A tasting of M&M Importers’ latest imports – Feb 2023
It has been almost a year since my last “A tasting of M&M Importers’ latest imports – release post” and a week or so from the post about the three gorgeous Burgundies from Honest Grapes and M&M Importers. So, I was really excited to write this post about even more wonderful wines from Ralph Madeb, president and CEO of M&M Importers. These are almost all the Italian options; some can be found in Europe from Honest Grapes while all of them are here in the USA from some stores in and around NY and NJ. Sadly, I missed the new 2016 Brunello Riserva and the other 2 Sicilian wines. I hope to get a chance to taste those soon. There is also a Chianti Classico Riserva but that is still not here in the USA yet.
Just take a quick look at the wine notes below and you will find 6 QPR (Quality to Price Ratio) WINNER scores. That is incredible for such a small number of wines. Six out of ten WINNERS is just an incredible value-based lineup. Still, the prices are on the upper end of the QPR scale but the wines themselves are quite impressive.
I had tasted the Barbera before last year and the Mevushal Arneis in January of this year. Both of these wines were solid though I really want to taste the non-mevushal version of the 2021 Pescaja Solei’ Arneis. A QPR score of WINNER and a GOOD is impressive.
The Barbera is a fun, refreshing, and enjoyable wine that will probably not become something more than it is right now but one never knows!
The biggest name on this list and the most expensive was the 2017 Tassi Brunello di Montalcino, Bettina Cuvee, Brunello di Montalcino. I was ready for an over-the-top, bombastic beast of a wine, a trait that seems to be the calling card of the 2017 Brunello vintage. I was shocked when I opened the wine, first, the color threw me, and then the nose. The color of the wine, a characteristic I rarely talk about, was already bricking, but that seems to be par for the course with Brunello wines. Next, the nose was shocking, it smelled like a flower shop, filled with violets, geraniums, and very floral. Over the next two weeks I let this wine talk to me, yes, I wrote two weeks! The wine never went over the hill, it was rock solid, and it improved all the way to the finish line. Even two weeks later, the wine was not running out of steam, this is a wine that is built to go for a decade-plus, easily. Over time, the wine lost some of the floral notes and became more of what I expect from a Brunello, though it never went too ripe and never lost its precision, the only real issue I had was it felt more like a very nice Chianti than a Brunello. The tannin structure told you this was no Chianti, but the weight was clearly affected by whatever the winemaker did to counteract the screaming hot 2017 climate.
The star of these four wines, to me, is the stunning 2018 Tassi Aqua Bona, Bettina Cuvee, Montalcino. The wine went up in price but it still is on the upper edge of WINNER, by a hair, and while the price is high the wine is incredible! It has this umami and cedar notes that just blow you away! The wine’s complexity, and structure. control and elegance show well and the wine is equally built to last.
I had the Super Tuscan, the 2019 Rocca di Frassinello Le Sughere di Frassinello, Maremma Toscana twice and it showed far better this time. From the time of opening till it was done some 5 days later the wine never lost a step and shined throughout. The Sangiovese fruit shows more at the start while the Merlot makes its presence felt more later in the glass. I found the wine overall to be very nice and balanced with good acidity but overall lacked a step on the Aqua Bona.
Finally, the Pinot Noir was nice enough, it showed varietally correct, but there was not enough there to interest me.
I regret not getting the 2019 Castellare di Castellina Chianti Classico when it was out and available. That wine is lovely, and ethereal while being so Chianti, in all the right ways! The 2020 vintage is no slouch and it shows beautifully! A clear WINNER!
The pricing of this wine is higher than a Chianti Classico from Terra di Seta, but it is distinctly different! TDS is a wine that is sinuous, ripe, rich, and layered. The two Castellare di Castellina Chianti Classico, both 2019 and 2020, is more ethereal. They are clearly built to last and while I gave them a drinking window of 9 years or so, I am sure they can last longer, but I do not yet have enough history with the wine to go farther.
I was not expecting a lot after having tasted some other 2020 Chianti wines but this wine shined beautifully! This is a wine to lie down for a bit but if you must enjoy one now, I would decant this two hours in advance. Bravo!
There are two Montepulciano d’Abruzzo wines and I liked one of them and it scored a QPR score of WINNER while the other’s style was not my cup of tea.
The 2018 Valle Reale San Calisto, Montepulciano D’Abruzzo, Montepulciano D’Abruzzo is a beautiful wine and for the price, it is an obvious QPR WINNER. The balance, elegance, and structure all hit me while the acidity brings all that fruit and mouthfeel to bear. It is one of those wines that is uniquely Italian. The fruit, tertiary notes, leather, and smoke, were all unique in a single bottle but the telling characteristic was the bracing acidity, cherry notes, and ripeness. The bottle just screams Italian and is one that can be enjoyed now but only with a few hours of decanting. This would benefit a few years of bottle aging before diving in.
The 2018 Valle Reale Vigneto Sant’Eusanio, Montepulciano d’Abruzzo was a wine that was just too ripe for me. Eventually, the ripeness did calm but there was nothing there to find at that point. This is a wine that the new-world crowd would like and one that can maybe be a gateway wine to helping them appreciate old-world wines.
Finally, I tasted the kosher Sicilian Merlot. This was a lovely wine that does start a bit ripe but with time it really shows its colors and shows balance with bold fruit and lovely minerality and acidity. This is a wine that you cannot judge at the opening! If you MUST open this now, I would say to decant this for some 5 hours and then pour it back into the bottle. Double decanting and 5 hours of air may shake the true colors loose but I am not promising anything. Time will let this wine be free!
This tasting was not done in a day or a week, it took over three weeks to taste through the lineup and throughout it all, I kept to the same approach. Write the initial notes at the opening, then a few hours later write any changes, and then finally over the days I would add thoughts. The wines did evolve, other than a few, and when/if they did, the notes reflect those thoughts and concerns.
My sincerest thanks to Ralph and his partner at M&M Importers for sharing their wonderful wines with us all! The wine notes follow below – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here and the explanation for QPR scores can be found here:
2018 Tassi Aqua Bona, Bettina Cuvee, Montalcino – Score: 93+ (QPR: WINNER)
The nose of this wine is lovely, bright, tart, and very expressive, with notes of bramble, dirt, loam, graphite, bright red sour cherry, dark red berry, rosehip, rose petals, rich and very expressive toasted cedar, sandalwood, mushroom, and more minerality. Lovely!! The nose is so expressive from the opening and only gets better with time, impressive! The umami-centric nose is incredible with soy sauce, mushroom, and cedar notes that really take your breath away.
The mouth of this medium-plus-bodied wine is lovely, dirty, earthy, smoky, and precise, with good fruit focus, nice dark cherry, raspberry, tart plum, scraping minerality, loam, dirt, rose petals, and lovely mushroom. With time it opens to a rich toasted cedar expression and it overtakes the mouth with beautiful fruit, intense mushroom, forest floor, plush body, and intense dirt and minerality. Lovely! With even more time the lovely cedar calms down and the ripe fruit, intense acidity, mushroom, and smoke linger long on this full-bodied wine.
The finish is long, tart, bright, and layered, with rich minerality, intense graphite, lovely soy sauce, umami notes, loam, lovely truffle, and mushroom, loam, and dirt linger long. BRAVO! Drink from 2025 until 2033. (tasted February 2023) (in San Jose, CA) (ABV = 13.5%)
2017 Tassi Brunello di Montalcino, Bettina Cuvee, Brunello di Montalcino – Score: 93 (QPR: EVEN)
I rarely talk about color but this wine is brick red. The nose of this wine is a flower pot, with screaming and intense violets, rosehip, dirt, loam, tar, mint, and underbrush, with little to no red fruit on the nose, crazy! With time, the nose evolves to show lovely French oak, rich loam, dark red cherry, licorice, roasted herb, mint, garrigue, and sweet spice, lovely!
The mouth of this medium-bodied wine is lovely, with more rose, violet, and green notes, dirt, loam, and smoke, the mouth is precise and velvety, with tart plum. The real fun is the tart red berry profile, and dark sour cherry, backed by intense acidity, mineral notes, and smoke. The texture, mouthfeel, and puckering tannin structure keep getting more and more complex with time, it is still not 2016, but it has the potential to still be quite lovely, however, this needs loads of time. With even more time, the floral notes move to the background, and the puckering acidity and tannin take over, the plushness of the mouthfeel emerges and this wine is lovely!
The finish is long, tart, green, and smokey, with more flowers, nice mouth-draping tannin, licorice, and lovely acidity. Drink from 2024 until 2032. (tasted February 2023) (in San Jose, CA) (ABV = 14%)