An insider's view of the Connecticut dining scene
Nov 23, 2013
10:41 AMThe Connecticut Table
Love 'Real' Wine? Discover Angelini's Italian Gems; Top Prosecco for the Holidays
If you like wine but have kept the relationship at a casual level, there’s an experiment you should try this holiday season. Once you do it, your enjoyment of wine—especially when paired with food—will never be the same.
You’ll get a palpable lesson in what the pleasure quotient is like on a higher wine plateau, the domain of “real” wines with integrity that are shaped by nature and noble heritage rather than formulas and fads—wines like those offered by Angelini Wine, Ltd., based on the shoreline in the Centerbrook village of Essex.
Angelini was founded in 1986 by Julius and Paul Angelini, who were joined by their longtime friend Ron Plebiscito. The Angelini brothers spent their childhood years in the farming village of San Lorenzo de Campo, in the Marche region of Italy, and the family’s 200-acre Azienda Agricola Angelini is the heart of the business. Its title, Azienda Agricola, embodies the underlying philosophy as it indicates the family's wines are made only from grapes grown on the estate.
In addition to the award-winning Italian estate wines it produces, Angelini imports boutique-production wines from other parts of Italy and, to a lesser degree, from other wine regions of the world, like Burgundy.
Here’s the experiment, which has the most pronounced effect when done with red wine:
Pick up a bottle of a latest-sensation wine, something priced at $10 to $15—something that has pulled in a lofty rating because it boasts a prominent “nose” and forward flavors. It's likely to be inky, dark purple, and on the palate it will seem bold, lush and nuanced.
There's nothing wrong with any of that, certainly (but wait for the revelation). To complete this experiment, you’ll also have to acquire a bottle of “authentic” wine with a higher pedigree, one that truly reflects its grape varietal(s) and place of origin, along with embodying purity and the touch of a winemaker who works with the fidelity to core truths and understanding of a fine artisan—a wine such as the Angelini Pergola Rosso or the Sangiovese Riserva.
The rest of the exercise is as simple as the impact will be enlightening. Enjoy a glass of your wine-of-the-moment, and pair some of the sips with complementary food. Then switch to an Angelini wine as the main attraction with dinner—and then, before enjoying too much wine altogether, pour a last small glass of that “amazing bargain” red.
Now, in comparison to a nuanced, more authentic wine that has revealed its true depth and character over the course of a dinner, that first wine will seem simplistic, almost sugary and maybe even a bit like bubblegum. (Paradoxically, if you had casually tasted the bargain wine and the Angelini wine side-by-side in a wine shop, the “overachieving” bargain might have seemed in that context-lacking environment to be more immediately appealing and the Angelini wine more muted.)
So what's the truth? Both wines have their place, but the experiment demonstrates by example how good it feels to arrive on a higher plane of enjoying truly fine wines.
Now you’re ready to read about Angelini’s portfolio of wines, its Italian focus and rigorous, artisan winemaking tradition, along with how to seek out these wines in Connecticut, and even how to get in on an Angelini wine tasting done via Skype.
Any story on wine for a general audience works best when it puts the wines first and keeps things simple. In that spirit, here are a handful of wines either made or imported by Angelini that are great ways to get acquainted with the portfolio. (Note: all prices referenced are Angelini’s suggested retail prices, not necessarily retailers’ actual prices.)
In terms of white wines, seek out:
- The season’s best affordable sparkling wine, the Carpene Malvolti Prosecco di Conegliano DOCG from Veneto ($18.99). It’s a light, beautiful and complex wine you won’t want to stop drinking.
- The Battistina Gavi from Piemonte ($15.99), which is just like the website description: “rich with flavors of pears and peaches, zingy acidity, mineral notes and an immensely long finish.”
- The Palagetto Vernaccia di San Gimignano Riserva ($26.99), which has an intense bouquet of peach, lime blossom and honey, and dances on the palate with a “combination of citrus and vanilla bean, mineral notes, with creamy almond tone finish.” It will stand up to risotto and even homemade pasta.
- The Piazzo Chardonnay Piemonte ($11.99), which is a lovely little wine that could teach higher-priced American chardonnays a lesson. With its “mint, green apple and lemon/citrus notes,” Angelini likes it with seafood.
- Angelini’s own Rose Sangiovese D.O.C. ($10.99), which is dry and well-balanced, velvety, marked by hints of strawberries and cherries and great with curtain-raising small plates or just on its own.
In terms of reds, three wines produced by Angelini immediately stand out—and the first two played actual roles (on different nights) in the experiment suggested at the top:
- Angelini Estate Pergola Rosso ($16.99). This medium-bodied red is light, soft and silky to the point that on the nose it reads as a bit floral (rose petals and lavender). It evolves on the palate into a study in delicious purity, with tones of cherries, strawberries and currants. Wine & Spirits Magazine gave the 2011 a 90 rating, calling it “ebullient, winning with its delicacy and charm.” Enjoy it with a dish of, say, risotto with mushrooms and you will fall in love, Italian-style.
- Angelini Estate Sangiovese Riserva ($24.99). Another defining estate wine, this one has a full-throttle nose of ripe berries and a touch of vanilla, and, with its architectural structure, “noble” tannins and long legs, it pairs perfectly with grilled meats and prime steaks.
- Piazzo Dolcetto d`Alba and Barbera Piemonte (both $11.99). Piazzo may be the label imported by Angelini that is most commonly found in Connecticut wine shops. Despite its larger footprint, the wines are aged, filtered and bottled with a personal touch, and it shows. The Dolcetto is dry and firm, while the Barbera is a little more jammy but still holds together tightly. Both pair well with hearty dishes, and notably for this time of year, with soups.
Jump to: An Effervescent Way to Open Thanksgiving Festivities, and an 89-Point White to Mix Into the Holidays Recipe
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.
There are also a handful of old farmhouses on the Angelini estate, and at one that has been refurbished “it’s literally growing outside the front door,” Paul said. The Angelinis’ father was cutting it back, and “now he just trains it so every year it comes out.”
That’s the original Pergola Rosso, probably with the original rootstock, and cuttings from it were grafted onto vines in the vineyard that produce the wine.
One Angelini cousin is 93 this year and he remembers it being there since he was a kid,” Paul says. “It’s kind of a cool vine; it just persists.”
While Sangiovese is Angelini’s “bread-and-butter,” the estate merlot may be the wine to watch. Paul Angelini recalls coming across a locally-produced merlot while enjoying an annual wine fair in the town. As the story goes, the Angelinis would stroll around the village during the fair and buy demijohns of wine to go with the al fresco food from an old man who had been growing merlot for 30 years but didn’t know what it was.
“The old-timers loved production,” Paul said, and this elder was producing 12 or 13 tons of grapes per acre. The Angelinis, Julius explained, picked the right Merlot clone, drastically reduced the yield, and make only 1,200 bottles a year.
“It’s just an easy wine to make. It’s perfect,” said Paul, who had just tasted the 2012 and says it’s also a terrific vintage. The Wine Hub says the merlot ($49.99) “is a rich and luscious wine that goes in like a tiger and goes out like a swan, elegant, soft and lingering.”
“One of the things we’re doing right now is doing it the very authentic way,” says Paul, pointing as an example to the Angelini Rose, made from Sangiovese, as a lovely byproduct of a larger equation. During the harvest, they take 20 percent of the juice straight from the crush of the Sangiovese grapes for the rose, which results in a light wine with both softness and richness—but the real dividend is that taking that juice off the top serves to concentrate the Sangiovese wines made from the rest of the juice.
“We’re doing everything a very authentic way. Sooner or later people will notice,” says Paul.
Even as Angelini has a reputation for making and importing superior Italian wines, there remains something of an uphill battle.
“People look at the color of the wine a lot,” Julius says, remarking how people view dark and inky as indicators of a high-quality wine (which is more a result of marketing and conditioning than being true). Rarefied red Burgundies, for example, are often light colored, and pinnacle Italian wines such as Barolo and Barbaresco must be 100 percent Nebbiolo, a light-colored grape. Sangiovese is also light-colored.
“Our philosophy is that you’ve got all of these wines [in our portfolio] … and this is what these wines should taste like. Our Barolo tastes like a Barolo,” Julius says, adding, “Just because it’s dark and inky doesn’t mean it’s good.”
As for Angelini’s continuing growth and success, Julius says, “We’re promoting the fact that we’re also winemakers.” That’s the edge as they go after a bigger share of a specialized marketplace, working primarily with smaller wine shops where their portfolio can be well-curated.
Getting the word out on social media—as with the Skype tastings—is also a priority as Angelini also expands its offering of small-production boutique wines. (“We’ll bring in a palette of wine if we like it and we think it’s cool.”
“If you bring in boutique items it goes against the grain of the industry,” says Paul, and in the case of Angelini, that’s a good thing; so good that Angelini ranks among the trusted names in the wine importing business where simply seeing the name on a label makes it smart to buy the wine.
An Effervescent Way to Open the Thanksgiving Festivities,
And an 89-Point White to Mix Into the Recipe
A recent wine of the week on the Angelini blog, and one flagged as a great way to open the Thanksgiving festivities, is the Carpenè Malvoti Prosecco di Conegliano DOCG.
Prosecco is a sparkling wine made in the same tradition as champagne. While many Proseccos from Italy arrive in America as bubbly to enjoy on a bargain budget, Carpenè Malvoti Prosecco di Conegliano is something else entirely—it’s deep, rich, layered with flavors, nutty and complex.
One sip of this lets you know that, while light, approachable and as flirty as a sparkling wine should be, it’s also a wine of substance—and one you’ll that will challenge any plans to have just a glass and move onto to something heartier.
Angelini covers that attribute and others in its blog post:
“The popularity of Italian Prosecco has been on a steady up rise over the last decade. It really isn’t surprising that the soft bubbles and refreshing taste of this sparkling wine is a hit with so many. As always, we pride ourselves with working with the “best in class” and Carpenè Malvotti is no exception. You see, the Carpenè family were the first company to submit quality Prosecco to the sparkling process, making Carpenè Malvolti a leader in this field both in Italy and abroad.
“The Carpenè Malvoti Prosecco di Conegliano DOCG has a dry, delicate pear fruit and apple taste, followed with a full, pleasant finish. Prosecco is a food-friendly sparkling wine option. Perfect for a Thanksgiving Day hostess gift, to toast with an aperitif, or to enjoy throughout your meal, it’s any easy choice at a suggested retail of $18.99 for this top Italian Prosecco.”
The Angelini Family’s Italian Winemaking Tradition
Angelini Wine Imports is a company steeped in Italian heritage, which is covered in detail on its website, a section of which is excerpted here:
“Owners Julius and Paul Angelini spent their childhood years in the farming village of San Lorenzo in Campo, within the Marche region of Italy. The family’s third generation, 200-acre farm land featurres with 8 specialized acres devoted to vineyards of Sangiovese, Vernaccia & Merlot.”
The Angelini team “makes frequent trips to Italy where they have personal relationships with each producer and visit the vineyards and tour the wine cellars. The partners search continuously for authentic, high quality wines from around the world including; Italy, Argentina, Germany, and California; as well as sake and plum wines from Japan.”
The Angelini Estate, Azienda Agricola Angelini, “ is nestled approximately 1,000 feet above sea level in the small farming village of San Lorenzo in Campo, within the Marche region of Italy. Azienda Agricola is another word for estate which denotes the wine is made only from grapes grown here. …”
“Our estate wines are cared for primarily employing organic intervention methods. We utilize larger barrels and employ longer aging processes which help to retain the distinct terroir character of the wines we make. Our goal is to produce serious wines for the most demanding consumer.
“The Angelini Estate has beautiful olive trees scattered about the property as well as pastures of radiant sunflowers, flowering alfalfa and fields of wheat. Our farm is located on the beautiful rolling hills of the Marche region and only 16 miles from sea, on a clear day visitors can spot a view of the Adriatic from the vineyard. The farm is proudly and meticulously maintained by a local personal caretaker throughout the year.
As the Azienda Agricola Angelini continues to evolve, studies are taking place to refurbish the existing farmhouse building on the estate for future leisure and travel accommodations.”
Importing Bespoke Wines From Burgundy
Quality over quantity is another Angelini hallmark, and when it comes to one of the most hallowed wine regions in the world, Burgundy, the importer represents just one property—but it’s exactly the right property to bring a French component to Angelini’s predominantly Italian portfolio.
The lineup from Domaine Dublere includes Savigny Les Beaune 1er Cru Les Vergelesses ($47.99), Davigny Les Beaune Les Planchots du Nord ($36.99), and Volnay 1er Cru Taillepieds ($63.99).
A story in Business Week called the 2011 Savigny Les Beaune “bright, even sassy,” and one person who posted in a chat forum on burgundy-report.com rhapsodized in brief about the Volnay 1er Cru : “… beautiful fruit, well-balanced and a long smooth finish.”
“The winery is owned by American Blair Pethel who also makes the wines,” Angelini said in release announcing its association with Domaine Dublere
Pethel was living in London in the 1980s when he traveled to Burgundy and fell in love with it, the release said. “With no prior wine education, Pethel enrolled at the Lycee Viticole of Beaune, apprenticed with several well-respected winemakers and in 2004 made his first vintage."
“American Blair Pethel is a man of multiple talents,” says burgoholic.com. “He was an actor, a concert pianist and a journalist before finding his vocation: vigneron. When living in London in the 1980’s he discovered Burgundy (both the wines and the region) which ultimately resulted in Blair attending the Lycée Viticole in Beaune in 2004. Here he was a classmate of David Clark with whom he now shares some equipment. Blair owns a few vineyards himself, but most of the wines he produces are from bought-in grapes. But he does all the vineyard work himself, even in the vineyards he doesn’t own. Blair is very serious about attention to detail. Not just in the vineyard but also in the winery: he has his own little laboratory to do all the technical analysis, and he filters all the water he uses in the cuverie! It will come as no surprise that the wines “du Blair” are very well made."
“We are excited to include Domaine Dublere in our portfolio, said Julius Angelini. “Burgundy is one of the world’s most important wine regions and we had been searching for a winery that shared our philosophy of making ‘unadultured’ wines; wines that true and not manipulated; wines that are true to their terroir—Domaine Dublere is a perfect fit. We look forward to working with Domaine Dublere and representing their wines.”
For more, see the Domaine Dublere page on the Angelini website.
Angelini’s Standout Estate Red Wines: Sangiovese & Beyond
|Angelini Estate Sangiovese Riserva|
And, finally, enjoy!Love 'Real' Wine? Discover Angelini's Italian Gems; Top Prosecco for the Holidays