Know Your Importer, Vol. 3 – deGrazia

Tonight at 6pm Mudgie’s presents five wines from the portfolio of Marc deGrazia Selections.

Marco deGrazia began his import company in 1980 with a degree in comparative literature and two Tuscan estates yet unknown in the US: Fontodi and Podere il Palazzino. Before this, Italian wines were limited by a popular perception that they should be cheap and simple. De Grazia’s venture represents the beginning of the world’s fascination with the great Italian wines, which are now known to be second to none anywhere on earth.



Italy claims certain natural and historical fortunes when it comes to making great wine.

1) Thousands of years of continuous vine cultivation and extremely varied geology and climate have given Italy an indigenous stock of vine varieties that are beautifully adapted to their specific region. This delicate balance can be tested, when, for example the great grapes Sangiovese and Nebbiolo are transplanted to other regions their greatness is lost.

2) Relatively decentralized political structure in recent centuries has resulted in unparalleled diversity, with nearly every farm and backyard acting as a viticultural laboratory. Contrast this with France and Germany, which produce wines from a more collective and centralized model.

3) Wealthy elites have provided the essential support for the risky and demanding work required to make great wines. From the princes of Florence and Sienna, to the mercantile elites of Venice to the modern industrialists, Italians love Italian wine and support it.

The great wines of Italy are so numerous and diverse that it would be impossible to represent them with 100 wines, let alone five! Tonight, at best, we can hope to inspire more exploration, and for some of us that can be the pursuit of a lifetime.



Image - Version 2
Short Name: Albaspino
Full Name: 2015 Bianchello del Matauro
Producer: Fattoria Villa Ligi
Owner: Stefano Tonelli and Marco Gozzi
Geography: Northern Marche on the Adriatic (east) coast
Volume: The entire estate is 60 acres and produces 7 wines. About 1300 cases of this wine is produced.
$12 bottle
Variety: Biancame (a.k.a. Bianchello)
Description: A deceptively plain beauty with a creamy peach pit character lifted by a natural trace of dissolved gasses. The essence of its appeal is the fact that it does not demand to be noticed. But scrutinize it and it is rewarding with its balance and versatility.
Comparables: Good Friuli Pinot Grigio. Pinot Blanc. Unoaked Chardonnay.
Pairings: Versatile. I’ve had this with spicy Mexican tortas, grilled cheese, and Mudgie’s chicken fajita salad. Excellent.

Image 2 - Version 2
Short Name: Frappato
Full Name: 2014 Centonze Frappato
Producer: Centonze (say: chin-tone-zay)
Owner: Giovanni Centonze with daughter Carla and son Nicola.
Geography: Southern corner of Sicily
Volume: The entire estate is 50 acres and produces 7 wines. 4000 cases of this wine is produced.
Retail: $16 bottle
Variety: Frappato
Description: Typical for Frappato, this wine offers an abundance of fresh fruit with a relatively light color and minimal tannins.
Comparables: Hand-harvested cru Beaujolais. Pinot Noir.
Pairings: This is the kind of red that pairs well with spicy hot food, as the burn becomes beautifully wrapped in the sweetness of the wine’s fruit.

Image 3 - Version 2
Short Name: Pianezzo (say: pya-nate-so)
Full Name: 2014 Francesco Boschis Dogliani Pianezzo
Producer: Francesco Boschis
Owner: husband and wife Mario and Simona Boschis with sons Paolo and Marco and daughter Chiara
Geography: Just south of the Barolo zone in Piedmont, northwestern Italy
Volume: The entire estate is 27 acres and produces 11 wines. 1250 cases of this wine is produced.
$15 bottle
Varieties: Dolcetto
Description: This is a HUGE and dramatic contrast (in one way) vis a vis the previous wine. While they are both in their essence wines of fruit expression, this Dolcetto is much more tightly wound up with nervous acidity and dark tannins. Please give your palate a minute to adjust! As it interacts with a wine drinker a dramatic conversion takes place. The wine begins to show bright soprano notes of blue fruits and poppies.
Comparables: Not really comparable to anything very familiar to the general wine drinker. In some ways it resembles a naive version of a good Barolo or Barbaresco, with its perfume and minerality.
Pairings: The acidity here makes it a perfect pairing with game and pork in butter and cream sauces. Surprise idea: try it with strongly flavored fish, such as salmon or mackerel.

Image 4 - Version 2
Short Name: Rosso del Palazzino
Full Name: 2014 Rosso del Palazzino
Producer: Podere il Palazzino
Owner: Two generations of the Sderci family.
Geography: Between Gaiole and the Appenine mountains, just east of the Chianti zone in Tuscany
Volume: The entire estate is 50 acres and produces 8 wines. 1083 cases of this wine is produced.
$12 bottle
Varieties: 95% Sangiovese, with 5% a potential mix of other native varieties: Malvasia, Canaiolo, etc.
Description: A serenade of earthy perfumes mixed with leather and berries melting into pinecone meats .
Comparables: Traditional excellent Chianti.
Pairings: Smoky grilled meats and vegetables. Unlike most wines, this pairs beautifully with nightshade vegetables like eggplant and tomato.

Image 5 - Version 2
Short Name: Stagi (say: stodgy)
Full Name: 2011 Palazzino Stagi
Producer: Podere il Palazzino
Owner: Two generations of the Sderci family.
Geography: near Gaiole in the southern part of the Chianti zone in Tuscany
Volume: The entire estate is 50 acres and produces 8 wines. 66 cases of this wine is produced.
$21 bottle
Varieties: 100% Colorino
Description: A very dense and dark wine with sensations of brooding black berries and balsamic herbs mixed with hearty tannins and weighty extract.
Comparables:  Great Bordeaux. Napa Cabernet Sauvignon. This wine was scored 92 points by critic Stephen Tanzer.
Pairings: Roasted or grilled rib meat from beef or mutton. Garlic and butter-dressed if possible.
This wine essentially functions as an attention-getter. The amount produced is so small, it is destined to quickly become just a memory, talked about among wine lovers who were lucky enough to have experienced it.


of Grace

…today is Easter in the western churches…


Know Your Importer, Vol. 3

Why should a consumer learn the name of a wine importer? Much has been written about this, and over a long time. Short version: know your importers because your wine purveyor knows them. An honest shop or somm has nothing to hide in this regard. Here are my current thoughts:

Making good wine requires two things.

  1. fortune – from the dirt, to the biome, to the bank – and,
  2. humanity – a cluster of virtues combining self awareness with selflessness, and  thriving in a medium of consciousness expanding.

Most important of all is the latter applied to the former: the awareness of one’s fortune and the ability to resist trying to capture it.

This can help explain why so many great wine properties change hands only to fail immediately and horribly. The new regime with all its vigor is no match for the old in situ. Stars in the eyes and rolls of cash are no substitute for experience making decisions with worms.

Wine requires grace.

Vino di grazia.


Know Your Merchant

Some people in the wine trade talk only about the the wine (points! gobs!), and if they are really smart, sometimes about the farmer (a personality cult), but never about the people selling, collecting and drinking it – and by doing so they are really talking only about themselves. It is selflessness serving an egocentric relationship with (the art form).

It is a fiction that great wines are like perfect jewels snatched from space and time, summoned before our poses of supplication, and grandiose tithes, by faces so dim as to be blank. The act of enjoying wine is elemental to its existence in the first place.

Wine tells a story, and the people building collections of it are also telling a story. It might be a remix, a collage, a mosaic, a pastiche or an ekphrasis. Often these people are in the studio mixing the paint.

Ponder, there are 26 letters in the alphabet and never a shortage of new ways to combine them.


A Quotation from the Fine Art Racket

“I select the selectors, so I control the operation,” she says. “You don’t keep a dog and bark yourself. But I know what they know and I know where they go.” -Gill Hedley on her team of curators for the CAS

Emphasis added.


Missing the Point

It used to madden me when I would suggest that a distributor of the great French wines from Louis/Dressner should also carry the newer, but just as thrilling, Italian wines from the same source.

“But we already have Italian wine,” was the answer. Sure,they had a couple things, and a lot of filler, but not these. I was suffocating from Italian wine starvation!

It wouldn’t have been so bad, but at the time I was also lacking steady access to the  reigning portfolio of great wines from the nation of Italy: Marc deGrazia.

Marco de Grazia began importing Italian wine in 1980, a first of its kind in that it eschewed anything but the most gorgeous and authentic of estate wines. By the mid 1990s Marco was a star in his own right – or at least he was amongst the masses of sommeliers and buyers who would attend his tastings and patiently await their allocations of rare and limited items.

If you didn’t know about deGrazia Selections already, please let me introduce you. These are dynamic, diverse, humorous, numerous and sincere wines. Based on the prices they fetch, I can only conclude that the American market is absurdly unaware of their merit as a group of drinks.


Unsolicited Advice

Try sharing credit. It feels good. Maybe it can prepare you emotionally to identify with your guests.

Or don’t share credit. Or share it only with your protected objects of exploitation.


Credit where credit is due.

The Art of Collecting Art. It exists.