottlings, these are neglected by the importer
and distributor as they're too much "trouble" (work, in other
words) to sell.
You have to explain the wines to sommeliers and store owners and even with
that, scarcely anyone comes in to a restaurant or shop looking for Marsala
to put on the table.
The Florio winery, though, was the first Marsala producer of any
consequence to have the name of an Italian family. The earliest
names of Marsala are that of British companies; one is Woodhouse and
the other is Ingham & Whitaker. Vincenzo Florio launched his
Marsala house in 1833 and could survive only because he had deep pockets
and could withstand losing money.
The Florio family sold the winery to Piemonte's Cinzano, a vermouth
specialist, in 1920. They, in turn, sold the place in
1988 to Industria
Lombarda Liquori Vini e Affini
, the drinks company that's famous for its Amaretto di Saronno.
Though they acquired a wonderful cellar with a lot of history, it's not
clear they view Florio as anything but another "drinks"
These days the request for Marsala is for "cooking wine" and
$13 is viewed by many home chefs as too extravagant of an expenditure to
splash in a pan. Yet they'll spend money on the veal or chicken but
want to skimp on a relatively modest purchase to make something a bit more
- But if you are preparing a recipe that calls for Marsala,
please splurge for the thirteen-buck bottles of this and don't wimp out and
buy some California knock-off because it's five bucks.
We carry Florio's Sweet and Dry Marsala...Sweet for desserts and if you're
making some savory dish, you'll usually want the dry.
We have some bottles of their vintage-dated Marsala called
It's moderately sweet, with less sugar than a good Sauternes for example. It
tastes of dried fruits like dates and figs.
It's usually in the range of $40-$50 a bottle, but the distributor closed out
their last boxes and we have it for $19.99 until the supply runs out.
Grillo 100%. They add their cooked mosto and some brandy to fortify
it and then wine spends maybe 7, or so, years in wood.
FLORIO DRY MARSALA "Fine" $12.99
- FLORIO SWEET MARSALA "Fine"
FLORIO 2003 "TARGA" MARSALA Sale $19.99
Florio has a connection to San Francisco, having shipped a "tino" or
vat of Marsala for the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition.
Their cellar is remarkable and contains a lot of history.
There are several plaques with the name Mussolini on them.
Mussolini, it seems, had stopped by Florio's place on more than one occasion and
so there are some notations of these historical visits, not an endorsement of
The cellar sustained some damage during World War II and only a few casks of
Marsala from that era are still on display.
There's a cask from 1944.
They often feature some interesting art work in the cellar near their tasting
If you visit, you can take a tour and taste a few wines.
Reservations are required, but CLICK
HERE to see their web page about visits.
We contacted them about visiting and were treated to the same
sort of tour and tasting as they offer to the general public. They knew,
of course, that we are in the wine business and sell their wines.
Florio is owned by the DiSaranno group, the company that is famous for its
I VINI "MACULANI"
- The Maculan family tends vineyards in Italy's Veneto region. They're
located in the village of Breganze and make a tremendous variety of wines.
Breganze isn't on the radar of most wine drinkers.
It's a bit more than an hour east and north of Verona. From Padua,
you're maybe 45 minutes away While
they make good Chardonnay, Merlot and Cabernet, their dessert wines merit special
- There are three very fine sweet wines coming from the
"Dindarello" is an Orange Muscat, the grape being "Moscato Fior
d'Arancio" in Italian.
Their winemaking secret is taking a page out of the Valpolicella winemaker's
handbook. They leave the grapes for about a month to "dry" a
bit, concentrating the sugar level of the fruit.
The resulting wine has about 10%-12%, or so, of sugar. The acidity is
relatively high, though, so it is balanced and not syrupy.
This is relatively low in alcohol (typically below 12%)
and is perfect for berry and citrus desserts. The aromas a
beautifully intense, showing the Muscat, but also that orange blossom
character of this special grape.
Old "Treasures" in the cellar.
Bigger and richer is the wine called
"Torcolato," a blend of Vespaiolo, Garganega and Tocai. The fruit is left
to dry and is processed in January. It is usually matured in French oak, about
one-third of the barrels being new. This can be cellared for as long as a decade, if
The biggest, richest wine of the trio is called "Acininobili,"
made from the same varieties as Torcolato, but this fruit is affected with botrytis
cinerea. Maculan then ages this for two years in wood
and another in bottle. This is the smallest production of the trio, accounting for
something less than 200 cases annually. Like the Torcolato, this may be cellared for
a decade or so.
Photo Taken by Gerald Weisl
Fausto Maculan with my traveling companion that trip, a fellow named
Randall Grahm of Bonny Doon Vineyards. Fausto is showing Randall the bunches of
grapes in their warehouse which are next to a small stream (which provides humidity to
encourage the growth of botrytis cinerea).
- Currently in stock: Dindarello $25.99 (375ml)
- Torcolato $44.99 (375ml)
its many holdings around Tuscany and Umbria, Antinori bought a property near
Pitigliano in southwestern Toscana. If you know where Grosseto is
located, you're pretty close to the Aldobrandesca estate of Antinori.
They grow a bit of Cabernet Sauvignon here, but the main item of interest is
The first vintage from this property was made in 1997, though I know
Antinori had been offering Aleatico for many years. I was at some
friend's place in Italy and found a very ancient bottle of Antinori Aleatico
in their collection of bottles!
The wine has a marvelous perfume, being redolent of rose petals and it's
moderately sweet without being syrup.
- Currently in stock: Antinori Aleatico (500ml bottle)
SOLD OUT -Coming Soon!
the Antinori importer is not presently offering Aleatico, we've looked
elsewhere and found a really nice alternative. It's from the Falesco
winery in Lazio (not too far from Rome and virtually on the border of
The winery is owned by the Cotarella brothers. Riccardo is a famous
consulting winemaker and his brother Renzo works for the Antinori family.
This comes from a small 2 hectare parcel in Lazio. The wine is made
entirely of Aleatico and it's given a cold "soak" with the skins
to capture more aromas and flavors of this fragrant grape variety.
The wine is bottled young and fresh...a perfect partner with cherry pie,
berry cobbler or pears with a raspberry sauce...you get the idea.
Sweet but not sticky sweet, this is a delicious dessert wine.
Currently in stock: FALESCO "POMELE" Aleatico $27.99 (375ml)
don't injure yourself trying to say "Scacciadiavoli."
This is a winery owned by the Pambuffetti family, another nice-sounding name
if you can manage to pronounce it.
"Scacciadiavoli" refers to some sort of devil-banishing or
exorcism that took place in this Umbrian locale.
The grape for this amazing wine is the Sagrantino variety, a specialty of
the Montefalco area in Umbria. This is a deep, dark, powerful red
grape, making a wine which makes some Cabernets appear tame.
For decades the "traditional" wine made of Sagrantino was this
sweet, dessert wine. The residual sugar balanced the fierce tannins
and the wine was highly-prized and served at special occasions.
Today, of course, winemakers know how to manage the tannins and the
popularity of Sagrantino as a dry red table wine has skyrocketed. In
fact, it's catapulted Montefalco into a bit of an eno-tourist area.
The production of dessert wine is, today, much smaller than that of the red
Sagrantino table wine.
Scacciadiavoli is one of our favorite estates in the region and we find
their red wines to be of really good quality. So, I suppose, it
shouldn't be a surprise that they make a stellar example of Passito.
We have the 2003 vintage in store presently. Delicious with chocolate
desserts, particularly a flourless chocolate cake...chocolate with a
Currently in stock: 2003 SCACCIADIAVOLI Montefalco
"Passito di Sagrantino" $47.99 (375ml)
The Jermann winery is one of the leading lights in Italy
for its white wines. They were one of the few producers making good
quality vini bianchi ages ago. They gained much critical
acclaim for their Chardonnay and for a blended white called Vintage
They offer half bottles of this delicious sweet wine called "Vino
Dolce della Casa." But despite being offered as a
"house wine," it sells for a premium price.
It's made of the rather rare and shy-bearing grape called
Picolit. The grape is not widely cultivated as it's a pain in
the ass to grow and never sets much of a crop. But what it lacks in
quantity, it can make up in quality.
Some had called Picolit "Italy's Château d'Yquem." Well,
it's not as oily as a seriously top Sauternes and we're not sure who made
such a comparison, but we understand the notion that Picolit can be
a remarkable wine.
Jermann's production comes to about 400 gallons in a good
And it's a special dessert wine with honeyed aromatics and notes of
poached pears, ripe melons and apricots. While it's sweet, it's also
balanced thanks to good acidity and Picolit's slightly bitter notes.
Currently in stock: JERMANN "Vino Dolce della
Casa" $51.99 (375ml)
- If you have any special requests, please send me an e-mail and we'll see if your
favorite is available. email@example.com
WE ALSO HAVE ABOUT 40 DIFFERENT KINDS OF GRAPPA IN STOCK, PLUS ITALIAN BEER
And there's Barolo Chinato, various "Amaro" bottles and more...