With over 1000 varieties of indigenous wine and many appellations, Italy is an ideal wine supplier for retailers and sommeliers alike, offering both exploration and quality. The selection of Italian wines available to consumers in the U.S. is more expansive than ever. SevenFifty Daily asked nine wine buyers nationwide about what Italian wines they are most excited about. Their results are spread across the country from Sicily up to Piedmont. (All wineries are listed with the price by bottle at the designated establishment.)
Fabulas ‘Fecerunt’ Pecorino 2020, Terre di Chieti, Abruzzo ($40)
Selected by Eric Prato, owner Garagiste, Las Vegas
“The 2020 Fabulas ‘Fecerunt’ Pecorino is made by a group of friends who have made it their goal to improve the quality coming from Abruzzo,” Garagiste’s owner Eric Prato, who curates a collection of more than 40 wines that are small-production and offbeat by-the-glass in their Las Vegas bar and retail shop. “Wine can often be overwhelming and pretentious, so we are trying to create more of a relaxed, inviting environment with a by-the-glass that changes weekly.” Prato always opts for this Pecorino in the summer months when temperatures are rising because “the wine is clean and thirst-quenching,” Prato believes there’s a better complement to this fresh wine than an Italian sheep’s milk cheese with an identical name.
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Ermes Pavese Blanc de Morgex et de la Salle 2021, Valle d’Aosta ($50)
Sarah Milstein, wine director of Betty, Sacramento, California, selected the selection.
“This is springtime in the Italian Alps … in a glass,” says Sarah Milstein, Betty’s wine director. Betty is a mix of a wine shop and a bar in Sacramento’s Southside Park neighborhood, offering an impressive selection of global wines. The informal neighborhood bar showcases the best value wines that go well with simple meals and draw customers with their curiosity. These qualities make this white wine from one of the most affluent European vineyards the perfect match. Millstein especially loves this 100% Prie Blanc for its “combination of “fresh alpine blooms, dazzling clarity, and a lively springtime racy.”
Tiare Sauvignon Blanc 2021, Collio Goriziano, Friuli-Venezia Giulia ($25)
Selected by Laura Koffer, vice president of wine, Wine Access, Napa, California
“I love Sauvignon Blanc in all its forms,” says Laura Koffer, vice president of wine at Wine Access’s online retail store. “But Italy has been quietly making some of the world’s best Sauvignon Blanc in the northeastern region of Friuli for decades.” The company is based in Napa Valley; Wine Access offers wines daily through email newsletters, wine clubs, and an online store, in which Tiare is a regular selection. Like Tiare, Koffer loves Friulian Sauvignon Blanc in the summertime since the wine is great “on its own poolside with a good book,” and lighter dishes such as salads and shellfish take center stage. “The wines are powerful and dense with notable minerality yet defined fruit character,” she states. “They are in a category all to themselves and well worth exploring.”
From right to left: Fabulous ‘Fecerunt’ Pecorino (Photo by Matchvino Imports); Ermes Pavese, Blanc de Morgex et de la Salle (Photo provided by the owner from Cream Wine Creamery); Tiare Sauvignon Blanc (Photo from Wine Access)
Ezio Poggio ‘Caespes’ Timorasso 2020, Piedmont ($27.95)
Selected by Talitha Whidbee, owner Vine Wine, Brooklyn
“I am always a sucker for Timorasso and will buy it whenever I see it,” says Talitha Whidbee, Brooklyn’s Vine Wine owner. The local shop in Williamsburg concentrates on what Whidbee calls honest wines: “We focus on wines that are made with as little intervention as possible, but we prefer wines that are delicious over dogmatic stances on things like sulfur,” she explains. “I think of the store as being inspired by your favorite record store–we’ll always have something you want, but it won’t always be the same bottle because so many of our producers make such small quantities of wine.” Ezio Poggio’s Timorasso “brings incredible balance between minerality and fruit,” claims Whidbee. “The wine is really a joy to drink, with its combination of texture and weight.”
Giuseppe Rinaldi ‘Brunate’ Barolo 2018, Piedmont ($1,750)
Selected by Gino Ferraro, owner of Ferraro’s Restaurant, Las Vegas
The wine cellar of 1600 bottles at Ferraro’s comprises 80 percent Italian with a specific concentration in Italian classics. Nebbiolo-based wines are a particular source of inspiration for the owner, Gino Ferraro. “I’m possibly the most passionate person on the planet when it comes to Nebbiolo,” Ferraro says, stating that he believes the quality and potential for cellaring of the wines are the most prominent selling point being closely followed by Nebbiolo’s cooking skills, which are matched with traditional Italian cuisine. There’s no greater winemaker in Barolo other than Giuseppe Rinaldi, whose wines are priced at the highest level but provide value compared to the best of other world-class wine regions, per Ferraro.
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Barberani ‘Castagnolo’ Orvieto Classico Superiore, Umbria ($39)
Selected by Hugh Preece, operating partner, Salt Creek Grille, New Jersey and California
To Salt Creek Grille operating partner Hugh Preece, Barberani’s Orvieto Superiore is a must-have summer drink in all locations with various wines. “It’s a great wine to enjoy as an aperitif, but also versatile enough to go with various dishes, from seafood to pastas and grilled vegetables,” Preece declares. It’s a refreshing, light blend of grapes in Umbria, including Grechetto, Procanico, Verdello, Drupeggio, and Malvasia. There are locations within New Jersey and southern California; Salt Creek Grille offers traditional American dishes on its seafood-based menu and caters to a variety of tastes; however, Preece believes that the Barberini Orvieto to be a perfect match for all occasions due to its floral and citrusy aromatic character. “It’s a really versatile wine worth trying, and should be on everybody’s radar,” Preece says.
From left to right: Barberini ‘Castagnolo’ Orvieto Classico Superiore (Photo credit: Ivan Rossi Fotografo); Barone di Villagrande Etna Bianco Superiore (Photo courtesy of D and P Selezioni USA); Marco De Bartoli ‘Integer’ Grillo (Photo courtesy of Louis/Dressner)
Barone di Villagrande Etna Bianco Superiore, Sicily ($58)
The wine was selected from Michael Klinger, wine director of Supperland and Ever Andalo, Charlotte, North Carolina.
The winemaker in North Carolina, wine director Michael Klinger, is reaching for wines from the sun-kissed coasts of Sicily to satisfy customers’ thirst at Supperland and Ever Andalo. While the two restaurants are wildly different–Supperland describes itself as a “southern steakhouse meets church potluck,” while Ever Andalo has a 300-bottle list dedicated to Italy–Klinger finds common ground with Sicilian wines thanks to their versatility on the table. “I love this with almost any seafood–especially raw or baked oysters, shrimp cocktail, or scampi-style pasta–tarragon chicken salad, as well as any pesto or mushroom cream sauce,” Klinger declares. It is mainly made of Carricante. It produces the “elegant, racy, and mineral-driven wine, bursting with white peach and candied lime fruit, nutty almond and caraway spice notes, and finishing with tingling, mouthwatering acidity.”
Marco De Bartoli ‘Integer’ Grillo 2020, Sicily ($120)
Selected by Morgan Harris, head sommelier, Angler, San Francisco
In San Francisco’s Michelin-starred monument to marine life, chef of the sommelier department Morgan Harris is putting Marco De Bartoli’s distinctive Integer Grillo on the top of the list this year. In a program for bottles that focuses on traditional wine regions and the best producer, Harris finds that the Integer stands out due to its unique winemaking process involving skin contact. “Most Grillo I find to be kind of leaden and un-animated, but a small amount of skin contact gives the wine a lot more aromatic presence, and the texture and acid are both riveting,” Harris adds, pointing out that the wine makes a great seafood pairing. “It doesn’t necessarily follow that the grandmaster of Marsala would make great unfortified, dry, white table wines, but this is stellar.”