Daily Pix

How Stories About Sangiovese Inspired a Wine Career

Alexandra Schrecengost, founder of Virtual With Us, on her favorite Italian wines

Janice Williams By August 17, 2021
Photo illustration by Allison Kahler.

Alexandra Schrecengost was already curious about wine when she first heard Alessia Antinori speak at an event in 2011. Schrecengost was a young publicist working at Magrino Public Relations in New York, which, at the time, represented Ste. Michelle Wine Estates and the 26-generation family winery Marchese Antinori. Alessia Antinori is vice president of the 630-year-old winery, alongside her sisters, Allegra Antinori and Albiera Antinori, the president.

Watching Alessia Antinori captivate her peers, while explaining the wines from her family’s estate, left Schrecengost inspired. 

“I was fascinated with the way she described the wine. There was this romance in the way she did it. And she commanded a room of a bunch of men while wearing an all-white suit and did not spill a single drop of red wine on it,” Schrecengost recalls. “That’s when I started taking wine more seriously and started asking for more work on wine accounts and diving in and studying wine to understand it. But Alessia, she was the one who got me fascinated.”

Wine has since become significant in Schrecengost’s life. She’s visited vineyards and wineries in Italy, France, Hungary, and dozens more, while working at luxury wine marketing and sales company, Wilson Daniels. And she’s currently a WSET Diploma candidate. 

And what’s more, Schrecengost has launched her own company, Virtual With Us, which offers virtual and interactive tasting events for various corporations. With a diverse network of sommeliers, chocolatiers, and wineries, Virtual With Us offers team-building opportunities for companies through wine tastings, using a cocktail party format. Its sister company, Culture With Us, a corporate gifting service, offers corporations a more meaningful way to show appreciation for employees and clients during an era of work-from-home and social distancing. 

“Behind every corporation are consumers, and they want to know the narrative behind the wine. They want to understand it and know what got the winemaker to the point of making that bottle, who are the people making it, and why are they so special,” Schrecengost says.

It’s understandable why Schrecengost would choose to use the company she founded as a means to expose more consumers to wine and the stories behind the bottles. After all, it was hearing Alessia Antinori speak about the Chianti Classico her family produces in Tuscany that helped jumpstart Schrecengost’s foray into the wine industry. It should also come as no surprise that it’s Sangiovese, the staple grape of Italy’s Chianti region, that Schrecengost continues to turn to for her personal wine-drinking experiences. She’s particularly fond of bottles where women are at the helm of winemaking. 

“Italian women are making world-class wine in Tuscany, which has historically been a male-dominated winemaking region,” Schrecengost says. “These winemakers have a special relationship with Sangiovese, one of Italy’s most important grapes, named for sanguis Jovis, meaning the blood of Jove, in Latin.”

Dozens of varieties of Sangiovese grow across Italy, but Brunello is perhaps the most famous. “These grapes add body, acid, tannins, and dry, fruity flavors to blends — typically Cabernet and Merlot, and stand well on their own. Super savory and just all-around delicious, plus very good value,” Schrecengost says. 

3 Sangiovese to try: 

Note: Prices may vary depending on location.

bottle of Castello di Volpaia Chianti Classico 2018

Castello di Volpaia Chianti Classico 2018 ($22)

Perched some 2,000 feet above sea level on a hilltop near Radda, a town in the heart of the Chianti Classico region, lies Castello di Volpaia, which has operated as a winery since the mid-1970s. Owned by the Mascheroni Stianti family, Federica Mascheroni Stianti is the head winemaker in charge of producing the winery’s Sangiovese-based wines. This particular bottle was the first Chianti Classico to land a spot in the top three on Wine Spectator’s Wines of the World list. “It’s an outstanding bottle for its value, softened by a touch of Merlot and full of fresh red berry notes and hints of tobacco leaf,” says Schrecengost. 

bottle of Fattoria Cigliano di Sopra Chianti Classico 2017

Fattoria Cigliano di Sopra Chianti Classico 2017 ($28)

If you’re looking for the next bottle to complement your pizza night, Schrecengost says look no further than Fattoria Cigliano di Sopra’s Chianti Classico. “It’s another world-class interpretation of Sangiovese’s range of red fruit flavors, with robust fresh cherry notes and a light bitterness that complements wood-fired pizza and cured meats, like prosciutto and coppa,” she says. Maddalena Fucile, whose family owns the estate, is the winemaker alongside her husband, Matteo Vaccari. 

bottle of Candialle Chianti Classico

Candialle Chianti Classico ($30)

“Wonderfully dry, earthy, and tannic,” is how Schrecengost describes this bottle of 100% Sangiovese that is organically farmed and manually harvested by the German Finnish husband and wife winemakers Josephin and Jarkko Peränen. “This wine has notes of baking spice and concentrated red fruit,” Schrecengost says. Candialle lies along the southern tip of the Conca d’Oro, also known as the Golden Bowl, not far from the village of Panzano in Chianti.