Rather than sip on your standard autumn reds this year, opt for something Old World and regional, courtesy of Mucci Imports. The wine operation was started by Nick Mucci in 2012 in his hometown of Hingham with the goal of bringing lesser-known Italian varietals to Massachusetts oenophiles. He took on the task of spreading the good wine word after living in Italy and exploring the local grape scene. Almost three years later, Mucci has helped an array of Italian regional wineries find representation on restaurant lists and wine shop shelves in the Boston area. Here, he talks the Mucci philosophy and shares fall grape recommendations from across the Atlantic.
Mucci moved to Rome on a whim, but fell in love with the wine. “A lot of my travel was tourist spots,” he says, “but more importantly, I was going to small festivals, going on crazy bus rides, and finding myself in these small towns and wineries. That really got me thinking—meeting folks whose wines are obscure varietals we’ve never heard of. They’re certainly not represented outside of their country, or their region or their small town.” He continued his adventure (and his grape education) and moved north to pursue an MBA in Food and Wine in Bologna. He also started to put together his business plan. “I was coming in completely green,” he says, without any prior industry experience or connections. What he did have was the Mucci mission.
As a company, Mucci Imports focuses on small, family-owned, organic or sustainable wineries cultivating indigenous Italian grapes, the same wineries Mucci stumbled upon during his travels. “Where I come from is trying to represent those unique producers and do justice to those unique wine regions that still aren’t very well-known,” he says. “Not that I’m the only person bringing in Lambrusco, but it’s not at the back end of my portfolio. It’s something that I believe every client of mine should taste.”
What about autumnal tastes? For the New England harvest season, Mucci recommends a southern Italian white and a northern Italian red that showcase the diversity and deliciousness of his wine portfolio. The Fiano grape comes from the province of Avellino in Campania, but “it feels like it would belong more to Piedmont than it would southern Italy,” Mucci says, because the grapes grow at a relatively high elevation in the hilly landscape. They get the benefit of a warm, lengthy growing season but lower temperatures at night impart tasty complexities. “It’s a white wine that has a lot of layers. You’re getting some peach, tropical fruit, some Mediterranean spices and herbs, and then you get this smoky finish.” Fiano ages well (Mucci is currently working with a 2011 vintage) and the wine can even warm up in your glass for enjoying in chilly weather.
On the red spectrum, Mucci says to look north to the Austrian-bordered region of Alto Adige. “The reds are that German-style, Pinot Noir-style and, before winter comes, I think this is a fun season to play around with lighter-style red wines.” Lagrein is another high-elevation grape, grown near the Alps. It’s medium weight to warm the cockles and pairs well with wild game, grilled meats and other hardy, harvest fare. Mucci compares it to a Nebbiolo or Sangiovese with dark, woodsy, berry undertones and earthy notes. “Then, on the finish, you get this bright cranberry, which is a perfect reminder of fall.” You can find Fiano, Lagrein and more at Mucci’s many restaurant and retail spots, then cozy up and cin cin to leaf season with a taste of local Italy.