Cocktail Hour: Italian wines offer a range of tastes and lots of history

Recently, I had the opportunity to travel to New York City for an excellent Italian wine tasting. I was invited by Vias Imports, an exceptional wine importer based in NYC that focuses on artisanal producers of Italian wines.

This was a stellar tasting celebrating their 30th anniversary as nearly every table (more than 40 of them) were staffed by either the winemakers or family members of the winery. It was a unique experience to really experience the vast diversity of Italy's regions and their numerous grape varieties. It was also a treat to visit with the family members of the wineries as their passion and love of the grape shows through. I always believe that the wine tastes better when you know the name of the vineyard dog!

Vias was founded in 1983 as a small project among friends to get the best of Italy's regional wines to a small group of buyers in NYC. 30 years later, they represent over 60 Italian wine producers covering over 20 different regions throughout Italy. Even though they have grown, their focus has not changed. They focus on authentic Italian wineries that reflect the same passion of indigenous varieties as they do.

Below is a summary of just a few of my very favorite producers and wines from the tasting. I may have more updates because there were so many great wines, it can't be covered in one entry. Also you should really check out the Vias' website. It is a great way to learn about Italian wines.

Bisol Desiderio & Figl-Veneto


The Bisol family's historic winery is located in San Stefano di Valdobbiadene in the Veneto region. They are a Prosecco specialist making their delicious sparkling wine for over 21 generations! The Bisol family have overseen and expanded their vineyards to include over 35 plots throughout the region. Because of the early start, many of these plots are in the most prestigious areas. Everything in the vineyard is done by hand using sustainable techniques.

Bisol Crede Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore ($25)- Crede refers to the name of the soil these grapes are coming from. Deep clay soil with a subsoil of marine sandstone. This gives the grapes a resistance to drought, while enriching the grapes with acid, aromas and fruitiness. Intense, fresh, elegant notes of wildflowers and fruit with apple and pear notes. This wine also possesses persistent minute bubbles. Pair with light fried fish and risotto.


The Damilano family business dates back to 1890 when Giuseppe Borgogno began to vinify his own estate wines. He heavily involved his family and now there are four brothers and sisters representing the fourth generation to work in the winery. Their overarching philosophy is high quality wines can only come from high quality grapes. To this end, a substantial amount of their energy goes into vineyard health and management. I like them because they are great wines at a great price.

Damilano Barbera d'Asti ($14)- A fruity bouquet with light spicy notes. In the mouth there are notes of violet, cherry and a touch of vanilla. It's a great wine for the price. Try this with burgers and aged cheeses.

Damilano Barolo LeCinquevigne- $50- This wine is sourced from five different townships and really gives you a great expression of what Barolo is and, relative to other Barolos, it is fair priced. A nose of rose, leather and tobacco. In the mouth, it is full and embracing with a complex finish. Try with grilled meats and wild game.

Terredora di Paolo- Campania

A wonderful, large winery that has fully committed to keeping the ancient varietals alive such as Aglianico, Fiano, Greco, Falanghina, Piedirosso and Coda di Volpe. While this family is committed to the old varietals of the region, they integrate forward thinking technology into their established traditions. You truly get the best of the old world and new world and due to the elevated quality of these wines, they are on the forefront of Campania's wine renaissance.


Terredora di Paolo Aglianico ($18)- Aglianico is a native Italian varietal from Campania and Basilicata. Of extremely ancient origin, it is believed to have been cultivated in early Roman history and was introduced to Italy by the ancient Greeks. A bouquet of black cherry, wild blackberry and plum with a touch of toast. In the mouth it is soft and elegant yet with mature deep red fruits. It has great tannic structure and will age quite will. Great with cold cuts, red meats and mature cheeses.

Terredora di Paolo Falanghina ($18)- Falanghina is juicy, with a piney fragrance and is a great fresh and versatile white. This unoaked white has rich aromas of apple, pineapple and pear. In the mouth it is fresh and clean making it an outstanding wine to serve with just about any food.

These are just a few of my highlights from the tasting. A part 2 will be coming down the road. In the meantime, I hope you will seek these wines out and give them a try. They are unique and fun wines.

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