One of my favorite memories of my time in Italy is finding new, local wines that are well priced and delicious in each region. The question that I posed in every region we visited was “can you recommend your best local wine?” and I was rewarded with a variety of discoveries. As you know from reading this blog, my most recent trip to Italy was canceled due to the pandemic, but with The Italian Selection, this is the closest I’ve come to replicating that experience.
The Italian Selection has a different approach to its wine club. First, winemaker consultant Carlo Ferrini identifies and selects top wines that show a sense of place and are dedicated to preservation. Carlo is well known for working with different wineries all over Italy (over 100) and has been awarded the winemaker of the year by the Wine Enthusiast and Gourmet Traveler Wine. So he knows Italian wines and chooses mostly from wineries that are too small to export to the U.S.
“It’s a journey through Italy and a visit to wineries that leave a memory for those lucky enough to visit them,” said Marco Scapagnini, Wine and Wineries U.S. Ambassador. “These wines take you on a journey of the country to show you the passion of best we can find from these family wines.”
We talked about the criteria for the wines selected. It’s absolute quality — from Brunello to lesser-known wines that represent the regions through history and tradition. And they need to be family owned and cultivate native grape varieties. And to have a history of Italy’s wine tradition, history and culture.
The selected wines were special – close enough to bring back the experience of Italy in a glass. Here was my line-up:
2019 Orriu “Veor” DOC – Quartomoro (Sardinia)
The Vermentino Orriu Quartomoro is produced from 100% Vermentino grapes originally planted in 1995 from the Monti area at an altitude of 50 meters above the sea level. I loved the minerality of this wine along with aromatics, floral and herbal notes. The bottle is pretty and distinctive.
2018 Il Sorriso Di Gioia Chianti Classico DOCG (Tuscany)
This 100 percent Sangiovese comes from the historic town of Castelnuovo Berardenga. The Fattoria Carpineta Fontalpino estate is owned by Filippo Cresti and his sister, Gioia, and has been in the family since the 60s. The wine was well balanced with notes of red berry, cherry, dried flowers, herbs and balsamic.
2015 Lorenzo Mattoni Montefalco DOCG (Umbria)
The Mattoni estate is located in Bevagna, where the Sagrantino grape has been cultivated for centuries – with a big influence from Lodovico Mattoni, the father who planted this iconic grape. Each year, the amount of wine produced varies according to natural conditions; each bottle is therefore labeled with an individual number, corresponding to the total production of that year. This was a stand-out wine with notes of black fruit, balsamic, pepper and spice.
2016 Nittardi Nectar Dei Maremma DOC (Tuscany, Maremma)
Aside from the main estate, located in the famous Chianti Classico region, Nittardi, this wine is produced in Maremma, which is soon to be a new DOC. It is the boutique winery’s “super premium, super Tuscan wine.” It was a lush and elegant wine with notes of blue and black fruit, spice, licorice and herbs. The wine is a blend of 55 percent Cabernet Sauvignon, 25 percent Petit Verdot, 15 percent Merlot and 5 percent “secret” grape varieties and comes with a story of religion, art and wine.
2015 Pian delle Ginestre Brunello DOCG (Tuscany, Montalcino)
Located in the south area of Montalcino, between Castelnuovo dell’Abate and Sant’Angelo in Colle, the vineyards are about 90 hectares long, 5.5 of which are vineyards certified for the production of Brunello wine; the rest is designed for nature and olive trees. The winery is owned by the Ciacci family, who have been producing wine since the Middle Ages. I tasted blackberry, black cherry tobacco, leather, herbs and spice.
There are three-tiers of subscription – 2 wines for $90, 4 wines for $170 or 6 wines with a selection of two different wine types delivered every 1, 2 or 3 months depending on the plan selected.
I really enjoyed trying these wines that I wouldn’t otherwise have the chance to taste or visit. While I will make it back to Italy once the pandemic ends, this brings me the experience of small Italian families and the storied history they have.