Recovering After Italian Wine Week

Boats in the sea off the coast of portovenere

I’d like to be on a boat overlooking Portovenere in Liguria today as I recover from an intense Italian Wine Week in New York. Slow Wine which took place last Wednesday feels like a year ago although it was only one week. I have seen so many people from the Italian wine world this week and tasted so many great wines that it needs to settle in my mind before I can begin to write about all the wonderful old and new experiences.

Today is Wine Wednesday though and I therefore have to write about one wine and it’s going to be the Primitivo from Gianfranco Fino that I tasted the other night at dinner. I had the pleasure of meeting Gianfranco Fino and Simona and tasting his wine L’Es for the first time at VinoVip in Cortina in 2013. I was lucky enough to see them again a few years ago at Operawine during Vinitaly. Apparently, L’Es is quite the cult wine in Italy. I found both Gianfranco and Simona very engaging but was dubious if I would like the wine that first time. Primitivo is a very powerful grape and often the wines produced with it knock my socks off, literally, so it isn’t a wine I order very often.


Gianfranco’s wine though was very different than what I had imagined. Yes it was powerful and concentrated as most are but additionally, it had great minerality which I really appreciated. The wine is made from 100% Primitivo di Manduria (Taranto). It is made from very old vines, over 60 years on average, that are bushed trained and grow in red earth. The grapes are slightly dried on the vine and then picked. They undergo a long fermentation on the skins, three to four weeks, and are then aged in barriques for 10 months. The wine isn’t filtered or fined and ages in the bottle an additional six months before the wine is released into the market. It was a great wine to pair with a big roast or important cheese.

The other night I was lucky enough to have dinner with Simona Fino , thanks to my client, Angela Velenosi, and I had their wines. L’Es I paired with a tagliata di manzo, a nice cut of meat. Angela is the only producer I know who doesn’t mind sharing the spotlight and she nicely brought Simona along during a dinner with journalists. I can’t write about Angela’s wines because I represent them but luckily, many others do write about them so you can read what they think.

I also had the good fortune to try his passito of this wine, Primitivo di Manduria Dolce Naturale D.O.C.G, once again. I loved it. I am a huge fan of sweet wines. He only has made this wine twice since 2004. According to Fino, he only makes it in perfect years, 2008 and 2012. It also spends one year in barriques and one in the bottle before being released into the market. It was deep ruby red in color, and had a rich and sweet bouquet of floral notes, herbs, nuts and fruit. It also had the minerality and acidity I found in the Primitivo di Manduria D.O.C. The wine was balanced and harmonious, never over the top, and had a long beautiful finish of fine tannins and chocolate.

The winery is somewhat recent and was established in 2004. Fino bought an existing vineyard because of the 50 year old vines. He later bought another vineyard planted with 40 year old vines of Negroamaro, an indigenous grape I really like. Fino is very attentive to his agricultural and pruning practices. He’s had great critical acclaim in Italy for his products which I found interesting. I imagine the same will be true in the States in the near term. Tanto di cappello to you both! (hat’s off…)

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