Meet our winemakers: The Vinum
The ability of social media to connect people across countries and continents has several very powerful proof points for us. One of these proof points is a seemingly random “like” and “follow” that we received after one of our tweets in the summer of 2016. We do not remember what the particular tweet was, but it resulted in a message from an Italian winery, The Vinum, letting us know how much they liked our wine blog. We looked them up and saw the range of wines they produce in Italy and asked a fateful question via Twitter: “Where can we find your wines in the U.S. – we would love to try some?” They answered that they did not sell their wines in the United States. Well, we said, we’re going to be in Italy in a few months, maybe we can connect.
Vassilios Dragani, one of the principals of The Vinum, asked where we were staying and offered to ship some wines to our hotel for us to try. As our trip got closer, Vassilios let us know that he changed his mind and would not be shipping the wines. Instead, he would make the 6 hour drive from his home in the Abruzzo wine region and have dinner with us in Venice where we were staying. About a week before we arrived in Venice, Vassilios emailed and asked if it was okay for him to bring his wife Natalia along on the trip, as she is also a partner in the business. We thought this would be even better as it would make for an easy foursome at dinner.
On a lovely night in Venice, at the restaurant atop the famous Hotel Danieli, we met Vassilios and Natalia and enjoyed a fantastic dinner with them which included several of their wines. After a wonderful evening we left our new wine friends and went back to our hotel with a mixed case of The Vinum wine.
This case would travel with us for the next 2 1/2 weeks from Italy to Slovenia to Croatia and Bosnia & Herzegovina, making a final stop in Istanbul before we flew back to San Francisco.
Immediately after meeting Vassilios and Natalia and tasting their wines, we knew we wanted to import those wines to the United States. To our taste, the wines were perfect expressions of their terroir and incredibly high quality but at price points that were super-competitive compared to U.S. wines of the same quality. But we wanted to validate the quality of the wines with some real experts and had a high-pressure tasting with a Master Sommeliers (there are just over 200 in the entire world). This Master Somm owns his own wine store and a few hours after we presented our wines, someone on his team reached out to us and ordered several cases of wine (our very first order as importers).
Today, we offer a range of The Vinum wines on our online wine store, Topochines Vino. These are the wines currently in stock:
2009 The Vinum Barbaresco DOCG
As wine nerds know, “DOCG” means Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita (Denomination of Controlled and Guaranteed Origin) and is the highest designation of quality for Italian wines. By several measures, the quality of The Vinum’s 2009 Barbaresco is superior. At the 2017 Decanter World Wine Awards, The Vinum’s Barbaresco received an impressive Silver Medal. After tasting this Barbaresco, James Suckling, one of the most respected reviewers of Italian wines, gave The Vinum Barbaresco a score of 92.
Supporting this score were the following notes: “This is seriously rich and ripe now with plenty of cooked cherry and flower character. Full body, round and flavorful. Plenty of dried fruit, spice and cedar flavors. Long and persistent finish. Chewy. Drink or hold.”
This wine features 100% Nebbiolo grapes from the Piedmont region in northern Italy. Vassilios and team source the grapes from small growers in those regions that produce the highest-quality fruit.
2011 The Vinum Barolo DOCG
As with the Barbaresco, The Vinum Barolo is also of the highest quality – DOCG – and a favorite with wine critics. The aforementioned James Suckling had this to say about The Vinum 2011 Barolo, to which he awarded 90 points: “Lots of tar and rose aromas. Full body, silky and chewy tannins and a long and flavorful finish. A compacted and young Barolo. Lovely now.”
This wine features 100% Nebbiolo grapes from Piedmont, sourced from vineyards high up on the slopes in La Morra.
2014 The Vinum Colline Pescaresi
This wine is produced from grapes grown on The Vinum’s estate in Abruzzo. Think of this wine as a cousin of the Super Tuscan wines, which are generally blends of indigenous Italian grapes with international varietals such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. While a Super Tuscan might contain Sangiovese and one or more international varietals, The Vinum’s “Super Abruzzo” is a blend of Montepulciano (60%) with 25% Merlot and 15% Cabernet Sauvignon.
2016 The Vinum Montepulciano D’Abruzzo DOC
This wine, produced from 100% Montepulciano grapes, is referred to affectionately at The Vinum as “Il Rosso” – the red wine. Made from organic grapes grown on The Vinum’s estate vineyards, this is a powerhouse wine. Visually this wine is stunning, dark, almost inky, with a silky appearance when swirled. This wine has a lush, almost syrupy mouth-feel and a beautifully smooth finish.
2015 The Vinum Chianti Superiore DOCG
This wine is produced from grapes grown in Italy’s Tuscany region in the small town of Fiesole, in the hills just outside of Florence. A 100% Sangiovese, this wine is made from organic grapes and only produced in years in which The Vinum team believes the grapes are of sufficient quality. Simply put, this Tuscan wine is super.
2010 The Vinum Langhe Rosso DOC
This is the third Piedmont red wine from The Vinum that we offer on our site, Topochines Vino. While the Barbaresco and Barolo are 100% Nebbiolo, this Langhe Rosso is an inventive blend of two traditional Piedmont grapes – Nebbiolo and Barbera. Together, these two varietals create an elegant, full-bodied wine with an impressive finish. This 2010 wine is ageing beautifully and certainly ready to drink now.
2016 The Vinum Moscato D’Asti DOCG
If you’re thinking, “Oh, I’ve had Moscato before,” we have to point out that this is not just Moscato, but Moscato D’Asti. There are two important differences about this wine and other Moscato wines we have tasted. First, this wine is slightly sparkling, or “frizzante” as our friends in Italy like to say. Second, this wine has only 5.5% alcohol – far less than some beers we have consumed lately. At this alcohol level, it makes for a delicious and refreshing dessert wine.
There are several other wines from The Vinum that we are planning to bring over in our next shipment, including a delicious Prosecco and our favorite take on Rosé – a Cerasuolo D’Abruzzo made from Montepulciano grapes.
We look forward to long and fruitful relationship with The Vinum, grape growers and wine makers who share our passion for small production, organic wines that are true to their varietal and the terroir in which the grapes were grown. For us, the people and the stories of grape growers and wine makers shape our overall experience with the wines themselves. Today, the driving force behind The Vinum is a new generation of growers and vintners, led by Vassilios Dragani and joined by his wife Natalia, his sister Cristina and his friend Pina Paolucci. The Dragani and Paolucci families have had vineyards and wine cellars in Abruzzo going back to 1812. In the middle part of the 20th century, the families expanded their vineyards and started selling their wines across the Abruzzo region.
Now the Dragani and Paolucci vineyards have been merged together and this generation has pushed The Vinum beyond Abruzzo: they are now purchasing grapes from select producers in other regions to make excellent terroir-driven wine with a constant attention to quality. In Italy it is not uncommon for a wine group to own vineyards in different regions and produce wine under multiple brand names. The Vinum, though, wanted to produce all of its wines under a single label and make “The Vinum” synonymous with quality and care for the environment.
John & Irene Ingersoll
February 8, 2018