As many of you know, we bring in a lot of wine from small producers all over the planet. In some cases, those producers make more than just wine—especially our Italian posse. One of the coolest and most-exciting new Barolo winemakers we've started working with is Barale Fratelli, a family-run Piedmontese operation that makes a classically-styled Barolo with real gusto. If you've never heard of Barolo, it's the powerful, heavily-tannic northern Italian red made from the nebbiolo grape that can age for decades if not centuries. What some Barolo producers do if they have left over Barolo wine is to make what's called Barolo Chinato—a vermouth-like aperitif wine that uses quinine to add a pronounced bitterness and balance out the sweetness. You can use Chinato as a wine-based Campari substitute in a Negroni, or even as a vermouth substitute in your favorite Manhattan recipe. The result is a chewier, more intensely-rich ingredient in your concoction.
The thing about Barolo Chinato is that, because it's made with Barolo, it's not cheap. But that's where the relationship thing comes in. Of the few Barolo Chinati that make it into the country, most of them are between $30-$50 for a 500ml bottle and are decent, if not pretty good. The Barale we've got is the best we've ever carried and it's going to cost you $34 for a full 750ml. Try it in your next Bourbon drink, or pour it over ice with soda.
I'm going to start looking at all of our Italian producers now for little add-ons like this. Between the Barale Chinato and the Sesta di Sopra grappas, we could start our own little Italian spirits stable here.