Three estates, 23 wines, one agent

Back in April of 2017 I walked into Canoe Restaurant on the 54th Floor of the Toronto Dominion Centre to taste the Henriot Family wines of Villa Ponciago, Domaine William Fèvre and Bouchard Père & Fils. This tasting hosted by Woodman Wines and Spirits is more than just an annual highlight, it is an event borne of necessity for a multiple of triumvirate reasons. Gamay, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir; Beaujolais, Chablis-Bourgogne and Bourgogne; Village, Premier Cru and Grand Cru; Fleurie, Chablis and Les Côtes, d’Or and Chalonnaise; Climat, Climat and Climat. If you want to gain a deeper understanding of the relationship between producer, Village and Climat then you cannot miss such an opportunity.

Related – Bourgogne in a word: Climat

The vintage may have been one borne out of sunshine and the wines are unquestionably rich. From a vantage point of precision and structure they may not be as stubborn, focused and direct as 2014 but they hold a famous adage accountable to its meaning. No wine can truly be great if it does not taste that way from the very beginning. Fruit must be there from the start. It will not later be found. These are the 2015 Beaujolais and Bourgogne as exemplified by these three categorical producers.  I would have liked to taste all 33 wines on offer that day but time constraints for one got in the way, not to mention this tasting is so popular amongst the media and trade in Toronto so several of the wines were drained before I could get to them. Nevertheless I did manage to squeeze 23 concentrated sessions into a 90 minute time slot and these are my notes. Thank you as always to Russell, Jason and Rachel Woodman.

Villa Ponciago La Réserve Fleurie 2015, AOC Beaujolais, France (Agent, $25.00, WineAlign)

Been waiting for 2015 to come along for Ponciago’s no pain Fleurie la Réserve, a gamay always firm but now of fruit like compound berry butter from the giving vintage. Now with more black cherry than almost ever, or at least in recent memory, the tart compressed, compounded too but variegated mille feuille-like so not really tart at all. No war of juicy versus grippy so “I resist what I cannot change.” Persistent as needed but not forever, so this drinkable drug is just what the Beaujolais doctor ordered. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted April 2017  chateaudeponcie  

Villa Ponciago Cuvée Les Hauts Du Py 2015, Fleurie, AOC Beaujolais, France (Agent, $31.00, WineAlign)

Even the generous vintage can’t distract from the quartz-lined granite bedrock of the Hauts du Puy but it does make for an intensely layered cuvée of moving parts. This 2015 is possessive of a repeatable Réserve condition but with bigger, broader and more complex dark red berries, though also here in the throes of the mineral streak of diffidence. There are few examples of Fleurie that concentrate, purify and integrate inchoate soil and munificent fruit like Les Hauts and with the vintage so forward and early expressive this is as gamey getable as there is on the market today. Pour this critical mass with reckless abandon. Drink 2017-2021.  Tasted April 2017

Unsparing and benevolent @vinsdechablis 2015s aplenty from @williamfevre_ via @WoodmanWS

Domaine William Fèvre Chablis Premier Cru Beauroy 2015, AOC Bourgogne (Agent, $58.00, WineAlign)

There can be no surprise that Beauroy is broader, creamier and it can be said, fruitier than Vaillons though again, the salty earth and the ancient ocean are swirling with their liquid mineral solutions and rushing through with their waves. As Févre is so want to insist, to call to order, even in the thick brushstroke of Beauroy. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted April 2017  williamfevre_chablis  woodmanws  @williamfevre_  @WoodmanWS  @domainewilliamfevre  Woodman Wines & Spirits

Domaine William Fèvre Chablis Premier Cru Vaillons 2015, AOC Bourgogne (Agent, $58.00, WineAlign)

Vaillons walks along a kimmeridgian trail with so much fruit from the elongated slope and valley in ’15. Though truth be told (winemaker) Didier Séguier has kept the fossils, salinity and direct mineral injections consistent with not only ’14 but in omniscience and with complete trust to what came before. This is not no much a piercing as it is indeed an injection. There is much to learn from how Fèvre approaches Vaillons becuase the consistency is second to none. Vintage matters less and that is the calling card of the house, at least with respect to this Premier Cru. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted April 2017

Domaine William Fèvre Chablis Premier Cru Montmains 2015, AOC Bourgogne (488718, $39.95, WineAlign)

Montmains is different, that much we know but this is 2015 and no modern era vintage speaks with more fruit clarity. Still the herbology mixed into the salinity and brine consistently forms the basis for the Montmains oeuvre. What conspires from ’15 is more depth and soild tang than what comes off of the nearby hills. It’s like lime over lemon but it’s not exactly citrus that sits at the forefront, more like savoury syrup swirled in but in thick rotation at the conical bottom’s narrowing point. This is quite intense for 2015, but it is Montmains that effects this indelicacy with great presence and the most insistent Premier Cru persistence thus far. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted April 2017

Domaine William Fèvre Chablis Premier Cru Fourchaume 2015, AOC Bourgogne (Agent, $69.00, WineAlign)

This Premier Cru of greatest surface is committed to by Fèvre with a singular duality, of a domaine within a domaine and as cru versus cru. The greater Fourchaume is a Grand Cru hill place of five distinct climats in which Fèvre holds blocks in Vaulorent so they bottle both it and this ubiquitous Fourchaume. Upwards of four hectares deliver a best of all Premier Cru worlds Chablis as Forchaume is gathered for a collective sumptuousness, really layered and propping up the most kimmeridgian of the line-up to date for ’15. Carries its ilk in its DNA and its expresion; compression, lemon and lime citrus, soil conditioning and the broadest yet most direct feel of appeal. If you want Fevre, 2015, Premier Cru and ancient wisdom all wrapped up in one clear package this is the bank expression for you. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted April 2017

Domaine William Fèvre Chablis Grand Cru Bougros 2015, AOC Bourgogne (Agent, $99.00, WineAlign)

Bougros, the approachable one. Bougros, with great unction and deep intensity but not hard to get. How this has gathered its sensibilities so quickly is a matter of vintage and place but there are layers, many of them, left to peel away. You get a conditioned and developed salinity meets acidity unlike any Premier Cru and yet you can’t help needing to think it should be drinkable straight away. The potential of mille-feuille layering is leaps ahead of (most but not all) of the Premier Pru. Quite domesticated Grand Cru Chablis that is easier to understand than most. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted April 2017

Domaine William Fèvre Chablis Grand Cru Les Preuses 2015, AOC Bourgogne (Agent, $125.00, WineAlign)

If Les Preuses isn’t the Fèvre piece, of resistance and resilience. Of memory and understanding, of formidable variegation and in ’15, teasing and tempting open doors. Don’t be fooled or duped because there are many doors and so many fences to tear down before you can find what’s behind the barriers. Intensifies in its delivery of more citrus and compressed stone clarity than Bougros (or at least with more crunch and bite) but it will take years of ruminative meal matching possibilities and execution before you might know where it stands and with it, relative to you. Drink 2020-2027.  Tasted April 2017

Domaine William Fèvre Chablis Grand Cru Les Clos 2015, AOC Bourgogne, France (641381, $130.00, WineAlign)

Fèvre’s Les Clos takes a bit of an unexpected turn so from 2015 it currently goes stone cold and remains intensely locked. From what we know the vintage should be generous from the start but in this instance Les Clos makes use of every ounce and fibre of kimmerridgian being to lay only salt, fossil and stone before you. The fruit kept hidden away makes you pine for fleshy orchard apples. Nothing can really prepare you for the Les Clos iron gate, especially when you were expecting a welcome mat laid out at your feet. Take the time to charm and be charmed, at least 15 minutes with a glass or 15 years if you can offer up the time. The Grand Cru will slowly open up and speak in a vernacular of controlled energy, fineness of acidity and exceptional balance. This will be one for the ages.  Drink 2021-2035. Tasted April 2017

Bouchard Père & Fils Montagny Premier Cru 2015, AOC Bourgogne, France (653683, $38.00, WineAlign)

Montagny is rich and expressive with a shot of tonic and quite the textural viscosity. A bit reductive though another six to 12 months will put it in a honeyed, waxy and preserved citrus place. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted April 2017  bouchardpereetfils    @BouchardPere  Bouchard Père & Fils

Bouchard Père & Fils Saint Aubin Premier Cru 2015, AOC Bourgogne, France (Agent, $57.00, WineAlign)

Saint-Aubin’s proximity to Montrachet and high percentage of Premier Cru vineyards should be an automatic to elevate its esteem but it still flies under the radar. Bouchard feels otherwise and proudly boasts and toasts its ability to effect fine chardonnay. Great 2015 fruit be scorned this is a terrifically taut example but yes it is certainly fruit expressive (apples and such). In relative terms to Saint-Aubin it delivers more perceived sweetness and spice provided by the barrel in what is ostensibly and sensibly really well-intended and generous from the start. A bit of a wild child this one with plenty of upside. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted April 2017

Bouchard Père & Fils Puligny Montrachet 2015, AOC Bourgogne, France (Agent, $80.00, WineAlign)

It has often been said that Village level Puligny-Montrachet from top growers can be very good indeed, but is all too often unexciting and disappointing. Combine that statement with a humid 2015 vintage and you may be left to wonder what will happen from a non vineyard-specific Puligny. Bouchard’s stands firm, acts forthright and tackles the suspicion head on. This is a direct, linear, layered and unctuous P-M with layers of lemon and fresh glade air at their get me vintage finest. It’s also a wine of grace and elegance away from barrel and into something ethereal. Acidity suits the flesh, not as an injunction but as an extension and takes the fruit into a place of inflection. Such a beautiful wine. Drink 2018-2026.  Tasted April 2017

Domaine Bouchard Père & Fils Meursault Les Clous 2015, AOC Bourgogne, France (661322, $59.95, WineAlign)

Bouchard’s Meursault Les Clous seems akin to acknowledging the ideal of Bourgogne that sit somewhere along the line between Village and Premier Cru and in this instance well right of centre on that line. Les Clous is a bit more reserved than the Puligny, not so much reductive as much as it is wrapped a bit tight. It may be construed as perhaps a bit couterintuitive to Meursault but certainly not impossible to accept. Really brings the idea of lemon curd and a melting barrel into the ideal. Needs two years to integrate and if you are patient it will reward with a comforting hug at that time. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted April 2017

Domaine Bouchard Père & Fils Meursault Premier Cru Genevrières 2015, AOC Bourgogne, France (Agent, $129.00, WineAlign)

Meursault Genevières is so much more fleshy, fruit forward, expressive and feminine than Les Clous though never straying too far from carrying a necessary liquid limestone, chalky streak through and through. The soil speaks more from the middle to the back, creating a fascinating transition for this wine. A warmth challenged vintage be anathematized this Genevières has not gone to blazes, constantly re-energizes and is built from a constitution to see it hang in for the long haul. Drink 2018-2028.  Tasted April 2017

Domaine Bouchard Père & Fils Chassagne Montrachet Premier Cru Morgeot 2015, AOC Bourgogne, France (Agent, $141.00, WineAlign)

Bouchard’s Chassagne-Montrachet Morgeot is an intense expression of Bourgogne Premier Cru distilled into the finest, most elegant and ancient geology captured expression. The integration and balance is remarkable when you consider how Climat must contract intuition and acumen for the purpose of harnessed power and controlled energy. This is one of the major stars of the vintage. From soil to microclimate and through temperament it just has it all. Drink 2019-2030.  Tasted April 2017

Domaine Bouchard Père & Fils Corton Charlemagne Grand Cru 2015, AOC Bourgogne, France (Agent, $260.00, WineAlign)

Corton Charlemagne is a thing of great opulence, not the intense and controlled energy of Chevalier-Montrachet but here strutting and the wood more apparent. The fruit component shows off more desire (like Vaudesirs in Chablis but with the volume turned way up). This affinity with Grand Cru Chablis is curious, in a way interchangeable but respectfully mutual, apparent and beneficent. The munificence of this Corton breathes to fleshy texture and from mellifluous honey and bees waxy genteel notes. Power is evident but gorgeous and together is even more so. Toasty in the end, as in the beginning, with lime in gelid curd. Drink 2019-2029. Tasted April 2017

Domaine Bouchard Père & Fils Chevalier Montrachet Grand Cru 2015, AOC Bourgogne, France (Agent, $480.00, WineAlign)

Chevalier-Montrachet is a matter of aromatics, of the finest of the finest, preserved, reserved, impressionable and of quietly powerful impression. The deistic and the parrhesiastic are reached in this Grand Cru, “one who speaks the truth to power.” Elysium in chardonnay is captured for the perfectly ripe orchard and crushed stones. The young palate is almost severe but takes its first steps down the most ethereal path, with the finest drawn lines and rendered streaks of energy lit, sparked and smouldering. This is Bourgogne of intrinsic value, slowly rising to a crescendo where a flame flickers but within the sheltered lamp of a hurricane. How is such harnessed power even possible? Only like this, in Chevalier-Montrachet . Drink 2021-2037.  Tasted April 2017

Bouchard Père & Fils Monthélie Les Duresses 2015, AOC Bourgogne (Agent, $57.00, WineAlign)

Monthélie is intensely floral where roses merge into violets and then strawberry melds into raspberry. Some firm grip as the Climat would suggest but it’s really quite a salvo, like shots fired into the air as an announcement of the wine’s drink early ability. Dureté could just as easily be fermeté because there is strength in trust, belief and assurance. Les Duresses brings attention to itself quite easily and with shameless selfie confidence. Drink 2017-2021.  Tasted April 2017

Bouchard Père & Fils Gevrey Chambertin 2015, AOC Bourgogne (661330, $59.95, WineAlign)

Bouchard’s 2015 is incredibly forward Gevrey Chambertin, full of fruit, flowers and a beautifully integrated red liquid chalky syrup. It’s just plain getable and is the godfather to all of its peers. If you want to show the world and everyone in it who knows or knows nothing about high-level Bourgogne then perhaps consider this to be the journey’s departure point. Gevrey and especially in the hands of Bouchard is such a gate for what it means to build pinot noir from the earth upwards. It explains what needs in a language you can understand and makes an offer you can’t refuse. Pour this every day simply because it is quintessentially ripe and structured stuff. Drink 2018-2026.  Tasted April and November 2017

Bouchard Père & Fils Chambolle Musigny 2015, AOC Bourgogne (Agent, $78.00, WineAlign)

Initial mannerisms direct the imagination to view this Chambolle Musigny as taking a turn towards a gentler version of itself. It’s quite floral and mineral with fruit the protein in between the covers. The condiments of spice, espagnole and coulis derived by that wood-soaked red fruit provide the structure. There are moments when this pinot noir seems more mineral than fruit and this equivocation will surely repeat depending on the time each one is opened but in time the genial will emerge and remain. For now the fleeting impression is of a grippy, firm, intense, citrus circus of acrobatic ability. At the finish it turns to the botanical and the tonic. Drink 2018-2024.  Tasted April 2017

Domaine Bouchard Père & Fils Ancienne Cuvée Carnot Volnay Caillerets Premier Cru 2015, AOC Bourgogne (Agent, $116.00, WineAlign)

Caillerets Ancient Cuvée Carnot is no young, impressionable and misunderstood bit of Bourgogne winemaking. There is DNA in this fruit that connects back 240 years to the house’s first vineyard dating to 1775. Here Volnay exhibits a substantial amount of chalky limestone swimming with variegated aggregate and firm, not quite ready to dissolve crunchy stone behaviour. Dark fruit and so much fraises de bois meets this perception brought on by mineral aromas and flavour. A bit savoury and all in for Volnay. So bloody in charge of its structure with grippy persistence. A classic Climat meets vintage of strength, courage and purpose. Drink 2020-2029.  Tasted April 2017

Domaine Bouchard Père & Fils Beaune Grèves Premier Cru Vigne De L’enfant Jésus 2015, AOC Bourgogne (Agent, $156.00, WineAlign)

When I asked Luc Bouchard which Climat most defines the notion for the estate he replied “from Bouchard estate we are very proud of the Climat of Beaune Grève Vigne de l’Enfant Jésus, monopole of Bouchard since 1791, a unique terroir with gravely soil (unique in Beaune). The roots go very deep into the soil (9m), so if we have a very dry summer there is always enough water far below and if there is heavy rain storm, the drainage is so good that the water is not directly swallowed by the grapes. That explains the consistency of the wine, it’s unique texture and ageing potential.” Beaune Grève Vigne de l’Enfant Jésus in 2015 is the wondrous inhalant, like (dare it be said) Hermitage if it were married to Côte d’Or, of an impossible liqueur and the first to bring this truly rich 2015 element to a Bouchard pinot noir. The finest silk coats the palate and through black composure the mineral (limestone) in here will never relent and let the dark fruit take charge. This is a wine of impeccable balance and gentle, ethereal preciseness. It impresses as much as any Bourgogne will. Drink 2019-2030.  Tasted April 2017

Domaine Bouchard Père & Fils Le Corton Grand Cru 2015, AOC Bourgogne (Agent, $180.00, WineAlign)

Le Corton the Grand Cru is a senior, most adult red of the Côte d’Or crowd, an inwardly impressing Bourgogne with more mineral limestone impression than you can bother trying to imagine settling into one bottle. This is a factor of the very top of the vineyard and can’t be denied. Eighty years ago this Grand Cru received its AOC status but you can feel the roots go so much deeper. East-facing below the Charlemagne holding, Le Corton is often one of the last wines to be picked and it is this necessity that speaks to the severity and royal power wielded by this king of the appellation. In a word, wow and provided by so much wisdom. Drink 2020-2035.  Tasted April 2017

Good to go!

Godello

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

WineAlign

 

 

Gold Medal Plates Toronto 2017

Go Time @GoldMedalPlates Toronto #gmp2017

It was my fourth Gold Medal Plates Toronto as wine judge, culinary taster and olympic athlete groupie. In 2014 WineAlign partner, colleague, mentor and friend David Lawrason invited me to join the festivities and help decide which three wines should be crowned Gold, Silver and Bronze. Two weeks ago a panel of Ontario wine experts tasted, assessed, debated, deliberated and ultimately decided this year’s top three. David Lawrason, John Szabo M.S., Michael Vaughan, Margaret Swaine and Godello. The winner ran away from the pack but two through six were separated by one point increments. It was a photo finish for Silver and Bronze.

The 2017 Toronto event featured emcee Scott Russell of the CBC’s Olympic coverage. Russell was joined by dozens of Olympic medallists and future hopefuls. Blue Rodeo’s Jim Cuddy led the on-stage entertainment; Anne Lindsay, Danny Michel, Jeremy Fisher, Devin Cuddy and Sam Polley. The inimitable and eloquent James Chatto was once again at the head and the heart of the culinary judging panel with seats occupied by an illustrious five; Sasha Chapman, Anita Stewart,  Christine Cushing, Amy Rosen and Chef John Higgins.

Gold Medal Plates Toronto 2014

For a little bit of GMP history please click on this post I penned after that 2014 gala event. The culinary winners then were Gold Medal Plates Toronto 2014 bronze, gold and silver medal winning chefs Damon Campbell, John Horne and Jason Bangerter. The top three wines were Norman Hardie‘s Niagara Unfiltered Pinot Noir 2011, Hidden Bench Nuit Blanche Rosomel Vineyard 2012 and Creekside Estate‘s Iconoclast Syrah 2012. But what about 2017? My top seven in no particular order were Flat Rock Cellars Riesling Nadja’s Vineyard 2016, Ravine Vineyard Chardonnay Reserve 2014, Charles Baker Riesling B-Side 2016, Henry of Pelham Cuvée Catherine Brut Rosé, Stratus White 2013, Leaning Post Chardonnay ‘The Fifty’ 2015 and Tawse Chardonnay Quarry Road 2013. The actual medalists are listed below in David’s report.

National Wine Advisor David Lawrason’s Wine and Spirits Report

Nadja’s Tops a Bounty of Great Whites in Toronto

“The Gold Medal Plates campaign came to a booming 800-person conclusion at Toronto Convention Centre on November 16, and it included the largest selection of wines seen in any stop on the ten-city national tour.  We judged 26 donated wines, beers, spirits and even a lavender mead, but it was a core of great Canadian white wines that caused the most excitement, and produced the winner of the evening.

The “Best of Show” Gold Medal went, by a very clear margin, to Flat Rock Cellars 2016 Nadja’s Riesling, from a single block of maturing vines in Niagara’s Twenty Mile Bench appellation. I was personally stunned by just how delicious, well-balanced and nuanced this wine is – in my mind it is the best vintage of “Nadja’s” ever produced.  Other judges agreed – we all placed it as either our first or second choice.  This beauty also took a rare Platinum Medal at 2017 National Wine Awards.

It will go on to compete for Gold Medal Plates Wine of the Year at the Canadian Culinary Championships in Kelowna in February, and it appears there will be a riesling showdown, as it will be tasted against rieslings from Tantalus, Cave Spring and Norman Hardie, plus six other wines.

For second and third place the voting in Toronto was more varied, and only one point separated the second, third and fourth place wines.  The Silver Medal went to Mission Hill 2015 Merlot Reserve, a swarthy, plummy and ripe red from the Okanagan Valley.  And the bronze medal went to Henry of Pelham Cuvee Catharine Brut Rose, a delicate refined pink sparkler with subtle berry aromas.

In very close 4th place came Tawse 2013 Quarry Road Chardonnay from Niagara’s Vinemount Ridge sub-appellation. I have become very familiar with this solid, complex Burgundian chardonnay as it was generously donated by Tawse to the Celebration in three cities this year. It was also a Platinum Award winner at the 2107 WineAlign National Wine Awards of Canada.

Tawse was one of three Gold Level sponsors. Mission Hill was a national sponsor as well, donating a variety Reserve wines to seven city events across the country, and stepping even higher in Toronto with smaller donations of their more expensive “Legacy tier” red Compendium 2013 and Perpetua 2015 Chardonnay.

Arterra Wines, the recently re-named company with several wineries in Canada, was a gold sponsor donating to six cities.  In Toronto there was a selection of reserve whites and reds from Jackson-Triggs and Inniskillin, as well as a rare public showing of the new Arterra 2016 Chardonnay and Arterra 2016 Pinot Noir.

Toronto’s Silver Sponsor also donated to Ottawa. Cave Spring of Niagara donated their 2015 Cabernet Franc.  Although better known as a riesling producer, Cave Spring is doubling down on its efforts to produce fine reds from Ontario’s most widely grown grape.

Flat Rock Cellars was one two Bronze level sponsors for the Toronto event, providing Nadja’s riesling for the VIP Reception and Celebration tables. The other was Henry of Pelham, which split their donation between the 2016 Old Vines Baco Noir and yet another strong 2016 Estate Riesling.

Among other notable and high calibre wines donated to the chefs, I gave my first-place vote to Stratus 2013 White, a very complex, now maturing, barrel aged blend of several white varieties. Ravine 2014 Chardonnay Reserve, another power white, also earned top-five votes.  Leaning Post 2015 Mile 50 Chardonnay was a leaner style that paired well with Gold Medal Plates Chef Lorenzo Loseto’s winning dish.  And riesling specialist Charles Baker chose the occasion to show his new, bracing B-Side Riesling.

Interestingly, no red wines were paired with chef’s creations this year, but there were two ciders, including the fine, crisp Brickworks CiderHouse Batch 1904 and a lighter cider called Pick Up 66 from Hoity Toity Cellars. Rosewood Cellars donated their exotic, fragrant Lavellener Lavender Mead, and Zirkova Vodka set up shop during the VIP Reception to sample Zirkova One, a vodka designed to be drunk “neat” and Together a version designed for cocktails.

The Best of Show judging is held prior to each event, as way to highlight the generous donation of beverage by Canada’s wineries, brewers and distillers.  In Toronto I assembled four wine pros/sommeliers.  Three are amigos at WineAlign.com and two are judges at the National Wine Awards of Canada; including Master Sommelier John Szabo, and wordsmith extraordinaire and former chef Michael Godel.  Margaret Swaine is a veteran wine and travel writer, and the spirits columnist at WineAlign.  Michael Vaughan publishes Vintages Assessments, a detailed critique of every wine released by the LCBOs Vintages stores.”

Chef Lorenzo Loseto’s @GoldMedalPlates winning dish @georgeonqueen paired by @brieish with @leaningpostwine The Fifty Chardonnay 2015. Congratulations Chef and the entire team.

Culinary Medals

Gold

Lorenzo Loseto
George Restaurant

Pairing: Leaning Post Wines, 2015 ‘The Fifty’

Silver

David Lee
Nota Bene

Pairing: Brickworks Ciderhouse, Batch: 1904

Bronze

Jesse Vallins
Maple Leaf Tavern/PORT

Pairing: Tooth & Nail Brewing Company, AGRARIA Modern Farmhouse Ale

Nota Bene’s David Lee

Here are my tasting notes for the 20 wines entered at Gold Medal Plates 2017.

Henry Of Pelham Family Estate Winery Cuvée Catharine Brut Rosé, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (217505, $29.95, WineAlign)

A whole new base, a whole new wine, the departure point exacted by a new wisdom and understanding. But it’s somehow like looking in the mirror, reviving a good memory, going back to wine childhood. Consistency is your friend with non-vintage fizz and the Catherine(s) are the undisputed leader in the Ontario biz. Brings back the Niagara orchard of a take your pick red apple, lovely creamy texture, a mild blanch of nut and fresh baked bread. Terrific class and of its own accord. Drink 2017-2021.  Last tasted at Gold Medal Plates Toronto, November 2017

With its fine, strawberry mousse is at the head of its Ontario class. Vanilla, Ida Red apple and bitter nut combine like a smooth, creamy, Mediterranean spread to dip the warmest, fresh-baked bread.  Tasted December 2012

Henry Of Pelham Riesling Estate 2016, VQA Short Hills Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (557165, $17.95, WineAlign)

A rash of aromatics straight away and marked warmth verging to humidity. More weight, substance and depth than most vintages deal when youth is the tempo so this riesling plays the notes and the hand quick after the draw. What you nose, taste and feel is what you get, with lime, gassing up to petrol quickly and flavours already in developing mode. Five years of riesling together for the best of times, from beginning to end. Drink 2017-2021.  Tasted November 2017

Charles Baker Riesling B-Side 2016, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (Winery, $22.00, WineAlign)

Vinyl records sound different because they are designed with grooves carved in that mirrors the original sound’s wave form. Their analog recording delivers a sensory feeling of warmth, an aural of texture, nuance and soul. There was a time when the hits spun over and over were also pressed onto the A-Side of 45 rpm singles. The discovery of a never before heard B-Side was a revelation because is was extra material from a favourite band and it was a great song. It meant the record was already too strong for that song to make the final cut and to choose it for a B-Side meant it would elevate the quality of the album. A well-chosen B was not an afterthought. This is the accomplishment of the first Charles Baker’s B-Side, for itself and for the vineyards of Ian and Picone. Baker digs about in the Niagara Peninsula’s escarpment dirt for young vine, not ready for prime time riesling fruit. If perchance it seems like cheating on his per se Vinemount Ridge Picone and Ivan bottles so be it but one look at him and he’ll say “Hey, hey, what can I do?” His 2016 B-Side delivers a spray bottle Zeppelin expressing heady aromas, high in the stratosphere and raining down upon the earth. The notes are an all in, breath of classic Baker riesling air, blanketing from up above and with a landscape that reeks of lime and quivers with classic agitation. The fruit is wild and full, the salty grit infiltrating and gripping the bloody omniscience of this package. What is this B-Side and where will it be lead? To the top of the ridge, from earlier harvests, younger fruit and higher yields. Scratch the single vineyard elitism, just listen to the song and raise one up, to getting ‘er done before the conceptual singular side one and side two, Ivan and Picone. The Beatles? Forget it. Led’s flip side to the ‘Immigrant Song’ A is the one. Drink 2017-2021. Tasted November 2017

Flat Rock Riesling Nadja’s Vineyard 2016, VQA Twenty Mile Bench, Niagara Escarpment, Ontario (578625, $24.95, WineAlign)

Nadja, like the Bréton novel begins with the question, “Who am I?” A surrealistic trigger is incited by the first taste, with excitement running in many directions but like the book, Nadja’s non-linear structure is grounded in Twenty Mile Bench riesling reality. She is an elite varietal wine in 2016, excitable girl, gregarious, punchy and so bloody juicy. I don’t recall the last Nadja with so much up front zest fervency and writhing aromatic gait, “exploding international, the scenes, the sounds, and famously the feeling that you can’t squeeze ground.” The lime flesh and cordial infusion brings the flavours into a once tropical, twice bitten realm. The vintage delivers the electric version, the new pornographer for the vineyard and the song sung loud swan song for departing winemaker Jay Johnstone. Was it all for swinging you around? Drink 2017-2024.  Tasted October 2017

Jackson Triggs Niagara Estate Sauvignon Blanc Grand Reserve 2015, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario ($19.95, WineAlign)

Arterra’s JT sauvignon blanc is youthful and even a bit reductive, with wood notable and a real sauvignon blanc pungency. Its character and a bit of risk are tied up in the aromatics though it settles for mild-mannered and middle of the road on the palate. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted November 2017

Mission Hill Family Pinot Gris Reserve 2016, BC VQA Okanagan Valley, British Columbia (537076, $24.95, WineAlign)

Reserved to be sure and also still in pulse mode, with some tongue pin-pricking, not quite effervescent but moving in time. A bit of skin-contact hue and plenty of orchard fruit notes are present in both aromas and flavours. Solid gris that will improve in six months or so. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted November 2017

Inniskillin Okanagan Pinot Gris Reserve 2016, BC VQA Okanagan Valley, British Columbia ($19.99, WineAlign)

Noticeable skin-directed hue, chalky to soapy, with a taste that reminds of Topps hockey card bubble gum. Childhood memory revisited in pinot gris. Drink 2017-2018.  Tasted November 2017

Arterra Chardonnay 2016, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario  (Winery, $25.00, WineAlign)

Arterra’s chardonnay comes from a famous Peninsula source, formerly made into just as famous wines by Le Clos Jordanne The site is on the Escarpment’s Bench above Jordan Village and this is the second vintage at the hands of Jackson-Triggs winemaker Marco Piccoli. Picks up where the fine and ambitious first vintage in 2015 left off but here with some light strike and reduction. You can just feel the buttered toast and kernels behind the flinty curtain, with blanched nut and some fine elasticity. Will benefit from a few more months in bottle to gather thoughts and flavours. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted November 2017

Leaning Post Chardonnay ‘The Fifty’ 2015, VQA Ontario (Winery, $25.00, WineAlign)

This is chardonnay that had a cup of coffee in the big leagues and was then moved to the fresh confines of stainless steel tanks soon after its 15 minutes of barrel fame. It’s a unique chardonnay specimen this Fifty, barrel fermented but not aged, a wine crafted with pragmatic reverse psychology so that it may solicit great appeal. If you’ve never tasted Ilya Senchuk’s entry-level foray into Peninsula chardonnay you’ve been missing out, but by starting here in 2015 there is certainly no harm, no foul. This is the most pleasing and palatable Fifty so far, barrel creamy, suety and magically malolactic on the nose. The flavours are cooler, of an anti-Senchuk subtlety and versatile food amenability. I can think of 50 reasons to pour this by the glass, at home, on a restaurant list or on a campsite under the stars. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted April 2017

Ravine Vineyard Chardonnay Reserve 2014, VQA St. David’s Bench, Ontario (Winery, $55.00, WineAlign)

The Reserve is 100 per cent estate fruit that spent 18 months in (50 per cent new) barrel. As it’s both barrel fermented and aged the variegation locks the fruit in so bloody tight so even now it’s reductive, smoky and flinty. A mineral chardonnay needs balance from over the top fruit and so track record, acumen and love will have it so. Marty Werner and Ben Minaker’s is a big, summery and gold platinum expression, very expressive, the two-lb steamed in seaweed lobster chardonnay, seemingly Meursault but just as likely from California. But as Ravine’s Reserve on the St. David’s Bench it is purely Niagara Peninsula. Fruit intensity, extract and controlled oxygenation shows off the best of what these men can do. It speaks to their efforts, knowledge accumulation, trials and finally to the culmination of their stamina. Drink 2018-2023.  Tasted July 2017

Small @RavineVineyard village looking pretty sweet at @GoldMedalPlates 2017 #gmp2017

Tawse Chardonnay Quarry Road Vineyard 2013, VQA Vinemount Ridge, Ontario (111989, $35.80, WineAlign)

When I tasted Quarry Road 2013 out of four barrels three years ago the purpose was to take in the nuances and see only the trees. I for one could not help seeing the forest through the trees and imagining percentages of each combining for the final blend. Neutral Mercurey wood looked over infant three year-old vines spoken here with surprising density, tang and tropical melon in both aroma and flavour. This sits on the front palate right now. The mineral Ceres qualifies older fruit as the pretty and the gemstone, essential for Quarry Road, the most like (Meursault) in Burgundy. This fruit transferred to stainless on the lees from September to March before going into bottle now renders to make Quarry the purest expression from the best vineyard. The CLL toast delivers the taut, not yet reductive wood tightening, then and again now, mainly on the finish. Compressed citrus notes are late arriving and even if it is splitting hairs, the oak really impacts the finish. The larger CLL toast Mercurey barrel reveals a fresher, more reductive, less oaky feel. All together we now have one of Paul Pender’s most accomplished to date and all chardonnays considered, one of the finest higher end values around. I think he would agree. Drink 2017-2024.  Tasted May 2017

Mission Hill Perpetua 2015, BC VQA Okanagan Valley, British Columbia (Winery, $73.03, WineAlign)

Perpetua is a different sort of chardonnay for the Okanagan, with not completely obvious fruit and leesy notes that outdo the effects of wood, plus a lactic edge that also smothers the smoulder. This is not the toastiest of chardonnays but is does deliver a saltiness so ultimately the reference point is flint and stone, a.k.a. Chablis. A bit of crème frâiche adds to the dairy mystique. Perpetual chardonnay motion leads to persistence. Drink 2017-2022.  Tasted November 2017

Stratus Vineyards Stratus White 2013, Niagara Lakeshore, Ontario (660704, $38.20, WineAlign)

There can be little doubt that anticipation would haver to run high for the aromatic, elongated and coolest of Niagara white wine vintages, especially for the chardonnay, but also for the iconic, four-varietal (with sauvignon blanc, sémillon and viognier) blend. The five sensory tenets are solicited and provided for; salty, sour, sweet, briny and umami. The last is exotic and punchy, so this White does it all, speaks for it all and completes it all. It is the most designed and seamless their’s can be. Last tasted May and November 2017

In 2013 viognier is back in the varietal mix, in reprise of its earlier role in support of chardonnay, sauvignon blanc and riesling. A different sort of vintage here for the White, seemingly led by a circular turning of chardonnay and viognier, like a cat chasing its tail. This really goes round and round with no obvious signs of where it will stop. Quite fleshy and lime juicy with stone fruit flavours in righteous abound. Really amalgamated and seamless even for itself. It is here that I think of it as The White. Niagara’s White. Lake Effect™. Drink 2017-2022.  Tasted November 2016

Arterra Pinot Noir 2016, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (Winery, $29.95, WineAlign)

Wow the cherry pie delivers a healthy slice oozing in reduced cherry syrup. Could only by an effect created by some appassimento on pinot noir. It’s so concentrated, full of glycerin and sweet fruit. Were it not pinot made with some drying of the grapes it would be an amazing feat of growing, picking and pressing. A panoply of cherries wells in this ripe of ripest Marco Picoli red. Wow, as I said. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted September and November 2017

Cave Spring Cabernet Franc 2015, VQA Niagara Escarpment, Ontario (523001, $17.95, WineAlign)

As with the other Niagara Escarpment reds in the portfolio it is the limestone that stands out, in a good way, to bring about this mineral-red citrus cutting through the rich fruit. That stone-mineral note also does everything to temper and even mute what bitter-tonic-astringent notes might try to distract because that’s what capsicum-bell pepper is wont to do in cabernet franc. This is clean and focused, light and eminently quaffable juice. Drink 2017-2019. Tasted September and November 2017

Inniskillin Merlot Reserve 2014, VQA Niagara On The Lake, Ontario (Winery, $24.95, WineAlign)

This is really pressed and pushed merlot, cool and savoury, minty and spirited with lots of wood spice and equal amounts of tannin. The really tart finish dries out with grip and force. Drink 2018-2020.  Tasted November 2017

Jackson Triggs Grand Reserve Meritage 2015, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (594002, $24.95, WineAlign)

Now here is a nice little bit of diesel of dust, with more than a fair shake of dark raspberries and a mix of chicory, nettles and chalky tannin. Pretty wondrous quality and complexity here. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted November 2017

Henry Of Pelham Baco Noir Old Vines 2016, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (459966, $19.95, WineAlign)

This is finely rendered baco noir, rich and tangy, with bright cherries and what just feels like beeswax. The most elegant baco noir ever made in Ontario and just foxy enough to be itself. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted November 2017

Mission Hill Merlot Reserve 2015, VQA Okanagan Valley, British Columbia (Agent, $24.99, WineAlign)

This is aromatically rich and lush merlot, with a full compliment of palate richness and silky tannins. For fans of the California style with all in hedonism and a side of nettle. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted November 2017

Mission Hill Compendium 2012, BC VQA Okanagan Valley, British Columbia (Agent, $86.25, WineAlign)

Compendium 2012 carries a great wealth of aromatics, very floral and rusty, with dried strawberries and so much more. A bit reserved on the palate but its elegance and seamlessness are special. Great length even while it’s just not that much of a concentrated beast. Drink 2017-2022.  Tasted November 2017

Good to go!

Godello

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

WineAlign

Bourgogne in a word: Climat

Chambertin Clos de Beze
photo (c) Scott Zebarth

Bourgogne is but a place built upon a word, of wines designed and articulated through their very own personal vernacular. The region’s most important vineyards are defined in a word, in summary and without comparison. Climat is the word and you may be shocked to hear how it is expressed as a highly complex chain of topographical, elemental and ethnological conditions. The glossary is much longer than you might think and adds up to quite a versatile declaration. To arrive at the distilled quotient of one, no less than 20 words are employed, exercised and ushered into explanation. The lineage travels through geography-geology-topography-landscape-position-relief-aspect-exposure-slant-elevation-slope-soil-vegetation-weather-microclimate-humankind-heritage-history-tradition-knowhow and temperament. While we understand the intellectual autonomy of choosing the unescorted word Climat as acting on behalf of all these conditions, what makes it so specific as to be exclusively owned by the people of Bourgogne?

It’s really quite simple. The people of Bourgogne coined the term or rather it came to them, as naturally as signs and portents but in the most positive, abiding and permanent of ways. Climat as in the Latin verbum sapienti, “a word to the wise,” meaning it stands alone, suffices, tells the whole story. Many will ask how many base and necessary conceits comprise this peerless notion that is Climat? The answer is not how many but that it belongs to the Bourguignons and no one else, so deal with it. Climat is the perfect oxymoron, a low and slow developed and yet truly miraculous occurrence, or perhaps a marvel but also forever etched in stone. It’s hard not to feel some trepidation when it sounds like preaching through a biblical voice because like the phrase that speaks to the Ten Commandments, the word implies that nothing else is as absolute and unalterable. In the case of Bourgogne it is owned because of 2,000 years of recorded history, thanks to the educated and the phrénique, of monks, farmers and intellectuals whose minds were connected to a feeling in the pit of their stomachs and to the earth below their feet. Climat keeps you, as it were, on your toes.

Chablis Left Bank, Bourgogne

It’s hard to imagine one word separating something so complex, multiple and diverse from everything else. In the English language “word” can be commensurate with the phrase “I speak the truth.” Climat may or may not have one single meaning, but in this univocal part of eastern France it is used to convey a collective sense of geographical affirmation, acknowledgement and agreement. It may also indicate that some special place has impressed a group of agriculturalists, viticulturalists and consumers so favourably that they would emphasize it as fixed and unchangeable. Farmers and winemakers can try to do the same elsewhere in the world but good luck coming up with a name or a term as precise, succinct or possessive of some semblance of equal meaning as Climat.

“Les Climats sont des parcelles de terre précisément délimitées”

Precisely defined parcels or plots of land. Another way of seeking a definition is to take the what not to do or not to think approach. It insists that Climat should not be misinterpreted. The notion is unrelated to meteorology but is a specific term unique to Bourgogne, designating a specific vineyard site. Bernard Pivot writes “in Bourgogne, when we speak of a Climat, we do not look up to the sky, we keep our eyes to the ground.” 

“Climat is the DNA of each wine

singuliers et multiples”

“Each Climat is a vine plot, with its own microclimate and specific geological conditions, which has been carefully marked out and named over the centuries. Each of them has its own story, produces wines with a distinct character and taste and keeps its own place in the hierarchy of crus (Regional Appellation, Village, Premier Cru, Grand Cru). Over one thousand named Climats extend along the 60 kilometres of the thin strip of vineyards running from Dijon to Santenay, just south of Beaune, and among them are some of the most famous names from the world of wine ; Chambertin, Romanée-Conti, Clos de Vougeot, Montrachet, Corton, Musigny…”

Bourgogne – Regional Appellations

It begins with the broadest of the Bourgogne appellations at the base of the pyramid with regional wines that are the rock and the platform upon which all Climats may stand. Included in this category we find Crémant De Bourgogne, Rouge et Blanc. I asked Laurent Drouhin of Domaine Joseph Drouhin “what does Climat mean to you?” His response. “First of all Climat is a name that is used exclusively in Bourgogne. A Climat to me refers to a specific location in Bourgogne which produces a wine with a unique character only found in that location. That is why in Bourgogne we highlight the name of the wine (Climat) more than the grape variety. I like to say there are thousands of Chardonnay produced in the world, there is only one Montrachet. A good example is the corner of four Climats which are next to each other and produce very different wines due to specifics in the soil and exposure. Montrachet/Puligny Montrachet Premier Cru Caillerets/Batard Montrachet, Puligny Montrachet Premier Cru Les Pucelles. Four fabulous wines, with incredible character and so different. Basically those four Climats are unique and vineyards are touching each others. Well, That is Bourgogne, That is Climat.” On his regional Bourgogne he told me this. “The Bourgogne Pinot Noir is a blend of several appellations from all over Bourgogne (around 13). So not a specific Climat. There is no vineyard designated as it is a blend of other declassified village level wines such as Macon Rouge, Ladoix, Maranges…. The wine is more of a melody which reflects the elegance and subtlety of the Pinot in Bourgogne.”

Joseph Drouhin Bourgogne Pinot Noir 2015, AOC Bourgogne (512574, $24.95, WineAlign)

Dive straight into the regional generalization of Bourgogne with Drouhin as the conduit and the driver. Here is where you initiate with all the usual suspects; red cherries, earth and herbs. Done and done, right and proper. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted November 2017  maisonjosephdrouhin  philippedandurandwines  @JDrouhin  @Dandurandwines  Joseph Drouhin  Philippe Dandurand Wines

Cedric Dechelette is the General Manager of Maison François Martenot, the company that includes Négociant and estate owner Moillard, along with sparkling wine producer Labouré Gontard. Dechelette has been involved in the Bourgogne wine trade for over 30 years.

Labouré Gontard Brut Rosé Crémant De Bourgogne, Traditional Method, AOC Bourgogne (460816, $20.95)

This blush Crémant is a blend of chardonnay, pinot noir and aligoté. The base wines of the Crémant come from the different subdivisions of the Bourgogne vineyards. Their base wines however are predominantly produced from the vines of the Côtes and Hautes Côtes of Beaune and Nuits and the Côtes Chalonnaise. Different soils confer from limestone and marl in the Côtes de Nuits, Côtes de Beaune and Côtes Chalonnaise and granite in southern Bourgogne. The combing of Bourgogne from north to south delivers a true amassed regional expression for Bourgogne AOC, including such a broad, proper and creamy full Crémant like this Labouré Gontard. Feel the texture of layered terroir and note the blush citrus in its precise acidities. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted November 2017  lgcf_paris  hhdwines  @HHDImports_Wine  Les Grands Chais De France  H.H.D. Imports Inc.

Domaine De Montille Bourgogne Blanc 2014, AOC Bourgogne (515692, $50.00)

Bourgogne Blanc was never so ambitious, Climat-driven, sober and meditative as this from first Hubert de Montille and today, son Étienne. From toy to bona-fide Bourgogne business, Montille takes regional purpose to the highest level it can afford and with the quest to age. The goal is set for complexity and tertiary aromas, whether Bourgogne AOC or Volnay Premier Cru Taillepieds. This Blanc is so very primary and even herbal, with a specific Bourgogne garrigue, owing to the presence of holly, a thorny scrub bush. The stuff is found in the Beaune vineyard Les Aigrots, from an old dialectical word, “Argifolium.” Texture is viscous, salve-like and peculiar as a result but nothing seven to 10 years couldn’t resolve. The sharp acidity would say the same. If drinking anytime soon it would be a good idea to decant. Drink 2020-2029.  Tasted November 2017  domainedemontille  @2Montille  Domaine de Montille

Bourgogne Village

The last example causes some wonder as to what may lay between regional Bourgogne AOC and Village level wines. Decanter Magazine just recently reported the announcement by the BIVB that there is in fact a new level of Bourgogne wines coming soon. The new Bourgogne Côte d’Or was inaugurated in Beaune just this past weekend and will be integrated as a Bourgogne Régionale AOC, not exactly a new appellation but it is the 14th regional Bourgogne AOC. Regulations will dictate vine density (9,000 plants per hectare as opposed to 5,000 at the regional level) and only Pinot Noir grapes can be used for the reds, from vines grown across all villages of the Côte de Beaune and Côte de Nuits, from south of Dijon to Maranges. Producers will be able to include grapes from young vines that would not necessarily be used in Village level wines. Prices should fall somewhere in between regional and Village and the new category “should be seen as the top of the regional pyramid, just below Village level,” according to Cécile Mathiaud of the BIVB.

Meanwhile long before the wine there were three geological phases; Quaternary, Tertiary and Jurassic, to set the landscape. During the latter period a shallow tropical sea covered what today is France. Major limestone and clay deposits were formed in a variegated mix that generally speaking runs from harder and more prevalent deposits (in the north) to friable, less regnant and heavier clay (in the south). Today in addition to Pinot Noir and Chardonnay there are Gamay and Aligoté. In Saint-Bris there is Sauvignon Blanc and in Irancy Pinot Noir can be blended with César. The investigation into this essential level of Bourgogne travels in and out of many hamlets and the precisely delineated vineyards associated with the parent village. A Climat is located in the Mâconnais, an outlier is found in Irancy, a not so common white in Marsannay, and an allowable lieu-dit noted on the label in Pouilly-Fuissé. More Village AOC examples are found in a Chablis of a Climat that is essentially Premier Cru, one of the best villages of the Côte de Nuits and the aforementioned Montrachet.

Louis Latour Mâcon Lugny Les Genièvres 2015, AOC Bourgogne (Agent, $23.95, WineAlign)

Latour’s lieu-dit Les Genièvres is a warm, rich and distinctly Mâconnais chardonnay, even in its surprising depth and richness for the appellation, coupled with the warmth of the vintage in delivery of terrific value for the money. Bourgogne for all the right reasons, most of all a food happy way to get satisfaction from and with chardonnay. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted October 2017  louislatour1797  markanthonyon  @LouisLatour1797  @MarkAnthonyWine  MaisonLouisLatour  @MarkAnthonyWine

Domaine La Croix Montjoie Irancy 2014, AOC Bourgogne (269414, $35.95, WineAlign)

From the outlier for pinot noir in Bourgogne, only Irancy tastes like this and carries such linear, in your face, interfaced structure. Irancy is found in the Grand Auxerrois region, on the right bank of the Yonne river, fifteen kilometres South of Auxerre and South-West of Chablis. Domaine La Croix Montjoie was created in 2009, named after a cross located at the intersection of Vézelay and Tharoiseau. This cross signals the spot where pilgrims coming from Avallon first caught sight of Vézelay and felt overjoyed. The domaine is led by a Bourgogne dream team; Sophie and Matthieu (agricultural engineering and oenologist), Thierry and Jean-Louis (farmers), Christophe and Hervé (vineyard workers). Their Irancy is firm, properly and effortlessly acetic in its rising tones. It’s dramatically bright, ripe, veering to darkening cherry and exhibits great tension. While tart, slightly lactic and quick to the punch it’s also peppery and crunchy. This northern pinot noir is blended with césar, a deeply hued variety of only five planted hectares in the Irancy appellation. It is said to have been brought to the area by the Roman legions. Mostly (75 per cent) aged in tank so the freshness steals the show with just enough structure to see five more years of firm pleasure ahead. Drink 2017-2022.  Tasted several time May to October 2017  #domainelacroixmontjoie  beauwinespiritsake  @davidbeauroy  Domaine La Croix Montjoie – Vins de Vézelay  

Jadot’s winemaker Frédéric Barnier shed some fascinating insight on how he and his team deal with many different parcels. “As you know we are producing a large range of wines and are really focused on trying to reveal each place. To explain better we are trying to have the same process from a Village to Grand Cru (same ageing same cask same percentage of new oak). We want to show that a Meursault is not a Marsannay and not because we have made something special on the wine but just because they are different. For the Marsannay White, this wine is coming from a blend of three different plots we are farming. One of it is planted with Chardonnay Rosé which is pink but it lost the color after fermentation. It is a rare wine from Côte de Nuits. Most of Marsannay is red or a few rosé. 2011 is showing very well now. Whites are rich but still fresh from an early vintage picked on the very first days of September.”

Louis Jadot Marsannay 2011, AOC Bourgogne (522136, $41.95, WineAlign)

The rare and elusive Marsannay blanc is a fine and beautiful thing, laden with dry extract, intense grape tannin and the pure intensity of liquid limestone. It is here in this wine from the northernmost commune of the Côte d’Or where the idea of fruit and of chardonnay is just an afterthought because the sheer and non-mitigating saltiness of this stony Bourgogne is simply hypnotizing. This is a steal of great Village proportions. I would stack this up against many Premier Cru two and three times its price. Drink 2018-2025.  Tasted November 2017  louisjadot  halpernwine  @ljadot  @HalpernWine  Louis Jadot    Halpern Wine

Kerrie de Boissieu, Oenologue at Château de Lavernette explains that “Climat is a vineyard designation.  It is the custom in Bourgogne to give names to parcels.  Today, those names mean very little to us personally but they do allow us to compile a history for each parcel and follow it better.  We have Pouilly-Fuissé vineyards in two different Climats: Maison du Villard & Vers Châne. There is no one named Villard in this area now and I don’t know where their house is or why the parcel carries their name. The parcel faces west – southwest so it captures the afternoon sun making it a more luminous wine – cheerful and easily approachable. Vers Châne means “towards Châne” The parcel faces east – southeast capturing the morning light.  It is a colder, stonier, more complex mistress that needs to be coaxed to cooperate. It is well worth the trouble though as it has a nicely chiseled structure and ages gracefully.” I asked Kerrie to comment on Château De Lavernette Vers Châne Pouilly Fuissé 2014, the wine and the vineyards. “This wine has always been our chouchou (favorite).  Xavier and I bought the vineyard in 2007.  It belongs to us and not to Château de Lavernette.  The first time we harvested the grapes was the day our son, Basile, was born and it made for a really exciting day.  There are two parcels divided by a row of peach trees (peches des vignes).  It is in an amphitheater protected by a forest on the northern side.  The soil is a rocky scree with limestone tumbling down from Les Rontets.  The wine seems to be marked by each of these elements: peach blossom, stone fruit, woodsy underbrush and saline minerality. Hand-picked, whole-cluster pressed, indigenous yeast, fermented and aged in Bourgogne oak barrels (228 L, 20% new) for 22 months.  

Château De Lavernette Vers Châne Pouilly Fuissé 2014, AOC Bourgogne (496372, $42.95, WineAlign)

The lieu-dit locale for Lavernette’s Pouilly-Fuissé is called “Vers Châne,” a chardonnay that might mean “down a silk road.” This is in fact a true expression of polished texture, a Pouilly-Fuissé warm and rich if decidedly linear-focused, with some real vanilla-tinged, toasty barrel notes. That the appellation speaks most truth when the combination of ripeness and smoulder are mixed and then married to the specific PF acidity (like preserved lemon), then reality bites. The smoky, flinty edge is a little over the edge but two years should help to soften, match with the downy texture and ultimately settle the score. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted August and November 2017  #chateaulavernette  @NaturalVines  Château de Lavernette  

Domaine Oudin Chablis Les Serres 2014, AOC Bourgogne (WineAlign)

Just south of Chablis there are hilltop vineyards above and around the village of Chichée where Les Serres draws its superior fruit for what is ostensibly (though not labeled as such) Premier Cru. Jean-Claude and Christiane began here in 1988 and it is now Nathalie and Isabelle who use Les Serres old vines fruit (some up to 70 years) for this transcendent and worthy Chablis. Les Serres are “the greenhouses,” an apropos moniker for a wine that not only receives but gifts so much warmth and generous fruit without ever straying from its stony and salty roots. The texture here is above and beyond textbook for Premier Cru and elevated for the sharp vintage. So settled at this point it is just a pleasure to taste. Drink 2017-2026.  Tasted November 2017  #domaineoudin  vinsdechablis  @purechablis  #domaineoudin

When I asked Luc Bouchard which Climat most defines the notion for the estate he replied “from Bouchard estate we are very proud of the Climat of Beaune Grève Vigne de l’Enfant Jésus, monopole of Bouchard since 1791, a unique terroir with gravely soil (unique in Beaune ). The roots go very deep into the soil (9 m), so if we have a very dry summer there is always enough water far below and if there is heavy rain storm, the drainage is so good that the water is not directly swallowed by the grapes. That explains the consistency of the wine, it’s unique texture and ageing potential.” On his Gevrey Chambertin 2015 he had this to say: “The 2015 vintage is a superb vintage; normal quantity and high quality from Bourgogne generic up to top Grand Cru. Gevrey is one of the best villages of the Côte de Nuits and our sourcing of grapes come from four different growers (from different locations too) that allow us to have a better representation of the appellation and a better balance. Gevrey 2015 shows a deep and intense garnet red colour, intense bouquet red fruit and a touch of gamey taste. Good structure and very nice balance, ripe tannins, with a long finish. Can be drunk from now (with good aeration before) and can be aged for five up to 10 years.”

Bouchard Père & Fils Gevrey Chambertin 2015, AOC Bourgogne (661330, $59.95, WineAlign)

Bouchard’s 2015 is incredibly forward Gevrey Chambertin, full of fruit, flowers and a beautifully integrated red liquid chalky syrup. It’s just plain getable and is the godfather to all of its peers. If you want to show the world and everyone in it who knows or knows nothing about high-level Bourgogne then perhaps consider this to be the journey’s departure point. Gevrey and especially in the hands of Bouchard is such a gate for what it means to build pinot noir from the earth upwards. It explains what needs in a language you can understand and makes an offer you can’t refuse. Pour this every day simply because it is quintessentially ripe and structured stuff. Drink 2018-2026.  Tasted April and November 2017  bouchardpereetfils  woodmanws  @BouchardPere  @WoodmanWS  Bouchard Père & Fils  Woodman Wines & Spirits

Mont Chauve En Pimont Chassagne Montrachet 2012, AOC Bourgogne (496372, $67.95, WineAlign)

Still in a state of hyper reductive possibility this is an ambitious and beautifully calcareous Chassagne, full of deep lemony preserve and variegated waves of acidity. Though it breathes of some age development it is in fact a greatly structured chardonnay that will continue to benefit from further development. Where texture and complexity meet. Drink 2018-2024.  Tasted October 2017  aupieddumontchauve  #BNDWines  Au Pied du Mont Chauve  Devon Masciangelo

In addition to running his own Domaine de Bellene and négoce Maison Roche de Bellene, Nicolas Potel has drawn upon some secret resources to deliver old wines made new again. His sourcing of older parcels from producers who somehow hid these top vineyard gems from the world is a gift of generous proportions. Ask Nicolas what he thinks about Les Climats and the hardest working man of leisure, diplomat and ambassador extraordinaire for the wines of Bourgogne will open up his heart and his mind. Says Potel, “the characteristics and Climats of every site and village are truly unique. To make a very good village wine, you need to ideally source grapes from south, central and northern areas of the village. This way it shows the full expression of the village for the vintage in question. Single vineyards based on identification of one site. Volnay is all about elegance. Nice tannin, structure and acidity with pure fruit character. The terroir in Volnay is always very transparent in the wine because of this elegance. What about Gevrey-Chambertin? Last February I tasted the 1999 Village and 2001 Premier Cru Petit Chapelle and today, the ’01 Village. Immediacy meets reflection to bring clarity into the light. This is a wonderful example of the beautiful relationship between producer, Village and Climat.

Roche De Bellene Gevrey Chambertin “Collection Bellenum” 2001, AOC Bourgogne (514430, $74.00, WineAlign)

Though time has exorcised some fining away of the more grainy and delicate texture of this Village level Gevrey Chambertin it hangs securely in the balance between youthful and aged. As a lovely mature pinot noir it should be considered as occupying space in the categorical order between Village and Premier Cru, once destined for greatness but now in the waning, twilight of its career. What happens in this space is a complex combination of cured red fruit, weighty earthiness, mushroom, truffle and dried herbs. All merely hints mind you so several years of life will persist to deliver further pleasure. Drink 2017-2021.  Tasted November 2017  domaine_de_bellene  nicholaspearcewines  @RochedeBellene  @Nicholaspearce_  Bellene  Nicholas Pearce

Southwestern slope in Gevery Chambertin
photo (c) Scott Zebarth

What is Climat?

Our fiends at the Bureau Interprofessionnel des vins de Bourgogne (BIVB) have established the reference point for the written understanding of the true meaning of Climat. I posed the question of concept to several producers and négociants. Most pointed straight to the BIVB website for answers “Over the past 2,000 years, the Bourgogne winegrowing region has benefited from the experience of men and women, from the observation of the soil, and from the region’s unique microclimates. This has given rise to a patchwork of plots whose qualities have been identified and acknowledged: the Climats and lieux-dits. The Climats and lieux-dits give Bourgogne wines their unique identity. Their names bear witness to the region’s rich history. Their origins lie in the environment, local heritage, savoir-faire (know-how) and human history. The term Climat is unique to Bourgogne. It is the Bourguignon expression of the notion of terroir.”

“The Climats and lieux-dits are the ultimate expression of the notion of terroir. They guarantee the unique characteristics of each wine and offer an unrivaled taste experience. Climats are precisely delineated plots of land that enjoy specific geological and climatic conditions. When combined with human effort and translated through the two great Bourgogne varietals of Pinot Noir for reds and Chardonnay for whites, they give rise to an exceptional range of appellations that are classified according to quality and which enjoy international renownThe Climats confer their own unique organoleptic qualities onto the wines of Bourgogne, such as their appearance, aromas, flavours and texture.”

“exceptional range of appellations that are classified according to quality and which enjoy international renown…the result of the alchemy between men and women and the natural world”

“Some Climats were first referenced as far back as the 7th century, such as Clos de Bèze in Gevrey. For centuries, the reputation of Bourgogne wines was driven by the monks of Cîteaux, and then by the Dukes of Bourgogne. Some wines, such as Clos Vougeot and Montrachet, which bore the name of the Climat where they were grown, acquired a reputation that extended beyond French borders. In 1935, the National Institute for Origins and Quality (INAO), made official the usage of the word “Climat” and began using it in legal texts applying to all Bourgogne appellations, whatever their level of hierarchy. The Climats are a sign of excellence and on 4 July 2015, the Climats were included on the UNESCO World Heritage List. Lieux-dits are also plots recognized for their own topographic or historical specificities. Their precise geographical location is not registered by the INAO. A certain number of producers choose to feature the name of their lieu-dit on their labels, such as Pouilly-Fuissé, Le Clos Reyssié.”

Gevery Chambertin
photo (c) Scott Zebarth

Bourgogne Premier Cru

Les Climats are Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée (AOC) defined vineyards or rather the DNA of the vineyards and the official term is specific to wine while the reference lieux-dits is an administrative one. While there are some who consider Climats as also relating to things atmospheric, the pragmatic consensus keeps the discernment ground into dejection depressions, alluvial fans and geological anomalies in an otherwise south by southwest set of exposure slopes for the best of Bourgogne wines. Still others would argue that while dirt makes an impact it is climate that inflicts the most drama on a wine but even more important than climate and soil, it’s the people who give the terroir its cultural identity. The notions of accumulate knowledge that can be transmuted from generation to generation is how each village has managed to produce a specific style of wine from vintage to vintage.

Four exceptional Bourgogne Premier Cru

Domaine Theulot Juillot Mercurey Premier Cru La Cailloute 2014, AOC Bourgogne (473793, $31.75, WineAlign)

Theulot Juillot’s is a Mercurey Premier Cru with a direct connection between Bourgogne and Ontario by way of the great region’s educator and ambassador Jean-Pierre Renard. Given and extra year in bottle  the form tannic grip has loosened, if only a lace or two while it continues to match fruit with umami. Persists in its display as one of the more over-performing reds from one of the most out performing villages in all of Bourgogne. Last tasted on several occasions, June-October 2017

From vines planted in 1979 and 1980, the crest of the ridge at 300m is a prized locale in Mercurey that sees fit to fresh, vibrant and structured pinot noir. The beautiful dichotomous relationship between ripe and juicy opposite firm and sweetly tannic is met in this functional Mercurey, a Premier Cru of upbeat excellence. Very representative of place because of the grip but it goes light years beyond the lithe and the under-performed. You could pour this for Burgundy label chasers and they would cry sweet Nuits St. Georges. Raspberry and strawberry with plenty of umami minerality and that firm tannin up the back. Really tempurpedic acidity never reacts and always supports. Theulot Juillot may suggest five to eight years of cellar time but this is a 10-15 year Mercurey. No fooling. Drink 2018-2029. Tasted September and October 2016  #domainetheulotjuillot  #domainetheulotjuillot  Jean-Pierre Renard

Louis Moreau

Louis Moreau studied oenology-viticulture at Fresno State University (California) before working in several vineyards across the state. In 1994, after eight years in the United States, he returned to France to take over the family business, succeeding his father Jean-Jacques. He then expanded his facilities to leverage the harvests yielded on 110 hectares comprising the family’s two estates, namely Domaine Louis Moreau and Domaine de Biéville. Today, Louis Moreau produces and markets Petit Chablis, Chablis, Chablis Premier Cru and Chablis Grand Cru, with a focus on finding the best quality and respecting the environment. Since February 2016 Moreau has been the Vice-President, Commission Chablis of the Bureau Interprofessionnel des Vins de Bourgogne.

Domaine Louis Moreau Chablis Premier Cru Vaillons 2014, AOC Bourgogne (124362, $43.00, WineAlign)

Vaillons is drawn from sub-appellative blocks in Les Epinottes and Roncières, with some vines as old as 65 years and yields quite low for where concentration trumps quantity. Very rich and concentrated is indeed the mode here, with good mineral bled from stone and very little in terms of sour or lactic edges. This is amenable Vaillons to be sure. A purity subsists and solicits simple and non-specific pairings, like Dorado, Sea Bass or Magret de Canard. There is this amazing salinity that hints at iodine, lemon and lime, but I would not call it salty. I would call it really refined Chablis. Drink 2017-2022.  Tasted July 2016 and several times May-October 2017  chablislouismoreau  louismoreauchablis  artisanal_wine_imports  @MoreauLouis1  Louis Moreau  @artisanalwineimports

“The word Climat is from Bourgogne and designates a viticulture terroir,” explains Megan McClune, Directrice at Domaine Jessiaume. “It is a certain piece of land, with vines, that is named, has a story and specific geological and climate conditions.  The Climat is the association of land, grape variety and craftsmanship. We strive to produce all of our wines so that each wine expresses where it comes from in the glass.  We produce three wines from one parcel of land in Auxey Duresses les Ecussaux. This definitely expresses the notion of Climat. Santenay Premier Cru Les Gravières is a very special piece of land.  We have a history of over a hundred years in this piece of land.  The soil is quite rocky and produces a wine with a peppery finish year in and year out.”

Domaine Jessiaume Santenay Premier Cru Les Gravières 2013, AOC Bourgogne (487488, $50.00, WineAlign)

Built in 1850, Domaine Jessiaume was purchased in 2007 and is owned and operated by the Scottish family Murray. Situated right at the gates of the important Côte de Beaune village of Santenay it comprises 37-plus acres, with large plots in Santenay, holdings in the Premiers Crus Auxey Duresses Les Ecusseaux and Volnay Les Brouillards and a section of Beaune les Cent Vignes vineyard. Les Garièvres is located at the northern end of the village, on the border with Chassagne-Montrachet. Jessiaume are indubitably Santenay specialists and the famous limestone, oolite and marl plot of Les Gravières (to which a new wall was recently added at its base) is interpreted beautifully bright, from cherry tones to cherry strength. The mesoclimate is fully realized in this sunny ’13 and the wine represents the heart and meat of Bourgogne, from that textbook bright fruit and back down to earth. It’s taut and nearly bracing, just a perfect example of a very specific and storied Climat. Drink 2018-2025.  Tasted March and November 2017  domainejessiaume  beauwinespiritsake  @DmneJessiaume  Domaine Jessiaume  

Domaine Chanson Pernand Vergelesses Premier Cru Les Vergelesses 2013, AOC Bourgogne (227199, $66.95, WineAlign)

South of the hill of Corton is where Chanson owns five-plus hectares in Vergelesses, the most famous Premier Cru that gave its name to the village of Pernand. You can feel the lower slope heavy clay but also the upper stones, first in power, grip and texture and then through a liquid red chalky streak. Pernand from the Celtic, “the (spring) source that is lost” and Vergelesses from the Middle French verge, meaning “rod,” a reference to the parcel’s long shape. It is a name which dates back to when Charlemagne owned vines on the Montagne de Corton. Just coming into its zone around now after the toast, grilling notes and calculous grittiness have begun to soften and fade. Drink 2017-2022.  Tasted February and November 2017  domainechanson  @domainechanson  Domaine Chanson  John Hanna & Sons Ltd.

Premier Crus of Chablis, Montrachet, Mercurey and Nuits-St.-Georges

Domaine Louis Max Nuits Saint Georges Premier Cru Les Damodes 2014, AOC Bourgogne (469080, $94.00, WineAlign)

Here is an outsanding Nuits Saint Georges from a marl and limestone vineyard just a stone’s throw from Vosne-Romanée. Les Damodes sings a northern NSG song and its ladylike name carries a legend that tells of fairies inhabiting the rocky landscape. The formations looked like tall ladies in long dresses, “les dames hautes,” or “damaudes,” then “damodes.” The vines in the furthest northeastern block north and east of the village look to the east and the soils are poor so the expectation elicits a thoughtfulness to solicit tension and finesse. That it does, first from a stony-lime-pomegranate-red cherry purity and then a fineness of acidity meets tannic honesty. Domaine Louis Max holds widely in Bourgogne, in Mercurey and Rully, as well as the south of France estates of Château Pech-Latt in Corbières and Domaine la Lyre in Côtes-du-Rhône. Les Damodes is a perfect example of a larger, modern-day producer making a small, site-specific Premier Cru from a storied piece of land. Drink 2018-2028.  Tasted several times, May to October 2017  #domainelouismax  Louis Max

Marchand Tawse Puligny Montrachet Premier Cru Champ Gain 2014, AOC Bourgogne (470112, $114.00, WineAlign)

Champ Gain is located in the northern reaches of Puligny-Montrachet, above Les Folatières, edging off the eastern slopes of Mont-Rachet and in between the appellations of Saint-Aubin and Meursault. It’s essential perch on the rump of the mountain at 350m lends a perfect south-east exposure. The soil is highly variegated, even for Bourgogne, with friable and broken clay-limestone littered with pebbles and stones. A classic élevage of 18 months in (25 per cent) new wood delivers an archetypal if texturally modern Puligny. The name is simply “field reclaimed by the forest,” which separates itself from no other vineyard in the region but one Premier Cru‘s “gain field” is another’s “perdre la forêt.” What really distinguishes Pascal Marchand’s Champ Gain is texture, not just in how it glides, caresses and layers but in how it ties up its laces so taut, tight and in the end it’s an impenetrable Bourgogne. The force field around its fruit is a pure mineral tide that is yet to ebb and flow. It’s coming soon though, despite the crackerjack vintage that elevates the entire gain. Drink 2018-2026.  Tasted several times May to October 2017  marchand_tawse  moraytawsewine  burgundy_direct_imports  @MARCHANDTAWSE  @MorayTawse  @Burgundy_Direct  Marchand-Tawse  

Bourgogne Grand Cru

Historically speaking, when did this omniscient term Climat switch to the wine business? It may have origins and or co-existence in the Jura, but it is definitely a word that belongs to that part of eastern France. So why is or better yet, when did Bourgogne become the birthplace of terroir? We know it to be a matter of nature and people, both of which need time, hope and literacy to transmit information. You need place and you need monks. Record keeping, true delineation of land and the erecting of the walled in vineyards (Les Clos) really began after the monks were handed down the torch from the Celts and the Romans.

Between the 15th century and the French Revolution the vineyards began to be divided up and the notion of Climat emerged. The 18th and 19th centuries saw the ranking of Climats and terroir. Regulations were introduced during the 20th century. The word “Clymat” appeared for the first time in Chablis in 1540 and then again in 1584 in a document about the Clos de Bèze. The first mentions of Climats in this sense were recorded by Abbot Arnoux in 1728 when he described the vines of the “côte.” The movement to define and spread the word about the Climats led to the first classifications of the vineyards, by André Jullien in 1819, Dr. Denis Morelot in 1831 and Dr. Jules Lavalle in 1855. The names of the villages on the côtes was added to the name of their most famous Climat, with the first being Gevrey-Chambertin in 1847.

The first protection systems were introduced:  The laws of 1905, 1919 and especially 1935, which defined the notion of the Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée. In 1944, the names of the Climats classified as Premiers Crus were added to the decrees for Village appellations. On July 4, 2015 the term Climat was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List. Aubert De Villaine, President of the Association for this inclusion said “nowhere else has the quest for harmony between a wine and the place it is produced been as subtle and sophisticated as in the Bourgogne region with the Climats. The Bourgogne region has a universal value.”

Didier Séguier of Domaine William Fèvre

Domaine William Fèvre can be used as an ideal example of a launch point from where control is transferred from the operating system to the process and ultimately, the programmer. That would be winemaker Didier Séguier, he who takes a calm ferment and squeezes out its vital juices to render Chablis with all the attributes it has come to define. Séguier the winemaker is a generous fellow, a giver of Chablis, gift-wrapping kimmeridgian-affected fruit in 50 per cent oak and tank equality for all his Grand Cru.

Domaine William Fèvre Chablis Les Clos Grand Cru 2015, AOC Burgundy, France (641381, $130.00, WineAlign)

Fèvre’s Les Clos takes a bit of an unexpected turn so from 2015 it currently goes stone cold and remains intensely locked. From what we know the vintage should be generous from the start but in this instance Les Clos makes use of every ounce and fibre of kimmerridgian being to lay only salt, fossil and stone before you. The fruit kept hidden away makes you pine for fleshy orchard apples. Nothing can really prepare you for the Les Clos iron gate, especially when you were expecting a welcome mat laid out at your feet. Take the time to charm and be charmed, at least 15 minutes with a glass or 15 years if you can offer up the time. The Grand Cru will slowly open up and speak in a vernacular of controlled energy, fineness of acidity and exceptional balance. This will be one for the ages.  Drink 2021-2035. Tasted April 2017  williamfevre_chablis  woodmanws  @williamfevre_  @WoodmanWS  @domainewilliamfevre  Woodman Wines & Spirits

The greatest pleasure to welcome Jean-Pierre Renard and Nelly Blau of @vinsdebourgogne to Toronto.

The only true intrinsic reality gained through a discussion about Climat is accessed by the tasting and assessment of examples that represent a full cross-section of Bourgogne. The appellations of Chablis et du Grand Auxerrois, Côtes de Nuits and Hautes Côtes de Nuits, Côtes de Beaune and Hautes Côtes de Beaune, Côtes Chalonnaise and Couchois, the Macônnais and the Châtillonnais are best understood by comparative studies of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from regional Bourgogne to Village and through Premier and Grand Cru wines. With more than 100 appellations (84 officially recognized) it would take a lifetime and then some to cover them all and several more to come to grips with the very specific meanings and interpretations of their personalized Climats. By that time the moving target would change so much that starting again would be the only option. Make the most of the time there is, which is the way of the Bourguignons.

If you are looking for an answer as to why Bourgogne wines are so expensive, subscribe to the following idea. If to you unadulterated Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, respected producers and Climat mean anything at all then the Bourgognes are worth the price, if only because they are the rarest group of wines on the planet. Consider the region sixty kilometres in length, with 28,715 hectares under vine split up into thousands of different plots. Each are tiny by comparison with most of the rest of the world’s identified terroirs. We can’t all afford Bourgogne but at every level the quality is reflective of the cost. Truly. We can however search for terrific value in the multitude of villages where quality has improved dramatically in recent times. Names like Chablis, Montagny, Saint-Véran, Mercurey and Santenay are but a handful. All of Bourgogne waits for you.

Sources

https://www.bourgogne-wines.com/

https://www.climats-bourgogne.com

http://www.decanter.com/

Chambertin Clos de Beze photo
(c) Scott Zebarth

Good to go!

Godello

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

WineAlign

Barbera d’Asti Del Monferrato E Nizza Monferrato

This report first appeared on WineAlign. Here it is expanded to include all the wines reviewed in July of 2017; 27 Barbera d’Asti and 44 Barbera d’Asti Nizza from 29 producers.

  • Consorzio Barbera d’Asti E Vini Del Monferrato
  • Cascina Gilli Di Vergnano Giovanni
  • Cascina Galarin
  • Bersano
  • Pico Maccario
  • Azienda Agricola Ivaldi Dario
  • Az. Agr. Garrone Evasio & Figlio
  • Michele Chiarlo
  • Castello Di Gabiano Marchesi Cattaneo Adorno Giustiniani Srl
  • Rovero
  • Coppo
  • Tenuta Il Falchetto
  • Az. Agr. Franco Roero
  • Viticoltori Associati Vinchio e Vaglio Serra
  • Marchesi Incisa Della Rocchetta
  • Marco Bonfante
  • Erede Di Chiappone
  • Gozzelino
  • Moretti Adimari
  • Berta Paolo
  • Borgo Isolabella Delle Croce
  • Il Botolo
  • Cascina Garitina
  • Villa Giada
  • Bava
  • La Gironda
  • Tenuta Olim Bauda
  • Cantina Tre Secoli
  • L’Armangia

Back in July of 2017 I hopped aboard the Collisioni Progetto Vino train in advance of four seminar-saturated days in Barolo, to immerse myself in everything the great red hope known as barbera holds in the territory of Monferrato. Here in Ontario we possess a pretty good idea about the nature and the competency of Barbera d’Alba, mainly because of its association with the Piemontese region’s more famous grape variety nebbiolo in production of the noble and regal Barolo and Barbaresco wines. The successes enjoyed by Barbera d’Alba are ensured, not solely because of but certainly by its proximate association. But what about Barbera d’Asti?

Collisioni Festival’s Ian D’Agata recently stated “it is undoubtedly in Piedmont where the grape performs best. To put barbera’s popularity in perspective, consider that 33 per cent of Piedmont’s 45,000 hectares under vine are planted to barbera.” Try throwing this statistic in the face of Monferrato, Nizza Monferrato and so many other Asti barbera growers. So the question begs as to why so many DOC’s exist is such a close proximate place? The answer is quite simple. I am “insert commune name here” and I am this DOC, around my village, with my own very special terroir. Yours may only be five kilometres away from me but I am special and my land and grapes are not like yours. It must be noted that in Piemonte there are as many native grapes then there are in all of France. This is the second and more important reason nearly 50, or almost 10 per cent of all registered Italian grapes are found in Piemonte.

The Barbera DOCGs via somesmartsomm.com

The consortium for Barbera d’Asti and Monferrato wines was founded in 1946 with distinctive labelling and while only seven members were originally on board, today more than 200 band together for the good of the grape and especially the agricultural practices of the territory. I will touch on other Piemontese denominations such as Ruchè di Castagnole Monferrato, Freisa d’Asti and Grignolino d’Asti in a follow-up report but now is the time to discuss, analyze and celebrate all things Barbera d’Asti E Vini Monferrato.

Barbera d’Asti is a DOCG with upwards of 3,900 hectares under vine with nearly 2,500 producers, 30 of which are cooperatives. The wines can be fresh reds made in stainless steel or receive some oak aging while the bigger Barbera d’Asti Superiore, made from selected grapes are required by DOCG law to be aged for at least six months in wood. Both the Barbera d’asti Superiore and Barbera del Monferrato Superiore DOCGs were awarded in 2008, both have maximum yield allowances of nine tonnes per hectare but Monferrato’s minimum alcohol requirement is a half a point higher at 13 per cent by volume. The Vigna (single-vineyard) Monferrato yields are lower, at eight tonnes per hectare. Aging for both is 14 months from November 1st the year after harvest. In Monferrato 85 per cent must be barbera with the remainder allowing dolcetto, grigolino and freisa while Barbera d’Asti Superiore requires 90 per cent barbera.

Barbera vineyards in Costigiole d’Asti

The rich limestone, clay and calcium hills of the Nizza wine zone is one of three Barbera d’Asti sub-zones (that also include Tinella and Colli Astigiani). Nizza’s terroir is a result of marine sediment and with proof supplied by a walk-around tasting and dinner during which wines dating back to 2001 were poured, it is indeed the zone where the most ageworthy and arguably the best barbera d’Asti is made. In 2014 the DOCG was created and the artist formerly known as “Barbera d’Asti Superiore Nizza” has now been abbreviated to simply, Nizza. Like Prince. Power and balance are married in Nizza and many perform well past the 10 year mark after vintage. Wines from Nizza must be 100 per cent barbera, the yields are capped at seven tonnes per hectare and the age requirement is 18 months (six in oak) from January 1st the year after harvest. Reserva is 30 months (12 in oak) and Vigna (single-vineyard) releases must have yields no higher than 6.3 with a minimum of 13.5 per cent alcohol.  The first Nizza DOCG wines were released in July of 2016.

Still today the barbera wines of Monferrato and Nizza are virtually ignored worldwide. Many consumers simply think of the name Asti and sweet sparkling wines come to mind. Many others know not of Asti and still countless more associate the grape with Alba. The Consorzio Barbera d’Asti e Vini del Monferrato is working tirelessly to change public perception, first with its proud public speaking president Filippo Mobrici, by enlisting the association with the Collisioni Festival and through the work of ambassadors like Michele Longo. The Collisioni Progetto Vino brings groups of journalists and sommeliers from around the globe to taste, educate and indulge in the multiplicity of barbera.

A compassionate barbera d’asti sky in the dimmet of a piemonte evening.

The following tasting notes of Barbera d’Asti and Nizza wines were executed in the consorzio headquarters in Costigiole and at the Enoteca Regionale di Nizza in July of 2017. The first tasting focused on Barbera d’Asti and Barbera d’Asti Superiore from the 2014, 2015 and 2016 vintages with the emphasis placed on four sub-zones and their differing soils. The second (walk-around) tasting allowed producers to pour at their whimsy so this included portfolios with varietal wines such as grignolino and freisa. The gathering of the Associazione Produttori del Nizza focused beautifully on a comparison of only wines from the 2014 vintage, by way of introduction, followed by two brilliant tastings in which verticals of their wines were offered, first at a (way too fast) high-speed walkabout and then later during a (beautifully slow) dinner at Locanda Del Boscogrande. My full report covers more than 75 reviews of Monferrato barbera from both the Asti and Nizza categories.

Barbera d’Asti DOCG

Consorzio Barbera d’Asti E Vini Del Monferrato Barbera d’Asti DOCG 2015, Piedmont, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

Every year one wine is chosen through a series of blind tastings from a selection of producers, to be bottled and labeled under the “taken as a while” entity Consorzio Barbera D’asti E Vini Del Monferrato Barbera D’asti. Only the producer and the President (Filippo Mobrici) know who’s wine is chosen, along with wink, wink, everyone else. This 2015 is quite the firm and brambly barbera, as it should be, with an omnipresent blanketing European vintage depth of character, from warmth, quality, quantity and length. This is typically barbera pressed, full on for fruit, specific to a Monferrato territorial claim and nary a moment of intrusive tannin. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted July 2017  barberadasti  @barberadasti  @barberadasti

Cascina Gilli Di Vergnano Giovanni Barbera d’Asti DOCG Le More 2016, Piedmont, Italy (Agent, WineAlign)

From the silty marl of Monferrato in Castelnuovo Don Bosco, here the traditionally rustic is acquiesced. Of dark berry, dusty, mulberry, a rich mid-palate, leathery, textured, solid if not profound structure. Only stainless steel and possessive of appropriate length. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted July 2017  cascinagilli  @cascinagilli  @cascinagilli

Cascina Galarin Barbera d’Asti DOCG Le Querce 2016, Piedmont, Italy (Agent, WineAlign)

Out of the silty marl comes this stainless raised barbera, of such a similar profile to Le More, less floral and also less obvious fruity berry. Made with five per cent freisa, here there is more caramel and dried plum, also more VA and a bit of residual CO2. The bitter finish blend into acidity so very tart. Drink 2017-2018.  Tasted July 2017  #cascinagalarin  Cascina Galarin

Bersano Barbera d’Asti DOCG Costalunga 2015, Piedmont, Italy (Agent, 348680, $13.75, WineAlign)

Bersano’s, like so many of its peers making barbera in and around Monferrato comes from a terroir of silty marl. It spends one year in (large) botti and is a most most floral and perfumed barbera, notably of violets, even a touch of liquorice or fennel. Fills in with more mid-palate and structure than many at this “posto che si chiama” entry level, with bitters as tonics well integrated into the mix. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted July 2017  bersano1907  profilewinegroup  @BERSANO1907  @ProfileWineGrp  @Bersanowine  Profile Wine Group

Pico Maccario Barbera d’Asti DOCG Lavignone 2016, Piedmont, Italy (Agent, WineAlign)

Quite the deep, dark and handsome barbera with a current of black currant and a pure stainless steel raising. Plums and chocolate mark the second half profile for the rich red, no oak lover in you. This pervasive barbera represents just about half of the house’s total (400,000 bottle) production. It’s truly a matter of fresh fruit and the already conscious awareness of its sharp, tart, fugacious youth. Solicits a knowing nod of the head when tasted at the source not long after a moment with the ’14 less than a year before. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted July 2017  picomaccario  @PicoMaccario  @PicoMaccario

Pico Maccario Barbera d’Asti Superiore DOCG Epico 2014, Piedmont, Italy (Agent, WineAlign)

Epico is the top selection from the oldest (60 year-old) vines developed 14 months in barrel. In its current state the oak is alpha dominant and the volatility quite pronounced. There is something of a jammy quality, not so much a viscous or pejorative, pectin-laced presence on the palate but more like a reduction as barbera syrup or liqueur. The epitome of modern and produced. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted July 2017

Pico Maccario Barbera d’Asti DOCG Tre Rovere 2015, Piedmont, Italy (Winery WineAlign)

The “three oaks” saw to six months in barrel and along with an expressly coffee aroma there too is this sugary scent. Candied plums bring fruit depth and richness and the wine sings the high notes of volatility. It’s quite a tart treat, from liquid clay to blackberry in a combined and distilled affair. A moment of cotton candy is fleeting because the heavy clays and ferric accent take over, stirring up some bitters to mix with the sugars. A deferential and adjustable barbera that condones the ups and downs of the oeuvre. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted July 2017

Azienda Agricola Ivaldi Dario Barbera d’Asti DOC 2015, Piedmont, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

In the pantheon of red wine made from the barbera grape in Asti lands it is Andrea Ivaldi’s that stands out, like a beacon or a lighthouse, lit up to help mariners find the shore. In this case a summoning light set in a white limestone vineyard and it is the youngest member of the Ivaldi family who resides as the current superintendent of this special barbera. At a locally low 14 per cent alcohol and a hue so Monthelie transparent this is classic, innate, intense liquid stone, bled from the pietra bianca at 300 masl. The blessedly honest red fruit raised in cement tanks for one year is hypo-reductive and only 4,000-5,000 bottles are produced. So balanced, melting, oozing and brisk, structured even. Drink 2017-2021.  Tasted July 2017

Az. Agr. Garrone Evasio & Figlio Barbera d’Asti DOCG 2015, Piedmont, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

Garrone’s barbera climbs out of the silty marl and exhibits more VA than the others but in a good way. If perhaps it acts a bit acetic, it thus so hides its florals, though there is more texture and integration, gliding silky across the palate and finishing long. More complexity and interest here. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted July 2017  @vinigarrone

Michele Chiarlo Barbera d’Asti DOCG Le Orme 2015, Piedmont, Italy (265413, $13.95, WineAlign)

Le Orme or “the footsteps” spent 16 months in stainless steel, taken from variegated terroir; sandy, marly and coarser soils. It sheds developed florals and high yet stretched and creeping acidity and in turn length. The acumen and experience comes through, leading to more refinement and almost a creamy (though unwooded) texture on bright, juicy fruit. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted July 2017  michelechiarlo  univinscanada  @michelechiarlo  @UNIVINS  Michele Chiarlo  @UnivinsCanada

Castello Di Gabiano Marchesi Cattaneo Adorno Giustiniani Srl Barbera d’Asti DOCG La Braja 2015, Piedmont, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

Gabiano’s stands apart in a barbera tasting of 13 wines because of its naturally wild personality. Run free off sandy soils it saw 16 months in a combination of botti and barriques. Beyond barbera it also contains some grignolino and freisa, more tannin, certainly reductive (which easily blows off) and I’d even call it righteously and properly stinky. More developed and even wise, this has that acidity that travels up and down the sides of the mouth. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted July 2017  castellodigabiano  @CastelloGabiano  Gazzola Katia (Castello di Gabiano)

#risotto #ristorantelabarbera #costiglioledasti @costiglioleat

Rovero Barbera d’Asti DOCG Superiore Rouvé (Bio) 2014, Piedmont, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

Rovero’s wafts with the most perfume by a long shot, by a soaking up and in from 24 months in barrique. The waves of vanilla infiltrate the purple berries, much like Rioja and its wood perfume but in barbera it comes with so much acidity. Like chewing on a stick of wood dynamite overcompensating for fruit that didn’t stack up, though it would have been honest and pure to allow the fruit to talk anyway, in whatever voice it may have chosen. Drink 2018-2020.  Tasted July 2017

Luigi Coppo

Coppo Barbera d’Asti DOCG Pomorosso 2014, Piedmont, Italy (Agent, $74.95, WineAlign)

From the house that Piero Coppo built, now in the forward thinking acumen-saturated hands, heart and mind of Luigi Coppo, comes a barbera most ambitious and in 2014, likely to be misunderstood in the throes of its youth. Pomorosso carries the baggage and the experience of 125 years of history in pocket, is only produced in the best vintages and spends 14 months in French oak. A fair to challenging vintage makes cause and pause to consider it a case of over-oak usage because it still overwhelms the terroir while simultaneously in disavow and disallow for the vintage to speak. The big but factor is spoken with a simple term. Balance. Even while the wood is very much in charge the craft behind the scene fills the screen, like a sepia toned vintage movie reel, in which hard at work agriculturalists, agronomists and oenologists move in fast frame motion, tending to their barbera. Beautiful fruit defends itself, because and for the land, reeks through the wood, integrates acidity and lingers, long after the wood perfume has dissipated. Fast forward to the end of the film and enjoy in retrospective view, somewhere mid next decade, while the credits roll. Drink 2020-2028.  Tasted July 2017  coppo1892  maitredechai_ca  @COPPO1892  @maitredechai  @COPPO1892  Le Maître de Chai

Tenuta Il Falchetto Barbera d’Asti DOCG Pian Scorrone 2016, Piedmont, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

Sees some stainless steel and six months in acacia wood. From a mix of soils in the Piemontese tertiary basin, characterized by sedimentary rocks known as “Marnoso Arenacea,” deposited from a marine environment 30-35 million years ago. A lovely barbera in purity of fruit, perfume and balance. Varietal honesty and bright personality bring dark plum, great acidity and ultimately just a pleasure to drink. 2017-2019.  Tasted July 2017  tenutailfalchetto  @ilfalchettovini  @tenutailfalchetto

Az. Agr. Franco Roero Barbera d’Asti DOCG Carbune 2016, Piedmont, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

Roero’s is another stainless specimen but this time off of mixed soils cut across two sub-zones. The fruit here is rich, darker, spicy and the acidity less pronounced, rendered, melted in. It too is a pleasure to drink but not as bright as some, to be sure. Just a bit pressed, quite solid and hefty at 15.4 per cent alcohol. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted July 2017  franco_roero_winery  @FrancoRoeroVini  @franco.roero

Az. Agr. Franco Roero Barbera d’Asti Superiore Docg Mappale 213 2015, Piedmont, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

From Montegrosso d’Asti Roero’s Mappale takes a heat index step back from Carbuné and from 2016. In 2015 the single vineyard, single (213) block is vinified separately from the others (including Siché and Cellarino) and spends 18 months in large barrels. Still it’s a dark, hematic bruiser with Cassis and dark chocolate, plus the omnipresent energy of acidity. Also ropey, tart and glazed, almost to the point of deep caramel. Then again it always comes back to how young it is. Drink 2018-2023.  Tasted July 2017

Viticoltori Associati Vinchio e Vaglio Serra Barbera d’Asti DOCG Vigne Vecchie 2011, Piedmont, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

The use of generous oak on these old vines rings and scents into secondary notes, of creosote, graphite, vanilla, clove and dried fruit from strawberry to prune. This will soon be turning to figs, chocolate and balsamic when in a year or two the fruit is no longer willing to sing and the acidity will step back into a phase otherwise quiet. From vineyards in Montegrosso, with caramel, more vanilla, creaminess and Amarone like character in alcohol and a perception of sweetness. Drake 2017-2019.  Tasted July 2017  vinchiovaglioserra  @vinchiovaglio  @VinchioVaglioSerra

Marchesi Incisa Della Rocchetta Barbera d’Asti Superiore DOCG Sant’Emiliano 2015, Piedmont, Italy (SAQ, 12278202, $29.45, WineAlign)

Marchesi Incisa Della Rocchetta is from Sassiccaia fame and also a family with a long Piemontese tradition. Their barbera is aged 18 months in French barrels and hails from near (southeast) of Asti. It’s certainly posied and appointed though I can’t help but notice the five-spice, caramel and balsamic aspect. A highly refined if tart style, seriously structured and wholesome though balanced within that formidable framework. As it fleshes and expands it reveals more charm, with some grace and elegance, kept warm and safe from the elements with an expensive scarf to be sure. Drink 2018-2023.  Tasted July 2017  #marchesiincisadellarocchetta  vins.balthazard  #marchesiincisadellarocchetta  @vinsbalthazard  #marchesiincisadellarocchetta  @VinsBalthazard

Marco Bonfante Barbera d’Asti Superiore DOCG Menego 2011, Piedmont, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

Marco Bonfante’s barbera d’asti made from fruit all over the hill is called Menego, the nickname and in honour of his and Micaela’s father Domenico who passed away in 2000. At the top of Domenico’s hill is Il Bricco and it is this one and a half hectares of south-exposed fruit that separates this barbera from the broad expression that is Menego. The calcareous terroir defines this wine and though the journey here is a high octane, jammy developing one through 14 months in barriques, this is the (relatively speaking) elegant vintage. It stills clocks in at a minimum 15 per cent alcohol and delivers a firm, confident and authoritative message but its elasticity and length allow it to breathe. Still it does not merely wave but punches and is more of a shout than a whisper. At six years the window of pleasure is open, if only just the first crack. Drink 2017-2023.  Tasted July 2017  marcobonfantewinery  @MarcoBonfante70  @MarcoBonfanteWinery

Marco Bonfante Barbera d’Asti Superiore DOCG Menego 2012, Piedmont, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

What a difference a vintage makes, here in 2012 out of warmth and into the highest of alcohol level with intensely ripe fruit. Marco Bonfante does not mess around, stretching the elevations of brix and alcohol while maintaining the natural acidity of barbera and waiting it out so the phenolic ripeness can fall, or rather climb to the high line. That he finds a way to work some magic so that balance is achieved is nothing short of remarkable. The most grip, power and brooding comes out of the 2012, like Madiran tannat, Cahors malbec, Napa Valley Petit Sirah and northern Rhône syrah all rolled into one. But this is the genesis of the new barbera d’asti and only Bonfante pushes such limits and scores in the end. This 2012 is the striker every great football club somehow finds, at most times blending in but always the silent assassin. This Menego is coursing with chocolate, Cassis, espresso and black cherry. It’s just a huge wine, easily at the 16 per cent mark and structured to go a decade before any withering or wuthering. Tension builds all the way until the end. Wot Gorilla. Drink 2019-2027.  Tasted July 2017

Marco Bonfante Barbera d’Asti Superiore DOCG Menego 2009, Piedmont, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

In 2009 the hill supplied fruit ready to kill so at eight years Menego has entered its secondary phase. It will not be expected that either 2011 or 2012 will travel this far, this fast though the (more elegant) former will certainly get there quicker then (the massive) latter. A new complexity has emerged with the developing 2009, from out of and with a nod to the southwest facing calcareous vineyard. Cinnamon, orange and subtler spices now grace the aromatics, things the young and powerful Menego do not release. The accents make the eyebrows rise and when noted integrating into the chocolate coated palate there is a tickling sensation. Yet another immensely impressive moment with a Marco Bonfante bruiser is had but with some age the time spent is relenting and ultimately offering some relief. Drink 2017-2021.  Tasted July 2017

Erede Di Chiappone Barbera d’Asti DOCG Brentura 2013, Piedmont, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

From Daniele Chiappone and a 100 per cent stainless steel upbringing at four years old the Chiappone retains remarkable freshness, with not a moment of reduction or careless redirection. Some dried fruit on the nose is curious so changes are in the air but the Brentura’s structure outside of the wood realm is more solid than most. So too is the warmer, rounder and more breathable acidity, now so integrated. Marvellous example of what barbera d’sati can be. Drink 2017-2019. Tasted July 2017  erededi  @erededi  Erede Di Chiappone Armando

Gozzelino Barbera d’Asti Superiore DOCG Ciabot d’la Mandorla 2012, Piedmont, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

The underworld of gariga and earthy fox holes are accessed through Gozzelino’s well-aged 2012, a barbera that saw its biased share of barrel by way of a 24 months full soaking in (3000L) Grande Botti. It has emerged vinous and boxy, foxy and full of heavy set moxy, like dried fruit and jerky absorbing like sponges in a pool of campari and aperol. The rusticity is palpable, the figs and the chocolate baking with spice. The alcohol persists while the wine acts fading but it’s certainly persistent. Old-school, traditional, out there in the antediluvian void. Drink 2017-2018.  Tasted July 2017  Azienda Agricola Gozzelino Sergio

Moretti Adimari Barbera d’Asti Superiore DOCG 2015, Piedmont, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

Moretti’s Superiore takes barbera further, out of a stainless steel world and into barriques for eight months. Perfume and acidity are barbera hallmarks, here now merged nicely together, but it is texture that elevates the game. The chalkiness gained from sandy, Franco (white) limestone soils make for a rover of a barbera, through liquid mineral and made creamy by barrel. Moretti as a producer experiments with riesling, chardonnay and sauvignon blanc so there is no surprise this barbera travels hither and thither. And it works. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted July 2017  morettiadimariwines    @morettiadimariwines

Montalbera Barbera d’Asti Superiore DOCG Nuda 2013, Piedmont, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

Montalbera’s calcareous soils are the catalyst to keeping this barbera scaled back, with teeth still shining white after 20 months in barriques. The unfiltered, oak driven wine is astonishingly divine and elegantly integrated with so much dripping, oozing and glazing chocolate. It’s rich and fine if for certain a mess in a mouthful. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted July 2017  montalbera  @Montalbera  @montalbera

Berta Paolo Barbera d’Asti DOCG 2015, Piedmont, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

From vineyards located between the areas of Monferrato and Langa, Berta Paolo’s barbera is a ceremoniously traditional one, possessive of a walk the line beauty specific to the area, at once sonsy in pure red fruit and then volatile to just the right degree. Here is the sort of barbera that exemplifies the natural while unbeknownst to just how raw an affair it really is. Honesty oozes from one that succeeds in being real without even trying. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted July 2017 vinifamigliaberta  @wineBerta  @viniberta

Borgo Isolabella Delle Croce Barbera d’Asti DOCG 2015, Piedmont, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

Were that is were so simple for all barbera to take one road or the other, as does Isolabella’s on the darker, full-tempered side. This is so perfectly solid, structured, architecturally sound barbera, with classically styled columns and porticos, tart and with a wealth of 2015 fruit. It’s dark but health-tempered, ever so slightly tannic and streaming with fine natural acidity. So well made. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted July 2017  isolabelladellacroce2001  @ISOLABELLA_D_C_  @isolabelladellecroce

The history of @ilNizza began long ago. Prepare for its storied future. Exceptional tasting, stellar wines #barberadasti #100percent #100percentapproval #piemonte #progettovino #collision

Nizza DOCG and DOC

Bersano Barbera d’Asti Riserva Nizza DOCG Generala 2014, Piedmont, Italy (Agent, WineAlign)

Suave, refined, silky smooth barbera, of a warmth to express and make accessible the sense of its strength, power and alcohol. It is the exceptionality of texture that really shines. Bersano’s Nizza (Riserva) has already done its 30 months of aging time so it can be released 12 days from now. A true case of catching a wine at its potential best. As they say, timing is everything. Like on the stage so on a lighter, theatrical note this is perhaps an ode to 20th century Italian drama, to Signora Ignazia. “Dear, dear Signora! Hail to our great Generala! To our patron saint!” And yet we could do without the theatre, as long as we have barbera. Drink 2018-2024.  Tasted July 2017  bersano1907  profilewinegroup  @BERSANO1907  @ProfileWineGrp  @Bersanowine  Profile Wine Group

Bersano Barbera d’Asti Nizza DOC Generala 2013, Piedmont, Italy (Agent, WineAlign)

Something about the 2013 vintage speaks with such great clarity as it does here in Roberto Morosinotto’s barbera from Nizza fruit that spent six months in tonneaux. The chocolate swirl has palpably settled on the palate but it’s just so silky smooth, tempered and demonstrative. Acidity surely runs high, it is barbera after all, but it also drifts into and with the waves of plum, wood spice and just spice in generala. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted July 2017

Bersano Barbera d’Asti Nizza DOC Generala 2010, Piedmont, Italy (Agent, WineAlign)

The summer of extreme heat (though perhaps holding no candle compared to 2017) has delivered a warm to warmest Bersano barbera with a calming effect achieved by cooling time spent in big barrels that date back to 1970. This ’10 is possessive of that sort of delicious perception of sweetness that puts it up there with the richest of the Nizza barbera. The élevage is half and half tonneaux/barriques and texture is full of this Mediterranean liquorice/black olive/gariga/briny tang. Nicely structured to last in this state for another three years. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted July 2017

Bersano Barbera d’Asti Nizza DOC Generala 2008, Piedmont, Italy (Agent, WineAlign)

Another excellent vintage for the Generala is found to be sound and generous at the nine year mark though the fully developed secondary character is duly noted. Helps to prepare and deduce a clear impression of where 2010 will go over the next two to three years. This ’08 has not quite reached the denouement stage though it has peaked, reeking resinous of fruit and wood clasped in a lover’s humid embrace, with notes of dried orange, apricot, fig jam, tar and roses. The acidity still rages quite assiduously while the briny and ecoregion earthy brush have now faded and disappeared from the fragrance trail. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted July 2017

Il Botolo Barbera d’Asti Nizza DOCG 2014, Piedmont, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

From soils with quite a bit of sediment, in the northeast part of Nizza. Quite the silky feel following on the heels of refinement and freshness. A liquid liqueur that is close to syrup but more of a natural feel, without tonic or medicine, but just pure limestone liquid fruit. The sort of tart that is elongated, elastic and stretched with ease. Drink early because it’s quite a glassful of immediate pleasure. Grows on you too. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted July 2017

Cascina Garitina Barbera d’Asti Superiore “900” Neuvsent CEC Nizza DOCG 2014, Piedmont, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

Why 900? Because Giancarlo Morino’s momma began working here in the 1900s but the local dialect was spoken so quickly so it was just, “900.” The vineyard “CEC” is pronounced “check,” or short for Francesca, who used to own the vineyard. From the (Castel Boglione) southern part of Nizza with higher acidity and alcohol, here at 15 per cent. Aged 12 months in barrel, there is some deep organic clay and (three) old vineyard (1924, 1949 and 1954) induced layering, astringency and brooding, of a seriousness about it that makes it dense and a bit tempered, finishing with dark chocolate. A minty, savoury and sapid streak runs through, likely with thanks to the cooling Mediterranean “Marin” winds that blow through the vineyards from spring to autumn. Well done but needs as much as five to seven years to show as silky and refined as some of the others. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted July 2017  cascinagaritina  @gianlucamorino  Gianluca Morino (Vignaiolo indipendente)

I’ve got 900 reasons to drink these @gianlucamorino #cascinagaritina #nizza but need only one #nizzamonferrato #progettovino #collisionimonferrato #cec #neuvsent #barberadasti

Cascina Garitina Barbera d’Asti Superiore “900” Neuvsent Nizza DOC 2010, Piedmont, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

Having tasted Gianluca Morino’s 2014 earlier in the day it makes this follow up, retrospective look at his 2010 such a satisfying confirmation of his work. That ’14 was way too young to make lifelong friends with but this ’10, well this is something other. While still a seriously brooding, hematic, ganache spread of fine chocolate barbera, the components have filled the kettle to overflowing, but time has worked to now emit a floral and spice perfume. The richness of oak has also rendered a touch of complexity, of caramel and baking spice but even further, into secondary beginnings. The tones are aromatic, musical and textural, of sweet, salty and faintly sour by a fineness of acidity. One more year will bring it all together. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted July 2017

Michele Chiarlo Barbera d’Asti Superiore Nizza DOCG Cipressi 2014, Piedmont, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

From a loamy locale, aged in large oak barrels, there is a rusticity about it along with its really dark cherry fruit. Some Bretty volatility too, complexity, character, oomph and reason for living. Quite high in acidity and structure is provided by that ideal with addendum by the gentle touch afforded by the higher oxygen exchange, large format wood. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted July 2017  michelechiarlo  univinscanada  @michelechiarlo  @UNIVINS  Michele Chiarlo  @UnivinsCanada

Michele Chiarlo Barbera d’Asti Superiore Nizza DOCG La Court 2013, Piedmont, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

Chiarlo’s La Court is actually one of the only Nizza barbera with a hard to get, slightly reserved character. It’s aromas are a bit muted though you get the sense that it’s quite floral behind the veil. Patience and air reveal dark fruits, of plum and black raspberry, then dusty earth and liquorice, with a silky patterning on the palate. Would love to get some wood spice but that too is currently in limbo so time is required to reveal such charm. The acidity is less than barbera raging, something that falls into line with the sneaky structure. Quite singular Nizza cru work right here. Drink 2018-2023.  Tasted July 2017

Viticoltori Associati Vinchio Vaglio Serra Barbera d’Asti Superiore Nizza DOCG Laudana 2014, Piedmont, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

From the hill known as “Bricco Laudana” this is one of two barberas produced from its clay and sandy marls, a barbera d’asti DOC and this extraordinary Nizza DOCG. The Nizza is aged one year in large oak barrels, thus mixing grace, elegance and full on liqueur with high, nearing acetic acidity. Very long but with angular bits and spikes in and out of the morello cherry fruit. Needs a year to settle in and amongst its sharp, moving parts. The cru is farmed by five or six producers and certainly one to watch, explore and anticipate the subsequent glory that near-future vintages will bring. Drink 2018-2024.  Tasted July 2017  vinchiovaglioserra  @vinchiovaglio  @VinchioVaglioSerra

Viticoltori Associati Vinchio Vaglio Serra Barbera d’Asti Superiore Nizza DOC Laudana 2012, Piedmont, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

Laudana is a warm and inviting barbera, dark with an ambling, rusty variegate, almost traditionally rustic but with a silky texture. Its notes play sweet and sour red fruits, namely raspberry and its constitution is right proper Nizza with the sort of traditional feel to demand not just attention but a raison d’être that says,”grant us our own DOCG.” It’s a dusty and vinous affair, like fully realized merlot with elevated alcohol, acidity and good phenolic ripeness. A solid, unafraid and unabashed barbera to represent the denomination with confidence and poise. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted July 2017

Azienda Agricola Ivaldi Dario Barbera d’Asti Superiore Nizza DOCG “1613” 2014, Piedmont, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

Ivaldi Dario’s barbera captures the honesty, clarity and purity of Nizza Monferrato, from grapes grown on clay-limestone soils and from vines 50 years of age. This perfectly suited barbera was aged in large Slavonian oak barrels and in 2014 turned out lithe and beautiful at 13.5 per cent. It’s tart as it should be, recounting a brief bit of tradition, earthiness and volatility. This is the most decent and convivial barbera of the lot, from longer, slower maceration with less pump overs and no unnecessary barriques aging. The lighter hue is vintage related but also house-curated, not to (re) mention classic styling. Picked early? Perhaps. Most important is that it is progressively hands-off, proper and most appreciated winemaking to celebrate a white limestone terroir. Drink 2018-2023.  Tasted July 2017  andrea.ivaldi  @ivaldidario  @vinidelmonferrato

Azienda Agricola Ivaldi Dario Barbera d’Asti Superiore Nizza DOC “1613” 2012, Piedmont, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

Few persuasions in the schemes of wine assessments are more fascinating to study than vintage variation, always great signs and portents from the fringe growing regions of the world. Monferrato is one such place, affected by swings in climatic conditions from year to year, raised here in magnification through the lens of Andrea Ivaldi’s multi-faceted barbera. The depth and structure in this ’12 is so contrary to the bright eyed ’14, now richer and almost brooding, even for Nizza. Ivaldi is a house with a self-predicated idiosyncrasy but here it speaks with Nizza style, perhaps antithetically reflexive but still with fruit that echoes from its manifest gaze into a mirror. Andrea makes exactly what the vintage gives, with blacker than red fruit bruised with a variegated hematoma and yet layered with a mineral underlap from that white limestone hill. As an arrangement it’s bigger than even he would likely have wanted to fashion but he’s a pragmatic winemaker who had to pick his fruit by September 20th. Do the math and see the forest for the trees. Drink 2017-2022.  Tasted July 2017

Berta Paolo Barbera d’Asti Superiore Nizza DOCG La Berta 2014, Piedmont, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

The Berta family wine estate dates back to 1842 with vineyards located between the areas of Monferrato and Langa. Their Nizza barbera d’asti is aged in large 500L oak barrels, lending a perfume that lingers long after this textured wine has stretched into the long aftertaste. Berta’s is quite a warm, rich, welling and dense example, fine liquid grainy, weighty and youthfully cumbersome. Having been afforded the opportunity to taste some older examples later the same day really put this one into perspective and provided a deeper understanding of Nizza structure. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted July 2017  vinifamigliaberta  @wineBerta  @viniberta

Berta Paolo Barbera d’Asti Superiore Nizza DOC La Berta 2011, Piedmont, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

The Nizza DOCG was added to Asti’s barbera portfolio in 2014 so this predates the appellative status, though for real intents and purposes this ’11 serves the same purpose. From a hotter than hot summer though the aromatics hide the thought and so you would never know just how warm it was. The palate speaks a different story with a deep-seated liqueur distilled from the top of the Berta Paolo terroir, a 40-70 year old set of plantings at Il Bricco, “The kettle” vineyard, 270 meters above sea level. The veins of this plot stretched over the hill of San Michele at Nizza Monferrato are the reason for Berta Paola’s distinct barbera texture. In 2011 this translates to a creamy, dreamy, suave and fine leathery parochial wine. Another example to set up one’s mind to realize what later vintages will turn out to be. Drink 2017-2022.  Tasted July 2017

If 2014 is anything like 2008 the future will shine on #famigliaberta #barberadasti @ilnizza Riserva #progettovino #collisionimonferrato

Berta Paolo Barbera d’Asti Superiore Nizza DOC La Berta 2008, Piedmont, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

More traditional than ever, partly and certainly because of age but also in an era that predates the level of current Nizza Monferrato understanding. This travels into a secondary, present state savour with the still flowing liqueur of the San Michele terroir. Speaks an older school, barrel-influenced vernacular, of a chocolate and vanilla vocabulary with an edge of Brett and volatility. Character from another time and quite persistent in voice. Drink 2017-2018.  Tasted July 2017

Villa Giada Barbera d’Asti Superiore Nizza DOCG Bricco Dani 2014, Piedmont, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

Here from Andrea Faccio struts with great confidence the dark, hematic, ferric and brooding barbera. A very serious Nizza, mercury rising, full on chocolate, espresso and an oily tar, imagining a nebbiolo-like modernity that places this in a stylistic and über-specific category. High acidity, some grainy tannin and sharp finishings so this needs some time. More than any other thus far in the Nizza DOCG flights. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted July 2017  villagiadawine  Andrea Faccio

Bava Barbera d’Asti Superiore Nizza DOCG Pianoalto 2014, Piedmont, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

A large (500L) barrel aging, this is highly, beautifully perfumed, restrained and deliciously tart. Savoury, herbal and tomato leaf herbal, from a hill with a crest, “the high plain,” or plateau. A current of currants, bell pepper and really ripe acidity. This is the most proper use of barrels, generous but exceptional. The most energy of all, modern and yet somehow classic, even traditional. Drink 2018-2025.  Tasted July 2017  bavawinery  @bavawinery  @bava.winery

Bava Barbera d’Asti Superiore Nizza DOC Pianoalto 2007, Piedmont, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

Barbera’s secondary moments are upon the 10 year-old Pianoalto though the wine still slides across the palate with creamy barrel texture. Notes of fig and prune are a case of a hot and dry vintage with very low yields. The nose has matured into a perfume only lifted now by the persistence of barbera’s elevated acidity so this continues to fly at a decent altitude. It’s quite perfect at the ripe old age. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted July 2017

Bava Barbera d’Asti Superiore Nizza DOC Pianoalto 2001, Piedmont, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

Certainly showing its age at 16 and perhaps not as long-lasting due to what was at the time a middle of the road sort of vintage. It was a low and slow, no real heat to speak of, natural and organically rendered season so the wine has in turn done the same in kind. Now into the tertiary it has little to no bite or reason to put up a fight. What does persist is a chocolate, espresso and spice sprinkling, then down towards a slightly sharp, tart and done with it finish. Tannins are now only woody but all in all it’s a curious and worthy look back at turn of the century Nizza. Drink 2017-2018.  Tasted July 2017

La Gironda Barbera d’Asti Nizza DOCG Le Nicchie 2014, Piedmont, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

A barbera return to dark fruit, glycerin into texture across a silky smooth palate. From old vines, many exceeding 50 years. Real concentration and developed fruit with an underlay of stone and clay. It’s rich and intense but not dense, warm but not searing. Everything rising but cresting, on a plateau where it can be handled. Structure is clear and obvious. Take this one deep into the cellar. Drink 2018-2025.  Tasted July 2017  la_gironda  @LaGironda  Susanna Galandrino

La Gironda Barbera d’Asti Nizza DOC Le Nicchie 2011, Piedmont, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

The vintage for Le Nicchie is deep, dark and handsome, with fruit woven into texture rich and thick, with lots of wood and lit-scented herbs. Smells like rosemary and thyme stalks thrown on an open flame. It’s also almost impossibly silky and smooth while in management of quite refined acidity and tannin. Very polished Nizza barbera. Drink 2019-2023.  Tasted July 2017

La Gironda Barbera d’Asti Nizza DOC Le Nicchie 2007, Piedmont, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

La Gironda’s is yet another 2007 that exhibits very high acidity. It was in fact a hot vintage that concentrated fruit but also that omniscient barbera acidity. Seems very young, almost impulsively so. The flavours are of an extreme Nizza variety, like a slice of Cru cake (in this case Le Nicchie) swimming in a syrupy pool of its own deeply reduced demi-glacé. For fans of barbera density with haute couture style and this is how this house does what they do best. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted July 2017

La Gironda Barbera d’Asti Nizza DOC Le Nicchie 2003, Piedmont, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

As hot as a vintage like 2007 might have been it held no fingertip burning candle to the likes of the scorcher of 2003. In the case of La Gironda and its Le Nicchie Cru the heat played right into the hands of the house style. This is quite a remarkable specimen because despite the warmth and the time elapsed this barbera is just in the early throes of secondary life, so the level of structure is quite astounding. The heavy wood aspect fully renders in chocolate tones piqued with spice. The combinative use of barriques and tonneaux has struck an accord and this still clings to viable life even if it’s quite the molten chocolate bomb. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted July 2017

Tenuta Olim Bauda Barbera d’Asti Superiore Nizza DOCG 2014, Piedmont, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

Few barbera from Nizza’s recently appointed DOCG are as polished as Gianni Bertolino’s ’14, a long developed piemontese that spent two years in large barrels. The fruit is really ripe, pushed to the limit of the vintage but just cresting at the edge of dried fruit and the tawny, figgy spectrum. Wild strawberry keeps it fruity and earthy, acidity is round and still in charge, thankfully, for the building and beguiling effect of great structure. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted July 2017  tenuta_olimbauda hobbsandcompany  @tenutaolimbauda  @hobbsandco  @tenutaolimbauda.it  hobbsandcompany

Tenuta Olim Bauda Barbera d’Asti Superiore Nizza Doc 2011, Piedmont, Italy (SAQ 11383570, $37.50, WineAlign)

From a hot vintage, especially in summer but the warmth was managed by enough cool nights. Gianni Bertolino tells me about picking on acidity, not sugar, in mid-September. Here is the generous, extremely fresh, tart and silky barbera. A seriously classy, chic, racy and almost perfectly modern wine, very much an acumen-acquiesced and benchmark leader for the Nizza appellation. Drink 2017-2023.  Tasted July 2017

Tenuta Olim Bauda Barbera d’Asti Superiore Nizza Doc 2010, Piedmont, Italy (SAQ 11383570, $37.50, WineAlign)

Earlier in the day it was Gianni Bertolino who commented on barbera from Nizza being a six-year wine. His 2010 must have hit its stride at just about exactly the six year mark because here in its seventh just the beginnings of secondary character are showing their tell tale signs. It’s in cantilever mode, stretching out over the barbera abyss, unfurling its wings and truly opening to reveal its charms. Though the acidity still burns, churns and plays devil’s advocate to the depth of fruit and territory, the wood has melted enough to reign in that sapidity and balance is coming into order. It may come as a surprise to find the acidity warm but no longer sharpening its stone but where chocolate, dried fruit (namely plum) and spice are concerned this will be the result. Yet so much life persists in this ubiquitously defined cru of a Nizza. Drink 2017-2022.  Tasted July 2017

Cantina Tre Secoli Barbera d’Asti Superiore Nizza DOCG 2014, Piedmont, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

Cooperative rendered barbera, aged for one year in small barrels. Soil is equally spread across several vineyards, from a rock, sand and loam accrue. Amenable, approachable, warm and vibrant acidity, dark fruit and negligible tannin. Some sweetness, black cherry, berry and fig. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted July 2017  #cantinatresecoli  @TRESECOLI  @tresecoli1887

Cantina Tre Secoli Barbera d’Asti Superiore Nizza DOCG 2011, Piedmont, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

It takes but a sip of the Tre Secoli 2011 to gain an understanding in comparison as to where the afore-tasted 2014 is heading. Few Nizza barbera swim with such full on chocolate and dried fruit depth and while the kinship resemblance between the two wines is uncanny, the heat of this ’11 vintage has brought on some fully realized evolution. The richness is all in, drying out and truffles are just around the next bend. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted July 2017

A quadrato of big, bold and balanced @MarcoBonfante70 #barberadasti @ilNizza Bricco Bonfante #progettovino #collisionimonferrato

Marco Bonfante Barbera d’Asti Superiore Riserva Nizza DOCG Bricco Bonfante 2014, Piedmont, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

In the hills of Nizza and Val di Sacca, Bonfante takes a deferential approach with some drying of the grapes for a handful of days, but unlike the three to four months as in Amarone. His fruit is aged in a combination of small and large oak barrels for 20 months. The extra concentration leads to higher sugar content and therefore elevated (15-16 per cent) alcohol but the wine is vinified dry. Sourced from the Bricco, top of the hill on calcareous clay marl. In the end this is a thick, viscous, shaken but certainly refined and balanced barbera in its large format, unabashed and even braggart style. Drink 2019-2026. Tasted July 2017  marcobonfantewinery  @MarcoBonfante70  @MarcoBonfanteWinery

Marco Bonfante Barbera d’Asti Superiore Riserva Nizza DOC Bricco Bonfante 2012, Piedmont, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

Bricco Bonfante is the one and a half hectare family vineyard though it’s not necessary to label the wine “vigna.” Bricco works just fine. Now the comparison (to the barbera d’asti Superiore) becomes clear because the silk and elegance is noted in clean and pure Nizza. The 5,500 density of vines producing 4,000 bottles works out mathematically to 800 grams of fruit per plant, a number nothing short of ridiculous economics. With necessity the mother of invention the quality must run high and so 24 months in new barriques is bequeathed the precious fruit. The bricco exalted is the origin of the barbera that delivers prescience, presence and a preciseness of being. The hill is the thing, the vineyard its totem, the hot vintage adding heat early and on repeat, at 15.5 degrees alcohol (declared) so ripe, so big and with structure so in control. Drink 2019-2027.  Tasted July 2017

Marco Bonfante Barbera d’Asti Superiore Riserva Nizza DOC Bricco Bonfante 2011, Piedmont, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

The vintage is in fact not so completely unlike the 2012 if perhaps a step taken back, away from power, terribilita and the heat. The palate has already begun to relent into a Nizza meets Bricco Bonfante sweetness and the tannins have resolved one notch down to a point closer to understanding. As a result there is more polish to Marco’s 2011 and a finer layer of silk. Here for the first time there is this purity of dark cherries mixed into the finest chocolate and a touch of secondary character development in balsamic. Should be good to go this time next year. Drink 2018-2024.  Tasted July 2017

Marco Bonfante Barbera d’Asti Superiore Riserva Nizza DOC Bricco Bonfante 2010, Piedmont, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

Travelling in reverse down along a Marco Bonfante vertical is a most interesting exercise and makes so much sense. The 2010 is so similar to 2011, even more than how that ’11 compares with 2012. The fruit in ’10 is less pitchy, in delivery of red to black berries (or black raspberry to be precise) and yet the silky thread runs through the red. The same 24 months in new barriques sends this reeling into the plum chocolate pudding as a veritable bomb of a Nizza barbera. There are some who might find the stylistic overbearing, weighty and dense. They would not be wrong but they would be missing the Bricco point, of a matter that comes from the top of the hill with lowest of the low yields out of a rarity of rarities vineyard. There is no denying the acumen and the ambition but also, mostly the necessity. Drink 2017-2021.  Tasted July 2017

Marco Bonfante Barbera d’Asti Superiore Riserva Nizza DOC Bricco Bonfante 2009, Piedmont, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

It was beginning to look like no matter how far back you travel in a Bricco Bonfante Nizza vertical there would be no signs of evolution, that is until you hit this 2009. Here the first to begin an inkling into secondary notes, if only the etchings of spice symbols and wood derived pericopes. There is also a faint, around the corner idea of tar and candied roses, or perhaps they’ve already begun to join the scented party. I find this 2009 quite cru Barolo-like and it’s interesting to note that this was Marco’s first Nizza Bricco. It also happens to be the one with the most apparent fruit, or perhaps time is the factor needed for such a reveal. It travels from red to black and back. Really quite amazing. Drink 2017-2021.  Tasted July 2017

Godello, Michele Longo, Michaela Morris and Dr. Michael Apstein

L’Armangia Barbera d’Asti Superiore Nizza DOC Titon 2013, Piedmont, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

Titon is a blend of three estate vineyards planted between 1934 and 1990. The plots are also a mix of exposures; southeast, east and west, with warm temperatures abundant throughout. This barbera runs a fever of acidity, doles out plenty of chocolate, has yet to fully integrate its wood and is truly well made Nizza. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted July 2017  armangia.giuly  @LARMANGIA

L’Armangia Barbera d’Asti Superiore Nizza DOC Vignali 2011, Piedmont, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

Vignali is the single-vineyard barbera from the estate vineyard planted in 1934. An approximate 24 months of barrel aging is performed before it then ages in bottle for a further 24 months. At first there are the new 300L oak casks, then small 130L barrels for 12 months and finally large casks for 10-12 months more. Well, all this to say that Vignali is fully involved in its secondary stage of life. It is a most mature barbera, with the three holy trinity tenets of chocolate, balsamic and high level acidity all working as one. The soil and barbera tang is fully felt. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted July 2017

L’Armangia Barbera d’Asti Superiore Nizza DOC Vignali 2010, Piedmont, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

A later harvest developed riper fruit with higher phenolics and with seven years under its belt that fruit is drying nicely. Chocolate as always with figs, raisins, apricots and as expected balsamic, though here with a shot of dark espresso. All of the above on repeat and that big barbera acidity. Drink 2017-2018.  Tasted July 2017

Going back to @ilNizza for a lesson in what tomorrow will bring @Coppo1892 Grazie Luigi #barbera #barberadasti #riservadellafamiglia

Coppo Barbera d’Asti Nizza Superiore DOC Riserva di Famiglia 2009, Piedmont, Italy (Agent, $74.95, WineAlign)

From a small cru located in Castelnuovo Calcea, born in 1998, “a project, not only a wine,” explains Luigi Coppo. Only produced in the best vintages, the previous being 2007 and the next will be 2010, though this ’09 is undoubtedly the finest. “It’s not a wine of economics,” continues Coppo, but a single-vineyard expression for people to think outside the barbera box. It shares less history than Pomorosso and thus the reason why it is only selected from very specific vintages, “to work on the craft.” Few if any Barbera d’Asti carry such precision and presence. It’s adult candy, wise and layered, the key to making great barbera right here, in this texture. Expertly woven are fruit, wood and acidity so that all are blended, with no ego, nothing taken for granted, all in balance. Drink 2017-2027.  Tasted July 2017  coppo1892  maitredechai_ca  @COPPO1892  @maitredechai  @COPPO1892  Le Maître de Chai

Coppo Barbera d’Asti Nizza Superiore DOC Riserva di Famiglia 2007, Piedmont, Italy (AgentWineAlign)

Higher acidity in 2007 and alcohol pushing at 15.3 per cent (as opposed to 14.7 in 2009) don’t mean the world has come to end but it does make for an electric Nizza barbera. Even then Coppo could be pragmatic when it was called for so the wood use in this barbera was increased, to soak up some of that fantasy and see if the components could strike a balance in accord. You can really sense the fineness of silk on the palate. Still so beautifully managed, or rather you can intuit looking ahead 10 years from signsin this 2007 how in future vintages the winemaker will know how to manage the realities of vintage variable acidities, through the adjustments in wood and how that will determine the levels of tannin. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted July 2017.

Borgo Isolabella Delle Croce Barbera d’Asti Superiore Nizza Doc Augusta 2009, Piedmont, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

All the Isolabella wines receive a girl’s name, in this instance Augusta, a vineyard selection from a couple of sites on each side of the village limits and named after the proprietor’s sister. The estate produces only 90,000 bottles, each highly specialized and this barbera comes out of the highly prized vintage. In retrospect and with the fortune to taste several 2009s in one walkabout it is now obvious that the season bequeathed the gift of age on its wines. Great because of an extra fineness of acidity from a grape that always gives this way but in Isolabella’s 2009 there is this cool, savoury, reserved character, not unusual but balanced in equal opposition to the strength of perfume and body. A delicato is expressed in what may be referred to as an ultra-über special 2009. Drink 2017-2025.  Tasted July 2017  isolabelladellacroce2001  @ISOLABELLA_D_C_  @isolabelladellecroce

A deep #eredichiappone vertical delve with Daniele for perspective and a release of endorphins @ilNizza possibilities #progrettovini #collisionimonferrato

Erede Di Chiappone Barbera d’Asti Superiore Nizza DOC RU 2011, Piedmont, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

Daniele Chiappone’s 2011 is his richest, warmest, most wood affected barbera replete with an armament of spice. While still in the care of its 16 per cent alcohol frame it is a most underdeveloped specimen but because it’s so big and burly it can’t help but reek, ooze and sweat out the aching masala of aromatics. In talking with Daniele he fully admits this to be the vintage of great demand and pressure so he simply made the wine it asked for. I liken this to Amarone from vintages like 2010 and 2011, unavoidable and so a great winemaker will simply do what must be done and try to seek out balance in a bold and crazy world. With fine acidity void of spikes, peaks and valleys Chappione puts this barbera in a state of equilibrium however high the plain may be. Give this two years minimum to integrate and match it with some lean venison over a bed of tangy polenta. Drink 2019-2027.  Tasted July 2017

Erede Di Chiappone Barbera d’Asti Superiore Nizza DOC RU 2010, Piedmont, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

Chappione’s 2010 is barbera of a powerful maturation and its polyphenolics are quite different than those from 2011. The hard skins, noted by Daniele as pelli durissime might lead to a personality ostinata impermeabilità but a longer maceration broke them down, turned the opposite around to make them flexible and permeable. Though still tightly wound and not yet pliant this precise and very present 2010 of intrinsic structural value will make use of another year in bottle to soften its pertinacious fibres. When it opens up it will bloom, but ever so slowly, over a 15-20 year plan. Its crazy legs, choice acidities and quality tannins will all conspire towards longevity of the indiction degree. Drink 2019-2027.  Tasted July 2017

Erede Di Chiappone Barbera d’Asti Superiore Nizza DOC RU 2006, Piedmont, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

RU by Daniele Chiappone is this, at first something altogether inexplicable but when tasted alongside his 2005, 2010 and 2011 it makes such perfect sense. Sense in where this fits in his evolution and to speak on behalf of the age-worthy ability of Nizza barbera. In a world where barbera perfume so often performs with perfunctory brevity this goes on and on. It is a unique combination of fennel frond, incense, hibiscus and violet to create an intoxicant and an anaesthetic. Yet another exceptional vintage is revealed, traditional and so alive, spun from earth crusting over cherry and then this smooth leather. The portal backwards 10 years allows for looks forward 10 more, especially into what’s coming from 2015 and 2016. To say the match with a prodigiously spiced in aromatic ragu over linguine was agreeable would be the understatement of the Monferrato century. Perfectly timed acidity seals the deal. This is barbera folks, of wit, age and history. Drink 2017-2021.  Tasted July 2017

Erede Di Chiappone Barbera d’Asti Superiore Nizza DOC RU 2005, Piedmont, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

The vintage was a tough one with some hail and difficult to get the grapes into a state of full maturity. It’s amazing how winemakers remember every painful moment of a vintage like 2005 and Daniele Chiappone recalls picking in the first week of October. While that may not be wholly unusual for the RU cru it is quite a late Piemonte harvest. This RU carries deep, dark depth in currant fruit, in a realm where cabernet franc hooks up with nebbiolo and sires a love child. Side by side with 2010 it is really just the quality of tannins that truly sets the two apart and here the chemical reactions in the natural world bring about spice; cinnamon, star anise and then this eminence of Chiappone acidity. In Nizza it is this speciality that is both singular and distinct that creates such a structured feeling of éclat, or in the case of Chiappone, fulgore. Drink 2017-2022.  Tasted July 2017

Il contingente canadese @Collisioni #nizza #barberalovers #represent #progettovino #piemonte

Thanks for reading up on the wines of Barbera d’Asti and Nizza Monferrato. Let’s all hope we begin to see more options in both categories made available here in Ontario. A special thanks to Ian D’Agata, Michele Longo, Michaela Morris, Giulia Corino and the entire Collisioni crew.

Good to go!

Godello

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

WineAlign

Fontodi’s one hundred per cent sangiovese

In @chianticlassico mano nella mano 1986, @fontodi #vignadelsorbo & #flaccianello thank you Giovanni Manetti for sharing these two opposing forces of the Tuscan paradox #chianticlassico

I have spent quite a bit of time in Chianti Classico over the past two years, most recently during the last week of September. The occupation of study and discovery and the investigation into the intricacies and multiplicities of the region’s sangiovese prepossess a lifelong infatuation. If the cumulative is a factor of compulsive obsession so be it and while decades of learning are left to attack, an essential visit can now be crossed off the bucket list. With Giovanni Manetti at Fontodi.

Fontodi is a certified organic estate which extends over 130 hectares of which approximately 70 are planted to vines. When you break down the name into two parts, first fonte or “source” and odi, “hate” you paint an image in etymology that couldn’t be further from the truth. Take a walk through the estate’s vineyards set in Panzano’s Conca d’Oro and the exact opposite unfolds. Fontodi’s estate vines are as described (and for the effects on health and happiness) prescribed as a place of “high altitude, calcaire-clay-schist soil, lots of light, and a fantastic micro-climate – warm and dry with a marked difference in day and night-time temperatures.” Lots of light is really key, “un sacco di luce,” or as it could be construed, “a source of love.” Spend three hours with Fontodi’s proprietor Giovanni Manetti and you’ll get the picture. Fontodi as Fonte di amore.

Related – All in with Chianti Classico

Giovanni Manneti showing the sangiovese of the 2017 harvest

Today is September the 23rd. First we take a drive down into the Conca d’Oro and walk in the vines. The sangiovese blocks with the finest exposure and the most sun have just recently been picked. Others are coming in as we speak. The rest will be harvested by the end of the week. It has been a most unusual vintage in Chianti Classico. One of the warmest and driest winters on record is interrupted by a near-devastating spring frost then followed by scorching summer temperatures and no rain. The grapes dry up and desiccate to nearly nothing with the danger of an empty harvest looming. Then a miracle happens and the rains fall during one crazy week in early September.

There are producers who make a fateful mistake. They pick their sangiovese ahead of the rains. Sugar and alcohol are high in the shrivelled berries but phenolic ripeness lags well behind. The stems and seeds in these preemptively harvested sangiovese are green, underdeveloped and bitter. The tannins will follow suit. Though these wines will be jammy and flavourful in the first year or two, the hollow feeling on their mid-palate and the astringency on their finish will expose their weakness. Giovanni Manetti makes no such mistake. He allows the grapes to swell with the much-needed watering and then watches them develop their phenolics over the following weeks of warm weather. His sangiovese are beautiful, lower in yield, with many of the bunches and their berries smaller in size, but ripe nonetheless. It may not turn out to be a great year for Chianti Classico and Flaccianello economics but the 2017 wines will shine.

Have not seen a prettier cow than the #chianina raised for @dariocecchinimacellaio on the @fontodi organic farm in Panzano

We move on down to visit the Chianina. The Chianina are an ancient and very large Italian breed of cattle raised mainly for beef. The beautiful, regal and majestic cows are famous for producing the meat for Toscana’s bistecca alla fiorentina. Giovanni’s herd are nurtured for one specific purpose, to supply the most famous butcher in Italy Dario Cecchini with his meat. Says Cecchini, “The Officina della Bistecca is our convivial way of answering the difficult question of the perfect way of cooking Her Majesty the Bistecca alla Fiorentina and Her Sisters the Costata and the Panzanese steak.” The farm to table relationship between Fontodi and Antica Macelleria Cecchini is witnessed right here, first hand.

Pinot Nero in Amphora at Fontodi

Back in the winery Manetti is fully cognizant of a group of seasoned journalists and sommeliers having visited more than their share of estates so we skip past the stainless steel tanks, barrel cellars and bottling lines to get down to what is really right. Along with John Szabo M.S. (WineAlign partner and author of Volcanic Wines), Brad Royale (WineAlign judge, Wine Director of Rocky Mountain Resorts and most interesting man in Canada) and Steven Robinson (First Ontario Ambassador of Chianti Classico and Sommelier at Atelier Restaurant in Ottawa) we talk amphora with Giovanni. Much experimentation is taking place at Fontodi even while much of the world may not associate their iconic sangiovese with this sort of side work. Along with decades of producing tiles, the hand-made wine Amphoras manufactured by Manetti Gusmano & Figli are the result of eight generations of experience in the production of Cotto and high quality handmade terracotta.

What makes the Manetti Amphorae special is the uniqueness of the clay; the abundant presence of Galestro in the terroir of  Chianti Classico, the salts and the calcium carbonates confer the right microporosity, enabling the wine to breathe correctly. This feature, the antioxidant and antibacterial action and the high thermal insulation capacity make the terracotta Amphora  an ideal tool for the production of great natural wines. Fontodi and natural wines. Another partnership so worth exploring.

Fontodi vineyards in the Conco d’oro, Panzano

After the amphora we sit down to taste through the wines of Fontodi. There are good solid sessions and then there is the kind of catechetical research afforded with a proud and humble man of Giovanni Manetti’s stature. First the presentation and sangiovese appetite whetting pour of Meriggio, a sauvignon blanc from the Colli Toscana Centrale, a rest in the shade, “and as for compensation, there’s little he would ask.” Then the Chianti Classico from Fontodi and neighbouring Lamole in Greve in Chianti, for perspective and contrast. Manetti gets down to the greatest of Chianti Classico/Toscana IGT contrastive verticals with eight vintages of Vigna del Sorbo (now labeled as Gran Selezione) and Flaccianello della Pieve. When asked what he thinks of the Chianti Classico Gran Selezione category moving to 100 per cent sangiovese he laughs. “What do I think of the idea? It’s my idea!” The notes will explain the rest.

Fontodi Meriggio 2016, Colli Toscana Centrale IGT, Italy (WineAlign)

Meriggio is 100 per cent La Rota vineyard sauvignon blanc, whole cluster pressed with native yeasts, 75 per cent stainless steel ferment, no malo, 15 per cent in amphora and 10 per cent in French barriques. That said, without temperature control some malo, like it, happens. To go to Meriggio means to go and have a rest in the shade, from the verb meriggiare in reference to the (not Tuscan) poet Eugenio Montale, “merrigiare pallidio e assorto.” Empty is the literal translation but it’s more a case of the unoccupied mind at rest. Sauvignon should always be so calm and yet spirited, here with little to no oxidative character but rather metallurgy, saltiness and pure tang. The leesy reductive environment and Panzano acidity conspire with calcaire for a demonstrative locution. Bloody delicious sauvignon blanc for the man in me. Drink 2017-2022.  Tasted September 2017

Sangiovese of Fontodi

Fontodi Chianti Classico 2014, Tuscany, Italy (933317, $36.95, WineAlign)

No surprise here from stalwart Fontodi, to take a difficult vintage, push vanity aside and select the best fruit for a pure expression of sangiovese, natural and organically made, with precision and clarity. The red Panzano fruit spikes with cran-pom-rasp-currant bursting freshness. It’s just the right amount of tart and sapid, carefully rippling in acidity. So well made. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted February and September 2017  #Fontodi  rogersandcompanywines    @rogcowines  Az. Agr. Fontodi  #fontodi

Fontodi Chianti Classico Filetta Di Lamole 2014, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $35.95, WineAlign)

The old Lamole winery is owned by Giovanni Manetti’s cousins, where the grandfather made important wines until he passed away in the 80s and the grapes were then sold to bulk. Then Giovanni began working with the family in the 2000s and this first vintage was ready because the finesse of 2014 spoke to him, to begin the new journey. This has seriously improved, settled, come together, developed its excellence with seven months added in time to bottle. Its characters of amaro, earth and texture are now as one, inseparable and fully vested in the calm. Drink 2017-2023.  Last tasted September 2017

From the “forgotten corner of Chianti Classico,” Lamole of Greve in Chianti is perched in a natural amphitheatre between Volpaia to the south and Panzano to the west. Some of the vineyard’s older vines are still pruned in the alberello (bush) style. This is Giovanni Manetti’s inaugural vintage of the Filetta in cohorts with his cousin. So, decidedly a diffident partner and opposing force to the Fontodi Annata because the earthy-subterranean dwelling aromatics brood beneath the red, verging to riper and darker fruit. There is a liquor, aperitif amaro-ness to the Lamole. The clay must be darker and more compressed. The balance is struck though on deeper, more brooding and warmer alcohol-felt lines and in 2014, as if it were a Riserva. It’s an oak “vessel’ aged 100 per cent sangiovese, as opposed to other the estate’s usual use of barriques. It is perhaps counterintuitive but this acts more evolved than the “normale.” Neither better or worse but enjoyment time is now.  Tasted February 2017

Father and son- Giovanni and Bernardo Manetti @fontodi #panzano #chianticlassico

Fontodi Chianti Classico Gran Selezione Vigna Del Sorbo 2014, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $83.95, WineAlign)

The older vines are between 52 and 54 years old, the first vintage being 1985 and until 2011, contained some cabernet sauvignon, vines that have since been pulled out. The now site-specific, 100 per cent sangiovese Vigna del Sorbo may have been muscular in 2012 but no such hyperbole exists in 2014. The vintage determined this and despite the deep black cherry chalkiness the true spirit and stripped down honesty of sangiovese is in display. Purity has returned, floral like an artistically-rendered natural, realist and perpetual field of flowers in bloom, in installation, of violet light and rose-scented glass. I can imagine drinking this for decades, with its albarese-galestro saltiness and effortless concentration. Sometimes sangiovese never relents and at the same time never tires. Meraviglioso. Drink 2020-2038.  Tasted September 2017

Fontodi Chianti Classico Gran Selezione Vigna Del Sorbo 2013, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $81.00, WineAlign)

Fontodi Chianti Classico Gran Selezione Vigna del Sorbo 2013. (Takes deep breath). Just imagine a box filled with all things sangiovese, in all its incarnations and permutations, each aspect teaching something about what you need to know. History, legacy and tradition. Risk taking, forward thinking and progress. What is learned (in retrospect) from two poles; heat and power (2012) and cool savour and elegance (2014). The ’13 is not a matter of being in between but rather an exceptionality, a sangiovese of energy, precision, clarity, purity and a pure reflection in the window of honesty. Everything this vineyard can offer is in the 2013; florals, herbs, fruit, acidity and fine, fine tannin. All in, together, as one. Perhaps its best years will end sooner than 2014 but the time spent will be unparalleled. Drink 2019-2035.  Tasted September 2017

Fontodi Chianti Classico Vigna Del Sorbo 1986, Tuscany, Italy (AgentWineAlign)

Fontodi’s Vigna del Sorbo was obviously not a Gran Selezione designated Chianti Classico in 1986 but it was at the top of the pyramid. A sangiovese in which the acids and fine pear bitters stir in the tray, with a fruit from the (Sorbo) tree that was used to mix with grapes for Vin Santo. Not any more. In 2017 the freshness is impossible, implausible, perpetuated in the most floral and fine acidity combination of any older sangiovese ever experienced. This is like sucking on the most perfect lozenge of fruit, salt, mineral and Panzano mystery. This is Panzano sapidity perfectly realized, preserved and expressed. There is a touch of Cassis, less pyrazine but you can detect the cabernet sauvignon character, even in 10 per cent but combined with sangiovese it’s this frutta di bosco feeling. Just fantastic. Drink 2017-2023.  Tasted September 2017

#nebuchadnezzar @fontodi #flaccianello

Fontodi Flaccianello della Pieve 2014, Tuscany, Italy (Agent $125.00, SAQ 12123921, $97.25, WineAlign)

Flaccianello comes off of a different slope, aspect and exposition than Vigna del Sorbo, here facing straight south, collecting all the sun it can in the golden glow of the Conca d’Oro. The richness celebrates the legacy of this 100 per cent sangiovese, once so atypical and untraditional back in 1981, now the most legacy defining there may just be for varietal Panzano and for the territory in the sense of the greater good. Pure, nonpartisan just, unadulterated and perfectly powerful sangiovese with length from Firenze to Siena and back. Drink 2021-2036.  Tasted September 2017

Fontodi Flaccianello della Pieve 2013, Tuscany, Italy (Agent $125.00, SAQ 12123921, $97.25, BCLDB 55392, $109.99, WineAlign)

The Flaccianello is the Fontodi expression of uva nostrala, “our grape,” explains Giovanni Manneti, the most important local variety owned by Chianti Classico, protected and exalted by Fontodi. Sangiovese the solo act that must define Gran Selezione, to explain what is Chianti Classico in its purest form and to separate how it grows and what wine it produces, particularly when you are to compare it from commune to commune. This Flaccianello separates itself from the Vigna del Sorbo vineyard and Gran Selezione category, even from itself, with another bonafide elegant layer of Conca d’Oro stratified limestone richness and this ultra-savoury umami level of minty-herbal intensity. What else is there to say? Drink 2020-2034.  Tasted September 2017

Fontodi Flaccianello della Pieve 2006, Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

Tell it to the vintage perhaps but 2006 is so very floral, more than any Flaccianello in the memory bank and expressly sangiovese in temper. It’s a year with massive tannins and extreme acidity. For these reasons there is a tightness of being and even at 10-plus years it’s silly young to work with but the concentration impresses. Fruit at a premium indicates some citrus, in orange and lemon with compound interest calculated in further variegated acidity. The most sapid Flaccianello of them all has 15 years more initial development ahead before true secondary character will take over. It’s amazing when you stop to think about sangiovese of such structure. Drink 2019-2031.  Tasted April 2017

Fontodi Flaccianello della Pieve 2005, Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

“This is the vintage I open when I host a party or an important dinner, because no one asks me to open it.” The words are Giovanni Manetti’s and for him none truer are spoken, with a smile. The younger vines and super-selection from the “Bricco” part of the top of the hill in the exceptional vineyard make for a sangiovese of fine-grained tannin plus what the smallest berries of the smallest bunches gift. Their integration with wood has become a matter of balance, in terms of delicasse, even while supported by such structure. Secondary character is happening, in herbal, balmy and savoury, slightly pulsed and edging into balsamico. But it’s such a gentle and slow-sliding slope, years yet away from tertiary. Drink 2017-2026.  Tasted September 2017

Fontodi Flaccianello della Pieve 1986, Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

Flaccianello in 1986 is actually though not surprisingly so different from Vigna del Sorbo, more than any other reason because of the cabernet sauvignon, but in a more philosophical way, because they have built a paradox, from the Super Tuscan ideal in revolution. Now the sangiovese going forward will be the most important and also the best wine, like looking back at this 1986, OK, not better than Sorbo but purer, honest, a clearer picture from which to learn from and ultimately a model for the future. Beautiful power, restraint, structure and yes, the kind of wine that deserves to be praised with the term elegance, overused, or not. Perfectly rustic, earthy and full of fruit with its accompanying complimentary, enervating and necessary acidity. Drink 2017-2023.  Tasted September 2017

In @chianticlassico mano nella mano 1986, @fontodi #vignadelsorbo & #flaccianello thank you Giovanni Manetti for sharing these two opposing forces of the Tuscan paradox #chianticlassico

Good to Go!

Godello

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

WineAlign

A Sordo affair

Sordo – I Fantastici 8 Crus di Barolo 2013

On Thursday, July 13, 2017 an event dedicated to  the “Fantastic 8 cru of Barolo 2013” was held at the farm of Giorgio Sordo. The program included a guided visit to the historic part of the 1912 cellar, the modern 2016 cellar and a tasting of Sordo’s eight Crus di Barolo, attended by experts, opinion leaders, sommeliers, influencers and journalists from all over the world. Senior Sordo Enologist Ernesto Minasso introduced the Sordo terroir and then Ian D’Agata took over, Scientific Director of Vinitaly and the Wine Project of the Collisioni Festival. The teachings of (Armando) Cordero were invoked, in discussion of respect for what each site can deliver, in working them exactly the same way, so that what you are left with is a true sense of each site, to recall an Ontario “climat” terminology, a Barolo somewhereness if you will, tells Mr. D’Agata. Sitting there, listening to these introductions and pronouncements, self says to self  “let’s see about these things.” A dinner followed, prepared at the hands of Chef Danilo Lorusso of La Crota di Roddi.

The two soil epochs of Barolo are divided by a diagonal line that runs from the northeast down to the southwest, drawn between Roddi and Grinzane through Castiglione Falletto down through Barolo and to Novello. The appellation’s two soil types are Tortonian and Serravallian (or Helvetian), both of which were formed millions of years ago and each are responsible for producing different styles of nebbiolo. La Morra and Barolo to the west are lands less compact and more fertile and the general consensus puts these nebbioli in the realms of the elegant and more (relatively) amenable. In and around Serralunga d’Alba, Monforte and Castiglione Falletto, the Serravallian is marked by dense, compact marl and the Barolo there tends to greater body and alcohol, ideal for a potential to longer aging.

La Morra’s famous cru include Arborina, Brunate, Cerequio, Gattera, Gianchi, Marcenasco and Rocche dell’Annunziata. Barolo’s are Bricco Viole, Brunate, Cannubi, Cannubi Boschis, Sarmassa, Via Nuova, Rue and San Lorenz0. In Castiglione Falletto there are Bricco Rocche, Villero, Monprivato, Fiasc, Mariondino, Pira and Ravera. In Serralunga d’Alba the Cru include Falletto, Francia, Marenca, Vigna Rionda, Marenca-Rivette, La Serra, Margheria, Ornato and Parafada. Monforte d’Alba holds the vineyards of Bussia, Cicala, Colonnello, Dardi, Ginestra, Mosconi, Munie, Romirasco and Santo Stefano.

The official recognition of the DOC Barolo happened in 1966 and the DOCG followed, in 1980. The grape variety is 100 per cent nebbiolo in a production zone covering the entire township of three villages; Barolo, Serralunga d’Alba and Castiglione Falletto, plus part of the territory of eight other small townships.  Sordo’s excellent eight are what the parlance of Barolo times would refer to as “sorì”, or Menzione Geografica Aggiuntiva (MGA), or individual vineyard names. There are more than 100 officially recognized MGAs in Barolo.

Sordo’s eight cru are spread across 53 hectares, 80 per cent cultivated to nebbiolo, plus dolcetto, barbera, arneis, chardonnay, viognier and sauvignon blanc. The total production is 350,000 bottles, with vineyards subsidized by grass and ground cover between the rows. No chemicals though sulphur is used, with stainless steel ferments, élevage in large Slavonian oak casks, further time in bottle of six months, 36 for riserva. The vintage 2013 saw a warm, dry winter, above average in that regard, a cold March, rainy spring, warm summer and dry fall. A 15 day harvest was executed across October. Here are the notes on the eight 2013 cru plus three extras poured with dinner.

Sordo Barolo Monvigliero 2013, DOCG Piemonte, Italy (459677, $47.95, WineAlign)

Monvigliero might very well be considered the “Grand Cru” of Verduno village, facing south/south east at 280-320 metres above sea level. The soils are loose, fine and dry marls and in 2013 the harvest happened on the 12th of October. The first vintage was 2005, from a cru set on the west side of the diagonal line drawn between Roddi and Grinzane through Castiglione Falletto down south west through Barolo and to Novello. Here the make up is more (relatively) fertile Tortonian epoch soils, facilitator of earlier developing Baroli. The comparison might be to Paulliac and Saint-Estèphe, to nebbiolo needing four to six years before entering the drinking window. Every producer that owns parcels in Monvigliero ends up with a top three Barolo portfolio cru from within. Here the Sordo ’13 is so very perfumed, of violet and rose petal, certainly an aromatic potpourri, light in hue and transparent, with texture, sour acidity as of cherry, not yet into the tar. The pearls of magnesium rich marly liquid rubies run amok in the mouth. Returning after tasting the last three (Rocche, Villero and Monprivato) musketeers this now shows how lithe, lovely and accessible (relatively speaking of course) this Monvigliero really is. There are 12,900 bottles made. Drink 2020-2029.  Tasted July 2017  sordowine  collisioni  @sordo_wine  @Collisioni  @SordoVini  @CollisioniFestival

Sordo Barolo Ravera 2013, DOCG Piemonte, Italy (AgentWineAlign)

Ravera is on the eastern slope of the township of Novello, also left bank of the diagonal soil epoch dividing line and like Monvigliero, facing south/southeast. Cuts more attitude and altitude, between 420-450 masl. Loose but richer, whitish marl and grey soils typify the cru. The Ravera harvest was on the 19th October, leading to 20,500 bottles and its first vintage was also 2005. It shows more austerity than Monvigliero, owing to being characterized by Serravallian soils found on the right bank, so this is the cru with an identity complex. This is compact, grippy, intense, sour wrapped up in a mystery folded into an enigma. A reticent, brooding hidden gemstone and texture of compression Sordo, but hard to get. Will unravel and work into its flesh no sooner than six plus years on. From a Ravera sweet spot but it’s not sweet now, nor are some other renditions. A return (30 minutes later) brings the unmistakeable nose of fennel. Drink 2022-2032.  Tasted July 2017

Sordo Barolo Perno 2013, DOCG Piemonte, Italy (AgentWineAlign)

Perno belongs to Monforte d’Alba and this particular single-vineyard portion (6.6 hectares of 190.96 total hectares in the large cru) is owned entirely by Sordo, though others farm the rest. Vines age from 15-35 years-old, on red soils with stones and it was the 18th of October for this harvest. The first vintage was 2000. Only Bussia and San Pietro are bigger in all of Barolo so there will be some variegation coming from the Cru. Located on the right bank, immediately to the east of the diagonal line, into Serravallian soils, of calcareous limestone and compacted sands. It’s bloody tannic, but aromatically speaking it does in fact speak its mind, of a fine porous vessel holding a sparked and stark, bitter and macerating cherry liqueur. The palate follows sharp and piercing, compressed, intense, of powerful structure and endless length. Brooding and massive but harnessed power that could run a small nation-state. That power never relents though a silk road certainly runs through that country. There were 48,000 bottles produced. Drink 2024-2036.  Tasted July 2017

Sordo Barolo Gabutti 2013, DOCG Piemonte, Italy (AgentWineAlign)

Gabutti (Serralunga d’Alba) sits at 250-300 masl, in compacted clay with 1989 being the first vintage. It ranges to the far east set into the quintessential seravalian soil and try hard to argue against the idea that it is the cru almost impossible to figure young. Sordo submits to its potential as unlimited and outrageous. There are spice aromas and acidity up front but otherwise it slams the door, locked tight. I disagree with Id’A in that the nose is not floral and accessible but do agree that it is civilized, on the first wave of palate, with soaking cherries and the idea of tar. Then the clutch sticks, it breaks down and shuts down. Wait 10 years from harvest with proof provided that 30 minutes does nothing to allow a Gabutti relent. It does indeed show some further precison when you get back to the back palate. Ultimately there can be little to say but that the jury is so fully out on Gabutti. There were 26,000 bottles made. Drink 2023-2035.  Tasted July 2017

Sordo Barolo Parussi 2013, DOCG Piemonte, Italy (AgentWineAlign)

Parussi comes from Castiglione Falletto at an elevation of 270-290 masl, with 15-40 year-old vines on loose surface soil and limestone with whitish, grey marls. The harvest was the 15th of October and the first vintage goes back to 2005. Sordo farms 1.8 of a small (13.4) hectares but the whole cru is not suited to nebbiolo, so only 83 per cent is planted to the grape. We are to understand that the idea goes beyond Parussi in that only certain portions are truly nebbiolo-Barolo cru territory. Parussi is from the crossroads of two soil epochs, between Barolo and Monforte and Serralunga to the south and east. The questions is asked whether or not it achieves a balance, of two banks on either side of a diagonal epoch line, like St. Julien, part Margaux and part Paulliac. It does but certainly resides on the brightest side, with the most fruit. The tart cherries are possessive of this striking personality so that they achieve a suspended animated moment in which they equilibrate to sweetness tempered by sour acidity moments and great fineness of demanding tannin. There are 13,000 bottles. Drink 2022-2034.  Tasted July 2017

Vitello Tonnato at Sordo

Sordo Barolo Rocche Di Castiglione 2013, DOCG Piemonte, Italy (AgentWineAlign)

Also from Castiglione Falletto is Rocche Di Castiglione, a formidable nebbiolo from 30-60 years of vine age, including a 1960’s planting. The elevation creeps up to 300-350 masl, on white and blue marl with dry and compacted sandstone. Harvest was on the 17th of October and production goes back to 1987 in this, Sordo’s first original cru. One of the greatest vineyards in all of Barolo, the new name is now Rocche di Castiglione Falletto, a place of crooked cragges or peaks, the altitude delivering more power and structure, but also grace and refinement. This is nebbiolo of a cooler climate personality, wound so tight, with sour cherry, rose petal and so much fruitier on the nose, certainly more than Villero. There is this smooth, satiny consistency through the modernity of flavours on the oldest fruit. A great dichotomy achieved. Drink 2023-2040.  Tasted July 2017

Sordo Barolo Villero 2013, DOCG Piemonte, Italy (AgentWineAlign)

Villero is an accumulation of purchased grapes from a farmer who follows a strict regimen. The cru is composed of calcareous, grey marls and compact grey sand and in this first 2013 vintage the later harvest was the 20th of October. Almost dukes it out with Rocche, this second of three musketeers with Castiglione and Monprivato. A balanced locale submits to make for optimum equilibrium for nebbiolo cru, looking at it this early as big, brawny, stiff and strong in its austerity. Giving so little away and yet it’s all imagination, driven by time. The cru is 22 hectares large with Sordo owning 0.4 and change, very small but it’s a true nebbiolo vineyard. Villero is nothing if not erected as a wall of acidity and tannin, so intensely taut, wound and as of yet, unforgiving. There are 3,600 bottles. Drink 2024-2039.  Tasted July 2017

Sordo Barolo Monprivato 2013, DOCG Piemonte, Italy (AgentWineAlign)

Monprivato is the third of the Castiglione Falletto cru, at variegated elevations from 240-320 masl. Sordo’s are 40 year-old vines and in this inaugural 2013 it was picked earlier (than Villero) on the 17th of October. Another true representative of Serravallian epoch austerity, with formidable tannin and a get down on my knees and beg to ask for more time before delivering accessibility. One of the true great Barolo vineyards, 98 per cent planted to nebbiolo. The 7.12 hectare large site gifts somewhere between the structure of Villero and the richness of Rocche. You get spice and sour cherry right away but also some other fruit in spice format, mulled in a way, of orange rind, apricot and pomegranate. It’s as if a piece of La Tâche suddenly became available to be farmed by someone else. Such fineness and nobility of tannins, richness and fine bitters, in the end the most tonic of all. This may be the whole package, a compromise in a way but an impressive and charming nebbiolo like no other. There are 3,200 bottles. Drink 2023-2040.  Tasted July 2017

More Sordo

Sordo Roero Arneis Garblet Sué 2016, DOCG Piemonte, Italy (AgentWineAlign)

Garblet Sué is on the Bricco Fiasco, a Castiglione Falletto vineyard owing in name to the Garbelletto Superiore farm that lies below. Sordo’s roero is rich in metallurgy, orchard fruit purity sporting equal parts pear and citrus, almost but not quite savoury. The balance of fruit, soil and salty mineral melts into arneis tannin. Overall it’s simply suave and polished stuff. Drink 2017-2021.  Tasted July 2017

Sordo Barolo Rocche Di Castiglione 2011, DOCG Piemonte, Italy (AgentWineAlign)

It’s difficult to say and even harder to admit that ’11 Rocche is any further advanced than the ’13 tasted 90 minutes prior. The fruit is a bit riper and if development can be quantified it’s a matter of millimetres by cru standards. And so the sour cherry is sweetened, rendered with more baking spice caress and attention to length, elastically so and with precise action. Five years further on and it will fall effortlessly into its next perfect phase, in a place called beautiful. Drink 2021-2032.  Tasted July 2017

Sordo Riserva Barolo Gabutti Edizione Limitata 2006, DOCG Piemonte, Italy (AgentWineAlign)

Sometimes it’s just a case of instant recognition, of the transparent Barolo-nebbiolo purity, crowned by acidity read from a very particular cru vernacular, spoken without any interference. At this 11-year itch, which incidentally seems only a year or two shy of the optimum window, Gabutti runs just a touch hot. A minor distraction in bitter phenol is balanced by ripe Sordo fruit that when combined acts like a salve melting on a tongue coated with tannin. Can formidable and elegant co-exist? In Gabutti, yes they can, easily, readily and in truth. Drink 2018-2028.  Tasted July 2017

Good to go!

Godello

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

WineAlign

Rewriting history at Meerlust back to 1984, one vintage at a time

Not just #meerlust more like major lust. Thank you for the sexy time travel @meerlustwine Laurel Keenan and The South African Wine Society.

It was on September 12th, 2017 that a once in a lifetime South African vertical tasting happened. The South African Wine Society managed to acquire 10 Meerlust wines from nine vintages gathered over 15 years. In Toronto. At The University of Toronto Faculty Club. It’s not that I want to invoke the dystopian dread of George Orwell nor do I equate the master’s writing with the wines of Meerlust but tasting 1984 through to 2010 has provoked the linguistic drama in me to invoke some wordsmith parallels. “Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past.” Winemaker Chris Williams may not totally disagree.

Few Cabernet Sauvignon vertical tastings are capable of determining such a clear picture in style, patterning and evolution, save for perhaps for obvious reasons what is possible out of Bordeaux. This focused collection from Meerlust connected past to present and with no real South African presence in the room. A 25-minute video presentation by Williams and the wines were all the 75 guests in attendance had to go on. By the time the winemaker had sped-tasted and rapid-dissected the nine vintages most of the four-ounce pours in the room were drained. It was a quick to state of bliss happy bunch.

Meerlust dates back to 1693, the house that is “love or pleasure of the sea.” Less than five kms south from the Atlantic Ocean, the property was purchased in 1756 and to this day remains family owned, now in its eighth generation with 260 years of continuity. On the 3rd July 1693, the Governor of the Cape, Simon van der Stel, granted the land to Henning Hüsing, who named the farm Meerlust, describing the sense of pleasure he obtained from the sea breezes that blew inland from False Bay. Johannes Albertus Myburgh bought Meerlust in January 1757. His ownership marked the foundation of the Myburgh Dynasty.

Hannes Myburgh, eighth generation owner of Meerlust, graduated from the University of Stellenbosch with a Bachelor of Arts degree majoring in French and English in 1982, before studying winemaking at Geisenheim in Germany. Hannes worked at Chateau Lafite in France and von Oetinger in Germany. Chris Williams was appointed Cellar Master at Meerlust in 2004 but has worked as Assistant Winemaker for the farm since 1995. He studied Oenology at Elsenberg and gained international experience in France while working for Michel Rolland. He is assisted by Wilson Waterboer and the cellar team.

Remarkable history and longevity through 10 back vintages of @meerlustwine #rubicon with the South African Wine Society. Thank you LK for the generous treat.

Rubicon is Meerlust’s flagship wine and considered one of South Africa’s premier Bordeaux Blend reds, first made in 1980. This vertical of nine vintages included 1996, 2001, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008  and 2009. I’ve added 2010, tasted recently through Ontario’s VINTAGES release program. In addition, we tasted cabernet sauvignon 2004, infrequently made, the previous time in 1993. This is the prime ingredient to the Bordeaux blend, usually making up around 60 per cent of the wine, with merlot, cabernet franc (and from 2008 on), petit verdot added. Thank you to Laurel Keenan of Wines of South Africa Canada, for having me and to Eleanor Cosman of the South African Wine Society, for hosting. Here are the notes.

Meerlust Rubicon 2010, Wo Stellenbosch, South Africa (64329, $37.95, WineAlign)

Meerrlust’s iconic blend is a Stellenbosch essential, of the ripest fruit and fully-rendered barrel. I’m quite amazed at its uncanny ability to appeal, even at this seven year mark, a show of generosity and gregarious character almost unparalleled for a wine of its Western Cape ilk. The geology runs deep, neither reductive, sap-flowing or bouncy, but the mineral sear and streak is certainly there. This Rubicion trades fecundity for earthy chocolate, uncompromising and unapologetic in its frosting. Beef is a must, preferably rare and dark from high heat char. Dry-aged and or Wagyu would pair even better. The blend is 62 per cent cabernet sauvignon, (24) merlot, (12) cabernet franc and (2) petit verdot. Drink 2017-2021.  Tasted February 2017

Meerlust Rubicon 2009, Wo Stellenbosch, South Africa (WineAlign)

Winemaker Chris Williams forged the people’s Rubicon in 2009, a Bordeaux blend as recognizable in name and style as much as any produced in not only South Africa, but worldwide. Everything is attractive in 2009, beginning with these quite lovely liquid dusty, rich mulberry and deep plum notes. To a crowd of 75 it can’t help but be the standout of general consensus for its sheer restrained hedonism and unabashed beauty. Youth has so much to do with how this shows but believe me 2009 is just a baby, so much more so than 2008 and they are only a year apart. The blend is 70 per cent cabernet sauvignon, (20) merlot, (9) cabernet franc and (1) petit verdot. Drink 2019-2027.  Tasted September 2017

Meerlust Rubicon 2008, Wo Stellenbosch, South Africa (WineAlign)

The 2008 is the first vintage with some petit verdot in the mix though it’s just a start, with one per cent to go along in a blend of (71) cabernet sauvignon, (19) merlot and (9) cabernet franc. Shows some volatility and also more wood in the context of an espresso-chocolate continuum. Here a deeply hematic and iron schisty Rubicon, intense, brooding, mineral well dug deep into the terroir. This goes strong and powerful up the sides of the tongue with that fine but intense acidity. Unquestioned as a fine wine with lots of wood derived chocolate flavours but the spice is all fruit and the tannin from off of that fruit. Massive structure and age possibility will go well into the twenties. Drink 2017-2027.  Last tasted September 2017.

Rubber dust, road macadam and strawberry jam. Fierce Bordeaux Blend home from a hot climate. This has gritty obduracy and doggedness. Like a red blend with a gun, walking the mean streets. Acidity shot through the roof. Bordeaux meets South Africa in every shared, resplendent and promising way. Rasping tannins contain bursting dark fruit, the grain running in multiple directions. Respect. Wait two more years on this and drink comfortably past 2020. Tasted November 2014

Meerlust Rubicon 2007, Wo Stellenbosch, South Africa (WineAlign)

Rubicon 2007 is the last to be made without any petit verdot (74 per cent cabernet sauvignon, (15) merlot and (11) cabernet franc) and is actually not too dissimilar to ’06 though truly lighter and with more high bright intensity. It is also possessive of that collective ropey, red dusty cured and dried fruit character, like what can happen with traditionally adhered to sangiovese and tempranillo. So really when you think about it this shares a style, at least in part with more than its Bordeaux cousins. Yet go and ask winemaker Chris Williams and he’ll tell you “I dont think this wine could be made anywhere else because of terroir and history.” Fair enough. Surely the winemaker knows. Drink 2017-2026.  Tasted September 2017

Meerlust Rubicon 2006, Wo Stellenbosch, South Africa (WineAlign)

Rubicon is one of the original South African Bordeaux blends, here in 2006 with merlot and cabernet franc to satisfy the blended needs of cabernet sauvignon. The blend is 74 per cent cabernet sauvignon, (8) merlot and (18) cabernet franc. This ’06 is a bit shy, reserved, not giving much away from its usual floral heights. There is a layering of palate density before then deriving its complexity through the alleys of acidity, tannin and structure. Still so far from coming around but this reminds me of that salty, saline and mineral 1996. Drink 2017-2022.  Tasted September 2017

Meerlust Rubicon 2005, Wo Stellenbosch, South Africa (WineAlign)

In 2005 the blend (69 per cent cabernet sauvignon, (15) merlot and (16) cabernet franc) saw an increase of cabernet franc, likely because of heat units and a vintage-driven jamminess exhibited by the cabernet sauvignon. The result is a cooler, increased savoury blend with a rising of steroidal currants so very sapid in a pool of high acidity. It’s the most lucent Rubicon, almost luminescent though not quite transparent, still so vital, pulsating and nearly raging in its wild, twitchy edgy energy, even beastly and in the end, just a bit out of balance. Like a Steve Vai riff in Zappa mode. Then again, the, Rubicon ’05, anything but a flex able leftover or quaint little wine might tell me, “I’m the beast of love and you just got in my way.” Drink 2017-2025.  Tasted September 2017

Meerlust Rubicon 2004, Wo Stellenbosch, South Africa (WineAlign)

Rubicon 2004 is a completely different animal, with animale musk and a deep, dark and brooding constitution. The blend is 63 per cent cabernet sauvignon, (27) merlot and (10) cabernet franc. Shows 13 years on as the young (Chris Williams) winemaker’s ambitious first solo effort, while the wood was once so obviously in power of demand, it’s now ameliorated and integrated. This must have taken some time to come around, perhaps as recent as a year or two ago. Rubicon has been produced since 1980, was previuosly a matter of cabernet sauvignon, now here with more cabernet franc than before. Drink 2017-2025.  Tasted September 2017

Meerlust Rubicon 2003, Wo Stellenbosch, South Africa (WineAlign)

Rubicon 2003 was made by Chris Williams’ predecessor Giorgio Dalla Cia and from ’04 on they are made by Williams. The blend is 69 per cent cabernet sauvignon, (19) merlot and (12) cabernet franc. From a long hot dry sumer, a classic Rubicon, again with some lovely complexity out of the shadow of volatility, more savour here and cedar, plus pencil lead and graphite. In the freshest of ways this is closer to the present stylistic of Rubicon and Stellenbosh and further away than 1996. It’s the transition from old to new, with concentrated black currant, Cassis and wine gum. Not quite tertiary bit meaty char, balsamic, fennel and mushroom are just around the corner. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted September 2017

Meerlust Rubicon 2001, Wo Stellenbosch, South Africa (WineAlign)

2001, a warmer vintage is the assumption, with its wood still in play and tannins truly continuing their assertion. Giorgio dalla Cia fashioned a truly proportioned blend, of 70 per cent cabernet sauvignon with equal parts merlot and cabernet franc. While it can’t hide from its ocean salinity and omnipresent terroir it is a stand out vintage because of new world opulence. I’m not sure there will be another Rubicon in this tasting or at any opportunistic time that will make one dream so vividly of Bordeaux (i.e Château Pichon Longueville Baron) but also Napa Valley (i.e. Opus One). The structure in this Rubicon is purely Stellenbosch and with its merlot/cabernet franc proportion it’s quite intriguing, especially because of the warmth and how dramatically this foreshadows how franc will become more important in the blend as the years progress by. A fantastic wine Drink 2017-2021.  Tasted September 2017

Meerlust Rubicon 1996, Wo Stellenbosch, South Africa (WineAlign)

In 1996 Chris Williams was a junior winemaker (to Giorgio della Cia) at the time but he remembers the vintage well. The blend is 70 per cent cabernet sauvignon, (20) merlot and (10) cabernet franc, from a cool vintage, here still dishing some Brettanomyces. It’s in check and so kind, gentle and helps to fixate towards thinking it a a sleeper vintage sort of personality There is much savour, still fruit (mulberry and plum), lots of acidity in quite a sour patch candy way but really dry and intense.Plenty of sediment! Very much alive with the silty, salty, but not fine pearly tannin. This falls into the saline-savoury style with wood just a dream from long ago, though admittedly a bit too pungent and earthy. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted September 2017

Meerlust Rubicon 1984, Wo Stellenbosch, South Africa (WineAlign)

Meerlust dates back to 1693, the house that is “love or pleasure of the sea.” Less than five kms south from the Atlantic Ocean, the property was purchased in 1756 and to this day remains family owned, now in its eighth generation with 260 years of continuity. Rubicon 1984 is poured (with brilliant decision making) from magnum and is therefore fresher than the 1996 with an incredibly controlled level of fineness in tannin, from acidity and at the threshold of understood volatility. “Perhaps one did not want to be loved so much as to be understood,” like this early Rubicon. The future of Meerlust is foretold with Orwellian transparency, bold honesty and expert ability. “Who controls the past controls the future.” Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted September 2017

Meerlust Cabernet Sauvignon 2004, Wo Stellenbosch, South Africa (283390, $29.95, WineAlign)

Meerlust’s solo cabernet sauvignon ’04 is not merely very much alive it’s still full of bright fruit, though the wood is more noticeable than on the Rubicon. It is the lack of cabernet franc more than anything that seems to be the reason. The ganache component is highly significant, a chocolate factor magnified but still the Meerlust acidity drives the machine. Ripe and ripping with tannins still very much in charge, this wouldn’t be harmed by the generous and patient affording of more time so that it may further evolve to become the pleasing red it knows it will be. Drink 2017-2024.  Tasted September 2017

Not just #meerlust more like major lust. Thank you for the sexy time travel @meerlustwine Laurel Keenan and The South African Wine Society.

Good to go!

Godello

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

WineAlign