Spotlight on South Africa in VINTAGES August 6th

South Africa’s South Coast

as seen on WineAlign

Rosé all day, an absence of whites, reds in Portuguese, French and Italian dress plus choosing South Africa like falling off a log

It has been nearly a year since I last visited South Africa and every time VINTAGES rolls out an easily managed thematic collection of wines from that great country the heart swells and memories flood back into the brain. The powers that be within the LCBO’s New World buyers’ department do their finest no sweat work and narrowing down when it comes to Western Cape collections, surely witnessed and proven by the duck soup choices made for both the July 20th and August 6th releases. But we can’t lay too much emphasis on their easily accomplished selections as being the be all, end all reason for the successes. Producers are fortunate to work with exceptional terroir that includes dozens or more old vine blocks in many Cape nooks and transversely the Ontario purchasing choices are so numerous it’s like shooting fish in a barrel. The winemakers adage of “just don’t mess it up” translates into kudos to the buyers for getting things right. The fact is South African wines are of such high quality across varietal, producer and regional lines they speak for themselves and do so with great heart.

What do you do with the Swartland Swingers? Lawn bowls in Malmesbury of course

Related – Heritage and diversity in South Africa

Which brings me to what struck so strong in September 2018, straight to the heart and without equivocation. Heritage and diversity are the country’s two greatest strengths. Sure as a circle will turn you around there is this third tangible and credible something that seems so unmissable about South Africa and South Africans. Resilience. Neither politics, nor conflicts between and in the oppression of peoples nor drought can deter the farmers, workers and producers of this nation. The human condition mimics its heritage vineyards planted to century-old varieties, to perpetuate and to persevere. This is the South African way. And it is the wines that are exceptional in ways that require great levels of explanation.

Over the last several centuries grape varieties were brought, expatriated and forced into the blending of exile. No peoples should ever be de-humanized nor taken for granted and neither should wines be quietly dismissed. With each passing varietal situation time has been sublimed and wines produced in South Africa teach us that they simply are not examples of minor beverages. It has taken place in the heart of agriculturalist and winemaking ability, to change small things and see greatness in ascension to that which is simple, authentic and refined. It’s a matter of having felt sensations introduced into the absurdity of our lives.

We begin with some wines tasted and assessed back in September 2018. These are a cross-section of what the country’s makers do best, some unknown, others better known and collectively they act as examples in performance at the highest level.

Fourteen South African producers and wines you need to know

A. A. Badenhorst Chenin Blanc The Golden Slopes 2017, WO Swartland (WineAlign)

The Golden Slopes is chenin blanc planted on granite hillsides, vines in the 80-ish years of age and this surely has much to do with the paradigm of success predicated by a focus on texture. Remarkable heritage vines on the Badenhorst for which Adi is able to seek, measure and play. Like the Secateurs it is indeed all about texture but here, this is something other. Conatus. The Golden Slopes are marked by intense and impressive warmth, lees and the effects of managing lost acidity. Adi finds a way for them to be kept by the moments gained in flesh and layers. Old vines do what the young and inexperienced do not. They achieve an innate inclination, in this case for chenin blanc to continue to exist and enhance itself. Drink 2019-2027.  Tasted September 2018

Craven Wines Syrah The Faure Vineyard 2017, WO Stellenbosch (WineAlign)

Like the sister Firs this Faure Vineyard site is also 21 years of age, east facing towards the Heldeberg, with rocks in the soils. The name is more than familiar to Jeanine Craven, who was a Faure before she merged with Mick. What really separates this place is the marine air, three kilometres from the sea, as far as the African Black Oystercatcher flies. Again the planning involves whole cluster pressing and on skins seven days, to make pure syrah. Separated by 15 kms the Faure is antithetical to the Firs, salted by the sea and of a furthered intensity in a different form. It’s near searing, linear, grippy and with acidity lifting everything. Really juicy, pushed by a wow factor, clean, no funk and so much spice. Drink 2019-2027.  Tasted September 2018

David And Nadia Wines Chenin Blanc Hoë Steen 2017, WO Swartland (WineAlign)

One of two single vineyard explorations from the Sadie’s work is this 1968 steen planted in deep soils to the west, towards Darling. This fourth vintage is a demure of chenin blanc’s deepest, richest and most glycerin textured possibilities. Time and a warming in the glass causes this floral emergence in a spiced space time continuum usually reserved for white wines like Condrieu. But this is entrenched in heritage steen genetics, not viognier and the acidity is all local, parochial and fine. The complexities are circular by nature, in rotation and encompassing all that we hold sacred for Cape wines. Takes hold of your mind and controls your breathing with its life affirming energy, like an invisible blanket wrapping you up in the desert, at night, under stars. Total production is 45,000 bottles. Get some. Drink 2019-2028.  Tasted September 2018

Hamilton Russell Vineyards Pinot Noir 1997, WO Hemel En Aarde Valley (WineAlign)

It was 1997, a point 10 years deep into the Hermanus pinot noir investigations and what Anthony Hamilton Russell called “the year the Dijon clones kicked in, or at least the use of them.” This is seemingly more evolved than that ’86 if only because the über ripe fruit may have baked a bit in the sun. Tastes so old school Beaune now with a cane sugar-cocoa-vanilla trilogy of development. Powerful pinot noir now in the throes of its soporific times. Drink 2018.  Tasted September 2018

Huis Van Chevallerie The Hummingbird Colibri Kap Klassique 2017 (WineAlign)

The Hummingbird is composed of 70 percent viura with chenin blanc from Christa von la Chevallerie’s Nuwedam Farm in the Paardeberg. The first viura as far as we can tell in South Africa, a Spanish grape variety not very high in acidity picked up and elevated by the chenin. This first vintage kick at the sparkling can in a Cava style is mostly 2017 fruit, in bottle 12 months so very much adhering to a Cap Classique model. Christa thinks both outside the box and the varietal groove with this textural beauty and so its moniker naturally importunes as Kap Klassique. As a bottle of bubbles it offers a forward rush of life, crystallized in a brilliant jewel of a moment. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted September 2018

Ken Forrester Wines Chenin Blanc The FMC 2004, Stellenbosch (WineAlign)

FMC, as in Forrester (Ken), winemaker Martin Meinert and chenin blanc. Here looking back 14 years to a time when they and only a handful of others had the true understanding of foreshadowing as to what the signature grape variety could become for South Africa. That is why they set to making this highly specific and purposed example. From a single vineyard, then 34 years old (now pushing 50) and the eighth vintage, by 2004 fully commanded stylistically by its makers. Barrel fermented and bloody rich, still viscous, now so honeyed and lit like a candle in a cool cave. A true original, like the Ford Motor Company, a female main character kicking butt in an action film, FMC. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted September 2018

Lismore Chardonnay Estate 2017, WO Greyton (WineAlign)

From the Cape’s south coast and Samantha O’Keefe’s Greyton Farm down a dusty road. The Estate sees 500L barrels, 35 per cent new and is a best fruit selection cuvée. It’s also about the ferment “to keep a limey tension,” tells O’Keefe, so it’s really about the combination of the two. Like the “normale” the orchard fruit persists but here there are stone fruits joining the apples and now the grip takes hold. If the other needs a year in bottle this “Reserve” could entertain three. In quite an awe-inspiring way it travels to and fro on a Meursault-Marsannay line, of high construct and palpable intensity. I’d wait the three for the grace and beauty of its future. Drink 2020-2027.  Tasted September 2018

Momento Wines Grenache Noir 2017, WO Western Cape (WineAlign)

There are some South African winemakers who just seem to intuit what grenache is capable of realizing comme il faut from a Cape raising. Marelise Niemann is one of a select few who have mastered the art and science of grenache pulmonary resuscitation. Hers is 90 per cent Paardeberg and (10) Voor Paardeberg, so not labeled as such. “The most important red grape in South Africa,” she says with varietal diffidence and I will not be one to argue. Not with Marelise. These are bush vines, all itching to succeed off of decomposed granite. These vines scratch and claw their way out of the aridity and the adversity to gift a purity of fruit and very special tannins. Pretty and with a level of tension seen in its face, after some time on skins and a natural ferment crawled out of whole bunch pressings. Spiced and spicy, demurred, matured in old oak 16 months, wise, mature and nurturing. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted September 2018

Mullineux Cape Winemakers Guild ‘The Gris’ Sémillon 2013, WO Swartland (WineAlign)

This was the year Andrea Mullineux began working with this rare and certified by the Old Vines Project sémillon gris from a 1960 planted (just 2 kms away from the chenin blanc), heritage dry-farmed plot grown on the granite soils of the Paardeberg in the Swartland. Only a few blocks exist anywhere and in 2014 some of this fruit began to augment the Mullineux Old Vines White. It is what Andrea calls “a project of the jumping gene.” It’s like a varietal ride on a pogo stick, in colour from pale like colombard to dark as cinsault. A citrus attack like no other and subjugated to the lush manifestations of skin contact. Still so flinty-smoky, lean and yet of a texture like an emollient of florals keeping the wine moist, fleshy and flexible. Though not the saltiest of vintages this gris is in complete control of its phenolic emotions. It’s also blessed of this unreal incandescence. Wholly unique in every respect. Drink 2018-2026.  Tasted September 2018

Paul Cluver Pinot Noir Seven Flags 2015, WO Elgin (WineAlign)

The most floral vintage of the Seven Flags and the first with clones 115 and 667 brought into the blend. This to create new concepts and levels of complexity with vines old, new and next level involved. The intermixing leaves us with a sensation involving many layerings; fruit, acid and structural. The fruitiness and fresh flower gatherings presents an aperture of severe harmony and adds up to a bunch of aesthetic yeses. Give it a year or two to integrate. Drink 2020-2027.  Tasted September 2018

The Sadie Family Palladius 2016, WO Swartland (WineAlign)

Palladius is the quintessential spear brandishing South African appellative blend with more varietal diversity than an oenology department’s nursery. It holds chenin blanc, grenache blanc, marsanne, sémillon, sémillon gris, viognier, clairette blanche, roussanne, verdelho, colombard and palomino. No one does varietal interaction and trickery like Eben Sadie. No one. The ’16 is a wine of mixed tenses, the whole echelon and the black hole in the sun. Fruit comes from eleven different blocks all on granites, some from the Riebeek-Kasteel side. Ages in clay amphorae and concrete eggs, then racked into foudres, “to bring it all together.” Palladius holds a casual disregard for synchronizing fruit, acid and extract verb tenses in the way it uses a conditional interrogative without the proper structural order. It’s a wine of fine and unfair intensity, iconic, wise, learned and all for good reason. Imagine this to age well beyond its 15th birthday. Drink 2019-2032.  Tasted September 2018

Savage Wines Syrah Girl Next Door 2017, WO Coastal Region (WineAlign)

Though the négoce roaming transverses the entirety of the Western Cape, sometimes you just go home again. This as small as it gets Girl Next Door resides and is raised out of a 0.38 hectare Noordhoek vineyard, “the weekend hobby vineyard,” as Duncan Savage would put it. A block of great clichés, “the home garden,” or at least close to home and certainly “a work in progress.” The developing plot is a mystery wrapped inside an enigma within a narrative that currently fashions a wine to speak of a long term vision. In these first chapters it is already doling dark and mysterious, rich and silky, highly meaningful fruit. How this can’t turn into one of the great epic novels of Western Cape lore is beyond you and me. Home is where the heart soothes then savage beast. Winemaker and syrah. Drink 2020-2026.  Tasted September 2018

Silwervis Cinsault 2016, WO Swartland (WineAlign)

A single-vineyard is the source and a unique one at that for the Swartland because here is the spot where the decomposed granite of the Paardeberg begins to meet the northern slate. Paardeberg cinsault. If you are not yet familiar with this lovely beast it’s high time you got stoned on it. A varietal echelon rebirth eschews decades of French mistakes and enters into a revolution. As I noted from the ’14, it’s also a revival, a saving and a reformation. Having made itself a home in the Swartland now cinsault can create its own narrative, re-write the book and speak of the terroir. Transparency is truth and in a tightly wound, uniquely tannic way this curls tart and cured meaty filaments around a paradigmatic red fruit core. It’s bloody caesar delicious. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted September 2018

Van Loggerenberg Wines Kamaraderie 2017, WO Paarl (WineAlign)

Just the second vintage of Lukas van Loggerenberg’s Kamaraderie is a chenin blanc from a 1960s planted, two hectare single-vineyard in Paarl. Lukas picks the bottom of the slope first and the top many days later so there is this natural layering of fruit. Reeks with reminiscence, of fennel and pistachio, of fronds and gelid cream. Only 800 bottles make this one of South Africa’s rarest chenins raised for 10 months in old barrels, unstirred, shaken or allowed to visit with the malolactic king. There’s a dissolve of delicious citrus seamlessly streaked through fleshy fruit in what is just such an organized and structured chenin. Finishes with the brine, oh the brine. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted September 2018

Stellenbosch Braai

In VINTAGES

While the August 6th VINTAGES is chock full of stalwart South African wines it bears repeating that July 20th also gifted some worthy picks. The list below takes a page out of each book.

South Africa picks – August 6th Release

651711, Cederberg Chenin Blanc 2018, WO Cederberg ($18.95)

Michael Godel – Next level chenin blanc from the Cederburg appellative specialist, so very herbal, lime driven and smart like dry riesling in a Rheinhessen way. Terrific acids lift and elevate the lime and tonic flavours. Most excellent arid example with a dried herb finish.

652867, House Of Mandela Phumla Pinotage 2017, WO Western Cape ($21.95)

Michael Godel – A pinotage that bridges the twain between old school and necessary modernity, with plenty of wood induced chocolate and some mocha but also quality varietal acidity and tannin. Rich, unctuous and spirited to the thriving point of attack.

355438, De Wetshof Finesse Lesca Estate Chardonnay 2018, WO Robertson ($24.95)

Michael Godel – Lesca’s fruit is drawn from three vineyards in Robertson notable for their predominant soils of limestone and chalk. Great work from the De Wetshof bros who just allow this grape variety to shine on, be explicit and act of its very own accord.

651810, Spier 21 Gables Cabernet Sauvignon 2014, WO Stellenbosch ($39.95)

Michael Godel – From the extraordinary Annandale Estate in Stellenbosh Spier’s is very peppery cabernet sauvignon with a distinct local touch of glare and flare. Steely exterior, massive fruit and and such a bloody lekker South African. Long and juicy. Who says you can never go back to old school.

South Africa picks – July 20th Release

698274, Rustenberg Stellenbosch Chenin Blanc 2018, WO Stellenbosch ($14.95)

Michael Godel – Rustenberg continues to prove that it qualifies for top varietal value specialist out of Stellenbosch by pumping out pop hit after hit and this chenin blanc is no exception. Fruit riper than many, mild spice meeting wafts of vanilla and more than its share of lees-effected texture. All around right and proper.

698290, Bellingham Homestead Shiraz 2017, WO Paarl ($18.95)

Michael Godel – Deep, dark, handsome and peppery shiraz here from Stellenbosch with a syrupy confection and plenty of energy on the flip side. Really drinks like a bigger, more expensive and chic wine.

Best of the Rest for August 6th

498535, Malivoire Vivant Rosé 2018, VQA Beamsville Bench, Niagara Escarpment, Ontario ($19.95)

Michael Godel – Canada knows Rosé but Malivoire really knows Rosé. Vivant may be there between entry-level and cru but it’s done up so right, light but too much so, gently expressed but enough that fruit gets through and shines bright as if picked just there. Salinity strikes through without splitting up that fruit, like a main vein bringing oxygen and essential nutrients like blood to the mind. Last tasted July 2019.

668335, Argento Reserva Cabernet Franc 2015, Mendoza, Argentina ($15.95)

Michael Godel – Argento is from the owners of Uruguay’s Bodega Garzón, Chianti Classico’s Dievole and Montalcino’s Podere Brizio. A year past the freshest time in its life but cool, savoury and without too much barrel overtake (thanks to second and third passage wood). Well-worked and solid to be franc, true to place, now chewy and offering proper value.

667527, Château De Montguéret 2017, AP Saumur, Loire Valley, France ($17.95)

Michael Godel – Ostensibly the driest and purest form of chenin blanc from Saumur with the Loire’s post-modern take on the Western Cape, in a way though without pungency, pepperiness or glucose inflected texture. This is dry as the desert, tart, tangy and intense. Needs some richness in food to make all ends meet.

964221, Le Volte Dell’Ornellaia 2017, IGT Toscana, Italy ($29.95)

Michael Godel – Welcome into the Ornellaia range by way of the second wine that has never shown even a modicum of compromise. Hot vintage but acidity is strong and true while fruit stays cool, seasoned and reasoned, There’s a real meatiness to this ’17 and a lovely sense of salumi cure. Once again an educational tool for Bolgheri and Toscana.

260802, Brancaia Riserva Chianti Classico DOCG 2013, Tuscany, Italy ($38.95)

Michael Godel – Sangiovese needing the bottle is proven here. Now a year and a half later this swirls into a grosso sangiovese like liqueur with plums, cherries and spice. Really Riserva in style and now just 18 more months away from its guaranteed due elegance.

922054, Silvio Nardi Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2013, Tuscany, Italy ($50.95)

Michael Godel – Oenologist Emanuele Nardi draws his classic Brunello from the fluvial Cerralti parcel, a mix of jasper which is a type of opaque, granular quartz, along with shale and clay. Classic liqueur and modern texture give way to grippy acidity and more than necessary structure. This is one of those Brunello that speak with fruit early but with a knowing nod to longevity.

What goes best with chenin and cinsault? Tuna Burger at Sea Breeze in Cape Town

Thanks for reading up on South Africa once again.

Good to go!

godello

South Africa’s South Coast

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

WineAlign

Single white varietals: No roommates required

Godello

as seen on WineAlignRiesling, Other Single Red and Single White Varieties – Medal Winners from NWAC 2019

It may or not need clarifying but the single white varietal category does not include chardonnay, riesling, pinot gris/grigio and sauvignon blanc. In terms of medal winners it does include albariño, arneis, bacchus, chenin blanc, coronet, gewüztraminer, grüner veltliner, marsanne, muscat, obrigado, pinot blanc, roussanne, sémillon, sauvignette, siegerrebe, sovereign opal, trebbiano, unicus, viognier and white pinot noir. The total medal count for single white varietal wines in 2019 was 70, an unprecedented number awarded for this competition covering 20 grape varieties. Can you guess which was the most celebrated? If you said gewüztraminer you would be correct at 21 total medals, with viognier a close second at 17.

There is little surprise that these French vinifera grapes make up more than half of the awarded wines because their acreage, vine age and their winemaker’s acumen in crafting quality goes back a generation or two, or even three. That 10 percent are pinot blanc is truly encouraging, as are the multiple medals doled out to grapes with great potential on Canadian soils, including grüner veltliner, albariño and chenin blanc. This will encourage more plantings and pioneering work backed up by post-modern viticultural theory, while also ensuring biologically genetic and varietal diversity. Most surprising is that two of the top wines made from marsanne and roussanne represent two of only three medals awarded to wines from these classic and exceptional Rhône Valley grapes. If two can be great, why not others and why not grow more?

Congratulations to the Road 13 Marsanne 2017 out of the exceedingly promising Similkameen Valley. There can be no denying the effect of ripe fruit and the richness of developed sugar into proportionally knowing phenols in this beautifully integrated wine. Black Hills Roussanne 2017, Blasted Church Small Blessings Sémillon 2017, Thirty Bench Small Lot Gewürztraminer 2017 and Road 13 Viognier 2017 round out the judges top picks from the competition.

Littlejohn Farm‘s Smoked Trout, soubise, french onion rings, pickled shallots – at Closson Chase Vineyard, Prince Edward County

The question truly begging to be answered is with 20-plus different grape varieties represented and being assessed side by side how do the judges separate the apples and oranges to figure out which wines stand apart as being more impressive than the rest. It may sound cliché and redundant to hear but balance is the key to our single white varietal hearts. If acidity matches, supports and elevates sugar than all will fall into place and if the wine is a dry example it will likely be flesh, mouthfeel and texture that work to elevate its status. Proportion, seamlessness and length are all essential tenets of quality single whites, as are energy, drive and spirit.

Plain and simple, single white varietal wines are able to succeed because of their inherent ability to express their varietal selves, provided they are planted in the right location and their handlers allow them to speak on their own behalf. Quality single white varietals display attributes of confidence and are anything but insecure. No roommates required.

I’ve also tasted some more single white varietal wines as of late and all would certainly qualify for medal consideration in this category. These are the three.

Mission Hill Family Estate Viognier Reserve 2018, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia ($19.99, WineAlign)

Perfectly lovely, archetypal, required varietal sipping viognier here from Mission Hill. Yet another notch on the Okanagan Valley pioneer’s impressive climb to forging wines moving from strength to strength. There is nothing over the top about the the florals, the texture or the flavours. Fruit east to west, from the B.C. orchards to the south Asian trees is graced by a dreamy and creamy marzipan texture and finished with low and slow rendered spice. Just what viognier can be for one and for all. Drink 2019-2021.  Tasted July 2019

Harwood Estate Gewürztraminer 2017, VQA Prince Edward County, Ontario $20.00, WineAlign)

The 2016 was made from Niagara (Four Mile Creek) grapes and vinified in Prince Edward County but the estate 2007 plantings have now matured so this 2017 marks a new era for gewürztraminer grown in the disapora. It’s one of extreme aridity, lightning quick reflexes, focused and intense. Quite the singular style of expression for Ontario. Drink 2019-2021.  Tasted June 2019

CedarCreek Platinum Block 9 Ehrenfelser 2018, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia ($29.99, WineAlign)

Ehrenfelser is the German crossing of riesling and sylvaner, kept alive on slopes like CedarCreek’s lakeshore vineyard in semi-mimic of those cresting on great angles above the river Rhine. There’s a notable juicy sweetness to this from 13-16 year-old, low yielding vines in a very concentrated mandarin orange way. That sweetness yields to many other pronounced attributes like tropical fruit skins as well as creamy orchard fruit under a squeeze of lime. The acidity is ripping and there’s some potential for a bit of flinty, lit paraffin smoulder to emerge in a year’s time. The fun quotient runs high in this unique white wine and it offers up moments of both crushable and cerebral. Good on CedarCreek to keep the dream alive. Drink 2019-2021.  Tasted July 2019

Good to go!

godello

Godello

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

WineAlign

A Canadian preoccupation with White Blends

as seen on WineAlign – Red Blends, White Blends and Sauvignon Blanc – Medal Winners from NWAC 2019

The catchall collection funnelled into flights titled “White Blend” continue their ascent upwards into the essential echelon of categories at the National Wine Awards of Canada. These compound varietal meet and greets do so with increasing calm, cool and collected demeanour, a.k.a balance to offer up some of this country’s most pleasing and in very special cases, most age-worthy white wines. Another year later the judges are finding the quality of the wines to be at their best yet, perceptible and discernible beyond reproach from coast to coast.

The 52 strong medal count from the 2019 awards is a testament to the masters of assemblage known as winemakers in British Columbia, Ontario, Quebec and Nova Scotia. In fact five of the medals were awarded to Tidal Bay, the maritime appellative blend creation so apt-scripted and terroir specific to vineyards and estates in Nova Scotia. Tidal Bay is a model of consistency, progress and marketing genius. It hasn’t happened yet but the day will come when Ontario and British Columbia will become woke to the economic success of the great East Coast appellative party.

Dinner at Rosehall Run

Where do Canadian winemakers look for inspiration when it comes to designing their white blends? The obvious pioneers are unequivocally Bordeaux and the Rhône Valley, the former being a matter of a sauvignon blanc-sémillon coupling and the latter a relationship between grape varieties that include grenache blanc, marsanne, roussanne and viognier. Other and lesser varieties employed are ugni blanc, clairette, bourboulenc, picpoul and rolle (vermentino). Many are grown and matched up in Canada but in 2019 it is Nk’mip Cellars White Meritage Merriym 2017 that we find standing alone at the peak of white blend success. The Bordeaux inspiration is an antithetical one at that with a two to one ratio of sémillon to sauvignon blanc and what one judge sees as a blend of “power and accuracy.”

Last year we noted that the white blends made with sauvignon blanc from out of the Okanagan Valley relied on higher percentages of sémillon than their sistren and brethren in Ontario. B.C.’s vineyards are not subjugated to the same winter kill that Ontario’s winters are often wont to inflict and so the vulnerable sémillon is planted and used to much greater quantity and effect out west. Ripeness and style are also great reasons why B.C.’s über rich and fat sauvignon blanc loves for sémillon to help out. The varietal mitigation and third party injection from barrel aging often leads to examples of flinty-smoky-mineral white blends of freshness, pizzazz, texture and style.

The Mission Hill Terroir Collection Sauvignon Blanc Sémillon 2018 is such an animal, taken from Jagged Rock Vineyard nearing 400m in elevation and the sém portion is 40 percent. Tightrope Sauvignon Blanc Semillon 2018 is another though it may just be one of closest Bordeaux ringers made anywhere in Canada. The Pentâge Roussanne Marsanne Viognier 2013 is the most singular Gold Medal winner in 2019, first because it does the Rhône varietal two-step and second because of its age. That it caught the palates of so many judges is a testament to its balance and also its structure.

The 2018 Tidal Bays from Lightfoot & Wolfville, Jost Vineyards, Planters Ridge and Gaspereau Vineyards were Nova Scotia’s one Silver plus three Bronze category medallists. These Bay of Fundy/Minas Basin east coast wonders are true Canadian wines of quality and efficiency. Tidal Bay pioneers Peter Gamble and Benjamin Bridge Vineyards tell us that In 2010 Nova Scotia launched this wine appellation with a purpose “to showcase a vibrant and refreshing white wine compatible with our coastal terroir along the Bay of Fundy, a vast expanse of seawater that is home to the highest tides in the world. An independent technical committee ensures that only the wines displaying the region’s distinct characteristics and meeting a rigorous set of standards are approved to wear the appellation seal.” The blends are most often filled with the likes of l’acadie, geisenheim, chardonnay, riesling and vidal.

Two Ontario white blends joined the 11 B.C. Silver winners. In terms of Bronze, six from Ontario and one each out of Nova Scotia and Quebec were winners alongside 23 from B.C. Yes it is increasingly true that appellative blends are more than a going concern, in fact they have become some of our Canadian winemaker’s greatest preoccupations. At this rate we can certainly imagine a future filled with bright white lights and structured blends to rival some of the world’s best.

Good to go!

godello

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

WineAlign

Riding red blends from Canadian frontiers

Ancient PEC red care of Geoff Heinricks

Ancient PEC red care of Geoff Heinricks

as seen on WineAlignRed Blends, White Blends and Sauvignon Blanc – Medal Winners from NWAC 2019

Some producers may be riding red blends all the way to the bank while others, including many winemakers simply love making them. Hearing about or looking at the broad term “red blends” causes many of us to think about wines that are big in every respect. Broad shouldered, big-bodied, long-legged, tannic and age-worthy.  As for how these wines are made we imagine a barrel room of oak casks filled with deep, rich and dark liquids made by winemakers and their science flasks layered by endless combinations of samples in varying percentages. This is in fact how most red blends are made. Barrel and tank samples of different grape varieties are pulled and with a conditional maximum amount of each kept in mind, the constituent samples are mixed and matched until the blend just feels to come out right. Add in a bit of chemistry for scientific balance and Red’s your uncle.

Red blends is employed as that highly scientific wine-speak term used to define one of the largest, broadest and most undefined categories in wine. There are blends established in the Old World emulated and mimicked from Argentina to South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and everywhere vinifera is grown. Bordeaux’s Left and Right Bank are most commonly copied but so too is the Southern Rhône. The triumvirate of cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc and merlot lead the way while grenache, syrah and mourvèdre are the source of much imitation. Blending does not stop at such multi-varietal exactitude because the Australians (namely) decided that syrah/shiraz goes with everything and why not. The concept of admixture or fusion is becoming increasingly relevant and the norm for red blends made in Canada, especially in British Columbia and to a lesser extent in Ontario too.

Chef Albert Ponzo’s Gnocchi with Morels

Basically anything made with two or more grape varieties qualifies and in some cases a kitchen sink is amalgamated from literally dozens of locally planted options. To be honest the methodology categorically removes said wines from every other varietal class or division, in competition or otherwise. So the question begs. How do judges at the National Wine Awards of Canada assess, rate and ultimately dole out medals when the comparisons are all apples to oranges? How do we as a team decide which blends are most deserving in a sea of peers comprised of wholly different, antithetical and multifarious combinations?

The answer is complex but in the end not exactly rocket science. Truth be told the necessity of knowing the percentages in the blend is the mother of invention. This is because each wine is a sum of its combinative parts while success is predicated on the communal effort and seamlessness of the gathering. But more than anything and it’s certainly cliché to say, wines as blends must achieve balance and those that do will reap the most reward. News flash to corroborate that theory. Most varietal wines are blends too, made up of vineyard slash vessel percentages picked, mixed and matched by the winemaker. What really is the great difference?

Is there any wonder why Canadian winemakers love the category of Red Blends? At this year’s Nationals there are 105 medals awarded to a group of wines that in their collective make-up include just about every red (plus a white or two) grape varieties grown in Canada. Read that number again: 105! Three out of four Platinum winners are from British Columbia and 12 of 14 Silvers as well. As for Bronze, 60 are from B.C., 24 from Ontario and three are from Nova Scotia.

While it would be a joyous exercise to break down all the medal winning wines it would also be one that just might put you to sleep. So for the purposes of analytical brevity and for the fact that we have an unprecedented four Platinum winners in 2019, let’s stick to these exceptional wines. The Hatch Dynasty Red 2016 is syrah and malbec from the Hans Estate Vineyard in Osoyoos raised in all new French oak for 18 months. Yes, ALL new French oak. Noble Ridge Reserve Meritage 2016 from Okanagan Falls is essentially classic Left Bank Bordeaux led by merlot with cabernet sauvignon with minor amounts of cabernet franc plus malbec. Hester Creek Syrah Viognier 2017 from the Okanagan Valley is a stunner and steal for the price though truth be told could have very easily been awarded a similar accolade in the straight varietal category. Niagara’s Tawse Meritage 2015 is a three-pronged Bordeaux varietal mix of merlot, cabernet sauvignon and cabernet franc “with so much going on you might not understand what it’s trying to say.” It’s like Glossolalia but will surely live on through epochs of Canadian Meritage notability and infamy.

OK I lied. Some mentions and some love for the Golds as well. Out of Niagara the judges jumped for the merlot, cabernet franc and cabernet sauvignon in Marynissen Heritage Collection Red 2015 and the kitchen sink blend only Stratus Red 2016 can gift; cabernet franc, merlot, cabernet sauvignon, syrah, malbec, tannat and petit verdot. The hits keep on coming from B.C., especially strong in this category demarcated by grip, grit and strength. The following 12 began their journeys with a plethora of varietal combinations, spoke with great ability to reach the judges palates and all ended up Gold.

Note the seemingly infinite combinations is this diverse group. Maverick 2016 Rubeus, syrah, merlot, cabernet sauvignon and cabernet franc; Bench 1775 2016 Cabernet Franc MalbecCorcelettes 2016 Meritage Estate Vineyard, merlot, cabernet franc, cabernet sauvignon, malbec and petit verdot; Corcelettes 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon Syrah Menhir Estate Vineyard; Black Hills 2017 Addendum, merlot, cabernet franc, cabernet sauvignon; TIME Winery 2016 Meritage, merlot, cabernet franc, cabernet sauvignon; Mission Hill 2016 Quatrain, merlot, syrah, cabernet franc and cabernet sauvignon; Sandhill 2016 Single Vineyard One Small Lots Program Vanessa Vineyard, cabernet franc, cabernet sauvignon merlot and syrah; Moon Curser 2017 Dead of Night, syrah and tannat; Sun Rock Vineyards 2016 Red Meritage, merlot, cabernet sauvignon and cabernet franc; Red Rooster 2016 Golden Egg, mourvèdre, syrah and grenache; Nk’Mip Cellars 2016 Winemakers Talon, syrah, cabernet sauvignon, malbec, merlot, cabernet franc and pinot noir.

If you don’t see a clear and obvious pattern in these Red Blends be neither confused nor discouraged because this is how things function and in turn offer up so much possibility in fresher frontiers. In today’s garden of climate change affected vineyards it is Canadian winemakers who are the beneficiaries of a wild west, anything goes environment where mates can be made across varietal lines both renewed and re-invented. Embrace the diversity and let it ride.

We finish we a special red blend tasted with Maggie Granger in Prince Edward County.

Grange Of Prince Edward Bunny Wine 2016, VQA Prince Edward County ($65.00, 1500ml, WineAlign)

Bunny Wine is nothing if not playful, a field blend that tugs on conceptual heartstrings and has been doing so for 18 months. It has come into kairos, whether unexpectedly, by chance or by the intuition of the moment, it matters little. Bunny is an extension of three plus years of furry flirtations, in cuvées that have come before, of gamay and pinot noir, of passe-tout-grains. I’ve tasted barrel samples and now here we are at the real thing, “the milk of the gamay bunny, drinkers of spillage by tipsy monks. Even if you know little or care less about bunnies and monks it’s the truth even if it didn’t happen, based on memories and perception, just as a look back at that taste and this note will be. Seamless weaving here, between Bourgogne cousins, north and south, grippy and supple. Hard to tell one from the other and isn’t that the point? From the Victoria Block, four rows of pinot next to four of gamay, picked, fermented and crushed together. All thanks to fruit of exemplary patience. Drink 2019-2023.  Tasted June 2019

Good to go!

godello

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

WineAlign

The diplomacy of Canadian Sauvignon Blanc

What is sauvignon blanc? More importantly why does it solicit so much winemaking interest, continue to be planted at increasing rates and produced with so much great heart? The Grape Growers of Ontario see it as “an extremely precocious and vigorous cultivar in Ontario, even on sites of low vigor potential.” Though it is very sensitive to extreme cold it is attractive “for its vegetal or herbaceous flavours.” In British Columbia sauvignon blanc experienced an explosion in the 1990s” and is made in a “style (that) benefits from the natural high acidity and fruit ripeness. Both the crisp, zingy, green bean, grass and asparagus style, as well as a riper, tropical fruit, richer version can be found. Some of the most successful wines are oak fermented and blended with sémillon to make wines in a white Bordeaux style.”

Related – Red Blends, White Blends and Sauvignon Blanc – Medal Winners from NWAC 2019

Related – Single white varietals: No roommates required

In Canada’s cool climate viticultural regions there just seems to be this persistent thirst for grassy, herbal and gooseberry gifting white wines embraced as sauvignon blanc but also those that are flinty, smoky, nutty, creamy and rich. This tells us that sauvignon blanc makes full use of its wiles to attain its ends. Whether or not you see its origins as Loire Valley (Sancerre, Touraine, Pouilly Fumé and Cheverny) or Bordeaux (Pessac-Léognan, Graves, Côtes de Bordeaux Blayes et Franc and Entre-Deux-Mers), Canada’s sauvignon blanc finds a way to please all camps.

Related – A Canadian preoccupation with White Blends

Related – Riding red blends from Canadian frontiers

There were 25 medals awarded to Canadian sauvignon blanc at the 2019 Nationals, one platinum, three Gold, four Silver and 16 Bronze. The split between Ontario and British Columbia was almost exact with the nod to the east by only one over the west. Trius Showcase Clean Slate Sauvignon Blanc Wild Ferment 2017 from Niagara-on-the-Lake took home top honours, yet another varietal wine in the ever-increasingly impressive Showcase line-up fostered by winemaker Craig McDonald. This is a wine that won Silver in 2017, Gold in 2018 and now Platinum in 2019. I’d say that’s called moving in the right direction. Nearby to Trius out of Niagara vineyards is the Peller Estates Private Reserve Sauvignon Blanc 2018, a consistently high quality example that continues to show remarkable success for sauvignon blanc in Ontario with its second straight NWAC Gold.

Related – Pinot Gris goes National

Related – Canada knows Rosé 

The other two Gold winners are from British Columbia, first for the Howling Bluff Sauvignon Blanc Three Mile Creek 2018 noted by one judge as “exuberant…zesty acidity and a textural, multi-layered core.” The Hillside Reserve Sauvignon Blanc 2018 from the Naramata Bench impressed as well as a “very ripe style of sauvignon blanc…crisp and refreshing with a smooth, medium-bodied profile and a subtly sweet, fruity finish.” The Silver winners are split two and two from both provinces, as are the Bronze winners in equal numbers, eight to eight. It’s just so bloody obvious that sauvignon blanc offers consumers what they want; equality, diplomacy and something for everyone.

Here are more sauvignon blanc tasted in recent weeks.

G.Marquis Sauvignon Blanc The Red Line 2017, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (556894, $13.95, WineAlign)

Yes. Barrel fermented and flinty, reductive, smoky and with full fruit compliment. Crunchy, juicy, in metal motion and full of varietal excitement. So Fumé Blanc in character, rich, layered, variegated and fine. Plenty of acidity, herbal pesto, savour lemon square and length. Really accomplished wine. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted blind at NWAC19, June 2019

Nomad At Hinterbrook Winery Sauvignon Blanc 2018, VQA Niagara Lakeshore, Ontario ($16.95, WineAlign)

Steely, juicy, melons of yellow, orange and green, full fruit straight ahead. Just fruit and stainless steel acquiescing sauvignon blanc. Nothing off track here. Drink 2019-2021.  Tasted blind at NWAC19, June 2019

Mission Hill Reserve Sauvignon Blanc 2018, BC VQA Okanagan Valley, British Columbia (57430, $22.95, WineAlign)

The hyper-spirited layers of fruit intensity are noted above and beyond the previous vintage of Mission Hill’s Reserve sauvignon blanc. A similar grapefruit to guava to mango to gooseberry accumulation gathers albeit on a drier and more focused frame. The result is a douse of lime and a sprinkle of herbal salt for more complexity and ultimately opening the door to greater and further far reaching food pairings. Great joy in Mission Hill-ville with a nod to Sancerre-land. Drink 2019-2021.  Tasted June 2019

Reif Estate Drea’s Sauvignon Blanc 2017, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario ($26.50, WineAlign)

Leafy, savoury, verdant and grassy sauvignon blanc. Metallic, orange juiced and then, more metallics. Not a matter of excitement but definitely a thing of botany, chemistry and integrated science. Drink 2019-2020.  Tasted blind at NWAC19, June 2019

CedarCreek Platinum Sauvignon Blanc Border Vista 2018, BC VQA Okanagan Valley, British Columbia ($33.70, WineAlign)

Aromatic whites are integral to the CedarCreek project and so sauvignon blanc is a natural for joining the ranks and carrying a torch. The wild ferment, 1500L oak foudres and concrete egg all contribute towards this three-pronged effect; musky berry skin scents, creamy and nutty flavours and then the kicker in how texture swells and fills the mouth. You’ve likely never experienced sauvignon blanc this way, not in the Loire, not in the New World and not even in British Columbia. This vintage presents a magnanimous beginning for what will become a benchmark varietal wine when the wild, wooly and moving parts learn how to co-exist in a world of balance. Can’t wait to see how ’18, 19 and ’20 turn out. Drink 2019-2021.  Tasted June 2019

Le Vieux Pin Sauvignon Blanc 2018, BC VQA Okanagan Valley, British Columbia ($34.59, WineAlign)

Wholly engrossing sauvignon blanc of great pungency and perhaps a kiss of barrel here. Grassy and in a sense a crossing of Casablanca with Marlborough though just for a fleeting cerebral moment. Some mango to pear fruit sweetness through texture. Ambitious and reminiscently woolly style but B.C. knows how to make this happen and considering the expressiveness, why not? Dry extract and tannin come across on the finish. Drink 2020-2024.  Tasted blind at NWAC19, June 2019

Good to go!

godello

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

WineAlign

Chianti Classico is the future

Panzano Sunset

Tasting notes and reviews on 125 sangiovese at the 2019 Chianti Classico Collection

by Michael Godel

Related – As seen on WineAlign

Sangiovese and the Black Rooster. The grape and the symbolic trademark are the inseparable and inextricable nexus of Chianti Classico. The Gallo Nero brands each bottle of sangiovese with a seal to guarantee the exacting territorial source of the contents inside, on the neck or the back label, for a conceit of quality. If the rooster is not there, it can’t be Chianti Classico. All three levels of DOCG classification are rubber stamped; Chianti Classico, Chianti Classico Riserva and Chianti Classico Gran Selezione. Deconstructed deeper there are San Casciano in Val di Pesa, Radda in Chianti, Poggibonsi, Greve in Chianti, Gaiole in Chianti, Castellina in Chianti, Castelnuovo Berardenga and the freshly renamed commune of Barberino Tavernelle. Deeper still there are frazioni; Panzano, Lamole and Montefioralle (Greve), Monti (Gaiole), San Donato in Poggio and Mercatale in Val di Pesa (San Casciano) and many more. These names grace some examples and you can expect more and more to join the menzione geografica wave.

#lacappella

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In Ontario Market Chianti Classico

Chianti Classico DOCG 2017
Chianti Classico DOCG 2016
Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2016
Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG 2016
Chianti Classico DOCG 2015
Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2015
Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG 2015

Not currently in Ontario market Chianti Classico

Chianti Classico DOCG 2017
Chianti Classico DOCG 2016
Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2016
Chianti Classico DOCG 2015
Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2015
Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG 2015

putting my money on @beck to pair @johnszabo with #chianticlassico

Related – John Szabo’s Anteprime di Toscana report

The preview or anteprima tasting of current vintage releases known as the Chianti Classico Collection took place on February 11th and 12th at Stazione Leopolda in Firenze. Upwards of 200 producers were on hand to introduce their most recent (or imminent to be released) Annata, Riserva and Gran Selezione. Journalists from all over the world were present, including myself and WineAlign’s John Szabo M.S. Those who are commensurate with the Tuscan territory’s landscape, people, food and wines fondly remember the essential and tireless work lent to Chianti Classico matters by long-time friend and Consorzio past President Sergio Zingarelli of Rocca delle Macìe. In 2019 the focus is on where the territory will go, with the future squarely, capably and thankfully in the hands of the incumbent President, Fontodi’s Giovanni Manetti. It would be provocation and a challenge to express the sentiment any clearer. For Chianti Classico the future looks bright and so very sangiovese.

When I met with Manetti in both September and November of 2018 he had that look, the one of serious concentration mixed with great hope. Manetti told me that Chianti Classico is home to “one of the best red wines from all over the world, deserving of space in place with the best. I find great harmony in the wines.” His words and the things I myself have seen, nosed, tasted, felt and experienced over seven trips and 76 estate visits spread across 34 latter months have led to some serious genuflection. The important question is contemplated again and with great sincerity. Is Chianti Classico the most important red wine from Italy?

Which way with the Gallo Nero?

The sangiovese raised in Chianti Classico must and should not be assessed without considering what lays beneath the ground in conjunction with the people who work the vineyards. It was a discussion with Principe Corsini/Le Corti’s Duccio Corisini in which he mentioned the term genius loci that led me to regard the Chianti Classico Climat concept equivalence called acclimazione sottosuolo. Both are a matter of agriculturalists interacting with the stratified Chianti Classico layers beneath the vines. Four major types of mineral soils are present, prevalent and essential to how, why and where sangiovese acts and thrives in the territory.

Alberese (calcareous limestone), Galestro (schisty marl), Pietraforte (purple-brown shale) and Macigno (sandstone) fix and demonstrate the sub-soils but they are not the only significant rocks that contribute to regional character. River stones and marine fossil shells are also found in various vineyards and yet it is simply impossible to draw geological and geographical lines that explain exactly which soils exist and where. The master mapmaker himself Alessandro Masnaghetti has tried and while his rendering is the most accurate and complete for Chianti Classico even he has conceded that it is the most complex weave in all of Italy. Here is the rub and the essence of Chianti Classico’s set of exemptions and eccentricities. The complexity of soils results in the multiplicity of its sangiovese.

There’s 32 kilometres to Lamole, we’ve got a full tank of gas, a six pack of Chianti Classico, it’s dark out, and we’re wearing sunglasses.

In advance of February’s #CCC2019 I published tasting notes and reviews for all the wines I assessed at Chianti Classico estates in the Autumn of 2018.

Related – Chianti Classico Fall 2018: September and November, 25 estates, 150 wines reviewed in 18,000 words

Those September and November 2018 visits to 25 properties were my pre-anteprima to the February 2019 anteprima at the Chianti Classico Collection. In addition to the reviews I also dropped two posts, one that appeared on the Chianti Classico website so succinctly translated into Italian by the Consorzio del Vino Chianti Classico’s Silvia Fiorentini and Caterina Mori. This was no simple or easy exercise for them as any of you who know the meandering style of my prose. The second was in English, as I had originally composed.

Related – as seen in Chianti Classico Magazine, translated into Italian – Il sogno Canadese del Chianti Classico abbraccia il più nobile dei Sangiovese Italiani

Related – Chianti Classico’s Canadian dream

Chianti Classico

What did we learn from this most recent Chianti Classico Collection? For one thing we remarked upon the unprecedented level of attendance. The Collection is divided into two rooms, each a football pitch in length, one with the producer stands and the other with tables set for journalists to taste at the hands of a service dutifully provided by the hardest working Sommeliers in the business. There was this non-stop buzz and producers pouring to throngs lined up three or four deep. The Collection also marked the moment when the newest Chianti Classico ambassador award was honoured to none other than Decanter’s long-standing consultant editor and author of Wine – A Way of Life, Steven Spurrier. Spurrier joins the 2018 list and inaugural first five CC ambasciatori; Jeffrey Porter, Michaela Morris, Massimo Castellani, Isao Miyajima and…Godello.

In spite of the very hot growing season yet another successful vintage was noted from the small number of 2017 sangiovese poured, in particular those showing great freshness with help from communes and vineyards blessed of higher altitudes. The real focus at #CCC2019 was on the 2016 Annata, a vintage at once normal and then exceptionally generous to show the exponential, across the board increase in quality and ever-evolving multiplicity of the territory’s sangiovese.

Lamole, Greve in Chianti

So what will 2019 bring? Will it usher in a new era of Chianti Classico bottles noted by villages and crus on the labels? Will sangiovese long designated IGT come back to the appellation? Will Gran Selezione gain further ground and find itself endeared by the hearts of more women and men? Will the category seek 100 per cent sangiovese status? One thing is certain and that is Canada’s connection and bond to the territory will only grow stronger. When we convene at the end of 2019 the sales figures will prove that the process is moving in the right direction.

As you will note from the following tasting notes/wine reviews the number of Chianti Classico I rated 90 points or higher are the most I’ve ever awarded above that arbitrary threshold. Not that I take much stock in the 100-point system, or any numerical substantiation for that matter, but in the context of what consumers want and how they make purchasing decisions, these scores show just how many Chianti Classico are worth buying, drinking and adding to the cellar.

Ontario in market Chianti Classico DOCG

These are the wines from producers with importation agency representation in Ontario available for purchase either through LCBO channels (LCBO General List, VINTAGES, Classics Catalogue, VINTAGES Shop-Online or Destination Store) or through case purchases in the LCBO-Agent Consignment program. The list does not include producers’ wines represented in Ontario that are either brought in periodically through Private Order or have not yet been imported at all.


Chianti Classico DOCG 2017

I Fabbri Chianti Classico DOCG Lamole Olinto Grassie E Figlio 2017

“A true expression of this terroir,” says Susanna Grassi, from the organic vineyards, and the tiniest (3,000) bottles of production. At altitudes as high as any in Chianti Classico and from the warmest of vintages, the fresh factor is as high as there will be. The fruit goes beyond cherry, into what careens like raspberry and the savoury aspect is almost sweet, but not. Aged in concrete and just so pleasurable meets territorial. Exactitude for Lamole. Drink 2019-2024. Tasted February 2019  ifabbriclassico  roberto_codispoti  @ifabbrichianticlassico  Susanna Grassi

With Volpaia’s Federica Mascheroni

Volpaia Chianti Classico DOCG 2017

Pretty taut for Volpaia though truth be told this Radda sangiovese always requires some time. Fullness of fruit and equally supportive acidity meets the texture of altitude and the advantage of acumen. There are layers here that many ‘17s will just not have, exhibit or develop. A tour de vintage force really. Drink 2021-2028. Tasted February 2019  castellodivolpaia  rogersandcompanywines  @volpaia  @rogcowines  @volpaia

Castello Di Ama Chianti Classico DOCG Ama 2017

Aromatic freshness never had it this way and the flowers are in full bloom. It’s both violet and rose but more than that, an installation as a late summer/early fall garden having been respectfully groomed. The palate does nothing to change your mind because the texture and quelling constitution are almost hypnotic, capturing, spellbinding even. Acids are fine and timing even better. Drink 2020-2027. Tasted February 2019  castellodiama  halpernwine  @CastellodiAma  @HalpernWine  @castellodiama  @halpernwine

Rocca Di Montegrossi Chianti Classico DOCG 2017

Monti in Chianti is a special tour de force location for grooming sangiovese and the vintage takes this terroir for a real spin. The Galestro rocks heated up in a way they had not recently been accustomed to doing, having received so much intense sun and you can feel the accumulation in this 2017 Annata. The fruit is particularly sweet-scented and richly developed. It needs little settling time and with acids not overly demanding I would suggest early enjoyment. Drink 2020-2023. Tasted February 2019  #roccadimontegrossi  #roccadimontegrossi  @RoccadiMontegrossi

Bibbiano Chianti Classico DOCG 2017

Scintillant this ’17 fresh-maker from i Marrochezi Marzi at Bibbiano, lightning red fruit of clarity, transparency and pulse. High-toned early, out of the gate and surprisingly without foible despite the ripeness and while concentrated, not excitedly so. Well done Tommaso, really well done. Drink 2019-2023. Tasted February 2019  bibbianowines  lesommelierwine  @bibbianowines  @LeSommelierWine  Bibbiano Chianti Classico  Le Sommelier, Wine Agency

Filippo Mazzei in discussion with Brad Royale and Steven Robinson

Castello Di Fonterutoli Chianti Classico DOCG Fonterutoli 2017

A poster child for 2017, ripeness developed without trepidation, berries small and bursting with tart fruit, cherries on high and acidity wound so very tight. Some quality tannins, sweet and savoury, liquid chalky and always intense. All that said, try and find a better Tuscan cuisine matching early drinking Annata. It’s exactly that, to be sure. Drink 2019-2021. Tasted February 2019

Carpineto Chianti Classico DOCG 2017

Tough reductive nut to crack though a swirl, some agitation and air releases some classic Greve in Chianti Carpineto aromatics. Chewy sangiovese, after that initial rock solid wall broken through and full of rendered fruit, some leathery, very cherry and quick to speak. Such a mouthful with bones and a verdant streak run right through. Drink 2019-2022. Tasted February 2019  carpinetowines  univinscanada  @CarpinetoWines  @UNIVINS  Carpineto Wines  @agence.UNIVINS  


Chianti Classico DOCG 2016

Villa Di Geggiano Chianti Classico DOCG 2016

Sometimes there’s a sangiovese that’s really quite perfect for its place and time. In Geggiano’s case their land is a highly specific micro-climate in as far as the crow flies close to Siena at the western edge of Castelnuovo Berardenga. With terrific 2016 in pocket it adds up to immediate gratification giving way in credence to structural organization. This is the 2019 find from Annata so many of you will have been looking and waiting for. Precise and focused are certainties though it is the way its silky texture slides down and its fine tannins only limelight the layers the pleasure along that ride. Great work from field to table from the brothers Boscu Bandinelli Bianchi. Drink 2022-2033. Tasted February 2019  illadigeggiano  andreaboscu  barrelselect  @VilladiGeggiano  @BarrelSelect  @villadigeggianowinery  @barrelselect

Consorzio Vino Chianti Classico President Giovanni Manetti, Fontodi, Panzano in Chianti

Fontodi Chianti Classico DOCG 2016

There are so many attributable aspects at play upon arrival at 2016 for Fontodi. Tasting three times in 2018 with Giovanni Manneti lent much discussion to the anticipation of this vintage even though it hot not yet been poured. The newer vineyards have entered a new period of maturity, coupled with the older Conca d’Oro vines and in the breathing of 2016 all adds up to a pinnacle of sorts. This is an uncompromising Annata of fruit, acidity, oh acidity and all around structure. It’s actually a bit chalky at this stage and the finest tannins still dominate the scene. Will be one for the ages. Drink 2021-2028. Tasted February 2019  #Fontodi  rogersandcompanywines    @rogcowines  Az. Agr. Fontodi

Fontodi Chianti Classico DOCG Filetta Di Lamole 2016

Once again Lamole both astonishes and confounds. It’s make-up, constitution and display are unlike any other in Chianti Classico. It’s both liquid lava flowing and petrified, salumi cured and fresh as just picked red fruit. It’s quite a scene this Fontodi from land occupied by cousins to Giovanni Manetti, sangiovese that is chewy but linear, chalky while viscous, savoury but far from herbal. It’s the umami of Chianti Classico sangiovese I suppose. It’s so singular and needs to be investigated, nosed and tasted, again and again. Drink 2022-2029. Tasted February 2019

Paolo de Marchi, Isole e Olena

Isole E Olena Chianti Classico DOCG 2016

Was finally bottled in July, to be released in February. “I like 2016, it’s a very different vintage.” As usual there is 15 per cent canaiolo mixed in. Why Canaiolo? “Because it’s from here. And it’s a late ripening variety like sangiovese, and also not heavy and jammy like merlot.” Canaiolo is like sangiovese in that it must be selected and used in very particular ways. Paolo’s is actually a darker depth of fruit from 2016 while the spice is so much more sophisticated. There is so much wisdom now, more than even before and a calm, settling depth about this wine. Last tasted November 2018 and February 2019  #isoleeolena  @HalpernWine    halpernwine  Isole e Olena  @halpernwine

Chianti Classico 2016 is composed of 80 per cent sangiovese, (15) canaiolo and (5) syrah, which since the 1980s has always held a spot, in fact it may have been as much as 10 two plus decades ago. Paolo de Marchi explains.”Syrah in my opinion, was really about thinking, about blending in an earlier ripening variety.” It also added colour, not for quality necessarily, but for pleasure. “If I were a consultant I don’t think I would recommend to plant it anymore.” But Paolo loves it, its bright acidity and lower pH, and loves the warmth. You can feel the liquid peppery hug from the combination of canaiolo and syrah in the constitution of this CC and now a new texture evolved from a traditional one, clearly passed on through generations. It is spoken in the clarity of this 2016, but it has taken decades to arrive here. Finessed, soft tannins and an effulgent acidity wrap fruit chewy and yet very crisp. Singular again and alone but quicker to please, at least for now. Perhaps it too will shut down in 2019. Perhaps not. Drink 2019-2028. Tasted February 2018

Il Molino Di Grace Chianti Classico DOCG Solosangiovese 2016

”I think it’s a very good vintage,” announces Iacopo Morganti and that is all you really need to know, though take the time to glide along and feel the in synch moving parts. This is essential and partisan to gain an understanding ingrained of deepest knowing. There is something about this house style, this estate gathering and this layering of no-proviso, 100 per cent sangiovese. It walks you down all the way to Rimocine, down to the bottom of the Grace vinyards, looking up at San Francesco and the vines all around. This transports you to a place. Isn’t that what you want? That and great fruit, acids and fine tannin. Southeast Panzano sangiovese incarnate. Drink 2021-2028. Tasted February 2019

Colle Bereto Chianti Classico DOCG 2016

So accomplished, respectful and purposed. Knowable, knowledgeable and guaranteed to educate on the merits of growing, picking and sorting perfect fruit. The furthest from rustic that you will find or know. Dark fruit, succulent acids and some of Radda in Chianti’s finest tannins. Drink 2020-2027. Tasted February 2019  olleberetowinery   @NokhrinWines  Azienda Agricola Colle Bereto  Azienda Agricola Colle Bereto

Le Fonti Di Panzano Chianti Classico DOCG 2016

Officially still a tank sample but it is a finished wine, just awaiting DOCG approval. Very firm and juicy, replete with the classic Le Fonti aromatic profile, of salumi, fennel, herbs and salty savour. Fruit, acidity, structure all there in fineness and Panzano culpability. Needs a year to come together, at least, for sure. Essentially 90 per cent sangiovese give or take a point or two with merlot and cabernet sauvignon. Drink 2020-2027. Tasted February 2019  poderelefonti  thevineagency  @LeFontiPanzano  @TheVine_RobGroh  Fattoria Le Fonti – Panzano   @thevineto

I Fabbri Chianti Classico DOCG Lamole Olinto Grassie E Figlio 2016

From a normal vintage really, warm in Spring, hot in summer and back down to pleasant in the fall. A phenolic journey just right for Lamole, More savour, in fennel and gariga than ‘7, surely not as juicy sweet. Still so mouth watering in a way that most sangiovese doesn’t normally accede. This really sparks the taste buds and livens up the energy required to come back again and again. Succulence through acidity assured. Really proper. Drink 2019-2024. Tasted February 2019

Barone Ricasoli Chianti Classico DOCG Brolio Bettino 2016

There is no other name in Chianti Classico that speaks to tradition, formula and success like Bettino. Bettino ’16 is a clarity that is Ricasoli. Sits up at the peak of generosity at a vortex where the fine history of a terroirist’s prayers of intercession come together. As one voice they speak of acidity and structure, brought in to meet, engage and commune at a masterly rendered vanishing point. It’s a rich one Mr. Ricasoli, but one that can be shared and enjoyed by many in the congregation. Drink 2021-2026. Tasted February 2019

Querciabella Chianti Classico DOCG 2016

On the ripest side of 2016 life, Querciabella’s Annata is all in, developed, deep and pure. The fruit already there, unencumbered by holds barred and of a picking that pushes the envelop to gratify at the highest level. There’s nothing stopping the early enjoyment and while the tannins are anything but astringent they are there, albeit sweet and fine. Drink 2020-2023. Tasted February 2019   querciabella  grape_brands  @Querciabella  @querciabella

Luiano Chianti Classico DOCG 2016

Quite the extracted and pressed Annata of sangiovese florals and liquor so dark cherry and even a note of Cassis. A bit of cabernet methinks, along with warmth, a big San Casciano bear hug and all you could want from a wine meant to offer up some love. XOXO for sure. Last tasted February 2019  luianowine ale_luiano  tre.amici.imports  @LuiLuiano  @treamiciwines  Luiano®  Alessandro Palombo  Tre Amici Wines

While 2014 showed a winemaker’s ability to survive and ultimately thrive in spite of a great challenge and 2015 proved a different sort of sangiovese mettle, 2016 is more accented and accentuated. The tobacco mid-point on a crunchy mid-palate moves away from gelée and into gravelly pronouncements. Though only in bottle a few days you can’t help but feel the power, grit and structure from this youthful 2016. It’s so very primary and needs to be heard but I’ve asked for a rain-check, looking forward to a re-visit in late ’18 or early ’19. Drink 2019-2023. Tasted February 2018

Casa Al Vento Chianti Classico DOCG 2016

‘Tis a savoury and yet also rich Chianti Classico, pretty much what you’d want and expect from Gaiole in Chianti. At present it’s found somewhat in a shell with inherent structure from what seems like a pretty solid variegate of soil. You can sense Alberese, Galestro and clayey-marl in the layers of fruit and the blocks that stack one upon the other. An unmistakeable sangiovese albeit well-extracted and very modern. Drink 2021-2025. Tasted February 2019

Ruffino Chianti Classico DOCG Santedame 2016

Santedame is quite traditional Chianti Classico, straight ahead with tart red fruit, a tad sour-edged and one of the keepers of the words. Classico, as in what came before and needs to continue, plus Chianti, place in a territory where things are always what they are. Don’t expect much change from this wine. It is loyal to its lineage and proper. It’s also really well made in a very good vintage. Drink 2020-2024. Tasted February 2019

Villa Trasqua

Villa Trasqua Chianti Classico DOCG 2016

Trasqua’s Annata comes from a special sway of land, from a valley floor sweeping over gentle hills to create sangiovese of ease and drink ability. You can basically back up the truck for this one without needing to wait or expect later miracles. That said the acidity and tannin are fine, present and accounted for, so all the boxes are checked. Drink 2019-2023. Tasted February 2019     @tenutavillatrasqua  @HULSI_II  Frontier Wine Merchants  villatrasqua

John Matta and John Szabo at Vicchiomaggio, Greve in Chianti

Vicchiomaggio Chianti Classico DOCG San Jacopo 2016

A varietal sangiovese with full fruit freshness intentions though there is some sweet herbal aspects to go along. Quite fresh and youthful with minor tannic structure. Don’t lose these in the cellar. They are ready whenever you are. Last tasted February 2019

A syrup quells and wells on the nose in Vicchiomaggio’s Greve drawn San Jacopo, like an anaesthetic offering temporary numbing before the scents of fennel and baking spices shake you clear. Here the vintage is spoken early and with weight, density and deep impression. Everything fires on quick cylinders; fruit, wood spice, smoulder and verdant savour. It’s all in and immediate. Drink 2018-2021. Tasted February 2018

Cantalici Baruffo Chianti Classico DOCG 2016

Quite a barrel affected Annata with a richness of fruit that can handle the toasty wood and carry forward with expressive character, along with quite alimentary tannin. It’s not so much an older schooled Chianti Classico as much as it’s one of swagger, ambition and going hard for the vintage. Drink 2020-2025. Tasted February 2019  cantalici_winery__  @wineCantalici  Cantalici  Carlo Cantalici  Angela Butini  

Borgo Scopeto Chianti Classico DOCG 2016

Very getable 2016 sangiovese straight shooter with a glass full of cherries and quick to the point acids. Zero tannin means drink this as young as is humanly possible and let everyone enjoy the wholly ubiquitous, international and easy to appreciate style. Drink 2019-2020. Tasted February 2019  borgoscopetorelais  @BorgoScopeto  @rubenelmer  Borgo Scopeto  Ruben Elmer


Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2016

Villa Le Corti Principe Corsini Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG Cortevecchia 2016

A river of stones up on the Corsini hill provide the elemental fodder to generate vine health in a territory where altitude and exposure are everything. At least in the case of Cortevecchia. The richness of savoury edged cherries meets very fine tannin and a princely cohort of conscious movement. The old court is the wine for the decade at this very particular vantage place and place, in Riserva form. Drink 2021-2027. Tasted February 2019  principecorsini  artisanal_wine_imports  @PrincipeCorsini  @ArtWineGuru  Principe Corsini  Artisanal Wine Imports

Who does Il Molino di Grace’s Iacopo Morganti remind you of?

Il Molino Di Grace Riserva Chianti Classico DOCG 2016

Welcome to the new world Il Molino di Grace order. Here along, after and in addition to the Annata that changes everything is a crunchy and chewy Riserva of pure, laser focus. An extension of Annata with deeper fruit and confidently brighter than most Riserva. The selection is not merely impressive, it’s necessary. The opening farewell is just the beginning of the end. The fruit sits way up on high, on a hill where acidity and tannin live intertwined, transparent and monumental. Sangiovese on its own in Riserva might need help, a little bit of support to elevate and celebrate a little bit of everything. Not this IMG. Solo suffices with ease. It’s already got a little bit of everything. Marks the first of more steps to come for an estate ready to climb into a highest Chianti Classico echelon where it wants, needs and deserves to be. Drink 2021-2029. Tasted February 2019

Bibbiano Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2016

Bibbiano’s ’16 wears a robe of wood and wears it well. There are notes expected in lavender, vanilla, graphite and syrupy berries but all swim together in the same and forthright direction. As with the pervasive Bibbiano oeuvre there’s time ahead before learning will push forward to allow this great vintage fruit to poke through as sunlight through the trees. Please, I implore you to wait for that glorious moment. Drink 2022-2027. Tasted February 2019

Dievole Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG Novecento 2016

A highly focused, geographically compassed, navigationally composed and just plain oozing sangiovese in Riserva form. Many facets are at play and to thank; Vagliagli, Castelnuovo Berardenga and concrete eggs are just a few though truth be told, in Dievole’s case, are all larger than life. They all contribute for presence, texture and ultimately, dreaminess. Drink 2022-2028. Tasted February 2019  @dievole  profilewinegroup  @Dievole  @ProfileWineGrp  dievole  Profile Wine Group

Barone Ricasoli Brolio Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2016

Riserva is but a bambino, locked tight, with great acidity, fruit agglomerated as one from a selection of all the vineyards. It’s the Ricasoli signature sangiovese dish, a true estate combinative Riserva. This is like taking a tour through all of the plots scattered around 270 hectares, to gain an understanding of what goes into making this Gaiole in Chianti body of work. The insight and grasp is yet unfulfilled because in this case it will take some time for all the moving parts to come together. Solid work in Riserva regardless, really really solid. Drink 2021-2026. Tasted February 2019  ricasoli1141  francescoricasoli  churchillcellars  @ricasoli_1141  @imbibersreport  @ricasoli1141  @imbibersreport

Mazzei Ser Lapo Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2016

Big 2016 fruit from the Mazzei family, with a massive amount of concentration to meet a grip no honest man can pay. Clearly a wine of maceration, concentration and fine liquid tannic focus. Long and true in the context of the tradition of Ser Lapo. Drink 2021-2025. Tasted February 2019

Rocca Delle Macìe Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG Famiglia Zingarelli 2016

Classic firm and over delivering entry for a Zingarelli Riserva built to last. Succulent of red fruit rolling round beneath a hard savoury candy fruit shell. Such a rich edition with lights flared and motor running. I’d wait a couple of years for the richness of 2016 fruit, the warmth and the bones to get together. Drink 2021-2027. Tasted February 2019  @roccadellemacie  @roccadellemacie  @ProfileWineGrp  Profile Wine Group  roccadellemacie

@castellovicchiomaggio

Vicchiomaggio Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG Agostino Petri 2015

Riserva Petri is the largest of the Vicchiomaggio cru, in production of 500 hL so 60,000 bottles. Aged in used barriques and large barrels. A deeper and darker sangiovese so silky and smooth. There is now a balsamic and truffle aspect to the aromas, with some chocolate on the palate. Last tasted February 2019

Agostino Peri is an expressly and explicitly written Riserva from Vicchiomaggio, dusty, high in acidity and ultimately, ostensibly wholly, traditional. Sits on a perch above Greve in Chianti lands to tell the world. Drink 2019-2024. Tasted February 2018


Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG 2016

Conti Capponi/Villa Calcinaia Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG Vigna Contessa Luisa 2016

Now for something completely different. The Contessa’s vineyard is a lifelong dream and confounding sangiovese from which to grab attention. She’s immediately elegant and charming and then so closed. She is predicated on darkening red cherry fruit but her acidity is formidable and so the connection is severe to establish. She lingers with you for so long that you don’t know what to do because she was never really accessible to begin with. Teasing Gran Selezione, an incubus for now, but eventually you will realized the dream. FYI, the oldest estate 1959 planted Contessa Luisa vineyard was dedicated to matriarch Luisa Vonwiller. Drink 2023-2033. Tasted February 2019  @villacalcinaia  @Nicholaspearce_  villacalcinaia  nicholaspearcewines  @calcinaia  Nicholas Pearce

Castello Di Ama Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG Vigneto Bellavista 2016

It’s worth noting that Bellavista is the Gran Selezione passed over in 2014 because it is only deemed worthy of being made in the most concentrated of vintages. Bellavista may be a brother to San Lorenzo but they really couldn’t be any different. Deeper, richer, more tannic and structured, with a chalkiness that speaks to white limestone. But it’s a not a lightning, bright red fruit sangiovese, no rather it’s strong, deep, grippy, brooding and built for the longest of of hauls. This fulfills the wishes of a very specific type of Chianti Classico, of an emperor’s structure in sangiovese clothes. Drink 2022-2030. Tasted February 2019

Conte Capponi/Villa Calcinaia Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG Vigna Bastignano 2016

Capponi’s Bastignano is a Gran Selezione consistent and repetitively persistent to speak its singular truth. It is truly hematic, a sumptuous, oozing full-fruit sangiovese with above the left bank of the river Greve coursing through its blood. Very smooth, seamless, finely tannic and beautifully high in ripe acida. If all GS carried such acid then the category would float even higher. Drink 2021-2029. Tasted February 2019

Castello Di Ama Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG San Lorenzo 2016

San Lorenzo will gift all that Ama has to offer with respect to sangiovese for the 2016 vintage. The fruit is quite dark cherry, perhaps exceeding acquainted expectation though truth be told expectation is easy to handle when vineyards, fruit and seminal acidity do what they do. Far from a tumult of tannin sacrifices nothing to pleasure. A great San Lorenzo many will simply want to drink. Drink 2020-2027. Tasted February 2019

Conti Capponi/Villa Calcinaia Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG La Fornace 2016

Vigna Fornace, “The Furnace” is indeed the warmest of the Capponi Gran Selezione, full of gathered 2016 sunshine, ready to melt in the mouth acidity, tannins and in this case, chocolate. The acidity is very different to Bastigano, here cured, developed and dare it be said in such a young wine, assimilated. Drink this younger while ye wait for the bigger structure and high tonal Bastigano. Drink 2019-2024. Tasted February 2019

Rocca Delle Macìe Gran Selezione Chianti Classico DOCG Riserva Di Fizzano Single Vineyard 2016

In 2016 the cards all align for this ubiquitous and all pervasive get to market Gran Selezione, with a sweet fruit core and satiny viscosity to tell the tale of an estate and a category. This is so very stylish, cultured and rendered sangiovese with round edging, good quality acidity and a voice to last a generation. Drink 2021-2029. Tasted February 2019


Chianti Classico DOCG 2015

Tenuta Perano Chianti Classico DOCG 2015

The second harvest (though the first to enter the market) for Frescobaldi’s Tenuta Perano in Gaiole is a fortuitous one and you have to see these steep vineyards for yourself to believe what possibilities there can be. The unusual situation of a simultaneous release alongside the same vintage Riserva is necessary and understood because the ’14 fruit was de-classified and sold off. Chianti Classico Annata is proper when this much freshness abounds, with high acidity and Gaiole savour. So very and bloody Gaiole and I say this with blood orange in mind. There is also a forested nod and a wink in affinity over the hills to Radda but this remains secure in its Gaiole clothing. The angles, slopes and aspects of Perano’s steepness are echoed in the way this sangiovese ambles across the palate, expanding and contracting as sangiovese likes to and will often do. Temperature fluctuations will also impart this sense of breaths taken in and out. Great intrigue here and with no surprise why Frescobaldi coveted this impressive property. Drink 2018-2022. Tasted September 2018 and February 2019

Losi Querciavalle Chianti Classico DOCG 2015

Let’s talk about sangiovese needing time. Even this generous and rapturous 2015 from the Losi family is not ready to tell its Castelnuovo Berardenga, on the road to Pontignano truth. Not yet. Annata yes I know but structured like the chapels that take a decade or more to restore after many centuries of formidable architecture refusing to yield. Like this Alberese fed sangiovese. Always a firm one of honest and fair play. Drink 2021-2028. Tasted February 2019

Le Cinciole Chianti Classico DOCG 2015

Quite the tangy and chewy number this ’15, let bleed from Panzano Galestro, at once torn and frayed and then fully engaged in its business. This has got you by the cherries that much it’s true and while it’s a bit out of its musical element there’s a charm about it’s country twang. Drink 2020-2024. Tasted February 2019

Stefano Farina Le Bocce Chianti Classico DOCG 2015

Fleshy, somewhat morbido, dark red to black fruit sangiovese with some complications, notably acidity that stands apart. Fruit so savoury and tangy tart leaning into a raisin direction. There’s an intensity, a high tonality and also a depth of dried fruit. Drink 2020-2023. Tasted February 2019


Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2015

Le Fonti Di Panzano Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2015

Two years in the barrel (400 and 500L, one is Hungarian Kader), again approximately 90 per cent sangiovese and the new wood in ’15 was in the 20 per cent range. Here comes that Le Fonti aromatic profile again, as distinct as any sangiovese you will ever nose. Would like to think they could be picked out of a line-up anywhere. Savoury, salty, cured, elegant and pure pleasure available. The quietest 15 per cent alcohol anywhere and from the coolest part of Panzano, to the east. Drink 2021-2028. Tasted February 2019

Rocca Di Castagnoli Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG Poggio A Frati 2015

Poggio A Frati 2015 is primarily sangiovese though usually contains a few percentage points of canaiolo, for tradition. The vines grow on 12 hectares of schisty Alberese soil at Poggio Frati, “the hills of the friars.” The generous season is blessed of beautifully defined tannins, fine and sweet, with that vintage’s glycerin fruit and really intense acidity. This is such a baby but with tannins so accomplished there will be a really fine future, sooner and later. Drink 2021-2029. Tasted February 2019  roccadicastagnoli  profilewinegroup  @Roccacastagnoli  @ProfileWineGrp  Rocca di Castagnoli  Profile Wine Group

Castello Di Querceto Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2015

Classically styled 2015, honest, pure and welling with extracted sangiovese depth. Acidity, grip and then tension all consistently woven from and beyond Annata, but it too is silky smooth,with a liquid liquorice ooze. Smooth bitter balsamic finish. Drink 2020-2024. Tasted September 2018 and February 2019   castellodiquerceto  profilewinegroup  @CastQuerceto  @ProfileWineGrp  Castello di Querceto  Profile Wine Group

Tenuta Perano Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2015

In Riserva the essence of this Gaiole location is continued to be captured, along with a strong Frescobaldi identity instituted for an early defined Perano style. It’s a severe set of vineyard landscapes here and appropriating the place is necessary to making quality sangiovese. The sanguinity and orange citrus aspects speak of the white limestone and chalkiness in the soils, here accompanied by a Riserva glaze, slightly caramelized and charred al forno. The fruit multiplied by earth richness is properly rendered and texturally you can imagine this to feel like elastic pizza dough. Acidity is everything, the key to success and the director of the project. As it should be with sangiovese, Chianti Classico and this place. The focus begins right away with vintage number one and so the future of Gaiole is ensured inclusive with the talents of Frescobaldi. Truly. Drink 2019-2023. Tasted September 2018 and February 2019  frescobaldivini  philippedandurandwines  @FrescobaldiVini  @Dandurandwines  @FrescobaldiVini  @VinsPhilippeDandurand


Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG 2015:

Volpaia Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG Il Puro 2015

Il Puro takes her purity to another level in 2015 with fruit so silky fine and chalky tannins integrated into liquid even finer than that fine. The accumulation is just impressive and the charm meeting grace even more so than that. The Mascheroni-Stianti family has really found a stride in this GS to explain why it exists and how it can make many people happy. The structure here will take this through two or three decades of unfolding. There is a house record to prove it, ironically regardless and in spite of the bottle’s name. This is sangiovese. Drink 2023-2037. Tasted February 2019

Susanna Grassi of I Fabbri

I Fabbri Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG 2015

A choice selection of sangiovese only from the oldest vineyards (1969 and 1984, planted by Susanna Grassi’s father Guiliano). The fine, fine lines, streaks and sets are all a matter of taking the best of the best. The two wines made before this were 2011 Gran Selezione and 2007 (special) Riserva. Texture is drawn from altitude, climate and states of grace. Susanna believes that a special bottle should be made in only the most special vintages. A pretty good argument for commerce in terms of the category, if not everyone were to make it every year. A serious argument. No make-up, no overblowing of extraction, wood or horns. Know this wine. It’s from Lamole. Drink 2021-2034. Tasted February 2019

Colle Bereto Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG 2015

Here is a rich, rendered and Radda rocking Gran Selezione with dark fruit, high acidity and really sweet tannins. So very stylish with a keen sense of itself and who it aims to please. Colle Bereto’s bring the cleanest fruit and Bernardo Bianchi’s are very confident Chianti Classico, sempre e per sempre. Drink 2022-2031. Tasted February 2019

Il Molino Di Grace Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG Il Margone 2015

Molino di Grace’s Margone 2015 perpetuates the previous and original epoch for the estate, healthy, ambitious, full-bodied and of a wealth by fruit multiplied through wood. While it has always been a celebration of its land, it has also always been a wine made big, bold, spicy and tannic through the ushering along of real men’s barrels. That said Margone ’15 is the most calm and layered one to date, full of textures, tapestry and chewy rapport. It marks a turning point, not a complete one, but surely the one where both feet are securely and confidently striding forward into the new dimension of re-invention. Drink 2022-2029. Tasted February 2019

Rocca Delle Macìe Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG Sergio Zingarelli 2015

The 2015 Zingarelli Gran Selezione is a taut, youthful, fresh and also very tannic sangiovese. The toasty wood notes and chocolate are much in play with the fruit still tied up in youth. It’s one that takes all that ’15 wants to give, big, dense and and weighty. Will take five plus years to unfold and reveal, then five more to establish its territory. Castellina in Chianti. Drink 2023-2031. Tasted February 2019

Marchesi Antinori Badia A Passignano Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG 2015

Instantly recognizable archetype of the continuum in Chianti Classico excellence and one of the original seven Gran Selezione. Badia a Passignano comes to life in 2015 with the generosity of fruit that not all in the top of the pyramid category will exhibit as best in show. The classically styled tenets of structure, acidities and tannins are qualified fine as fine can be. Purposefully produced to be this way, to dot every I, T and traditional Italian restaurant wine list. Very fine. Drink 2019-2025. Tasted November 2018 and February 2019  marchesiantinori  halpernwine  markanthonyqc  @AntinoriFamily  @HalpernWin e  @MarchesiAntinori  @halpernwine

Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2013

Villa Di Geggiano Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2013

Geggiano’s ’13 is certainly a sangiovese explicit of expression within a sub-category that falls inside the category of multiplicity that is Riserva. That it took five years to come to a place of accessibility is no shocker and shares yet another detail of this nook in the western edges of Castelnuovo Berardenga. The perfume is beginning to emerge with truly succulent red liqueur. Very prominent (and promising) which is funny to say for a wine now heading into middle age, but not for Geggiano where sangiovese needs as much time as any. Tannins are fine but still in charge. Clarity and purity are surely defined. Wait another year for the next level of perfume and presence, though to be fair the structure is just a shade below the ’12. Drink 2020-2028. Tasted February 2019

San Francesco in the vineyards of Il Molino di Grace

Not currently in Ontario market Chianti Classico

These are the wines from producers without importation agency representation in Ontario but also wines represented in Ontario that are not currently available. They may either be brought in periodically through Private Order or have not yet been imported at all.


Chianti Classico DOCG 2017

Riecine Chianti Classico DOCG 2017

Riecine’s is the true limestone sangiovese, of pure and striking, fast as lightning red fruit. This is without any equivocal wavering a Chianti Classico for purists, for those who look to tradition and who seek the truth, with the most clarity and modernist’s approach. The acids are perfectly succulent, defined and refined. An Annata that will live in infamy, fifteen to twenty years or more I should think. Drink 2021-2035. Tasted February 2019

Podere La Cappella Chianti Classico DOCG 2017

Sangiovese with merlot in two and three year old botti and barriques, to be bottled in two weeks. Smells like Colombino stone, licked by rain with the fruit at its highest La Cappella promise. It’s never been this rich or full but sapidity will always streak through these wines. It reminds me of really high quality mencìa, in a way, piqued by toasty spice, juicy and ready for great meats and roasted vegetables. Drink 2020-2028. Tasted February 2019  natnito  #poderelacappella  Natascia Rossini

Podere Poggio Scalette Chianti Classico DOCG 2017

Quite forward and viscous for a Jurji Fiore Annata at so young a moment which tells us that in the heat of 2017 the highest altitudes were able to not only get to maximum phenolics but also do it with an accumulation of next level texture. For those who love Scalette’s lighting sangiovese and for those who like it real and those also those who want crushable this hits every collective note. Drink 2020-2025. Tasted February 2019  PoderePoggioScalette  profilewinegroup     @ProfileWineGrp  Podere Poggio Scalette  Profile Wine Group

Castello Di Monsanto Chianti Classico DOCG 2017

Once again here is the Castello di Monsanto perfume, distinct, proper, self-effacing correct and then into a purity of taste and texture to carry the name. Sangiovese and the meaning of what is now known collectively as Barberino Tavarnelle. A bit crunchy this early, indeed it is very young and will officially go to bottle in two weeks, though the wine is clearly a finished one. Another gem from Laura Bianchi. Drink 2020-2027. Tasted February 2019   castellomonsanto  @castelmonsanto  @castello.dimonsanto

Fattoria Montecchio Chianti Classico DOCG ‘Primum Line’ 2017

Spring frost has resulted in minuscule quantities from a very young vineyard (though 22 years of age). Pretty impressive for Annata, with enough freshness to balance the weight and the sheer presence of this wine. This is the Premium (Primum) alternative to the original and much larger production Chianti Classico DOCG. Drink 2020-2025. Tasted February 2019

Fattoria Di Montecchio Chianti Classico DOCG 2017

The original, historical label, having been 140,000 bottles production. A year in grandi botti plus four months in bottle before release. Classic, savoury, San Donato bigger, silky and smooth style. Not hard to understand and easy to drink. Find some of this ’17, drink it while waiting for the more structured 16s and stay loyal to a fine, honest and hard working house. Drink 2019-2021. Tasted February 2019

Alessandra Casini Bindi Sergardi and Giulia Bernini


Chianti Classico DOCG 2016

Podere Cianfanelli Chianti Classico DOCG Cianfanello 2016

From David Cianfanelli in the most northeasterly corner of the territory in Greve. Tight and also reductive, or hand in hand in a way and über promising. Reminds me of the sangiovese styling by Luca Martini di Cigala at San Giusto e Rentennano, serious, in control and perfectly reasonable for what the vineyard wants to give. Lithe airiness in here, with clay and Galestro in the vineyard. From a warm location butted up against a cooling hill. Goes both ways, AC/DC, with savour and rich fruit but so in balance. Acids are prepared, round and supportive while tannins take charge in the long winded end. Drink 2021-2028. Tasted February 2019

Istine Chianti Classico DOCG Vigna Istine 2016

Eponymous winery vineyard facing northwest, surrounded by forest at 550m, rocky, steep, full of both Galestro and Alberese, bottled in May 2018 and will be sent to market in January 2019. The dusty, savoury and structured one, from the steep slope and if there is a vineyard that delivers more black olive tapenade and wild earthy complexity, please let me know. This needs time, loads of precious time to get into a charming place. It’s a matter of layers waiting to peel back, air and breath. It’s also a thing of powerful beauty, linear, direct and vines that breathe in the forest and bathe in the morning sun. Harvested third week of October, a month before 2017 and two weeks before what will be in 2018. Submits a new voice into the modern lexicon of Chianti Classico. Drink 2021-2028. Tasted September 2018 and February 2019  istine_raddainchianti  angela_fronti    @istineraddainchianti

Fattoria Pomona Chianti Classico DOCG 2016

Essentially 100 per cent sangiovese, from the better and higher part of the vineyards planted in 2004 and 1998. From hot days, cold nights and eight months in barrel. Beautiful. Fruit, fruit and more fruit. Calcareous marl and Alberese stone interchangeable for the make up the vineyard and the house, with pietraforte, quartz, everything all in, together in conglomerate. In the end, combined with organic farming and low pH, there is a salty vein running through the deeply rendered red fruit. Sapidity unique to this vineyard. Perfect with caponata, carpione and pecorino. This Annata needs to be drawn from every part of the estate because it’s terroir is one of the most variegated in all of the territory. Drink 2018-2022. Tasted September 2018 and February 2019  fattoria_pomona    @fattoriapomona

A result of our manic research on the quintessential search for #sangiovese in Radda and @valdellecorti. Roberto Bianchi’s sangiovese, now with even more consciousness.

Val Delle Corti Chianti Classico DOCG 2016

Just bottled and I mean just bottled, a sangiovese of bright red to purple fruit with a 30-40 per cent assistance by what Roberto Bianchi employs through fermentation called “piemontazino,” or macherazione carbonica a capello son merso.” Leaving 30-40 per cent of the fruit in stainless steel tank on skins for three to four months. Tames the Raddesse acidity for the Annata and makes it more than drinkable. In 2016 it’s crushable, back up the truck gulpable. Beauty in sangiovese, questa, è radda. This, is Radda. Drink 2019-2023. Tasted September 2018 and February 2019  valdellecorti  @ValdelleCorti  @valdellecorti

L’erta Di Radda Chianti Classico DOCG 2016

A tightly wound, sharp as a tack, robust, fascinating, lightning quick sangiovese with Galestro and altitude in its blood. Really forceful through the brightest red fruit in the book. Intensely red liqueur wowing with no loss of pulse, tempo or fast paced drum kit animale. Radda Sangiovese strike straight to the heart. Drink 2020-2027. Tasted February 2019

Poggerino Chianti Classico DOCG 2016

You must walk these Radda vineyards to understand what’s in this glass. Regard the way the rows of vines change colour in September and give up a variability of timing. It is these stops along the way where winemaker Piero Lanza makes his picks then crushes, macerates and collectively ferments. It results in the most seamless, albeit high alcohol, glycerin and textured sangiovese. It is Chianti Classico made precisely the way it needs to be made from this very specific place. Drink 2021-2028. Tasted February 2019 fattoriapoggerino  vins.balthazard   @vinsbalthazard  @poggerino  @VinsBalthazard

Poggiopiano Chianti Classico DOCG La Tradizione 2016

One of the new standard bearers and setters for San Casciano sangiovese. A massively structured Annata that will need rest and will eventually emerge in time. While more traditional than the sister ’16, this comes as no surprise considering the name. Tart and intense, Alberese demanding and purposed, asking for and being granted the request for a return engagement at a much later date. Drink 2022-2029. Tasted February 2019

Fattoria Montecchio Chianti Classico DOCG ‘Primum Line’ 2016

Quite reductive and wound with a tightness that moves the adage one step up the rung, the one that says sangiovese needs time. For ’16 it’s a matter more pressing and a story yet to be told. It’s tart but so very layered and there’s a feeling of Galestro here, with a darker chalky texture and mouthfeel. Perhaps not the same weight as 2015 but more power and structure by a mile. It’s about preference of style and vintage variation. You may have to drink 15s while this waits two or three years before seeing the glory unfold. Drink 2021-2027. Tasted February 2019  fattoriamontecchio  @FattMontecchio  Fattoria Montecchio

Fattoria Dell’aiola Chianti Classico DOCG Aiola 2016

High glycerin, chewy, textured, tangy and ropey red fruit Annata with great purity though certainly up there in ripeness, alcohol and ambition. Reminds of the dark and intense sangiovese from Galestro marl west of the Arbia River though it’s not as deeply rendered and the tonality is a bit higher. Surely seems like Castelnuovo (and turns out it is) but in the northeast, off of slopes abutted up against Radda. If you’ve not heard of Aiola you and I need to know this estate and their vineyards, which certainly present sangiovese right up there with some of Chianti Classico’s finest. Drink 2020-2027. Tasted February 2019

Ormanni Chianti Classico DOCG 2016

The combination of Poggibonsi and Barberino val d’Elsa is Ormanni’s trump card, a straddling of commune borders that creates the ideal estate Annata in perfect alignment. It’s really layered and sumptuous, old school at heart but clear, pure and honest, always looking straight ahead. There’s no rusticity but there is this red fruit beauty that reminds of days of yore. Drink 2021-2027. Tasted February 2019  #fattoriaormanni  rogersandcompanywines    @rogcowines  @fattoriaormanni  @rogcowines

Monte Bernardi Chianti Classico DOCG Retromarcia 2016

Retromarcia represents 75 per cent of the production from vines under 50 years old, averaging 13 years of age, from all four points on the estate. “The workhorse,” says Michael Schmelzer, giving perfume, tannin and a great chew. La matematica è bella; 75 per cent of 75,000 bottles on 75 hectares, of Galestro (70 per cent), purple-brown shale/pietraforte-sandstone (20) and Alberese (10). Made by adding stems back, but not before in the carbonic maceration way. “because that’s winemaking. I feel that I’m adding tannins and de-acidifying naturally, increased in cold years and decreased in the hot ones.” It’s a matter of potassium bonding with tartaric acid dropping out. Longer macerations occur in high acid (i.e. cooler) years and vice versa. Last tasted February 2019  michaelschmelzer  #montebernardi  @montebernardi  @Michael_MonteB  @montebernardi  Michael Schmelzer 

Retromarcia is like the Swahili “pole, pole,” a reminder to us all to slow down, gear down, chill out, take it easy. This Annata has been a 100 per cent, Panzano in Chianti estate grown sangiovese since 2010. The fruit is some of the sweetest and purest sangiovese out there, with a scent of anise, a whiff of tobacco. It’s unequivocally “molto frutto,” with glycerin texture, especially for the frazione and also nosing spiced floral notes. Fresh, light in the tannic department, light in weight and also in alcohol (13.5). Just a joy to drink. As a match to an Italian racer it’s a sprinter, Gino Bartali, Cavaliere di Gran Croce, Gino the Pious, 1950 winner in San Remo. Drink 2018-2021. Tasted September 2018

Vicchiomaggio Chianti Classico DOCG Guado Alto 2016

Guado Alto is the first, La Prima of four Vicchiomaggio cru, so small in fact that it delivers only 50 hL (6,000 bottles). In Annata it is so bloody fresh and perfectly tangy, modernist with really fine acidity. Matured only in large barrels it’s a stylish, chicca of a sangiovese with the kind of length needed to sooth and keep you coming back for more. Clarity and focus in Annata incarnate. Drink 2019-2023. Tasted February 2019  castellovicchiomaggio  @vicchiomaggio  @SignatureWS1  Castello Vicchiomaggio

Montefioralle Chianti Classico DOCG 2016

Harvested at the end of September from the warmest and most gracious gifting vintage. Stock in colour may be unnecessary but oh so beautiful this one, deeply hued, rendered of a purple that’s really just perfect. Grace in acidity meets depth of fruit and such polish. There is nothing rustic about this and yet the perfumed meets spice profile is exacting and pure for this Montefioralle terroir, which incidentally is three hectares of planted vineyards. Silk in sangiovese, honest and pure. Drink 2019-2025. Tasted September 2018 and February 2019  montefioralle  @MontefioralleWi  @montefioralle  Lorenzo Sieni

Vallone Di Cecione Chianti Classico DOCG 2016

Old school, volatile, earthy, funky and very, very real. From Panzano, organic, natural and all you want in sangiovese of this particular ilk. Dreamy. Long and immediately gratifying due to being battle ready. Drink 2019-2021. Tasted February 2019

Stomennano Chianti Classico DOCG 2016

The Grassi family borgo is in close proximity to the medieval town of Monteriggioni just outside of the Chianti Classico zone. Their vineyards are Castellina in Chianti, of sangiovese and colorino grown on loose and not very deep soils where beneath there is grey clay and tufaceous rock. Their’s is lovely rich and delicate sangiovese of ripeness and verdancy intermingling. Great presence, length, high acidity and texture fills the mouth. Cool, minty, savoury. Drink 2020-2026. Tasted February 2019

Renzo Marinai Chianti Classico DOCG 2016

One step closer to a deep, deep understanding is where Marinai has arrived with this welling, oozing and fully rendered Greve sangiovese. There’s some true depth and fullness to this fruit and this constitution, not to mention architecture. Certainly filled with warmth and spice for the lovers here. Drink 2020-2024. Tasted February 2019

Poggiopiano Chianti Classico DOCG 2016

Nothing hidden here about the level of texture, aromatic layering and tannic amenability, wholly consistent if much improved impression from San Casciano in Val di Pesa. It’s a big, nearly boozy and welling to oozing sangiovese of deep cherry and next level modernity. Will please many camps, especially Italian wine lists that must have this avant garde producer on board. Drink 2021-2028. Tasted February 2019  poggiopiano.galardi  @PoggiopianoFI  @FattoriadiPoggiopiano

Bindi Sergardi Chianti Classico DOCG La Ghirlanda 2016

Full sweet natural fruit, a reductive shell and real savoury Mocenni character add up to an Annata from the generous vintage without a tenebrous bone in its body. Chewy mouthful, collected acids and finely grained tannins. A step up again for the Castelnuovo house. Drink 2020-2025. Tasted February 2019

I Fabbri Chianti Classico DOCG Terra di Lamole 2016

Take the Lamole terroir and taste it again and again. Though it may be confounding the first 10 or 12 tries it continues to educate and with time you are unable to avoid the understanding and the temptation. There is a layer beneath the Greve level, of altitude and aspect but also a variability that deems sangiovese impermeable within a context of repeatable. Hard to explain, really. Sweet as original fruit, a genesis of Chianti Classico and a fineness that slides and grooves effortless and with succulence. Drink 2021-2027. Last tasted February 2019

Lamole in Greve is the source for this high toned, stone-tined and savoury aromatic young Annata, traditional, mildly volatile in its wise rusticity and surprisingly tannic. This is the sort of pressed sangiovese you’d find over the decades, from information and technique passed down and upheld by the current generation. Continues the thread with more microbes and real live tart notes to taste. Builds and builds upon its old-school foundation. Drink 2018-2021. Tasted February 2018

San Fabiano Calcinaia Chianti Classico DOCG 2016

Rich and earthy, full dark liqueur, lots of barrel and needing time. This is brawny but needs time. It will settle, eventually and offer great pleasure. The biggest Annata from Poggibonsi, deep in clay and consistently structured this way. Drink 2022-2026. Tasted February 2019  sanfabianocalcinaiasrl  @SanFabiano  Società Agricola “San Fabiano Calcinaia”  Soleil Fine Wines

La Querce Seconda Chianti Classico DOCG 2016

Nicely funky volatile, a rich cherry liqueur, full of spice both out of the vineyard and from the barrel. There is this chewiness that is also marked by a mouthful of spice, candied flowers and calcareous chalkiness from big variegated stones in the soil. Crunchy Annata out of San Casciano in Val di Pesa. Drink 2020-2026. Tasted February 2019  laquerceseconda  #laquerceseconda  La Querce Seconda

Borgo La Stella Chianti Classico DOCG 2016

Cool climate Chianti Classico on full display here with a vintage advantage though you can’t take the hill or the place out of the sangiovese. Seriously savoury, gariga style and a cherry liqueur that’s as much liquor and very much singular of its La Stella own. Quite fine. Drink 2020-2024. Tasted February 2019  borgolastella  #BorgoLaStella  Borgo la Stella

Podere Terreno Chianti Classico DOCG 2016

Terreno’s lights are flashing with sangiovese of bright fruit and ultra high tones. That said there is a macerated and extracted depth to this, with layered acidity and grippy tannins. It’s very youthful and not showing its best, at least not yet. Might allow the shell to be cracked in a year or more likely two. Drink 2021-2027. Tasted February 2019

Vecchie Terre Di Montefili Chianti Classico DOCG 2016

Talk about exotics. The aromatics are all perfume and spice; cinnamon, clove, liquorice, star anise and Szechuan pepper. It’s a veritable Pho broth in Greve in Chianti, sangiovese clothing. The barrel is an obvious influence but the fruit remains lightning quick and culpable for place. I find it a bit thin and lean for 2016 so it’s a bit of a disparate accumulation. Drink 2021-2025. Tasted February 2019

Castellinuzza E Piuca Chianti Classico DOCG 2016

From Greve in Chianti, the sangiovese di Lamole here is strong, youthful, firm and pure. Bright red fruit so typical of the frazione indicates limestone for cherries. Also a salumi of Mortadella and yes, that sort of connection is imaginable and possible. Very fresh with big acidity from the cool night air at 550m above sea level. The inclusion of 10 per cent canaiolo only accentuates the sapidity and the terraced sense of place. If it were a rider it would be Felice Gimondi, precocious and gregarious, a rookie who was a 1965 Tour de France winner in his first try. Drink 2018-2022. Tasted September 2018 and February 2019  castellinuzza.chianti.classico    @poderecastellinuzza

Terre Di Perseto Chianti Classico DOCG Albòre 2016

Sweet and candied, high acidity but not in a VA way, though alt-morbido malic and hard candy shelled. Needs some time for the crackling and the cracking to flake away. Drink 2019-2020. Tasted February 2019

Montecalvi Chianti Classico DOCG 2016

A highly recognizable style of Annata, tangy, soil chalky and textured of sour cherries, ripe and a bit feral. Well on its way to celebrate a Greve in Chianti terroir with this sandy clay (and some Galestro) soil. Drink 2020-2023. Tasted February 2019

La Sala Chianti Classico DOCG 2016

Quite the traditional sangiovese offering up a seriously parochial San Casciano sense of place. Grounded in pace from that place in peace out to the Galestro and Argilla Rosa. Drink 2020-2024. Tasted February 2019

Le Masse Di Lamole Chianti Classico DOCG 2016

From Annamaria, great-granddaughter to founder Emilio Soccio, who with her husband Giuliano tend to some of Lamole’s highest vineyards at upwards of 650m. Their’s is a highly traditional, high acidity and sapid sangiovese at the rooftop of the territory, “il tetto del Chianti.” From the generous vintage and showing well early. Some canaiolo and colorino field blended in only accentuate the loyalty and the adherence to place. Authenticity incarnate right here. Drink 2019-2023. Tasted February 2019

Fattoria Rodáno Chianti Classico DOCG 2016

Dirty, peppery reductive and dark fruit, black earth, sharp, woody, old school and spicy. Storm clouds looming, threats on the horizon. Take shelter. Return in two years when the dust has settled. From Castellina in Chianti. Drink 2021-2025. Tasted February 2019

San Giorgio A Lapi Chianti Classico DOCG 2016

San Giorgio a Lapi is an unusually floral and aromatic sangiovese, much more so than many. It veers and teeters to the edge of geranium but manages the balance to hang on the right side of 2016. It’s a bit brittle on the palate but there is no oxidative or raisining tendency. Perhaps just a bit out of sorts at this time. Drink 2021-2025. Tasted February 2019


Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2016

Poggerino Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG Bugialla 2016

Piero Lanza’s selection is so smart, protracted and tidy within the framework of what a Poggerino Riserva just happens to be. It’s almost as you find yourself scanning the vineyards and your mind’s eye settles on a few perfect plants. You taste the berries from those vines and imagine them bound together in wine. This is the sangiovese mimic of those isolated points of a very special vineyard and also a perfectly constructed stone house in Gaiole, variegated, tightly intertwined and just beautiful to behold. Perfectly streamlined, built to last a few hundred years, but I would suggest to drink it 280 years before that. Drink 2022-2032. Tasted February 2019

Fattoria Pomona Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG Bandini 2016

Purity of handsome fruit lingers left, right and centre within a commission of structural components designed by nature on the road past Villa Pomona up through Castellina in Chianti. The vintage is a rich and elastic one for Monica Raspi and one she must have just delighted in simply being a part of. Elegance as the opposite of vice. Reaches all the essential peaks, plateaus and precipices where supple fruit settles and rests. Drink 2021-2028. Tasted February 2019

Tenuta Cinciano Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2016

Cinciano ’16 Riserva bleeds straight from the Annata in style though because of the berry concentration and extra aging it misses out on the transparency and the basic purity, at least at this so very early stage. Tannins are grippy while fluid and the vineyard waits in anything but vein. Drink 2022-2027. Tasted February 2019  fattoriacinciano  @fattoriadicinciano

Cigliano Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2016

A sleeper this vineyard, on a peninsula out into a great wide void of San Casciano set beneath fairy tales and vistas to set you straight. This is Riserva made to do the same, to ground you in a garden, on a perch, with nothing but tranquil surroundings. Succulent acids support ripe fruit egged on by the variegate of the soil. Drink 2022-2028. Tasted February 2019  Villa del Cigliano  dbwineandspirits    @VilladelCigliano  @dbwineandspirits

La Sala Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2016

What an absolutely lovely Riserva from La Sala in San Casciano, with purity, transparency and clarity. The acidity is perfectly uplifting and the fruit a loyal follower. The tannins are sweet, supple, supportive and once again the fruit tows the tannic line. Structured for a slow, soft and delicate incline, followed by a graceful decline. Drink 2020-2027. Tasted February 2019  cantinalasala  @LaSalaVini  @toohotrightnow  La Sala  Stefano Pirondi

Riecine Chianti Classic Riserva DOCG 2016

Older schooled, tart, tangy, intense, welling and oozing Riserva. Very, truly, obviously Riserva. Like ’13 in a way but the vintage is almost a polar opposite so it’s clearly an estate style in as much as there ever could be. Built to age for a long time. Drink 2022-2029. Tasted February 2019

Vicchiomaggio Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG Vegan 2016

This is note merely John Matta being whimsical or polite but a wine born of an idea to bring something to market that many people demand, want and need. A vegan wine from a specific vineyard area where no animal products are used. The whole process is certified, including the cork. There is a peppery reductive meets soil movement, here with a “natural wine” feel though it’s all red to black fruit with a stop at purple flowers. Very smooth, lightly tannic, not a rare beef pairing Riserva. Not just vegan friendly. Truly vegan. Good on you John Matta. Drink 2019-2020. Tasted February 2019


Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG 2016

Vicchiomaggio

Vicchiomaggio Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG Le Bolle 2016

Named for the small group of houses to which the vineyard abuts, a vineyard where the large gathering of stones resembles Les Galets of Châteauneuf-de-Pâpe. The total prodcution is 50 hL (6,000 bottles). Just going into bottle as we speak, there is a structural architecture to this Gran Selezione that stands apart. La Prima is the wine for everyman while Le Bolle will appeal to ye who wants edgy, artistic and deferential. The blood orange, cranberry, pomegranate and sapid-herbal attributes are all part of the extenuating mix. Terrifc single-block within a single-vineyard expression of solo sangiovese Gran Selezione. Drink 2022-2031. Tasted February 2019


Chianti Classico DOCG 2015

I Fabbri Chianti Classico DOCG Terra Di Lamole 2015

A blend of sangiovese and canaiolo, circa 10 per cent, including the vines planted in 1964 (by Susanna’s father Guiliano), plus 1989 and 2002. This is a whole ‘nother matter of fruit sumptuousness and exquisite tannin. There’s a fine bitters note and fruit that enters into an area where it’s almost a middle-aged, mature version of the Lamole sangiovese. The tannic structure is so very different than the “Lamole” surely because of the altitude 200m lower down the slope. There’s a bass note here apposite to the higher Lamole horns, but also something umami and salty. Wow did this need a year to open up. Last tasted February 2019

Into the Lamole lair we delve from I Fabbri with 90 per cent sangiovese (grosso) plus canaiolo nero of great potential and it should also be said, probability, if not right now then soon, very soon. This terroir is different and if we are not quite sure exactly how or why then perhaps the producers are not quite sure either. The fruit is 98 per cent ripe but I can’t help but wonder how greatness could have been were the number perfect. That may be asking too much but something is amiss, even while the dusty excesses and fine acidity support of wild red fruit is there to see, sense, feel and enjoy. That is the end game after all. Drink 2018-2022. Tasted February 2018

I Fabbri Chianti Classico DOCG Olinto 2015

From sangiovese (80 per cent) plus merlot, named after great-grandfather Olinto Grassi, nonno, patriarch and pioneer in Lamole. From vineyards at 500m and aged part in concrete plus part in barrels. A very different wine because of the merlot, more of a big hug, with sweeter and less tart acids, not the same caress in the mouth, but surely silky and easy. Get into the glass and note the orange, blood or just simply orange. Fresh and spirited regardless of merlot or not. Pair with Pino Daniele, the Italian Van Morrison. Drink 2019-2023. Tasted February 2019

Poggio Borgoni Chianti Classico DOCG Curva Del Vescovo 2015

From San Casciano, “Curve Of The Bishop” is a rich and nearly voluptuous sangiovese with more than enough fruit to withstand the triad of wood, acidity and tannin in great, systemic but manageable concentration. Yes, a truly concentrated CC to be clear and surely so, with extensions in many directions but mostly length. Drink 2020-2027. Tasted February 2019

Fattoria Montecchio Chianti Classico DOCG ‘Primum Line’ 2015

A sangiovese with five per cent Alicante Bouschet and the first of its kind in terms of Annata. Diverts 10 per cent fruit by way of selection from the original and traditional Chianti Classico and it’s quite a beautiful wine in 2015 though not as structured as 2016. It’s like a compromise between that ’16 and the coming ’17. Drink 2019-2024. Tasted February 2019

Villa Montepaldi Chianti Classico DOCG Tagliafune 2015

Very syrupy, sweet raspberry fruit, bled from San Casciano clay and some grey stone. A tannic wine too, older schooled though there is a clarity in that world it lives. Correct, proper and successful. Drink 2021-2025. Tasted February 2019

La Casa Di Bricciano Chianti Classico DOCG 2015

Pretty floral syrup that’s neither too viscous nor tart, not exactly right but certainly finding some balance. A bit resolved with melted barrel notes in vanilla and lavender. Smooth, silky, satiny, easy drinking sangiovese. There was more verve from the adversarial ’14. Drink 2020-2022. Tasted February 2019


Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2015

I Fabbri Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG I Fabbri 2015

From the first passage through the vineyard, when all the fruit is ripe and ready to go. Now Riserva gets serious, or not really at all, but the table is set anew with an entirely new look at the category. Chew on this fresh and leathery wine for awhile. Take your time, feel the heights and the aspects. The acidity is incredibly fine and the effect like a blood red sunset to the west of the Lamole valley. There may be five per cent canaiolo in here, hard to say because of the way and the timing of the picking. Sapidity and salinity are perfect streaks through the sunken, drunken, oxygenated red fruit. Length all the way up to Terrata and La Sala at 100m and back. Drink 2020-2029.  Tasted February 2019

Monte Bernardi Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG Sa’Etta 2015

From the sandstone (Pietraforte) soils, this is sangiovese (100 per cent) with canaiolo and malvasia nowhere to be found. The vines are also 50 years old and sure as the sun sets over the towers of San Gimignano the force of soil stone nature here is rigid, forceful and grippy. Still ripe in every which way; fruit, acids and those added back in stems that lift, strike and place. Two years in botti grandi and then another year in bottle. The perfume is blue and purple flower, i.e. violets and lavender but it almost matters very little because of the perfectly polished tannins. Straight as an arrow, chewy and sapid as the vein of that rock runs long. It’s all about instinct, long macerations and adding back those stems, because that’s the way Michael rolls. I get it because that’s the way I cook. Drink 2021-2027. Tasted February 2019

Monte Bernardi Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2015

It was 16 years ago that Michael Schmelzer came to Panzano with the idea to make pure and elegant wines that represent the territory. Monte Bernardi’s vineyards are in the “belly-button” at the heart of Chianti Classico, with vineyards spread out beneath the winery from 300-410m. Tannins from the Torchiatta are what Schmelzer calls “the best that you can get.” What you get from the pressings and then the ripe stems brings sapidity and longevity. The Riserva is a vineyard selection from only Galestro soils, across the road, 95 per cent sangiovese, with canaiolo and malvasia. Stems are added back in and the wine is aged in botti grandi plus tonneaux, if there is more than the botti can hold. The idea here is the soft constitution from rocks that absorb more solar radiation and yet the acidity is wound remarkably tight so imagine what’s coming next from the Pietraforte in the Sa’Etta. Sapidity is exceptional, in fact in spite of fruit right on the button it’s really quite everything. Drink 2019-2024. Tasted February 2019

Podere Campriano Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG Le Balze Di Montefioralle 2015

Exactly Campriano, distinct and luxurious in its own perfect way. it’s so very Riserva, unctuous with red fruit that seems almost completely absent of wood. because of the land, a vineyard set in the forest “and still so very present.” That also means it’s in the wine. recognizable every year. Always. The vineyard is west facing above the Greve River, on old terraces, with old stones. You can drink this now even if it’s so young. Last tasted February 2019  poderecampriano  @ElenaCampriano  Elena Podere Campriano Lapini(Podere Campriano )  Elena Lapini

Just put to market, the vintage will surely have so much to say and that it in fact already does, with a combination of perfume and spice. Still dusty, with fennel and endemic herbs, teas and brushy plants. There’s a raspberry to dried currant fruitiness that ’14 doesn’t have, also more mid-palate flesh and overall juiciness. A different sort of structure, still with long capabilities but will likely go into a drier fruit profile after the seven year mark. Elena Lapini is a very busy agriturismo and viticoltore proprietor these days and if these most recent 100 per cent sangiovese from two sides of the Greve river tracks are any indication, she’ll be busier than ever before. Drink 2019-2025. Tasted September 2018

La Cappella

Podere La Cappella Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG Querciolo Unfiltered 2015

Querciolo sees one year in barriques, of which 20 per cent is new. Takes off straight away from where the ’15 Annata wants it to, from a generosity and a perfume that stands apart because the vintage says so. There’s still a minor peppery reductive note and that will serve this wine so well going two decades further. One sip lingers so long on the back of the tongue, right in the middle, lingering like a bite of something marbled, a protein of layered flavour. Here you really get a sense of marine sediment and rocks one over the other, in perpetuity out of the soil. Drink 2021-2030. Tasted February 2019

Val Delle Corti Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2015

The 45 year old vines are responsible for this single cru, 100 per cent sangiovese that while older is yet bolder than the barrel sample tasted of 2016. Here you feel the hottest weeks of the summer, less elasticity, fluidity and fluency than that 2016. And yet it is so intuitively elastic, fluid and fluent in mineral rich, marly limestone soil. Here from the Corti Valley on the east facing slope above the river below. Richness, weight and red fruit so specific to this place meets the Radda acidity head on but can’t help but be submissive and respectful. Pure expression of estate, valley and commune. Truly. Drink 2020-2029. Tasted September 2018 and February 2019

Montecchio Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG Premium Line 2015

The Riserva is 95 per cent sangiovese with cabernet sauvignon and alicante bouschet. It ages for 26 months in grandi botti. Quite rich, even reductive, with its upside not yet available. As for Riserva it’s ripe, ripping, big, high in acidity and so necessary to wait at least two more years for it to settle down. Pulsates, quivers and sends shock waves around the mouth, with heavy-hitting sapidity and structural shudders. Quite amaro herbal and very, very long. There is some serious structure available for the log haul here. Impressive and demanding. Drink 2022-2028. Tasted February 2019

Podere Castellinuzza Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2015

Podere Castellinuzza’s Riserva is one of Lamole’s most generous (100 per cent) sangiovese though not without the very particular salty-mineral-sapid streak the hill always delivers. Only 1,500 bottles were produced of this highly traditional Greve-Lamole ’15 and it’s most certainly a perfect foil for fresh pasta with pumpkin, roast chicken, pork and rabbit. Drink 2020-2027. Tasted February 2019

Montefioralle Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2015

So very young and powerful, just a few months in bottle. Primary and beautifully perfumed with the liquified deep fruit chalk of the frazioni and a hit of exotic spice. An intensity that ’14 just did not show and the polish we know to be the kind mastered out of Montefioralle by this passion project house. The liqueur is again one of textured silk, a viscosity to nearing the vanishing point of glück and in the end, total domination. Drink 2019-2024. Tasted September 2018 and February 2019


Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG 2015

Bindi Sergardi Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG Mocenni ’89 2015

There’s pure unbridled surprise in the delicasse and the gentility of this Gran Selezione, one of the more and even most charming of them all. The Mocenni texture is very present, very full, no holes, no peaks or valleys, just a calm and easy nature that finds no reason for stress. Pure fruit, Galestro and Alberese interwoven freshness. Proper, sweet and forward thinking tannins with a future ahead indeed. Drink 2020-2029. Tasted February 2019

Tenuta Cinciano Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG 2015

Cinciano’s is a true effort and tour de acidity force in 2015, with fruit drawn from the oldest blocks of great rock filled soils in Poggibonsi. It’s perfectly perfumed with exotica and the brushy herbs that grown on hillsides and in between rows. A wise and cultured GS that stands apart for its beauty and its power. Forged with great passion and insights to be clear and sure. Drink 2023-2033. Tasted February 2019

Le Fonti Di Panzano Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG 2015

Thirty months in wood and a year in bottle later, this top estate wine is the pinnacle of the Le Fonti aromatic certainty. A big vintage to be sure and one that extrapolates in every which way but loose. Taut, tight, firm, grippy and every other subset of structure you can imagine. The 100 per cent sangiovese ideal is acquiesced and believe it or not it failed DOCG designation on the first try. Who might see this as light, atypical or not ready for international prime time is surely missing the point. Drink 2021-2028. Tasted February 2019

Fattoria Montecchio Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG 2015

The vintage 2015 is the one for Montecchio ready and purposed for the category, done up two-thirds in barrel and one-third in amphora. You can feel it both in cured aromatics but also the texture, part salve and part hard savoury candy. Really takes on the Selezione category with charm and power, with ultra fine tannins and a balancing number of personality in acidity. Does what it must, by the reigns and drives a point. Here the terracotta amphora designed and built by the family business is employed to raise the character and the wonder of the sangiovese. The one third amphora adds great interest, something many other in the category could certainly use. The Riserva does not taste like this, nor does it carry this level of spice. Quite a thrill, long and rich. Drink 2022-2030. Tasted February 2019

Vallepicciola Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG 2015

Chianti Classico and Gran Selezione get neither more modern nor more forward than this. The 2015 is a brooding boozy and stylish sangiovese. Dressed up of a flashy liqueur and a massive attack. Dark fruit, lots of wood, with notes of creosote, graphite and vanilla. Just wow. Drink 2022-2029. Tasted February 2019

Vicchiomaggio Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG La Prima 2015

Made with a few percentage points of merlot, this is the a small-ish production Gran Selezione, a 100 hL output so the number is approximately 15,000 bottles produced. Really high-toned aromatically for Gran Selezione and then a palate of great richness and layering. Truly a selection created sangiovese, with drinkability and steak house amenability. Suits the style and the intent so perfectly. Drink 2020-2027. Tasted February 2019

Chianti Classico DOCG 2014

Castell’in Villa Chianti Classico DOCG 2014

Immediate amore for the aromatics and the lack of supposition, for how this 100 per cent sangiovese is naturally careful, subtly handsome and respectfully direct. Lean but without angles or sharp, pointed edges, nor overtly weighted down in tang. Floral notes are stated in grace and like all of the Principessa’s wines from these Castelnuovo Berardenga vineyards, the singularity of restraint for power and and purity is duly recognized. Drink 2018-2024. Tasted November 2018 and February 2019   Castell In Villa  Les Importations Olea inc.  marino_castellinvillarestauran

Chianti Classico DOCG 2013

Castello Di Lamole Chianti Classico DOCG Le Stinche 2013

From the Lamole producer connected to one of Tuscany’s oldest castle properties, going back one thousand years and a high altitude vineyard restored 16 years ago. This is the sangiovese of the Macigno (sandstone) soil terraces of Lamole, richer than many of the frazione and deeper in textures and transitions. Raised in cement and tonneaux there are floral as well as smoky notes, almost tobacco but more like wild herbs and wood smoulder. You’ve not likely ever whiffed (or tasted) anything quite like Le Stinche, also known as “carcere delle Stinche,” the prison on Via Ghibellina in Florence. Drink 2020-2024. Tasted February 2019

Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2013-2010

Castell’in Villa Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2013

A blend of parcels ”though we know more or less the fields from where they come,” says Principessa Coralia Pignatelli della Leonessa. Here we are introduced to the clarity and functionality of what Castell’in Villa has always purported to be, traditional while always moving in a forward direction of evolutionary necessity. There is no guessing game being played and the aromas are expressive of the property, in everything that grows, plus all that sits beneath and slowly rises to the surface of the fields. Flowers and rocks, together with grapes. It’s that simple really. Finesse and reality. Drink 2019-2028. Tasted February 2019

Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG Poggio Delle Rose 2010

From the hill parcel planted in 1990 to the old selezoine massale clones, from the original property, not the current “Chianti Classico” clones. “And there is a difference,” insists Principessa Coralia. Three or four years in grandi botti and older tonneaux so no, it’s not even close to ready. Yet the fcat that you don’t explicitly notice the tonneaux is its magic. A big and complex vintage with variability in temperature and precipitation but at the crucial moments it gave what was needed. There is a special presence about this sangiovese, because of the source but also how alive, bright-eyed and expressive it is. This pulses, vibrates and reverberates with ancient seabed salinity. No loss to finesse but more time will be required, to turn back time and back pages, for the true clarity and calm disposition to settle in. Extraordinary wine of restrained power and exceptional sangiovese. Has always been Riserva and “will never be Gran Selezione.” Drink 2021-2035. Tasted February 2019

Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG 2013

Capannelle Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG 2013

This first edition of Gran Selezione for Capannelle is an amzing combination of authenticity and polish, with Gaiole’s infamous acidity and herbology combining to deliver a promise of today and for the future. The estate produces no Annata because winemaker Simone has always felt that the acidity here would be over the top in the freshest wines of the year. This Gran Selezione confirms the ideology but the near future may change the plan. Meanwhile kudos for waiting before making Gran Selezione and matched to Tagliatelle con Funghi Porcini. Drink 2020-2026. Tasted September 2018 and February 2019  capannelle  @Capannellewines

Fattoria Di Lamole Gran Selezione Chianti Classico DOCG Vigna Grospoli Antico Lamole 2013

From Paolo Socci in Lamole who also produces the alternating Annata/Riserva “Le Stinche” and who just may be Chianti Classico’s greatest and long-winded storyteller. Socci’s high altitude Greve-Lamole Grospoli vineyard is filled with Macigno stone and while Le Stinche adheres to history and tradition (both in style and the ode to the Florentine Prison’s connection to Lamole), this Gran Selezione hyperbolizes and accentuates both sides of the equation. Very smoky, high dense texture and big acids with this underbelly of sandy, gritty and grippy tannin. Once again, a most singular expression of sangiovese and Chianti Classico. Drink 2021-2029. Tasted February 2019

Good to go!

Godello

Panzano Sunset

Twitter: @mgodello

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WineAlign

Searching for great heart in South Africa

A view of the Simosnberg from Amazink Live in Kalmandi Township

Heritage and diversity in South Africa

as seen on WineAlign

Takeaways from Cape Wine 2018: Bot Rivier, new generation pinotage, regional spotlight on Robertson, Méthode Cap Classique, heritage vines, post revolution Swartland, wot varietal? and kuier

The last time I travelled across the Atlantic and down to the southern tip of Africa was in the warm days of September when I took in the three days of Cape Wine 2015. Beyond the Cape Town commotion of the triennial wine fair there was the added bonus of an expansive, wayfaring wine-lands itinerary. A deep understanding of the Western Cape’s wine landscape came to light, though at the time it seemed like being caught up in some kind of cultural and constitutional revolution. A return engagement with South Africa this past September changes but also cements the notions considered and the lessons learned. South Africa’s scene has now found itself comfortably cast in a post-revolution, full on republic state of wine. Allow me to expand.

I’m searching for the spirit of the great heart
Under African sky

A deeper understanding

After my return three years ago I suggested that “what separates South African vignerons from the rest of the world is a playground mentality and their confident executions in consummation of those ideals. The soils and the weather are nothing short of perfect…the place is a veritable garden of viticulture eden…a certain kind of comparison presents South Africa as the wine equivalent of the wild west. In the Western Cape, anything goes. The landscape of South African wine is demarcated by ancient geology and by the geographical diversity of its regions, sub-regions and micro-plots. Varietal placement is the key to success. As I mentioned, South African winemakers can grow anything they want, to both their discretion and their whimsy. The choice of what grows best and where will determine the successes of the future.”

It’s satisfying to note that three years later the adages, analytics and perspectives remain constant with that initial intuition and yet the changes in mentality meeting execution are far greater than such a short passage of time could normally afford. Winemakers in South Africa are learning everything there is to know about making wine and from every corner of the world. Some are travelling to the sources for the knowledge while others are simply experimenting at home every day to get there. There is no style of wine that isn’t being attempted. I’ll say it again. “Natural fermentation, skin contact and carbonic maceration have infiltrated the winemaker’s psyche. Fresh, natural, orange, amber, caliginous and tenebrous have established Cape footholds with enzymatic force.”

The year 2018 will be remembered for many things but at the top of that list are resilience and tradition. After months and months on end of near catastrophic drought the country and in turn the wine producers have found a way to survive and to thrive. Thanks must be afforded the pioneers and those with the most experience, in other words, the people who have been through and seen it all. As a result it is the icons and archetypes of South African wine that stole much of this year’s spotlight. Though they are the antithesis of the young and free-spirited, the lines have begun to blur, or at least overlap in terms of who is who in the winemaking mise en scene. Three years ago these pirates with pirate eyes and pirate smiles made some good wines but a good deal of them were dirty, funky and flawed. Wine geeks gushed because of the cool, natural and revolutionary factor. It was a time of protest and free spirit. Once upon a time in the wild Western Cape. As the boomers have grown older their winemaking has matured and become wiser. There is no abandoning the call for uprising, subversion and experimentation but there is a concerted effort to fashion wines that are a pleasure to drink. Isn’t that the point? In 2018 it seems that everyone has it figured out. South African wines are cleaner by ‘n landmyl, with more purity, transparency and honesty than ever before. Their epiphany is now ours as together we synchronically enter this new world of deeper understanding.

No one does a media package like @wosa_za for @wosacanada peeps. thank you for getting me very ready to tackle @capewine2018

So much to think about

It began at the Spier Hotel in Stellenbosch, home to Spier Wine Farm and Vineyards. It was unseasonably cold with the kind of crisp night air that just makes you think about acidity. The vines were infants at this time in the southern hemisphere vineyards but I could not help but imagine the 2019 harvest possibilities as having forged their beginnings with these early spring conditions. Next stop was Bot Rivier, first with a farm to table experience at Wildekrans Wine Estate. A quick stop to hang with the baboons at Sir Lowry’s Pass and a move to Kalmandi Township.

Performers at Amazink Live

This was a truly South African experience of ‘Ubunti’ at Amazink Live‘s township braai with the local entertainment troupe and a big bottle format of Smiley, Silvervis and Terracura with Ryan Mostert and Samantha Suddons. The fifth season of performance took place in what is called “a place of unity,” a safe space for all guests and groups. Amazink’s manager Zinthle explained that this club offers “a change in the perception of townships, the name alone means “it’s a nice home.” Kunandi Umalaba indeed. “It’s nice to be here.”

On to Roberston for three quick visits with Graham Beck Wines, Springfield Estate and De Wetshof Estate Wines. Then a night under the African sky, a 24-hour out-of-body experience at Sanbona Game Reserve and over to L’Avenir Farm for Pino Pistols – the next generation of pinotage young guns. The next morning at the Cape Town International Convention Centre for the start of three jam-packed days of Cape Wine 2018. An evening that can never be forgotten covered the classics – a regional four-decade vertical tasting with eight iconic producers. The trip culminated with lawn bowls in Malmesbury with the Swartland Swingers, artists formerly known as The Swartland Revolution.

Sundowners, Sanbona Game Reserve

Three years after that 2015 Cape Wine experience it’s duly noted how both flow and focus mean that the game is changing. The notion of planting whatever you feel like wherever you feel it just because it will ripen is evolving. Specialization, especially with respect to varietals like chenin blanc, cinsault, grenache and pinotage is the wave of the future and with this furthered isolation of micro-plots and terroir for these very specific grape varieties. Narrowing the focus, figuring out what works best and why. It’s the Burgundian way and indeed the way all great wine regions make their mark. The heritage seekers and protectors know what’s what. Old vines, especially dry, bush-farmed vineyards are the backbone of South Africa’s diversity and possibility.

Were South Africa not so far away from the rest of the wine-consuming world I truly believe it would blow every other wine region out of the proverbial water of supply and demand. South Africa’s wines represent the finest quality to price ratios in the world and there is plenty of product to go around. Lying a continent (and an ocean) away from both Europe and North America is an obstacle that will always be too distant to overcome but the global economy’s ability to coalesce and encourage trading of goods from the furthest of poles is only going to increase. If this upwards and positive trend is to continue the current wave of nationalist political tendencies must be curtailed, if only so that we as consumers can continue to enjoy the wealth of extraordinary wines that need to be exported out of South Africa.

Chef Gregory Henderson, Wildekrans Wilde Forage, Bot Rivier

New age of diversity: Bot Rivier

Bot Rivier is south-east from Cape Town, sandwiched from south to north between Hermanus and Stellenbosch. “From the top of the Houw Hoek Pass, one gets the first glimpse of the vast, rolling hills and big sky of the Bot River area, where real people make real wine.” This is the credo of the family of wineries that farm and produce in the area. There are 12 members of the wine-growing association, all within a 10km radius of one another. At Wildekrans we participated in a ground foraging experience alongside Chef Gregory Henderson. Beaumont Wines, Gabriëlskloof, Paardenkloof, Villion and Luddite Wines led us through a blending process to make a wine from samples supplied by all six. Four groups attempted the exercise to mixed reviews. Said Luddite’s Niels Verburg. “We gave you six beautiful wines and you gave us four bad ones back.” Their wines were significantly better.

Beaumont Family Wines Hope Marguerite 2017, WO Bot Rivier-Walker Bay, South Africa (Agent, $35.00, WineAlign)

The vintage clarity speaks to an unbelievable old vines imperative and in this case a stage presence imperative to scrape, zest and juice all the lemons, tangerines and peaches in the world. The fruit quality and integrity conjures a continuum where distant memory fast forwards to present day reality. ‘Tis an extraordinary time to taste chenin blanc in its modern vernacular, of so many styles with Sebastian Beaumont’s so high on the pyramid. The The 2017 accomplishment includes further complex compliments, dried pineapple, lemon peel and an herbal wonder powder. This is the sauce. “This is the day, your life will surely change. This is the day, when things fall into place.” Soul mining for chenin blanc. Drink 2019-2026.  Tasted September 2018

Villion Family Wines Syrah 2017, WO Western Cape, South Africa (WineryWineAlign)

A moment’s pause to consider the aromatics is unavoidable because the mid-palate complex notions swirl dramatically out of glass, through the mouth and straight into the mind. This with thanks in kind to more than half of the juice having matured for eight months in (36 per cent new) 300 and 400L French barrels. The fruit was not lost in fact it’s uncanny how mandarin orange it is, plus this old vine (30 years and older) mineral-flint strike to round out the third and most expected aspect of the total oeuvre. Rich, unctuous and structured is a great way for chenin blanc to go through life. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted September 2018  villionwines  @VillionWines  @VillionWines

Wildekrans Wine Estate Chenin Blanc Barrel Select Reserve 2017, WO Bot Rivier, South Africa (WineryWineAlign)

From winemaker Braam Gerricke his chenin blanc layers and variegates richness and spice. There is nothing simple about the designation or the result, very much in the vein of old vines and barrel licked chenin with great expectation. The ceiling climbs high for this type of execution and with some age for this, followed by some adjustments for the rest the future looks very bright. These are wines poised to climb into another Cape echelon. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted September 2018  wildekrans  @WildekransWines  @Wildekrans

Gabriëlskloof Syrah The Landscape Series on Shale 2016, WO Bot Rivier, South Africa (WineryWineAlign)

On Shale is forged of a single-vineyard, Bokkeveld site on the Gabriëlskloof property that makes for a stand apart syrah without comparison. A wild ferment encourages idiosyncratic, ferric and hematic tendencies of what can happen on this section of Western Cape geology. The theoretical possibilities from such shale do for syrah what Cape granite and Malmesbury shale won’t, making abstract connections liquid chalk bled through mudstone in the form of herbal amaro syrup. You notice it in the consistency too, so pure, so sappy oozing and in its very intuitive way, extroverted fine. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted September 2018  gabrielskloof_  @Gabrielskloof  @donniewine  @Gabrielskloof

Luddite Shiraz 2014, WO Bot Rivier, South Africa (WineryWineAlign)

Just a few years offers up so many more clues as to what is going on in Niels Verburg’s shiraz world. First of all the 24 months in barrel and the 24 months in bottle are structure building and basically tell us to stay away for an equally further amount of time. Not that you wouldn’t want to taste one or two along the way but time is the necessity. This is shiraz held back to “gain a balanced potential.” Meanwhile, no other Cape shiraz smells like this. Niels talks about the mattress of curry the khoi bushmen used to lie upon to raise them up above the ground and away from the insects. The plants known as “kerrie” have a very particular herbal-savoury scent, certainly present in Luddite’s shiraz and even more pronounced with a few years of time gone by. It’s exotic, an herbal-spice line trod with floral undertone and in part certainly a cause to that vineyard presence of the curry bush. Texture is fine spun silk, integrated and then comes exquisite acidity to complete the picture. Drink 2019-2027.  Tasted September 2018  luddite_wines  @LudditeWines  @ludditewines

Paardenkloof Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2017, WO Bot Rivier, South Africa (WineryWineAlign)

Planted in 2002, it was 2006 that proprietor Mohseen Moosa first produced this cabernet sauvignon on the mountain that separates Bot Rivier from the Hemel-en-Aarde, three to four kms from the sea, as the crow flies. The cooling breezes help to coax, coddle and accentuate the varietal tendencies, “to promote the primary fruit of the vineyard,” tells Moosa. Beneficial balance and restrained intensity define this wine, from pockets of spice through ultra-violet floral rays. Pleasing fruit meets designate structure for the most solid of South African cabernets. Fine chalky tannins and all in all, really accomplished. Drink 2020-2027.  Tasted September 2018  paardenkloof  @PaardenKloof  @PaardenKloofEstate

Chardonnay vineyard in Robertson

Regional spotlight: Robertson

The Robertson Valley is a singular and vast South African landscape, a place of wide open spaces and skies. It’s the ideal location for many things, including growing chardonnay and pinot noir for Méthode Cap Classique sparkling wines. It’s also possessive of the finest limestone soils in the Capelands which means chardonnay thrives and the ceiling for pinot noir can only raise higher. Pockets of sand and clay are also ideal for Bordeaux varietals; cabernet sauvignon and sauvignon blanc. The history, meticulousness and confidence of Robertson’s winemakers is more than evident. Springfield’s Abrie Bruwer was quick to remind us all “we’ve revolutionized (winemaking) three times over already and nobody’s noticed.” Robertson remains under the radar but know this. Old world defines the collective oeuvre.

Springfield Estate Sauvignon Blanc Life From Stone 2018, WO Robertson, South Africa (Winery, WineAlign)

What a jolt in how there’s a quick flash of Sancerre and then bam, straight back into a Robertson reality from the rockiest of parcels. The juice is kept at negative three degrees celsius to preserve the sheer freshness of the fruit. It’s not so radical but it’s also not done. What is does is prevent the flavours from disappearing into the enzymatic wind. They’ve been at this process for 11-12 years, seven of them with the entire crop. It’s about keeping the entirety of the lees suspended to buoy and ready the fruit for fermentation, at 13-16 degrees. The fruit is so variegated, at first mostly stone and the towards tropical tendencies, on the back of acidity wise and mature.  Drink 2018-2023. Tasted September 2018  springfieldestate  @springfieldwine  @springfieldestate

De Wetshof Estate Unwooded Chardonnay Bon Vallon 2018, WO Robertson, South Africa (403675, $22.95, WineAlign)

The unwooded chardonnay from de Wetshof is a fascinating wine because it’s one of the very few in the style that needs some time to settle down and in. From the good valley at the lowest point between slopes there is more searing orchard and citrus fruit meeting pure, unaffected by wood nuttiness than a list that includes all of Robertson and perhaps the entire Western Cape. What is pulled from this limestone terroir and without any barrel time is almost impossible but wholly remarkable. It’s also consistently constructed vintage after vintage by the commitment to craft by the family de Wet. Drink 20189-2022.  Tasted September 2018  dewetshofwines  @DeWetshofWines  @dewetshofwines

Graham Beck Prestige Collection Cuvée Clive 2012, Méthode Cap Classique, Robertson, South Africa (Agent, WineAlign)

Clive is Graham Beck’s most prestigious and important cuvée, what méthode cap classique cellarmaster Pieter Ferreira calls “a respect to Champagne. While previous incarnations were wines of “best selection” the 2012 chardonnay and pinot noir are drawn from a single-vineyard for the first time. Stand in the tasting room and there it spreads out below, on soil riddled with limestone to equip this crisp and arid sparkling wine with all the necessary attributes. Bronze-parched apple and dried quince are noted. Sentiment and data from a 10 year study project of varietal, lees and aging are collected and come to this; a toast demure, a love divine, a wild control. Brilliant sparkling wine and undoubtedly a South African gem. Drink 20189-2027.  Tasted September 2018  grahambeckbubbly  vinexxperts  @GrahamBeckSA  @Vinexxpert  @grahambeckmcc  @Vinexx

L’Avenir Wine Estate and Country Lodge

Pino Pistols – The next generation of Pinotage young guns

Heritage in South Africa is not just reserved for chenin blanc. “You know what old vines can give you,” says L’Avenir’s winemaker Dirk Coetzee. “We’re here to discuss a pinotage revolution. We’re here to discuss the next generation of pinotage.” Stellenbosch is host to the greatest concentration of Western Cape plantings and over the last ten years it has grown by 52 per cent. “Once we start making authentic product people will start thinking and the product will speak for itself.” In fact it has moved from being the sixth to the third most planted grape varieties. Beyerskloof winemaker Ani Truter adds, “what I tasted in the 80s was not pinotage, it was sabotage. It took 2,000 years for Burgundy to be successful. Don’t worry, it won’t take that long in South Africa.” Only a Châteauneuf-du-Pâpe winemaker could pay a compliment with such direct proposition.

David Sadie continued the analysis with his take on soil and cellar as being the reasons for making good and bad pinotage. “If you look at a bad pinotage today you can look at the cellar and not at the cultivar.” This in explanation for how pinotage has improved and is moving on from rubbery, toasted and burnt flavour profiles. “It’s about site selection, planting in the right areas.” It’s also about pH levels. “Your attention to hygiene is really important, it’s pH driven.” And finally, Jacques de Klerk of Radford Dale.” They used to be made at high alcohol levels and the margin for error was very precarious. It comes down to over extraction and over use of oak.” The times they are a-changin’.

Beaumont Family Wines Pinotage Sixty Barrels 2015, WO Bot Rivier, South Africa (Agent, WineAlign)

So interesting to taste this seminal pinotage by Sebastian Beaumont side by each with his 2009 “normale.” The same 1970s planted vineyard is employed, here from two blocks, one 44 years of age and the other being a spritely 21. The salty note on the aromatic top is faint, hidden beneath massive fruit ability, but it depends (of course it depends), on vintage. This one is full of wealthy possibilities and stealth opportunity, especially when the salt rises to the surface in thew clay. That clay effect is a fulsome one, really notable from 2015 to claim fruit, stash it away in reserve and wait for structure to build, crest and relent. Many years will pass as a result of this pinotage process. This is how you build varietal wealth and worth. One of South Africa’s finest. Drink 2019-2027.  Tasted September 2018  beaumontwines  @Beauwine  @Smallwinemakers  @beaumontfamilywine  @smallwinemakerscollection

L’Avenir Pinotage 2016, WO Stellenbosch, South Africa (Agent, $14.95, WineAlign)

When it comes to pinotage there are few producers capable of delivering the triumvirate of quality, honesty and ignoring of sickly trends. There is no mocha in L’Avenir’s take on the mistaken identity grape. In this case it’s like you’d expect pinotage to be but also completely unexpected because it takes classic relief, alters the perspective and turns the architectural rendering on its head. Pinotage needs to keep you on your toes, confuse with trompe l’oeuil drawn trickery and offer up great surprise. That’s what makes it special. Here richness is met head on by tannin, dusty fruit by bold acidity and spice mix at the gate of intensity. Just imagine the possibilities in the estate’s single block. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted September 2018  lavenir_wine_estate  selectwinemoments  @LAvenirWines  @SelectWinesTO  @LAvenirEstate  @SelectWinesCanada

Beyerskloof Pinotage Diesel 2015, WO Stellenbosch, South Africa (Winery, WineAlign)

The bush vines are in the 20 year range on gravelly Oakleaf and Klapmuts soil for this highly credible example of what is possible with pinotage, especially in Stellenbosch. This is nothing but a structured red, housed in 100 per cent new French oak barrels for 20 months. After maturation, only 20 barrels were selected out of a possible 300. The fruit is richer, the texture denser and the extraction at the top end of the ideal. There is more of everything here, including savour and it’s anything but reductive or ball bouncy. Big, roasting, boasting and blasting with an exceptional level of quality. Drink 2019-2023.  Tasted September 2018  beyerskloof  churchillcellars  @Beyerskloof_  @imbibersreport  @Beyerskloof  @imbibersreport

B. Vintners Pinotage Liberté 2017, WO Stellenbosch, South Africa (Agent, $41.99, WineAlign)

Two oceans facing granitic soils at 250m are the impetus to raise this Cape dialectical, Atlantic meets Indian pinotage. It’s also a whole bunch matter, something that in increasingly important in the varietal lexicon. The plantings are east-west in orientation to avoid overbearing sun exposure, which is really a thing in pinotage and often the culprit for its unwanted “thickening.” Baking spice is all over the notes and fruit purity is duly counted. A very characterful red, spicy, smoky and just plain pleasurable, if on the confident side of all things being equal. Nice work between cousins Gavin Bruwer and Bruwer Raats. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted September 2018  raatsfamilywines  liffordgram  @RaatsWines  @LiffordON  Raats Family Wines  @liffordwineandspirits

Radford Dale Pinotage Frankenstein 2015, WO Stellenbosch, South Africa (AgentWineAlign)

It took a few decades for someone to give Shelleyan props to Dr. Abraham Penold of Stellenbosch University,1925 grafter of cinsault and pinot noir to create pinotage. It’s a literary sidestep of a stretch to compare the science to Mary Shelley’s creature created by mismatched donors, but more than that it’s a cheeky shout out for a varietal often mistaken for a monster. Winemaker Jacques de Klerk grabs fruit from the white marl at the foot of the Helderberg Mountain for a pinotage troika of intention, ability and expectation. Three properties born of terroir, house and winemaker. All are on the same page written by an unspoken agreement to not abuse or confuse this grape. Frankenstein is smoky, curative, red raspberry ripe, right proper and built to last. Drink 2019-2026.  Tasted September 2018  radford_dale  reveriechenin  noble_estates  @Radforddale  @deklerkjacques  @Noble_Estates  @RadfordDaleWine  @NobleEstates

Pinotage winemakers at L’Avenir

Kanonkop Pinotage 2015, WO Simonsberg-Stellenbosch, South Africa (Agent, $44.95, WineAlign)

Vines are between 30 and 60 years of age for this prototypical ode to how things were and going forward can almost certainly be in the world of pinotage. Wrinkled, gnarled, grizzled old veteran vines, the Gordie Howe of the genre, Mr. pinotage if you will. Trees of a vinous sort, able to shake of draughts and new wave mochafied drafts, with a hat trick of checks, balances and grit. These vines are the past but more importantly are the future, typified and exemplified in this kind of pinotage, a modern classic made from a place by a maker who knows what’s what. Smoky red fruit with this uncanny variegation of hue, cloudy transparency and complexity of character. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted September 2018  kanonkopwineestate  noble_estates  @KanonkopEstate  @Noble_Estates  @Kanonkop  @NobleEstates

David And Nadia Pinotage 2017, WO Swartland, South Africa (Winery, WineAlign)

David and Nadia Sadie’s pinotage is quite possibly and purposefully the lightest there is, clocking in at an impossibly low 12 per cent. It is both the next and other tier for the varietal reconnaissance with vanguard clarity and an honesty to speak of wine made under serious drought conditions. Bright red fruit and that low alcohol make it at once crushable but then sneaky structured. A maturity of vine, maker and grape conspire for such a dichotomy of bemusement though to be fair you could blindly be convinced that you were tasting lithe and ethereal northern Rhône syrah. The mixed magical condition certainly makes you take a step back and a seat to think. It’s a good conundrum and an excellent way to be drinking pinotage. Drink 2019-2027.  Tasted September 2018  davidandnadia  @DavidandNadia  @DavidandNadia

Wildekrans Wine Estate

Wildekrans Wine Estate Pinotage 2017, WO Bot Rivier, South Africa (WineryWineAlign)

A cooler, herbal and uniquely floral pinotage from Braam Gerricke. Bush vines grow on a shady site of small acreage and at altitude for the valley. Pinotage of chalky liquidity from you which you feel the oak and a real sour-sorrel tang. Was in barrel for 15 months and it will need a year or two to fully integrate, than drink well for four or five more years after that. Terrific persistence and length.  Drink 2019-2023. Tasted September 2018  wildekrans  @WildekransWines  @Wildekrans

Graham Beck Winery, Robertson

Méthode Cap Classique

Plain and simple, Méthode Cap Classique (MCC) is a South African term indicating a sparkling wine made in the traditional method (the same way Champagne is made), by which a secondary fermentation takes place inside the bottle. That said, there is nothing simple about MCC and who would argue that as a category it produces some of the finest, most complex and diverse sparkling wines in the world. It’s also very much a wine about terroir. As it stands, MCC has to age on the lees for a minimum nine months to be labelled as such. “We’re making wines that develop too quickly,” insists Paul Gerber of Le Lude. Gerber believes the minimum should be raised to 15. “Sparkling wine is not a terroir wine? Please. This is completely untrue.” As for sugar dosage he’s like a cook in the kitchen. “Dosage is like seasoning. If you do it properly you don’t taste it.” It is Graham Beck’s Pieter Ferreira that has put in the time and the research over 20-plus years to really understand the category but more importantly the potential. “You are always looking to express terroir,” he says. “For Brut we have to extend (the less aging time) to 60 months. So there is no lipstick or eye shadow.”

Le Lude Vintage Cuvée Méthode Cap Classique 2012, WO Franschhoek, South Africa (Winery, WineAlign)

Le Lude’s winemaker Paul Gerber assembles two non-vintage Bruts, blended each vintage for a house style. The fruit is primarily Robertson with some addendum out of Franschhoek. The first vintage was indeed 2012 and this chardonnay (80 per cent) plus pinot noir comes sweet herbal straight out of the riddle with a sultry, piqued spiciness. Already showing a hint of secondary notation by way of a honeyed nougat melted into the soft and delicate mousse. Still plenty of intensity and drive with citrus in whole represent by lime, fresh and juicy. Less red fruit (much, much less) and more white flower with the idea of yellow and green fruit. Stylish, persevering and precise. At 2.6 g/L it’s perfectly albeit sparsely seasoned and mature with Champagne confidence. Drink 2019-2027.  Tasted September 2018  leludemcc  @LeLudeMCC  @LeLudeMCC

L’Avenir Brut Méthode Cap Classique 2017, WO Stellenbosch, South Africa (Winery, WineAlign)

L’Avenir Estate’s Méthode Cap Classique is mainly pinotage with some chardonnay and arrives in the glass as a light and nearly delicate bubble. It’s a succulent, sweet rusty, lively enzymatic sparkling wine with an opinion and a plan of action. Pleasurable to sip from a definite MCC teachable moment. Drink 2018-2020.  Tasted September 2018  lavenir_wine_estate  selectwinemoments  @LAvenirWines  @SelectWinesTO  @LAvenirEstate  @SelectWinesCanada 

Genevieve Brut Blanc De Blancs Méthode Cap Classique 2014, WO Bot Rivier, South Africa (WineryWineAlign)

Genevieve is Cap Classique made by Melissa Nelsen and was first made in 2008, released in 2010. Now with 2014 the lees aging time is 48 months with total output in the 12,00-13,000 bottle range, up from the 5,000 of that first vintage. The goal is 20,000 in the very near future. It’s essentially blanc de blancs, 100 per cent chardonnay as a wise, calm, mature and elegant traditional method sparkling. Just lovely. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted September 2018  #melissagenevievenelsen  @Genevieve_mcc  

Graham Beck Brut Zero 2012, Méthode Cap Classique,Robertson, South Africa (435453, $23.95, WineAlign)

Slanghoek pinot noir (77 per cent) meets limestone-Robertson chardonnay for a driest of the dry sparkling wine that spent 60 months on the lees. Beck’s attack for the Brut Zero “is based on the philosophy of grower’s Champagne,” notes Pieter Ferreira and as such it surely ranks as one of the more mineral-toasty bubbles in the entire Cap Classique category. No sugar added during dosage allows the land to speak. There is a deeper intuition beyond flint-struck, something categorically chalky while delicate and flavour wise it’s simply limon-delicieux. The fineness is noted and the vintage too, from which the team saw enough to make use of the highest quality juice for a tête de cuvée wine. High ceiling for aging here. Drink 2018-2024.  Tasted September 2018

Wildehurst Méthode Cap Classique NV, WO Swartland, South Africa (Winery, WineAlign)

Sheree Nothangel’s sparkling Cap Classique is composed of chenin blanc and chardonnay (56/44), at 4 g/L dosage after 24 months on the lees. This is the third year of the program and the first stage speaks to a style that acts in delicasse incarnate. Just lovely and creamy in which lemon billows with elastic solids as curd and there is a real feel of fine lees. Though downy it too is lifted but not explosive by acidity. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted September 2018  wildehurst  @WildehurstW  @wildehurst

Avondale Wines Armilla Blanc De Blanc 2011, Méthode Cap Classique, WO Paarl, South Africa (451930, $34.95, WineAlign)

The first vintage was 2003 for the Armilla blanc de blanc, now out of 2011 and having spent six years lees post whole bunch pressing. It’s a naturally fermented chardonnay of which two per cent saw some older barrel. After two years of coarse lees aging there began this formidable bringing of citrus and sharp apple bite. The following four on fine lees delivered the integration of acidity ahead of the gainful accumulation of toasted brioche. Richness at its best for this Méthode Cap Classique, of preserved lemon, fine aridity (under 5 g/L RS) and high acidulation (over 9 TA). Terrific MCC. Drink 2018-2024.  Tasted September 2018   avondalewinesa  @Avondalewine  @RareEarth_Wines  @AvondaleWines  Rare Earth Wines & Spirits

Godello with André “The Giant” Morgenthal, Old Vines Project and Scott Zebarth in Stellenbosch

Heritage vines

It may be argued that South Africa’s most important work is being done through the Old Vines Project. “Old vines make wines with a unique character. Wines that reflect the vastness of our South African landscape – our harsh climate, our old and sometimes fragile soils, and our complex culture. They reflect the decades of growing in one place, in the unyielding sun, the cold winter rain, the storms and winds, on a mountain, on a plain somewhere and then producing these delicate but powerful wines.

The Old Vine Project wants to preserve vines older than 35 years by creating an awareness of the heritage of old vines. Winemakers can certify their wines as ‘Old Vine’ and the public will knowingly buy wines that are made from the many ancient and sometimes forgotten patches of vineyards. Through membership the wine drinker will be able to follow the history of these wines and see where they come from – the exact slope or site, the winemaker, the soils and the stories of each.”

It begins with Rosa Kruger, viticulturalist and long time champion of the Cape’s oldest plantings. Using funding from businessman and winery proprietor Johann Rupert, Kruger founded the project in 2016, cementing formal something that had been in the works since 2002. In 2018, the OVP launched its plaques, held tastings and developed certification seals. Kruger has tirelessly promoted the qualities of the Cape’s 2618 hA of old vines. Today the larger than life André Morgenthal instructs, educates and directs on behalf of the Old Vines Project.

Chris Alheit makes an archetypal wine from the poster child vineyard for this intense old block by block pre-occupation, called La Colline in Franschhoek. So what do heritage vines mean to the makers of wines that carry this luggage? “For a clear South African identity you must use old vineyards to call it Cape heritage wine,” insists Alheit. He and more than 40 producers are making wines from a dozen regions housing further dozens of heritage blocks. These are the history and lifeline of South African varietals. It’s not just about keeping old things alive. The Western (and Northern) Cape is one of the few places in the world where old vines continue to produce extraordinary fruit to make beautiful wines. It’s not just about where you come from, it’s also about where you are going. These are just a few of these examples.

Alheit Vineyards Sémillon La Colline Vineyard 2017, Franschhoek, Western Cape, South Africa (WineryWineAlign)

“Qu’est-ce que c’est?” From a vineyard housing both light and dark-skinned sémillon and if there are others in this world I am not privy to the information. The resulting wine is 85-90 per cent blanc and 10-15 gris. La Colline was planted in 1936 on the southern slope of Dassenberg and is now farmed by grandson Anton Roux, a direct descendant of the Huguenot refugee Paul Roux who arrived in Franschhoek in 1688. The vines stretch up the hill from 310-350m and it is the fruit from the middle slope that is best to leave for picking long after the chenin blanc. This is the indispensable fruit used in Alheit’s Cartology. Thick skins elevate the natural talking tendencies, from a super healthy pH for drupe of apposite attack and confusing like great whites you would not or should not compare it to. Chris Alheit’s invades your head’s consciousness with this amazing depth for sémillon, with no definable context, pretence or precedent. The impossibility is totally unique in the world and yet utterly South African. It’s both tense and nervous but somehow I can still relax. Psycho Killer sémillon.  Drink 2020-2028. Tasted September 2018  chrisalheit  gsoleil123  @ChrisAlheit  @GroupeSoleilTO  Chris Alheit  Groupe Soleil Fine Wines

Chris and Suzaan Alheit

gentle humans, givers, terroiristes, magical wine purveyors ~ suzaan and @chrisalheit ~ thank you for the enlightenment ~ #capewine2018 #zoocrew

Alheit Vineyards Chenin Blanc Magnetic North 2017, WO Citrusdal Mountains, South Africa (WineryWineAlign)

Also from the Citrusdal Mountains SAVA, a.k.a the viticultural area also known as the Skurfberg, a 10 minute drive away at 550m, again red sand and clay. The vines are ungrafted chenin blanc on its own roots but the soil here is an even deeper red, more so than Huilkrans and so now that white hematic thing is happening. Like red blood cells carrying elements, nutrients, ferrous unction and a pulse of power as opposed to the calm in the white of Huilkrans. This is the tenor to the baritone, rich in its crazy depth of fruit and always seared, marked and injected with trace elements. Does it all on its own. There is no winemaking going on here, only a moving target, of intensity and mystery. The vineyard lies a few degrees off true north from the Alheit cellar, poetically licensed as their “Magnetic North.” Drink 2019-2028.  Tasted September 2018

 

Mullineux Old Vines White 2017, Unfiltered & Unfined, WO Swartland, South Africa (556597, $37.95, WineAlign)

Predominately chenin blanc with grenache blanc, sémillon gris, clairette and viognier, ushered by natural yeasts and encouraged through malolactic fermentation. The new age textured acidity is accessed without a stir and a highly textured affair it is. The composure rests in seamless mille-feuille layering while vested in slow-developed, all you could dream about in a cape effect white wine. Welcome to the cumulative in Andrea Mullineux’s Old Vines bottling. While Granite and Quartz make pinpointed investigations this is the one to educate us all on what Western Cape and more specifically Swartland chenin blanc blends are capable of discerning. The weight is powerful and weightless, the effort strong and effortless. Amazing really. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted September 2018 and January 2019  mullineuxwines  nicholaspearcewines  @MullineuxWines  @Nicholaspearce_  @MullineuxWines  Andrea Mullineux  Chris Mullineux  Nicholas Pearce

Huis Van Chevallerie Filia Brut Nature Kap Klaissque NV, WO Swartland, South Africa (Winery, WineAlign)

Filia is the daughter of the Paardeberg, a self-described and cheeky Swartland Kap Klassique chenin blanc made by Christa Von La Chevallerie, dogter to Juergen and the Nuwedam Farm just off the R45 outside Malmesbury. Not just any sparkling wine mind you. Although the early stages of this old vines project from the (mainly) 2015 vintage only gives 18 months on the lees it also provides 1974 planted chenin blanc, for shits, giggles and shut the front door attitude. For Christa it’s a matter of “how far I can go with (the combination of) chenin and lees.” Clearly just the entry point here, with an announced mix of richness and tension, not yet knowing what can and will happen. The coast is clear, the chenin blanc is ready, willing, able and the winemaker will stop at nothing to make this bubble in her own image and way. Look out sparkling world. Drink 2018-2022. Tasted September 2018  christalachevallerie  @HuisChevallerie  @ChevallerieZA  Christa Von La Chevallerie

Natte Valleij Cinsault 2017, WO Darling, South Africa (Winery, WineAlign)

Malmesbury formation is the ground beneath the feet of these 1978ish planted bush vines. Milner calls them “the most isolated block in our collective…on a lonely hill surrounded by wheat fields and too many gates to remember.” The élevage is back into concrete egg here because the Darling fruit asks or even demands it. Alex is wanting the florality of violets to be celebrated and “put into a time capsule,” from one amazing environment to another. The egg is asked to capture that. It also brings texture and salve in the form of orange pastille, warmed and lingering. Of the four single investigative cinsault this is the most accomplished, with tannin and structure. Die koppie. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted September 2018  nattevalleij  @nattevalleij  @nattevalleij

Savage Wines Red 2015, WO Western Cape, South Africa (Agent, $54.99, WineAlign)

The kitchen sink is nearly full with syrah, grenache, cinsault and touriga nacional in a back to the farthing future beginning that was the first and now reminds of the regional ideal. While all of Duncan Savage’s other wines will already have evolved, in ’17 this will become a 100 per cent varietal syrah, in the name of fine tuning and a furthering of regional identity. The Red is the most perfumed, also elegant and delicate with a sneaky beauty in its phantom power. Really clocks in and knocks you upside like powerful. Like modern nebbiolo though you’d never really know it unless you were unafraid to ask. Who are you? Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted September 2018  #savagewines    #savagewines

The Heldeberg from Stellenbosch

Post revolution Swartland

They are no longer the Swartland Revolution but now the Swartland Swingers, a free and easy collective of South African winemakers who have this winemaking thing figured out. There is a swagger about these women and men who make wine from dry-farmed bush vines set into some of this planet’s craziest antediluvian soils. Their wines collectively have a very purposed focus but what they have more than anything else is flow.

Badenhorst Secateurs Chenin Blanc 2018, WO Swartland, South Africa (Agent, $23.00, WineAlign)

While Adi Badenhorst also produces some über fascinating and ultra-expensive chenin blanc (Klip Klop, Golden Slopes and Piet Bok se) the Secateurs, also known as pruning shears or “snoeiskêr” is the glue and the rock in his entire portfolio. It’s one of the original upscale chenin blanc to crack the North American market and open the portal to the rest of South Africa’s bush vine world. Some great old vines help usher this into its echelon and while it strikes with leaner and more direct lines than (especially) the textured Golden Slopes, it still exhibits its own palate wealth. A little bit of this, a little bit of vat, skin-contact, stainless and concrete ushers along the variegation so that feeling balances the fresh spirit of this steen. Salty rock and sweet basil come through at the finish. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted September 2018  aabadenhorst  hannekebotha  wynbefok  noble_estates  @AABadenhorst  @Noble_Estates  Adi Badenhorst  @aabadenhorst  @NobleEstates

David And Nadia Grenache 2017, WO Swartland, South Africa (Winery, WineAlign)

For grenache the focus David and Nadia exert is on the red-brown schistous soils of the Kasteelberg, masculine terroir if you like (or will) as a brother to the Paardeberg where they make chenin blanc the order. About half the ferment is whole bunch, plenty enough for grenache and also six amazing weeks on skins. I can only imagine what the room began to smell like with this triumvirate of soil, varietal and execution happening. No other grenache anywhere in the world shows this type of terroir purity, or at least with such unequivocal and parochial relevance. The raspberry notes are uncanny and the transparency of transference is both light and in total control. Who knew so much character and structure could be coaxed from something desperately delicate. It’s like a spider’s web with bonds unbroken, capable of snaring the physical and the emotional while always remaining inherently meta. Aragon nor Rhône this is not, ethereal it is. Drink 2018-2027.  Tasted September 2018  davidandnadia  @DavidandNadia  @DavidandNadia

Porseleinberg Syrah 2012, WO Swartland, South Africa (Winery, WineAlign)

If you would like to explore the pinnacle of richest restraint where South African syrah goes out to concrete then look to this off of Porcelain Mountain made by the phantom himself Callie Louw. A Riebeek Kasteel phenomenon was born out of a Boekenhoutskloof drive and it is the magical glycerin texture that behooves us to think, feel and linger with this top quality example. It’s also reticent, of great humility, needing no attention or introduction. It may be syrah of a certain aloof quality and yet the intensity unparalleled deserves all the accolades it may and will receive. Remembered, remarkable, stoic, unchanged and unchained. Drink 2019-2033.  Tasted September 2018  #porseleinberg #callielouw  #porseleinberg

Terracura Wines Red 2016, WO Swartland, South Africa (Winery, WineAlign)

Contributions are solicited, paid for and received from five different vineyards on three different terroirs in the Swartland; two on Riebeek schist, two on Paardeberg granite and one on Malmesbury ferrous clay. What does is all mean or add least add up to? It’s not Jamet dammit though it may be the most Cornas like because of the deep liqueur in this fruit. Also due in part to the Rhônish funk which gets into the mind of assessment in ahead of Western Cape terroir. It’s a combination of absolute perfection and downright absurdity. The olive brine and meaty cure are there, as is the tannin, like deep, dark sunken eyes. Ryan and Samantha don gothic costumes and zombie make-up, “with white lipstick and one thing on their minds.” Full moon syrah fever. Make a wine like this and you are no longer innocent winemakers. Nothing petty about that. Drink 2019-2023.  Tasted September 2018  terracura  ryanthewinegeek  vinevenom  @RyanTheWineGeek  @Sammelier  Samantha Suddons  Ryan Mostert  @terracurawines

Mullineux Syrah Granite 2016, WO Swartland, South Africa (Agent, $152.95, WineAlign)

Moving in a muy from the seven vineyard syrah and into a Swartland side site committed to granite this is one of three Mullineux syrah specificities, the other being Schist and Iron. Granite is drawn of a single parcel of 19 year-old dry land, bush vines grown in the decomposed granite of the Paardeberg. Andrea Mullineux makes use of a 100 per cent whole cluster ferment and moves into larger (500L) barrels, all aimed at freshness and aromatics. Granite provides a flavour profile that is juicier, fuller, spicier and more provocative than the others but oh to be smitten by tannins so exceptional. There is a taste of blackberry incarnate, a fluidity of seamless transitions and length for Paardeberg days. Brilliant vintage for one of South Africa’s most important red wines. Drink 2021-2033.  Tasted September 2018  mullineuxwines  nicholaspearcewines  wosa_ca  @MullineuxWines  @Nicholaspearce_  @MullineuxWines  @WOSACanada  Andrea Mullineux  Chris Mullineux  Nicholas Pearce  @WOSACA

Donovan Rall

Rall Wines AVA 2017, Swartland, South Africa (WineryWineAlign)

The red blend carrying his daughter’s name is Donovan Rall’s 2.5 hectares sourcing from the schistose section of 18 year-old planted vines. This is consistent with many of the vineyards he works with, from dry land conditions, cause he’s the Schist Man. It’s varietal syrah of 1000 bottles, a true cimmerian beast, from struggling vines, between 50-60 whole bunch (as opposed to 100 in the RED). Pure ferric initiative, real hematic following. The glycerin, candied flower and aged balsamico is almost IGT, of Cortona but really more so in a mind’s eye memory of Cornas. Freshness is preserved and structure is infinite. Great, great acidity. One of the Cape’s greatest achievements in syrah. Drink 2020-2032.  Tasted September 2018

Verticals

Anyone who chose not to attend Cape Wine’s eight wineries, four decades retrospective missed out on a tasting of a lifetime. Time was tight and so the ability to taste all eight and take proper notes in a walk-around format was challenging so here are five of the eight represented. Regrets to Vilafonté, Kanonkop and Warwick for the miss and here’s to hoping another opportunity will be afforded again someday.

How to have an epiphany. Taste 25-30 year-old #southafrican white wines. Case in point @kleinconstantia sauvignon blanc

Klein Constantia Blanc De Blanc 1987, Constantia, Western Cape, South Africa (Winery, WineAlign)

Poured by Managing Director Hans Astrom in Cape Town alongside 1994 and 2009. Planted in 1979, the inaugural vintage and the first South African sauvignon blanc was 1986. The 1987 was not labelled as sauvignon blanc but rather as B de B because of the botrytis-affected vintage. Honeyed but not in the way you might expect, not pushed by a petrol-fuelled sweetness but instead as the action of an old world inspired mash-up. Like Loire Jolivet Sancerre meeting Huet Demi-Sec chenin blanc head on. The collision explodes into a smoky smoulder with textural consequences. It’s a bees-waxy ethereal treading of chaotic spaces between worlds. The astral travel must have twisted through three decades of nether to arrive at this place, with the low pH vineyard soils to thank. And the magic, despite or perhaps in ode to the ’87 botrytis. In the end aridity wins and the wine drinks so proper, perfect and fine. Drink 2018-2020.  Tasted September 2018  kleinconstantia  halpernwine  wosa_za  @KleinConstantia  @HalpernWine  @hansverbier  @WOSA_ZA  @KleinConstantia  @halpernwine

Hamilton Russell Vineyard Pinot Noir 1986, WO Walker Bay, South Africa (999516, AgentWineAlign)

Anthony and Olive Hamilton Russell went above and beyond in their interpretation of what is means to pour at a varietal tasting by including not only this first HR vintage but also sharing one of only three remaining bottles left in this world. Were the 1997 and 2000 perhaps better structured wines? Likely and even probably yes, but there’s something magical about a first effort. The innocence, hopes and dreams are all in there, along with the honesty and the sincerity. Believe it or not the acidity is still in full flight even if the fruit has vacated the premises and turned to duff. If you’ve ever reached your hands into the Hermanus earth, inhaled in the sense of place and perhaps a lick of stone then you might imagine what this ’86 is like. A combination of plant oils, geosmin and petrichor preserved just long enough before it’s too late. Anthony and Olive timed the opening of the bottles produced to last just long enough. Drink 2018.  Tasted September 2018  olive_hamilton_russell  noble_estates  @OliveHR  @Noble_Estates  Olive Hamilton Russell  @NobleEstates

Paul Cluver Pinot Noir Seven Flags 2008, WO Elgin, South Africa (AgentWineAlign)

In a word meraviglioso, or as they say in Afrikaans, wonderlike. Paul Cluver’s 10 year-old Elgin whispering pinot noir is one to prove something very important. The get together of place, varietal and producer reaches a tri-point of agreement, all vintages being equal, at the 10 year mark. Here from this 2008 we intuit the apex, of tessellate beat and three points where two lines meet. We’ll allow for a give or take of one to two years, duly noted in this vertical that includes 2009, 2013 and 2015 but for 2008 the number 10 finds itself at a pinnacle of evolution. If you appreciate aged reds, developed pinot noir and wise South African wine than here you are. A glass of plum pudding elastic, textured and exemplary in entanglement; notable fruit, fine acidity and tannin of “streel.” An earthy intensity sprinkles over the finale. Drink 2018-2022. Tasted September 2018  paulcluver  paulcluverwines  @paulcluver  @paulcluverwines  Paul Cluver

Meerlust Rubicon 1991, WO Stellenbosch, South Africa (Agent, 64329, WineAlign)

Some vintage are surely more special than others and while Meerlust has blessed many of them with a speciality of Bordeaux inspired wine dissertation it is this 1991 that stands erect in a critical test of time. This was tasted during the second of two estate verticals afforded in one calendar year, the first having being drawn from 2010-2003, 1996 and 1984, with this second string consisting of 2015, 2009, 2001, 1991 and 1984. The fruit is both in original form and yet also dehydrated; rusty raspberry, bokser and orange peel. Still a tightness and a faint ramification of tannin but plenty of staying power. A top quality vintage no doubt. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted September 2018  meerlustwine  liffordgram    @LiffordON  MEERLUST ESTATE  @liffordwineandspirits

Sadie Family Palladius 2011, WO Swartland, South Africa (SAQ 13098449, $88.00, WineAlign)

Though the upstart 2016 may well go on to become the best of the lot in a vertical that includes 2005, 2009 and 2014 there is no denying the way this 2011 draws you into its lair of fineness. “An incredible year,” says Eben Sadie and one during which the move was made to aging in foudres. Made for an instant alteration into the new texture and what Sadie notes as “starting to dial in.” This is by now one of the Western Cape’s most accomplished and paradigmatic appellative white blends and while certainly dogmatic it has earned the right to be so. A blend of 33 per cent chenin blanc, (16) roussanne, (11 each) grenache blanc and sémillon blanc plus sémillion gris and palomino, (6 each) viognier, clairette blanche and verdellho. What’s it all add up to? Layers and layers of stratified South African geology, history and potential. The ’05 and the ’09 show what was possible and this 2011 shows what is. Drink 2018-2027.  Tasted September 2018  sadiefamilywines  @SadieFamilyWine  The Sadie Family Wines

The 1980s called. They want their culture back.

Wot varietal?

“We’re no longer trying to make chenin taste like sauvignon blanc or chardonnay, or Huet for that matter,” noted Chris Mullineux. “The grape variety has been in the country for more the 350 years, since the 1650s and it can withstand warm and dry conditions and perform really well.” No discourse on new versus old in South Africa can be addressed without first looking at the modish dialectal of chenin blanc. The combination of bush and old vines, coupled with indigenous ferments and skin contact addresses has elevated the stalwart, signature grape to its current reality. That said the wines now being made in South Africa do not solely rely on the current chenin fashion and instead offers up a diverse lot of varietal, region and style.

Alheit Vineyards Cartology Bush Vines 2017, WO Western Cape, South Africa (Agent, $49.95, WineAlign)

Cartology exists in a vacuum without peers, in part because it charted and mapped a course ahead of the curve. The 2017 refuses to rest on laurels and pushes the destination even further away so that the journey still remains the thing. Chris and Suzaan Alheit employ 11 dryland bush (30-80) year-old parcels and the whole addition proposes an adage of place and not idea. This is Cartology, a snapshot of time and place. The smaller amount of eighty year-old sémillon is from La Colline in Franschhoek, while the 30+ year old chenin blanc is grown in Skurfberg, Perdeberg, Bottelary Hills and Kasteelberg. If Cartology was this rich before I cannot say and only Chris, Suzaan and the Cape can make this wine. Only them and in these places. Best to date. Drink 2019-2027.  Tasted September 2018  chrisalheit  gsoleil123  @ChrisAlheit  @GroupeSoleilTO  Chris Alheit  Groupe Soleil Fine Wines

Rall Wines Cinsault Blanc 2017, Wellington, Western Cape, South Africa (WineryWineAlign)

The fruit comes from a 32 year-old, tiny 0.2 hectares of certified vines and the only remaining vineyard planted to the varietal. Like red cinsault this thing drops acid as fast as anything else. What you will taste is only the grape, on the skins three days for phenolic pulling and then straight into the clay. Seven months only, not too far and so freshness is preserved. Not just spirit but mouthfeel with the lightest frame and 10.5 per cent alcohol, with nice dry tannins. It’s like a shout out louds very loud matter of “nothing is hard cause something always comes out.” Lemon like you’ve never experienced before, leaning lime, like clairette and grenache blanc, but then again no. It’s just this. Donovan Rall managed 1005 bottles. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted September 2018  #Rallwines    @RallWines

Smiley Chenin Blanc NV, WO Swartland, South Africa (Winery, WineAlign)

Poured from magnum as one does with a non-vintage, Swartland chenin blanc inspired by the white Rioja of Tondonia and the idiosyncratic whites of the Jura. Although these originals are most obvious as Ryan Mostert’s first loves of oxidative sensitivity and specificity his Smiley stylistic has surely changed him so that the point in space is in constant flux. And so his is now the precedent because the revolutionary pioneering (along with several of his peers) has established South Africa, which includes Smiley at the forefront as the new reference point. We qualify this by saying that its own way Smiley is a fixed point that stays still and does not move. Drawing on four or five vintages the chenin blanc is blended on the flor, of skin-contact and it’s really all about layers of texture, not to mention “no holds barred.” It’s not nearly as far out there as you’d expect in fact it used to be and is now so much closer to centre. Some might argue against such a compromise but it’s not one at all. It’s made clean, with focus and determination to vinify something bloody great to drink. It’s a Champagne supernova cuvée. Drink 2018-2023.  Tasted September 2018  ryanthewinegeek  vinevenom  @Silwervis  @RyanTheWineGeek  @Sammelier  Samantha Suddons  Ryan Mostert

Blackwater Wines Palomino Pleasure Garden 2017, WO Swartland, South Africa (Winery, WineAlign)

Francois Haasbroek goes retro with his first try at varietal palomino, turning it out ambient and atmospheric, tasted here like listening to the Big Thing exactly thirty years on. The Duran Duran of chenin blanc for Swartland is also known as fransdruif or vaalblaar, meaning “White French.” Haasbroek sources his fruit by way of vines grown on shale with Table Mountain sandstone. Clocks in at a light radio’s just over 12 per cent alcohol and there was no fining. It’s a micro-terroir 0.85 hectare block and this 2016 as mentioned is the first kick at the can. Textured, natural, talc silky, with notes of orange zest, kelp, algae and sea spray. Gets creamy with lovely lemon preserve. Palomino is not chenin blanc but it can be coaxed into charm and “if there’s secrets, she has to be party, to every one of them.” We too are listening in. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted September 2018  shot_of_time  @Blackwaterwine   @BlackwaterWine

Lowerland Colombard Vaalkameel 2017, WO Prieska Noord Kaap, South Africa (Winery, WineAlign)

Lowerland is the small northern exposure from Alette de Beer and Bertie Coetzee. Forget just about everything you think you know about wines from South Africa and settle in for something completely other. Drive 1000 kms north to a place 1000m above sea level, where the summers are hot and winters see temperatures of -10 celsius. Vaalkameel, the “pale camel” is not a reference to the wine’s hue but a note to mimic the local flora. Comes through in the most unique herbal way and so the thickets of horny bushes must have their garrigue say. Some natural grasses (no cover crops) line the rows of this arid and wild viticultural frontier where late summer rainfall and the Orange River supply all that is required. Lime citrus and moments of pith are coaxed into the cool, almost gelid but certainly textured fruit by whole bunch master winemaker Lukas van Loggerenberg. Only 1,000 bottles were made of this trés cool white. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted September 2018  bioboertie  vanloggerenbergwines  alette.waterboer  lowerland_wines  @CoetzeeBertie  @AletteWaterboer  Bertie Coetzee  @LowerlandFarm  Alette De Beer

Avondale Wines Cyclus 2014, WO Paarl, South Africa (295220, $29.95, WineAlign)

The blend is one-third roussanne with smaller parts of chenin blanc, chardonnay, viognier and sémillon. Barrel fermented in bigger barrels plus 20 per cent in amphora with the whole bunch component. Toasty, first from the roussanne and then what the sémillon brings. Texture is quite silky and the acidity primps, prompts then lifts the richness of fruit. Such a smart mastering of the South African art of Cape assemblage. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted September 2018  avondalewinesa  @Avondalewine  @RareEarth_Wines  @AvondaleWines  Rare Earth Wines & Spirits

De Wetshof Estate Pinot Noir Nature in Concert 2017, WO Robertson, South Africa (Winery, WineAlign)

For a chardonnay focused estate the question posed to Johannes de Wet is why pinot noir? “Because my father loves pinot,” is the straight answer. The brothers grow it on the rockiest soils up the slope seven kms from the winery above and beyond the limestone blocks where the whites thrive. It’s truly uncharted territory, away from the clay and into the hard Robertson granite. “Quite ideal for a variety that is so hard to get right,” muses de Wet. This is beautiful purity of fruit taken from vines that really only see the morning sun. A direct wind and afternoon shadows supply the acidity from what may be the coolest spot and also the steepest. “It’s one of the best/worst decisions we’ve ever made,” continues de Wet. “We don’t make any money but we love doing it.” Clean, linear, striking and in the end, just because. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted September 2018  dewetshofwines  @DeWetshofWines  @dewetshofwines

Momento Wines Tinta Barocca 2017, WO Western Cape, South Africa (Winery, WineAlign)

In 2017 there are three equal sources for Momento’s tinto barocca; one-third each Swartland, Stellenbosch and Bot Rivier, all old, dry-farmed bush vineyards. The vintage saw 26 barrels made with 20 per cent whole bunch in the mix. “A tribute to old vines in South Africa explains Marelise Niemann.” Surely not the only one, but certainly the unique gatherer of the grape variety off of three distinct soils. Like making an estate Brunello or highest quality Bourgogne AOC, drawing from three apposite yet complimentary micro-terroirs to provide fruit, acidity and structure. The tannin accumulation submits to the possibilities of that structure and in turn, age ability. Brilliant. Drink 2020-2028.  Tasted September 2018  momento_wines  @momentowines  Marelise Niemann

Savage Wines Cinsault Follow The Line 2017, WO Western Cape, South Africa (Agent, $50.99, WineAlign)

Follow the Line investigates, celebrates and extrapolates the unbridled intensity of cinsualt defined, vital, incarnate. A small, seven points of Darling syrah is blended in for pure, spicy and red ropey fruit forward freedom. The full on fruit front is a pulsing current of currants and dried herbs but it’s also sneaky tannic. A creeping, seemingly idle ne’er-do-well this one but do not be fooled. Picked early and ready to explode. Wait for it, follow the line to the blood red shoes, “dancing with the lights on.” Wait for the fire like this cinsault of total excitement. Drink 2019-2026.  Tasted September 2018  #savagewines    #savagewines

Craven Wines Syrah The Faure Vineyard 2017, WO Stellenbosch, South Africa (Winery, WineAlign)

Like the sister Firs this Faure Vineyard site is also 21 years of age, east facing towards the Heldeberg, with rocks in the soils. The name is more than familiar to Jeanine Craven, who was a Faure before she merged with Mick. What really separates this place is the marine air, three kilometres from the sea, as far as the African Black Oystercatcher flies. Again the planning involves whole cluster pressing and on skins seven days, to make pure syrah. Separated by 15 kms the Faure is antithetical to the Firs, salted by the sea and of a furthered intensity in a different form. It’s near searing, linear, grippy and with acidity lifting everything. Really juicy, pushed by a wow factor, clean, no funk and so much spice. Drink 2019-2027.  Tasted September 2018   cravenwines  @cravenwines  Jeanine Craven  Mick Craven

Lismore Syrah Estate Reserve 2017, WO Greyton, South Africa (Winery, WineAlign)

Samatha O’Keefe’s excellent work with sauvignon blanc, chardonnay, viognier and pinot noir using Elgin, Walker Bay and 2003 planted estate fruit is one thing but this first go it alone syrah from the home vineyard takes a breath, blows a mind and melts a heart away. The Cape’s south coast at Greyton is the new frontier and as O’Keefe admits, “I drove down a dusty road and the rest is history.” While the ’16 syrah made use of half Elgin fruit it is this next wonder of cool-climate South Africa where you need to simply open your eyes and do the math. Steep slopes, prevalent shale and diurnal temperature fluctuations egress to varietal necessity and bring the proverbial Hermitage house down. A wine where together winemaker and taster share a moment of epiphany, for her one of many, for me my first. “All I did was learned to let the terroir speak for itself and to stop making South African shiraz.” Purity, transparency, honesty and paradigm shift all wrapped into one enigmatic yet emblematic syrah. Pay great attention to Greyton. This is South African syrah. Drink 2019-2029.  Tasted September 2018  lismorewine  greytontourism  @lismorewine  @LoveGreyton  @LismoreWine  Samantha O’Keefe  @GreytonTourism

Van Loggerenberg Wines Graft 2017, WO Stellenbosch, South Africa (Winery, WineAlign)

Lukas van Loggerenberg remembers his oupa with this tongue in cheek reference for a red blend of cinsault and syrah (55/45) sourced from granitic soils on in the Polkadraai Hills. Grafting, whether it be vines or winemakers is what keeps tradition, hard work ethic and biological diversity alive. Lukas is a larger than life pragmatist methinks and he’s all about putting things together, in place, with the best fit possible. Not so much a master of assemblage as much as one of oversized zen. The two varietal vineyards are 800m apart and separated by 200m of elevation. They are Lenny and George, two parcels joined at the whole bunch hip and for 11 months in French oak. They only add up to 660 bottles. The Mediterranean styling is evident, in black olive, garrigue (or fynbos), pepperoncino and cimmerian darkness. Richness is met by an earthbound ropiness though it’s ripeness is belied by pique, punch and peppery klip. A big and wow tannic finish, but it’s a sweet one. Drink 2019-2027. Tasted September 2018  vanloggerenbergwines  @LukasvLogg  Lukas van Loggerenberg  

Ken Forrester Grenache-Syrah 1999, WO Stellelenbosch, South Africa (Winery, WineAlign)

There ain’t a whole helluva lot of precedence from which to go on in deciding what’s going on here save for sitting next to Ken himself and taking in that devilish smile. What an honour to have him pour a spot of this 19 year-old tea into your glass. I suppose it could be considered the older sibling to the Gypsy and elder to Renegade but really it’s just a Rhône blend from another era and mother. Smoke, pepper, spice and mild meanderings remind us of innocent but also difficult times for making wine in the Western Cape. This just feels like sundown in Stellenbosch, of a demurred and soft glowing light, a breeze that picks up and falls away, a stillness in the air. No man made light, at night very bright. A good feeling this wine doth give. Drink 2018-2019.  Tasted September 2018  kenforrestervineyards  fmcwine noble_estates  @KFwines  @Noble_Estates  @KFwines  @NobleEstates

Kuier

Good to go!

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