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Interview with Augusto Cardona, Sales Manager, Italian Wine Merchants Following is an interview with Augusto Cardona, Sales Manager, Italian Wine Merchants:

What was the first wine that made you realize you loved wine?
Damijan Ribolla Gialla 2002 made me change the way I look at white wine, and the first time I had Quintarelli Amarone I knew I’d never tasted anything even close to that before. However I have to say that the wine that did it for me, that truly made me realize that I love wine was Bartolo Mascarello’s 1989 Barolo (out of magnum). Like the Quintarelli it possessed layers and depth that I could draw few comparisons to, and definitely had the “what was that?” impact on me. However the one thing that made this one truly stand out was it’s elegance. To this day if you asked me to describe my idea of “elegance” I would have to say that that wine is an example that I would use.

Describe your perfect meal and the wine you’d pair with it?
Well, since I just got back from Piemonte how could I not mention white truffles on Tajarin with aged Barolo. But there is also something to be said about the simplicity of a white like Verdicchio from Le Marche (look for Sartarelli) that work their magic with the seafood of the Adriatic on a summer day. The zing and citrus nuances bring just about any fish back to life - no sauces needed here - just some grilled fish and lemon. A Rosso di Montalcino with some pici topped with wild boar ragu is also a nice, simple classic pair.

What’s the most common misconception that people have about wine?
High Points = Good Wine. That is the exact misconception that we try to dispel everyday here at IWM.
This is only one of the negatives associated with the rating system; in the end the rating system can deter people from establishing or discovering their own individual palate. Part of my responsibility is getting someone the wine that is best for them based on palate preference and understanding - it is an important part of our philosophy at IWM. A great read that captures our position on this is “When 84 Points Is Better Than 100” from our weekly eLetter.

What’s your newest find for under $20?
In this range I am looking for wines that are going to match my everyday eating as well as obscure varietals and regions (especially when talking Italian). We just received a number of new, interesting wines in the store that fit this bill. One in particular that I am very fond of is the Frecciarossa Uva Rara. This is 100% Uvarara from the Oltrepo Pavese area of Lombardia in northern Italy. Just an extremely rare varietal from an often underrated region in Italy. There is ~1,500 cases made.

Is there a wine you’ve always wanted to try, but never had the chance to?
I would be lying to you if I said I wouldn’t love to try a 1945 Mouton or 1947 Cheval Blanc. But at the prices they carry and the build up they received, that glass is carrying a lot of pressure to perform. I have read about them and I have clients who keep their mythical status alive. These Bordeaux have such large production, to me if I am going into the priceless realm, I would have to say the 1888 Biondi Santi Brunello Riserva would be up there. Only three remain at the estate, this is the wine that showed the world that Italy has wines that can age.

All three of those are the monuments to wine and would be on many wish lists, but really for me, I am fascinated by the biodynamic accomplishments of the Movia estate which has Ribollas dating back to the 1950s in their cellar. This overshadowed varietal of Friuli (and parts of Slovenia) has the structure to age and dispel a lot of beliefs about Italian whites (it should be noted the estate has vineyards that reside in both Italy and Slovenia as it rests on the border there.) The same is true for Mastroberardino with the varietal he helped rescue from extinction, Fiano. The estate still has bottles that date back to the 1950s – I’d love to try those.

Lastly, there are the mythical whites of the Fiorano estate from Prince Alberico Boncompagni Ludovisi - or as Eric Asimov of The New York Times describes puts it, the Prince and His Magic Cellar. The story is as intriguing as the wines. Strangely enough, these wines are from Lazio, not the first region you would think of to experience a dream wine. On top of that the whites are made up of Semillion and Malvasia - not the most exciting grapes. Yet, the wines challenge all convictions with their ability to age thirty years and deliver a flavor profile and experience that challenges the greatest whites in the world. The eccentric Prince, who rarely released his wines, wanted the wines to land in the hands of enthusiasts that would appreciate their complexity and he could only think of only one person. The Prince tore up his vineyards, so that they would not fall into the wrong hands, and left the entire cellar (consisting of thousands of bottles from the 1970s to ‘the 1990’s) to the great Italian wine journalist and personality Luigi Veronelli. Luigi kept his promise of maintaining the integrity of the wine and shortly before his death he passed the responsibility and wines to Sergio Esposito of IWM. Sergio is keeping that promise now by delivering the wines responsibly - in fact, we sell very few bottles each year. I don’t do the story justice, but it is one of those great wines stories that enthusiasts love to read about. It is a story that Sergio has captured in his upcoming book, Passion on the Vine: A Memoir of Food, Wine, and Family in the Heart of Italy

I have had the opportunity to taste four vintages from the Fiorano estate, but there are several vintages I have not yet experienced, which would make them the wine I want to experience most. Italy gets little credit for its whites, but these three have proven that age-worthy whites in Italy do exist.

Interview with winemaker Luc Baudet from Chateau Mas Neuf

Your interest in the techniques used for aging wine was influenced by your stay in Ireland, would you say that those techniques are more or less important than terroir?
Terroir is a three fold concept: The most obvious first two are soils (and their interaction with vines...) and climate, the third one is the human effort and skill to influence the outcome of what the first two can offer. In this acceptance, all actions including raising the wines before offering them to the public is part of terroir. They are all important, but the most difficult and long-to-achieve part is growing world class level grapes.

What sets Rhone apart from the other winemaking regions of France?
I think Rhone is not different from other great French terroirs. It has benefited from several centuries history of vine breeding and winemaking, and has the ability to grow in an unique way three fantastic grape varieties, the Syrah in the North, the Grenache and Mourvèdre in the South.

Why has the poularity of the wines of The Rhone increased in comparison to Bordeaux?
Maybe the uniqueness of Rhone is the ability to gather today a large public, from the very finest wine connoisseurs, to the newbies that are tired of the industrial rich fat New World, and want to be introduced to more truthful wines that express terroir. I really think Bordeaux has a few exceptional terroirs, that can indeed produce outstanding wines, but the average terroir in Bordeaux is not adapted to produce ripe grapes in a regular way. As you know the whole of Gironde is classified as AOC ground. But not all soils in this area can produce great grapes. In the Rhone, the climate is set to produce ripe grapes nearly every year. And in the Rhone, a lot of icon wines are produced by small family owned companies. As opposed to big capitalistic operations in Bordeaux.

Describe your perfect meal and the wine you'd pair with it?
A perfect meal for me would highly depend on which season we are in and the available fresh products available. As a trained chef, I like to pop in a traditional food market, and wander around and pick whatever great things are on offer. Of course, it depends whether I am near home or away. Last but not least, the perfect meal is also made of perfect company, a party of 8 to 10 is perfect to try many wines, and share. Let's say we are in May around our vineyards (fantastic season for fresh vegetables and nice seafood). We would have for a start a nice aperitif with a wide selection of local cold cuts, like Spanish Pata Negra, fresh green vegetables as a salad with Camargue salt and olive picholine oil, the famous brandade of Nimes toasted on Fresh bread. This would be an occasion to sample some extra brut champagnes, from small producers. I would mention the Raymond Boulard house, as well as some marvellous vintage from Lallier, but also a nice dry Chenin blanc from Jacky Blot. Then we would set up the plancha and have baby squids a la plancha with chorizo. This makes a terrific match with a dry Riesling from Alsace (or German from Mosel valley). We could then have a fantastic Mediterranean seabass stuffed with fresh fennel in a salt crust. That could be the time from a Meursault Genevrieres from the Comtes Lafon, with reasonable age (10 to 15 years). We would then switch on reds certainly sampling a wild duck fillet just ovened in a fig leaf, with a great Northern Rhône Syrah. I personnaly love the earthiness of Cornas, from Courbis, or Clape, but may others would do. We could go on with a rack of lamb with fresh thyme, and search for a fantastic Grenache Noir, here the whole southern Rhone would do. From the unique style of Reynaud (Rayas or Fonsalette) to the smashing fruit of Clos du Caillou or la Janasse... Then a cheese platter, mainly sheep and goat cheeses in this area, and you can dig into a Jura non oxidised white wine, or a very iodined great white from Grenache blanc and gris from Roussillon. For desert, a nice white fruit soufflé would introduce us to great late harvests, which will range from Sauternes to Quart de Chaume, and trockenbeerauslese... not forgetting the fantastic Alsace grain Nobles... For coffee, with dark chocolate, an old vintage port will lead conversations to last overnight... at least.

What's the most common misconception that people have about French wines?
I think a lot to do with perception of French wine and gastronomy is about too much complexity therefore it can scare people a lot. French wines are very diverse, for sure, but what I always try to convey as a key message about wine is that it is all about enjoyment and sharing. Do not bother if you cannot make a 5 minute comment on a wine. Just think whether you like it or not, trust your own senses. No expert can tell you what is good or not for you, the preference lies in each person own experience, so there should not be any social pressure built into the choice of a wine for an individual. Trust yourself and sample everything you will buy!!!

Is there a wine you've always wanted to try, but never had the chance to?
I would love to try all terroirs of la Romanée Conti, Burgundy reds can really be fantastic when made exceptional. And I believe this one is quite outstanding. (For more info on Mr Baudet and Mas Neuf see:

An Interview with Keith Beavers
The following is an interview with Keith Beavers, co-owner of In Vino Wine Bar & Restaurant and Alphabet City Wine Co. Keith also writes a blog called East Village Wine Geek.

What was the first wine that made you realize you loved wine?
It was a 1999 Paternoster Aglianico Del Vulture Don Anselmo. It was so full bodied and robust with rose petals and licorice and a tannin structure as mammoth as the mountain it was grown near yet harnessed and balanced. It sent off alarms in my mind and soul telling me this was very important somehow. And here I am a servant of wine, spreading the love...I hope.

Describe your perfect meal and the wine you’d pair it with?
Lamb, Baby! Lamb. Give me an herb encrusted medium rare, seared and roasted rack of New Zealand lamb served with a side of marinated mushroom and white bean salad (with some caramelized onions maybe) served over a bed of mixed greens. OOOHHHH WEEEE! Put me at a table with this dish and a bottle of Pont de Crillon 2005 Pont de Crillon Les Chais de Pont de Crillon Cote Du Rhone and I am a happy wine geek. Don’t bother me I am eating. This beautiful Syrah is one of the most subtle and integrated Rhones I have had yet. It is earthy without too much soil and has a deep pepper fruit that is not separated from the body but is swimming through the fruit. Not only does it compliment the flavors of the dish but takes on a life of its own as on your palate. And it’s twelve bucks!!

What’s the most common misconception that people have about wine?
That wine has to be expensive to be good or even great. Then there’s that whole Montepulciano d’Abruzzo versus Vino Nobile Di Montepulciano. But the first is the biggest.

What’s your newest find for under $20?
I am really diggin’ this beautiful blend from Gascogne called Le Rouge Gorge. It is a blend of Cabernet Franc and Tannat. I have never had a blend like this and only the French could pull this one off. Tannat is one of the most tannic grapes on the globe but somehow this producer finds calm balance in the blend. This wine is powerful yet subtle with lean, deep berry fruit and a gripping tannin structure that holds on just long enough for some face time and then it blends into the fruit and allows the subtle peppery cab franc notes to come center stage for a bit. It’s a beautiful wine and it’s only eleven bucks.

Is there a wine you’ve always wanted to try, but never had the chance to?
Every wine I have not tried yet! But seriously if anyone wants to pop on over to Alphabet City Wine Co. and bring a bottle of 1996 Grand Cru Burgundy ... I am there Tuesday, Thursday Friday and Saturday. No pressure. I will be waiting...but no pressure.

Interview with Pierre Bollet, Brand Manager Chamarre

Tell us a little about the history of Chamarre.
Chamarre’s history is a series of firsts. First company putting together the production capacity of 13,000 winegrowers in all main wine regions in France, first association of growers to become public (Paris Stock Exchange), first company to bring to the market the new appellation “ Vins de Pays Vignobles de France”.

To understand the reasons that lead Pascal Renaudat to create Chamarre, we have to look at the world wine market. In a word, France could sell much more wine than it currently does. The reasons for this underperformance? French Wines are seen as too complex, difficult to choose for the non-connoisseur, which means for 9 wine-drinkers out of 10.

Pascal Renaudat achieved this tour de force in 2006 when he convinced 13,000 winegrowers throughout France to start working together on Chamarre. Many entrepreneurs had failed making winegrowers from Bordeaux, Burgundy, and Languedoc work together. Pride and unconditional attachment to traditions made it nearly impossible. If somebody could achieve it, it was certainly not a winegrower. That is the main reason why Pascal Renaudat, a wine import-export expert but not a winegrower himself, managed to create this large association from all around France.

In a world where there are so many good French wines to choose from, what makes the Chamarre concept so unique?
Chamarré is the only wine that combines the quality, freshness and complexity of prestigious northern wine regions like Burgundy, Loire or Bordeaux, with the fruit-forward, approachable style from the South: Languedoc, Corsica, South-West. The result: wines that show a yummy acidity, a subtle combination of complexity and fruit, of freshness and approachability.

Chamarré is also a guarantee that you will not have bad surprises from vintage to vintage. By adapting our blends according to the summer we have in France, Renaud Rosari, our Master Winemaker, is able to maintain a consistency in the style and in the price, which estate wines cannot achieve.

Why did Chamarré choose the wines that it did for the American market?
Chamarré is currently sold in Europe, Asia, and North America. The taste of consumers varies greatly in such different countries and cultures. Chamarré adapts to each market with wines that fit the palate-style of each country. For example the Grande Réserve line has been designed for America, because wine consumption is strongly driven by the grape varietal. Chamarré is focusing on this line in the US, because they are 100% single varietal. We have already many fans of our Grande Réserve Pinot Noir for example. In France, consumption by the region is more important, and we have permanent listing of Chamarré Bordeaux and Chamarré Jurançon in Monoprix, a leading national gourmet supermarket chain.

What is the best part of your job? ... and the worst?
Let’s start with the worst! What I really dislike is when somebody tells me that French wines are either too expensive or to complicated, so they don’t even want to look at Chamarré. Yes, we can produce great wines at everyday price in France!

The best part is when I see the brand growing everyday. Creating a brand demands a lot of hard work and perseverance, but the pleasure of seeing new Chamarré consumers every day is just as rewarding as the job is tough! This is my first job, I am very proud to be a part of this fantastic project.

Describe your perfect meal and the wines you'd pair with it?
To get along with the heat of the summer, I recommend a Mediterranean pasta salad, with penne, cherry tomatoes, olives, peppers, parmigiano cheese and olive oil. A light Chardonnay, not overly oaked and slighty fruit-forward is a perfect pairing to that… try the Chamarré Grande Réserve Chardonnay!

As a dessert, why not putting together a tropical fruit salad with mango, pineapple, peaches and pears, and sipping a Chamarré Jurançon? I tried this one more than once, the mango and pineapple taste in the Jurançon are magnified, it is amazing!

What's next on the horizon?
Chamarré will continue its series of firsts, by launching a type of wine that has never been introduced before! To be unveiled in a couple of months, this release will show how Chamarré is always coming up with innovation, once again! Let’s talk about it in a couple of months…

(About Pierre) After graduating from a Master’s in Marketing at EDHEC Business School in Lille, France, I knew I wanted to work the Wine Business. I discovered the wine industry during my gap year, where I worked for Champagne Veuve Clicquot and for Nicolas, a wine-store chain in France. As I kept informed about the wine industry, I heard about Chamarré, which had just been created. Chamarré offered me a position in NYC, a great challenge, and a very high quality team, it was perfect for me!

Interview with Vito Polosa of Aroma Kitchen & Winebar

What was the first wine that made you realize you loved wine?
A simple moscato that made me get up at 6 am on a sunday morning at the age of 10 to go have a sip all by myself.

Describe your perfect meal and the wine you’d pair with it?
I like wholesome, fresh vegetable soups and normally like to pair them with a good, vibrant, young white wine like a Tocai Friuliano or Ribolla Gialla... Raw fish starters like crudo or sushi go wonderfully with a sparkling rose. If I’m in the mood for a good pasta dish I’ll go for homemade gnudi with a great bolognese sauce and pair it with a well made, honest Sangiovese. A juicy piece of lamb that is well roasted but still nice and pinkish in the inside, served simply with no sauces is perfect with an older vintage of Aglianico. Lastly, I love pies with seasonal fruits, and an old school custard or Creme Anglais and a Sauthern or a Passito di Pantelleria goes perfectly with it.

What’s the most common misconception people have regarding wine?
That it is bad for you... that the higher in alcohol and concentration, the better it might be... that it should not be tannic

What's the advantage of ordering a flight of wine?
It’s always fun to taste different wines and to try to find out for yourself what you personally like and dislike. A flight of wine allows you to sample from a variety of wines without overdoing it.

What's your current pick for best value in an Italian wine at Aroma?
Right now we have a 2000 Bordeaux blend from Veneto that is on our list for $68 that I have seen in Italy selling for over $130 Euros.

Serafini and Vidotto Rosso dell'Abazzia.

Why do you think the concept of Aperitivo worked so well for you at a time when it was almost nonexistent in NYC?

People are still catching on to the concept of aperitivo, but for us it’s just a really great, civilized way to socialize after work.

Alexandra Degiorgio and Vito Polosa’s childhood in the Mediterranean was founded in a culture with a strong, stable culinary tradition where great pleasure is derived from food and where dining is an experience to be savored. Great meals lasted for hours, bringing family and friends together. These meals were always prepared with local and fresh ingredients and with love, care and attention. Since moving to New York, Alexandra and Vito have seen the same passion for food and drink but found the experience is rarely savored or remembered here. This passion is also often hindered by a fear that delicious food cannot be healthy for you. After they met in November 2002, they created an escape in their home by hosting frequent dinners to celebrate friendships and family, food and wine. They dreamed of creating a restaurant that would bring back the values of fresh, local food that is carefully prepared coupled with wonderful wines and genuine service. Alexandra Degiorgio and Vito Polosa opened Aroma Kitchen & Winebar in March 2005 with a vision to take guests to new levels of Italian food and wine enjoyment, making every meal a memorable experience.

Aroma is a study in contrasts: The urban/rustic interior features exposed brick, a dark wood bar with natural edges juxtaposed with mirrors framed with brushed steel. The room is softly lit by both contemporary chandeliers and flickering candles. Brought together by their shared passion for food, wine and entertaining, owners Degiorgio and Polosa are both as active behind the scenes as they are in front of the house. Alexandra, a native of Malta, was formerly a consultant for American Management Systems (AMS), an international information technology firm. Vito, from Potenza, Italy (just South of Naples) has extensive experience in service as waiter, head waiter or manager at such NYC restaurants as Fiamma, Da Silvano, Bice and Il Gattopardo. Most recently, he was a wine salesman for Winebow, one of New York's largest wine and liquor distributors. The team brings passionate, focused intensity to the art of relaxing hospitality. They plan to share their enthusiasm with wine tastings, directed pairings and other educational programs.