As we head into the March break, here is a little something to think about in advance of next weekend’s VINTAGES March 19th Italian themed release. The offer is substantial and it comes on the heels of last week’s brilliant display of Sangiovese Grosso at the Art Gallery of Ontario for the recent coming of Benvenuto Brunello 2016.
Two of my favourite actors (Lee Marvin and Jeff Bridges) played pivotal roles in John Frankenheimer’s adaptation of Eugene O’Neill’s famous play. The Iceman Cometh is set in 1912 America with hard characters who live a pipe dream in their collective search for political and religious salvation. In one way or another they seek the sentimental reminiscences of their glory days and form a covenant to return to them tomorrow. The Iceman represents a sort of messiah meets grim reaper, killing the fantasy of the “tomorrow movement,” offering not salvation, but death.
So what does this have anything to do with Italian wine? Pretty much absolutely nothing, except for the plain and simple analysis about the Italians on offer for March 19. I recommend some beauties so don’t think that the death or the apocalypse of Italian wine is upon us. In fact, the greater category is booming, selling more product in Ontario and Canada as a whole then it ever has. Last month’s Vancouver International Wine Festival laid testament to the fact.
No, it’s just that so many of the reds and whites in the themed release walk a straight, boring and predictable path right down the middle of the road. Italy’s vast pool of talent would love to send us the best of the best, at $15, $50 and $150, if only the monopoly would receive. And so my friends, today I choose to consider the LCBO as the Iceman, all in good fun, of course. Who takes me seriously anyway? Certainly not me, fool as I am.
Here we have six stars from the VINTAGES release and six ethereal Brunelli still ringing in my ears and singing in my mouth. Sangiovese with the uncanny and impossible ability to linger for four days. There were many more worth mentioning because when you are holed up in a room full of Brunello, life is perfectly grand.
Where for art thou Brunello?
La Fiorita’s 2009 normale is a special bottle of Brunello from a best of all worlds vintage. It exhibits the charms and shares the gifts of a posit tug between firmness and elegance. At this seven-year stage it evidences the first signs of secondary character, with spices dissolved in mulled liqueur and a new fathom of depth perceived. The measure of intensity is not one of dank, darkness or even pitch but rather profundity. The translation reads as both Sangiovese chapter and verse. Excellent 2009 example just beginning to drink as it should. Drink 2016-2023. Tasted March 2016 @
Only 8,000 bottles were made of Col D’Orcia’s always formidable and classically structured Brunello. Elegance offers a glimpse of hopeful emergence even while its firmness is still fully intact. The added determination and epic struggles of the vintage translate to a singular Sangiovese type of funk from a vineyard, like so many other south-facing Montalcino slopes, of what may just be the greatest physical involuntariness in the world. The fruit and texture are delicate, of a veritable Tuscan gastronomy, pure vernacular and of a leathery lightness of brogan being. The youth in this Brunello is palpable, nearly awkward but certainly not backward. It is progressing as it should, lentamente, lentamente. Three more years minimum is needed to coax it out of its coriaceous hide. Drink 2019-2028. Tasted March 2016
The Riserva contains no single vineyard (Vigna del Fiore) fruit and is composed of a selection dictated by different vineyard qualities, not necessarily all on equal footing and all brought in to be vinified separately. As per the directive, an average of three years is spent in oak, followed by a transfer into stainless tank. The aim is a traditional, classic, typical, true masculine expression of Sangiovese Grosso. With the firm intent kept in mind, the 2004 is unstirring, closed, macho and fist clenched, even after all these years. An hour later it extends an outstretched finger or two of kept fruit and bred in the bone funk in your direction, but no more. This Riserva is gripped by a fine dust and even finer, senescent and patrician grains of tannin equal in quantity to the stars in the sky. If 2004 is not one of Barbi’s better to greater vintages for Riserva the constellations will have to be re-drawn. To me this represents a foregone conclusion to purchase, further cellar briefly and open when the skies are blue. Drink 2018-2029. Tasted March 2016 @ @
The Vigna del Fiore single-vineyard designate Sangiovese tells an engraved, emblematic and heraldic Montalcino story. First made in 1981, the infamous Barbi Grosso was originally crafted as a celebration for Francesca Colombini’s 50th birthday. Previous to that inaugural release the grapes from the most southeastern part of the property were used in the blend of the Brunello Riserva. Inferential importance exists within the context of familial connectivity in this Blue label Barbi. Ancestral lineage matters, as does the nurturing femininity of the undertaking. Spends its first, early developing year in older French barriques, followed by two years in traditional, regionally employed (700L) traditional Slavonian oak. If the 2004 (or subsequent vintages) are perceived as expressive of an international style, chalk that up to effete but so much vineyard and next stage, secondary through tertiary evolution agrees to confound. The ’04 lays in soft exude with the wise smell of its original, naturally curated state, of cherries, roses and earth. Today the texture floats in the optimum buoyant air above a contiguously circled round globe, begs for and speaks of aged Tuscan cheese, like Brillo Pecorino DiVino or Toscano Stagionato. The next few years will be the best. Drink 2016-2020. Tasted March 2016
Tasted alongside La Mannella’s 2010 Riserva this seems tame, elegant and baby-faced in comparison but it is no shrinking Sangiovese Grosso violet. No, sir. Assessed on its own it is in itself a wholly complex and beastly thing. The tonality is stratospheric, with a distant, amplified and magnified set of cherry to leather parameters. Very floral and blessed by holy drops of liquor. All that said, this 2010 Brunello of basic and modest means can be approached in the here and now provided a good decanting is strictly followed. Drink 2016-2022. Tasted March 2016 @ @
Podere Le Ripe Lupie Sirene Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva 2009, Tuscany, Italy
A classy and classic, traditionally-styled, pure and ripe Sangiovese. Cherries, leather, sweet liqueur and anise confer in perfume. What a revelation, with late spice and a chocolate-laced finish. Lovely and really fine. The right stuff and though on the sweet side, that should dissipate with five to eight years in bottle. Drink 2017-2024. Tasted March 2016 @
The Italians cometh
Jerzu Chuèrra Riserva Cannonau Di Sardegna 2011, Doc Sardinia, Italy (270272, $17.95, WineAlign)
Lovely dry, dusty, musty and prickling Sardignian, properly Grenache rustic and approaching a level of divine. Cannonau of chew, leather, carbon fruit sketch, arid and rehydrated in residual freshness endowment. Get behind all $18 of this honest weighted red and put your char on. Drink 2016-2020. Tasted March 2016 @
Terredora Di Paolo Loggia Della Serra Greco Di Tufo 2014, Docg Campania, Italy (983197, $19.95, WineAlign)
Herbal is the understatement, saline the connecting cable, texture the conduit for extreme unction. Cumulatively intellectual qualities that endow this Greco di Tufo with more sumptuousness than it had achieved in recent times. Aromatic wealth comes by way of citrus preserved, pressed and layered. The overall impression is warmth, stress without breakdown and excessive personality. Still somehow its strikes as endemic, ancient, weird and wonderful. Drink 2016-2019. Tasted March 2016 @ @ @
Il Molino Di Grace Il Margone Chianti Classico Gran Selezione 2010, Tuscany, Italy (435115, $39.95, WineAlign)
In a VINTAGES feature of more MOR Italy then should be rolled out in one media tasting, at least here we have multiple semblance of personality. Not quite sure we’ll call to celebration $40 of dynamism but there are inherent deep invested Sangiovese characteristics nonetheless. Tight angles, rigid corners and a Brunello-Sangiovese-like liqueur. Grosso in as much as CCR can be, with some dedicated rusticity and tannins still in action. Dries out nicely on the finish. Put some away for a 2020 rainy day. Drink 2018-2024. Tasted March 2016 @ @
Donatella Cinelli Colombini Brunello Di Montalcino 2008, Brunello Di Montalcino, Tuscany, Italy (431718, $56.95, WineAlign)
A vintage perceived as tough, difficult, demanding and volatile is just now entering the zone of changing perceptions. It has taken all this time to realize its abilities. Longevity for one. Beauty behind the mask, the other. Concentration is not so much ripeness and richness but of deeper meaning than that. Nothing here sits on the surface. Peel away a layer of orange, spice bark and bulb husk to taste from the inner fruit. From the core. “There is fire, there is life, there is passion, fever and fury.” That is Brunello. The tannins persist with near nastiness but there is so much to look forward too. Wait two more years. Drink 2018-2028. Tasted March 2016 @ @ @
Giuseppe Quintarelli Rosso Ca’ Del Merlo 2007, Igt Veneto, Italy (722470, $99.95, WineAlign)
Rich Ca’ del Merlo from Quintarelli heeded with volatility and consumption. Veneto of war and peace, light, bracing, angular, seeping, steeping, macerated, tea leave studded and tannic for further thought. In this 2007 it is hard to not get caught up in the amalgamation’s bright sweep. Corvina, Corvinone, Rondinella, Cabernet Sauvignon, Nebbiolo, Croatina and Sangiovese, like reading Tolstoy, all together “alive, and very much so.” Will live for quite some time, but wait two years before embarking on the journey. Drink 2018-2030. Tasted March 2016 @ @
Tenuta dell’Ornellaia Ornellaia 2012, Doc Bolgheri Superiore, Tuscany, Italy (722470, $195.50, WineAlign)
Takes the purity of 2011, furthers the integration and mimics the precision, then pumps up the volume. Takes a breath and then, with soluble efficiency it refines the intricately woven lines a few steps furtrher, if that is even possible. I will say that the tannins are a bit tougher in ’12, with a tight string wound depressively around the fruit’s long and elegant tendrils. Fruit is the determinate factor, pure, blossoming and fragrant. It adds up to a consensus of one thought, that this vintage is yet another legend in the making, a fine and linear Ornellaia that should travel 30 plus years, perhaps longer. What liqueur, such botanicals and endless valleys passing through fertile hills. Drink 2019-2045. Tasted November 2015 @ @ @
Good to go!
WineAlign: Michael Godel