Italian Grapes Worth Exploring

Recently I attended a wine tasting featuring little-known grapes of Italy. Led by Jan D’Amore of Jan D’Amore Wines, a Brooklyn, NY based importer and distributor, the wines were a mixture of whites and reds from various regions of Italy, personally selected by Jan himself.

A native of Rome, Italy, Jan came to the United States over 30 years ago to pursue a heavy metal music career with his bandmates. Settling in Los Angeles, he lasted six months with them, but refused to return to Rome. After some soul-searching, he headed east to New York to explore the art scene and display his talents as an artist. It was here Jan also waited tables and was exposed to the world of wine; growing up in Rome, he only knew the white table wines of Frascati. At the suggestion of an acquaintance, Jan’s next path took him into wine sales. Working as a sales rep for Viniferia Imports, he learned the ins and outs of the business before finally setting out on his own.  

Traveling around Italy and doing a lot of research is what led to his securing the first five producers in his collection. Now, following recommendations is a big part of how Jan finds his winemakers; currently he has over 30 producers in his portfolio. His website highlights each winemaker, the winery and the wines he distributes.

At the tasting, Jan opened seven wines from his portfolio; two whites and five reds. These were two of my favorites:

Ancarani Famoso ‘Signore’ 2016

Made from 100% Famoso grapes, this white wine was the first wine of the evening we tasted and I was immediately in love. Indigenous to the Emiliia-Romagna region of Italy, this grape was long considered extinct, but has been recently revitalized by some small vineyards, one of which is Ancarani. Fragrant and unique, this dry white has fresh floral aromas, ripe exotic-fruit notes, and is light and crisp on the palate.

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Bussoletti Ciliegiolo di Narni “0535″

This Umbrian red is made from 100% Ciliegiolo grapes by vintner Leonardo Bussoletti. The name Ciliegiolo means “little cherry” so it is not surprising that the nose is crazy with fresh red cherries. There are also some floral notes with tones of black pepper. Luscious on the palate with mild acidity and very little tannin, strawberry and raspberry fruit stand out.

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If Italian wines are your thing, then take some time and explore Jan’s site; you might discover something new and exciting. If you cannot find his wines in a store near you, then look for the grape from another producer. Or let me know and I would be happy to help!

Cin Cin!

Wine of the Moment

At a recent wine event, I became engaged in a deep conversation with some enthusiasts about our favorite wines. When I first started drinking wine many years ago, I gravitated towards a specific varietal (usually red), exploring different vineyards from around the globe, until something else peaked my interest. At the time I considered myself a “varietal drinker” having had my share of Malbec, Pinot Noir and Tempranillo, before taking wine classes and expanding my inexperienced palate. Now I like to say that I am a “seasonal wine drinker” – red in fall and winter and white and rose’ in the spring and summer months. The majority of wine drinkers tend to fall into this category.

The gentleman I was speaking with had a very interesting way of choosing his, what I will call, “wine of the moment”. He explained that for him, environment has a lot to do with whether he is enjoying the wine he is drinking. Clarifying further, if he is enjoying the company of the people he is sharing the wine with or the place where the wine is opened, then that wine tends to be his favorite “wine of the moment”. Intrigued, I gave this some thought and agreed that this philosophical notion given to the wine experience really made some sense to me. 

I recalled a time long ago when I was at a vineyard with a group of friends in the Hudson Valley area of New York, which I will not name. It was a cool summer day in June, the conversations were flowing, along with the wine. Everyone was relaxed and having a good time. I had sampled a Chardonnay, which I am not normally drawn to, but on this particular day it tasted like heaven and I could not resist buying a bottle. Months later, I opened the bottle after a rough day at work (subconsciously looking to relive that day?) and I wondered, “Why the hell did I buy this?”

I can also see this approach come into play in one of my closest friendships. I have a good friend that I have known since first grade – we have laughed our way together through grade school and high school. These days we are still laughing and when we do get together it is usually a two bottle night for us. Having put this philosophical notion to the test together many times, I can honestly tell you, we have never had a bottle of wine that we did not enjoy. Our years of friendship and laughter have gotten us both through some pretty hard times in recent years. In turn, I can attribute a lot of great bottles of wine to our amazing friendship. Just this weekend my “wine of the moment” was a crisp, dry Gruner Veltliner. Oh, and as usual there was a second bottle – a refreshing Loire Valley Rose’. 

So make some exciting plans, gather up your friends or family, and open some bottles of wine. Maybe you too will find your “wine of the moment”. I would be interested to hear about them.

Cin Cin!