I had been to Villa Trasqua once before, in May of 2016. Proprietor Sven Hulsbergen was more than kind and generous to say I would always be welcome back, so I took him up on that offer and returned in February 2017. I joined Sven and Villa Trasqua’s Export Manager Giorgia Casadio for dinner and to taste through the estate’s current releases, not to mention some spirited conversation and debate.
The following day in Florence inside Stazione Leopolda at Anteprime’s Chianti Classico Collection 2017 Sven and I run through the wines again with two Villa Trasqua associates, Francesca and Guilia. It is nearly impossible to gain a true sense of an estate’s Chianti Classico through the nadir scope of a single 12-hour window, even by tasting each bottle twice, yet such an ascent towards conceptualization and visualization leads to a higher probability of ken. I could not do this with just any Chianti Classico but Villa Trasqua’s wines are both encouraging and enabling. When sangiovese opportunity knocks, Godello walks through the varietal door.
A restful return and new visit with the #chianticlassico of #villatrasqua #castellinainchianti Thank you Sven. Thank you Giorgia. #graziemille
Located north of Siena in Castellina in Chianti with Monteriggioni rising majestically above the estate, Villa Trasqua is built around the ancient and exceptional vineyard known as Nerento. The estate dates back to 1965 and cultivates its 120 hectares and 10 vineyards in the oldest part of Castellina in Chianti. Trasqua is owned by Swiss brothers Sven and Alan Hulsbergen. Organically farmed vines and the gravity fedwinery built on several levels are overseen by oenologist Franco Bernabei and Director Armand Metalla. The estate is represented in Ontario by Frontier Wine Merchants.
I tasted four new releases from Villa Trasqua, all from earlier vintages than the norm shown at the Chianti Classico Collection and held back because time in bottle is your ally and your friend. This is one of the ways that Bernabei refuses to let the estate’s wines melt into a puddle of conformity. The wines are not merely executed on behalf of comfort’s sake or stylized to emulate wherever the sangiovese grass is greener. They are specific to the soils with Nerento at the epicentre of it all.
The team at Trasqua takes what the land gives and allows each vintage to speak on its behalf. There are no forcing square pegs into round holes or the stealing of phrasing from other regional, or even more parochially, Castellina in Chianti micro-locales. Like love, sangiovese from Chianti Classico can’t be owned because no two are the same and Villa Trasqua’s are no exception but, they are becoming increasingly exceptional and each are their own emotive exemption. Here are the notes.
Trasqua’s from the Hulsbergen brothers (Alan and Sven) out of an idyllic, naturally rippling and undulating Castellina in Chianti bowl is 100 per cent sangiovese. I have to admit to fully agreeing with Sven when he tells me “you can drink this with red sauce.” I did in fact retroactively follow-up on this and tasted it alongside one prepared by him at the estate. The round, soft yet structured CC was, for the vintage and the pasta a perfect match. It’s that simple and you should try it, on a Monday night, as we did, in Chianti Classico, or anywhere else. This is traditional (perhaps even more so that their 2012) with its tart and edgy red fruit and some tannin. More than that is its smoke and smoulder, coming as it has from eight months in big barrels, eight more in concrete and finally, steel. Drink 2017-2019. Tasted twice, February 2017 #VillaTrasquaVilla Trasqua@HULSI_IIFrontier Wine Merchants
Though not declared on the label Fanatico is 100 per cent sangiovese in 2011 and very much in line, vein and style to the Annata Chianti Classico. The Bernabei entusiasta/amatore/appassionato for Trasqua’s exceptional Castellina in Chianti terroir comes across with CC amplifications so this does by its nomenclature in attitude, acidity and big red fruit. To stay clear of hyperbole balance was key to the vintage and here struck with firm, grippy and almost gritty amplitude. As a result it’s nearly atypical to traditional but it speaks to the specificity of Trasqua grown sangiovese. Drink 2018-2023. Tasted twice, February 2017
Villa Trasqua Chianti Classico Gran Selezione Nerento 2011, Docg Tuscany, Italy (459685, $39.95, WineAlign)
Nerento lies at the heart of the Trasqua Vineyards and the vines take root in the deep red soil. The name might be mythical, a tree of life reference or from the Latin “nerent,” meaning courting. This is Gran Selezione that courts like a suitor, charming and suave but built on power and a deep liqueur, like at the bottom of a pure well. The sangiovese is still very kissed by wood and locked shut. The first bottle (over dinner) needed more than one hour to open, eventually releasing fresh florals (violets especially), herbs, savour and forest floor. The second bottle next day was not so eager to do the same. This is compact, woven, textured and refined sangiovese with forceful (and the promise of) delicate tannins. Drink 2019-2026. Tasted twice, February 2017
Villa Trasqua IGT Toscana Trasgaia 2012, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, WineAlign)
The IGT foray takes half sangiovese to mingle with two cabernets (35-40 per cent sauvignon and 10-15 franc) from the sandy Trasqua soils abutting Nerento. The name also combines and returns the estate to the earth. The conscious life of this blend centres around a currant crunch and a current of simplicity to solicit early and repetitive consumption with meals. This was bottled in May of 2016 so is now just coming into its window. There is a peaty, smoky note from the oak and this is one instance where sangiovese does not dominate, control or reign. It’s both rich and firm, typically Bernabei in style and with a tannic, beneficially bitter finish. IGT of a democratic and discreet kind. Drink 2017-2019. Tasted twice, February 2017
Journalist hard at work, Photo (c) Christine Lechner
On a glorious February afternoon in between Anteprime days I exited the car at Bibbiano and noticed this most beautiful stone wall bathed in Chianti Classico light. Castellina in Chianti light to be precise, overlooking the Elsa Valley towards the castle of Monteriggioni and I laid my body down for a quick rest. Here in Bibbiano with Montornello on the northwestern side and on the southwestern, Vigna del Capannino. A stillness filled the air. Minutes later, refreshed and ready, I sat down to taste Bibbiano’s wines.
Bibbianaccio. It means bad boy, not literally but this is what it means all the same. Cattivo Ragazzo would be the literal translation of bad boy but an avant-garde IGT from Tommaso Marocchesi Marzi called Bibbianaccio is the elucidation we are going with. A wine that breaks from current ranks by metaphrasing ancient tradition in order to dwell on the past and pour with current modernity.
Tommaso Marocchesi Marzi and his brother Federico are responsible for crafting such a devilish IGT Toscana and it’s a most unusual departure from the rest of their classic renderings of Chianti Classico. Their Annata, Riserva and Gran Selezione sangiovese are steeped in praxis and birthright, adhere to a deeply soulful, local Castellina in Chianti style and the thread run through all three DOCG levels is both obvious and uncanny. What stands further apart with glaring clarity is the determinate or indeterminate Bibbiano slope each wine draws their fruit from. In some cases one or the other and in others, a combination of the two. Montornello and Vigna del Capannino. The descending vineyards on either side of the Bibbiano plateau offer up an incredible study in contrasting Chianti Classico geology.
February? #chianticlassico has no issue with #february nor Godello neither.
“The name Bibbiano is of late Latin origin (circa 200 A.C.) and the first historical reference to the name is dated 1089, preserved in a parchment currently preserved in the Abbey of Passignano. It is a record of the deed of donation of the “curte” (court) and of the “castello de Bibiune cum ecclesia, cum casis, (…) viteis (…)” (castle of Bibbiano with church, farms, and grapevines) from Mingarda di Morando to Giovanni di Benzo.” In 1498, Bibbiano is registered in the Cadastre of the Decima Repubblicana as being owned by Matteo di Piero di Francesco Squarcialupi.”
In 1880 Antonio Marzi, son of Pietro, expanded the property of Bibbiano by adding other plots such as Gagliano, Gaglianuzzo and Padule. In November 1942, together with Giulio Gambelli, Pier Tommaso Marzi started producing Chianti Classico wines at Bibbiano. After World War Two Pier Tommaso Marzi and his son-in-law Alfredo Marrocchesi began major renovations, with the help of Gambelli. The work started in 1950 and ended in 1970 with the completion of a large wine cellar, the planting of 20 hectares of specialized vineyards. The family has been a member of the Consorzio di Vino Chianti Classico since 1948.
A study of the district of Castellina in Chianti and geomorphological Bibbiano is paradigmatic to the variety of the appellation. The estate is placed at the southwestern side of the area with altitudes varying from 250m to 600m. It’s plateau is perched on two slopes, on a late Miocene and early Pliocene seabed platform aged 5-10 million years. On one side the highest and eastern is based on primary boulder platforms; the lowest and western on silt sediments. More specifically it is broken down as calcareous silt and sediments of diverse kinds of clay mixed with round pebbles, rare sands, rare chalk veins on the NE estate side; pure gray clay with fragmented limestones, shattered schists on the SW estate side.
A river of adroit style runs through the wines of Bibbiano. They are uncluttered, ingenious, precise and successive sangiovese (and sangiovese grosso) wines of tradition and modernity. I tasted Chianti Classico Annata, Riserva, Gran Selezione and IGT. Here are the notes.
A river of adroit style runs through it @bibbianowines #ingenuity #uncluttered #succession #precision #chianticlassico #chianticlassicoriserva #granselezione #bibbianaccio #tomassomarocchezimarzi
Taken out of both the north and south vineyards (the estate sits on the ridge of Bibbiano at 310m) from the difficult, rainy vintage. Tommaso Marocchesi Marzi notes that “being organic you have to be very careful with your farming” but despite the adversity the fruit came clean. You get freshness, acidity, florals of a wide range, fennel-liquorice, mint and savour, taut sapidity, but not wound so tight you can’t gain access. The vintage solicited a careful selection, more so than usual but not so out of the ordinary. Yields were low as result. This is very sturdy, essential sangiovese of tradition, proper description of its dual terroir and what it means to be in this wine. From calcareous pebbles in variegated clay and sharp schist in red clay. Smells like the slopes and its natural growth, with just a touch of colorino, raised all in concrete and no wood. Is what it is, perfect and imperfect. Drink 2017-2021. Tasted February 2017 @bibbianowines@chianticlassico@ChiantiClassUSA
A rich liquere, weight and warmth define this sangiovese from Castellina in Chianti by Tommaso and Federico Marrocchesi Marzi. While the old school leather, cherries and steeping liquor are in line with many Brunello this is pure Chianti Classico and not Riserva. The clarity and purity of fruit make that determination even if the wine is warm to mulled in feeling. Will settle a bit and develop its mushroom, truffle and forest floor nuances sooner rather than later. For fans of bold CC and the way it can be thought as has to be. Drink 2018-2022. Tasted January 2017
Montornello is 100 per cent sangiovese grown on the eponymous northern slope, the one with the variegated soil. Montornello is the (five million years) younger of Bibbiano’s two geologies, a platform of several types of partly calcareous, loose clay; red, yellow, amber and white. As floral as the ’14 annata but more mellow, serious and of a noted confidence. Some barriques are employed but the fruit is not shrouded in any way. Scents of liquorice again, plus graphite, a toasty char, warm tar and some beneficial bitters. Finishes strong, seamless and cool. Drink 2018-2023. Tasted February 2017
Bibbiano Chianti Classico Gran Selezione Vigna Del Capannino 2011, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (Agent, WineAlign)
The vineyard “Del Capannino” was planted in the 1950’s by the late great Giulio Gambelli, assistant to Tancredi Biondi-Santi. Not surprisingly and in connection to Brunello di Montalcino it is a clonal planting of sangiovese grosso, with further propagation done in the 1990s. The rich Albarese soil of Del Capannino enjoys the finest exposure and microclimate on the estate and is considered the best expression of Bibbiano’s “genius loci,” the spirit of the place. The first single vineyard vintage was 1998 and the Riserva designation switched to Gran Selezione in 2014, retroactive to the 2010 vintage. Today Bibbiano uses Botti (di rovere) Grande and Tonneaux (beginning in 2008) after barriques had been used for years. Still and always has been 100 per cent grosso, the only producer to do so in Chianti Classico. And so theirs is a liqueur that of course takes your mind to Brunello but this is purely Castellina and Chianti Classico so don’t be confused or tempted to settle for idyll comparisons. This has freshness, purity and that enticing meets teasing acidity, certainly consistent with and of no divergence to Bibbiano style. Ties to CC and CCR are blatant, necessary and so very pleasing. There is great structure but you can think about drinking this in its youth. It wont let out all its secrets but it will begin to tell its story. A story of territory. Drink 2019-2028. Tasted February 2017
Bibbianaccio comes to light in its inaugural vintage, “the bad boy of Bibbiano.” Who is this bad boy, wine or man, referring to Tommaso Marocchesi Marzi perhaps, or is it something other? The 50 per cent sangiovese, (40) colorino and mixed varietal (including malvasia bianca) blend is an ode to a time before, when Chianti Classico regional wines were blends filled with whatever grew in the fields and men were men. This (mere production of 2,000 bottles) one is forged with extended battonage, malolactic is done in tonneaux and then the blend is assembled and sent to Slavonian oak. The bad more likely refers to a departure, a break from the stylistic and the the territorial approach. His purpose is “to show that we are capable of anything,” insists Tomasso. His rebel is floral and it reminds me of a northern Rhône syrah-viognier, in a sangiovese-colorino with white grape addendum body. Colorino brings the colour, but texture is also ushered in. The punch downs, the stalks mined in, the wood and the compression all give this a vivid, fleshy reality. It’s also much more tannic than the straight-shooting sangiovese. Bibbiannacio is yet another wine tasted in Chianti Classico with no frame of reference, or certainly not one that I have ever tasted before. It is drawn fruit on down from both sides of the Bibbiano plateau but I really taste the calcaire, liquid chalky and mixed with that tannin showing that some further bottle time is needed. Drink 2019-2025. Tasted February 2017
Two sides of Bibbiano: Montornello and Vigna del Capannino
The antediluvian revival one percent from #chile @garagewineco via @cruontario with @cbriesling #derekmossmanknapp #pais #carignanfieldblend
‘Twas back in September that Charles Baker brought Derek Mossman Knapp to Butcher Bar for a sit down with Chile’s newest and oldest wines. You all know Charles from Riesling and Stratus Vineyards fame. Derek is a Canadian in Chile and few winemakers, expatriate or deeply local generational have delved as deep into the country’s heartland, oldest vines and ancestral traditions.
Known to the locals as “That Garage Wine Company,” Mossman Knapp and his wife Pilar Miranda source Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc in Maipo. They draw Carignan and Cinsault from Itata. Derek and Charles (by way of Cru Wine Merchants importing agency) brought their Maule Valley project wines to taste; dry-farmed Mediterranean Carignan field blends grown on centuries-old rootstock by small farmers with Garnacha, Mataró and Cinsault. They also poured Pais.
Each wine is from a different place: Caliboro, Sauzal, Truquilemu and Portezuelo. Separate parcels of one or two hectares each belong to a small farmer who works with horse and plough as his family has done since colonial times. The wines are made by hand with native yeasts in small tanks, punched down manually and pressed out in a small basket press.
I tasted one Pais and three Carignan field blend lots that day with Jamie Drummond and Sara d’Amato. Here are the notes.
Derek Mossman Knapp with Jamie Drummond and Sara d’Amato
Garage Wine Co. Pais First Salvo Ferment 2015, Secano Interior, Do Maule Valley, Chile (Agent, $27.95, WineAlign)
“You tell me there’s an angel in your tree,” or in this case on the Pais vine, a.k.a. “Mission” or in the local vernacular, “Pipeño.” In the hands of Canadian Derek Mossman Knapp these high-yielding, nouveau producing Maule Valley ancients are taken on a tour of resurrection. He and winemaking partners Pilar Miranda and Dr. Alvaro Peña are taking these ‘old becomes new again’ varietal vines and making history in a glass. The First Salvo Ferment as they call it is “the wine they drank in colonial times” but here original, purer than natural, with minimal sulphites after the (no new oak) barrel ferment. As a red berry liquid salve it is chalky and full of grape cure, “a one winter wine” as Derek likes to call it. So enjoy this between when this is tasted and when this is written (April 2017), literally. A wine that pushes the lore of measurement, history and precision. The price reflects the one winter promise. familiar somehow and fantastic. So please, don’t burn down the mission but feel free to “take all you need to live inside.” Drink 2016-2017. Tasted September 2016
Garage Wine Co. Lot #48 Carignan Field Blend Portezuelo Vineyard 2013, Maule Valley, Chile (Agent, $39.95, WineAlign)
From a wine company in which harvests were and are still are measured in barrels. The fruit is fermented in open-top vats, caps are punched down by hand, pressing is manual, yeasts are strictly native and work is done in a renovated (circa) 1840s cellar. The Portezuelo Vineyard in Itata is just the sort of place to give a bottle a wine a story, like this parcel of a hectare (or maybe two) farmed with horse and plough as the farmer’s family has done since colonial times. This carignan field blend curated by Derek Mossman Knapp, Pilar Miranda and Dr. Alvaro Peña delivers a deeper wealth of fruit so should be considered as carrying a longevity into a second winter. It is possessive of some sweet and fine-grained tannin and forges an impossible connective route from one fruit on to another; pomegranate to raspberry and vice versa. Really remarkable into its great length. Exactly what you need from a two winter wine out of which the field variegates in the glass. Also offers up proof that these wines are about places not varietals. Drink 2018-2020. Tasted September 2016
Garage Wine Co. Lot #47 Carignan Field Blend Truquilemu Vineyard 2013, Maule Valley, Chile (Agent, $39.95, WineAlign)
A sister to the Lot #48 grown in Portezuelo, this Truquilemu field-blend of carignan, garnacha & mataró is grown by a small farmer using ancestral hand and horse methods in the tradition of the Secano Costero. This strikes an accord in similarity to Lot #48 but here of a more pronounced, deeper cure that is not just grape-derived but takes a bigger risk. More granitic, schist syrah-like with charcuterie aridity and the intense tang of dried smoky, meaty flesh running through its veins. More hematic, ferric too, deeper, grittier and firm. This carries tannin and will go three to five winters deep, at least. But you never forget about the fruit here. There are blueberries mixed into the red drupe. A complex conclusion is drawn. Drink 2018-2023. Tasted September 2016
Garage Wine Co. Lot #45 Carignan Field Blend Sauzal Vineyard 2013, Maule Valley, Chile (Agent, $39.95, WineAlign)
Lot #45 comes from the Sauzal Vineyard and like sisters 47 and 48 is a carignan field blend co-planted with garnacha and mataró. The location is on the road to Constitucion in Empedrado in the shadow of the Sauzal Coastal Mountain Range. The older cracked granite soils cool slower than those of Andes proximity. If the Lot #48 in Portezuelo showed the region’s red fruit and #47 out of Truquilemu the schisty-mineral and meaty cure than it is here in Lot #45 where the twain is met. The freshness antithetical to taut stylistic combined and distilled into the most amenable is quite something. It makes sense that Derek Mossman Knapp would pour this last of the three, if only for educational purposes, but I prefer to call it revelation. Now we are tasting something you can store between two and five winters. The Sauzal persists as red fruit sumptuous with quite a bit of liquorice within a solid core of acidity. Fresh and yet quite firm, bright and cool. This will gift the broadest appeal because it has less cure and more middle of the road desire but it is still so very different than 99 per cent of Chile. Also noted are some herbs and fennel but it is not distinctly savoury. It is also the most tart of the four, the most recognizable in any commercial sense and yet it is anything but that. Drink 2017-2020. Tasted September 2016
Yes we did. Who shucks’em cleaner anywhere close to the headwaters? #nobody @TideandVine
The VINTAGES April 15th release is all about value. I tasted through close to 100 over these past few weeks and wines under $20 are what stood out from the pack. My recommendations include four under $15 and six more under $18. Everything needed to get you through five months of impending warm weather is right here, right now. Enjoy.
Heartland Spice Trader Shiraz/Cabernet Sauvignon 2014, Langhorne Creek, South Australia, Australia (429241, $16.95, WineAlign)
From Langhorne Creek and reeking of exoticsim, the aptly-named Spice Trader is a glass of full-bodied shiraz-cabernet sauvignon savour. The seasonings are zesty, spirited, piquant and then finally, settled into a mulled warmth. Red peppercorn, cardamom and allspice bring a Malabar-Zanzibar, dhow-drift sail through the red fleshy fruit. No kernel is left uncracked and the spiked liquere leaves a lingering lift. More Langhorne than cabernet or shiraz but full of flavour. Drink 2017-2018. Tasted January 2017 @heartlandwines@TheVine_RobGroh
La Griffe Bernard Chéreau Muscadet Sèvre & Maine 2015, Sur Lie, Ap Loire, France (948182, $16.95, WineAlign)
Peaceful afternoon in February light at #carrobio #chianticlassico #panzano
Few wanderlust statements sound better than “I returned to Tuscany” and with the greatest of fortune smiling upon me I am able to utter the phrase again. Not just Toscana mind you, but Chianti Classico, in and out of February Anteprime tastings, to a pin on the map south from Firenze along the Chiantigiana, sidestepping for the Florentine view from Impruneta, then through Greve and into Panzano. The reason for my return begins as it always does, to adduce a lifelong pursuit deep into the meaning of sangiovese. It also fosters a fixation dug into the variegated soils of Chianti Classico and even further still, to the nurturing, sub-appellative specificity of sangiovese’s intaglio secrets. With each return it also ingrains a feeling of coming home.
The most recent visit brought me back to Panzano, first to Il Molino di Grace and then to Tenuta Carobbio. Panzano in Chianti lies at the heart of Chianti Classico and below the hilltop town sits the “golden basin” of the Conca d’Oro, once a prized wheat producing area interspersed with grape vineyards and olive groves. Carobbio is not so easy to find. The tight twisting road from Panzano climbs and descends before turning off-road for the descent into the valley where tucked away and recondite Carobbio lies. It is no stretch to call Carobbio a hidden gem.
Forza e Passione
E la sua passione describes the vision of Carlo Novarese’s decision to create Tenuta Carobbio. The Como silk king was born into a family from Monferrato and the childhood memories of wine production at Sannazaro Castle conspired to transfer passion into the estate’s Panzano ways. At 60, Novarese handed over the family textile company to his son and returned to Tuscany. “A spontaneous return, perhaps atavistic, which marked a new beginning.” With a “desire was to return to his roots and begin living close to the soil.” During a magical evening in June 1986, in a moment frozen in time, Carlo Novarese felt the certainty of having found “un angolo di paradiso in Toscana, “a little corner of paradise.”
A little slice of Eden in Tuscany
The southern facing Carobbio set between 350 and 400 metres of elevation stretches over 50 hectares, mostly forested, 10 of which are specialized vineyards and two are dedicated to olive cultivation. The Panzano hill and its houses protect the southern Conca d’Oro valley from the cold Apennine winds. The peaks of Monte Domini, Poggio Convento, Monte San Michele and Monte Querciabella in the east shelter the vineyards of Carobbio from the winds and damp air from the Arno.
The soils are characterized by a significant proportion of deep clay, sandstone, siltstone strata, marl and Alberese, the latter two most typical of Chianti Classico. The land is simply and emphatically “un territorio che vive graze alla forza e passione delle persone,” a land that lives through the strength and passion of its people. The 150 year-old farmhouse, ‘Capiteto’ is a great symbol of the estate’s history, a home at the edge of the Conca d’Oro, with views stretching from Rignana in San Donato to Tavarnelle.
Silvia Fiorentini and Dario Faccin
After walking the estate I sat down with Carobbio’s Director of Winemaking Dario Faccin and the Consorzio di Vino Chianti Classico’s Silvia Fiorentini for a tasting of current vintages and indelible memory etching bottles from the past. Dear Carobbio, thank you for taking me in, for sustaining me and for introducing me to the mysteries of the Conca d’Oro. Here are my notes on the nine wines tasted, with thanks to Dario, including selections from 1997, 1995 and 1991.
Single-vineyard, 100 per cent sangiovese, so mineral-spiced you would think it came from barrel #notachance #carrobio #toscana #panzano #terrarossa #rosato #rosé
Carobbio’s is different, a rosato of its own accord from a hasty (24-28 hours) fermentation descried of 100 per cent sangiovese. After four to five months in stainless steel it asks to show the world what it has to offer from a specific, steep-terraced red clay soil vineyard, thus the moniker and only used for this wine. A mineral-saline aroma sears ahead of the fruit which is bright of light cherry and convincingly of an intent to celebrate sangiovese in a form not so often noted. Like a cross between Coonawarra of terra rossa for cabernet sauvignon and Swartland of schist for syrah but here with sangioivese, for Rosé. Much more fruit on the palate but still the light and lithe cherry. There is more colour from sangiovese, naturally, but not from pressing. A very distinguished and elegant Rosato. Drink 2017-2020. Tasted February 2017 @Tenuta_Carobbio@apparitionwines@chianticlassico@ChiantiClassUSA
Chianti Classico 2014 is a Panzano in Chianti, Conca d’Oro sangiovese with five per cent merlot that takes just one whiff to gain an understanding of what’s going on with wine director Dario Faccin, Carobbio and where these wines are heading. From the start I would ask to leave vintage concern or controversy out of the equation and simply concentrate on the purity from a variegated sangiovese that is entirely specific to the vineyards here. The red to purple sangiovese, transversing a line from a classic to ultra modern without ever veering from what sangiovese must have been and quintessentially is, off of vines tendered into Carobbio’s soils. The only comparison thus far is the Radda in Chianti Colle Bereto from Bernardo Bianchi, here of course so different, but with perfect hue, avoidance of massive structure and bullish tannin, in a word or two, “molto elegante.” Precise. Drink 2017-2025. Tasted February 2017
For Chianti Classico Riserva the solo performance is 100 per cent sangiovese and just as 2013 must be this grabs you by the olfactory senses with elegant inhalant immediacy. You are immersed straight away into a wine without reserve in the way that the only the purest of Riserva can be. Philanthropic, generous and kind. Even more so and because it is Carobbio, there is no fence to jump over, hoop to hurl through or great wall to climb. Not in aroma and then what follows is palate texture and finally fine-grained tannin. Not even acidity will lash out but rather support, with more kindness. Everything is presented from the start with a wisdom that doesn’t rely on oxidative or cured character. Just elegance. Rich and affirming, for sangiovese and life. Humour this CCR ’13 and wait just one more year, per il rispetto. Drink 2018-2027. Tasted February 2017.
Leone is Chianti Classico incarnate, a single-vineyard sangiovese and perhaps the artist of the future known as Gran Selezione. The aromatics are a force from fruit raised in front of the river (Pesa) on the border between Florence and Siena, a high-density (5,000-5,500 plants per hectare) vineyard. In the first week of June Dario says “I take all the leaves off of the stems,” executed with risk-reward abandon but on second thought, as a factual matter of personal volition and intuition. Then two weeks later the smaller leaves begin to grow. This allows the early phenolic process to work on the young skins and increase the early offerings of photosynthesis. The skins carry a natural protection against the sun (in June) but not in August. Voila, wine begins in the vineyard. Leone is incredibly young and perfumed with so much restraint. It gets neither more precise, elegant or wise, or even more important, as a vineyard representative or as such a mindful and consistently right expression as this. The tannins are the finest of any you are likely to taste in sangiovese. The fruit is so perfect, red and purple, living and loving together, and you don’t need to name them. Dario insists on the simple and the obvious. That you taste the grapes every day at harvest and when the bottom of the skins do not attack you with aggressive tannin and the brown seeds crunch, you are ready to pick. “If you want to produce a great wine, you have to walk in the vineyard every day.” Leone’s got soul and only 4,000 bottles are produced. Drink 2020-2033. Tasted February 2017
Pietraforte is the Carobbio diversion into 95 per cent cabernet sauvignon (plus five cabernet franc) out of a 30 year-old vineyard that generally yields 3,500 kg per hectare or what Dario Faccin deems “niente.” Only 2,000 bottles are produced and 2013 is still a bambino, with wood more apparent on the nose than the sangiovese, quite spiced and then even spicier on the palate. Nothing vegetal takes any place at this international varietal table but the franc lends its must give current, of currants and even a little espresso. This has cool red soil savour that the cabs will inherit from the wind and the earth. But I have to say and say it with conviction, this is more varietally correct and obvious than most. More cabernet than Toscana. Needs five years, minimum. 2022-2030. Tasted February 2017
What are you tasting right now? #carrobio @chianticlassico #1991 #1997
Chianti Classico 1997 was made by then oenologist Gabriella Tani, the first pupil of Vittorio Fiore. With 20 beautiful years of slow development now in the past this has drifted into the smoky, opaque and cloudy future, elegant and elongated though its best days have only recently receded out of view. Plums mingle with raisins while the original cherries are now dehydrating sweet and turning to leather. There is this delicate acidity and silky mouthfeel that reminds you of what Chianti Classico once was (and for some continue to make), that curative, always knew what it was going to be in disposition for two years even before it has taken its first steps. In glass 15 minutes it now changes and becomes even more like its original self, minus the tannin. The old funk is in, quietly slipping into the room, lingering and taking a seat at the table. It is most welcome. Drink 2017-2020. Tasted February 2017
Ranging back further to 1991, now this is something else, 26 year-old Chianti Classico (Riserva), but surely so like the normale, alive, singing and oh I bet it can tell some stories. From a Carobbio golden age, at a time when the wines were at one with grandfather’s pipe, when I and so many other children would sit on his lap and as the pipe-cleaner came out, we would take in a deep breath and this was the smell. He wasn’t Tuscan, never walked the Conca d’Oro, knew nothing of Panzano, but does it matter? Chianti Classico of no guru, no method, no teacher. Now the wine morphs into delicate, fine-spice, a moment’s travel on a magic carpet to somewhere exotic. Than back to sangiovese reality, with lavender, rosemary and wild cherry. The acidity in 1991 is kept, preserved alive so there will easily be five years left to repeatedly find this in a sound and gifting place. “We’ve got to go back. For the healing. Go on with the dreamers.” Drink 2017-2023. Tasted February 2017
Leone 1995 was made under the auspices of the Vittorio Fiore-Gabriella Tani oenology stylistic for Carlo Novarese. To say that this single-vineyard sangiovese is youthful would be the biggest IGT understatement of the century. From vines that at the time were 25 years-old, Leone is not just a survivor of a universally-declared incredible vintage, it is a singular expression from 1990’s Tuscany, in Chianti Classico and for Panzano. The violets, dried espresso and plum-amaretti semifreddo (savoury, not sweet) mixes with fennel frond, fresh rosemary and the 20-plus years lingering Carobbio tobacco. The acidity is fully intact, still travelling up and down the sides of the tongue, repeatedly and soliciting so much savour, sapidity, a desire for a mouthful of hematic, rare sear of Claudia’s beef filet and then more and more sipping. After 20 minutes the aromatics deliver a raspberry purée and even a black olive and mineral-saline, short of briny caper into the fray by stroke of some aromatic brush and bush in the light afternoon wind. That’s enough. I’m not sure my heart can take any more. Time for Vin Santo. Drink 2017-2029. Tasted February 2017
A great honour to taste this 1995 #carobbio #leone and in memory of #carlonovarese Thank you Dario and Silvia. Would like the chance to do it again in 22 years #toscana #sangiovese
Tenuta Carobbio Vin Santo del Chianti Classico Occhio di Pernice 2010, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $49.95, WineAlign)
Vin Santo del Chianti Classico Occhio di Pernice, “The eyes of the partridge,” called as such because it adheres to the credo of Vin Santo, made from at least 80 per cent sangiovese. Here the number is 90, with (five) trebbiano and (five) malvasia bianca, a completely different take, with so much more fruit, red fruit, away from the stone-peach/apricot vein and grounded, back down to the earth. Long, created by time in barrel spice, with the accent in cinnamon and there is this lemon peel and ripe crabapple aroma too. The palate is all cherry blossom liqueur, soft, creamy, downy, silky and nearly gelid. But it’s warm and comfortable. The gentlest and most ethereal Vin Santo in which acidity tempers sweetness, connecting with each other and neither bleeding ego or control. Drink 2017-2035. Tasted February 2017
It was December of 2016 when I last sat down to taste with Mackenzie Brisbois of Trail Estate Winery. With the first year anniversary of her inaugaral wine release having recently passed and the 2017 (Prince Edward) County in the City tasting coming up this Thursday, it seems as good a time as ever to revisit and publish my tasting notes on her multifarious ’15s. I had previously tasted a 2015 group of skin-contact riesling and sauvignon blanc in April 2016.
Brisbois’ concentration bordering on infatuation incites a summons to contest with the fruit reaped out of two Niagara vineyards, one farmed by Ed Hughes on the Lincoln Lakeshore and the other by Craig Wismer from his Wismer Vineyards Foxtrot Block on the Twenty Mile Bench. While time develops Trail Estate’s plantings in Prince Edward County and the fruit that will eventually come, these iconic Niagara Peninsula plots more than suffice and for what Trail Estate needs to say today. In fact I don’t envision Mack Brisbois moving on from these two sites any time soon, what with her triumvirate expressions focused on skin contact, wild ferments and barrel aging. It seems that riesling, chardonnay and sauvignon blanc, these vineyards and the Brisbois experimental style were all made for one another.
Which elicits my response to the question you are chomping at the bit to ask. Come on I know it’s what you are thinking. Why are these wines so expensive? Why pay $25-$35 for Niagara fruit bottled in Prince Edward County? Why pay a premium for speculative and probationary wines from a small up and coming estate not yet on the commercial radar? For any Ontario wine for that matter? These are all good, valid and ignorant questions.
First of all, these wines are made in minuscule quantities by a small group of passionate, risk-taking, acumen-exceptional people. The fruit is expensive, whether it travels three hours east from Niagara or not. Great winemakers to be have to hone their craft on something while they wait for their own gardens to grow. A rock star in waiting will earn stripes by purchasing fruit and turning water in wine. Most important to remember is the honesty of what’s inside their bottles, how in spite of their experimental nature they are so f-in clean, pure and drinkable. It’s also amazing to note that Brisbois is fully cognizant (and readily forthright) about the mistakes she made (and allowed others to make) in growing, fermenting and finishing these wines and how she would correct them going forward. These wines represent just the tip of her proverbial winemaking iceberg, of what’s to come when she gets really, really good at this. Not that she isn’t already but risks, mistakes and epiphanies will all combine and conspire to lead her and her labels to greatness. Are you reading me?
Here are the six wines tasted with Brisbois on that early winter’s day.
The sourcing is 100 per cent Niagara fruit that was previously allotted to the estate’s Vintner’s Weiss, here with six months extra wait time (in very old 500L barrels). Typically potpourri floral with lemon zest spritz in the air but also masculine musky. Not so strong like the passing herd of Ovibos moschatus but it’s there. The palate is all tight turns down tart alleys, fleshy and rippling. The textural breadth is key to keeping this Musqué from turning medicinal because a return to the aromatics finds expression in language often spoken by gewürztraminer or viognier. The talk of Muscat, or Musqué. There were 64 cases produced. Drink 2016-2018. Tasted December 2016
Mackenzie Brisbois spins some old world order on her riesling from Niagara’s Foxcroft Vineyard. It begins like every other in stainless steel but is then transferred to old 500L and 225L barrels, travels over the full malolactic threshold and is finally bottled unfiltered. This is not exactly a rogue approach but it is certainly throwback experimental. Is it an atypical, mad scientist outtake? Perhaps. But it is less unusual than her previous skin-contact series, invisibly stitched and tart-pan curl rieslings. In 2015 there is an amalgamated, pretty little funk, and lemon like you’ve not nosed before. At once expectedly oaky (in an old way) but now settling down, beautifully arid, preparing the nest for a life of comfort. The stoic nature of riesling is acclimatized with a meagre 1.5 g/L of RS and indiscernible sulphur. Was bottled in November. Timbered Trocken at its finest. A total of 125 cases produced. Drink 2016-2022. Tasted December 2016
A blend of vineyards, from Ed Hughes and (Wismer) Foxcroft, perhaps with some influence under the lingering auspices of the Norman Hardie school, here in the playful and progressive hands of Mack Brisbois. Mackenzie employs no sulphur at processing, allowing for chardonnay efficacious and liberally oxidized, settled, cold stabilized, non bentonite-affected, chilled and racked. Not lost is the ever-commented process of going at it with wild ferment, but also caution thrown to the wind via no temperature control (but yes on the Hughes fruit), with the final end game in search of and wanting a fruity Chablis side. Done up in half stainless plus 50 old 500L and two 225L barrels. The sulphur was added in October, the full malo achieved and then bottled in November. All of this technical mumbo-jumbo to say there is still quite a creamy, leesy, oaky feeling but like some others in Niagara (Robyn’s Block, Oliveira and Aberdeen) it totes great palate texture and a “fruitiness,” but it’s not fruity. It may not recreate the Chablis fruit to mineral purity but it is a righteous, proper and Niagara purity fashioned in PEC. There are 266 Cases. Drink 2016-2020. Tasted December 2016
Trail Estate Riesling Wild Ferment Ed Hughes Vineyard 2015, VQA Lincoln Lakeshore, Ontario (Winery, $28.00, WineAlign)
This off-dry riesling was de-stemmed and steeped under 24 hours of skin contact, pressed and wikked by wild ferment. “Stopped on taste” notes winemaker Mackenzie Brisbois which turned out to be off-dry, at 19 g/L of RS. The skin contact confuses the perceived sugar levels “so if the mark was breached, so be it. I just realy liked where it was at.” Besides, the wine did it’s own thing, essentially, by and by and in presentation of itself. A very Mosel nose with no aromatic sweetness really and acidity to temper the sugar crawling across the palate. Carries a concrete feeling despite the stainless regimen and nary a tropical fruit or custardy cream moment intrudes. The orchard meets late August Niagara stone fruit is all that concerns. Darn delicious riesling. There were 120 cases made. Drink 2016-2020. Tasted December 2016
More than OK I must say about this baco noir of resolute and absolute crush ability. Whether against or not against her will I cannot say but Mackenzie Brisbois must be the first to commercialize the musky and foxy hybrid in such a way, with carbonic maceration plus yeasts for eight days and the sugar arrested at at 5 g/L. TE released this antithetical BN on on Nouveau day but there were only 30 cases made. It is without a doubt the prettiest of nouveau and of all the bacos ever. There is no fizz, no re-ferment and it is very drinkable. A stable, dark fruit vetted, better than many gamay, thirst-quenching drink. A South African Jurgen Gouws Intellego meets Jacques de Klerk Thirst by way of baco noir in Prince Edward County. Fun, juicy, easy. Well done. Drink 2016. Tasted December 2016
Not bottled yet, this mason jar barrel sample is from a Wismer single-vineyard (Foxcroft). It will be pulled from (one new of six and the rest 13s and 14s) barrels this coming week but as of yet unsulphured it already has that slightly sulphured and coarse filtered feeling. Beautiful dark fruit has aromatically blossomed from being open a few days and this really speaks of of that rarely achieved Niagara cabernet franc imposiibility. Soil-clay funky, so pure and precise. Carries that feign of sweetness, low alcohol, depth but so not heavy and plenty of spice. There will be 100-120 cases. $30ish.
This extrospective @TrailEstateWine #cabernetfranc ’15 by @MackBrisbois…wait for it.