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MarkinHouston

Making a case for Italian wine

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I want to take an empty carrier with me to Florence and fill it an assortment of nice bottles of wine. I can't afford a case of Super Tuscans, but can a selection of Chianti, Carmignano, and perhaps one or two Brunello/Super Tuscans be done without breaking the bank? Are other regions represented there (I'd pick up some of Craig Camo's pinot grigio selections if I could. Thanks.

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Mark,

You can definitely put together a really good case without "breaking the bank." Unfortunately, the dollar is now at an all-time low against the euro, so it won't be quite the easy bargain it would've been a couple of years ago. Nonetheless, I've generally found that most Italian wines retail in Italy (assuming for the moment parity between the euro and the dollar) at about 50%/60% of the US price --- IF you can find the same wines in the US. Even with shipping costs, you still save quite a bit (though when shipping [which is priced according to weight], the bargain is far better when dealing with more expensive labels). If you're going to do the carry-on thing, you'll make out even better.

I think you're on the right track considering Chiantis, Carmignanos, etc. versus the more well-known (and highly marketed) Super Tuscans and Brunellos (which are fabulous, but no longer provide the value proposition that they once did). I'd also suggest looking at Rosso di Montalcino (Brunello's "little brother") and at Vino Nobile --- the DOCG wine of Montepulciano. It's another great example of the Sangiovese grape at its finest, but much less well-known outside of its native region and accordingly much easier on the pocketbook.

Florence has several well-regarded enotecas where a good case can be put together. Find one where you can taste a range of your targeted wines and where there's knowledgeable staff who can help guide you. My personal favorite is Pitti Gola e Cantina. It may be a bit more expensive than some others (because of its tourist trap location directly across the street from the Pitti Palace), BUT the selection is excellent, the staff are very knowledgeable/friendly (they speak some English), and there are always a number of wines available for tasting by the glass on any given day. A bit more difficult to get to/find, but with a very good selection and well-regarded is Enoteca Fuoriporta (Via Monte alle Croce, 10r --- near the church of San Miniato [well worth a visit for the church and its view over the city]).

Another way to go if you will have a car, is to buy directly from a winery --- the prices will be even lower. The possibilities are, obviously, endless. Pick a "zone" which interests you and focus on it. Last fall, I concentrated on Panzano --- in my opinion one of the great Chianti Classico zones. At the Fontodi winery, you can taste/buy any of the vineyard's excellent offerings (ranging from their "basic" chianti at around $12, to their riserva and single vineyard "Vigna del Sorbo", all the way up to their highly acclaimed Super Tuscan "Flaccianello della Pieve").

Hope this helps. Good luck and enjoy!

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Giovanni,

Thank you very much for your insight. I plan to use your suggestions and hope to report back on a successful accumulation of wines. I plan to use the trains for most of our day trips (Lucca, Bologna, and Arezzo). However, a drive into the Chianti countryside would make for a memorable day in Tuscany.

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Enoteca Baldi is a SUPERB wine shop in Panzano with only a smal fraction on their shelves. Ask to tour their cellar which is where most of their stock is. Their prices are better than anywhere in Florence. The owner, Mimmo, also owns a trattoria, Vescovino, which serves the same bisteca sold in Panzano's famous butcher shop. Arguably, this along with Sostanza in Florence, is the best bisteca fiorentina in Italy.

In Florence the largest wine shop, not just in Florence, but also among the two or three largest in all of Italy, is Alessi. It IS expensive. But they have everything including Avignonesi Vin Santo, Dal Forno Amarone and Masseto. All of these are horribly expensive. They are also virtually impossible to find in America and one or two bottles brought back and put away for five or more year (ten or more with the amarone) would be a great way to celebrate the memory of your trip when you bought it.

A note about the Euro: given the current rate of exchange, depending on the wine shop that you buy the wine in, the wine may actually cost 80 to 90% as much as here. In some cases, remarkably, Costco is CHEAPER here for some wines that actually buying them in Italy. This is because of the exchange rate they paid as well as their margin. In general less expensive wines, as you mentioned, in Italy are still a fair bargain. But I travel to Italy three or four times a year on business and ALWAYS brought back at least 12 bottles of wine on trips, taking advantage of both selection and price. Now I bring back three or four.

Look for Sportoletto, a superb Umbrian similar to a Super Tuscan and fairly priced. Dal Forno Valpolicella is a fantastic wine, about 50 Euros in a store and worth every penny.

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Joe H. What was the price of the dal Forno 1998 Valpolicella at the vineyard? At 50 euros retail equalling about $62 now (a rally for the dollar) the premium of 12 to 15 percent for buying in the USA from a fine wine store in which you have confidence appears to be acceptable. Especially when one considers the time and effort. However buying from the grower is probably worthwhile.

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Ciao!

I have been in Florence for 20 years.. and shop at Casa del Vino, owned by Gianno Migliorini on Via del Ariento near the Central Market.. love it!

another couple of things.. the dollar has been lower! hard to believe.. but it was at 1,000 lira to the dollar... in 1990? ( gulf war) the lira was changed over at a rate of 1,936...to the Euro..but since it changed to Euro it has lost 40%.. was at an almost alltime high! What is really bad is that the prices have almost doubled.. some people took advantage of the switch to raise prices!

also Mimmo at VEscovino doesn't serve Dario Cecchini's steaks ( the butcher from Panzano) I worked with Dario for years.. and very few people have his steak.. the best way to find out who has it is to go to Dario and ask!

Other say they do.... but!!!

Mimmo's wine selection is fab!

In florence another great place to buy wine is at Le Volpe e L'Uva, they specialize in a great quality price ratio and are very very good! Tiny place!

It is just over the Ponte Vecchio.. and up a block and turn left under the arch way!

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Thank you, Diva! I would think that each enotecca has its own particular strengths, so I will probably have to "get educated" at all of them. Does Casa del Vino serve ala an enotecca or is it strictly a retail shop?

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Panzano is on the 222, exactly half way between Florence and Siena, just on the hills above Greve!

There is a public parking lot on the left side of the hill before the villate, leave your car there. come down the stairs, turn left.. and you will see the small piazza on your right with a tiny pond and fountain. Enoteca Baldi is right there in front of the fountain!

it is also a small restaurant... his fancier place Vescovino is up to the right on the hill in the old village.

Panzano was put on the map by Dario Checchini, butcher of life.. where MArio Batali came to study, Alice Waters and others come to worship!

tonight Dario is cooking for Alain Ducasse!

you figure!

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'98 Valpolicella is 39 Euros at Dal Forno, the '97 Amarone 125 Euros, Recioto 80 Euros and the Nettare severely limited. His Valpolicella in the states (baxsed on two bottles I have had in the past three months) is NOT as good as that which I brought back or drank there. Further, it starts at $70 and, if you can find it, most places charge north of $100. Quintarelli is also excellent although I favor Dal Forno.

My apologies I really thought that Mimmo sold his steak; perhaps an assumption on my part since Mimmo's was perhaps better than Sostanza's! He's also a wonderful gentleman as is his wife. They have shipped to me directly in the U. S. and I cannot say enough about them. We wife and I stop there about every year on vacation and I've stopped off several other times as part of business trips.

You mentioned shopping.

I am more obsessed than any human being you have ever met. Well, probably more obsessed! Are you speaking only of wine, or are you including things like Deruta, the various outlets at different levels (i.e. Prada, Zegna, Biella, Brioni'soutlet), etc.?

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Mimmo and Arianna are fabulous!

Love the view from VEscovino too.. as well as his parmesan flan! and other items too numerous to mention.

In Panzano there is also a handmade shoe maker, Carlo Fagiani..

As for outlets, we have prada, a real outlet, and there is a Gucci mall.. not as real from what I am told.

outside of Florence is also Pratesi sheets..

There are several great wine shops in Florence.. which ahve been mentioned.

It is important to know your prices where you live.. and go from there.

There are also several fabulous ceramic shops. for the Deruta, you can drive down to the factories..( then eat at Tre Vasselle)

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Some of the Gucci outlets are real bargains: I bought two heavy Loro Piana cashmere sweaters for US $240 a year ago that sold for US $650 in Florence, perhaps double that in the States.

I did not know about Carlo Fagiani-thank you! I will stop in this fall.

I have also not been to Tre Vassalle but will also try it. Returning from Deruta to Florence we stopped at Il Postale (out of the way) but it was superb and a relative bargain for what they served. Thank you again for the recommendations-they are appreciated.

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Wonderful website. Thank you very much! I'm only now beginning to explore it.

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Panzano is very good -- the shoes from Fagiani seem to last forever. I have a leather jacket they made for me that is still going strong after a decade. The town is very close to Greve in Chianti, which I believe is deeply involved in the Slow Food movement.


Jonathan Day

"La cuisine, c'est quand les choses ont le go�t de ce qu'elles sont."

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I also love Carlo's shoes (and other items). Couldn't help but bring back 4 pairs on my last trip - wish I had bought more. There was a gorgeous lavendar leather jacket - soft as silk - that looked fabulous on my mother, but she passed it by and regrets it to this day. She considered having it shipped, but...

I really enjoyed Ristoro di Lamole when we were there (a Diva recommendation). Not in Panzano - but high, high in the hills above it. I think lunch is best because the view is a wonderful as the food (and Filippo is such a cutie - kept flirting with my Mom). The drive up on the road passing by Vinmaggio was stressful - we came down the other way after lunch (through Panzano) - much better, even though it is not paved all the way.

But back to the topic...the Lamole wine is obscure and delicious. I may be sheltered, but I have never seen it in any USA shops. Might be something different to add that you probably wouldn't find here?


Edited by tponti (log)

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:unsure:

Hello everyone. This is my first time posting on eGullet so be gentle with me. I came across this discussion group because I was looking for information on Panzano in Chianti ... I've already learned a bit from the posts above.

We'll be renting a villa just outside of Panzano come July and I was hoping to get some good insider information on the town. Knowing about the restaurants will surely be helpful, and perhaps more so the wine shops. Does it make sense to continue to discussion in this forum or should I start a new thread just on Panzano?

Looking forward to some replies.

Bill

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I was able to accumulate a dozen bottles in Florence. Four bottles of 1997 Lisini Brunello, 4 bottles of 1999 La Massa Giorgio Prima Chianti Classico, and four bottles of 2001 Russiz Superiore (my wife wanted a white and we enjoyed this one.) Supplemented with four liters of evoo from Lucca, we had FULL bags. Ironically the only problem with customs were the palm fronds from the Palm Sunday mass at the Cathederal.

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I have some of both the '99 Giorgio Primo and the '97 Lisini in my cellar ..... awesome choices. Enjoy!!

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