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Italy First Visit this year and Tasting.

We had the opportunity to try wines with a bit of cellar on them, and I always wonder why these wines are consumed so young. I do not think the average restaurant understands the value of two or three years in the bottle, making the midrange wines go from very good to great. It seems everyone wants the “current release”, it is a shame. If you are interested in getting wines in their prime and not in their raw, too young stage, let us know. We can help.

General comment on the 2014 vintage is that it was very difficult and quantities are about 50% to 60% of normal. If the harvest was made in time, and carefully sorted, it is good quality. If hung too long, or had less than perfect sorting, there are real problems. Be careful of purchases of Italian wines you do not know and that are selling at low prices. There is probably a good reason for the discounts.

We started off this year be visiting VIgnamato. This is a small grower/producer, family run operation. Maurizio Checci is a farmer who cares for the grapes. Andres, his son, is now the winemaker and is in charge of the cellar. We started with a surprise, they are making two sparkling wines, a Verdicchio Brut and a Lacrima Rose. This is their first release of these wines. They are light and fresh. Unfortunately, the feeling is they will not travel very well, so we will not see them in the U.S., at least for now.

The interesting news on the Delle Lame is that it is now available in 375 ml bottles. It is the same fine wine as before. The vintage was hard and selection was difficult. Quantity was low, but quality was very good.

The same holds true for all of the red wines and my favorite - the Viscole. Quality was no issue, but quantity is limited and commercial buyers need to keep that in mind. Buy/reserve early!

Polenta was our second stop. We were greeted by Elido Polenta, the son of the winemaker John-Carlo Polenta, the winemaker, and proprietor of the Agritruismo and also great chef in his own right.

Over a fantastic 7 course meal we sampled the latest wines from Polenta. They make four Montepulciano wines. From the younger and more approachable Vespuccio to the monster Gianco. All of the wines are from the same 3 hectares and are 100% Montepulciano. The difference is the length of hang time, selection, time in the barrel and the ageing of the wine in the bottle. They are stunning with food and are true to the varietal and show excellent terroir of the area. When you drink this wine you know it is Italian, it is Marche, and you certainly know it is Montepulciano. I, personally, think all of the wines could use time in the cellar, and if you have the patience to leave it a few years, you will be happily rewarded.

Santa Lucia is a favorite stop. The sparkling wines are always a hit as aperitif or main course wines, and they continue with this tradition. Stefano was kind enough to show us his latest project, making the sparklers in the “Method Champagnois” style. The bottles are in the last stages of ageing prior to disgorge. He is not sure when they will be ready (he checks the progress very carefully - it is a new experiment) but has assured me we will get some of the new sparkling wines as soon as they are ready. This will be an exciting experience as this is the first time, as far as I know, that you will be able to taste both bulk process and bottle process side by side, same grapes, same wines, same wine maker. How will they differ? We will have to wait to see.
We have already added the Santa Lucia Rose to our portfolio this year. If you are looking for a great summer Rose, this s it. Only 50 cases were imported, so buy now and avoid disappointment.

Antonio Baffioni has been known as a desert wine maker, but recently his Bruni 54 and his red wines have become the stars.

The dessert Santo, the “smoked grape wine” has been “discovered” by several restaurants and enjoys a good, loyal following. As usual, the flavors are intense and make an interesting statement at dinner’s end.

The Bruni this year is the best yet. If you liked the last Bruni, you will love the new one.

Emidio Pepe is always an eye opener. Unusual wine making methods are unique to Pepe, and the results are also unique. This “cult” wine has a large, loyal following, and that group is growing every day. Unfortunately we have been told all importers will be put on allocation starting in 2016. If you like Pepe, or need it in your Restaurant/shop, buy now as we have no idea what they plan to do with the new allocations.

Rita and Barbara Gatti-Piero (mother and daughter) continue to amaze with their super high quality and dry to slightly off dry Moscato d’Asti and Brachetto frizzante wines. Everyone brushes these off as “non-wines” or “sweet wines”. That is too bad as these are serious light alcohol sparkling wine that can be enjoyed by themselves or with lite foods. Great “pool” wines for summer. Need a brunch (or breakfast) wine? There are the ones to go to (OK, Champagnes are good for this also).

OK, enough of Italy for now. If you are intrigued by any of these producers/wines, call any of our salespeople and get much more information.

On To France (assuming there is a France…GPS unsure)