A tasting of wines from Italy is a huge event and though its girth had shed some earlier weight, by Canadian standards it prevails as an epic tasting. On Monday November 4th, 2012 the Italian Trade Commission, under the auspices of the consulate general of Italy Toronto, presented the 17th Annual Wine Tasting at Roy Thomson Hall. The ITC is the government agency that promotes the internationalization of Italian companies. The tasting event is a boon for the Italian wine industry which collectively holds an 18 per cent market share and $219 million in sales, making them the leader of imported wines in Ontario.
Trade Italy is a rock ‘n roll outfit that traverses Canada on an eight-day whirlwind tour. Stops in Vancouver, Calgary, and Montreal fill out the schedule. The Toronto show included tables of good eats; Italianate charcuterie and cheeses to compliment the nearly 500 wines poured by more than 70 producers from as far North as the Alps to the tip of the boot in Sicily. Honourable mention goes out to Authentic’s Frank Rey, he of magical spider arms and cat reflexes to keep up with bartender speed so the masses might get their taste of the ethereal Ornellaia 2009 (95).
While it would have made for an Omerian tale to have tasted everything on offer, the sheer mass of it all (wines, wine agents and tasters) made for more of a Joycean, Ulysses, stream of consciousness affair. A certain level of linear focus was required and so my Odyssey was bent on revisiting classics and the discovery of unusual nooks and crannies from deep within the Italian landscape. Here are my top three highlights from the epic event.
- Top three highlights from “A tasting of wines from Italy”
Castello Di Gabiano
Monferrato Rosso Gavius 2008 of 85% Barbera and 15% Pinot Nero and its organoleptic characteristics is subject to a variety of oak treatment, unlike the more entry-level La Braja. The Gavius goes gravelly and gangly and the Pinot adds a breadth of Brett in a very minor key. Greets you with gritty acidity. A great slice of Gabiano’s game. 88
Barbera D’Asti Superiore Adornes 2007 is Barbera and nothing but Barbera emerging from an 18-month slumber in wood. High altitude attitude, cool at its centre, warm, low and slow on the long trip down. Oh, baby Barbera. 91
Gabiano Riserva A Matilde Giustiniani 2006 adds a wee bit of indigenous Freisa into a Barbera already living the chill life. Fully resolved tannins here, less acidity and fully floral violet aromas. From the high slopes of a minuscule DOC, fully justified fruit is calm and collected in its golden years. 90
Monferrato Bianco Riserva Chardonnay 2010 blows my mind. Step aside Cervaro, this beauty walks an impossibly fine line between sharp citrus, orchard fruit, piercing minerality and a tropical, honey viscosity. At once fresh and searing, then again mellow and mellifluous. Terrific length. Italian Chardonnay gets no better than this. 92
Bolgheri Piastraia 2008 holds on tightly to its heartstrings and offers little at this time. A tale of beauty and beast; majestic colour but bearing dangerous teeth. A four by 25 mix of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah and Sangiovese, the Pia wants to sing like Toscano but her voice is suppressed by tannins fierce and biting. Revisit the songstress in five years when her voice and craft have refined beyond idol times. 90
Toscana Il Cavaliere 2006 “is a brand new funky president” possessed of Satta’s inimitable perfume, not unlike Pegau. Satta’s funk is more like a grunting cinghiale roaming the vineyard’s innards. The brown, earthy animale sure ain’t honey but it’s music to my ears, or perfume to my nose. Behind the musk is fantastic deep berry and plum fruit and a wall of invigoration. 93
Bolgheri I Castagni 2006 turns a corner of modernity, whispers cinghiale but is more of an elegant, black cherry driven coastal expression of Cabernet Sauvignon with hits of Syrah and Terdolego. Tobacco, tea and black pepper make for points of interest. 91
Monforte D’Alba, Piemonte
Barbera D’Alba Roca Neira Superiore 2006 is a 12,000 case, 100% Barbera knockout. Black cherry and Cassis liqueur cordial as if decadent Châteauneuf or Paulliac. Presented by the efficacious and hypnotizing Elene Ercole who explains that Rocca is a modern operation with one foot in tradition and the other stepping into the future of Piemontese wine. A tiny oxy note shows the Neira’s age and avant-garde nature. 91
Langhe Ornati 2006 blends 35% Nebbiolo and 30% Cabernet Sauvignon into Barbera for full Super-Piemontese effect. Though Elena scrunches her nose just a tweak at this moniker mention, the modern styling and remarkably approachable soft, silky smooth fruit speaks to an IGT mentality. Long Langhe, loveable and fluid. 90
Barolo 2007 of graceful elegance and velvety mouthfeel is a sight to behold. Diaphanous tendrils swirl in eddies in the glass. Tenuta Rocca suggest that to maximize enjoyment of their wine you need leave them in the “same horizontal position as when it arrives in its case until the moment of consumption.” I will do my best. 92
Barolo San Pietro 2007 from Monforte will move to Serralunga but for now the warm and balanced vintage gives the world an exemplary expression of modern Barolo. With no disrespect for the sumptuous and ancient rune that are the wines of Settimo, Rocca’s ability to reign in Nebbiolo fruit with such intensity has me hooked. The San Pietro’s complex character of gaseous plasma, spiralling helices of energy and outright ultra-violet radiance is exquisite. Cherry, leather, spice, vanilla and chocolate are all there. Spongy Barolo. 94
Good to go!