Charles Scicolone and Vino in New York Sun

Wine writer Peter Hellman of the New York Sun recently attended Wine Director Charles Scicolone’s class “Charles’ Greatest Hits,” where he tasted 10 of Charles’ favorite wines. The article below appeared in the Wed., May 2 issue of the paper.

There are still a few spots open for Charles’ May 9 class, “Chianti in All Its Glory.” To register, please send an email to

To view class schedule, click here.

Next Monday, Charles will be attending the James Beard Awards where he has been nominated — for the 6th year in a row — for Outstanding Wine Service.

To celebrate Charles’s nomination, we are offering 9 of his 10 “greatest hits” at 10% off until Monday (online and in-store, subject to availability).

See the wines below.

A Traditionalist’s Top 10 Italian Wines
by Peter Hellman
New York Sun, May 2, 2007

Above: Wine Director Charles Scicolone with Brunello di Montalcino Consortium President Stefano Campatelli at I Trulli presenting the “Benvenuto Brunello” vintage tasting earlier this year.

Personal taste in wine is, for most people, blessedly apolitical. That’s not true of Charles Scicolone, the wine director of the all-Italian bottle shop Vino on East 27th Street and of the restaurant I Trulli. I have no idea for whom Mr. Scicolone casts his ballot on Election Day, but when he votes for Italian wine, he stands somewhere to the right of Silvio Berlusconi, Barry Goldwater, and maybe even Jean-Marie Le Pen.

Mr. Scicolone disdains “modern” winemaking practices of delivering plumped-up flavor impact via super-ripe grapes, high alcohol, and plenty of new oak, often augmented by high-tech interventions in the winery. He refers to such wines as from “the dark side” — Darth Vader wines.

Darkest of all in Mr. Scicolone’s eyes are what he calls “barrique” wines, which have luxuriated — possibly even fermented — in new 225-gallon oak barrels rather than the far larger, relatively flavorneutral wood vats called botti that are traditionally used in Italian winemaking. “Barriques impart nuances of oak, vanilla, and butter flavors that overwhelms a wine’s natural fruit,” he said last week at Vino. “There is a chemical compound in the barrique that is the same as in the melted butter product that is poured onto popcorn at the movies.” In Italy, the bathed-in-oak style was pioneered by the so-called super-Tuscan wines, notably Sassicaia and Tignanello.

What kind of wines does Mr. Scicolone like? “I’m looking for the least amount of interference in the winemaking process so that the flavor comes from the wine,” he said while he presented the 10 red wines he calls his “Greatest Hits” — all Italian, of course. Overtly fruity flavors are unwelcome in his top 10. “You’ll pick up flavors in these wines from the umami category like soy, mushroom, and balsamic vinegar,” he said. “Or the more masculine flavors: leather, mortadella, cedar, barnyard, even chocolate.” He also looks for an enlivening current of acidity as a foil to rich foods and as an aid to aging — rather than barriques.

So firm is Mr. Scicolone’s taste in wines that he stopped going to one of his favorite spots, La Pizza Fresca Ristorante on East 20th Street, because its extensive wine list was overloaded with barrique wines. “The owner called me to ask why I wasn’t showing up any more,” he said. “When I explained the problem, he invited me to bring my own wines to the restaurant.” Mr. Scicolone is once again a customer of La Pizza Fresca.

His predilection for the wines of tradition is not absolute. “The most revolutionary thing in winemaking since the Egyptians is cold fermentation to preserve the flavors of white wines,” he said. “It’s a modern technique — that of which I approve.”

* * *

9 of Charles’s Top 10 On Sale

To celebrate Charles’ mention in the Sun and his Beard nomination, we’re offering 9 of his 10 greatest hits at 10% off.

This offer lasts only until Monday, May 7 (or sooner, if our supplies run out), so get your order in today!

Don’t forget: Monday is also the end of spring clearance, so don’t wait to place your online orders. View all of our current web offers by clicking here.


One Response to Charles Scicolone and Vino in New York Sun

  1. […] out Peter Hellman’s profile of Charles in The New York […]

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