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

Quick Links:

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

Instagram: mgodello

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!

godello

A view of the Simosnberg from Amazink in

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

WineAlign

Eighteen Canadian wines that rocked in 2018

2017 Aldé Rosé, Interloper and As Is

The inaugural year-end summary of Canadian wine excitement posted to godello.ca was in 2013 and this sixth instalment naturally includes five more than the first. The necessity begs of the process to expand because five years later even the paltry number 18 is but a fraction of what could or should be noted, publicized and celebrated. This exercise is one of the most arduous writing assignments of the calendar year, difficult to pin down, even harder to leave wonder out in omission. As I’ve said before “it’s biased, exclusive and decisive but it is meant to celebrate a select few with a mandate to elevate and exult the rest. It’s also a proclamation read to many who remain ignorant to an ideal of great wine being made in Canada, to tell the insolent they are not welcome here anyway. The winemakers in this country are in full command of their acumen, craft and future. They own it.”

Related – 17 Canadian wines that rocked in 2017

Another year of tasting Canadian wine, another year of thousands of examples shared my way. Even more international travel made it difficult to keep up the pace but I’m sure I tasted more than 1000 wines once again. We are relentless in our attention paid to Canadian wines at the WineAlign office. The WineAlign National Wine Awards of Canada convened in June at the convention centre in Penticton B.C. and judging Ontario wines happened with David Lawrason at The Great Canadian Kitchen Party, the artist formerly known as Gold Medal Plates.

Related – 16 Canadian wines that rocked in 2016

Over the past 12 months my partner Scott Zebarth and I have upped our little négoce game with the fine folks at Ravine Vineyard Estate Winery. With the help of Marty Werner, Ben Minaker and Eden Garry we managed to crush, ferment, blend and bottle three new wines. In April there were 594 magnums of Aldé Rosé 2017, a 100 per cent VQA Niagara-on-the-Lake cabernet franc. Then in September we released the second vintage of Interloper Cabernet Franc 2017, VQA Niagara-on-the-Lake and our newest wine, As Is Field Blend 2017, VQA Niagara Lakeshore.

As Is Field Blend 2017, VQA Niagara Lakeshore, Ontario ($19.95)

The third wine in the little project with partner Scott Zebarth and Ravine Vineyard Estate Winery’s Marty Werner, Ben Minaker and Eden Garry A dream of fields, single-vineyard one-third each blend of pinot noir, merlot and cabernet franc, co-fermented with ambient yeasts. As Is.  scottzebarth  marty_werner  benminaker23  ravinevineyard  @Scottsomm  @marty_werner  @BMinaker23  @RavineVineyard  Scott Zebarth  Martin Werner  Ben Minaker  @RavineVineyardEstateWinery

In 2016 there were 16 wines noted. In 2015 I counted 15 on the filtered list. In 2014 the highlights numbered 14, just as in 2013 the number chosen to cant, recant and decant excellence in Canadian wine was 13. Last year you are correct, the list held 17 spots. Roll out the 2018 red carpet. Here are the 18 most exciting Canadian wines of 2018.

Back up the truck, glug glug Gamay Rosé Flipping the Bird by @hatchwines and where’s J-do?

The Hatch Wines Gobsmacked Flipping The Bird Pink 2017, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia (Winery, $21.99, WineAlign)

We pulled this Rosé from the ice and were utterly astonished and astounded at this particular bird. It was Jason Parkes, “he named you the bird. It’s how you were generally referred. We never really understood, never really thought about much.” So we tasted again and we raised a brow, got excited and then were utterly gobsmacked. Sometimes, there’s a wine. And I’m talkin’ about the Bird here. Sometimes, there’s a wine, well, he’s the Rosé for his time and place. Mostly go gamay go with some cabernet sauvignon, utterly fresh at the peak of perfect natural volatility, red berries and grapefruit. No salve texture nor trans fat feeling left in mouth behind neither. Crushable by any amount desired. A portion of the profits from the sale of this wine are donated to Parrot Island, a non-profit sanctuary for abandoned and abused exotic birds in Peachland BC. “With time, it only made more sense, As time went by, it just made more sense. You are the bird. You are the bird.” Thank you Jason, thank you Dude. Thank you Gord. Drink 2018-2019.  Tasted June 2018  hatchwines  @HatchWines  @hatchwines

Two years in a row. Well-deserved and just because.

Malivoire Rosé Moira 2017, VQA Beamsville Bench, Niagara Escarpment, Ontario (Agent, $24.95, WineAlign)

Malivoire’s most important and benchmark Ontario Rosé is one of the first to the table from the 2017 vintage and why not because its quick soak and lightness of being takes no time at all to get ready. This is the antithetical beauty of Rosé and how it must be approached for best results. Malivoire does not take a step forward from the most perfect ’15 and ’16 wines but there is more fruit in this ’17. You can actually nose and taste strawberry plus a hint of tart raspberry. This will appeal to more of the general Rosé loving populace without any compromise for the provincial, provençal geeks everywhere else. It’s ostensibly a better wine in 2017 because it will attract that growing audience without having made any concessions or dis to authenticity. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted February 2018  malivoire  noble_estates  @MalivoireWine  @Noble_Estates  Malivoire Wine  Noble Estates Wine & Spirits

Fitzpatrick Fitz Rosé 2014, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia (Winery, $48.98, WineAlign)

Long lasting flavours of impression. Candied ginger, dried strawberry, every fruit shade of red, for redheads everywhere.  Last tasted December 2018  fitzwine  @FitzWine  @FitzWine

This pinot noir is lovely, quiet and mild, a lemon-strawberry aromatic blush of the faintest noir. Fine spun, wild yeasty, truly wound tight, so focused and persistent. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted blind at NWAC18, June 2018

Trail Estate Riesling Foxcroft Vineyard Unfiltered 2016, VQA Twenty Mile Bench, Ontario (Winery, $35.00, WineAlign)

In 2016 the next wrinkle is a wild ferment (as opposed to the inoculated ’15), unfined and unfiltered, because as time progressed “I liked it more and more,” says winemaker Mackenzie Brisbois. No coarse filtration means some minor sediment will settle in the bottle. Smashed layers of tote-filled grapes are brought to the crushpad, in lieu of the crusher, to extract from the skins and stems, making use of the punchdown tool, while waiting before pressing. Recently bottled in December 2017 the BFR is something completely other and if 2015 was considered not, this follow-up is markedly fruity now, because it always was, all the way through during just more than a year in really old barrels. It’s a blonde riesling as per M. Gustave, if you will. “Why blonde? Because they all were.” This is the wisest of Mack Brisbois’ rieslings, calm, confident, collected and shining brightly from the word go. You don’t have to wait on this one, it’s riper, it’s unfiltered, made with a lot less sulphur than the skin contacts and those “dirty” 15s. “I like to see how little (sulphur) I can get away with,” notes Brisbois. The most accomplished riesling that she has made to date, the 16’s balance is spot on now and you will not have to wait for it to come into its cinematic stage. Drink it now and keep it longer. Drink 2018-2024. Tasted April 2018  trailestatewine  mackbrisbois  @TrailEstateWine  @MackBrisbois  Trail Estate Winery  Mackenzie Brisbois

Hard not to put the 1991 Cave Spring on the list but is there any good reason to not place the CSV on the list every single year?

Cave Spring CSV Riesling 2016, Cave Spring Vineyard, VQA Beamsville Bench, Niagara Escarpment, Ontario (566026, $29.95, WineAlign)

The CSV from a warm 2016 really expresses the vintage on the nose with a heavy dose of wet stone and every part of a ripe peach. You have to get past the early sulphur but once you do you take a good bite into the flesh of this riesling and the juices will run with accents and angles fit by tonic, pith, tangy, nervy acidity and a hidden sweetness. The sugars are surely more elevated than realized or will ever be felt because the combination of acidity and pith are covers that will never peel back. Size matters and this CSV is built with great Escarpment architecture, stepping out of the paradigmatic 2015 shadow and into another age. This 2016 begins an epoch of structural expressionism and should easily carry its construct through to the next decade. That consequently, is when this CSV will really be ready to rock and roll for a full decade more. Drink 2020-2030.  Tasted March 2018  cavespringcellars  thevineagency  @CaveSpring  @TheVine_RobGroh  Cave Spring Cellars  The Vine

Godello and Paul Pender of Tawse
PHOTO: Steven Elphick & Associates

Tawse South Bay Vineyard Chardonnay 2015, VQA Prince Edward County, Ontario (Winery, $35.15, WineAlign)

The South Bay Prince Edward County fruit from Huff Estates lands is simply exceptional produce, from where winds blow-dry leaning vines perched aboard a passel of solid limestone sliding into Lake Ontario. Tawse has always coveted this fruit and when Paul Pender is allowed to play with it he does so with great mindfulness in search of greater apogee. Methinks Pender both picked a few days to a week earlier and also worked the most mineral meets Ceres toast his barrels can afford. There is a deep, sonorous and resounding regard about this chardonnay. It’s both sumptuous and serious, with a flinty-mineral meets toasted hazelnut interplay. It is perhaps an Ontario nod to Les Caillerets, or just a far away coincidence, but regardless you just have to know that it’s a very special wine. Drink 2019-2026.  Tasted December 2018  tawsewinery  @Tawse_Winery  @tawsewines

Domaine Queylus Chardonnay Réserve Du Domaine 2016, VQA Niagara Escarpment, Ontario (Agent, $37.95, WineAlign)

Still in the vein of the Queylus chardonnay tradition where a winemaker is always on the watch, meaning you never take your eyes off the child or the prize. The Réserve is a matter gathered from the best barrel selections but says Kelly Mason “the treatment and the worry are the same.” Slides easily away from the tropical and sidles up the the rocky places from whence it came. Chardonnay is often round and liked that way but Queylus is direct, linear, angled and also far from angular. When the Escarpment rule is followed and traced along the lines of a malolactic ruler marked by clones (in this case 76 as opposed to 95) then structure is assured. The ambition is real, the intention serious and there is no roaming far to the west or the east. All that and richness is found through every bright sip. Drink 2018-2024.  Tasted July 2018  queylus  @Queylus  Domaine Queylus Winery

Hidden Bench Chardonnay Tête De Cuvée 2011, VQA Beamsville Bench, Ontario (278812, $45.20, WineAlign)

Still so youthful, now noted by smoked quince with a shot of peppermint schnapps where no sugar lives save for the sweetness of nature.  Last tasted December 2018  hiddenbench  markanthonyon  @HiddenBench @MarkAnthonyWine  Hidden Bench Estate Winery  Mark Anthony Wine & Spirits

Tête De Cuvée by Hidden Bench, like a Champagne best of the best abstraction, makes an appeal to self-esteem and esteem for others, to consumers who have come to recognize Niagara and even more specifically, the Beamsville Bench for head of the class, cool climate Chardonnay. That mouthful congregates and works in congruence with the quality in the Tête’s composition; full-on freshness, density, weeping cerate texture, toasted and popping kernel, fine-grained localization, utterly integrated barrel. There was scant quantity (32.5 hL/h) from some very old and wise vines, pronounced like others but louder than most, from the bullhorn of a stentorian vintage. What is felt and spoken about the quality inherent from out of the finest parcels in the Locust Lane and Rosomel Vineyards Chardonnay fruit is more than a patent observation. The ability to take on toast cuts to the nougat and the synoptic rises to the ethereal ozone. Not to mention gross minerality. On the shortlist for best Niagara Chardonnay to date. Drink now and beyond 2025. Tasted twice, September and October 2014

Roche Wines Pinot Noir 2016, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia (Winery, $24.90, WineAlign)

The 2016 is purchased pinot noir fruit by Dylan and Pénélope Roche from Kozier organic vineyard on the Naramata Bench. Hand harvested and fermented in stainless steel tanks with regular pumping over and pressed after three weeks on skins. The press wine was separated from the free run and aged for 10 months in stainless steel and neutral French oak. Knowing what I know after the first blind assessment it now turns this love of love into inspiration, away from the soulless, blind pinot noir love and to something real. If there is a more honest and crushable one I’d be shocked. So exciting and new.  Also tasted at Bench 1775, June 2018  rochewines  @RocheWines  @rochewines

Really ripe, I mean really ripe, a hematic liqueur that few others in the flight can match. From a warm site to be sure, full and thick as pinot nor  thieves. Not as structured but so very, bloody and reasonably drinkable. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted blind at NWAC18, June 2018

Rosehall Run Pinot Noir JCR Rosehall Vineyard 2016, VQA Prince Edward County, Ontario (Winery, $39.00, WineAlign)

Though statements of monadical hyperbole should very much be avoided, a taste of Dan Sullivan’s ’16 JCR makes one think it has all come to this. The glycerin fruit endowed with so much natural sweetness and magnificently low alcohol feels like an impossibility. In a way it is but it’s also a County reality. This may just be the least astringent PEC pinot noir ever produced and at the same time seems entirely void of tension. Yet there is structure and cohesion, two functors so very necessary to see it drink well for 10 years, with great charm and further curiosity for five more after that. Drink 2018-2028.  Last tasted July 2018  rosehall_run  sullywine  profilewinegroup  @Rosehall_Run  @sullywine  @ProfileWineGrp  @RosehallRun  Dan Sullivan  @ProfileWineGroup

Bright, red raspberry, light and effusive with a simple, liquid chalky feel. Really drinkable. The tart is part of a delight in composition. A good chew.  Tasted blind at NWAC18, June 2018

Lightfoot & Wolfville Ancienne Pinot Noir 2016, Nova Scotia, Canada (Winery, $40.00, WineAlign)

Driest year on record with nary a moment of disease pressure. Spent 18 months in older French oak, less one barrel. This is the richest Ancienne and Nova Scotian pinot noir to date, with firm grip, structure and outright intensity. Welcome to the pinnacle of the first L & W pinot wave, the culmination of the first epoch, after which nothing will be the same and so much learning will have been achieved. Begs the question of what happens next? The vines get better is what, in fact I walked the 2018 pinot noir vines today. Their maturity and contiguous consistency will be the answer to future questions and debate. They will speak for and on behalf of themselves. Drink 2019-2026.  Tasted October 2018  lwwines  rachhlightfoot  jhortonns  korilightfoot  @rachel_hope  @lwwines  @lightfootandwolfvillewines  Rachel Lightfoot  

Two Sisters Cabernet Franc 2014, VQA Niagara River, Ontario (Winery, $54.80, WineAlign)

Released on Monday July 16th and now a Platinum Award winner at NWAC18. “This has everything that ’13 had but just a bit more weight, structure and complexity, plus volume, those last three meaning on the palate,” explains winemaker Adam Pearce. Down in volumes (30 per cent), beautifully aromatic, low-cropped, (1.25 tonnes per acre), 15 per cent new wood, 32 months in barrel, in bottle for an additional 10 months. The focus, presence and confidence of this wine stand apart, all worked specific to place and the uniqueness of the appellation. Benefits from a double-lake effect and different soils. Chalk and river stone liquidity running as a river of its own right through. Drives the point of patience, to allow a vineyard the chance to speak of its singular phraseology. The 2014 Niagara River cabernet franc may still be a ways from reaching its full potential but it has certainly hit its stride. Drink 2019-2027.  Tasted July 2018  twosisters_vineyards  apearcevino  @TwoSisters_wine  @apearcevino  Two Sisters Vineyards  Adam Pearce  

Benjamin Bridge Cabernet Franc Small Lot 2016, Nova Scotia, Canada (Winery, $57.95, WineAlign)

Still from the Kingsport farm fruit, a whole cluster ferment, no messing with stems, fully oxygenated, no carbonic maceration, 30-40 per cent whole bunch. Total output is “a barrel and a bit.” An infused aromatic ferment, green spice and a char of tobacco, utter intensity, compelling and a phenolic reality. “A myth buster incarnate,” says Jean-Benoit Deslauriers, ripened beyond the sensory borders, miles away from other territories, with generosity and juicy ripe legs. From a warm vintage, nine months in neutral oak plus nine in the bottle. Then a decant and oh how the florals open up, furthered, blooming and intoxicating. More than just a fun little experiment so please wake up and smell the Gaspereau Valley. So lively, a wee salty and all energy. Drink 2018-2024.  Tasted October 2018  benjaminbridge  caveman__jones  scott.savoy  @Benjamin_Bridge  @benjaminbridgevineyards  Jean-Benoit Deslauriers  Scott Savoy  

Vineland Estates Cabernet Franc Reserve 2015, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (Winery, $50.00, WineAlign)

Winemaker Brian Schmidt’s investigations into cabernet franc border on obsession but truth be told it’s not rocket science that makes so many fine varietal tiers. There are the six growers combed from six Niagara sub-appellations that add up to one entry-level, over-delivering cabernet franc. Then there is Bo Teek, the large estate vineyard planted in 1996 to clone 327 in the south and in 2006, to clone 214 in the north. Not to be forgotten in the cabernet franc make-up is the limestone substratum, highly significant for the trace mineral, elemental push up into these vines ensuring that no over-the top make up is required for varietal elevation, explanation and consummation. Vineland’s Reserve spends 16 months in barrel, none of which are any newer than from 2009. Fermentation, barrel, bottle, repeat. That’s it. No racking. This Reserve is the marriage of north and south, 60 and 40 per cent respectively, a combinative attack both phenolic and aromatic. The northern fruit sings some blues with crooning volatility whilst in delivery of sweet blackberry fruit. The south is all about stretched, nimble and elastic tones, elegant, more fragrance, black to red berries and less brooding. As one it’s a deeper and more intense wine than Bo Teek or Elevation, bottled in November, with higher acidity. The corollary variegation expands above what Bo Teek seems capable of executing solo. The structure here tells us it will not switch gears as early and live longer. Look for some secondary notes in the vein of black truffle, sweet balsam and dried lavender to show up after the turn of the decade. Drink 2020-2027.  Tasted April 2018  vinelanestates  benchwineguy  @VinelandEstates  @benchwineguy  @winery.vinelandestates  Brian Schmidt


Mission Hill Terroir Series Vista’s Edge Cabernet Franc 2015, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia (Winery, $50,00, WineAlign)

You have to wonder why Mission Hill had not kicked at the can before because the Vista’s Edge is one of British Columbia’s brightest cabernet francs. It’s an important and exciting first effort from East Osoyoos fruit pulled from one of the Okanagan Valley’s farthest southern plantings. It’s a top three per cent single-vineyard, special terroir series edition that smells, tastes, feels and acts like cabernet franc. Nothing about this, not by barrel nor like varietal reminds of cabernet sauvignon. There are currant and peppery reductive meets pyrazine notes as red, bright and fresh as you’d hope they would be. The pitchy darkness of structure and hue falls because night must always follow the day and that’s what happens when cabernet franc is made this way. A long life ahead is conformed by the diphthong finish. Drink 2019-2026.  Tasted June 2018  missionhillwinery  @MissionHillWine  @MissionHillWine

Leaning Post Syrah Keczan Vineyard 2016, VQA Lincoln Lakeshore, Ontario (Agent, $45.00, WineAlign)

The eureka moment for syrah, Lincoln Lakeshore, Keczan and Leaning Post came years ago, for it, that, they, them and I. Not together mind you but passion knows no limits and opens doors to transcend time and space. This pinpointed farm on that flat expanse so perfectly proximate to the lake is where syrah can express itself without hindrance or opposition. Here the lake is like the Mediterranean and the river like the Rhône. Together they address the clay, create a moisture gathering effect, ship out the cold fronts and usher in the warm. They make syrah like this, rich in humus, hummus and hubris, olive tapenade and sweet brine. Fruit is fruit, also sweet, but savoury, acidulated and fine. Acidity is perfect in this vintage. Length is exceptional. A new benchmark, bred from passion with the intendment to inspire commitment. One of Ontario’s best red wines. Drink 2020-2032.  Tasted September 2018  leaningpostwine  nicholaspearcewines  @LeaningPostWine  @Nicholaspearce_  Leaning Post Wines  Nicholas Pearce

Kacaba Signature Series Reserve Syrah 2015, VQA Niagara Escarpment, Ontario (Winery, $44.95, WineAlign)

It’s about time we get something straight. Kacaba knows Syrah, in fact they should receive serious consideration for the title of Ontario’s top Syrah specialist. Two vineyards (with plantings that date back to 1997) provide fruit for several tiers, including the syrah from Terrace and Silver Bridge Vineyards and the highest quality chosen, hand-harvested fruit for this Signature Series Reserve. An escarpment’s dolomite limestone effect plays into these hands from fruit that arrives into glass through the body of arguably Ontario’s finest current syrah. The aromatic waft of a warm pastry crust is laden with red and blue berries that also fill the cool flavour centre of a pastille. The savoury candy gives way to a peppery kick before featuring a cure of salumi and a return full circle to that serious fruit. The apposite and complimentary smells and tastes are only intensified with a bottle’s decant so just imagine the possibilities that age will bestow. This is special work from Michael Kacaba with winemakers John Tummon and Vadim Chelekhov.  Last tasted February 2018  kacabavineyards  vadimwineguy  @KacabaVineyards    Kacaba Vineyards and Winery  Vadim Chelekhov

Oh what a beautiful peppery syrah, ripe and floral, all of its aspects, angles and components agreed upon, all in. When Canadian (and in this case, somewhere in Ontario) syrah gets down to business, gets straight to the meaty and smoky point it does so tart, tight and coiled around your tongue and finger. This, right here just nails it. It is the best of times. This is the man. Drink 2019-2027.  Tasted blind at #NWAC17, June 2017

Stratus Vineyards Sémillon Botrytis Affected 2016, VQA Niagara On The Lake, Ontario (Winery, $38.00, WineAlign)

One of the most unique dessert wines in Ontario this is neither late-harvest nor Icewine in origin. Only the third time it has been made, the 2016 sémillon launches with a smoky beginning, as expected and yet, is always appreciated. Some of the fruit is harvested early, but other bunches in the same vineyard are some of the last to be harvested. This low alcohol anti-sticky is from the warm vintage and from the same spot in the vineyard, vintage in vintage out. Most interesting is how these pristine botrytis affected grapes are picked ahead of the rest of the clean fruit used for the dry sémillon. It’s a very vinous sém with distinct apricot and longan notes. Great acids in 2016. Has still retained some waxiness and found some tropical fruit despite the early pick. All of the counterintuitive ideals tell us that the warm vintages can make for top quality dessert wine. This is the masquerade party wine made by the Way Outs band. “That’s where the fun is, way out, WAY OUT!” Drink 2019-2028.  Tasted October 2018   stratuswines  @StratusWines  @StratusWines

Good to go!

godello

2017 Aldé Rosé, Interloper and As Is

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

WineAlign

Going back to South Africa

In just a few more sleeps I’ll be back in South Africa. Since attending Cape Wine in 2015 I have had the great fortune to spend many mornings, evenings and excursions with several groups of South African producers here in Ontario. In the past year we entertained visits from the Premium Independent Winemakers (PIWOSA) and most recently this May Chris Mullineux led a masterclass on mostly Chenin Blanc at lbs. Restaurant. Chabrol Restaurant also held a tasting and lunch with representatives from seven outstanding South African wineries.

Related – Around the Cape in 50 wines

On my way to one of those events I was in the car and listening to the CBC. The DJ began talking about Handel as being the composer who could have become a hip hop artist. I’ll explain what he meant in a minute. When I think about South African wines it’s almost impossible to put your finger down to think of it as one thing, one style, or one type of music. You can apply this just about anywhere but in the Capelands there is so much diversity; there are rock n’ roll stars in the Swartland, R & B, soul & Motown in Stellenbosch, Jazz in Elgin, Classical music wherever you want to hear it. But what there is everywhere is flow. Reggae flow, soulful Stevie Wonder flow, hip-hop flow.  What the DJ was trying to say is that a composer who writes with this ease of ability, with an unconscious penning of notes coming from a place that was always there from the beginning, with a creativity that comes out of effortless ease, it just flows. South African wines, collectively, have flow.

Great soils, weather and a Mediterranean climate

When I returned from that 2015 Cape Wine congress I said that South African wine is not what we thought it was. This mantra can’t be repeated often enough. Introduce me to a winemaker who is not in tune with his or her terroir and I’ll show you a winemaker who is either faking it or blindly towing a company line. That breed is few and far between. In South Africa I met exactly none of that ilk.

Related – Once upon a time in the Western Cape

LK @wosa_ca introducing Chris @mullineuxwines for what will be a wild ride through the Western Cape ~ #winesofsouthafrica

I don’t feel the same way, not quite exactly the same way, three years later. Now I see the necessity of not planting whatever you feel like wherever you feel like, but specializing, picking out micro-plots of terroir for 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. I am also inclined to agree with the heritage seekers and protectors. Old vines, especially dry, bush-farmed vineyards are the backbone of South Africa’s diversity and possibility.

At the lbs gathering Chris Mullineux noted there was a time when chenin blanc tasted like sauvignon blanc, green and sharp, or creamy like chardonnay and sweet. There have been so many styles. Mullineux explained. “We’re no longer trying to make chenin taste like sauvignon blanc or chardonnay, or Huet for that matter.” 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. Sixteen wines were presented that morning, including eight by Andrea and Chris Mullineux.

Into the South African mystic ~ A formidable line-up led by @mullineuxwines with thanks to Chris, LK @WOSACanada JG @lbstoronto @wosa_za @NicholasPearce_

Simonsig Chenin Blanc 2017, WO Stellenbosch, South Africa (981167, $13.95, WineAlign)

From Stellenbosch, the pride and joy, the rainmaker, hay-maker, large volume wine. Decomposed shale provides perfume to chenin, picked over three passes, early acidity, middle palate savour and later harvest tropical fruit, namely guava. There is texture, something firm in its structure and a clear-cut ripeness of acidity. Drink 2018-2019.  Tasted twice, May 2018   simonsigwines  azureau  @SimonsigWines  @azureau  @SimonsigWines  @azureauwinesandspirits

MAN Family Wines Chenin Blanc Essay 2017, WO Western Cape, South Africa (Agent, $14.95, WineAlign)

‘Essay’ is MAN’s chenin blanc with more more stone and citrus fruit, crisp, almost crunchy, getting into texture and would really elevate the fish game. Drink 2018-2019.  Tasted May 2018   manfamilywines  vonterra  @MANVintners  @vonterrabev  @MANFamilyWines  @vonterra

Deetlefs Chenin Blanc 2016, WO Breedekloof, Western Cape, South Africa (465443, $16.95, WineAlign)

The youngest wine route in South Africa and just 90 km outside of Cape Town, the Breedekloof wine route lies in the Breede River Valley, which stretches from Gouda in the west, McGregor in the south, Montagu in the east and the Tankwa-Karoo National Park in the north. “We call it over the mountains,” explains Chris Mullineux, “around that bend from Cape Town.” It’s an area with a long history of chenin by the river bed. A place of fertile soils, where young vines have great vigour and then when they reach 35 years plus, deliver great concentration. Some green pepper and pyrazine here, a throwback to the sauvignon blanc ringer days and also more weight and laced up tightness. It’s a savoury but quite cool expression. Gets crunchy and chewy, one and then the other, like Napolitano pizza dough, in a way. Drink 2018-2020.  Tasted May 2018   deetlefswineestate  nicholaspearcewines  @Deetlefs_Wine  @Nicholaspearce_   @DeetlefsWineEstate  Nicholas Pearce

May 23rd, 2018 #lobsterroll by @lbstoronto ~ #lostinamoment ~ pairs beautifully with South African #cheninblanc

Pearce Predhomme Chenin Blanc Old Vine/Wild Ferment 2017, Clear Mountain, Stellenbosch, South Africa (Agent, $22.99, WineAlign)

The next chapter in the Nicholas Pearce-Will Predhomme chenin blanc joint is the richest to date, as a matter of unction without presumption. The great blended barrel and tank amalgamation dishes an orchard tone citrus smoothie with rigour, tension and then perhaps, yes, a posit tug of confident Stellenbosch belief. Presumption even, knowing that you will adore it. And you will. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted May 2018   pearcepredhomme  nicholaspearcewines  willpredhomme  @PearcePredhomme  @Nicholaspearce_   @WillPredhomme  Nicholas Pearce  willpredhomme

Ken Forrester Old Vine Reserve Chenin Blanc 2016, WO Stellenbosch, South Africa (Agent, $17.95, WineAlign)

Texture from old plants can never be underestimated and this number two of four tiers in the Forrester stable digs so much deeper. It’s more passionately meets seriously defined out of a labour of love so you have to pause and stay with it.  Last tasted May 2018

Reserve is a funny term for wines like this because it speaks to the idea that it should be put aside for further use. I don’t think that is Ken Forrester’s plan and here he once again raises his old vines game with the 2016 chenin blanc. Fruit and mineral are entrenched in this great posit tug of war, each shredding the twain and meeting at the trenchant median. Stellenbosch continues to dole out some of the planet’s most striking and finest whites with chenin blanc at the centre of it’s value universe. With major thanks to Ken Forrester. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted March 2017   fmcwine  noble_estates  @KFwines  @Noble_Estates  Ken Forrester  Ken Forrester  @NobleEstates

I want to eat the dishes chef wants to cook ~ @jwillcook killed it last night @lbstoronto with the wines of South Africa

Survivor Chenin Blanc 2017, WO Swartland, South Africa (Agent, $17.95, WineAlign)

Survivor is richer, deeper, creamier, the chardonnay chenin, in a way, with round and mild acidity. Very tropical, from guava and papaya to mango and ultimately, simple like a banana, with coconut and cream. Drink 2018-2019.  Tasted May 2018   survivorwines  kirkwooddiamondcanada  @SurvivorWines  @KDC_NATIONAL  @SurvivorWines  @KirkwoodDiamondCanada

Mullineux Kloof Street Chenin Blanc Old Vines 2017, Western Cape, South Africa (Agent, $27.26, WineAlign)

Still in the middle of drought, the 100 per cent chenin is so youthful right at this stage. Part Paardeberg, ancient granite decomposed into sand, plus rocky, shallow slate, better in the blend out of cooler years. Still a flint strike but also something verdant, smouldering too, like white tobacco, if there is such a thing.  Last tasted May 2018

You would think this came straight from the vines and into the glass because fresh was never this new, exciting and getable. In fact when thinking about tasting 2015, 2016 and now this 2017 there is no doubt this is the most immediate and gratification guaranteeing Kloof Street yet. It’s already in delivery of ripe citrus, orchard and tropical fruit, all three, fleshy, unctuous and divine. So juicy, unconsciously so and as drinkable as any chenin blanc on the planet. Drink 2018-2020.  Tasted January 2018   mullineuxwines  nicholaspearcewines  @MullineuxWines  @Nicholaspearce_  @MullineuxWines  @MullineuxWines  @MullineuxWines  @MullineuxWines

Mullineux Kloof Street Chenin Blanc Old Vines 2016, WO Western Cape, South Africa (Agent, $22.95, WineAlign)

From the very dry year this 100 per cent chenin is from 36 and 38 year old vines in two vineyards, so considered old vines because its certified (above 35, a labelling law that came into place this year). Natural ferment, freshness meets a terrific sense of place, with downy texture by one third barrel. Aging nicely.  Last tasted May 2018

Some older vines (in the 40 year range) combed off of variegated soil types from several Swartland vineyards combine for definitive Western Cape effect. Kloof Street is the poster child for the way in which Chris and Andrea Mullineux’s are taking South African by storm. Though they spend so much effort concentrating on specific soils with über specific wines, this chenin blanc is the multi-purpose white to teach a thing or two about the rest of their work. It’s exemplary of ripe and perfectly extracted, multi-sensory fruit and personality. Though this 2016 is a bit warmer and deeper than previous vintages (and the portion of barrel ferment is further felt), it continues the thread of honesty, decency and consumer educational necessity for the Cape wine oeuvre. It will also develop some peaches, herbs and honey with time. Drink 2017-2021.  Tasted March 2017

Mullineux Old Vines White 2016, Unfiltered & Unfined, WO Swartland, South Africa (Agent, $36.95, WineAlign)

The old vines are between 36 and 65 years old and the 60-65 per cent chenin blanc is blended with grenache blanc, clairette blanc and viognier. There is also a smidgen of sémillon gris, unique to sémillon, then mutated after 45-50 years, becoming like gewürztraminer. Really flinty, lightning across the sky moving with strikes through the glass, but somehow rich and grippy, then elastic, slippery, moving like an glacial ooze. Extraordinary really. Cryptic white blend, in the end.  Tasted again, May 2018

From French water mill to Swartland bread basket the Old Vines White continues to woo and sooth savages with its exceptional quality. From winemaker Andrea Mullineux this is equation building by chenin blanc (62 per cent) plus grenache blanc (15), viognier (11), clairette blanc (8) and sémillon. It may as well be Meursault Premier Cru Genevrières or Châteauneuf-du-Pape blanc transposed into the body of chenin-plus in South Africa. The combination of flinty strike and sun-fleshy body is perfectly tugged with posit force, stretching, flexing and relaxing with each effortless sway. The tease of lemon curd, sweet herbal pesto and creamy warm climate fruit never submit to the realities of ambition or extension. All remains calm, purposed and transfixed. As am I. Drink 2020-2028.  Tasted May 2018

Mullineux Old Vines White 2015, Unfiltered & Unfined, WO Swartland, South Africa (Agent, $36.95, WineAlign)

The Old Vine White 2015 is a revelation, built by 36-65 year-old vines, of 60ish per cent chenin blanc mixed with grenache blanch, clairette blanc, viognier and the mutated sémillon gris. A year adds almost nothing to the development save for a minor magnification of the flinty feeling but the linger, oh the linger. This is length unparalleled for South African white wine and how it is left to breathe in its broad expression is there forever. You can walk around the block and these old vines will be with you, by your side, in mind, body, spirit and never-ending flavour. Drink 2019-2028.  Tasted May 2018

Ken Forrester Chenin Blanc The FMC 2016, Stellenbosch, South Africa (37291, $64.95, WineAlign)

The straight-lined FMC is chenin blanc on a path of the shortest distance between two points from straight-shooting Ken Forrester. It’s ambitious and righteously so, a statement wine, no longer (if ever) Loire but now indelibly Stellenbosch stamped,. Not an off-dry, botrytis copying style but now from larger barrel and so minor oak and lack of noble rot addendum. It’s simply older vines from the same old vineyard and so comfortable in its own skin. Yes it has a honeyed note but it’s from the bees replete with a sexy, waxy feeling. The aging possibilities are long to endless. Drink 2019-2029.  Tasted May 2018

Varietal and single-vineyard wines are great but #cartology is forever ~ so pleased to get a chance at this today ~ another laser from @chrisalheit

Alheit Vineyards Cartology Bushvine Chenin Blanc Sémillon 2016, Western Cape, South Africa (Agent, $46.95, WineAlign)

Chris and SuzaanGroupe Soleil Fine WinesAlheit’s Cartology ’16 exhibits a citrus layering that separates it from other Western Cape white blends and an implosive intensity that is simply stunning, but also frightening. As a reminder the blend is a smaller amount of eighty year-old La Colline sémillon from Franschhoek running ambagious with 30-40 year old chenin blanc grown in Skurfberg, Perdeberg, Bottelary Hills and Kasteelberg. Few white wines anywhere in the world are even remotely positioned in this field where energy and light spin with infinite speed in the centrifuge of life. That doesn’t even speak to texture for a wine that is the topographical depiction of these nooks of the Western Cape. Needs two years to flesh out, evolve just a hair and bring another level of interest to the glass. Drink 2020-2028.  Tasted May 2018  chrisalheit  gsoleil123  @ChrisAlheit  @GroupeSoleilTO  Suzaan Alheit  Groupe Soleil Fine Wines

Mullineux Schist Chenin Blanc 2014, Swartland, South Africa (Agent, $89.95, WineAlign)

Mullineux’s Schist is a 100-120 case production (though only 72 in 2014), from schist, of course, not granite, which adds mid-palate weight and texture. Also from older (36 and 40 years) vines based from soils of the Kasteelberg. It’s a heartfelt message and cerebral pulling string from the 2014 density gifting vintage. Older barrels wrap like a blanket for fruit richer than you’d ever imagine, full-bodied, beautiful and robed in petticoat unction. It’s also dry as the farmland desert. Truly one of the finest chenin blancs from South Africa and beyond. Drink 2018-2027.  Tasted May 2018

Mullinuex Olerasay Straw Wine NV, WO Swartland, South Africa (Agent, $59.95, WineAlign)

Mullineux’s non-vintage Straw Wine is fashioned from grapes hung in trees for three weeks. The key is to concentrate the acidity which doubles from the pressing number, plus sweetness that is off the charts. No rain in the picking season means no fear of rot. The use is of chenin blanc from the same vineyard as Kloof Street and it’s amazing how the same grapes can deliver such a different expression from the same place but with the simplest adjustment of winemaking methodology. An amazing look from a healthy 14 barrels made, so distinct as a dessert wine, with pineapple, lemon preserve and apple purée. Bold and delicious. Drink 2019-2031.  Tasted May 2018

A little bit of this, a little bit of that. A little bit of schist, a little bit of granite. Amazing vintage variation, from ethereal to powerful. Singular @mullineuxwines

Mullineux Syrah 2016, Swartland, South Africa (Agent, $42.95, WineAlign)

The first drought vintage for the Swartland syrah and so the extract, concentration and density are all in compression mode. The change is felt with palpable impression, meatier, more char, even tar, and a little bit of dogma was necessary to bring in more granite-raised syrah to keep things swimmingly cool and savoury along. It’s a hematic one in 2016. To some this would be the bomb, the massive reason to believe and to others it might seem an impossible wall to scale. With a combination of love and patience the ’16 will please them all. Drink 2020-2028.  Tasted May 2018

Mullineux Syrah 2015, Swartland, South Africa (Agent, $42.95, WineAlign)

Mullineux’s Syrah is sourced from several different vineyards around the Swartland, from granite, schisty slate (structure and tannin), plus the mid-palate giver, from lighter, porous soil suited to arenicolous vines. Here is a complex weave of geology, barrel usage and ultimately textures. There is a meaty char but also a floral, violet potpourri. A wine with a lot of integrity and generosity. From a vintage widely considered fantastic everywhere, moderate in every respect; cool, rain, sun, wide picking window. Easy. Drink 2018-2024.  Tasted May 2018

Paul Cluver with Ken Forrester’s Chenin Blanc

A few wines from the PIWOSA visit, June 2017

Paul Cluver Riesling Close Encounter 2015, Elgin Valley, South Africa (Agent, $23.99, WineAlign)

Paul Cluver’s Close Encounter is a matter of remarkable contrast elevated by texture so that sugar and acidity are seamlessly meshed, gathering both apple orchard and mango grove into one sweet and sour package. Channels its inner Rheinhessen like no other southern hemisphere riesling but does so with pure Elgin elegance and individuality. Most excellent riesling.  Last Tasted June 2017

A more serious effort than the sibling ‘Dry Encounter’ because this riesling knows what it wants to be. On its left may be Alsace and on its right the Mosel but in truth this speaks to a Kabinett reasoning, with Elgin layering. At nine per cent alcohol, 36 g/L RS and 8.2 g/L TA it knows the difference and speaks the truth about off-dry riesling, with elevated and yet balancing acidity. It pretends to be nothing but what is of and for itself. Flint and an attainable stratosphere (between 300-500m above sea level) accept the airy drifts of oceans and the gathering returns to earth with the weight of wax and glade. If you think South African riesling is “a real nowhere man, sitting in his nowhere land,” taste Elgin and think again. The skeptical Nowhere man is ignorant to the new frontier for riesling and to him I say “please listen, you don’t know what you’re missing.” Drink 2015-2020.  Tasted September 2015  paulcluverwines  hobbsandcompany  @paulcluverwines  @amargarethobbs  @paulcluver  @HobbsandCo

De Grendel Op Die Berg Pinot Noir 2014, Elgin Valley, South Africa (Agent, WineAlign)

“The Latch” in Dutch it means, where once settlers used the hill as a beacon for navigation. A crunchy, chewy and soil driven pinot noir, so bloody terroir driven, as if the bleed of the earth wells in the bottle and glass. There is fineness to the tannin but more than this acidity that defines the structure, or drives it and leaves you sipping on repeat. Cool summer nights do the savoury, spicy accents. Clearly this piece of Elgin was meant to raise pinot noir. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted June 2017   degrendelwines  churchillcellars  @degrendelwines  @imbibersreport   @degrendelwines  @imbibersreport

Exceptional lads of South African wine take Toronto @chabrolto led by fearless leader Will ~ @WOSACanada @WOSA_Za

Seven producers, seven varietal wines

This tasting was led by master South African messenger Will Predhomme at Chabrol, Toronto’s smallest space and largest kept secret in the hands of Niall McCotter and Chef Doug Penfold.

First up was Sean Griffiths introducing Mulderbosch, based in Stellenbosch, “the centre of the universe,” He spoke of how South Africa has a long history of winemaking and Mulderbosch started in 1659. Looking forward to 2019 that is 360 years, a perfectly symmetrical number, of degrees, coming around full circle.

Mulderbosch Sauvignon Blanc 2017, WO Western Cape, South Africa (933424, $17.95, WineAlign)

The 2017 is the 25th vintage and “we’re always looking for cool-climate fruit.” notes Sean Griffiths. Fermented with its lees in the search for a fuller, richer style. It is surely round, rich and finish-able. A wine of great heritage, for itself and South Africa as a bigger entity but it’s not a replica of anything, least of all “old world.” Hints at a subtlety of weight, pungency, citrus, thiols, vegetation and flint. It’s 100 per cent sauvignon blanc, more passion than pamplemousse, more fruit than mousse. Touched but not bound by tradition. Maritime salinity finishes the spirit. Everything is under control. Drink 2018-2020.  Tasted May 2018   mulderboschvineyards  abconwine  @MulderboschV  @AbconWine  @Mulderbosch  Abcon Wine

Next up, Johannes De Wet from pioneering chardonnay specialist De Wetshof in Roberston, an area of limestone presence and the context of that rock is important. All estate work; farming, winemaking and bottling. First regional planting of chardonnay was in the late 1970s and then in the early 1980s. Johannes’ dad was a chardonnay smuggler.

De Wetshof Limestone Hill Unwooded Chardonnay 2017, WO Robertson, South Africa (419622, $16.95, WineAlign)

From four vineyards on clay with high limestone content, and high pH soils. Citrus abounds, all around, first lemon peel, and then grapefruit. Lots of lees (110 days) but unoaked with the end result being a desired weight. The source is 80 kms from the sea, a place of wind and cold nights, not surprisingly a great area for bubbly. Limestone Hill is a ridge, a step up to the mountain. This chardonnay is striking, sharp, full of energy and then calm, so drinkable. Crunchy and pure, honest, transparent and in its way, just perfect. Drink 2018-2020.  Tasted May 2018  dewetshofwines  glencairnwines    @glencairnwines  @dewetshofwines  @GCwines

Marthinus van der Vyver is Country Manager, North America, Ken Forrester Wines. Ken began with five restaurants in Stellenbosch and one day he saw an auction sign and three hours later, boom he walked away with a winery. If you have met or just heard of Ken Forrester, you know he is a force not just in wine, but a figure larger than life and hugely responsible for putting South African wines on the world’s stage. Partly because of his work to establish a premium level Chenin Blanc but also because of a tireless ethic, an entrepreneurial spirit and certainly his ambassadorial work. Forrester is a team player in the way a Football or Rugby captain rallies his teammates, his club and his country. I’ve had the pleasure of a four-hour tasting session with Ken in Stellenbosch and that interaction is indelibly stamped in my memory forever. Great guy whom Marthinus has the pleasure of calling Dad. He is Ken’s son-in-law and is responsible for taking care of the most important treasures in his life.

Ken Forrester Roussanne 2016, WO Stellenbosch, South Africa (Agent, WineAlign)

The 2016 is the third vintage of this wine, from 39 year-old vines. ‘Tis a risk-reward white held at bay, away from the safety of blending, of barref fermentation, and time spent in 80 per cent used 400L barrels. The vineyard is on the second last farm before you reach the Heldeberg, where hot days give way to late afternoon sea breezes. These are 15 of 60 roussanne hectares in Stellenbosch. Striking aromatics, a flinty, saline and pulsating white with presence and a stand up demand to be noticed. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted May 2018  fmcwine  noble_estates  @KFwines  @Noble_Estates  Ken Forrester  Ken Forrester  @NobleEstates

Stephen Joubert is viticulturalist at DGB. “My passion is to understand South African terroir and to figure out what grows best and where.” Ocean is the thing, heavy soils, cold winters, dry summers, sea breeze influence, to keep acidity and freshness. We happened to have been in Sicily at the same time back in May. I’m curious to see what grape varieties gave him ideas for what to do back home in The Cape.

Bellingham The Bernard Series Old Vine Chenin Blanc 2016, WO Stellenbosch, South Africa (12724, $29.95, WineAlign)

This Bellingham Estate chenin blanc from old vines watched over by viticulturist Stephen Joubert carries an indelible stamp of richness, from that vine age and the leesy style. From granite and weathered shales, a minor note of reduction climbs over top of the rich, chic, stylish and full fruit and while it seems like the wood is very much in play it’s really more lees than anything that terms the texture and renders the weight. Old vines provide the density and structure to allow wood to take part in an ambitious attempt to create longevity. The locked in    spirit will go a long way to seeing some developed fruition but there may be a bit too much extraction so an oxidative quality might creep in before the wood has fully settled and integrated. Should work out well in the mid-term. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted May 2018   bellingham_wines  dionysuswines  @Bellinghamwines  @DionysusWines   @bellinghamwines  @DionysusWinesTO

Danie de Kock presents Spier from Stellenbosch, going strong since 1692, always family owned, most recently purchased in 1993 and since 1996 Johannes Smith is the viticulturalist. Using the word “Signature” on their labels infers or might be what the chef wants to be known for. You should recognize varietal and get what you expect from that name on the bottle. In Spier’s case merlot should be a grape that gives you a great big hug.

Spier Signature Merlot 2016, WO Stellenbosch, South Africa (454827, $15.95, WineAlign)

Spier’s Signature Merlot 2016 is raised on alluvial soils, some estate, some purchased. “We’re trying to show a good solid wine.” Receives seven to eight months of dance floor wood for the fruit to express its moves, of 3rd and 4th passage. The best selling South African merlot in the LCBO happens to be the only one. Acidity and tartness at good height and level while reduction is lower than low. Breadth is a matter that is chalky, in chocolate guise and far from reduced, cooked out, even with just a touch of honest pyrazine. Drink 2018-2019.  Tasted May 2018   spierwinefarm  @SpierWineFarm  @SylvestreWSON  @spierwinefarm  Stephen Marentette

Francois Bezuidenhout from MAN family wines explains how the estate’s seven varietal wines are each equipped with an Afrikaans name. The vintner started out with three friends looking to make everyday varietal wines in 2001, as an anagram after their wives, Marie, Annette and Nicky. MAN. Chenin is the signature white.

Man Vintners Shiraz Skaapveld 2016, WO Coastal Region, South Africa (71332, $14.95, WineAlign)

Named Skaapveld, meaning “sheep’s field” this shiraz is a spicy, deep plum and raspberry red fruit red, a touch reductive and rusty-firm-grippy-transparent. Fruit is essentially from Paarl (with also some out of Stellenbosch), on decomposed granite and clay, dry-farmed and not the usual irrigation because of water retentive soils. Liquid chalky, talcy, oozing of chocolate and a shot of espresso but always returns to the red fruit. Mediterranean, black olive mixed with the chocolate. Peppery rotundo and lovely really. Drink 2018-2020.  Tasted May 2018   manfamilywines  vonterra  @MANVintners  @vonterrabev  @MANFamilyWines  @vonterra

Murray Barlow manages the winemaking at the 880 hectare property, larger than Pomerol, from an estate who’s first wine was made in 1692. In the early 1800s it was split in two, one purchased by John X Merriman. Rustenberg was one of the first to re-plant vineyards after phylloxera. The pioneer owned it until 1926 and was also the last Prime Minister previous to modern day South Africa. In 1941 Peter and Pamela Barlow bought the estate. Their son Simon took over the running of the farm in 1987. Winemaker Barlow represents the third generation of his family to make wine at Rustenberg wines on the foot of the Simonsberg Mountain in Stellenbosch, South Africa. Murray is the vini, father Simon is the viti. The Barlows have been at Rustenberg for 77 years: the longest period any one family has owned the farm during its well over 300 years old term. It’s a new world estate and like many others is  much older than the Boredelaise.”

Rustenberg John X Merriman 2014, WO Simonsberg-Stellenbosch, South Africa (707323, $24.95, WineAlign)

This is from altitudes between 250-500m, of deep rich red granite, high iron soils at the foot of the Simonsberg Mountains. Always 100 per cent estate fruit, merlot on south facing slopes which are cooler spots and then cabernet from those leading west (for afternoon sun). Fruit that thrives on cooling influences but no frost or hail and including beneficial breezes. A wet season preceding three successive drought vintages. Wow in that it’s so very Bordeaux and that’s saying alot because so many varietal or regional ode South African blends are not like their old world ancestors. Here all five Bordelais varieties work together, see plenty of barrel (20 months) and bottle time (one year) for it all to come together. Tobacco, olive, chocolate, classic Bordeaux stylistically and in the hands of a true South African pioneer, right along with the Meerlust Rubicon. Best at 10-15 years but can go 30. Drink 2020-2030.  Tasted May 2018   rustenbergwines  woodmanws  @RustenbergWines  @WoodmanWS  Rustenberg Wine Estate  @WoodmanWS

Good to go!

Godello

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

WineAlign

Tasting Ontario Part Five: Varietal Whites and Appellative Blends

There were 33 medals handed out to White Blends at the 2018 WineAlign National Wine Awards of Canada; seven Golds, 17 Silvers and nine Bronze. Quietly, stealthily and without great fanfare the strength of the white blend category has taken NWAC18 by storm. The quality of the wines entered has never been higher, visibly and notably spread across the country. The time has come to establish party lines, to create truly parochial white appellative blends under appropriately chosen names. Nova Scotia has long been there with their apt-scripted Tidal Bay. Ontario and British Columbia should heed the economic and marketing success enjoyed by their maritime cousins and join the appellative party.

Related – Results of the 2018 WineAlign National Wine Awards of Canada (The Nationals): Best of Blends: Red, White and Tidal Bay

The French regions of Bordeaux and the Rhône Valley are clearly the benchmarks and the inspiration for Canadian-made emulative examples, first from a sauvignon blanc-sémillon connection and then with blends that make use of marsanne, roussanne and viognier. A testament to expatriate excellence is noted in the seven overall Gold Medals in this year’s judging and no less than six others finishing at high Silver status on the cusp of Gold. I for one awarded five 90-plus scores to wines I clearly deemed worthy of such accolade and esteem.

It is interesting to note that White Blends centred by sauvignon blanc in the Okanagan Valley rely on much higher percentages of sémillon than their counterparts in Ontario. The simplest explanation tells us that the grape variety has trouble surviving harsh Ontario winters, especially when we look back at 2015 and 2016 when much of the province’s vines were killed by sub-25 degree temperatures. But it’s more than that. In B.C. sauvignon blanc can get pretty ripe, tropical and zaftig so it is sémillon that helps to mitigate, temper, inject a flinty-smoky-mineral streak and ultimately bring balance to the relationship.

There was a time not too long ago when after the best juice was chosen for varietal wines producers then needed to find a way to use up the dregs of their white ferments. White blends came about out of economic necessity, but like Rosé production in this country so many are now produced with a purpose. As a farmer, if you know specific blocks of sauvignon blanc are destined to join with other plots of sémillon you’re going to prune, pluck, green harvest and ultimately pick in very specific ways. Appellative blends have become a year round occupation. That much is clear.

Related – Tasting Ontario Part Four: Gamay

The top scorers at this year’s Nationals have been awarded to seriously and thoughtfully crafted wines. The winners are not entry-level, introductory products at the lower or lowest common denominational levels. They are not simple aromatic blends of vague fruit and sweet impression, in fact many are graced by beneficial and forward thinking structure. The future certainly looks white blend bright. Here are 36 recently tasted Ontario varietal whites and appellative white blends.

Summer spread

Sprucewood Shores Pinot Grigio 2017, VQA Lake Erie North Shore, Ontario (426577, $14.95, WineAlign)

Just a hint of contact it would seem, leading to a not so obvious result in platinum gold hue but more so into the floral nature of its aromatics. Some sweet melon and pear fruit with good concentration and equal if necessary acidity. Can certainly drink a glass of this. Drink 2018-2020.  Tasted blind at NWAC18, June 2018  sprucewoodshores  @SprucewoodWine  @SprucewoodShores

Château Des Charmes Aligoté 2017, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (296848, $15.95, WineAlign)

The Château des Charmes self-proclaimed “pinot grigio” alternative was never more truthfully written than in reference to this 2017 aligoté. Screwy wet summer merging into crazy hot autumn weather made for one of the latest harvest dates in the estate on the York Road in St. Davids storied history. The rare Niagara Peninsula varietal vines are planted primarily at St. David’s Bench and Paul Bosc Estate vineyards but more are going in, surely out of testimony to the sales of this more than apropos local grape. Surely no one knows aligoté like the Bosc family and yet even they could not have seen this peachy, melony, fleshy and ripe one coming. It’s like a hyperbole of Val do Salnés in Rias Baixas albariño, crisp, aromatic and marched along by natural acidity. It seems sweet but trust me it’s not. It’s the long-hung, fully phenolic fruit and higher pH talking. This is not your average Bourgogne aligoté, searing, taut and intense. It’s a departure for the house but if it could always be made this way I think they would gladly go for the style. Waxy finish too, bringing an added note of complexity. Very cool. Drink 2018-2020.  Tasted July 2018  chateaudescharmes  @MBosc  Château des Charmes

Nyarai Cellars Pinot Gris 2016, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (Winery, $20.95, WineAlign)

This is quite a striking, rich, creamy and yogurt-leesy, a.k.a. Loire chenin blanc, fixedly in the guise of pinot gris. More skin contact then some plus so much yeasty texture combine to make for the fullest of an Ontario gris expression. This is the sort of feeling that normally comes from multi-varietal, dry white appellative Niagara blends but in a solo pinot gris it’s nothing short of remarkable. Drink 2018-2020.  Tasted February 2018  #nyaraicellars  @NyaraiCellars  Nyarai Cellars

Tawse Winery Pinot Gris Redfoot Vineyard 2017, VQA Lincoln Lakeshore, Ontario (Winery, $24.95, WineAlign)

From out of the dense Lincoln Lakeshore clay comes this flush and luxurious pinot gris, literally rolling in it. It makes for a highly aromatic take on the grape, all in for gris and not to be confused with lighter, less meaningful grigio. The Redfoot Vineyard is clearly earmarked for such a purposed way of interpretation and though the clays of the double L sub-appellation are best with syrah and cabernet franc there can’t be any reason not to allot 10-15 per cent of acreage to white plantings. In the hands of Paul Pender it seems obvious that pinot gris is the one. This dry take is just about perfectly right, with citrus and wet stone hanging around the fruit. Leaner might be more suitable but ultimately it’s balance that is most important for this rich fruit raised by the pottery soil. Drink 2018-2020.  Tasted June 2018  tawsewinery  @Tawse_Winery  @tawsewines

G.Marquis Sauvignon Blanc The Red Line 2016, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (Winery, $13.95, WineAlign)

Big love, big fruit, all about texture and juicy fruit on the palate but with some fine, wound acidity. Excellent. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted blind at NWAC18, June 2018   g.marquisvineyards  @GMarquisWines  @G.MarquisVineyards

North 42 Degrees Estate Winery Sauvignon Blanc North 43 2017, VQA Niagara Lakeshore, Ontario (547836, $14.95, WineAlign)

Quite the character this North 43/North 42 degrees sauvignon blanc, fruit amassed on the nose, from canteloupe to underripe passion fruit with a wet, coppery alloy build that translates across latitudinal lines onto the palate. The metallic flavours are undercut by an herbal tonic with a spoonful of tinned fruit cup. Drink 2018-2019.  Tasted April 2018  north42wines  @StratusWines  North 42 Degrees Estate Winery & Bistro 42  @north42degrees

Château Des Charmes Sauvignon Blanc 2017, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (296848, $15.95, WineAlign)

Interesting take, quite a mineral salt wiring through the green apple fruit, here some feel of barrel but not the malo-creamy effect created. Goes quite juicy and crunchy without resorting to tart. A bit more acid intensity would have sealed the deal. Drink 2018-2020. Tasted blind at NWAC18, June 2018    chateaudescharmes  @MBosc  Château des Charmes

Lakeview Cellars Sauvignon Blanc 2016, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (483958, $17.95, WineAlign)

An interesting sauvignon blanc for the Peninsula because the pungency is quite Marlborough but the relaxed state and relative weight is all Niagara. Very easy drinking as far as SB is concerned with notable extraction and a green streak, herbal mostly, running through. Drink 2018-2019.  Tasted April 2018  lakeviewwineco  @LakeviewWineCo  @LakeviewWineCo

Kacaba Susan’s Sauvignon Blanc 2017, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (Winery, $17.95, WineAlign)

Quietude in such a lovely way, mineral meets orange blossom, soft and amenable through the middle, quiet and mellow, fades off slowly, into the sauvignon blanc sunset. Drink 2018-2019.  Tasted blind at NWAC18, June 2018  kacabavineyards  @KacabaVineyards  Kacaba Vineyards and Winery

Stratus Wildass Sauvignon Blanc 2016, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (376814, $18.95, WineAlign)

t’s more Stratus than sauvignon blanc, even by regional varietal standards, whatever that is, due to the ripe flavours and long-developed phenolic ripeness. Ultimately it is the quotient of a cup of fruit cocktail and an energy level that serves to encourage a sitting back with a glass in meditative state more than a mind stimulated to invigorate. Drink 2018-2019.  Tasted April 2018  stratuswines  @StratusWines  @StratusWines

Organized Crime Sauvignon Blanc 2016, VQA Beamsville Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (396275, $18.95, WineAlign)

Sometimes sauvignon blanc goes tropical and green at the same time, or at least it is the two poles by picked grapes that combine for such a layering. Citrus and bitters mix into the two sides and all the components walk along, separate and alone together, without making any real contact. Maybe a year will tie the room but the acidity is low so waiting is a counterintuitive idea. Drink 2018.  Tasted April 2018  organizedcrimewinery  Organized Crime Winery

Henry Of Pelham Fumé Sauvignon Blanc 2016, VQA Short Hills Bench, Ontario (444268, $19.95, WineAlign)

With a wink and a nod to Mondavi this lays the lumber in smoulder upon sauvignon blanc with just a wisp, like cold smoking salmon so that it breathes cool and mentholated, without char and a real smoky feeling. The fruit is light and even a bit precious, the weight quite lithe and the overall notation one of gentle demure. You have to appreciate the deft, slight of winemaking hand approach. Drink 2018-2020.  Tasted February 2018  henryofpelham  @HenryofPelham  Henry of Pelham Family Estate Winery

Meldville Wines Sauvignon Blanc 2016, VQA Lincoln Lakeshore, Ontario (Winery, $20.20, WineAlign)

Derek Barnett’s sauvignon blanc may be the fleshiest of the Ontario lot, ripe, tropical and impressively coaxed from off the vine. The phenolic aggregate is a 2016 triumph even while it dances a funky step into botrytis-like rhythms. Notes here and there of herbs and tonics add to the mystique and the rapport. So bloody interesting, singular and meditative for the grape. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted February 2018  meldvillewines  @meldvillewines  Meldville Wines

Peller Estates Private Reserve Sauvignon Blanc 2017, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (Winery, $20.20, WineAlign)

Massively fruit aromatic sauvignon blanc, all gathered in a tin cup found in the exotics isle. Juicy melon meets passion fruit and so much more in between, then with a side of metalloid. Raps so commercially viable and succesful it hurts my ears and my eyes. “Any awards show or party I’ll get fly for it, I know that it’s coming I just hope I’m alive for it…I just wanna be, I just wanna be.” Remarkable success for sauvignon blanc, in Ontario. Drink 2018-2020.  Tasted blind at NWAC18, June 2018   pellerwines  @PellerVQA  @PellerEstates

Redstone Sauvignon Blanc Limestone Vineyard 2016, VQA Twenty Mile Bench, Ontario (Winery, $23.15, WineAlign)

There isn’t a ton of sauvignon blanc grown up on the Limestone Ridge but as a top level Twenty Mile Bench riesling terroir it changes the varietal course with considerable concern. As far as it goes this is quite an alloy challenged, mineralized expression, not quite flinty but certainly feeling like a mouthful of richly compressed, calcareous stones. The fruit is so anti-tropical it’s almost reductive and most certainly draws its tang from the soil. Such a curious sauvignon blanc with almost no frame of reference, save for a moment to consider Sancerre, but yet another successful effort from winemaker Rene Van Ede. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted February 2018  redstonewinery  @RedstoneWines  Redstone Winery

Traynor Sauvignon Blanc 2016, VQA Prince Edward County, Ontario (Winery, $25.00, WineAlign)

Reductive, not flinty or smoky, but reductive. This carries the gooseberry-passion fruit suitcase of fruit. I like the fruit-acid balance and the way it delivers semblances of tart and tangy. Really nicely judged wine. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted blind at NWAC18, June 2018   traynorvineyard  @TraynorVineyard  @traynorfamilyvineyard

Hidden Bench Fumé Blanc Rosomel Vineyard 2016, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (68825, $29.95, WineAlign)

The vineyard gains another year, the farming and winemaking too and so fumé blanc out of Rosomel gets better, as things often do with age and wisdom. ’Twas a great year for growing grapes on this amphitheatre of a vineyard block up on the Bench and no love lost for sauvignon blanc neither. There is tension, wound intensity and fierce competitiveness in the ’16, perhaps the most Sancerre and least Pouilly-Fumé it has ever been and so the declaration leans to saying it is “a mineral year.” Nothing against the fruit because the personality cult of lean, crisp and crunchy is in full order, though each sip after sip speaks in those Sancerre or Chablis by way of Saint Bris terms. Stellar, as always, in continuance, moving towards the best it can be. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted May 2018  hidden bench  markanthonyon  @HiddenBench @MarkAnthonyWine  Hidden Bench Estate Winery  Mark Anthony Wine & Spirits

Trius Showcase Clean Slate Sauvignon Blanc Wild Ferment 2016, Niagara-on-the Lake, Ontario (Winery, $31.95, WineAlign)

Quite flinty, barrel-aged sauvignon blanc, buttery nearly, banana and cantaloupe. So much fruit along with the toasty-creamy barrel. Almost perfectly in balance but it’s wildness and sweet-yeasty lees cumulative turns to a bit of caramel and only accentuates the vanilla. A really cool take on the grape with exceptionally developed flavours. Drink 2018-2019.  Tasted blind at NWAC18, June 2018   triuswines  @TriusWines  @TriusWines

Not all screw cap closures are created equal

Two Sisters Sauvignon Blanc 2017, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (Winery, $34.00, WineAlign)

Excessive tightness of screw caps does not allow any kept reduction to blow off so winemaker Adam Pearce closed here with a screw cap threading just a bit less rigid. A fine detail but an important one and the only wine to receive this attention, so just a minute amount of oxygen transfer can occur. Just released 11 days ago. The big change is now a fruit vineyard blend that is 70 per cent Four Mile Creek and (30) Twenty Mile Bench. From a cool, wet and rainy season so really it’s all about the grower in a vintage where the varietal struggled with mould and mildew. Eight per cent barrel ferment was used to augment the leanness, for body and peace of mind. A bit reductive and tight with good acid structure to the peach-yellow-plum-kumquat fruit. Good linger. Delicious. Drink 2018-2021. Tasted July 2018    twosisters_vineyards  @TwoSisters_wine  Two Sisters Vineyards

Fielding Estate Gewürztraminer 2016, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (146753, $19.95, WineAlign)

Fielding’s pays respect to how gewürztraminer has to be made in Ontario with a fleshy, off-dry style though making sure to counterbalance with a fine dose of acidity. From dosage to dose it dances the do-si-so with high quality peach-litchi fruit and grapefruit acidity. If you’re in need of a white to compliment some high-octane, multi-seasoned and possibly spicy food, Fielding’s is textbook and will do the work. It’s a gewürztraminer you can trust. Drink 2018-2020.  Tasted January 2018  fielding winery  richiewine  @FieldingWinery  @RichieWine  Fielding Estate Winery

Redstone Gewürztraminer 2016, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (Winery, $21.95, WineAlign)

A sip sends a warm shiver through from a simple off-dry gewüztraminer attack more flat than round earth, trying hard to stay on the dry though the bitters and creamy fruit deliver more sweetness than what might have been intended. Some skin contact deals peach skin and those bitters while the acidity quietly abides. It’s nearly, almost and close to cloying by honey mixed in concentrate with a note of alkali. Everything lingers. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted October 2017  redstonewinery  @RedstoneWines  Redstone Winery

@mackbrisbois brought the past, the present and the future @trailestatewine to taste. Thanks Mack! Indeed, to my pleasure and my education.

Trail Estate Gewürztraminer 2016, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (Winery, $30.00, WineAlign)

Few winemakers in Ontario are as curious, aloof and serious about making gewürztraminer like this,”looking through that window, into the delicate place.” The changing of mind is so important during the process because it shows an understanding of both mistake and possibility. Mackenzie Brisbois takes a spoon of Niagara Lakeview fruit (Glen Elgin/Wismer farmed), puts it through a whole cluster press, a fermentation in old oak and then wait a minute. An about face transfer to stainless steel tank (just after a few days) because it is too reductive, but then sends it back to old wood where it remains for about nine months. Bottles back in September of 2017. The result is a gewürz that finishes dry (under 3 g/L) so delicate for a customer’s palate, with lots of lemon and lime but never searing, perfect for cold smoked or tataki prepared salmon. Bitter pith note but it dissipates, as does the acidity so keep in mind this is floral and fine. “The delicate place. The questions it raise. The delicate place yeah.” Enjoy it now and gimme fiction. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted April 2018  trailestatewine  mackbrisbois  @TrailEstateWine  @MackBrisbois  Trail Estate Winery  Mackenzie Brisbois

Trail Estate Skin Contact Gewürztraminer 2016, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (Winery, $40.00, WineAlign)

The 2016 gewürztraminer fruit is from the Werscht’s (Between the Lines) Niagara farm, super ripe at 24 brix and aromatics on steroids. It clocks in at a healthy 13.5 alcohol, after 13 days on skins and beyond. Close your eyes and the warm pungency will simulate a sensory experience, like standing inside the butterfly conservatory, with all the dessicating fruit, secretions and balmy, humid aromas wafting around. Or maybe even more exotic, like walking past stalls in a south asian market, with fruits cut open so you can see what they are, mangoseteen, marquesa, jackfruit and durian. There is great fun to be had in acidity and spice. Lush, floral and nicely funky. By now an understanding and a level of maturity to think on is as a classic Brisbois white. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted April 2018  trailestatewine  mackbrisbois  @TrailEstateWine  @MackBrisbois  Trail Estate Winery  Mackenzie Brisbois

Malivoire Viognier Stouck Vineyard 2016, VQA Lincoln Lakeshore, Ontario (Agent, $24.25, WineAlign)

From vines planted in 2010 the magic of excitable youth with just a hint of maturity has brought this block of the terrific Lincoln Lakeshore vineyard to this vintage. Warmth and ultimately ripeness have released the aromatic blessedness of viognier, which along with an unpurposed number of residual sugar will allow this to gain some further complexity with age. May just be the most varietal viognier ever produced out of Niagara but it’s obviousness as a regional example can’t be denied. It exudes confidence without even trying, is naturally oily and grippy because its acidity matches the high notes. It’s a touch boozy at 13.5 alcohol, at times metallic and at others, tropical, because that’s what viognier wants to be. It’s just a terrific effort from winemakers Shiraz Mottiar and Dan Stouck. Drink 2018-2022. Tasted February 2018  malivoire  noble_estates  @MalivoireWine  @Noble_Estates  Malivoire Wine  Noble Estates Wine & Spirits

Lakeview Cellars Viognier 2015, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (Winery, $24.95, WineAlign)

Pretty tart stuff from the get go, full of tangerine and beautifully dry. Gently pressed and kept in spirit high through the use of stainless steel tanks. Quite floral, not potpourri mind you but a fresh blossoming breath of a bouquet. Simple viognier, effectively executed and perfectly correct. Drink 2018-2019.  Tasted February 2018  lakeviewwineco  @LakeviewWineCo  @LakeviewWineCo

Redstone Viognier Redfoot Vineyard 2016, VQA Lincoln Lakeshore, Ontario (Winery, $28.95, WineAlign)

The barrel is a big time influence here, offering a combination of creamy vanilla and yet some reduction. There must be some lush viognier fruit back there somewhere but the wood is really in control. Subtle hints of varietal florals, far eastern fruit and spice linger behind the veil. Tasted blind it is the creamy texture and vanilla that makes cause for it to be considered so much like California chardonnay. Good acidity however rescues and thinks about the future. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted twice, June 2018 and then blind at NWAC18, June 2018  redstonewinery  @RedstoneWines  Redstone Winery

Calamus Estate Winery White Night 2014, VQA Ontario (484014, $13.95, WineAlign)

A very good use of vidal (85 per cent) gets an apple jolt from chardonnay in this very peach and grapefruit oriented white. It’s like fruit cocktail in a glass but drier than off-dry and quite savoury. Stage right spicy too, like clove and capsicum, in a way akin to Kiwi sauvignon blanc but in the end it’s white appellative blend in hybrid dominance, running all the way. Drink 2017-2018.  Tasted January 2017  #calamuswinery  @calamuswinery  Calamus Estate Winery

Featherstone Four Feathers 2017, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (341586, $14.95, WineAlign)

Varietal birds of four feathers (riesling, chardonnay, gewürztraminer and sauvignon blanc) flock together for a wild ride in aromatics, texture, tang and acidity. Here a notable waxiness from the gewürztraminer does oily, glück potpourri with outgoing nature and a sweet meets sour set of flavours. Runs from orchard fruit with bite into the tropical and then some bitters. Nothing simple and quite stirred. Drink 2018-2019.  Tasted April 2018  #featherstonewinery  @featherstonewne  Featherstone Estate Winery

13th Street White Palette 2016, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (207340, $15.95, WineAlign)

White Palette is at the top of its hyperbole game in 2016 with a light’s glare flooding a room of high aromatic and flavour intensity. Glade, polish, wax and major citrus all max factor the scents and smells. Lemon and caramel well through the palate and funky emissions deal in Peninsula clay with obvious earth. It’s a case of the curious and not fully expected in 2016. Worth a look nevertheless, with fresh seafood off the coals. Drink 2018-2019.  Tasted May 2018  13thstreetwinery  @13thStreetWines  13th Street Winery

Rockway Vineyards Chardonnay/Riesling 2015, VQA Twenty Mile Bench, Niagara Escarpment, Ontario (545905, $16.95, WineAlign)

The varietal get together is both convenient and seamless, in delivery of a cool climate nose and a ripeness to imagine a warmer climate palate. It’s layering is one stacked by alternating textures and walks straight ahead, simple and for the sake of nothing, but for to enjoy.  Drink 2018-2020. Tasted April 2018  rockwayvineyards  @RockwayVineyard  Rockway Vineyards

The Hare Wine Company Crown Land White 2016, VQA Niagara On The Lake, Ontario (Winery, $18.95, WineAlign)

The blend of 60 per cent gewürztraminer and (40) riesling is a lovely mix of lemon, apricot and mild barrel notes. It’s a pithy affair, mildly battered and of a soft demeanour. Fresh with fruit skin scents, a passion fruit tang and acidity that’s pretty darn close to spot on. Chewy texture, finishing strong and long. Drink 2018-2020.  Tasted February 2018  theharewineco  @TheHareWineCo  The Hare Wine Co.

Kew Vineyard Estate Marsanne 2016, VQA Beamsville Bench, Ontario (Winery, $18.95, WineAlign)

The dominant marsanne (90 per cent) is joined seamlessly by viognier in a white blend rich with barrel notes, nutty and toasty. Perhaps a touch less interesting on the palate but it’s welling with presence and persistence. Metallic and effective, with great finishing bitters. Drink 2018-2020. Tasted blind at NWAC18, June 2018  kewvineyards  @kewvineyards  @kewvineyard

Tasting at Pearl Morissette, July 2017

Pearl Morissette Cuvée Blu 2016, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (Winery, $25.00, WineAlign)

Cuvée Blu is an appellative blend like no other, amphora fermented, 100 per cent whole cluster chardonnay, with pinot gris, riesling and sauvignon blanc. The group spent three and a half (no, not a typo) months on skins, pressed and aged in foudres. I taste this and self-reflected that I would need to taste this once a day for two weeks to wrap brain, heart and imagination around its mythology. I’d also need to understand how it pushed further then just about anything and to see what would happpen, over and over, again and again, each time anew. You can drink this immediately or anytime over the next six years. What’s the difference? How can you know what to do? Self-described by the PM team as “a chameleon charmer and a poem built from the taste of colours.” Memories of a 2017 summer recall the whimsy of hues. “Yellow, orange,” smiled Svetlana Atcheva, “it might as well be blue!” Drink 2018-2024. Tasted July 2017  pearlmorissette  @PearlMorissette  Pearl Morissette

Southbrook Vidal Skin Fermented White 2016, Small Lot Natural Wine, VQA Ontario (Winery, $29.95, WineAlign)

The first time I tasted this blind (at Terroir Symposium) I noted it to be “vidal-like,” a touch oxidative, of this elegant paste or salve, with notes of green plum and just a touch of grapefruit. The second pass confirms it to be a fine vidal orange wine, with more texture than should or would be expected. It delivers lemon and tannin, plus a calculated layering of ample and enough acidity to carry it along. A fine example. Really mouth coating and so tannic. Takes what was learned from 2014 and 2015 experiments and with VQA category approval in its back pocket, begins the true journey forward. Drink 2017-2020. Tasted blind at NWAC17, June 2017 and February 2018 southbrookvineyards  thelivingvine  @SouthbrookWine  @TheLivingVine  Southbrook Vineyards  The Living Vine inc.

Stratus Vineyards Stratus White 2014, VQA Niagara Lakeshore, Ontario (660704, $38.20, WineAlign)

White assemblage under the Stratus label is not like spinning a single record, it’s like Rock ‘n Roll radio. Opening a bottle brings great excitement and anticipation, with a sense of wonder. What songs am I going to hear or more to the point, which grape varieties am I going to taste, in which percentages and in what order? In 2014 it’s a medley of chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, viognier, sémillon and gewürztraminer. The blend spent 21 months in (15 per cent) new oak. The fruits are varied and each one (or mélange of several) represented a hit in their own right. Tutti frutti, orange blossom special, little green apples, the lemon song, kiwi, peach, tangerine and forbidden fruit. In the end I heard it through the grapevine, by way of a conduit provided by great and necessary acidity. A top quality Stratus White, worthy of repeat plays. Drink 2018-2025.  Tasted twice, May and June 2018    stratuswines  @StratusWines  @StratusWines

Hidden Bench Nuit Blanche Rosomel Vineyard 2016, VQA Beamsville Bench, Ontario (Winery, $40.00, WineAlign)

It’s primarily sauvignon blanc (94 per cent) but don’t discount the effect created by sémillon. This is a really lovely barrel fermented stroll through a fresh morning glade, with ripe fruit everywhere and a perfectly pointed and lifted flinty nose. A bit reductive and fresh, as it should and absolutely must be, with hints of vanilla and caramel. Quite ambitious and serious with a focus and a precision that speaks to the acumen of a specific cru that in the end, instructs for sauvignon blanc meets sémillon education. Drink 2019-2024. Tasted blind at NWAC18, June 2018    hiddenbench  markanthonyon  @HiddenBench @MarkAnthonyWine  Hidden Bench Estate Winery  Mark Anthony Wine & Spirits

Good to Go!

Godello

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

WineAlign

Chianti Classico: Nine communes deep

Radda in Chianti

In February I travelled to Tuscany for the 2018 Anteprime. In Florence I spent two days tasting sangiovese at the Chianti Classico Collection held at Stazione Leopolda. My WineAlign colleague John Szabo M.S. and I then paid visits over the next two and a half days at Poggio di Guardia, Castello di Volpaia, Rocca di Montegrossi, Rocca di Castagnoli, Castello di Ama, Isole E Olena, Podere Poggio Scalette, San Giusto A Rentennano and Valiano. Once again I am proud to be a messenger on a subject that continues to write itself. Chianti Classico. Where the slow pace is grounded in grace and nature slowly renders an intoxication of faith. Where the exceptionality of place, experience and innovation can’t be underestimated.

Related – All in with Chianti Classico

Chianti Classico and the Gallo Nero, a symbol not only designed and enshrined to classify the wines, but to ingrain something deeper, meaningful and soulful. The Gallo Nero stamps each bottle of sangiovese with a seal of approval, for a conceit of quality.

Godello and #gallonero ~ #chianticlassico

Two years ago the Gallo Nero celebrated its 300 year anniversary. At that time the appellation’s newest and noblest expression at the top of the quality pyramid was introduced in Toronto, the Gran Selezione. In 2017 the focus was on sangiovese, the grape at the heart and centre of the Chianti Classico universe. This year the greater whole is broken down, to give due to the nine pieces of the territory’s puzzle and the villages at their core.

Chianti Classico goes nine communes deep: Barberino Val d’Elsa, Castellina in Chianti, Castelnuovo Berardenga, Gaiole in Chianti, Greve in Chianti, Poggibonsi, Radda in Chianti, San Casciano Val di Pesa and Tavarnelle Val di Pesa. Digging into these sub-zones of the territory is done with thanks to the generous work and spirit of Chianti Classico’s producers and with unwavering guidance from the Consorzio Vino Chianti Classico: President Sergio Zingarelli, Vice-Presidents Sebastiano Capponi and Giovanni Manneti, Director Carlotta Gori, who I’d like to point out is the first woman to take the helm of the Consorzio Chianti Classico, PR & Communications Manager Silvia Fiorentini and Event Manager Christine Lechner.

Il Signore del Chianti Classico

Every wine region needs ambassadors to educate in the diaspora and as you can see in this picture, the first five were chosen this past February in Firenze. This was indeed one of the great honours of my life. I’m quite sure Jeffrey Porter, Michaela Morris, Massimo Castellani and Isao Miyajima felt the same.

Chianti Classico farmers and producers have spent three hundred organized years studying their soils to arrive at an understanding that this territory is better for growing sangiovese than all of the lands beyond its borders. This is very important. We break the territory down by commune. Chianti Classico will always come first but in all of Toscana only it is possessive of such distinct communes.

The first question to raise is why do we need to discuss Chianti Classico as composed of nine communes and why are many of them (along with smaller micro-territories or sub-sub zones) establishing associations to promote their wines? To communicate who they are and what kind of wine comes out of their section of the territory. These are things we need to recognize and talk about, not necessarily along lines of geology but rather in terms of community and especially styles and characteristics of the wines. Over the past two years I’ve made four visits to Chianti Classico and tasted more than six hundred wines. I truly believe that the sangiovese changes from commune to commune. While it may be far too difficult to say that each commune has a specific set of characteristics, the sangiovese made by each producer are in fact singular and surely related to the soil within the boundaries of their commune. We tried a very interesting exercise in Florence back in February, a blind tasting called La Prova dei Nove, or “The Proof of the Nine,” to see if 100-plus journalists and sommeliers could taste the commune through the sangiovese. I was 3 for 9 and quite pleased with myself. I sat with two prominent winemakers and one of them was 1 for 9.  The conclusion? It’s really hard to taste the commune. But I’ll tell you why it’s still very important to discuss Chianti Classico as a sum of these essential parts.

ine wines, nine communes, this will be easy…not so much #blindtasting @chianticlassico #laprovadeinove so thanks @drinkeatlove now I’ll have to think about and pen another 100,000 word

Let’s create a hypothetical situation. Imagine you are the average wine consumer in Ontario. You come into the LCBO looking for an Italian red wine, a Tuscan red. You see nine bottles of Chianti Classico. Five just say that on the bottle, two add the word Riserva and two Gran Selezione. These additional label notations and the prices tell you about the difference in probable quality but the bottles are still all the same, from the same place. How do you choose? Well, if each were labeled with the nine different communes you might be curious and pick one, let’s say from Gaiole. Then after tasting it you might think to yourself, I really like the Chianti Classico from Gaiole. Now you’ve entered a whole new world of discovery, of comparisons. Some of you might say “but the consumer doesn’t even know the difference between Chianti and Chianti Classico. This just makes it harder.” The devil’s advocate would say, on the contrary, adding the commune to the label does not add confusion, it adds intrigue and raises the profile of all the communes and the wines. Like Volnay, like Pommard, like Marsannay. But Bourgogne has 84 AOCs. Chianti Classico are only nine and surely their names all refer to quality. All of them. Chianti Classico means quality. It means sangiovese. Discussing the wines in new terms like communes does not say that one is better than another or that the wines from any one are of higher quality. It simply updates the profile and raises the bar for all. Hypothetically speaking.

A coupla @chianticlassico ambassadors enjoying the moment. With Jeffrey Porter, a.k.a. @drinkeatlove

Many wine regions are defined by their soils and the fine lines that separate greatness from mediocrity. The two soil epochs of Barolo are divided by a diagonal line that runs from the northeast down to the southwest. On one side Tortonian and the other, Serravallian, both formed millions of years ago and each capable for producing different styles of nebbiolo. In Bordeaux one bank celebrates cabernet sauvignon while the other merlot and cabernet franc. In Chablis the Grand Cru and Premier Cru vineyards are specifically drawn while in greater Bourgogne the composition of the soil gradates from north to south and so that we know where pinot noir and chardonnay must be planted and for best probable results. In Montalcino we understand the differences between northern and southern vineyards but also know where you are relative to the hill of Montalcino and from which micro-climate will have a great effect on the wines.

So what about Chianti Classico? Comparing or thinking about Chianti Classico as needing to be understood like Bourgogne, Piemonte or Montalcino is not the answer. It’s not the same and never will be. Considering the communes as adding up to the whole is a step in the right direction.

The cartologist Alessandro Masnaghetti has concentrated on the parameters of each commune and drawn precise topographical maps. They are great resources for understanding where but still they don’t tell us why. Why do wines typically turn out the way they do? Remember that the crus of Chianti Classico are not farmed by multiple producers. So consider that the approach might best begin with the producer so that we don’t say this Chianti Classico from Castellina made by Rocca delle Macie tastes like this but rather, this Rocca delle Macie tastes this way and it is from Castellina, in Chianti Classico. It’s a subtle rearrangement but it must always begin with the producer.

Before we move on to the wines, one commune at a time, it should be noted that the 2017 vintage presented one of the greater challenges in recent Chianti Classico times. After the intense heat of the driest of summers it was essential that growers waited out the early September rains, followed by the beautiful and phenolic ripeness ensuring warmth of the next three weeks. “I noticed that most producers had already, inconceivably, finished harvesting by the 15th of September!!! A haste that can’t be positive.” These are the wisest of words from Rocca di Montegrossi’s Marco Ricasoli. It remains to be seen but we’ll see if Marco’s prophecy will ring true and be confirmed at Anteprime’s Chianti Classico Collection in February 2019.

These 112 reviews cover the wines I tasted at the February Chianti Classico Collection 2018 in Firenze and three subsequent days of touring through Chianti Classico.

Castellina in Chianti

Related – Castellina in golden light

Bibbiano Chianti Classico DOCG 2016, Tuscany, Italy (168286, $23.95, WineAlign)

Ripeness is the deeper virtu and virtue in Bibbiano’s ’16 and as always there is this push-pull of two terroirs. One is of fruit the other rock but both layer intersectional and complimentary. This is a breakthrough, if it may be said, an aha moment for a Bibbiano Annata, educational and exemplary. More reward will come from subsequent vintages. The block here is some firm Castellina tannin but even more so one specific to the Bibbiano plateau and angles. It’s important to wait at least a year for the pressed intensity to subside. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted February 2018  bibbianowines  lesommelierwine  @bibbianowines  @LeSommelierWine  Bibbiano Chianti Classico  Le Sommelier, Wine Agency

Bibbiano Chianti Classico Gran Selezione Vigna del Montornello DOCG 2015, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, WineAlign)

Yet another Gran Selezione that tells us how the producers intuit the difference between the category and Riserva even while the consumer is still not quite in the know. GS is deeper and represents a place or a gathering of the best fruit, not a step up in aging only, but all things gathered and put into place. This from the northern side of the estate, opposite Capannino. Montornello is the sweet and savoury, even salty of the Bibbiano GS but also the one of great strength. But it too takes the vintage and gives a little bit more, not quite a hug (sic) but certainly some earlier pleasure. All things are relative. Drink 2020-2027.  Tasted February 2018  bibbianowines  lesommelierwine  @bibbianowines  @LeSommelierWine  Bibbiano Chianti Classico  Le Sommelier, Wine Agency

Bibbiano Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG Vigna del Capannino 2015, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, WineAlign)

It should be expected that out of 2015 the Bibbiano Gran Selezione would show more fruit, less brood and for sure not near the abstruse consternation that young, more demanding vintages have shown. At least from Capannino. This is the truth in 2015 though the nature of this slope demands at least a few raises of the eyebrow and tension rising of the shoulders. Thinking about Capannino can’t happen without remembering that the fruit comes from ’58 and ’62 sangiovese grosso vines put in by Giulio Gambelli, then grafts from that material for masale propogation in 1999 and the 2000s. Tommaso Marrocchesi Marzi will figure out the nuances of these tracts of specific Castellina terroir before too long and this flat out chewy mouthful of sangiovese is the next step there. Needs three years though. Didn’t you know that already? Drink 2020-2028.  Tasted February 2018  bibbianowines  lesommelierwine  @bibbianowines  @LeSommelierWine  Bibbiano Chianti Classico  Le Sommelier, Wine Agency

Buondonno Chianti Classico DOCG 2016, Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

Gabriele Buondonno and Valeria Sodano bought the Castellina in Chianti farm known as Casavecchia alla Piazza in 1988, a plot that clearly appeared on the maps of the Capitani di Parte Guelfa in 1549 and is marked as the “place of Lionardo Buonarroti,” nephew to Michelangelo. Their Chianti Classico is 90 per cent sangiovese, plus merlot and syrah from a place Michelangelo once wrote to his uncle “I would rather have two barrels of Trebbiano than eight shirts.” Clearly pulled of of a special terroir, Buondonno’s organic Annata is pretty and purposed, with fresh tart strawberry and an intensity of acidity. It’s very long, unrelenting, showing some focus above and beyond. Drink 2019-2023.  Tasted February 2018  #buondonno  #buondonno

Castellare Di Castellina Chianti Classico DOCG 2016, Tuscany, Italy (970095, $24.95, WineAlign)

The Castellina ideal is furthered by Castelllare’s ’16, the one concerning purity and honesty from sangiovese. There is a beauty to this one, mildly mineral, tangy and tart but silky smooth without any unnecessary welling of syrupy liqueur. Lovely Annnata. Drink 2019-2023.  Tasted February 2018  #castellaredicastellina  dionysuswines  @CastellareWines  @DionysusWines  @CastellarediCastellina   @DionysusWinesTO  

Gagliole Chianti Classico DOCG Rubiolo 2015, Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

As the name might suggest, it seems this Rubiolo is a redhead and means some serious sangiovese business, with pressed, rolled and laid out red fruit, mostly berry but with an accent of (merlot dished) plum and pomegranate. The limestone here strikes as Galestro though there too is this cakey weight that only Castellina in Chianti argilo would deal. The architecture for Rubiolo is one of houses built to last. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted February 2018  anticopoderegagliole  @Gagliolewines  @Gagliole

Lornano Chianti Classico DOCG 2015, Tuscany, Italy (211599, $17.95, WineAlign)

Lornano comes out of Castellina in Chianti with such prominent perfume, grit and surprising intensity. It’s a much bigger wine than many 15s but perhaps not surprising from a Chianti Classico crafted by the agronomist and oenologist hands of Silvio Campatelli, Franco and Matteo Bernabei. Also when Nicolò Pozzoli tells you “sangiovese needs the bottle” you listen and make a note to self saying “he is correct.” This is a very early point in time to taste such a youthful and walled in Lornano. Will begin to soften in the later months of this year. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted February 2018  @LornanoWines  Frontier Wine Merchants  lornano  @lornanochianticlassico

Gallo Nero

Lornano Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG Le Bandite 2013, Tuscany, Italy (230672, $19.95, WineAlign)

Le Bandite just recently went to bottle at the same time as the Annata Classico 2015 and so the window is open just a crack. Once again it is this team of vitculturalist Silvio Campatelli with oenologists Franco and Matteo Bernabei that deliver true sangiovese value to our Ontario market. The field and cellar work offer generosity above and beyond, not to mention the patience to hold back a wine such as this for at least an extra year so that it is ready upon release. That said the structure of Lornano is sneaky firm, grippy and long, so another year (plus) in bottle will add to the gift. By now we know about the exceptionality of 2013, especially at the (extra time in wood) Riserva level, here from Castellina with spice, frutta di bosco and terra selvaggia. The wood is very much in, from a 50-50 split between barriques and botti grandi that brings layering, balance and again, so much spice. Don’t be in a rush to drink this. Savour it next decade. Drink 2020-2026.  Tasted February 2018  lornano  @LornanoWines  @lornanochianticlassico

Mazzei Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG Ser Lapo 2015, Tuscany, Italy (288530, $22.95, WineAlign)

Ser Lapo is a generous, gregarious and wealthy fruit spilling Riserva full of ripe and ropey 2015 fruit. It’s quite the chewy mouthful of sangiovese and merlot that takes no overly traditional or rustic chances. Modern, plush and international. Methinks Signore Lapo would approve. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted February 2018  marchesimazzei  profilewinegroup  @MarchesiMazzei  @ProfileWineGrp  Marchesi Mazzei – Castello di Fonterutoli  Profile Wine Group

Rocca Delle Macie Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG Famiglia Zingarelli 2015, Tuscany, Italy (930966, $23.95, WineAlign)

Takes the warmth of the vintage and turns its Famiglia Zingarelli beauty into power. Vineyards delivering higher quality fruit then ever before bring the gold out of Castellina and provide great presence and firm disposition. There is a savoury note under the liquor but all in all this is most pleasing sangiovese. Drink 2018-2022. Tasted February 2018  @roccadellemacie  @roccadellemacie  @ProfileWineGrp  Profile Wine Group  roccadellemacie

Villa Trasqua Chianti Classico DOCG 2015, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $17.95, WineAlign)

It would not be a stretch to assume and acknowledge how the powers that be at Villa Trasqua are almost certainly and perfectly happy and proud of this effort from 2015. Fruit from Nerento and surrounding rolling Castellina in Chianti hills came out as ripe, crisp and clean as it ever has. The level of quality runs high and while the stylistic is certainly a come and get me one, the sneaky level of structure will get you in the end. A coup of an Annata here from the brothers Hulsbergen. Drink 2019-2023. Tasted February 2018     @tenutavillatrasqua  @HULSI_II  Frontier Wine Merchants  villatrasqua

Cena @chianticlassico #ccc2018 @stazione_leopolda

Castelnuovo Berardenga

Related – Into the Castelnuovo Berardenga great wide open

Cantine Bonacchi Chianti Classico DOCG 2016, Tuscany, Italy (AgentWineAlign)

Deeply pressed full fruit, dark black cherry sangiovese with high level acidity and plenty of minty savour. A many and all things going on Annata from Castelnuovo Berardenga with a heat streak running in early and lingering. Might settle in a year. Drink 2019-2021.  Tasted February 2018   #cantinebonacchi  @TheCaseForWine  Cantine Bonacchi

Borgo Scopeto Chianti Classico DOCG 2015, Tuscany, Italy (23325, $16.95, WineAlign)

The early and often persistence of pressed ripe and ready fruit sits floating at the fore of this glass. Value is acquiesced with great immediacy so look to see this on the market as soon as any from Castelnuovo Berardenga and indeed in the entire territory. No time is wasted nor fruit held back with quick to chime acidity and a dusty, slightly chalky finish. Drink 2018-2019.  Tasted February 2018  borgoscopetorelais  @BorgoScopeto  @rubenelmer  Borgo Scopeto  Ruben Elmer

Castell’in Villa Chianti Classico DOCG 2013, Tuscany, Italy (SAQ, 908228, $21.80, WineAlign)

Castell’In Villa’s is a beautifully rendered and now beginning to evolve Castelnuovo Berardenga sangiovese from the vintage that increasingly generates an opinion that 2013 is indeed a highly enjoyable vintage. Sweet developed fruit and spice, a bit of smoulder and a long, elastic, stretched like fior di latte finish. Drink 2018-2023.  Tasted February 2018  Castell In Villa  Les Importations Olea inc.  marino_castellinvillarestauran

Castello Di Bossi C. Berardenga Chianti Classico DOCG 2015, Tuscany, Italy (994608, $22.95, WineAlign)

Once again the concept of the single-monlithic sangiovese sensation is squashed and trashed by yet another twisting turn and dart into something completely other. Bossi’s carries an aroma new and exotic, of incense and peppermint, cola and coffee bean. Its texture is quite exquisite, the flavours into a purée, spiked by laurel and its bay. As smooth on its exit as it was on the way in. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted February 2018  #castellodibossi  oeno2  #CastellodiBossi  @oenophilia1  @CastellodiBossi  Connexion Oenophilia

Dievole Chianti Classico DOCG 2016, Tuscany, Italy (283101, $23.95, WineAlign)

The Dievole Annata stands out for 2016 with the sweetest noted fruit, bright, ripe and pulsating. Wow and oh my has this got a bounce in its step. While certainly tart and intense it’s possessive of more pure joy than many, easily avoiding the trappings of over-extraction and over-pressing. Some may find this too electric but what reason could there be not to get excited by such an abundance of sangiovese energy? Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted February 2018  @dievole  profilewinegroup  @Dievole  @ProfileWineGrp  dievole  Profile Wine Group

Fèlsina Berardenga Chianti Classico DOCG 2016, Tuscany, Italy (730788, $36.99, WineAlign)

From the great wide Berardenga open Fèlsina’s is just the Annata to tell us how these snowflakes are all just a bit different from one another, each with a new vintage, redefined temper, starting from singular points of soil interest. The greatest purity and unbridled joy in Chianti Classico sangiovese is found in the young Annata and it is Fèlsina’s that tells a full story. The curative wisdom and variegated stratum as told by thick as thieves though stretched and elastic fruit is just amazing. Drink 2019-2026.  Tasted February 2018  felsina_wines  liffordgram  @felsinawines  @LiffordON  Felsina  Lifford Wine and Spirits

Losi Querciavalle Chianti Classico DOCG 2013, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $19.95, WineAlign)

Though Querciavalle holds their Annata back longer than almost any this ’13 remains or should say persists so taut and coiled reductive, though it is so close to opening up. The earth runs through, now composted and integrated with juicy fruit. There is a special liquidity vis a vis this gathering of fruit, soil and acidity though now the tannins have melted and joined the mix. It may as well be Riserva, not technically, but certainly in spirit. Concentrate on the texture and you will feel the generational pull, thread and wisdom in the Losi sangiovese. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted February 2018  valerialosi  @Valerialosi  @NaturalVines  @marzia_gallo   @famiglialosi  Valeria Losi  Marzia Gallo

Losi Querciavalle Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2012, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $24.95, WineAlign)

Were you to Google traditional + Chianti Classico + Castelnuovo Berardenga you would likely land on a Losi Querciavalle page. Family values and the sharing forward of generational knowledge happens at this estate with the greatest of innate and intuitive possibility. In a world of climate change and extremes it becomes increasingly difficult to fashion consistency from sangiovese. The winter of 2012 was followed by the dry heat of summer oft times leading to dehydrated and concentrated fruit. And yet Losi’s strong and firm Riserva has found the beauty in this well of sangiovese liquor, first with “benevolenza” and then by “graziosità.” The fruit is sweet against the wall of acidity and tannin so with thanks to the family’s patience is now in synch together. Drink 2018-2023.  Tasted February 2018  valerialosi  @Valerialosi  @NaturalVines  @marzia_gallo   @famiglialosi  Valeria Losi  Marzia Gallo

Fattoria Di Petroio Chianti Classico DOCG 2015, Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

From Quercegrossa, carries some baggage, weighted down in reductive tendency so that structure can develop for longer than other sangiovese Annata. Dark raven-streaked fruit commits to the density and the corporeal purpose. A microbe or three of volatile acidity props and distributes tension so balance has its parts if just a hair or two in asymmetrical stride. Not the most definitive Chianti Classico for Castelnuovo Berardenga. Drink 2019-2021.  Tasted February 2018  fattoriapetroio  @diana_petroio  Fattoria di Petroio

San Felice Chianti Classico DOCG 2016, Tuscany, Italy (282996, $19.95, WineAlign)

Particularly standard and middle road taken sangiovese, expressive of ripe annata 2016 fruit, tart and pressed to weight. Filled in and ready for the earliest enjoyment is clearly the intent, from fruit taken full advantage and tannin kept to a minimum. Just a touch of verdant berry intertwine is noted. Drink 2018-2020.  Tasted February 2018  borgosanfelice  #BorgoSanFelice  Borgo San Felice

San Felice Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG Il Grigio 2015, Tuscany, Italy (403477, $48.95, WineAlign)

Il Grigio di San Felice shows terrific red and black fruit marking the aromatic entry in a Gran Selezione of power and beauty. Very distinguished vintage with chalky tannins though not the acidity of some, it works the balance of this particular Castelnuovo Berardenga room. Drink 2019-2027.  Tasted February 2018  borgosanfelice  #BorgoSanFelice  Borgo San Felice

Tolaini Chianti Classico DOCG Vallenuova 2016, Tuscany, Italy (AgentWineAlign)

Vallenuova is crunchy sangiovese, closed and airtight. Dusty wild cherry nose but not much else save for a brush past a rosemary bush. Drink 2018-2020.  Tasted February 2018  tolainiwine  breakthrubevcanada  @TolainiWines  @BreakthruBevCAN  Tolaini Wine  Breakthru Beverage: Canada

My beloved Sommelier and me #CCC2018

Valiano Chianti Classico DOCG 2015, Tuscany, Italy (354019, $19.95, WineAlign)

From the Piccini family this Valiano Chianti Classico is give or take 90 per cent sangiovese and 10 per cent merlot, from rolling Castelnuovo Berardenga terroir, in the spot just west of the Gaiole peinsula and just below Radda. The soils are argilo, calcareous clay with 70 hectares in over 30 plots of (now organic) total production. An aromatic profile that is perfumed, not exactly floral but more an extract of eau de vivre and then a seriously polished texture and flavour. The wood is very much involved, in spicy notes up front and deep set in the back. A really solid and in its finest moments, sexy Annata. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted February 2018  picciniwines  @PicciniWinesUK  PICCINI WINES

Valiano Chianti Classico DOCG Poggio Teo 2013, Tuscany, Italy (354019, $19.95, WineAlign)

Poggio Teo is a Castelnouvo Berardenga cru up on the hill and a selection of grapes are made for this separate Annata wine. A very similar profile, especially in perfume, with an essential oiliness adding to the eau di vive, pretty, pulchritudinous and concentrated. Another rich rendition, as modern and forthright as it gets, with tart and spicy acidity and easy going tannins. Chewy and longer finish, deep, dark and handsome for 2013. Much more Tuscan, territorial and parochial. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted February 2018  picciniwines  @PicciniWinesUK  PICCINI WINES

Valiano Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG 6.38 2013, Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

Valiano’s is a single-vineyard Gran Selezione with 6.38 a reference to the coordinates of that vineyard, not the hour the workers wake up to prune, pluck and pick in the vineyards. An extension in hyperbole from and connected to the lineage of the Annata, but more like a 2013 than the Teo, with salumi and ropey, red citrus edging on the dark fruit. Smoky and it is the merlot always bringing the fat round curves but also spice and cake, especially when small barriques are involved. Would not refer to this as elegant in terms of Gran Selezione but the fruit carries more than a full amount of purpose. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted February 2018  picciniwines  @PicciniWinesUK  PICCINI WINES

Villa Di Geggiano Chianti Classico DOCG 2015, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $35.95, WineAlign)

Geggiano’s particular corner of Castelnuovo Berardenga delivers the gift of calm and collected, deeply fruity and sneaky, streaky, stony sangiovese. It gets neither more subtle nor more appreciable than these wines and in 2015 there is warmth indeed but also a cool sliver of mineral truth. This Chianti Classico does not guess at its ways and intentions, it commits to them with implicit and intuitive, life affirming strength. Great length, really great length. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted February 2018  villa_di_geggiano  andreaboscu  barrelselect  @VilladiGeggiano  @BarrelSelect  @VilladiGeggiano  @barrelselectinc

Monti in Chianti

Gaiole in Chianti

Related – Because the night in Gaiole

Barone Ricasoli Chianti Classico Docg Brolio Bettino 2015, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $32.95, WineAlign)

This second CC Brolio label carries the name of Bettino Ricasoli, inventor of the Chianti formula in 1872. The 2015 edition of the Iron Baron’s Chianti Classico is indubitably vintage driven with far softer feelings and expressions than we last saw in the grippy 2013. After tasting through a pile of such fresh, firm and intense ‘16s this first nose of ’15 is almost an apposite shock. So bloody different in fact the first thought is hematic as opposed to the ferric nature of the ’16s. The 2015 sangiovese are the blood of the decade, the lifeline, life-affirming and life giving Chianti Classico. Brolio’s Bettino is a pure and exemplary one to talk of such things. It delivers fruit and the defined nature of acidity that is a multi-purposed Annata drawn from a gathering off of multiple and variegated types of aisle in Chianti soils. Perfectly ready and in the zone. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted February 2018  francescoricasoli  churchillcellars  @barone_ricasoli  @imbibersreport   Ricasoli 1141  Churchill Cellars Ltd.

Barone Ricasoli Chianti Classico Riserva Docg Rocca Guicciarda 2015, Tuscany, Italy (943613, $24.95, WineAlign)

Not that recent vintages were not appealing for the Rocca Guicciarda Riserva but why would 2015 not be the bomb for this ready to go edition? The fruit is at its selected best, with no shortage of phenolic ripeness and flavour compounds. It’s a multitude of berries that make this drink with such early pleasure so make use of this Gaiole in Chianti sangiovese while the more curious and challenging ’13s and ‘14s take their time in getting where they need to go. Drink 2018-2021. Tasted May 2018  francescoricasoli  churchillcellars  @barone_ricasoli  @imbibersreport   Ricasoli 1141  Churchill Cellars Ltd.

Cantalici Chianti Classico DOCG Baruffo 2015, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $24.95, WineAlign)

Here comes the sort of Chianti Classico of swagger and charming, parochial Gaiole in Chianti character. It’s tacky, meaning it zigs and zags with travels from aromas through flavours. It’s also extremely bright like being blinded by too much sun on a beach day. There is great fruit in this Barrufo 2015, perhaps a shade too deep into adornment but who can deny the utter deliciousness? Really chewy and gastronomic sangiovese at the end of the day. Drink 2018-2020.  Tasted February 2018  __cantalici_winery__  @wineCantalici  Cantalici  Carlo Cantalici  Angela Butini  

Castello di Ama Chianti Classico DOCG 2016, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $34.95, WineAlign)

In this new era where modern parlance includes Gran Selezione this next stop on the road for Ama continues with the seventh vintage of the Château-expressionist bottling. Ama is, as it is known, like Prince or Bono, a really rich and full ’16, a brick house of sangiovese, liquid clay streaked by chalky liquidity. It’s might is mighty borne and bred, taking the season’s gifts and letting it all hang out. Quite substantial for 2016 and for Annata CC as a category. Impressive for its concentration and the balance managed considering the collected ambition. Acumen is to be lauded. Tells us that these Gaiole vineyards are some of the finest in the territory. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted February 2018  castellodiama  halpernwine  @CastellodiAma  @HalpernWine  @castellodiama  @halpernwine

Castello di Ama Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG San Lorenzo 2015, Tuscany, Italy (418897, $48.95, WineAlign)

Though not technically a single-vineyard wine the fruit source depends highly on this portion of the Gaiole in Chianti estate. As a blend of all the best plots of the property from a vintage with both La Casuccia or Bellavista having been produced it is truly fortunate that nature gifted so much promising fruit so that the right stuff could find its way into San Lorenzo. It is Gran Selezione of great history and no vintage has been as generous as this ’15. It’s accessibility above and beyond the category is astounding, probably because it shares the finest and sweetest acidities plus tannins. The plural is employed because the complexities are varied and variegated. Wonderful red fruit and seamless integration. Drink 2020-2027.  Tasted February 2018  castellodiama  halpernwine  @CastellodiAma  @HalpernWine  @castellodiama  @halpernwine

Castello di Ama Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG Vigneto Bellavista 2015, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $242.59, WineAlign)

There was no Vigneto Bellavista produced in 2014 and while the über-specific Bellavista Vineyard Gran Selezione is polar-antithetical to San Lorenzo you can’t help but feel the tiro di famiglia and shared connection to the past. What is contrapositive is the Bellavista modern twist, I suppose, less about acidities and tannin, more about fruit and barrel. Spices, baking scents and bricks combine with black fruit for a hematic and ferric take on Gran Selezione. It’s a big wine with firm grip to be sure and it feels like we don’t yet belong in its space. At this stage we are like The Observer, with a telescopic lens into the vineyard as per the Ilya & Emilia Kabakov installation at Ama. We and Bellavista will need five years to get comfortable and to incorporate the integration of weight and charm. Drink 2022-2031. Tasted February 2018  castellodiama  halpernwine  @CastellodiAma  @HalpernWine  @castellodiama  @halpernwine

I Sodi Chianti Classico DOCG 2015, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, 435123, WineAlign)

I Sodi is dusty, high-toned, bright acid covered and tart red fruit sangiovese, more house-styled than either Gaiole or vintage, or so it would seem. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted February 2018  Agriturismo Le Trappoline – Azienda Agricola I Sodi

Rocca Di Castagnoli Chianti Classico Riserva Docg Poggio A Frati 2013, Tuscany, Italy (23358, $32.95, WineAlign)

Poggio A Frati ’13 is 95 per cent sangiovese plus canaiolo, “just to keep the traditional blend, but without any true impact,” says Angelo Dalbello. The Riserva comes from schisty Alberese soil at Poggio Fratti, the hills of the friars. A 12-hectare plot that shines in 2013, a Riserva vintage through and through, in how you may think it rustic though it’s clearly more complex than the Annata in every way and ultimately spinning the Gaiole sapidity. Aged for one year in tonneaux plus an extra year in bottle. No barriques. I repeat, no barriques. The aroma dominance is wild strawberry and then it gives woods, wind and air. The spice is red citrus piqued and the tart edging like a fence around the fruit. A pure and honest, ode to all that led to this moment Riserva for Gaiole. Truly a sangiovese expression of terroir. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted February 2018  roccadicastagnoli  profilewinegroup  @Roccacastagnoli  @ProfileWineGrp  Rocca di Castagnoli  Profile Wine Group

Tomorrow I’ll be presenting @chianticlassico to trade and media in Toronto so naturally I went to Barrie and bought the last two @roccadicastagnoli Stielle left in the province ~ #gaiole

Rocca Di Castagnoli Chianti Classico Gran Selezione Stielle 2013, Docg Tuscany, Italy (459529, $45.95, WineAlign)

From a vineyard that records indicate was planted as far back as 970, Stielle is built upon a foundation of more Galestro soil. Why? As a factor of that soil and probably because it could ripen. This ’13 was fermented by 100 per cent whole bunch, not common for sangiovese, but the high acidity, from high elevation and this soil, led to making such a decision. Not as rich and smooth (or perhaps firm and brooding) in youth as compared to let’s say Chianti Classico in Castellina or Castelnuovo Berardenga but the acidity and sapidity will deliver the velvet with the passage of time, in a way, more like Radda.  Last tasted February 2018

Le Stielle in 2013 and its just faint hint of high acidity mixed and boxed with volatility is just on the most correct side of ripe meets structured life. When Gran Selzione gains such a cherry and fine salty mineral meeting of the structured minds it’s a special thing indeed. This is a fine GS with precision and understated, refined and capable power. Really fine, even just firm enough to deliver 10-15 years of slow developed 100 per cent sangiovese expression. Drink 2019-2028.  Tasted September 2017  roccadicastagnoli  profilewinegroup  @Roccacastagnoli  @ProfileWineGrp  Rocca di Castagnoli  Profile Wine Group

San Marcellino texture and acidity in the #roccadimontegrossi clay and Galestro of Monti in Chianti.

Rocca di Montegrossi Chianti Classico DOCG 2016, Tuscany Italy (Agent, $29.99, WineAlign)

The Chianti Classico 2016 was bottled just three months ago (in November) and is quite consistent to 2015 though at this stage not as gentle and in a way, deeper hued and fruit compressed. The structure follows the thread, always carrying the colour and depth of these Gaiole vineyards, from great thick clay and fantastic, friable Galestro. It’s a very specific grain of texture and tannin, chalky but chewy. This has just a great kick, swagger and confidence, mainly due to the exceptional fineness of acidity. It challenges, tempers and is quicker to integrate that grainy tannin so that more elegance is derived. Such a cool, sapid and structured mouthful. Fantastic Chianti Classico. Drink 2018-2024.  Tasted February 2018  #roccadimontegrossi  vinoallegrobc  devonmasciangelo  #roccadimontegrossi  @VinoAllegro @VinoAllegroBC  @RoccadiMontegrossi  Vino Allegro BC  Devon Masciangelo

Rocca Di Montegrossi Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG Vigneto San Marcellino 2013, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $63.49, WineAlign)

The first vintage as a Gran Selezione was 2010, before having been labeled as Chianti Classico Vigneto San Marcellino. It was never referred to as a Riserva and so the switch to GS was a matter of celebrating vineyard and especially a pronouncement of aging (minimum 50 months barrel plus bottle). Even now six more months in bottle has altered the texture, integrated the grain and added to the cool sapidity. Great acidity from the vintage in my opinion that makes the greatest strides with the longer aging period.  Last tasted February 2018

Marco Ricasoli-Firidolfi’s Gran Selezione boasts more than its share of Chianti Classico history and epochal location in its DNA. Legend dates back to 1039 for Azzi di Geremia Ricasoli and just as far back for the 1000 year-old Pieve San Marcellino. The vineyard gains more archetypal status with each turn of the calendar and the use of just a little bit of endemic pugnitello is awarded the singular varietal assist for Gaiole. With the 2013 vintage well tucked into the back pocket of this iconic Gran Selezione there is this sense of calm and refined, controlled intensity that just begs to get out, but the tannin and rigid structure have it well sealed in. This is what happens when the best fruit and a near perfect vintage come together. It’s fineness of tannin takes on great responsibility and it can do nothing but be a match to the task. Rocca di Montegrossi’s single entity Vigneto San Marcellino is sangiovese of density, intensity and power. It is assuredly one of the finest examples of the vintage. Drink 2020-2030.  Tasted September 2017  #roccadimontegrossi  vinoallegrobc  devonmasciangelo  #roccadimontegrossi  @VinoAllegro @VinoAllegroBC  @RoccadiMontegrossi  Vino Allegro BC  Devon Masciangelo

John Szabo and Luca Martini di Cigala

San Giusto A Rentennano Chianti Classico DOCG 2005, Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

Age is apparent on the nose of Luca Martini di Cigala’s Chianti Classico 2005, if hardly whatsoever in the comparative hues of a showing side by side with 2015. This Annata wisps with a smoulder while fruit remains fresh and alive, as if released only yesterday, not 13 years ago. Was a warm year 2005 so this is even more remarkable. A suggestion of truffle and balsamic may be there but you have to concentrate hard to notice so it’s more conceptual than a verified reality. Liquid chalk from what should have been a perfect vintage though rains at harvest diminished the hope and yet how great is this? Seems more Alberese affected than the 2015, that and the hanging tree fruit flavours of dried carob and bokser. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted February 2018  #sangiustoarentennano    #sangiustoarentennano

San Giusto A Rentennano Chianti Classico Riserva Le Baròncole 2004, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

Luca Martini di Cigala pours ’04 side by side with the next grossly undervalued vintage. First a re-taste of the very perfumed La Baròncole 2014, from the underestimated vintage that should not be so. With a texture that is San Giusto, if possibly also Gaiole meets a border with Castelnuovo. Then onto Chianti Classico Riserva 2004, from a late harvest, finishing the pick on the 15th or 16th of October, really late for the area. Great acidity is so persistent even if there seems to be some more complex progression as compared to the ’05 Annata, but that is the nature of Riserva, with more dried fruit and savoury-liquorice secondary notes. More spice too, both baking and tobacco and so it is a deeply hematic and plush hyperbole of the younger versions of itself. I imagine this to be in the waning years of its life and soon, perhaps two years from now will mellow and soften into the downy moments it will seek and find. In the meantime, just like its ten years forward sibling, tart never had it this good and linger it does for a decade in your mouth. Do you have to let it linger? The cranberry acidity won’t give you a choice and even if you feel used, it may just hang around there forever. Drink 2018-2026.  Tasted May 2018  #sangiustoarentennano    #sangiustoarentennano

Greve in Chianti

Related – A river runs through Greve

Carpineto Chianti Classico DOCG 2016, Tuscany, Italy (356048, $19.95, WineAlign)

Much further along the road to expression is the way I’d have to announce the immediacy from Carpineto’s quick to gratify Annata ’16. The fruit aches to be pounced upon and used as quickly as you can make this happen. And yet there is a moment of microbial grounding to keep it honest and traditional. In the end it’s a really full and gregarious expression for sangiovese with true red limestone liquidity. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted February 2018  carpinetowines  univinscanada  @CarpinetoWines  @UNIVINS  Carpineto Wines  @agence.UNIVINS  

Castello di Querceto Chianti Classico DOCG 2016, Tuscany, Italy (680496, $24.95, WineAlign)

Castello di Querceto’s Greve in Chianti 2016 is perfumed by just a lovely fresh fruit nose, a mixed bowl of berries, juices yet running, plump, swelling, dusty and sanguine. Certainly on the riper end of the spectrum and with a finishing moment of bitters. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted February 2018  castellodiquerceto  profilewinegroup  @CastQuerceto  @ProfileWineGrp  Castello di Querceto  Profile Wine Group

Castello di Querceto Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2014, Tuscany, Italy (650754, $28.95, WineAlign)

Still reluctant at this three-plus year mark it is the challenging vintage that really speaks and tells us that patience is needed for longevity and understanding. A depth of dark, liquorice-black cherry meets Cassis gathering suggests cabernet sauvignon adds strength in fruit to savoury 2014 sangiovese dominance. Time will tell just what will come from this formidable Riserva. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted February 2018  castellodiquerceto  profilewinegroup  @CastQuerceto  @ProfileWineGrp  Castello di Querceto  Profile Wine Group

Tenuta di Nozzole Chianti Classico DOCG Nozzole 2016, Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

From the Greve in Chianti project of Ambrogio Folonari and son Giovanni, Nozzole’s Chianti Classico is immediately wild strawberry noted, a pretty, pretty wine, ripe and balanced. Such a persistent sangiovese with nice focus, knows what it needs and wants to be. Drink 2019-2023.  Tasted February 2018  folonaritenute  @FolonariTenute  Ambrogio e Giovanni Folonari Tenute

Vicchiomaggio Chianti Classico DOCG San Jacopo 2016, Tuscany, Italy (710194, $19.95, WineAlign)

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  castellovicchiomaggio  @vicchiomaggio  @SignatureWS1  Castello Vicchiomaggio

Vicchiomaggio Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG Agostino Petri 2015, Tuscany, Italy (993360, $29.95, WineAlign)

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  castellovicchiomaggio  @vicchiomaggio  @SignatureWS1  Castello Vicchiomaggio

Vignamaggio Chianti Classico DOCG Terre di Prenzano 2016, Tuscany, Italy (AgentWineAlign)

The single block Terre di Prenzano out of Greve is a particularly expressive aromatic ocean, with a tidal flow of dusty, edgy florals and fruit replete with waves of sweet acidity and candied tannin. This is a departure, welcome and exciting. Few Chianti Classico pulse with such activity and locomotion this early, especially for the vintage. So much promise avows and abounds. Really like the direction Vignamaggio is heading. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted February 2018  vignamaggio  #hhdimports  @vignamaggio  @HHDImports_Wine  Vignamaggio  vignamaggio

Vignamaggio Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG Gherardino 2016, Tuscany, Italy (AgentWineAlign)

Gherardino is Greve in Chianti old school, in a way, with dried fruit, potpourri and a wealth of fennel-liquorice savour. Spice notes are very prevalent, as is the idea that in three years or so this will turn over into balsamico, porcini and tartufo. Wise and traditional Riserva. Drink 2018-2023.  Tasted February 2018  vignamaggio  #hhdimports  @vignamaggio  @HHDImports_Wine  Vignamaggio  vignamaggio

Chianti Classico Collection 2018

Lamole

Fontodi Chianti Classico DOCG Filetta di Lamole 2015, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $36.95, WineAlign)

Lamole, though still wild west and yet underdeveloped is clearly the next important Chianti Classico sub-sub-zone terroir. With so much untapped potential it is Giovanni Manetti’s of Fontodi that speaks the earliest, clearest truth about such capabilities. Not that we want to see too quick an exploit of this unique micro-climate and geological wonder but the insatiable thirst of curiosity begs to know. What earth gets into, inside and beneath this sub-strata is dramatic and so bloody personal. It’s a thing of forest floor, rock interface, space and sky, all encompassing, with the filtered, dappled light of sangiovese all pervasive and ethereal. Great chalk and dust particles visible to the naked eye in those streaks of lightning acidity and fine tannin swirl to lightness of being. Though 2014 is a sangiovese of great brood, flavour and commercial appeal, now there is greater potential. This ’15 is perhaps the first Fontodi of Lamole that has crossed into the true reality of the territory. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted February 2018  #Fontodi  rogersandcompanywines    @rogcowines  Az. Agr. Fontodi  #fontodi

I Fabbri Chianti Classico DOCG Terra di Lamole 2016, Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

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  ifabbriclassico  @IFabbriLamole  I Fabbri

I Fabbri Chianti Classico DOCG Terra di Lamole 2015, Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

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  ifabbriclassico  @IFabbriLamole  I Fabbri

Lamole Di Lamole Chianti Classico DOCG Blue Label 2015, Tuscany, Italy, (476317, $23.95, WineAlign)

From the Lamole sub-section of Greve in Chianti this is 80 per cent sangiovese plus 10 each cabernet and merlot, the latter raised in barriques. A minimum of 22 months is total, this is found to be quite the jammy Annata, surely vintage driven from out of the higher altitude diurnal temperature swings in Lamole. A wine of typicality for the territory and certainly pressed and expressed for immediate gratification. Really plum-fruit fleshy with notable wood spice, especially on the international varieties. Moves into and finishes with dark and stormy tannins in a controlled weather pattern. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted February 2018  lamoledilamole  philippedandurandwines  @LamoleDiLamole  @lamolewines  @Dandurandwines  Lamole di Lamole  Vins Philippe Dandurand Wines

Lamole Di Lamole Chianti Classico DOCG Etichetta Bianco 2015, Tuscany, Italy, (Agent, $23.95, WineAlign)

The second of two Chianti Classico Annata is the Etichetta Bianca, which unlike the Blue Label bottle spends six months in steel, followed by six in big oak casks. Once again offers the Lamole perspective with a glimpse into the limestone, schist and altitude potential of the zone. The absence of barrique aging means the (80 per cent) sangiovese stands out and works with the earth, though here in more ochre, lower hanging, warmer tones. There would seem to be a high percentage of clay from lower hill sites on this fruit because the acidity is subdued and the fruit darker in flavour, though not because of wood. It is a delicious glass of sangiovese regardless and presents yet another moment to talk about sub-sub-zone potential. Drink 2018-2020.  Tasted February 2018  lamoledilamole  philippedandurandwines  @LamoleDiLamole  @lamolewines  @Dandurandwines  Lamole di Lamole  Vins Philippe Dandurand

Lamole Di Lamole Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG Etichetta Grigia 2014, Tuscany, Italy, (280651, $28.95, WineAlign)

Winemaker Andrea Daldin is very proud of his work in 2014, the challenge as great as ever, but he’s sure he’s done great work. A vendemmia ultra-selezionale. Andrea came back from holiday in late August and removed all the foliage to open up the bunches to whatever sun might come and in September it did. Three passages were performed to seek out stages of phenolic ripeness and the sorting table really came in handy on this work. It’s 85 per cent sangiovese and 15 per cent canaiolo, “to bring more typicity for the area.” Here is a deep and rich, generous and extremely carefully curated (grey label) Riserva, OCD style, with no albarese, galestro or macigno stone left unturned. It’s a very pretty nose, elevation and all angles curved, holes filled and everything made whole in Riserva style. Quite ferric and serious, there is some tart astringency at the finish, a sign of vintage and youth but this too shall pass. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted February 2018  lamoledilamole  philippedandurandwines  @LamoleDiLamole  @lamolewines  @Dandurandwines  Lamole di Lamole  Vins Philippe Dandurand