vino

Stunning Montepulciano d’Abruzzo DOC

Back in mid-2016 we connected via Twitter with The Vinum, an Italian winery located in the small town of Ortona in the Abruzzo wine region.  As it turns out, my husband was planning a surprise Europe trip for the two of us and he arranged for us (to my total surprise) to meet the husband and wife that own the winery.  On the rooftop restaurant at the famous Danieli hotel in Venice, overlooking the Grand Canal, we had a fantastic meal and enjoyed some of their wines.   This dinner inspired us to start importing The Vinum wines to the United States.  As we looked over their portfolio, one of the wines that caught our eye was their 2016 Montepulciano D’Abruzzo DOC, a dry, rich and juicy red wine.

2016 The Vinum Montepulciano D’Abruzzo DOC

 

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This wine, produced from 100% Montepulciano grapes, is referred to affectionately at The Vinum as “Il Rosso” – the red wine.  Made from organic grapes grown on The Vinum’s estate vineyards, this is a powerhouse wine.  Our tasting notes:  Visually this wine is stunning, dark, almost inky, with a silky appearance when swirled. On the nose, wild berries meld together with earth in this solid savory red. The juicy straightforward palate doles out ripe black cherry, crushed raspberry, anise and cinnamon alongside chewy tannins. This wine has a lush, almost syrupy mouthfeel.”

Price $25.00

10% discount available to our readers – simply enter Wine10 at checkout.   Our wine store is here: Topochines Vino Web Store

For those that are less familiar with Montepulciano, we recommend a visit to the excellent wine site below to learn more about this grape and what foods pair best with it.

I Love Wine Homepage

A link to the article is here:  About Montepulciano.

Here are some interesting excerpts from that article:

  • Montepulciano wine comes from the region just east of Rome and is one of the most famous wines in the country, earning its reputation as an easy red wine that goes well with pasta and pizza.
  • While the wine has a domestic reputation of being a relatively cheap table wine, several varieties planted in the region of Abruzzo have shown quite a bit of promise, producing a high-quality red wine with a dark tint and a deliciously sweet note, especially after a bit of aging.
  • Montepulciano d’Abruzzo was declared a DOC (Denominazione di origine controllata, an Italian abbreviation for the controlled designation of origin) in 1968, with an additional guaranteed designation of origin granted to the wines produced around Teramo.
  • For the wine to be labeled as Montepulciano, there is some blending permitted, with most wines containing up to 15% of Sangiovese, which can give the final product various secondary flavors depending on the region the Sangiovese comes from.
  • Four regions on the Adriatic coast of Italy produce Montepulciano, all having different styles and names, but all containing this fine grape. Aside from Abruzzo that produces Montepulciano d’Abruzzo (DOC), Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Colline Teramane (DOCG), and Controguerra Rosso (DOC), there is also the region of Marche to the north, going all the way to San Marino, that produces Rosso Conero (DOC), Rosso Piceno (DOC), and Offida Rosso (DOCG), as well as Molise and Apulia to the south that produce Biferno and San Severo Rosso respectfully.
  • Montepulciano wine was originally meant to be a wine that accompanies pizza or pasta, but as it turns out, this pairing is even better with more developed western comfort foods, especially those rich with animal fat. For those that are trying a Keto diet or a Paleo diet, this is the perfect wine choice, as it is very low in acidity and sugar, and complements the decisions made in these diets perfectly. The wine will go perfectly alongside strong red meats like beef but also complements chicken and lamb.
  • While not the best combination, as that title goes a bit north, both the lighter varieties of Montepulciano and those that are aged go incredibly well with KFC chicken. The mix of herbs and spices from the Colonel are tastefully dissolved in the similar flavors of the wine.

We hope you check out our wine store and consider getting a bottle of The Vinum Montepulciano.

Irene Ingersoll

October 24, 2018

Moscato D’Asti DOCG – the ultimate dessert wine

There are dessert wines . . . . and then there is Moscato D’Asti. At just 5.5% alcohol, this fizzy, lightly-carbonated wine is the perfect companion to almost any dessert.  Made from 100% Moscato Bianci grapes, this wine has been a hit with everyday wine drinkers as well as trained wine experts (including one of the world’s few Master Sommeliers).

2016 The Vinum Moscato D’Asti DOCG

 

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If you’re thinking, “Oh, I’ve had Moscato before,” we have to point out that this is not just Moscato, but Moscato D’AstiHere are our tasting notes:  Light straw in color with a pleasantly frothy mousse of tiny bubbles. Incredible aromas of orange blossoms, white peaches and rose on the nose. Mouthwatering apricot and mineral flavors. Weightless, vibrant, refreshing.”

Price:  $18.00

For our readers, we are offering 15% off this or any of our wines – simply enter Friends15 at checkout.  Our online wine store is here:  Topochines Vino Web Store

 

Chianti Superiore DOCG

Our partner the Vinum produces some very high quality Italian wines from their estate vineyards in Abruzzo as well as from grapes sourced from small producers in other wine regions.  This 2015 Chianti Superiore DOCG is a classic Tuscan wine made from grapes grown in Fiesole, high in the hills above Florence.

2015 The Vinum Chianti Superiore DOCG

 

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A 100% Sangiovese, this wine is made from organic grapes and only produced in years in which The Vinum team believes the grapes are of sufficient quality.  Simply put, this Tuscan wine is super.  Here are our tasting notes:  “Ruby-red color with a garnet rim, this wine’s bouquet displays ample aromas of rasberry, violet, wild berries, tobacco, chocolate, and vanilla. On the palate is rich, full-bodied, and velvety.”

Price:  $30.00

A 15% discount on this or any of our wines is available to our readers – simply enter Friends15 at checkout.  Our online wine store is here: Topochines Vino Web Store

 

 

Stunning Montepulciano d’Abruzzo DOC

The Montepulciano grape is grown in several regions in Italy but most vineyard plantings are in the Abruzzo region.  Our partner The Vinum produces this lovely 2016 Montepulciano D’Abruzzo DOC, a dry, rich and powerful red wine.

2016 The Vinum Montepulciano D’Abruzzo DOC

 

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This wine, produced from 100% Montepulciano grapes, is referred to affectionately at The Vinum as “Il Rosso” – the red wine.  Made from organic grapes grown on The Vinum’s estate vineyards, this is a powerhouse wine.  Our tasting notes:  Visually this wine is stunning, dark, almost inky, with a silky appearance when swirled. On the nose, wild berries meld together with earth in this solid savory red. The juicy straightforward palate doles out ripe black cherry, crushed raspberry, anise and cinnamon alongside chewy tannins. This wine has a lush, almost syrupy mouthfeel.”

Price $25.00

15% discount available to our readers – simply enter Friends15 at checkout.   Our wine store is here: Topochines Vino Web Store

Meet our winemakers: The Vinum

The ability of social media to connect people across countries and continents has several very powerful proof points for us.  One of these proof points is a seemingly random “like” and “follow” that we received after one of our tweets in the summer of 2016.  We do not remember what the particular tweet was, but it resulted in a message from an Italian winery, The Vinum, letting us know how much they liked our wine blog.  We looked them up and saw the range of wines they produce in Italy and asked a fateful question via Twitter:  “Where can we find your wines in the U.S. – we would love to try some?”  They answered that they did not sell their wines in the United States.  Well, we said, we’re going to be in Italy in a few months, maybe we can connect.

Vassilios Dragani, one of the principals of The Vinum, asked where we were staying and offered to ship some wines to our hotel for us to try.  As our trip got closer, Vassilios let us know that he changed his mind and would not be shipping the wines.  Instead, he would make the 6 hour drive from his home in the Abruzzo wine region and have dinner with us in Venice where we were staying.  About a week before we arrived in Venice, Vassilios emailed and asked if it was okay for him to bring his wife Natalia along on the trip, as she is also a partner in the business.  We thought this would be even better as it would make for an easy foursome at dinner.

On a lovely night in Venice, at the restaurant atop the famous Hotel Danieli, we met Vassilios and Natalia and enjoyed a fantastic dinner with them which included several of their wines.  After a wonderful evening we left our new wine friends and went back to our hotel with a mixed case of The Vinum wine.

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Saying goodbye after dinner

This case would travel with us for the next 2 1/2 weeks from Italy to Slovenia to Croatia and Bosnia & Herzegovina, making a final stop in Istanbul before we flew back to San Francisco.

Immediately after meeting Vassilios and Natalia and tasting their wines, we knew we wanted to import those wines to the United States.  To our taste, the wines were perfect expressions of their terroir and incredibly high quality but at price points that were super-competitive compared to U.S. wines of the same quality.  But we wanted to validate the quality of the wines with some real experts and had a high-pressure tasting with a Master Sommeliers (there are just over 200 in the entire world).  This Master  Somm owns his own wine store and a few hours after we presented our wines, someone on his team reached out to us and ordered several cases of wine (our very first order as importers).

Today, we offer a range of The Vinum wines on our online wine store, Topochines Vino.  These are the wines currently in stock:

2009 The Vinum Barbaresco DOCG

 

Barbaresco

As wine nerds know, “DOCG” means Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita (Denomination of Controlled and Guaranteed Origin) and is the highest designation of quality for Italian wines.  By several measures, the quality of The Vinum’s 2009 Barbaresco is superior.  At the 2017 Decanter World Wine Awards, The Vinum’s Barbaresco received an impressive Silver Medal.  After tasting this Barbaresco, James Suckling, one of the most respected reviewers of Italian wines, gave The Vinum Barbaresco a score of 92.

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An impressive 92 points for The Vinum Barbaresco

Supporting this score were the following notes:  “This is seriously rich and ripe now with plenty of cooked cherry and flower character. Full body, round and flavorful. Plenty of dried fruit, spice and cedar flavors. Long and persistent finish. Chewy. Drink or hold.”

This wine features 100% Nebbiolo grapes from the Piedmont region in northern Italy.  Vassilios and team source the grapes from small growers in those regions that produce the highest-quality fruit.

Price:  $36.00

 

2011 The Vinum Barolo DOCG

 

 

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As with the Barbaresco, The Vinum Barolo is also of the highest quality – DOCG – and a favorite with wine critics.   The aforementioned James Suckling had this to say about The Vinum 2011 Barolo, to which he awarded 90 points:  “Lots of tar and rose aromas. Full body, silky and chewy tannins and a long and flavorful finish. A compacted and young Barolo. Lovely now.”

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90 points for The Vinum Barolo

This wine features 100% Nebbiolo grapes from Piedmont, sourced from vineyards high up on the slopes in La Morra.

Price:  $38.00

 

2014 The Vinum Colline Pescaresi

 

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This wine is produced from grapes grown on The Vinum’s estate in Abruzzo.  Think of this wine as a cousin of the Super Tuscan wines, which are generally blends of indigenous Italian grapes with international varietals such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.  While a Super Tuscan might contain Sangiovese and one or more international varietals, The Vinum’s “Super Abruzzo” is a blend of Montepulciano (60%) with 25% Merlot and 15% Cabernet Sauvignon.

Price:  $25.00

 

2016 The Vinum Montepulciano D’Abruzzo DOC

 

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This wine, produced from 100% Montepulciano grapes, is referred to affectionately at The Vinum as “Il Rosso” – the red wine.  Made from organic grapes grown on The Vinum’s estate vineyards, this is a powerhouse wine.  Visually this wine is stunning, dark, almost inky, with a silky appearance when swirled. This wine has a lush, almost syrupy mouth-feel and a beautifully smooth finish.

Price $25.00

 

2015 The Vinum Chianti Superiore DOCG

 

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This wine is produced from grapes grown in Italy’s Tuscany region in the small town of Fiesole, in the hills just outside of Florence.  A 100% Sangiovese, this wine is made from organic grapes and only produced in years in which The Vinum team believes the grapes are of sufficient quality.  Simply put, this Tuscan wine is super.

Price:  $30.00

 

2010 The Vinum Langhe Rosso DOC

 

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This is the third Piedmont red wine from The Vinum that we offer on our site, Topochines Vino.  While the Barbaresco and Barolo are 100% Nebbiolo, this Langhe Rosso is an inventive blend of two traditional Piedmont grapes – Nebbiolo and Barbera.  Together, these two varietals create an elegant, full-bodied wine with an impressive finish.  This 2010 wine is ageing beautifully and certainly ready to drink now.

Price: $25.00

 

2016 The Vinum Moscato D’Asti DOCG

 

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If you’re thinking, “Oh, I’ve had Moscato before,” we have to point out that this is not just Moscato, but Moscato D’Asti.  There are two important differences about this wine and other Moscato wines we have tasted. First, this wine is slightly sparkling, or “frizzante” as our friends in Italy like to say.  Second, this wine has only 5.5% alcohol – far less than some beers we have consumed lately.  At this alcohol level, it makes for a delicious and refreshing dessert wine.

Price:  $18.00

 

There are several other wines from The Vinum that we are planning to bring over in our next shipment, including a delicious Prosecco and our favorite take on Rosé – a Cerasuolo D’Abruzzo made from Montepulciano grapes.

We look forward to long and fruitful relationship with The Vinum, grape growers and wine makers who share our passion for small production, organic wines that are true to their varietal and the terroir in which the grapes were grown.  For us, the people and the stories of grape growers and wine makers shape our overall experience with the wines themselves.  Today, the driving force behind The Vinum is a new generation of growers and vintners, led by Vassilios Dragani and joined by his wife Natalia, his sister Cristina and his friend Pina Paolucci.  The Dragani and Paolucci families have had vineyards and wine cellars in Abruzzo going back to 1812. In the middle part of the 20th century, the families expanded their vineyards and started selling their wines across the Abruzzo region.

Now the Dragani and Paolucci vineyards have been merged together and this generation has pushed The Vinum beyond Abruzzo:  they are now purchasing grapes from select producers in other regions to make excellent terroir-driven wine with a constant attention to quality.  In Italy it is not uncommon for a wine group to own vineyards in different regions and produce wine under multiple brand names.  The Vinum, though, wanted to produce all of its wines under a single label and make “The Vinum” synonymous with quality and care for the environment.

John & Irene Ingersoll

February 8, 2018

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Vassilios and Natalia hard at work

 

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Natalia is “hands on”

Croatia Wines: Part I

We import white and red Croatian wines and make them available to U.S. consumers at our Topochines Vino online wine store: www.topochinesvino.com.

 

In late 2016 we made our first ever foray to the Balkans, a trip that was planned more or less on a whim and without any goal in mind but to explore the countries that make up the former Yugoslavia.  When this former communist country imploded in the early 1990’s, a number of countries formed out of its ashes – either six or seven, depending on whom you ask.  Yes, in that part of the world, everything is up for dispute.  At a minimum, the former Yugoslavia now comprises Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Montenegro, Serbia and Macedonia.  For reasons too complicated to explain here, Macedonia is usually referred to as the FYROM – the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.  Counting Macedonia, there are six countries that have sprung from the boundaries of the old Yugoslavia.   We’ll save the story about Kosovo for another day, but you can see on this map that it is considered an autonomous province of Serbia.

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There is a lot going on in this region!

On our 2 1/2 week trip we visited half of the countries that make up former Yugoslavia – Slovenia, Croatia, and Bosnia & Herzegovina.  During this trip – which originated in Venice – we met wine makers and other wine experts that opened our eyes up about this truly fascinating region. We were somewhat familiar with the history of the region, going back to the murder of Archduke Ferdinand in Sarajevo that sparked WWI, extending all the way through the recent Balkan war.  A very important detail, though, had escaped us:  the region’s viticulture and enology.

During our trip we learned that grape growing and wine making in Croatia, for example, go back 2,500 years to the time of the Ancient Greek settlers.  All along the Dalmatian coast of Croatia, grapes were planted and quality wine was made for both domestic use as well as export.  In more recent times, private wine production was hampered by the communist Yugoslav government, resulting in much of the wine industry being cooperatives, with private ownership discouraged.  After the collapse of Yugoslavia, private ownership of land once again emerged and the commercial production of wine once again became vibrant.  For the uninitiated, here is a quick primer on Croatian wines:

Wine Regions.  While there are 300 recognized sub-regions in Croatia, they can be broken down into two broad categories:  Continental and Coastal.  Historically, much of the hype has come from the Coastal region as it encompasses the well-known Istria region (very similar in many ways to Tuscany) and the Dalmatian coastal and island vineyards that produce some of the best wines in Croatia.  However, in the past several years producers in the Continental part of Croatia – primarily Slavonia and Plešivica – have begun making wines that are getting international attention.  We have recently tasted some of these wines, including some delicious sparkling wines, and plan to import them here to the U.S. and offer them on our Topochines Vino online wine store.

Even with the recent surge of quality in the Continental region, the focus in Croatia is still on the Coastal regions of Istria and Dalmatia.  Many visitors to Istria compare it to Tuscany, both for its physical resemblance as well as the quality food and wine available.

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Stunning views of Istrian vineyards in Croatia

Both red and white wines are produced in Istria, and vineyards feature both indigenous and international grape varietals.  The most common indigenous white grape grown in Istria is Malvasia; the most common red varietal is Teran.  We are offering a crisp, refreshing Istrian Malvasia from producer Benvenuti:  Buy Malvasia. 

Farther down the coast of Dalmatia one encounters some of the most famous regions and vineyards in all of Croatia. most of them producing wine from indigenous Croatian varietals.  Dalmatia breaks into three geographic sub-regions:  Northern Dalmatia, Interior Dalmatia, and Central/Southern Dalmatia.  These regions are largely dedicated to producing indigenous Croatian white varietals such as Bogdanuša, Debit, Grk, and Ninčuša and red varietals including Crljenak Kaštelanski, Dobričić, Plavina and Plavac Mali.

Geographically, the vineyards and wineries in Dalmatia are stunning and unlike anything we have ever seen.  One of the places we visited was Grgic Vina, the Croatian winery owned by Napa winemaking legend Mike Grgich (of Grgich Hills).  Their winery is a literal stone’s throw from the Adriatic sea and their vineyards a few hundred meters up the slope from the sea.

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Grgic Vina on Croatia’s Peljesac Peninsula in Croatia

Along the coast, many of the vineyards can be found on unbelievably sloped hills, some of them with upwards of 45 degree slope with vines running straight up and down the hill.

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Plavac Mali vines in Dingac (Croatia)

Obviously, harvest must be done by hand and in most cases the pickers have to be harnessed and tethered due to the extreme slope.

In all of our travels to U.S. and foreign wine regions, we have not seen anything quite like the Dalmatian region of Croatia.  While many vines are on the mainland close to the sea, some of the most famous vineyards are on islands and/or peninsulas:  Hvar, Brac, Korcula, Vis, and the Peljesac Peninsula that houses the Dingac vineyards above.

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Island of Korcula, home to Grk and Posip (Croatia)

 

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Island of Hvar  (Croatia)

 In our second installment on Croatia wines, we will go deeper into some of the wines that we think are most special and give more information about some of the most important indigenous varietals.
John & Irene Ingersoll
December 29, 2017

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