An insider's view of the Connecticut dining scene
Nov 23, 2013
10:41 AM
The Connecticut Table

Love 'Real' Wine? Discover Angelini's Italian Gems; Top Prosecco for the Holidays

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When I met the folks at Angelini at their Centerbrook headquarters in October, Paul Angelini was just back from Italy and another harvest season. The conversation ranged from the founding and evolution of the business to truffles and worldwide trends—but it always came back to the authenticity and integrity of the wines, qualities that were deliciously evident later when the wines were enjoyed.

In the mid-80’s when they launched Angelini, Julius and Paul didn’t have a background in wine importing or the wine business in the U.S. Both were working in engineering  fields, and Plebiscito had worked at Electric Boat. (Paul Angelini, left, Julius, right, and Ron Plebiscito, below left.)

“Wine and food was just a part of everyday life,” the Angelinis said, and the estate in Italy represented not only a family tradition but a new opportunity.

They started small—the first warehouse was barely 800 square feet and all the wines had to be brought in by hand—and they remain small, on purpose, to stay true to the mission of sourcing the top boutique wines in Italy made with the same purity that is the hallmark of the Angelini estate wines.

Back then, the U.S. market only knew Italian wines through what was available from the big commercial producers. There were very few boutique wines imported, which put Angelini way ahead of its time because small-yield wines made in small batches that reflect the soil they come from are now what wine lovers and connoisseurs seek out.

People liked Angelini’s wines—in 1988 their list of products included just Pinot Grigio, Dolcetto, Chianti, Barbaresco and Brunello—but, in the case of Prosecco, for example, Plebiscito recalled that people didn’t know how to pronounce the names. (Except for at least one fan, a woman from Davenport, Iowa, whose love for Angelini wines made Iowa the first state in the U.S. outside of Connecticut were they were distributed.)

Even as the sophistication of wine drinkers evolved, Angelini has always had to educate people about the intricacies of Italian wines, and they also had to dig in and overhaul the vineyards at the estate in Italy in the late 1990s. Some vineyards were old-fashioned, while others, planted in the 60’s, were designed for high production—the opposite of the Angelinis’ approach to making very fine wines.

The 7.5 acres of vineyards at the estate are devoted to red wines in three carefully selected varietals: Sangiovese, Vernaccia (Pergola Rosso) and Merlot. Larger barrels are used for longer aging, which enhances the site-specific terroir character of the wines, and—critically in the formula for producing world-class wines—the vines are planted densely and production is very limited, to the point that each vine may produce just one or two bottles of wine.

Paul Angelini, the winemaker in the family, delves into the details of the science of the replanting of the vineyards, talking about university studies and a rigorous process to choose specific Sangiovese clones and certain rootstocks.

The story about the Pergola Rosso has all the elements of a great wine narrative—science, tradition, family lore and, in the end, a unique and top notch wine in the bottle. It comes from a grape (some call it Vernaccia Rosso) that’s indigenous to the Marche region, and the Angelinis say that only there are only a handful of producers of the wine within a 10-mile radius of their estate.

Love 'Real' Wine? Discover Angelini's Italian Gems; Top Prosecco for the Holidays

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