The wine world is abuzz about Ao Yun, Moët Hennessy’s experiment in the mountains of China’s Yunnan province. At $300 per bottle, it’s the company’s most expensive wine to produce, but one has to question why they are exploring vineyards in China. The obvious answer is cheaper land, but on second thought, there are forces at play in all the major wine regions, causing every big producer to look elsewhere. Climate change is having a real impact on the wine world, and everyone is examining their own long-term sustainability.
Of course, this is nothing new. The sustainable movement slowly came into existence over the past few decades, spreading over from food to wine. Slow Food, a grassroots organization advocating for the preservation of regional foods and food culture, was founded by Carlo Petrini in Piedmont, a province of northern Italy in 1986. It’s only natural, given Italy’s love of wine, that an offshoot of Slow Food would be Slow Wine. This sister organization works with small Italian producers to preserve traditional methods and advance sustainable techniques. Slow Wine puts all of the work in—learning what methods deserve to be upheld and vetting producers to see if they fall in line with the values of “good, clean, fair”—before inclusion in the Slow Wine Guide. Luckily, there are a number of really great Slow Wine-approved wines readily available.
Given northern Italy’s rich winemaking history, there are a lot of producers to choose from. If you’re a Nebbiolo fan, check out E. Pira’s 2012 “Chiara Boschis” Barolo Mosconi (about $90) who also has a 2015 Dolcetto d’Alba ($26, both Indigenous Selections). On the budget-friendly white side, one of my personal favorites for a nice crisp wine is Manincor from Alto Adige-Trentino. Look for their 2015 A.A. Terlano Pinot Bianco Eichhorn or their 2015 “Réserve della Contessa,” a Pinot Bianco/Chardonnay/Sauvignon blend ($22, MS Walker). Further south, in the Veneto, is Leonildo Pieropan, grower of Garganega and Trebbiano di Soave. You’ll want to pick up their 2014 Soave Classico Calvarino ($25, EJ Gallo).
With so much Sangiovese growing in central Italy, there’s bound to be multiple vintners cultivating their grapes in the traditional methods, and no Italian wine organization would be complete without a few Chiantis. The Slow Wine-approved Fattoria Selvapiana 2014 Chianti Rufina ($15) is perfect for pizza night, or if you want to get fancy, find their 2012 Chianti Rufina Bucerchiale Riserva ($29, both Dalla Terra Winery Direct). The latter is just hitting the market but should be getting as much acclaim as previous vintages. Looking to impress and stay in the Sangiovese family? 2013 Fontodi’s Flaccianello della Pieve ($99, Vinifera Imports). Not only is it from one of the great vintage years, the grapes for this Super Tuscan grow near Panzano, in the Chianti Classico region.
For those greater fans of Sicilian wine than Tuscans, a bottle of Tenuta di Castellaro’s 2013 Nero Ossidiana, a blend of Corinto and Nero d’Avola, is what you need ($25, Peter Warren Selection). Need a white? Giacchino Garofoli’s 2014 Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi Classico Superiore “Podium,” another wine which usually receives multiple accolades, is just hitting the American market ($15, Dalla Terra Winery Direct).