The other day I attended a wine tasting event in commemoration of the release of the 2016 Slow Wine Guide. According the press release, “Slow Wine Guide critiques wine through the perspective of the Slow Food philosophy giving prominence to small-scale winemakers who are using traditional techniques, working with respect for the environment and terroir, and safeguarding the incredible biodiversity of grape varieties that are part of Italy’s heritage. Slow Wine is the only Italian wine guide that visits all of the winemakers included in the guide, in their vineyards.”
The last part of that statement is the best, because the sponsors have uncovered some brilliant small (production as low as 40,000 bottles per year) wineries, and many of the winemakers were on hand at the Highline Ballroom in NYC to pour their wines. I especially liked two wineries from Puglia, Cantine Amastuola and Castel di Salve. They offered rustic, almost herbal reds made from primitivo, malvasia and negroamaro (an especially earthy variety of primitivo).
I also happened upon a really nice, well balanced Chianti from Castello di Monsanto in Tuscany. Compared to something you might find in a better wine store or order by the glass at a good eatery, these were astonishingly good and yet they were not rare or expensive wines. A search on the very useful wine-searcher.com shows prices in the $10-30 range. It also shows, unfortunately, that most of these bottles are currently unavailable in the U.S.
You’ll probably be able to find some Castello di Monsanto through Wine-Searcher, and Cantine Asmastuola is distributed by wine4all.com, which has no “where to find it” links but some great wine information on its pages. Try using their contact form to ask for a local retailer. Castel di Salve is “currently seeking representation” according to the program; I hope they find some because it’s great stuff.
It may be the only way to really enjoy these esoteric wines is to visit the wineries in Italy. If you do that, or if you want to do some window shopping you’ll need the Slow Wine Guide which can be ordered here. (The 2016 guide will be released in a few weeks; the 2015 guide is currently available. Since these are slow wines, I bet there is not a lot of change from one year to the next.) You can also download a complimentary issue of their magazine.
Here are three specific recommendations, if you can find them:
Caste di Save: Cento su Cento Negramaro 2011
Cantine Amastuola: Primitivo 2013
Castro di Monsanto: Chinti Cl. Reserva 50º Vendemmia 2012