Fear not dear Ontario wine consumer. Neither advertisement nor earworm jingle will be implanted inside your head, nor a benediction to invoke the virtues of Solaia or Sassicaia neither. There will be no mention of the X-word but like it or not, it has begun. The VINTAGES machine got going this past Saturday with its first big buying time of year roll-out on October 29th. For 11 months a year the $30-$3,000 category appeals to one per cent of the wine buying population but increases to perhaps five when the bells begin to ring. By my count there are 15 (or so) October 29th release big guns now on shelves, half of which are reviewed right here.
Domaine De Pignan Châteauneuf Du Pape 2013, Ac Rhône, France (473678, $36.95, WineAlign)
In 1989 Frédéric Charvin began to work his family’s vineyard, like Louis and René Pécoul, Pécoul François and Pécoul Antoine before him. His Domain goes back 160 years and the average age of Pignan’s vines are 60 years, three of them are a hundred years old. Subtle for Châteauneuf Du Pape (if that can even be such a thing) with mineral mourvedre and soild syrah funk streaking through the grenache. The other varieties add up to 11 per cent and we should not discount their blending capabilities, for structure and for balance. Equanimity is the name of the game in this esteemed section of the southern Rhône Valley and kudos to Pignan for bringing reason and reserve to the table. The potential here is 10 plus years and yet plenty of value and pleasure will be afforded along the way. Drink 2018-2025. Tasted October 2016 #domainedepignan@terroirtoronto@VINSRHONE
Zuccardi Zeta 2012, Uco Valley, Mendoza, Argentina (163725, $39.95, WineAlign)
Zeta is a vital and conspicuous malbec-dominated bottling from careful fruit selection for Jose and Sebastian Zuccardi. The fruit is chosen from specific lots out of La Consulta and triggered by catalyst cabernet sauvignon grown in the Gualtallary Vineyards. These two locales rank with Mendoza’s best and the effects of such ripe extracted fruit in combinative if combative cohorts is one of depth, layering and extreme warmth. The alcohol and acidity on top of massive fruit extraction is beholden to nothing. This one stands firm, confident, tall and with great conceit. It is a force to be reckoned with. Drink 2016-2019. Tasted October 2016 @SebaZuccardi@ZuccardiWines@FamiliaZuccardi@winesofarg@ArgentinaWineCA
Beringer Private Reserve Chardonnay 2014, Napa Valley, California (26682, $47.95, WineAlign)
Though richly aromatic and textured this is the first Private Reserve in many years to act with this kind of beautiful reserve. The barrel aging is less engaging than the previous, lets say, 17 years and so fruit is smartly in play. A bite of crisp apple while whiffing the early baking scents of pie is the conjuring in revelrous demure. Here a minor hypnosis from a delicious Beringer that will only improve with a year or two in bottle. Drink 2018-2022. Tasted October 2016 @beringervyds@NapaVintners@CalifWines_CA
Gallo Signature Series Cabernet Sauvignon 2013, Napa Valley, California (394197, $50.95, WineAlign)
The three-R guarantee of ripe, rich and robust from winemaker Gina Gallo accompanies the Signature Series cabernet sauvignon. Hue and structure addendum are provided by a combined five per cent petit verdot and petite sirah. William Hill is the primary source of fruit from Vaca foothills, rocky, thin and nutrient-deprived Silverado benchland soils. Monte Rosso and a few bucket loads of petite sirah from the Louis Martini Thomann Station Vineyard round out the accumulation. The parched vintage is responsible for this parged cabernet, juicy by Cassis and stereotypical blackberry but managed to further warmth with dried black fig and a barque char on brisket straight from the smoker. The naturally-flavoured bovine-bresaola charcuterie crust is so very Napa Valley hillside issue so ageability is yet another Gallo guarantee. Drink 2018-2025. Tasted October 2016 @GalloFamily@Winegirl23@NapaVintners@CalifWines_CA
Fattoria Dei Barbi Brunello Di Montalcino 2010, Tuscany, Italy (928028, $53.95, WineAlign)
Quite approachable for the normally firm and hands off in its youth Barbi. Always with a foot firmly rooted in the past and yet the house seems to be slowly waltzing into the modernity of the future. This has hallmark roses and cherries under leathery hides but also a beautifully bright and dynamic luminescence. It also carries a silky texture that should have it pause less than the habitual five years to fully shine. So, a newer and earlier gifting Sangiovese and that’s quite alright. Drink 2017-2023. Tasted January 2016 @FattoriaBarbi@ConsBrunello@Noble_Estates
Though it may long ago have been considered the quintessential one, there may be no other Alsatian gewürztraminer more important than Weinbach’s Cuvée Laurence. The reasons are manyfold but begin and end with memory and legacy. This was daughter and sister Laurence Faller’s prized wine, the wine she put her name to, that defined her gracious winemaking in echo of the estate she worked. Her family has carried the torch and yet her touch is all over this wine. Calm, composed, balanced and ethereal. Laurence is a clear expression of the marly limestone soil beneath the lieu-dit of Altenbourg, located at the base of the great Grand Cru Furstentum vineyard. Where else do you find gewürztraminer of such delicasse, from which classic aromas (rose petal, creamy to boozy-syrupy tropical fruit) and impossible unction combine without ukase? Nowhere. The acidity does not act with impulse. No, it rings, supports and lingers. The extract is intense but out of mind. Exceptional vintage. Drink 2018-2033. Tasted October 2016 #domaineweinbach@AlsaceWines@drinkAlsace@ACT_Alsace@VinsAlsace
Stony Hill Chardonnay 2010, Napa Valley, California (444471, $71.00, WineAlign)
Time has been kind to this Napa Valley chardonnay, with the score drawn up in fruit and wood fully settled and into calm denoument. The hard bite into green apple crossed with butterscotch candy is no sugary afterthought and the elastic viscocity perfectly in tune with the waning acidity. If middle age is a thing for Napa Valley chardonnay then here you have it. The length has yet to find the door. Drink 2016-2019. Tasted October 2016 @StonyHillWine@NapaVintners@CalifWines_CA
The firmness of the vintage uncouples and engages the eyes open wide with a Quintarelli presented so taut and so tense. Just the thought of how long it will take for this Valpolicella to not only open up but develop into secondary life is frightening. There are aromas here I can’t or don’t presently recall. Currants, fennel, tobacco, cedar, tar, roses. Or maybe I do. The figs and dried plums are there but either so faint or conjured up from memory of how things ought to be. This Quinterelli is designed as it needs to be. Young, unapproachable, deferential and miles away from nowhere. It may become one of the longer lived. Drink 2020-2035. Tasted September 2016 #Quintarelli@LiffordON
At least one of every two or three of you will be donning a costume to make a ghastly appearance at a party tomorrow night. A lack of clothing and some make-up to indicate gashes, scars and likely death will trump Game of Thrones and then again, nothing trumps Trump, does it? Please, no clown masks this year.
Saturday’s VINTAGES October 29th release features some highly recommended top-end wines. I’ll try to put them up on Godello next week but if you are a WineAlign subscriber you can find them on Michael’s Mix tomorrow. For now you need some affordable juice to offer up to hosts, to fill those travellers and for your glass next to the candy bowl on Monday night. Here they be, your top 10 wines to pour on Halloween.
Kir Yianni Estate White Samaropetra Vineyard 2015, Macedonia, Greece (464511, $17.95, WineAlign)
This Ktima begs for more than a curiosity and well-beyond a major point of interest. The split between roditis and sauvignon blanc brings two disparate worlds together out of a single (Samaropetra) vineyard. The stark and mineral roditis is lifted by the sweet extract of sauvignon blanc and the union is remarkably seamless. This carries texture and presence. It is very easy to drink. If the acidity were naturally improved upon it would be just perfect. Perhaps a few per cent more roditis and less (Macedonian) sauvignon blanc would do the balancing trick. Drink 2016-2019. Tasted September 2016 @kiryianni@KolonakiGroup@DrinkGreekWine
An extra year of aging has softened the one taut 2011 character of Lornano’s straight-shooting Chianti Classico. If it represented good value at this time last year then it is now simply being given away. There are few equals at $18 for honest, pure and modern sangiovese. Nearly 110 years after Lornano was created, Nicolò Pozzoli and Silvio Campatelli have gifted this plum, cedar, leather and dark cherry sangiovese to the Ontario market. With its vibrant acidity intact and the tannins still fighting for shelf space, why even allow this to gather dust. By a case and drink one every two months for the next two years. Drink 2016-2018. Tasted September 2016 @LornanoWines@chianticlassico
Niepoort Dão Rótulo Red 2013, Doc Dão, Portugal (452722, $18.95, WineAlign)
“Don’t think me unkind. Words are hard to find.” Straightforward, slightly carbonic, juicy and somehwat, somehow firmly policed Douro blend kickstarted to the Ontario consumer for a three minute pop song. Light in alcohol and solidly set on its feet. “De do do do,” Da dao, dao, dao, “is all I want to say to you.” Drink 2016-2019. Tasted October 2016 @NiepoortWines@winesportugalCA
Château Du Bois Chantant Cuvée Laurence H. 2012, Ap Bordeaux Supérieur, Bordeaux, France (421206, $18.95, WineAlign)
Here is a beautufully funky, up tempo, old-school red, tie askew, unshaven, the bad boy in private school. Bordeaux Superieur with an attitude, like a young Peter Townshend, unhearalded but boy can he sing. Fruit really does sing, acids are elastic and prominent, tannins do their thing. This is a very solid, youthful, anxiety-riddled three minute Bordeaux pop song. “Not trying to ’cause a big s-s-sensation,” just one for my generation. Drink 2016-2019. Tasted September 2016 @ImportWineMAFWM@MarkAnthonyWine@BordeauxWines
Berola is the old name of the 12th century Cistercian Monasterio de Veruela, home to the offices occupied by the Denominación de Origen. Borsao’s choice of nomenclature is perfectly ironic. Berola is beautifully pure and juicy (80 per cent) garnacha from Campo de Borja. Syrah (20 per cent) plays a prominent and effective role, in partcular on the palate. Campo de Borja as an appellation just seems destined to be the next big syrah thing south of the Pyrennes despite garnacha’s endemic, planted and attentive dominance. Alluvial geology and a cool, arid climate suits the ex-pat variety. This is all about fruit, with some elevation addendum, mineral meets prevailing wind affectation and big bones. Tannin and alcohol are a factor, the latter much more so but where else are warmth and boozy liqueur handled with such ataraxy and ease? Balanced and ethereal combine for stupid value. Drink 2016-2020. Tasted twice, September and October 2016 @BorsaoBodegas@ChartonHobbs
Mastroberardino Fiano Di Avellino 2014, Campania, Italy (323998, $19.95, WineAlign)
Cracking vintage for what is consistently weighty and viscous Fiano with Chablis-like minerality to offset the near-honeyed aromatics and flavours. This is quite the romantic one from Campania, with a hint of Champagne lees, spice and texture minus the mousse. The requiem here is shellfish in a rich broth, either heavily scented or thickened by potato, or even an Italian tipo di minestra like Vichyssoise would be ideal. Drink 2016-2019. Tasted September 2016 @Mastroberardino@ProfileWineGrp
Creekside Iconoclast Syrah 2013, VQA St. David’s Bench, Niagara On The Lake, Ontario (471797, $22.95, WineAlign)
Iconoclast may sit in the Creekside nether syrah bailiwick but it smartly connects the entry-level with the BrokenPress by way of the St. David’s Bench. Freshness out of the purview 2013 growing season and minor keys played by wood are quiet as compared to the many shakes of the syrah peppermill. This is meaty syrah, like a slice of rootsy, gutsy and gritty Americana humble and independent pie. No one else in Ontario brings flowers, front porches, traditional riffs and smart, modern styling to syrah with such consistency. From winemaker Rob Power, singer, songwriter, renaissance man and all-around winemaking bon syrah vivant. Drink 2017-2022. Tasted September 2016 @CreeksideWine@hobbsandco@AMH_hobbsandco
Château Teyssier 2012, Ac Montagne Saint-Émilion, Bordeaux, France (226035, $24.95, WineAlign)
This is well-judged right bank Bordeaux with a hint of beneficial volatility and a life-affirming note of bitter tonic. Though taut and for a moment bracing, the fruit is lifted to handle the truth. Espresso dusts the finish post-haste but long after the party ahd been raging on. Temper and then tempered from a satellite appellation with a well-deserved righteous reputation. Drink 2017-2020. Tasted September 2016 @JCPMaltus@Dandurandwines@BordeauxWines
Jean Max Roger Cuvée Les Caillottes Sancerre 2015, Ac Loire, France (65573, $26.95, WineAlign)
One of the youngest, freshest and early to market Sancerre from Roger with striking stark reality right there at the forefront. From Caillottes soils out of Saint Martin, L’Epée and other vineyards located in the communes of Bué and Amigny. It is the blanket coverage of young (six or seven years) to near (40 year)-old vines that allows for a variegated expression and great value-driven Sancerre. The vintage is all about fruit and this one has it oozing in and out of every pore. It is the simplest Sancerre, partly vintage driven and partly due to its youth but I can’t really see much developing into the tertiary stage. Enjoy in the short term. Drink 2016-2019. Tasted October 2016 @oenophilia1@LoireValleyWine
Heredad De Baroja Gran Reserva 2002, Doca Rioja, Spain (276113, $29.95, WineAlign)
Don’t adjust your set. This label does indeed read 2002. There have been times when a vintage like 2001 has passed through VINTAGES and the integrity of the (100 per cent) age of the juice is called into question. Not only because of hue but also frehsness. There is no mistaking the age of this Rioja. The fruit has advanced into deeply evolved territory with shades of dried floral and sun-ripened leather. Such a liqueur can only be distilled from older Spain or Italy and this Baroja has it down. The acidity remains intact even as the tannin has fallen away. In the end the wine lingers and does nothing to indicate falling apart. This is a lovely old drop that will drink well for up to four more years so scoop some up. It won’t blow your mind but $30 is a pittance to pay for someone else doing all the cellaring work. Drink 2016-2019. Tasted October 2016 #HeredadDeBaroja@HHDImports_Wine
No country for old #vinhao or as @sommelierfou would say, “Apocalypse Vinhão.”
I recently returned home following an arduous, wild and exciting five days in Verona and Valpolicella. That night I fell into a coma even before my head had sunk into my memory foam pillow. I slept without a care to the world. When I awoke early Saturday morning my phone looked at me as if to say, “I’m sorry, but I have some bad news.”
David Pelletier, ‘Le Sommelier Fou’ and friends in Vinho Verde
I first met David Pelletier six months ago at the airport in Oporto, Portugal on Tuesday, March 29th, 2016. Before that time he was to me simply Le Sommelier Fou, an online presence for the intelligent, thorough and exacting French Canadian musings of a wine writer with a sensitive voice. Two things struck me straight away about Mr. Pelletier. His sweet and caring eyes and his uncanny and impossible ability to travel back and forth between the French and English languages as if he had been born with two tongues.
David Pelletier and group aboard the Vinho Verde bus, photo (c) Christopher Wilton
Sadly, while travelling in California a few weeks ago, David Pelletier passed away. It was a terrible shock. His family and friends have lost the man who smiled with his eyes. They have lost a brother, son, confidant, mentor, teacher and companion. My friends and colleagues in Quebec share a collective hole in their hearts. I can’t begin to understand their pain. My time with David Pelletier can only be measured in commatic and cosmetic terms. It was not enough.
As the week in Portugal’s Vinho Verde region progressed, I got to know some things about David, about his life at the Trafalgar School, about his desire to devote his professional life entirely to wine. I sympathized with him having recently converted my personal commitment to the same dream. We stayed in contact after Portugal. On September 6th he sent me this message. “Hi Michael, could I get an email address from you? yours, ideally. It’s to illegally apply for a credit card. Kidding of course. But your email address would be cool. Thanks.” I never got that e-mail from him and will never know what it might have been about.
The photobombing Le Sommelier Fou, photo (c) Christopher Wilton
With David’s passing I’ve decided that it is time to finally share some thoughts on that trip to Vinho Verde. With no disrespect intended towards the producers, winemakers, the administrative and marketing staff of the region, their wines and the places must share this stage with Mr. Pelletier. His memory will always be inextricably linked to my time spent there. I think my travel companions will agree. Evan Saviolidis, Michael Pinkus, Drew Innes, Christopher Wilton and Anton Potvin from Ontario. Marie-Michèle Grenier, Fred Fortin, Marie-Hélène Boisvert and Émilie Courtois of Quebec. To you all and to David I will always raise my glass of Vinho Verde in memory of Le Sommelier Fou.
Vinho Verde: Green And Light
History shows that Vinho Verde was mentioned by Seneca and Pliny between 96-51 BC. The name comes from the green colour that carpets the landscape and to the youth of the wine, historically held by believers as said to be best consumed within the first year. As you will soon find out, thing have changed.
The Comissão de Viticultura da Região dos Vinhos Verdes was created in 1926 and the demarcated Vinho Verde Region originally defined on September 18, 1908. Vinho Verde extends across the northwest of Portugal, in the area traditionally known as Entre-Douro-e-Minho. The Minho River is its northern frontier, forming part of the border with Spain. Its southern border is formed by the Douro River and the Freita, Arada and Montemuro mountains, to the east it’s bordered by the mountains of Peneda, Gerês, Cabreira and Marão, and the western border is the Atlantic Ocean. In Portugal its 21,000 hectares, 119,000 parcels, 19,000 grape growers, 600 bottlers and 2000 brands make up one tenth of total vineyards. In terms of geographical area, it is the largest Portuguese demarcated region and one of the largest in Europe.
There are four steps to certification; registration, labelling, yields and guarantee of quality. White Vinho Verde (84 per cent) is most often composed from a combination of these varieties; alvarinho, arinto, avesso, azal, loureiro and trajadura. More and more we find it flying solo as a varietal wine and increasingly from single-vineyards as well. Rosé (6 per cent) comes by way of espadeiro and padeiro and vinhão is the lone source for Red (10 per cent) Vinho Verde. The past 11 years have seen to growth for exports between two and four per cent and here in Canada we are the number four purchaser behind the US, Germany and France.
Meteorological and geographical connections begin with high rainfall (1200mm per year, concentrated between October and April) and a severe maritime influence, along with the thread running through that are Vinho Verde’s rivers. Subregions are demarcated by the rivers and thus the micro climates are created. Monção and Melgaço, Lima, Cávado, Ave, Basto, Sousa, Baião, Paiva and Amarante. Soils are mainly granite, of low depth, sandy or Franco-sandy, leaning towards moderate to high acidity, poorly phosphorous and of low fertility. Vinho Verde’s salinity and minerality is derived from the granitic soil.
Most consumers think of Vinho Verde as a slightly effervescent, simple white wine. Fizz is no longer created by secondary fermentation in the bottle. Now just a bit of Co2 is left behind to appease consumer demand. “We want to maintain Vinho Verde as it is known, as a light, low alcohol, aromatic wine.” So limiting the alcohol and designating the acidity (at 4.5 TA) is employed. “O Verde E Leve.” Green And Light.
Into the landscape Monverde Wine Experience Hotel @quintadalixa #vinhoverde #oporto #amarante #portugal
An introduction to Vinho Verde
I have been fortunate to taste examples of Vinho Verde on a regular basis in Toronto so my idea of style and diversity has expanded generously over the past five years. For most Ontario consumers Vinho Verde means, cheap, effervescent, gulpable white wine that you find in droves on LCBO shelves at the Dufferin and Dupont Galleria Mall. Many folks think of Vinho Verde as a grape variety and that all of the wines are exactly the same. To alter consciousness, the quest begins with a great effort. The demarcation point of initiative in requiem of supposition to lay bare and recalibrate the region’s unjustly exposed and indefensible position. The journey to Vinho Verde diversity begins at the Monverde Wine Experience Hotel.
At the Monverde Wine Experience Hotel Tomás Gonçalves of the Comissão de Viticultura da Região dos Vinhos Verdes pours 18 examples, including 12 single-varietal whites, two Rosé, a sparkling, a Vinhão and only two Vinho Verde blends. Fifteeen producers and nine sub-regions are represented. The decision to introduce a five-day intensive program with a heavy focus on varietal Vinho Verde is a brilliant first strike. Then follows a portfolio tasting of Monverde host winery Quinta da Lixa’s wines. The family owned company (two brothers and a cousin) ripped out and re-planted their vines in 1999. The $10-12 (Canadian projected) wines fall into the category of stupid, crazy value. It is here that the introduction to Vinho Verde is clearly compassed in varietal trajadura, loureiro and especially alvarinho. Ten Canadian journalists and sommeliers are hooked, their collective attention secured and kept curious into the first warm days of April. Well played Vinho Verde. Some notes from the Monverde Experience.
Architectural wonder of Monverde Wine Experience Hotel @vinhoverdeCA #visitvihnoverderegion
Casa de VilacetinhoVinho Verde Grande Escolha 2014, Vinho Verde, Portugal
The lost art and singular reason for blending endemic is found here in three A’s and one L. Here with avesso, arinto, azal and loureiro all aboard the mineral train with variegated tannin and salinity in tow. Pear skin, a touch of botrytis in the guise of banana bring warmth and sumptuousness to the palate though in the end all is qualified by terrific acidity. Drink 2016-2019. Tasted March 2016
Casal De Ventozela Loureiro Vinho Verde 2014, Vinho Verde, Portugal (445098, $14.95, WineAlign)
Loureiro from Villa Verde, grippy and mineral as it should be, marked by citrus, herbs and the slightest spark of CO2. This must have been prime, perfect in fact, in the wheelhouse even…six months ago. Still refreshing and yet savoury, nearly, though one step away from complex for the grape and a sense of place, from point A to B. Drink 2016. Tasted May 2016
Richer by nature of its glycerin texture, weightier and lifted by alcohol expression, a slight spritz and visions of petrol two to three years away. Mineral tang unlike the compatriots in side by five VV tasting flight. Green olive emerges with five minutes of air like brine from the Manzanilla jar and then acidity sets in. Loueiro all the way. Tasted March 2016 @LeSommelierWine
Modestu’s Vinho Verde 2014, Doc Vinho Verde, Portugal
From the sub region Região de Basto this 100 per cent arinto carries an aromatic mustiness matched and foiled by a lively palate, in what is ostensibly a seconded VV with serious mineral tang. Such great presence is catchy and gaining on you with an underlying savoury pinning. Reminds me of tea leaf chenin blanc, with intruding notes of anise and Chá. Drink 2016-2019. Tasted March 2016
Quinta da Levada Azal 2014, Doc Vinho Verde, Portugal
Azal steps up and claims worthy status from the word go with energy, open aromatics and a pressing matter of density. The tumult of mineral will speak but first brightness full of glade under dappled sun. Stone fruit flavours and their pith with mineral wrap around takes the palate to fully juiced and spirited territory. The most expression and balance is ascertained thus far, halfway through an 18 strong Vinho Verde tasting. The length is exceptional. Drink 2016-2020. Tasted March 2016
With the Comissão de Viticultura da Região dos Vinhos Verdes at the Monverde World Experience Hotel
Quinta De Linhares Azal Vinho Verde 2014, Doc Vinho Verde, Portugal (218222, $14.95, WineAlign)
Here boasts another terrific azal expression but with more litheness within the context of freshness. The level of spritz is charmingly old school and together with that lighter density not as full and therefore in any evolving hurry. Pricks early and dissipates to calm at the finish. Drink 2016-2020. Tasted March 2016
Quinta do Regueiro Alvarinho Monção and Melgaço Reserva 2014, Doc Vinho Verde, Portugal
Seductively saline and ever so venerable, nascent briny, fresh borne alighting Alvarinho, spritely, sharp and fresh. The hyperbole of inchoate viridity and sparkle should alarm in effervescence but the green and the vegetal make for real life twice what other similarly styled alvarinho are wont to express. A run on sentence of Vinho Verde if ever there was. A regional voice and a score for the alvarinho out of Monção and Melgaço conjunction. Drink 2016-2019. Tasted March 2016
Quinta da Lixa Escolha Colheita 2015, Doc Vinho Verde, Portugal
Though trajadura is not the most usual of single-varietal bottlers, this exceptionally fruity example comes from the best harvest in the last 50 years. “A winemaker’s harvest,” observes oenologist Carlos Teixeira, sunny at pick, but low in nitrogen, with a natural fermentation in need of a bit of a boost with some selected yeasts. S’got that chenin blanc faux sugar thing going on, much mineral and a leesy nose. Lees work is maximized in a very short period as the wines are bottled before the new year. Pear, green apple and white plum, fruity florals, very clean and then even more into the mineral. Mono-varietal purity in the cleanest fashion of low malic acidity but magic in acidity nevertheless, like it just doesn’t need any reason to rage. Drink 2016-2019. Tasted March 2016
Quinta da Lixa Alvarinho Pouco Comum 2015, Minho, Portugal
The “uncommon” alvarinho is the winery’s celebration of Portugal’s most noble white variety. Has the platinum and inside pipe tang. Very mineral. Made from four different single-varietal wines and blended together. Selected yeasts are chosen to bring out the different characters of alvarinho; fruity, floral and mineral. This really, really reminds me of pinot grigio made in a slightly advanced, reaching for complexity out of simplicity way. Complicit Vinho Verde with nary a moment of residual spritz. Drink 2016-2020. Tasted March 2016 @QuintadaLixa
At the Tempus Hotel and Spa we tasted through the ViniVerde, Estreia portfolio. Promoção e Comércio de Vinhos Verdes, SA is a holding company whose shareholders are several companies in the Vinho Verde Region and was incorporated with the objective to produce, promote and market the wines and derived more popular from its shareholders and also their own brands. We tasted through Espumante de Vinho Verde Branco, Rosé, Ponte de Barca vinhão and varietal loureiro and alvarinho. The straightforward Branco was first and stole the show.
Estreia Vinho Verde Branco 2015, Doc Vinho Verde, Portugal
The name translates to “début,” from the outfit laying claim to launching first to market. There is certainly something to be said for extreme youthfulness, unbridled energy and quivering character. Such a millenial Vinho Verde with the shortest of attention spans and pure, unadulterated flavour. Simple, slight and with a mere hint of effervescence. Should work out to $9.95 in Ontario. Drink 2016-2017. Tasted March 2016
In Ponte de Lima we dined at lunch with winemaker Rita da Silva Araújo, resident oenologist at the Adega Cooperativa de Ponte de Lima. Founded in 1959 the cooperative produces the most traditional of Vinho Verde wines with a focus on loureiro because of its affinity with the Lima River Valley.
Leite Creme at Petiscas Restaurante #pontelima through the lens of @MHeleneB #portugal
Adega Ponte de Lima Vinho Verde 2015, Doc Vinho Verde, Portugal
Made from 100 per cent loureiro and the first winery to go this varietal route. A wine that “maintains the image of our town and region,” notes Rita da Silva Araújo, resident oenologist at the Adega. Very citrus oriented, in mineral speak and blessed with briny-saline aridity. A good dose of CO2 spritz and dogged persistence mark the finish. Drink 2016-2017. Tasted April 2016 @MuniLima
Adega Ponte de Lima Loueiro 2015, Doc Vinho Verde, Portugal
This 100 per cent loueiro may sit on a poor man’s throne of typically lithe alcohol (11 per cent) and restrained residual sugar but it carries a secondary depth of grape tannin, Lima soil tang and warm viscosity. From a selected harvest over two days of only the best grapes and subjected to four or five hours of skin contact. Time on the lees with batonnage brings the mouthfeel and the sweet caress. Here we climb to another level and through tertiary layers of pierce, salinity, aridity and finely tuned stone fruit. Very nice. Drink 2016-2019. Tasted April 2016
Colours of Quinta da Raza and Monte da Sr.ª da Graça #vinhoverde
The transition from the straightforward towards ascending the steps into the arena of the complex begins with a visit to Quinta de Raza, located in Peneireiros, Celorico de Basto, adjacent to the Douro Region. It is here the Teixeira Coelho family has been committed to wine production since the XVII century. Today the estate is run by José Diogo Teixeira Coelho. Soils of granite origins are mixed with areas of schist and clay, atypical and unusual in the Vinho Verde Region. The microclimate is created by the mountains in the west and the valley of the Tamega river which, unlike the other rivers of the region does not run from East to West, but from Northeast to Southwest, which together prevent the influence of the Atlantic winds. Less rain and greater temperature range equates to increased sun exposure, more than many vineyards in the Vinho Verde Region. Couple this with an average altitude of 250 meters and things begin to get interesting.
Quinta da Raza hosts and their exceptional value @vinhoverdewines
Dom Diogo Azal-Arinto-Trajadura 2015, Doc Vinho Verde, Portugal
The blend breaks down to 35/50/15 and like three layers of conditioned lemon, juicy, curdish and gelid, this is very vibrant from out of the auspices of a typical blend. The winery sells this at two euros ex-cellar price which is so ridiculous. This means the top end Canadian price would be $9.95. So fresh (azal) balanced in the clay of trajadura, not necessarily so long but really, who cares? Carries a granite toughness, this simply perfect warm weather blend, with a little bit of secured happiness provided by 7 g/L of residual sugar. Appellative excellence. Drink 2016-2017. Tasted March 2016
Dom Diogo Azal 2015, Doc Vinho Verde, Portugal
The surprise varietal, venerated by a whopping price increase to three euros (which would translate to $12.95 CAN), firm and with more righteous bitters. Here the agar, the orange citrus and a wealthy (8 g/L RS) weight for white wine personality. More length and grip with character increasing via a stick of Vinho Verde dynamite. Just delicious. Drink 2016-2018. Tasted March 2016
Hello world. Meet the new #vinhoverde #quintadaraza #avesso #alvarinho
Quinta da Raza Avesso-Alvarinho 2015, Doc Vinho Verde, Portugal
The blend’s split is 60/40 and the ex-cellar price up to five euros but this is the finest and most refined VV of the lot. The two A’s are combined and purposed with the best intent for aging, or at least the most potential. Quinta de Raza is the only vintner to tempt fortune and compete with such a complex symbiosis from the region. The new ideal is here in this inaugural release because Diogo has a soft spot for avesso. The augmentation is by 10 per cent new French barrel to induce and encourage avesso and allow for higher alcohol (13.5) and acidity. The great stirred contact bleeds to warmth and this is ostensibly top end alcohol for the region. You can sense the malolactic and the tannin. The balance will require 12-18 months to integrate, bringing the nose and the palate together, though not too much longer for fear of losing fruit. That said it’s (1.5 g/L) bone dry. Plus the avesso is culled off of young vines so vintages down the road should see more potential. Drink 2017-2020. Tasted March 2016
Also northeast out of Porto and close by is Quinta das Arcas, a family company founded in 1985 by António Esteves Monteiro. The production is mainly obtained from 120 hectares spread across three estates located in the Valongo and Penafiel area. The Quinta das Arcas estate covers 55 hectares of 20 year old-plus vineyards planted to loureiro, trajadura and arinto. The winemaking team lead by engineer Fernando Machado. Vinification is classically performed, with quick destemming, pressing and low temperature fermentation in stainless steel with an experiment or two in barrel. The company’s Vinho Verde is bottled under the labels Arca Nova and Conde Villar.
Arca Nova Vinho Verde Branco 2015, Doc Vinho Verde, Portugal
The blend is loureiro (50 per cent), arinto (40 per) and trajadura (10), in a classic, central to the estate’s oeuvre Vinho Verde. From a warm, dry year so more structure; this has the tannin, ripe fruit and tingle. The hue is somewhat developed, like grigio to gris and it is a real step up from the average and the norm. Both sugar and acidity (6 g/L) are paired with equal and opposing formality. The traditional yet modern full-on stone fruit flavours with a nick of citrus pit. Drink 2016-2018. Tasted April 2016 @quintadasarcas
Conde Villar Alvarinho and Trajadura 2015, Doc Vinho Verde, Portugal
Close to an even split with alvarinho edging out the trajadura and the fruit is all estate (others include some purchased grapes). This separate line is intended to offer a different expression from the Quinta and you can feel the density, assess the effect of ripeness and sugar. The nose is so very preserved lemon, the extract terrific and here there is a weight feigning effected by lees in surround of that ripe fruit. Drink 2016-2019. Tasted April 2016
Quinta da Arcas Vinhão 2014, Doc Vinho Verde, Portugal
Only made in special years and so important to call out for how it abandons centuries of astringency. Spent six months in new French oak (and a small percentage of American) to establish a whole new concept for red Vinho Verde, round and in surround for vinhão. The astringency falls away and lets the fruit shine in spite of the wood. Reminds of petite sirah on the elegant side and with a sapidity stung back bite. Lots of cocoa, espresso, and dusty tannin. Solid, non-traditional vinhão. Drink 2016-2020. Tasted April 2016
The granite soils of Quinta de Curvos are located in a valley with influences from the Neiva River and the Atlantic Ocean within the demarcated region of Vinho Verde (Entre-Douro e-Minho). The 27 hectares of vineyards are distributed among four properties located in Forjães, Ponte de Lima and Barcelos. The vineyards underwent a major process of restructuring and in 2014, the production of wine rose to a volume of 275,000 litres. Sustainability in the biodiversity of the vineyard’s ecosystem and the reduction of environmental impact are major priorities and so tractors and herbicides have been replaced by sheep.
Quinta de Curvos Superior 2015, Doc Vinho Verde, Portugal
Most expected blend composed of loueiro, trajadura and arinto in the words of Miguel Fonseca “most traditional wine, very dry and very gastronomic.” The entry-level honesty, basic instruction and 101 effectualization is spot on. What more in needed in under $10? Carries all the hallmark points and notes of Escolha Vinho Verde. Bay laurel, citrus and an edge of stone, by granite and into fruit. Drink 2016-2018. Tasted April 2016 @quintadecurvos
Quinta de Curvos Alvarinho 2015, Doc Vinho Verde, Portugal (471276, $17.95, WineAlign)
A regional varietal wine not permitted to be labled Vinho Verde so Vino Regional Minho it must be. This 100 per cent alvarinho is labled as such in Portugal and Afectus for the Ontario market, Latin for “emotions.” Quite consistently fashioned like the avesso and the loueiro varietal Vinho Verde, of low tones, fresh, sprite, fully lemon and all around good guy acidity. Not so much a matter of varietal distinction so much as an adherence to a stylistic thread. So by extension I suppose the Curvos wines are about terroir. Afectus for the rest of us. Drink 2016-2019. Tasted April 2016
Quinta de Curvos Avesso 2015, Doc Vinho Verde, Portugal
Just seems to breathe a calm, natural, simple, easy, clean and proper ideal with broad appeal. Lemon is all over this avesso, again like the varietal loureiro and alvarinho, this pushes the company line. With sea bream and dorado the pairing receives an emphatic two thumbs up. Another vital and pure Vinho Verde from Quinta de Curvos. Drink 2016-2019. Tasted April 2016
Not members of Blasted Mechanism. With @MagnusPim and Vasco Croft #AphrosWines #vinhoverde
The diurnal motion of Vinho Verde
A visit to Aphros with winemaker Vasco Croft levigates and recalibrates thoughts, perception and meaning. It is here that the cosmology of Vinho Verde does not so much begin to take shape but pops like a genie from the bottle. The name Aphros (Greek, “sea-foam”) is drawn from ichthyocentaurs (sea-god centaurs) of late poetical Greek mythology. The aquatic centaur has been endowed with the ability to swim with great speed, breathe and communicate underwater. Aphros was thought of as the first king of the sea-going Aphroi (Carthaginians).
“Quality of life is dependent on the quality of water,” insists Vasco Croft. To Croft it all begins with “water’s plasticity and its relationship with the cosmic influences on earthly forces.” Biodynamics. Water dynamization. Double infinity vortex design. Life forces. Amphora. “You must line the amphorae with beeswax and though it is not so economical it acts as a natural preservative and it has the memory of the hive.” A master amphora craftsman in Alentejo does the work. He is one of the last in Portugal to keep the tradition alive.
Vasco Croft’s are risky, primogenitor reviving, genus defining, impossible wines. His is the sole ardent and wavering organic and biodynamic approach in Vinho Verde with complete attention diverted towards spiritual demure and anodyne morphology. I speak for the group when I say that the extramundane was breached at the Aphros tasting. Upon further retrospective consideration it was not so much a matter of wine tasting as it was a disquitionary quest to apprehend the meaning of Vinho Verde’s platonic and sacrosanct future. Croft’s wines are self-professed radical artisanal and produced impractically with no electricity. He investigates the powers of loureiro and vinhão, skin contact, concrete eggs and Pet-Nat. My understanding is gleaned through Vasco’s work and by a momentary hypnotization from a dynamic machine.
Today’s cosmogonal #vinhoverde line-up #AphrosWines with Vasco Croft @LeSommelierWine
Loureiro of a fashion so rare for Portugal and this region, from a concrete pétillant-naturel style, vinified in stainless steel with wild yeasts and initially no additional sugar, then bottled with 20 grams of natural residual sugar, to alight the single fermentation conclusion. An 11 per cent contrariety of méthode ancestrale dialectic, like a lime-grapefruit cordial housing a dissolving lemon tablet. A bowie cut, boning and dressing of loueiro. This here the whole new way to take the grape, to send it sky-high and bring it down to the rustic roots of glam, sparkling funk. “Like to take a cement fix, be a standing cinema. Dress my friends up just for show, see them as they really are.” Vasco (Andy) Croft walking and his hunky dory pet-nat spinning an original tale of a time and a place, or perhaps a myth, like the rustic deity of the forest riding shotgun to Dionysus and his native war. Drink 2016-2018. Tasted March 2016 #aphroswine@LeSommelierWine
Immediately emits or rather feigns a sense of barrel though it’s fully completely an Inox stainless steel wine. From what Vasco Croft describes as a “classic” early harvest, this delimited, restrained and flirty fresh loureiro sits at a lithe 10 per cent alcohol with some minor residual sugar to balance out the brisk acidity. Texture and sumptuousness is prescribed by four months lees with stirring. The freshness is lit by candle wax and a delicious little smoulder. The bees lees. Drink 2016-2018. Tasted March 2016
With fruit from southern exposures off of granitic and sandy soils this is 100 per cent loureiro that saw 12 hours of skin maceration and 30 per cent fermentation in barriques (1/2 new) for six months. A wine now coming into a Frick-esque zone, waxy, whiffing bay laurel and frankly would be so hard to pick out in a blind tasting. The mind might veer to barrel-aged semillon or older riesling. Though a bit oleaginous the wine is balanced by a smoulder and a sharp, petrol-invoking, mineral tang. It is here that the wisdom of loureiro is coronated for having settled in the Lima Valley. Imagine the past and future blossoms, hives and honey. Drink 2016-2020. Tasted March 2016
#amphora #loureiro Phaunus 2015. Nothing I have tasted before could have prepped me to expect this heteróclito #quixotic
Nothing I have tasted before could have prepped me to expect this heteróclito, a quixotic and deferential loureiro that re-writes the varietal script. Spent two and a half months of skin maceration time in beeswax-lined amphora and in the end we are graced with something completely other. Lemon meets mineral funky pottery, clunch depression and then slow-roasted vegetal gastronomy. A tagine or maraq scented by cumin, coriander and a slow-roasted carrot without any caramelization. Leaves a salve in the mouth and doesn’t go away. Clarifed, loureiro broth. Drink 2016-2020. Tasted March 2016
#amphora #2 Phaunus Palhete 2015, 80/20 #loureiro / #vinhao, again no reference point #chimerical #monkwine
No, this beeswax-lined, amphora-raised 80 per cent white (loueiro) and 20 per cent red (vinhão) is not a theatrical performance by a Portuguese electro-rock band with alien-themed costumes. This blasted mechanism is a chimerical ode to the wines and their medieval proportions used by Port monks. It’s a battle of tribes with no reference point that will blast your mind. Its rosé, day-glo pink hue of earthy demure and it is hard to figure which funk reigns, tart fruit or adobe-argil-earth. Moreover it is the herbal, balmy, savoury, sapid variegation that garners the most attention. “Simple things, giant wonders, emotions, I blast your mind today.” Great length. I can’t say anything previous to right now has prepared me for tasting this but my mind and my palate are micronized wide open. “Break free from your own anxiety. Break free from your own desire.” Drink 2016-2022. Tasted March 2016 @blastedmind
Aphros Sparkling Loureiro Reserve 2012, Sub Região Lima, Doc Vinho Verde, Portugal (Agent, $27.95, WineAlign)
Also known as the Loureiro Reserva Bruto, a traditional method, 18 months on lees sparkler with its own set of antithetical parameters and rules. So different from the pet-nat, here surprisingly more artisanal, the most risk-taking of the Aphros sparklers, in deep concentration, at once delicate and then submerging into preserved citrus. Like salient, jagged stones projecting from a karst cave. The lees time is mid-range but the Lima loving loureiro and the Aphros gamble combine for extreme length. Drink 2016-2022. Tasted March 2016
Aphros Pan 2012, Sub-Região Lima, Doc Vinho Verde, Portugal (Agent, $27.95, WineAlign)
The simplest of the Aphros sparkling wines which is anything but simple in the pansophy of the “other red” ideal. From 100 per cent vinhão free run juice and a short period of second fermentation, this is traditional method (nine months) reach for the stars as only the cosmic-minded Vasco Croft can do. Another baby maker here though it’s deferential and antithetical to the ancestrale, pet-nat approach. Not so much strawberry as cherry, with herbiage, litheness (no maceration). “A young fawn of the forest.” Drink 2016-2021. Tasted March 2016
Vinhão in part stainless steel and part barriques, for aging and to calm it down. The relationship allows it to settle upon itself and at five and a half years on it has barely budged, still entangled in a web of acidity and tannin. Not that I, my travel companions or most mere mortals have any great history or experience with vinhão but the intensity is expertly corralled and such length is clearly a trademark of the house. Drink 2016-2022. Tasted March 2016
Vinhão is simply and astringently a teinturière (dyer) variety which happens to be the most planted red grape in Vinho Verde and to a western palate, unpalatable. It is known as Sousão in the Douro, where it is employed in Port assemblage. The raising of this still table red is done in granite tanks and with foot treading. In the hands of Vasco Croft it emits pretty aromatics in contrast to the demands of such an inky wine, from violets but then handed over to that natural cure of porcine élevage. The one and only vinhão of immediate wisdom and confident conditioning, the kind that will linger for 10 years without changing. Still there is this firm acidity and tannin, but restrained. Sharp citrus and as with all of the Aphros line, great length. Drink 2018-2024. Tasted March 2016
Enlightened red Sparkling from #AphrosWines 2006 #vinhao @LeSommelierWine @VinhoVerdeCA #yakkos #vinhoverde
Aphros Yakkos Grande Reserva 2006, Sub-Região Lima, Doc Vinho Verde, Portugal (Agent, $34.95, WineAlign)
A Sparkling vinhão, Vinho Espumante Tinto, aged 48 months on the lees and again, with no real reference point to launch from so it’s like starting over. Where fun and intentional meet, as do tart and bitter. A sparkler that dries out with beauty because of impressive tannins backing up blackberry fruit. How can this not be lauded for sheer and utter imagination, speciality and ultimately, success. It does not get much more interesting than this. With the aridity dial set to 3 g/L RS this would sidle up to and celebrate blueberry pancakes, duck confit and crème fraîche. Drink 2016-2026. Tasted March 2016
With Anselmo Mendes
The multiplicity of Vinho Verde
At the most northern tip of Vinho Verde lies Monção and Melgaço in the Minho Valley and this is where Anselmo Mendes grows and produces his alvarinho. With variances created by way of barrel aging, skin and lees contacts, Mendes imagines, creates and realizes a muliplicity of Vinho Verde that both alters and raises the bar for the entire region’s white wines.
Mendes is the former winemaker at Quinta Melgaço and began producing his own alvarinho in 1998 but his perspicacity, the elaboration of his vineyards and the pansophy of these young wines would make you think their history went back much further. The affinity shared by his alvarinho with Spanish albariño is one of proximity only, separated by the Minho River but consummated of an entirely different truth. Under the umbrella of his 70 farmed acres Mendes also produces loureiro in the Lima Valley and avesso in the Douro Valley. His passion is directed to alvarinho. Anselmo is a winemaker with a favourite child. The blends and entry-level varietal wines are labeled under the brand Muros Antigos. The skin contact, extended lees and barrel aged alvarinho each carry a moniker of their own within the Anselmo Mendes line. Constantino Ramos is Assistant Winemaker while Vasco Magalhães is in charge of sales.
“Our philosophy is the natural expression of the land, with principal characteristic that is mineral, not to make up something new, but we want to experience technology, important to know but just to see what we cannot do. The rest is business. We need to re-educate people, not that they’re wrong, but to know that there is another style for Vinho Verde. The next project is more experience.”
Formal originality of #anselmomendes @terroirimports @winesportugalCA #alvarinho #vinhoverde #melgaco
The blend is loureiro (40 per cent), avesso (40) and alvarinho (20), the spokeswines for the ““raditional” range, all from vineyards near the Lima River, but 150 kg’s apart. “Literally a blend of the region,” notes Mendes, four months on lees with batonnage, of aromatic freshness and exuberance with feelings and sapidity from the Atlantic Ocean. Unique marine minerality, mixed with accents of continental climate. Avesso metal and alvarinho body. Terrific entry-level, top quality, cleaner and more direct than almost any and all others. Drink 2016-2019. Tasted March 2016 @AnselmoVinhos@VascoMaga@terroirtoronto
According to Anselmo Mendes the best loureiro terroir is along the Lima River and it is his varietal ’15 where the warmth and the alcohol are more apparent (as compared to the more northerly alvarinho). Spent the traditional Mendes entry-level four months on the lees with batonnage. The mineral emits less so, the floral and petrol more so. The stone works in close relationship with the palate, of a tang specific to near-northerly vineyards, the back side more into the chalky tannin. Not so much lengthy as much as intense, of an imploding persistence. Drink 2016-2018. Tasted March 2016
From a vintage that saw very little sun throughout the growing season. Cool temperatures and unrequited elongation coupled with some unexpected age means an entrance into new territory for loureiro, in verbalization of a new tang vernacular, a way for Loureiro to speak in a way you could not know it could. The notes are citrus essential oil and extract, with a hint of saffron and a splash of Amaro. Very cool but no honey and a bit lactic. The 2012 wines are evolving and developing all over the map. Experience gathered from tasting and trying to figure them out will go a long way for the winemakers and the taster towards assessing the current ’15’s. Drink 2016-2018. Tasted March 2016
From the vintage in which phenolics had difficulty keeping up with developed alcohol. Adjustments were made to every wine but the range of expression and subsequent expectation is neither consistent nor predictable. The mineral is patina-laced, verdigris, gemstone emerald and there is a whiff of snappy green apple. This reminds me of chardonnay grown on Niagara’s Vinemount Ridge. It’s striking avesso, like popping, cool-climate chardonnay, green and nutty. So much potential. As always, it was treated to four months on the lees with batonnage. As only the second vintage it really is not to be believed. Drink 2016-2019. Tasted March 2016
From granite soils on mountain vineyards quite similar to those on the Melgaço estate. The varietal alravinho was introduced to four months lees and batonnage. In here the most fruit emerges as compared with the entry-level (Douro) avesso and (Ponte Lima) loureiro, along with the most body. There bounds and rebounds an elasticity on the palate where the tannin and mineral emerge. Such preserve is built upon a foundation of citrus and density, exuberant and elevated by the heat of the vintage. Stands erect on guard and in protection of itself with direct, purposed length. Drink 2016-2019. Tasted March 2022
The vintage was a difficult one for all Vinho Verde varietal wines and so blending was not just prominent but essential. Unless you were Alselmo Mendes. This one from mountain granite soils in kinship with the Melgaço estate. Four months of lees contact, batonnage and four years onwards into notes of a beneficial bitter pill dissolving in petrol waters, this has really entered nirvana for what surely was an anticipated secondary expression. Citrus is also bitter (orange and lemon) and their combined twangs of tang like crazy. Four years to pay dirt guaranteed in the Mendes varietal play though the vintage decreases the chance of longer term aging. Drink 2016-2018. Tasted March 2016
Redraft the #alvarinho manifesto #anselmomendes @terroirimports #2001 #murosantigos #vinhoverde
Still sharply aromatic and spiked, with gelid marmalade and onion skin, its honeyed hue not nearly as advanced as expectation would demand. A fromage like chenin blanc note in there from a washed rind, with apricot and peach blossom. This alvarinho from a dry ferment, but there is nothing to really, truly compare it too. Acidity still trenchant. the bitters remain but on its exit in dissipation. Ultimately just wow, amazing, who knew. Drink 2016-2017. Tasted March 2016
As the name suggests here varietal alvarinho spends its most early formative moments in 12 hours skin contact submerge. Initially there is some reservation on the nose and that skin contact feigns the antithetic idea of mineral up front in aromatic gregariousness. It’s as if all that welled up grape tannin is over-anxious and straining to be noticed. The omni-executed four months lees plus batonnage both adds up front and then subtracts so that the palate will settle you in with creamy, just shy of caramelizing and nutty notes. This is done with remarkable restraint. Comes from the sandy soil banks of the Minho River. Requires an earlier or equal consumption zone to its lesser kissing cousin. Drink 2016-2020. Tasted March 2016
Exhibits a very similar profile to the ’15, that perception of high-octane alvarinho of prescient mineral through ripe phenolics, electric and eclectic grape tannin. The citrus is more pronounced at this stage, as is the weight. Finishes with more bitters than the ’15, clearly conditioned and thinking on it now it is understood as to why 12 hours is plenty of skin contact time for the thick-skinned, small berries. Drink 2016-2017. Tasted March 2016.
Muros de Melgaço Alvarinho 2014, Doc Vinho Verde, Portugal (Agent, $39.95, WineAlign)
Alvarinho as you’ve never encountered before, habituated for six months in used French barriques (225 and 400L 2-8 years old) on the lees with batonnage. The first vintage of this unorthodox and recherché alvarinho was 1998. The prophetic Anselmo Mendes is well into a third decade with this amazing alvarinho of Boxler-esque Alsace conceptualization, with density and malo laminate in mouthful with no paste, no chalk, no scotch guard but acidity brilliantly written in blanc stone. Agility and ageability is clearly on time’s side, from here for eight to 10 years for sure. This is the bomb. Yes the wood is a bit up front but will the fruit survive? Yes. Drink 2018-2024. Tasted March 2016
Muros de Melgaço Alvarinho 2012, Doc Vinho Verde, Portugal (Agent, $39.95, WineAlign)
Four years has ushered in some unexpected advanced evolution and a Vouvray-like fromage. Though the eight to 10 years afforded the 2014 may be ambitious, the 2012 vintage was anything but helpful and confidence is what you glean from wines like these. Incredible depth of a granite soil’s mineral tang especially as the palate absorbs the nutrients, the old French wood and the subsequent piquancy. The wine seems to prickle at this stage. Drink 2016-2017. Tasted March 2016
Treated with the same respect and élevage as the Muros de Melgaço, for six months in used French barriques (225 and 400L 2-8 years old) on the lees with batonnage. Here not announcing its varietal because the secret is in Melgaço, not in alvarinho, though it is the most experienced expression of the grape in the region. An amalgamated incline. The oak is of very light toast and here not as apparent as it is in the Melgaço. More clarity and purity, cooler, though the coppery hue might suggest otherwise. This is a dart, sharp and pointed…and then, calm. Such precise treatment from alvarinho expressing the terroir. A slight tinge of tonic in compressed into the citrus finish. Drink 2017-2023. Tasted March 2016
L’élevage is heightened to nine months in used French barriques (225 and 400L 2-8 years old) on the lees with batonnage. The name translates to “bronzage,” or literally, “to extract” on the skins for 12 hours and “to party” with mineral jam. More fruit works with the extra oak plus one year in bottle before release. Now we have left the building and entered into a futuristic alvarinho from which the length is outstanding. Causes a Fortin shiver, lingers and caresses. Like a Fitzgerald novel it seems richer, more complete and more justifiable when viewed against the biographical backdrop of Anselmo Mendes and Vinho Verde. “Between a life that we expected and the way it’s always been,” tender is the night. Drink 2018-2024. Tasted March 2016
From the challenging vintage here the artist known as “the bronzage” is an example of a wine made by a winemaker unfased by such inconsequential roadblocks. Anselmo Mendes the earliest of Vinho Verde visionaries, treading archaically and swimming in futuristic waters. Making an alvarinho connection through the usage of French barriques (225 and 400L 2-8 years old) on the lees with batonnage. This 2012 tactile and layered. Does what no other alvarinho has or currently does and will age with slow movement more than the others. If only today though I wager it’s not, his 2012 settles with the most balance of the portfolio. IMO. Drink 2016-2022. Tasted March 2016
Estate Vineyard at Anselmo Mendes
Anselmo Mendes Parcela Única Alvarinho 2013, Doc Vinho Verde, Portugal (Agent, $64.95, WineAlign)
The treatment here is similar to the Curtimenta, nine months, though in new (400L) French barriques on lees with batonnage. Just above the tasting room is a premium Monção and Melgaço block on the Mendes estate, a single-parcel, in the monk’s area, “a vineyard that always gives an exceptional and elegant alvarinho.” As sheath to this singular, pellucid and top-drawer fruit the new oak is very obvious though necessary for what this wants to be. And so it puts in a patient request for time with the promise of penitence, charity and deliverance. Drink 2018-2025. Tasted March 2016
Anselmo Mendes Parcela Única Alvarinho 2012, Doc Vinho Verde, Portugal (Agent, $64.95, WineAlign)
One year makes all the difference. The new wood (400L, nine months) has melted, tempered and now oozes in flavour. The texture is butyraceous, bled, like a creamy foam that begins to lose its air. This is the hedonism that rises above the rest. It is the most internationally-styled, Burgundy to Napa simulacrum. Flirty alvarinho from Monção and Melgaço. Drink 2017-2022. Tasted March 2016
Über beauty, From Porto to the River Minho
The Vinho Verde focus was certainly geared towards the wines but the powers that be who plan the journalist-sommelier junkets know full well that the allure of landscape, architecture, culture, history and gastronomy is such an integral part of the experience. The Monverde Experience Hotel set the stage and though it seemed like nothing that followed would have any chance to thrill and excite, the hits just kept on coming.
Canadians in Melgaço
On the last day of March we drove north to Melgaço in the Viana do Castelo District. From the fortress contracted by the then first king of Portugal D. Alfonso Henriques we took in the view a stone’s throw across the River Minho looking out towards Galicia in Spain. Late in the afternoon we crossed the River Lima into Viana do Castelo and arrived at the Pousada Hotel. As if in a dream, or a movie, we marvelled at the views.
Viana do Castello
Set on the hill of Sta. Luzia the Pousada was built in 1918 by a wealthy Brazilian as a gift to the city. Down the slope lies the shrine of Sta. Luzia, built in an unusual Neo-Byzantine style and then further down the slope is the city centre of Viano do Castelo and the estuary of the River Lima.
“Are you M. Gustave of the #grandbudapesthotel in Nebelsbad?” @PestanaHotels @Pousadas #pousadavianadocastelo #portoenorte #uhhuh
It may just be my favourite time of day. The flurry begins at seven. It takes four hours to shake off the rust, clear the morning ill, brush away the demands piled up since the night before and effectively settle the morning score. By a quarter past the hour calm begins to set in. 11:15. And now, a bit of Torah, Bible and liturgy.
The imagery of sweet rock ‘n roll, Revelations style is synonymous with the farthing, quartern, mid-morning, all change of pace: The Seventh Trumpet. The day after the Shofar has sounded to end the holiest of holy Jewish days, a sonorous wind-blown through the ram’s horn, a call to lead a flock home and into a new year. Is there a connection between the purpose of the blowing of the Shofar on Rosh Hashanah (and Yom Kippur) and the end of satan’s authority at the Seventh Trumpet?
The seventh angel sounded his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, which said:
“The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Messiah, and he will reign for ever and ever.”
The Shofar. Old Testament instrument as central element of the Rosh Hashanah liturgy. The summoner to assemble before the Lord, a sound for battle and the announced coronation of a new king. New Testament return of Christ in the clouds to gather God’s people via rapture, sound the Lord’s wrath of battle cry and Christ’s returning as the King of the world. Seems obvious enough but where is the eschatological connection: How does the Jew’s attempt to summon God’s past and promised redemption share common ground with the Christian’s call to Satan?
A rabbinic tradition may indicate that the shofar is sounded on Rosh Hashanah to confuse Satan (or some he who shall not be named evil tempting spirit). The multiple blows and shrieks invoke the idea (and promise) that the Messiah had arrived and thus putting an end to the pernicious authority. Revelations agrees. “It is time for the dead to be judged. To reward your servants, the prophets, the saints, and all who fear your name, both unimportant and important.”
There’s an angel standing in the sun, and he’s crying with a loud voice, “This is the supper of the mighty one”, Lord of Lords, King of Kings, Has returned to lead his children home, To take them to the new Jerusalem.
Nah. It’s simply a matter of judgment and kingship. Like suggesting wines from a VINTAGES release. October 15th is but two days away. At 11:15 am you may just be arriving at your local LCBO in search of a few bottles. Here are 11 recommendations.
The grape the place come across with classic Cariñena firmness and regional culture out of the impressive Grandes Vinos e Vinedos cooperative. You may recognize Spain’s third largest cooperative as the producer of Beso de Vino garnacha. The 3c is juicy and gregarious like so many garnacha but here as cariñena, with moderate alcohol, acidity and amenable tannin. This represents very good value for the price, as well as the brusque and breviloquent Aragonese appellation. Drink 2016-2019. Tasted September 2016 @VinosCarinena@Noble_Estates
The Bench can’t help but determine the style but what winemaker Richie Roberts is able to gather and concede is what needs from the vintage. The brutal winter and subsequent mild, calm and elongated season means that acidity can be tempered, sugar should play a small role and fruit will lead the way. In this riesling it does, with help, let and place from the support staff. Really juicy, slightly tart, citrus-spiced and purely Bench styled. Proper. Drink 2016-2020. Tasted September 2016 @FieldingWinery@RichieWine
Ernie Els Big Easy 2014, Wo Western Cape, South Africa (220038, $19.95, WineAlign)
This latest Big Easy swings harder than the previous 2013, a wine that quietly emulated its founder’s approach. This 2014 displays more grit, firm grip and big dog length. This is no three-wood off the tee, lay up or fat part of the green safe play. This goes straight for the pin, over water, false fronts be damned and defiant to danger all around. It’s exciting and full-throttle, high acid and risky. But the reward is now, busily bursting with energy, not mired in tannin and ready to play. Makes for great TV. Drink 2016-2018. Tasted September 2016 @ErnieElsWinery@TheBig_Easy@VintageTrade@_AlexHamilton_@WOSACanada@WOSA_ZA
Dr. Loosen Blue Slate Riesling Kabinett 2015, Prädikatswein, Mosel, Germany (160846, $22.95, WineAlign)
Tremendous verve, vitality and energy from buoyant and round acidity brings immediate balance to sweet citrus and tart tropical fruit. This Mosel ripper has a tender side and will sooth many a savage beast. Kind of like Elvis. If you want to turn someone onto riesling this is a wonderful place to start. So good and worth protecting. “Well, you can do anything but stay off of my blue” slate riesling. Drink 2016-2024. Tasted September 2016 @drloosenwines@Select_Wines@germanwineca
Anthonij Rupert Wines Optima L’ormarins 2012, Franschhoek, South Africa (455915, $24.95, WineAlign)
Franschhoek Bordeaux stylistic defined in affordability by structure and for dark, depth of fruit. Espresso dusty and soil imparted make for the specific Anthonij Rupert departure. The headline reads: Unheralded and righteous outfit makes red blend to go the distance. Drink 2018-2024. Tasted September 2016 @AnthonijRupert@Vinexxperts@WOSACanada@WOSA_ZA
And then there were three; Barolo, Barbaresco and Langhe. Here a serious perfume and brooding emits from Manzoni’s Langhe Rosso, a back to the genesis of roots nebbiolo highly skilled and deep into the motherlode of many equally appointed Barolo. “Ah well if you knew then, just what you know today,” the divergent paths of Langhe and Barolo may have been very different. Even if some of the Bricco Manzoni’s parts may walk at large the tannin is in your face and ready to rumble. There is a sweetness about the fruit and an oaky layering but darkness never descends upon this wine. It remains bright and alive. It will live for a decade or more. Drink 2018-2030. Tasted September 2016 @RoccheManzoni
Domaine Theulot Juillot Mercurey Premier Cru La Cailloute 2014, Burgundy, France (473793, $39.95, WineAlign)
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. This is a 10-15 year Mercurey. No fooling. Drink 2018-2029. Tasted September 2016 @vinsdebourgogne@BourgogneWines
Hamilton Russel Vineyard Chardonnay 2015, Hemel-en-Aarde Valley, South Africa (931006, $42.95, WineAlign)
The pattern repeats in HR’s 2015 chardonnay, up there with the Cape’s most elegant and wholly indicative of the Hermanus oeuvre. Ripeness, just a hint of the barrel and windy sunshine locked up in chardonnay that could not come from anywhere but the Hemel-En-Aarde Valley. The finish allows for some noted sensations indicative of yeast, warm bread, drawn butter and a golden bathed afternoon. A time to linger and make a polite request of this chardonnay to indicate best show times in the near to not-to-distant future. Though tempting to drink now this will improve and up the elegance factor. Drink 2018-2023. Tasted September 2016 @OliveHR@WOSACanada@WOSA_ZA@hermanuswine
Col D’orcia Brunello Di Montalcino 2010, Tuscany, Italy (306852, $49.95, WineAlign)
Largesse and a firmess of being as per the house style are rampant in Col D’Orcia’s 2010, a wine that reminds me of 1998 and 2000. A wine that will seem lean, mean and terrifying in its youth but will prove everyone wrong when it hits the 12-15 year stride. This is a monster bringing leather and chocolate to the table. It is nearly unapproachable at the present time but you can imagine and embrace the possibility of potential. Drink 2020-2035. Tasted September 2016 @Coldorcia@ConsBrunello@DionysusWines
Instinctive, intrinsically essential nebbiolo without any equivocation whatsover. The fruit at the core is the crux and the catalyst to aseemble the forces of Barolo entrance strategy. The floral freshness in potpourri does not concede any more quality than right here. Suave, gentle, restrained and yet so forthright, generous and inviting. The grip is right at the back, in the mouth and on the brain. Diligent, purposed and highly intelligent nebbiolo with decades of future ahead. Drink 2019-2039. Tasted September 2016 @giannigagliardo@WineLoversAgncy
Ridge Geyserville 2014, Alexander Valley, Sonoma County, California (723072, $63.95, WineAlign)
A deep and thoughtful vintage for Geyserville, from plenty of sunshine, deep aridity and top notch acidity. The fruit is wondrous, full of berries in all shades and even some black currants. Shadowing with less chocolate than some this is all about fruit with tannin to structure it for a long haul. So very Geyserville and nothing but pure pleasure in bottle. Drink 2019-2027. Tasted September 2016 @RidgeVineyards@VinoTorino@rogcowines@sonomavintners
You never forget your first hunk of #kimmeridgian love @BIVBChablis @vinsdebourgogne #chablis #cotedelechet
Chablis. The great equalizer. A wine of gold and light, worth opening at every occasion, full of spirit, possessive of protracted acidity. With its capture of ancient geology, oceanic shells and Jurassic rocks, it’s alacrity flourishes with utmost consistency. The words Chablis and non-performer are disavowed of being uttered together. The history of customer satisfaction is written in stone.
In Ontario there are Petit Chablis and Chablis always available on the LCBO’s General List. At any given time there are more Chablis, Premier and Grand Cru floating about in various VINTAGES locations. Only one can be found on the VINTAGES Essentials list and yet it is arguably the most essential white wine. What’s up with that? Has anyone ever spent a moment of regret on a single Chablis purchase from an Ontario store?
Chablis is chardonnay for varietal purposes but only that links it to other chardonnay. Chablis is more than chardonnay, not existential as chardonnay and if you ask wiser men than me, is not chardonnay. And Chablis is getting inside people’s heads. I am not the only one who lives and breathes borne witness to the new Burgundy winds of change. It is of late that I have noticed (other) Bourgogne whites eerily coming closer and closer to smelling, tasting and acting like Chablis. Why would that be?
Part of the reason is certainly a response to the current rising trend of a global veering away from oak. But there has to be more to it than that. Who would refute the notion that producers in Beaune and the more southerly climes of Burgundy are looking north and thinking, dreaming, hoping to mimic Chablis. The idea is not so far-fetched. Wouldn’t it be fair to say that global warming has had an effect on Bourgogne and punches the stylistic meter towards Chablis? How many times have you recently read a tasting note in which a critic discussing a chardonnay style, an example say from Ontario, New Zealand or even Sonoma, as being comparable to Chablis? How many winemakers wouldn’t kill to have their chardonnay considered and reviewed with Chablis as the benchmark? Yes, it’s all Chablis to me.
The first week of July excavated a head first, personal hermeneutic, all in to nothing but Chablis. Out the door from Charles de Gaulle into a taxi to Auxerre and then straight up the Premier Cru Côte de Léchet up on the Left Bank of the Serein. This with Au Coeur du Vin’s Chablis guru Eric Szablowski. A bottle of Brocard at Bar Le Quai in Auxerre. Early next morning to Domaine William Fèvre with Director Didier Séguier, then La Chablisienne with Oenologist Vincent Bartement, at Domaine Gérard Tremblay with Vincent Tremblay and finally the Domaine of Edouard Vocoret and Eleni Theodoropoulos. Days end with a Domaine François Raveneau Chablis Grand Cru Blanchot 2009 at Auxerre’s Restaurant Le Folie.
Look into the #chablis pensieve and see that #escargot @lafolieauxerre
Breakfast on day two in Chablis was spent tasting with Patrick Piuze, followed by Domaine René et Vincent Dauvissat, Lucie Thieblemont and Charly Nicolle and at Château de Béru with Athénaïs de Béru. And then, Auxerre’s Restaurant L’aspérule.
Filet de canette snaké, galette de maïs, échalote confite #lebourgogne #auxerre #ericgallet
I met with Julien Brocard in front of the Abbaye de Sainte Claire at Domaine Jean-Marc Brocard, Benjamin Laroche at La Manufacture, Sébastien Dampt and Domaine Barat. In Auxerre I tasted with BIVB Chablis’ Jean-François Bordet of Domaine Séguinot-Bordet at Eric Gallet’s Le Bourgogne.
A final day began with winemaker Matthieu Mangenot at Domaine Long-Depaquit, then Romain Collet at Domaine Jean Collet et Fils, Cyril Testut of Domaine Testut, with Elodie Saudemont at Domaine Laroche and then Domaine Louis Moreau. Et finalement, a Domaine François Raveneau Chablis Premier Cru Montée de Tonnerre 2009 at Au Fil du Zinc in Chablis.
This may or may not have happened #raveneau #memory #monteedetonnerre
It was not until I ventured down the QEW two weeks later to attend my fourth consecutive International Cool Climate Chardonnay Conference that I put on my retrospective spectacles to see that what I had been tasting that entire week in France was in fact chardonnay. I mean I knew I was but never really stopped to think about it in such terms. It was simply at the time, in the moment, just Chablis. Even at i4c there were moments when my brain was churning in Chablis motives, machinations and emojis. Did you feel it too?
It helped that some friendships forged in Burgundy were furthered in Niagara because these folks came to spread the Pure Chablis gospel. Scripture that includes the sine qua non of gentle pressing, cold settling, Kimmeridgian, Portlandian and Calcaire soils, aging on fine lees and sometimes, but not always kissing a natural malolactic fermentation with a whisper of French oak. Sandrine Audegond of Domaine Laroche, Jean-François Bordet and Françoise Roure, Marketing and communication manager du Bureau Interprofessionnel des Vins de Bourgogne (Burgundy Wine Board) were on hand to help turn a chardonnay clambake into a quarry quorum. The word mineral was heard to be uttered on several occasions and no injuries were reported.
Wines that deliver a sense of place or, as we like to refer to it here in Ontario as “somewhereness,” always seem to stand out. The switchboard for the ideal is in Burgundy where the intrinsic reality is calculated in climats, that is, plots or blocks defined by the confluence of place, geology, slope, aspect and climate. Ancient somewhereness aside the current VINTAGES release includes some eerily Chablis-like “entry-level” white Burgundies, far from barrel-dominated and anything but entry-level. If to you climat, unadulterated chardonnay and respected producers mean anything at all, these wines are worth the price. We can’t all afford white Burgundy but here the quality far exceeds the cost.
The September and October releases are home to exemplary Premier Cru and looking back over the past several months I have found more Chablis, Premier Cru and Grand Cru wines that I had the opportunity to taste in Burgundy and remain available in VINTAGES. Looking for Chablis in Ontario? Look no further.
In VINTAGES September 3rd, 2016
La Chablisienne Bourgogne Chardonnay 2013, Ac Burgundy, France (455147, $15.95, WineAlign)
This entry-level chardonnay is La Chablisienne’s away from Chablis foray into Bourgogne, or perhaps a combing and combining of the two. The nose is steely, flinty and smoky, the palate full of lemon zest, limoncello and lemon meringue pie. Touching in its tartness and nearly very impressive from its depth and for its length. Goes to show you can take the Chablisienne out of Chablis but you can’t take the Chablis out of Chablisienne. Drink 2016-2019. Tasted August 2016 #LaChablisienne@Vinexxperts
J. Moreau & Fils Chablis 2015, Ac Burgundy, France (466144, $21.95, WineAlign)
Typically flinty and stony Chablis from Moreau of Portlandian influence and typically easy to get to know, as per the forward vintage. All good berries and the ease of ripening is here on display. Chablis never had it so good, easy and lazy. Drink up. Drink 2016-2017. Tasted August 2016
Bouchard Père & Fils Réserve Bourgogne Chardonnay 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (445221, $23.95, WineAlign)
I rarely comment of a white Burgundy’s hue but this pours as pale as a Beaune ghost with villages transparency. Almost Chablis-like in its quiet sincerity, the calcaire is everything here. The vintage is a good one and the acidity works the wine with natural ease. Very fine example of “reserve” style entry-level Bourgogne. Drink 2016-2019. Tasted August 2016 @BouchardPere@WoodmanWS
Olivier Leflaive Bourgogne Chardonnay 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (942482, $29.95, WineAlign)
The O. Leflaive basic Bourgogne has yet to cease its twitching and circulating with the mouth-watering cascades of its acidity. The freshness is alive and well, the vitality striking for and from the vintage. Ancient geology aside this chardonnay is also Chablis-like, far from wooden and so very struck rock tart. Acting as a scintillant of the lightning order, fruit is not an afterthought but it is relayed with metallurgy as its conduit. Easily worth the extra five bucks in comparison to most entry-level white Burgundies. Drink 2017-2022. Tasted August 2016 @OlivierLeflaive
Domaine Hamelin Beauroy Chablis 1er Cru 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (391805, $32.95, WineAlign)
While all the Chablis climats enjoyed an ideal growing season in 2014 I have to say that the Premier Cru Beauroy made full use of its gifts. The parcel lacks the striking mineral underfoot of close neighbours Côte de Léchet and Vaillons but what it does have is roundness and depth of fruit. In 2014 those aspects converge with the Chablis mineral ethos to paint a picture who’s whole is both the sum and the accumulation of its parts. Hamelin makes full advantage of fruit, rock and vintage. The triumvirate is saddled with ideal and ripe acidity and the extract is second to none. A prime example and just about as good as it gets in the beautiful king’s climat. Drink 2016-2023. Tasted August 2016 #domainehamelin@oenophilia1
Straight ahead and 2014 focused Chablis from Jadot, tight and stony at first but then shimmies up to reveal richer fruit than some and equanimity in acidity-mineral undertones. A wide and all-encompassing no doubter of a wine that succeeds no matter the breadth of its fruit sourcing. Classy all the way. Drink 2016-2020. Tasted September 2016 @ljadot@HalpernWine
Simonnet Febvre & Fils Côte De Lechet Chablis 1er Cru 2013, Ac Burgundy, France (462549, $42.95, WineAlign)
This is a striking Chablis, drawn out of an atypical vintage and from the venerable Côte de Lechet Premier Cru, an angled Left Bank climat of necessitous Kimmerridgian soil. The rocks there may be my most favourite, craggy, ash blond chunks replete with ancient sea creatures embedded in the golden stratum. This teases with the gaseous and aerified aspects of the oxidative-evolved vintage but the picking and the treatment here are spot on and just in time, because just a day or two later and too stark would have been the result. Terrific weight, pitch perfect acidity and a grazing, elongated finish. Top, top quality ’13 not to be missed. Drink 2016-2020. Tasted September 2016 @SimonnetFebvre@ImportWineMAFWM
Always available on the LCBO General List
Domaine Albert Bichot Chablis 2015, Ac Burgundy, France (391805, $19.95, WineAlign)
Tasted with winemaker Matthieu Mangenot at the Long-Depaquit domaine, this is Chablis raised 100 per cent in stainless steel. Gifts the immediacy of mineral and acidity, from Chichée to the south of Chablis and also the eastern areas of Beru and Viviers. Higher altitudes where snow and then frost at the end of April 2016 will mean a tiny harvest but for 2015 the acidity is top notch, despite the fat and easy vintage, with more mineral driven into the palate (with some perceived though feigning sweetness) and a real gelid glide down the backside. Drink 2016-2019. Tasted July 2016 @Matth_Mangenot#LongDepaquit
Domaine Louis Moreau Domaine De Biéville Chablis 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (106161, $21.95, WineAlign)
On the far opposite side of Chablis’ right bank, at the village of Viviers where it is a colder, morning sun terroir. An estate created by Louis’ father in 1965. A cooler and slightly herbal Chablis with a leaner profile. A good comparative to the Beines Chablis, where the shadows are not as long and the terroir does not make as many demands on your palate. Tasted July 2016.
A flint foot forward and step back balm of a Chablis with a settled raft of lees knick-knack and some willy-nilly resonance. Gains stature with citrus and spice as it fleshes in glass and mouth. Perhaps a stave or two of wood is making the play. Drink 2016-2019. Tasted January 2016
Domaine Laroche Chablis Saint Martin 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (289124, $23.20, WineAlign)
An all plots combed, 60 hectare extrapolative, best choices made cuvée in ode to the generous and convivial Roman officer and the monks who took his name and brought his relics to Chablis. Structure is at the heart and soul of the Saint Martin so it is a bit of hard to get at but highly recommended for slow, meditative assessment. Great compressed tart, all in terroir, soil and climate multi-interfaced chardonnay. Few ‘Chablis’ not specific of Premier or Grand Cru terroir can match its poise and precision. Drink 2017-2021. Tasted July 2016 @DomaineLaroche@SelectWinePros@Select_Wines
From #chablis to #i4c16 see you in #niagara @coolchardonnay @DomaineLaroche
Domaine Laroche Chablis Saint Martin 2015, Ac Burgundy, France (289124, $23.20, WineAlign)
The vintage is a ripe, accessible and easy to love one so this marks a 90 degree turn for the Saint Martin. This is Laroche’s most important cuvée, sold in 80 countries and collected from select plots across 60 hectares of vines. Structure will always direct this cuvée and so long as Sandrine Audegond is winemaker you can be sure that a taut entry will be joined by some subtle oak richness (in 2015, eight per cent in large, 25 year-old, 55 hL foudres). It’s just an aromatic hint but look forward with eyes closed and inculcate the texture addendum. Acids are soft and caressing. Drink 2017-2021. Tasted July 2016
In VINTAGES October 15th, 2016
Domaine Louis Moreau Chablis 2015, Ac Burgundy, France (124305, $25.95, WineAlign)
The vineyards for Moreau’s Chablis gathering are located in the village of Beines on the Left Bank and interestingly enough are older than the Premier Cru. So here the fruit is pulled from vines 35-40 years of age. As much mineral layering as you are likely to find in a Chablis-designate cuvée and so well-rounded for 2015, with grace and style. The broadest of Chablis definition, reliable to tell the whole truth, for the copacetic vintage, the hills all around and the classic flinty, borne straight out of stone chardonnay. Some citrus of course and fine acidity if not the most striking of better than good Chablis vintages. Good terroir breeds good Chablis and with a touch of flint this brings it all together. Perfect, textbook, dictionary Chablis in a ripe and forthright style. Drink 2016-2019. Tasted twice, July and September 2016
Jean Marc Brocard Butteaux Chablis 1er Cru 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (294165, $46.95, WineAlign)
Another side by side 2015 to 2014 comparison which is a brilliant play by Mr. Julien Brocard to offer up a sense of relativity which is essential for understanding not just his, but all Chablis. Great freshness and woven salinity, brine and umami, from the lieu-dit within the greater Montmains climat. Butteaux’s western Montmains locale is one of major importance and significance, stratified and magnified in the crazy good 2014 vintage. The fight concentration is quite remarkable and rendered into pure citrus honey in the hands of Brocard. Really fine and tactile Chablis, tapestry textured, dentil frieze entablature of feigning and palpability. Butteaux is a wine of sun, balance and elegance from which ancient geology is the catalyst to make it all happen. Essential Chablis right here. Drink 2017-2027. Tasted September 2016 @chablisbrocard@LiffordON
In VINTAGES October 29th, 2016
Domaine Séguinot Bordet Chablis 2015, Ac Burgundy, France (289371, $23.95, WineAlign)
As if handed off like a relay torch or baton from the Petit Chablis, the thread of elegance, purity and clarity continues in the Séguinot Bordet Chablis. Freshness floats in Chablis suspension, a liquid not so much viscous but one that acts as a cradling or a coddling. There is spice up on the aromatic front and it heads straight north to tease and tingle the olfactory senses. Deeper down it’s all inter-metallic compounds and alloys, a dimension that exists in a realm beyond chardonnay. Chablis. A circumambient capacity resistant to wood or nut but steals subtle aspects of both. Tasted with proprietor Jean-François Bordet in Auxerre he concludes, “my story is in memory.” Chablis by wrote. Drink 2016-2022. Tasted July and September 2016 @BordetJean@TheCaseForWine
Future VINTAGES releases
Domaine Laroche Vieilles Vignes Les Vaillons Chablis 1er Cru 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (991893, $36.95, WineAlign)
In many ways a carbon copy of the superb 2012, herbal, sharp and as predicted, saline and piquant. Vaillons is a special parcel, a climat with such linear reality and basic, factual raison d’être.￼￼ The Kimmeridgian, calcareous clay and limestone is presented, discussed and celebrated for good reason because it makes for perfect conditions in Vaillons.
The 40-45 year-old Laroche parcel sucks it all in and don’t let anyone evince you away from or de-program you otherwise. Be the mineral. Vaillons of old vines (yes, they too work magic) that is precise, trenchant and miles beyond merely dependable. Treated to some battonage and very minimal oak. Examines the layered intensity of Laroche and the exceptionality of Vaillons. Tasted twice, at Domaine Laroche and at #i4c16. Drink 2018-2022. Tasted July 2016
Pascal Bouchard Montmains Vieilles Vignes Chablis 1er Cru 2013, Ac Burgundy, France (374181, $36.95, WineAlign)
This was tasted at #14c16. As with 2011 but in contrast to 2012, the limestone stands chalky and flinty up front because Pascal Bouchard has allowed it to do so. The site is windy, not so steep and a cooler sort of red clay mixed in terroir. Quite typically energetic 2013 with the mineral sharing the stage with thick air whiffing gassy and atmospheric. It’s a tang that comes from cool metals and it pours or rather oozes with a squeeze of preserved lemon. The Montmains is an open-minded Premier Cru and this Bouchard works with the climat’s malleability to be transformed in a vintage like ’13. Drink 2016-2019. Tasted July 2016
Domaine William Fèvre Beauroy Chablis 1er Cru 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (907733, $52.00, WineAlign)
Beauroy is a south facing Premier Cru harvested earliest than most and also done so to preserve freshness, acidity and the most that can be gained from its subtle terroir. Fevre treats it with 15 per cent oak and the remainder goes into tank. Beauroy’s deference here is acquiescence, its character preserved, like lemon compressed in a jar or a curd slowly concentrated to the point of pure, glossy, silken texture. I find this typical of Fevre for 2014, consistent with the rich house style and yet may be the most elastic and restorative Premier Cru of the eight tasted. Impressive all around. Drink 2017-2021. Tasted July 2016 @williamfevre_@WoodmanWS
Domaine Billaud-Simon Montée De Tonnerre Chablis 1er Cru 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (325241, $52.00, WineAlign)
Tasted at the domaine, from three parcels, Montée de Tonnerre, Pied d’aloup and Côte de Chapelot, climats up on the hill on the right bank close to the town of Chablis. Rounder (with 10 per cent old oak) than Mont de Milieu but still of terrific 2014 acidity, though noticeable with more orchard fruit to mingle with the stones. The tension increases with some time spent with the M de T and like well-structured Premier Cru Chablis will want to do, it lingers with a combination of tension and amenability. Part gentille Alouette and part Kimmeridgian flinty, this is a terrific example of the co-habitable duality of great Chablis. It is also indicative of the transformative restoration and direction of Billaud-Simon under the auspices of winemaker Olivier Bailly. I will let this bird rest for a couple more years and then a promise. “Je te plumerai.” Drink 2018-2025. Tasted July 2016 @Billaud_Simon
La Chablisienne Château Grenouilles Chablis Grand Cru 2011, Ac Burgundy, France (82974, $99.00, WineAlign)
Tasted with Oenologist Vincent Bartement at the domaine. The Grand Cru Grenouilles sits just above the D965 and the Serein River, with Les Clos and Valmur to its left, Bougros and Preuses to its right and Vaudésir above. It may be the least understood, least discussed and oft forgotten Grand Cru, in part because La Chablisienne farms and bottles a near exclusive (seven of the 9.5 hectares) quantity on the smallest of the Chablis Grand Cru. In a small horizontal (that included ’12, ’10, ’09 and ’05) when you travel back a year ahead of that cracking 2012 there emerges a clear olfactive difference. The self-effaced “neologism with cloudy contours” whiffs into more herbology and perhaps some crustaceous notes. Certainly a raised funky beat. The gustative sensation salvos to more glycerin and although not as much texture, the age is offering a minor oxidative, liquid maize drip into perceived honey. As a consequence length is not as pronounced and if this ’11 is (at this stage) the most awkward of the three (consecutive vintages), it is also the most tactile and the most astute. Drink 2016-2021. Tasted July 2016 #lachablisienne@Vinexxperts
Domaine William Fèvre Chablis Les Clos Grand Cru 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (641381, $130.00, WineAlign)
The Fèvre holdings are not so much a cornering of the market but more so, let’s say, are representative as existing out of the creator and chair of the exchange. The four hectares owned, farmed and produced of the largest of the (25 hectare) Grand Crus confirms Fèvre as the largest producer of Les Clos. Fifty per cent of the noble and lofty locale was planted by William’s father in the 1940’s, at the top of the hill. This 2014 is prodigious, ponderous and cracking, because it is a Fèvre, due to the house approach for this stand alone vintage and simply by virtue of that vintage. Here you have the richest Les Clos of them all, perhaps, but the puissance is dramatic. There is more pith and density here than any other. It is simply a wow Grand Cru expression, searing, intense, layered, compact, compressed and very, very long. This is the most gregarious, strutting peacock of Chablis. Tasted at the domaine with Director Didier Séguier. Drink 2020-2035. Tasted July 2016
A #kimmeridgian breakfast @williamfevre_ #chablis @BIVBChablis #woodmanwines
L’shanah tova, happy new year, peace, happiness and health to all the members of the tribe out there. New beginnings, sweet and good times to you and yours. I’ve just returned from Italy, specifically Verona and Valpolicella. While I was in transit a new VINTAGES release crept into stores.
Tuscany, Rioja, Thanksgiving. These are the main themes of the VINTAGES October 1st release. As from me for the first it is Chianti Classico’s Gran Selezione that occupies the best sangiovese position in the central thematic. Second comes entry-level excellence from Álvaro Palacios and for the last three, pinot noir from disparate outposts; Sonoma County, the Willamette and Hemel-En-Aarde Valleys. A further 12 recommendations explore 10 regions; South Africa’s Coastal Region, Veneto, Loire Valley, Beaujolais, Alsace, Piedmont, Calatayud, Montagny, Paarl, Arroyo Seco and 14 additional grape varieties; chenin blanc, garganega, sauvignon blanc, gamay, riesling, arneis, garnacha, sylvaner, chardonnay, grenache blanc, picpoul blanc, roussanne and nebbiolo. Something for everyone.
Boschendal Rachelsfontein Chenin Blanc 2015, Wo Coastal Region, South Africa (455881, $12.95, WineAlign)
Classic chenin blanc from Boschendal, tart, balmy, savoury, smoky and spirited. Conjures up simple pleasures, breathing and bliss. A morning walk in a glade, a bubbling brook, herbs everywhere, wildlife. Drink 2016-2018. Tasted September 2016 @BoschendalWines@LiffordON@WOSA_ZA@WOSACanada
San Raffaele Monte Tabor Soave 2015, Doc Veneto, Italy (277392, $14.95, WineAlign)
Always a good Soave buy and especially in the ripe and easily commercialized 2015 vintage. In fact this preface is a clear indication for such a wine because it can basically make itself so it smells, tastes and delivers just like itself. Citrus and herbs, Maresina, Pisacan, Sciopeti and then more citrus, followed by a mouth feel with an accent of stone. Delicious little commercial Soave. So correct. Drink 2016-2018. Tasted September 2016 @Oenophilia1@RegioneVeneto
Foncalieu Le Versant Sauvignon Blanc 2015, Vins De Pays D’oc, Loire, France (470336, $14.95, WineAlign)
Terrific scintillant of a sauvignon blanc with extract to burn and the gesture of giving generously. Pungency be damned this goes at it with vitality, energy and the great sweetness feigning, peachy sauvignon blanc equalizer. There are few Midi SBs that can both thrill and appease with ease like this Pays d’Oc. Crowd pleaser to pour at weddings and other large gatherings. The finish guarantees success. Drink 2016-2019. Tasted September 2016 @foncalieuwines@LoireValleyWine@azureau
Stephane Aviron Beaujolais Villages 2014, Beaujolais, France (468744, $15.95, WineAlign)
The juicy appeal of gamay. In its purest form it struts and flaunts in full peacock display as in this $16 Aviron Beaujolais. He or she who could not drink a tank full of this BV is missing out on one of the go to pleasures of the wine world. Fresh and outright getable, when risked with a more than slight chill this could do no harm. Drink 2016-2018. Tasted September 2016 @DiscoverBojo@Nicholaspearce_
Rioja to grab for, spread out the blanket, pull out the jamon and kick back. Fresh, juicy, slightly smoky and full of nothing but fruit with a quick shake of spice. The simple pleasures provided by Alvaro Palacios at the lowest of low affordability. You can find Rioja with a much greater and historically profound sense of place but it will cost an arm and a leg. And I’m not sure it will get you anywhere. So put aside the serious face and embrace this modish value-driven sketch by Palacios. I too will abide. “It’s not that I care any less for that philosophy, but I would spend one night with you in trade for all that I’ve achieved.” Drink 2016-2018. Tasted September 2016 @WoodmanWS@RiojaWine
Kuhlmann Platz Riesling 2014, Ac Alsace, France (196741, $16.95, WineAlign)
From the cooperative Cave de Hunawihr where the winemaking is overseen by Nicolas Garde here is a typically tart and citrus-driven riesling from alluvial flats. Salinity and a touch of brine with a minor note of spritz makes this nothing but fun. It’s certainly lean and direct but such an Alsace riesling line is fine when done with no agenda in mind. Well made with enough complexity to add five years onto its life. Drink 2016-2021. Drink 2016-2021. Tasted September 2016 @VinsAlsace@AlsaceWines@drinkAlsace@ChartonHobbs
Prodigious and revered producer meets resurrected varietal in this hear me roar and highly expressive roero arneis. From Langhe vineyards in La Morra, Guarene and Govone. The level of extract and texture is elevated to where the grape can go but we so very rarely get a chance to enjoy. This has mineral, loads of mineral, like a chew of rocks in bubble gum form. With this on offer who wouldn’t choose to chew every day. More acclaim for arneis and that makes me smile. The freshness will offer perfect window drinking in years one through three but why not put one or two aside and watch them develop some honey and petrol in years five through ten. Drink 2016-2022. Tasted September 2016 #CorderodiMontezemolo@ProfileWineGrp
Breca Old Vines Garnacha 2013, Do Calatayud, Spain (329086, $22.95, WineAlign)
Very floral garnacha from gravelly slate with more than enough blueberry and blackberry to bake into a hundred pies. As per the modern norm this 100 per cent garnacha from typically regional (upwards of 100 year) old vines pushes the scales in extraction, weight and alcohol. If any Aragonese garnacha can handle such largesse it is Calatayud because the combination of gnarly vines and rocky soil gives essential nutrients to fruit for balance. It may only be a distraction but when the wine is polished (albeit sweetly so) the looming alcohol is kept in threaded check. Drink 2017-2021. Tasted September 2016 @CSWS_ON@WinesofGarnacha@GarnachaOrigen@docalatayud
Wildewood Pinot Noir 2013, Willamette Valley, Oregon (462994, $23.95, WineAlign)
If mountain herbs and tea could burrow or seep their savoury ways into a Willamette Valley pinot noir this Wildewood would be a viable candidate. It’s a global, pinot from everywhere and for everyone affair in here so call the aromas what you will; fynbos, rooibos, Peloponnese clandestina, wild thyme, rosemary, lavender. So pretty in its sauvage, so suave in its ruggedness. This pinot noir understands what it is saying and selling. Unlike the gritty poet, it is in complete control of its phenolics and its faculties. The palate pales but delivers straight to structure. The aridity and the salinity seal the deal. Drink 2016-2020. Tasted September 2016 #Wildewood@Nicholaspearce_
Maison Roche De Bellene Montagny 1er Cru 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (470476, $26.95, WineAlign)
Such thews and texture are wonderful to elevate Montagny and you can tell that important Nicolas Potel time was allocated into turning this into something rocking. Plenty of citrus and wood intertwine in layers of chardonnay flesh. This is quite something. Gregarious, talkative and alive. Drink 2016-2019. Tasted September 2016 @RochedeBellene@vinsdebourgogne@Nicholaspearce_@BourgogneWines
Domaine Loew Vérité Sylvaner 2013, Ac Alsace, France (462598, $25.95, WineAlign)
The truth of sylvaner explodes into olfaction with the flats left for others and the slopes of Alsace greasing their way into this wine. A wow factor of 13 on the texture scale brings it here. Oily doesn’t due this sylvaner justice. You could run heavy machinery on this juice. Beyond the oléagineux there is great bite from old wood, tonic from the varietal necessity and bitters so very artisan crafted in nature. More British aperitif than Italian digestif in that sense but strictly Alsatian and in requiem for a match made in Foie Gras heaven. Needs two years to settle. Drink 2018-2028. Tasted September 2016 #DomaineLoew@VinsAlsace@AlsaceWines@drinkAlsace
Avondale Armilla Blanc De Blanc 2009, Méthode Cap Classique, Wo Paarl, South Africa (451930, $29.95, WineAlign)
From a farm dating to 1693 purchased by Johnathan Grieve’s family in 1996. Poster bubbles, for the Blanc de blancs habitation and for the Avondale oeuvre, the Armillary sphere, Roman “circle of life” and ancient astronomical instrument used to show the position of stars around the earth. Traditional production, with a kiss of oak and a final act of dosage. Five total years on the lees, including two on coarse and one in bottle. Picking was accomplished at the end of that January, in purpose of stylistic elegance and beautiful bitters born of natural and integrated acidity. Terrific dip of biscuits into honey. Like Baklava in a glass though equally savoury to dessert. Baller bubble, balanced and with the sense to envision evolution, to the look ahead of an adult age. Would retail for approximately $28 CAN. Drink 2015-2027. Tasted twice, May and September 2015 @Avondalewine @WOSA_ZA @WOSACanada @RareEarth_Wines
Bonny Doon Beeswax Vineyard Le Cigare Blanc 2013, Arroyo Seco, Central Coast, California (95331, $34.95, WineAlign)
The Beeswax Vineyard is not just a pretty face. That this blend reeks of the bee’s work can’t be a coincidence. The Rhône is but a mere smirk or memory here with fruit so ripe and vital you can hear yourself think. Arroyo Seco does cool chardonnay but it works for these varieties in another worldly way; with viscosity and texture. The pitch from the lemon and the flesh of creamy tropical fruits come together with a party gathering crafted tonic. And yet there is this rhythmic, low-toned, folk-roots-blues riff tenderness to Le Cigare Blanc. Really. J.J. Cale (by way of Don Nix) if you will. I’m going Doon, Doon, Doon, Doon, Doon, Doon. Drink 2017-2024. Tasted September 2016 @BonnyDoonVineyd@RandallGrahm
Castello Di Ama San Lorenzo Gran Selezione Chianti Classico 2011, Docg Tuscany, Italy (418897, $48.95, WineAlign)
Castello di Ama has chosen their signature San Lorenzo Vineyard to qualify for Gran Selezione designation, one of three such highest level Chianti Classico produced at the estate. The high Gaiole elevation and argilo-calcaire soil make for a specific style, still deep and mineral but not so much like what happens from sangiovese raised on Galestro or Albarese solis. The liqueur here is a grander kind of sangiovese ooze (with 20 per cent malvasia and merlot), more hematic and of a purity only it can express. There is more liquorice and less leather, more iron and less cherry. Certainly less fruity but not as mineral. Here the umami is conspicuously undefined and so I am oriented to say it is simply San Lorenzo. Drink 2019-2026. Tasted September 2016 @CastellodiAma@HalpernWine@chianticlassico
The Ratti Marcenasco is in a league of it own but it shares the club with like-minded nebbioli, wines that steep in tradition and breath an aromatic liqueur only its kind resemble. Deep waters here, always mysterious and hiding sunken treasures. Candied roses and liquid tar, savoury forbidden forests and intricate tannic chains. You have to exercise extreme patience with Marcenasco, avoiding years five to 10 and best to look in at 15. Everything will rise to the surface. Drink 2021-2031. Tasted September 2016 #renattoratti@LiffordON
Hamilton Russel Vineyard Pinot Noir 2015, Hemel-en-Aarde Valley, South Africa (999516, $57.95, WineAlign)
In 2015 the hyperbole of the Hemel-en-Aarde shines bright in magnified reflection with fruit and land combining for full effect. I get cola and beet root in ways I cant necessarily recall from most recent Hamilton Russell pinot noir and I also get depth like I’ve not encountered before. This is a massive expression in 2015, not a gentle one. I imagine the vintage was raging with adrenaline and testosterone so you have to take what is given. A masculine wine is the result, muscular, chiseled and ripped. At present the Hamilton Russell homiletic Hemel-En-Aarde verbiage is a tad evangelical. With such Adonis-like features and marbled structure it will need a few years to recoil, recalibrate and recharge. By next decade it will soften and preach with a bold style yet remain humble enough to change. Drink 2019-2025. Tasted September 2016 @OliveHR@hermanuswine
Flowers Pinot Noir 2014, Sonoma Coast, California (215202, $68.95, WineAlign)
Pinot Noir that is all coastal, from vineyards far and wide but inclusive of some fruit from the Sea Ridge Estate Vineyard. An extreme brightness of being pinot noir with that distinctive Sonoma Coast feigned red candy nose, first raspberry and then strawberry. Exquisitely perfumed and gainfully rendered with mindful, purposed and calibrating acidity, propped up and misty fine. Such effete fruit and unassuming character does not materialize with enough regularity out of these parts. The finesse and fineness of this wine is what California does best when it comes from the heart and not from the hand. Though his chardonnay is otherworldly you just have to appreciate David Keatley’s touch with Sonoma Coast pinot noir. Drink 2016-2022. Tasted twice, February and September 2016 @FlowersWinery@rogcowines@sonomavintners