01438 741177         thewinesociety.com

The Society's Community

New: AMA - Italian Fine Wine with Buyer Sarah Knowles MW, Tuesday 24th November, 1-2pm

As part of our Fine Wines of Italy offer, we’re delighted to host our Italy Buyer Sarah Knowles MW here on the Community for an Ask Me Anything event!

New: AMA - Italian Fine Wine with Buyer Sarah Knowles MW, Tuesday 24th November, 1-2pm

@Sarah is our Wine Society Buyer for Italy, Champagne, USA and spirits, having joined our Buying department in 2013.

Browse our Italian Fine Wine offer on our website here:

A note from Sarah:

"Italy is unparalleled in the opportunity it offers to buy a wide variety of fine wines that overdeliver across a range of prices and styles rarely seen from one country; wines that are characterful young but often capable of ageing wonderfully, and that won’t break the bank.

Here I wanted to highlight a number of regions and winemakers that have excited me this year. From the new releases from three of Chianti Classico’s top names to a more exploratory look at the fine wines of Sicily, there is, I believe, a wine (or more!) for everyone here.

I honestly believe that Italy’s fine wines currently offer exceptional additions to even well-stocked cellars, as well as to winter evenings this year.

The strong sense of Italian campanilismo (hometown pride) has meant that, over some 4,000 years of grape growing, each local region, sub region, town or hamlet has made a speciality of their indigenous grapes, becoming masters of more than 100 different varieties (at a conservative estimate!). That’s why, when you taste so many of Italy’s most prized wines – be it sangiovese in Tuscany or aglianico in Basilicata – you realise the wine could not come from anywhere else."

On Tuesday lunchtime, Sarah’s joining us for a Q&A to answer your questions on all things Italian Fine Wine - join us for an hour and maybe even bring a glass of something Italian along!

How to take part

Please send us your questions in advance, by replying to this topic - or just log in to the Community before 1pm on Tuesday and there’ll be a ‘ LIVE FROM 1PM: Italian Fine Wine with Buyer Sarah Knowles MW ’ topic where the event will take place. The chat will be in written format - like a regular topic here.

We hope you can make it along! Who’s planning on joining us?

  • I’ll be there!
  • I can’t make it, but I’ll send over a question in advance.

0 voters


YES! The return of the Tuesday Skive!

Is she here purely as Italian buyer or can we pounce her with questions about spirits too?



And while the main theme is Italian Fine Wine, I’m sure a spirits question will be welcome too!


Yes! I know there were a few questions around the time of the whisky launch/some chat about brandy and calvados, so I’m looking forward to seeing a few of those too! :smiley:


Just bumping this topic in case anyone has any advance questions for Sarah Knowles MW that they’d like to post before this Q&A event tomorrow afternoon!

1 Like

I’m finding myself increasingly drawn to Italian wines and chianti in particular - probably my wine rediscovery of this year. I’m interested to know about the stylistic differences between chianti classico and chianti rufina - are there general rules of thumb or is it a question of finding producers of choice in each area? Thanks!


Hi @Sarah , very quick and simple question :smiley:.

I noticed that you’ve started to stock some Castello di Verduno recently, any plans in place for TWS to sell more of their range over the coming months/years?


Before I hijack the thread with questions about brandy - extending @Alchemist question - what are your thoughts on the other named areas in Chianti? Do you have any good suggestions on how to start exploring them?

Another Tuscan Sangiovese question: How much does VIni Nobili di Montepulciano suffer from sharing a name with something that’s often associated with being the second cheapest wine on any italian restaurants menu? (note: I actually adore Montepulciano d’Abruzzo).


Hello Sarah, this may be a perennial (perennially tedious?!) question, but are there any plans to include more Alto Adige producers in future?

It’s been great to see Hofstätter back on the list, but inclusion of producers such as Franz Haas, Elena Walch or Cantinas such as Terlano and Bolzano would be fantastic, and can offer quite a unique expression of Italian wines, slightly different from the more known regions.

On a different note - so happy to see Planeta wines on the list! :clap::grinning:

Thank you,


Hello Sarah,
Thanks very much for the recent Italian offer, a lovely selection of wines there. Unfortunately it’s nearly December and both kids know how to write to Father Christmas - I can’t fob them off with empty TWS boxes any more so my order is a little (but precious) one.

My question is one of time management - the sheer variety of wine produced in Italy is something to behold, with quality wine-producing areas found at the very top, to the tip of the toe, everywhere in between and a few tasty islands as well! How do you ensure you’re uncovering out all the tastiest little parcels and container-loads for the members to enjoy? Do you have a selection strategy or is it more just trying to taste everything that comes flying your way?
Also, which region do you most look forward to visiting in terms of the culinary delights?


I have a question about a currently listed wine, rather selfishly. The 16.5% alcohol on the Tedeschi Marne 180 Amarone is both off-putting and intriguing. How will it develop (how will its profile change) over the 10 years you suggest for the drinking window and why should I not be put off the high alcohol.


Hi Sarah,

Any chance TWS could stock some full bodied Valpolicella? Not Ripasso or Amarone but just really top notch, ripe Valpol.
I would love to see Roccolo Grassi on the list as an example.

Also, some Primitivo with some age on it? Eg, Fatalone Riserva

Many thanks


Looking forward to this event - starting in a few minutes, at 1pm! See you all there!


Hi Sarah

Will you be having an Italian red with your Christmas dinner this year? Are there any wines in the list that you think would make the perfect partner for the turkey, or a luxurious roast beef?


Ok, we’ll get started! We’re very pleased to welcome our Italy buyer @Sarah to The Community this lunchtime - she’s here to answer all the questions you sent in advance, plus any new ones you want to ask during this event :smiley:

1 Like

Hi @Alchemist ,

Delighted that you are Chianti-curious, it is a wonderful fine wine region, with wines that offer wonderful poise, perfume and charm in their youth, but when from good producers can also age beautifully. The “Chianti” region is a large area stretching south from Florence, and encompassing Siena. In the 1930s the area of Chianti was divided into seven sub-regions, the largest of which is Chianti Classico, which incorporates the older areas associated with wine production like the villages of Greve, Radda and Panzano. Chianti Classico wines are also marked with a black cockerel emblem. The other six sub-regions are Colli Aretini, Colli Fiorentini, Colline Pisane, Colli Senesi, Montalbano and Rùfina.

Chianti Classico vineyards are planted on the hillsides for freshness, and have the advantage of some of the better clones, and good stocks of older vines. The best wines are medium bodied, but concentrated with complex red berry, floral, earthen and spice notes. The tannins can be pretty firm but extraction methods in Italy over the last 20 years have got much more gentle and allow for better early integration. Generally there is little new oak now used, with winemakers returning to more traditional large old oak formats.

Chianti Classico must contain at least 80% Sangiovese. A maximum of 20% of other red grapes Colorino, Canaiolo Nero, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot may be used. White grapes were banned in 2006

Chianti Rufina along the Arno Valley, north-east of Florence is the best known of the other 6 sub regions of Chianti. This may be because there are a clutch of excellent producers here that have helped the region gain a great reputation. It is the sub region furthest from the coast and at the highest elevation, and so is the coolest sub region of Chianti. The grapes are planted on the foothills of the Apennine Mountains allowing for longer cooler seasons for the slower ripening Sangiovese. The wines are often more floral in perfume, higher in acid and have a refined, elegant style. I would suggest decanting these wines, as they can be overlooked in favour of a more flashy full bodied wine if not given time to breath and open up.
Rufina must contain at least 70% Sangiovese, with the remainder blended with Canaiolo, Colorino or international red varieties.


Hi @Tannatastic

We have been working the Barbaresco from Castello di Verduno for a few years now, but yes, 2016 was the first time I also dipped into their excellent Barolo. I love their range, and so it is likely that other wines will be listed over the next few years, however there are so many wonderful producers in Piedmont that it is often a little bit of a juggling act for my stock sheets and as sales are still not huge volume :frowning: I often find I need to cherry pick very carefully to cover the breath of styles, producers and price points.


Hi @strawpig ,

So I touched on the various sub regions on Chianti above, and we mostly work with winemakers on Ch Cl. and Rufina. However we have worked with Malenchini in Colli Fiorentini and Falchini in Colli Senesi recently and I am looking out for wineries to work with from the broader region, so long as the quality and value stack up. From my tastings there may be more opportunities in both of these sub regions again, but it is tricky as in Colli Senesi for example some of the vineyards that have been classified don’t feel like the best for producing high quality wines. There is some replanting happening across Chianti as winemakers understand the Sangiovese clones better and select those for quality rather than quantity.

Vino Nobile di Montepulciano – undoubtedly confuses many wine drinkers.

(Vino Nobile di Montepulciano is an area in Tuscany just south east of Chianti based around the hilltop town of Montepulciano, and makes Sangiovese based wines, not dissimilar to Chianti – although a little riper as the area is a little warmer. Whereas Montepulciano is also the name of a grape variety widely planted in Abruzzo, which in the main, makes fruity less tannic or complex wines.)

So yes – tricky for export markets….

However, we have to remember that Italians are the largest consumers of Italian wines, add in tourists to a local region, and many wineries can sell out each year locally – especially those in the beautiful town of Montepulciano in Tuscany! We find both styles sell well, and within our portfolio it helps that there is a general price difference – ie Montepulciano d’Abruzzo is usually under £12, whereas Vino Nobile is usually over £15, although that said I am trying some samples of excellent more fine wine Montepulciano d’abruzzo and I am getting better pricing and support on some Vino Nobile so I may be adding to the confusion!

From my part, I will always make the difference clear in my notes on these wines when sold through TWS.


Hi @Sarah, is it possible for you to list your favourite wine currently listed by TWS, in the low, mid & high price bracket? Thanks


Hi Inbar,

Not a tedious question at all! I love many wines from a range of producers in Alto Adige, however I am always very impressed by the quality of the wines from Hofstätter. As we have worked with them for so long and built a great relationship I am keen to keep this going. However generally speaking these wines are quite slow selling so it is tricky to justify listing many new wines from this region. However, as the right focused offers come along they usually give me the ability to broaden listings from regions like this, and I will be keen to when the opportunity arise.

Delighted you are a Planeta fan, I love the winemaker who has such skill which I think it really highlighted in this mini range in the current offer.