16 mind-blowing wines of 2016

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This may or may not have happened #raveneau #memory #monteedetonnerre

It has never been this difficult to narrow it down. This frenetic, fast and forward moving blur of a year has blistered the patterns of thought so much so that I seriously considered throwing the whole 16 in 16 down the drain and laying it all out there. “Here are the 42 mind-blowing wines of 2016…” and then this wave of clarity came over me like a cloudless afternoon in Chablis. I mean I tasted 50-plus Grand Cru Chablis this year. They could all be on this list.

I meant this just the way I wrote it. The simplicity of wine is a beautiful thing. A vine grows and produces grapes. That fruit is picked and ferments itself with help from yeast it just happens to carry in its luggage. Time passes and wine is made. No one had to invent it. The most basic example of shit happens.

Related – 15 Mind blowing wines of 2015

As if to presumptuously bookend 2016 before it even began, that first post was apropos. New year, 16 new VINTAGES releases were not mind-blowing by any stretch of the waxing rhapsodic imagination but white space was filled. Like growing grapes in warm climates where just about anything can complete a phenolic journey, the possibilities are endless. So that I may feel comfortable quoting Godello again and again, multeity is the name of the game.

Related – Around the Cape in 50 wines

South Africa continued to occupy Godello for the early part of 2016 and that will never cease and desist. Hosting Andrea Mullineux at Barque Butcher Bar was one of the true highlights of the year. 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 in previous articles, 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.

A new riesling on my radar was released in February. Creekside Estate Riesling Marianne Hill Vineyard 2014, Beamsville Bench, Ontario (443572, $19.95, WineAlign) and it paired beautifully with more foreshadowing than I’d like to admit.

Such a showing of 12 from Langton's does @Wine_Australia proud. Formidable, exemplary #AussieWine #vintagewineconservatory

Such a showing of 12 from Langton’s does @Wine_Australia proud. Formidable, exemplary #AussieWine #vintagewineconservatory

The Langton’s Classification: Excellent, outstanding, exceptional could have, would have placed 16 wines on this best of list were the rest of the planet not so adept at making wine. Like Wynns Coonawarra Estate John Riddoch Cabernet Sauvignon Limited Release 2010, Coonawarra, South Australia (466748, $99.95, WineAlign). Such a gathering of Australian wine delivers the preponderance of form, with the incantatory capacity of narrative to bring truth to light and fulness out of pleasure. The mantra repeated with Savouring the new Australia.

The #napavalley mustard is something else @CalifWines_CA #napa #califwine

The #napavalley mustard is something else @CalifWines_CA #napa #califwine

California stars showed up in droves and like any high quality engrossing preoccupation, the trip to Napa and Sonoma this year changed everything. Whatever I thought I knew or felt about the California wine industry now needs to be rewritten. First, Napa Valley: Where ripeness happens, then Napa Valley two: A question of ageNapa Valley: The next generationChardonnay in the Napa luxurySonoma gaps and single vineyardsSeven Grothic tales and Old vines for the Zin.

Vintage to vintage nuance and the common thread of %22grothiness,%22 or, @GrothWines in essence @TheVine_RobGroh #suzannegroth #napavalley #oakville #cabernetsauvignon

Vintage to vintage nuance and the common thread of grothiness, or, @GrothWines in essence @TheVine_RobGroh #suzannegroth #napavalley #oakville #cabernetsauvignon

The most pertinent question now in my mind is this. Can European wine keep up with the fictionality of North American reality? Even these wines could not make this list, however great and exceptional they are. Anakota Helena Montana Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2013, California (181131, $158.95, WineAlign), Forman Cabernet Sauvignon 2012, Napa Valley, California (143925, $160.00, WineAlign) and Groth Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 1997, Oakville, Napa Valley, California (Agent, $179.95, WineAlign). Sometimes the answer still persists. All in the Primum Familiae Vini. And by the way, The LCBO keeps Kosher.

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Much of what I taste is in a lab with no windows. That is because VINTAGES is a mimetic project, which is a few projects too many. We wine trackers and writers are akin to Cricetinae, perpetually running in a wheel or like Sisyphus, forced to roll an immense boulder up a hill, only to watch it roll back down. We read the bi-weekly catalogue, pre-taste the newest offerings, make our lists and check them twice. In every batch there are 10-15 wines that stand out, as much about bell curve positioning as absence of singularity. That is why attending varietal-centric events like The dawning of the age of Austrian wine and travelling the world is so important. Not too mention in my dining room In the Campania of Vini Alois.

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To name a few excursions, I visited California in February, Vinho Verde in March, Chianti Classico in May, Chablis in July and Valpolicella in September. November in Paris I re-connected with Earth and sky. The take aways were extraordinary and flush with the relish of new discoveries and brand new days. Who can forget Ca’ La Bionda Vigneti Di Ravazzol Amarone Della Valpolicella Classico 1997? Italy in the fall reminded me that Franciacorta is the best kept sparkling secret on the planet. November is a sublime time to visit the province of Brescia and the cellars of Franciacorta. Meraviglioso! Meanwhile, Champagne has to be on the list, right? Lallier Cuvée Millésime Grand Cru Brut Champagne 2008, Champagne, France (Agent, $95.00, WineAlign) should be but again, space restrictions and there was this old bubble from the New World. Decisions, decisions.

Related – March of the Canadians

Which brings me back to Canadian and more parochioally, Ontario wine. The Canadian wine renaissance is attributed to high-end, artisan winemakers like Norman Hardie and Thomas Bachelder. That’s the cool factor. The truth of the matter is that Canadian winemakers have realized and capitalized on the significance and exceptionality of their terroirs in regions such as Niagara, Prince Edward County and the Okanagan Valley. Journalists and buyers from around the globe know it and have begun to spread the Canadian gospel.

And now #cuvee2016 @CCOVIBrockU #vqa @winecountryont #scotiabankconventioncentre

And now #cuvee2016 @CCOVIBrockU #vqa @winecountryont #scotiabankconventioncentre

And so I asked Where does the taste of Ontario go from here? At Cuvée, where was the Cabernet Franc? Where was the rest of Ontario’s Go Gamay Go arsenal? Varietal lampoonery I tell ya. Over the highway and across the hills, No County for old wines and then, “a celebrated indictment of suburban surrender,” Too late for May Two-Four.

Related – 16 Canadian wines that rocked in 2016

This 16-strong list has much to do with the beg, Drink now or save it for later? I have spent the last 30 years considering wine in some respect. The last 15 much more so. The tries, trials, errors, tricks, and tribulations have taught me one thing. I prefer and receive much more instant gratification from drinking wines young but nothing compares to the insight and the exhilaration of partaking in older wines.

You never forget your first hunk of #kimmeridgian love @BIVBChablis @vinsdebourgogne #chablis #cotedelechet

You never forget your first hunk of #kimmeridgian love @BIVBChablis @vinsdebourgogne #chablis #cotedelechet

The year’s greatest distraction came at the hands of Chablis and fair warning, twenty thousand words are coming soon. In 2016 I published three times, Chablis from Dauvissat to VocoretLooking for Chablis in Ontario?Enlightened Chablis of Château De Béru and Paradox in Chablis. Chablis as a varietal concept, as opposed to and unlike anywhere else in the world, seemingly unrelated to chardonnay. How could these extraordinary Chablis not make the list? Domaine Laroche Chablis Grand Cru Les Blanchots Réserve De L’obédience 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (AgentWineAlign) and Domaine William Fèvre Chablis Grand Cru Bougros Côte Bouguerots 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (AgentWineAlign). Perhaps because I will soon publish Grand Cru hyperbole next month? That must be it.

Mirror to classicism, history and tradition. Purity from @valerialosi #querciavalle @chianticlassico #agricolalosi #sangiovese #granselezione #pontiganello

Mirror to classicism, history and tradition. Purity from @valerialosi #querciavalle @chianticlassico #agricolalosi #sangiovese #granselezione #pontiganello

For the first time, I think ever, I gave some love to Rosé in the Days of wine and Rosés. I also fell for new dessert wines and these two tried hard but came up just a wee bit short for the list. Domaine Cauhapé Jurançon Symphonie De Novembre 2012, Southwest, France (470344, $38.95, WineAlign), Losi Querciavalle Vin Santo Del Chianti Classico 2000, Docg Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $95.00, WineAlign).

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@grahams_port insanity via @abnermallity #onceinalifetime #piratesonapicnic #piratesv4point0 #sharingiscaring #1948 #finestreserve

Graham’s Vintage Port Finest Reserve 1948 (with thanks to Peter Boyd) granted the year’s moment of providable history. Love in droves. Holiday season for the VINTAGES releases were split and categorized, from December 10th in VINTAGES: Canada through December 10th in VINTAGES: Old World and into December 10th in VINTAGES: New World.

Singolarità, qualità, diversità. Grazie di tutto @chianticlassico

Singolarità, qualità, diversità. Grazie di tutto @chianticlassico

In 2016, two words. Chianti Classico. The wines have embarked upon an ascension into their contemporary golden age. Image, perception and finalmente, reality, these are the truths all who feel the soul of Chianti Classico are in search of today. Today and moving forward, explaining to the world that Chianti Classico is not what you thought or think it to be. Colle Bereto Chianti Classico Gran Selezione 2011, Docg Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $67.50, WineAlign) was a side-revelation, as were so many others in Three days, eight estates, Chianti Classico and Gran Selezione, The most important red wine from Italy. And in a year when CC is all that seems to matter, Tenuta dell’Ornellaia Ornellaia 2012, Doc Bolgheri Superiore, Tuscany, Italy (722470, $195.50, WineAlign) and Fattoria Dei Barbi Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva 2004, Tuscany, Italy (Agent$100.00WineAlign) are but mere mentions in addendum.

DavidPpelletier, 'Le Sommelier Fou' and friends in Vinho Verde

David Pelletier, ‘Le Sommelier Fou’ and friends in Vinho Verde

It may seem irrelevant now but Changes to VINTAGES release recommendations and notes on Godello will translate to a revolution at WineAlign in 2017. Wait for it. Most of all, 2016 will remind me that I will always raise my glass of Vinho Verde to Le Sommelier Fou. Here are Godello’s 16 mind-blowing wines of 2016.

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200 yr old vines. 1300m above sea level @vignerietna @somesmartsomm #rosato #vinudilice 2008 #tastethelava #volcanic

I Vigneri Di Salvo Foti Vinudilice 2008, Igt Sicilia Rosè, Sicily, Italy (WineAlign)

So much about this introduction to volcanic Rosato falls under the category and melts into the realm of the impossible. Begin with Vigna Bosco planted to 10,000, (up to) 200 year-old bush-trained (Etnean alberello) vines per hectare in Bronte, Northern Etna. Consider the party goers, endemic alicante, grecanico, minnella and other minor if wholly obscure native varietals. Locate the vineyard at 1,300m above sea level. Tell me it’s not the highest in all of Europe. Go on, tell me. Tended by hand with the help of Ciccio the mule. No refrigeration, yeasts or filtration. Decanting and bottling follow the phases of the moon. Blush has never acted like this, suspended as if put into bottle yesterday, beautifully minutia funky, every detail in laser calm focus. There really is no reference point, not in the south of France or anywhere in Italy to prepare for such an intellection. Vinudilice is nestled in a wood filled with holly oak (quercus ilex or in Sicily, ilice) but in respect for its singularity I would hesitate to categorize or compartmentalize. In fact I would not use the term Rosé, or Orange or natural to realize a need for reason. I would simply taste the lava. Thank you SomeSmartSomm. Drink 2016-2018.  Tasted April 2016  @ivigneri  @somesmartsomm  @WinesOfSicily

not-members-of-blasted-mechanism-with-magnuspim-and-vasco-croft-aphroswines-vinhoverde

Not members Blasted Mechanism. With Chris Wilton and Vasco Croft, Aphros Wines, Vinho Verde

Aphros Phanus Pet-Nat 2015, Sub-Região Lima, Doc Vinho Verde, Portugal (Agent, $34.95, WineAlign)

Loureiro of a fashion so rare for Portugal and this region, from a concrete pétillant-naturel style, vinified in stainless steel with wild yeasts and initially no additional sugar, then bottled with 20 grams of natural residual sugar, to alight the single fermentation conclusion. An 11 per cent contrariety of méthode ancestrale dialectic, like a lime-grapefruit cordial housing a dissolving lemon tablet. A bowie cut, boning and dressing of loureiro. This here the whole new way to take the grape, to send it sky-high and bring it down to the rustic roots of glam, sparkling funk. “Like to take a cement fix, be a standing cinema. Dress my friends up just for show, see them as they really are.” Vasco (Andy) Croft walking and his hunky dory pet-nat spinning an original tale of a time and a place, or perhaps a myth, like the rustic deity of the forest riding shotgun to Dionysus and his native war. Drink 2016-2018.  Tasted March 2016    @LeSommelierWine

Oldest vines #barossavalley textures in #semillon and #grenache @cirillo1850wine @Wine_Australia #southaustralia #marcocirillo

Oldest vines #barossavalley textures in #semillon and #grenache @cirillo1850wine @Wine_Australia #southaustralia #marcocirillo

Cirillo 1850 Ancestor Sémillon 2011, Barossa Valley, South Australia (Agent, $36.00, WineAlign)

A sémillon revelation is found in this Barossa Valley ancient, a wine procured from vines dating back more than 150 years. To discount that prodigious bit of calculated fortuity would be wrong on so many levels. The Cirillo family are guardians of what may be the oldest continuously producing grenache and sémillon vineyards in Australia and by logical extension, the world. Here the combination of dry extract, mineral depth and straight-lined (unsalted) salinity is beyond special. While the Hunter Valley garners the most attention for aging immortal sémillon, this Barossan will likewise escape, somehow, to live another more complicated and mysterious life. I would wait three years for some extract meets tannic sweetness to begin its development and then take it slow for another six to 10. Incredible find here in Ontario from Marco Cirillo. Drink 2019-2029.  Tasted May 2016  @Cirillo1850wine  @bokkewines  @BarossaDirt

Brash Higgins Nero D’avola Amphorae Project 2015, McLaren Vale, South Australia (Winery, $55.00, WineAlign)

The renegade triumvirate of coagulation denotes the shock and awe of this outlier; McLaren Vale, Nero d’Avola and Amphora. Winemaker Brad Hickey and his nickname have taken the troika and created a beautiful monster. A non-oxidative, crunchy, spicy, toasty, chewy and tannic NdA in versicolour, mottled and florid in flavour. There is black and white pepper, cinnamon, zesty orange spritz and a clay influence (plus amphora) to waft one for the ages. The palate flaunts a tapenade of painfully brilliant chalky black olive. The swirl is chocolate and vanilla, mediterranean and meganesian. There should be zero attention paid to the unusual in its concept. This is both a pleasure to taste now and will evolve into something wholly other given enough time. At least 10 years to be sure. Drink 2016-2025.  Tasted May 2016  @BrashHiggins  @mclaren_vale  @TheLivingVine

what-is-rockpile-time-in-and-time-out-the-fun-stuff-keith-moon-of-zinfandel-mauritsonwinery-sonomacounty-jameswood

Rockpile Zinfandel Cemetery Vineyard 2013, Rockpile AVA, Sonoma County, California (Winery, US $47, WineAlign)

Look towards the other arm of Lake Sonoma and let your mind’s eye rest 250 feet higher than Jack’s Cabin Vineyard. The Cemetery plantation is a jagged, craggy outcropping with “a face uneven as a river jag and asperous as the mullein’s flannel.”  The Mauritsons are Los Campesinos of Cemetery Vineyard in Rockpile. The rocks below resemble giant headstones along the Rogers Creek fault and you just have to believe all this immensity of geology impacts the vines. It does but don’t ask how or why, just settle into the cimmerian depth of zinfandel touched by black fruit, spice and the akimbo savour of glutamate and amino acid. Three further months in barrel (85 French plus 15 American) accentuates the spice, smoulder and espresso con crema texture. Ripeness of fruit, tannin and acidity are simply stellar out of this dramatic place. “You know us by the way we crawl and you know us by our cemetery gaits.” Drink 2017-2025.  Tasted February 2016  @mauritsonwinery  @sonomavintners

weinbach

Domaine Weinbach Gewürztraminer Cuvée Laurence 2013, Alsace, France (581975, $64.00, WineAlign)

Though it may long ago have been considered the quintessential one, there may be no other Alsatian gewürztraminer more important than Weinbach’s Cuvée Laurence. The reasons are manyfold but begin and end with memory and legacy. This was daughter and sister Laurence Faller’s prized wine, the wine she put her name to, that defined her gracious winemaking in echo of the estate she worked. Her family has carried the torch and yet her touch is all over this wine. Calm, composed, balanced and ethereal. Laurence is a clear expression of the marly limestone soil beneath the lieu-dit of Altenbourg, located at the base of the great Grand Cru Furstentum vineyard. Where else do you find gewürztraminer of such delicasse, from which classic aromas (rose petal, creamy to boozy-syrupy tropical fruit) and impossible unction combine without ukase? Nowhere. The acidity does not act with impulse. No, it rings, supports and lingers. The extract is intense but out of mind. Exceptional vintage. Drink 2018-2033.  Tasted October 2016    @AlsaceWines  @drinkAlsace  @ACT_Alsace  @VinsAlsace

alessandro-your-grandfather-was-a-very-good-winemaker-luiluiano-chianticlassico-fattoriadiluiano-chianticlassicoriserva-1979-sangiovese-alessandropalombo-antoniopalombo-luiano

Luiano Chianti Classico 1979, Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

Alessandro Palombo is skeptical at first, one eyebrow raised but with the look of possibility on his face. Takes me very little time to acknowledge that this ’79 is very much alive, fruit not predominant (and surely some prune) but neither cooked nor bruised. The brown nose (earth and spice) purports a full concentration of anthocyanins, acidity still full in, dried fraises de bois, black liquorice, dirty leather and worth repeating, still very good acidity. Truffle, forest floor and then black olive tapenade on the palate. This is 70-80 per cent sangiovese with colorino and canaiolo and for 1979 it’s quite incredible. It should not have lasted this long.  Antonio says that up to 10 per cent could have been malvasia blanca and trebbiano because at the time it was a field blend, co-planted with the sangiovese, which could explain some of the variegation in the colour. This is a Chianti Classico to lend credence to the idea of using multiple fruit, vegetal and animale descriptors when assessing an old wine. It’s also the reason why you put them away and open them with friends who’s eyes are wide open. Thank you Alessandro for the opportunity and for the connection to your grandfather Alberto. He was a very good winemaker. Drink 2016.  Tasted May 2016  @LuiLuiano  @chianticlassico

thoroughly-enamoured-with-the-purechablis-made-by-athenais-at-chateau-de-beru-chablis-monopoleleclosberu

Château De Béru Chablis Clos Béru Monopole 2012, Ac Burgundy, France (Agent, $87.95, WineAlign)

In 2012, less density and iodine matchstick is on display in performance for the historic, south facing vineyard beyond the Château’s walls. From this her eighth vintage in the resurrection of the family’s estate wines, Athénaïs de Béru has assembled fruit from Kimmeridgian limestone in rapport with a vintage of portent and intent towards elegance. The acidity is much more linear (than 2013) and the limestone sensations less metallic. Here the feeling is more of a liquid chalk and the balance is much improved. Also less evolved, bright and a much more amenable of a bitter pith, more citrus (lemon and lime) and not as earthy. Longer finish too. What 2013 lacks this ’12 gains and vice versa. The comparative literature and parenthetical study is duly noted as apples to oranges so the wines are exempt of one another. Neither answer all the questions asked and both express their terroir from their time spent on it. This ’12 story will become clearer in another year or two. Drink 2017-2023.  Tasted July 2016       

remelluri

Granja Remelluri Rioja Gran Reserva 2009, Rioja, Spain (Agent, $89.99, WineAlign)

“What is Rioja?” asks Telmo Rodríguez. He notes that Lopez-Heredia still manages small vineyards, Grand Cru and Premier Cru plots, but most Rioja houses are industrial. Their wines age in barrels in 100-150 year old wineries but have no sense of place, of origins, of an amazing vineyard. “I want to be radical. I believe it (Rioja) can be one of the most beautiful places in the world but I told my brothers it needed to go in a very particular direction. My brothers agreed.” So costs went up 35 per cent. They bought no grapes. “If you want to work properly in Spain, you have to be a hero.” You have to work the most difficult vineyards, where production costs are five times that of Grand Vin Bordeaux but the price sells for 10 times less. And so Telmo Rodríguez produces this Gran Reserva, a wine that adheres to a Rioja systematic but does so from a blind-eye turned, high density field-blend planting of tempranillo, garnacha, graciano, muscatel, viura and malvasia. A field blend, unlike Bordeaux but a local village farmed gathering of the best fruit. The 2009 is showing no age but the difference between 2010 Reserva and 2009 Gran Reserva is night and day. This makes the ’10 seem fresh, alive, open, almost simple. Here the variegation is distilled down to laser focus, as if the varieties all become one and most people would simply say tempranillo, but who has ever tasted and been dealt such a tempranillo? This is oozing of a liqueur like no other, rich, viscous, natural and dry-extract sweet. An expression of the best microclimates and their vineyard kin. Wait another five years to allow it to remember and tell its tale. Drink 2022-2034.  Tasted September 2016    @TelmoRodriguez_  @Noble_Estates

dominus

Dominus 1998, Napa Valley, California (212381, $176.95, WineAlign)

When I tasted the 1990 in 2012, hanging on to every thread of oscillation from death to life and back again was exhausting. The 2008 tasted that same year could not have been more life affirming. This ’98 is such a zoetic Dominus beast with an embarrassment of resplendent riches. It is everything 1990 wished it could have been and yet the light-hearted George Hrab geological funk reminds me of that wine. The 1998 trips on a trebuchet and I weep at its aromatic reverie. It is hypnopompic, a state immediately preceding waking up, whiffing the most beautiful Brett there ever was or could ever imagined to be. Volatility in a bubble, circumstantial, lost in a dream. Get lost in the butcher shop, the natural cure here, there, everywhere, curative and comforting. Porcine and rapturous, fruit perfect and entitled, structure supprting every note. If 1998 was both a curious and concerning vintage this wine lays those worries to rest. The fretting may have swayed feelings and been difficult to glide fingers across but the harmonics extend with ease. Finishes with staccato calm, a palpable exhale of breath and silence. Five more years will be like this and five more without threat. Drink 2016-2026.  Tasted October 2016     @rogcowines  

its-ok-it-was-a-half-bottle-ridgevineyards-montebello-noguilt-rogcowines-2010-draperperfume-balance-structure-beautiful

Ridge Vineyards Monte Bello 2013, Santa Cruz Mountains, California (405332, $191.95, WineAlign)

From a serious drought vintage, dry, warm and demanding, the 2013 Montebello’s Draper perfume is as heady as ever, to such effect that after one whiff this is where daydreaming takes over consciousness. Montebello gets inside the head, with allegory, radio frequency waves and platonic thought, as if inside a cave. An 80 per cent Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot (8), Cabernet Franc (7) and Merlot (5) classic, lithe and restrained blend of sheer, utter exceptionality. The balance in 2013 is impeccable but dont be fooled into thinking this is not a big wine. The acidity is dramatic, the tannins fine and demanding and the amount of pure extract whorled and revelling. All in dark red fruit and a coolness through the mid-palate that threads like silk through fine stainless steel fibre. “This goes beyond me, beyond you.” Drink 2018-2030.  Tasted May 2016  @RidgeVineyards  @rogcowines  @CalifWines_CA

Fino, Don P.X. '86 and '62 w: @sorgatoBTA @toroalbala @LeSommelierWine Magical, impossible, unchanging. Bucket list to revisit in 150 years #pedroximenez #bodegastoroalbala #montillamoriles #spain

Fino, Don P.X. ’86 and ’62 w: @sorgatoBTA @toroalbala @LeSommelierWine Magical, impossible, unchanging. Bucket list to revisit in 150 years #pedroximenez #bodegastoroalbala #montillamoriles #spain

Bodegas Toro Albalá Don P.X. Selección 1967, Do Montilla Moriles, Spain (491647, $199.95, WineAlign)

You know it’s a good month when you are afforded the opportunity to taste two Montilla-Moriles Pedro Ximenez oldies, first the Alvear Solera 1927 in Paris and now this Selección 1967 bottled in November of 2016. The vintage-dated PX are produced from sun-dried grapes fermented for two months to eight or nine per cent alcohol, at which point a distillate made from the same PX pressings is added to bring the wine up to 17 per cent. First in concrete vats and then a transfer into 50-150 year old American oak barrels. Only 630 bottles were filled in a PX of awakening and hope that finished at an indiscernible 17 per cent alcohol. Some dessert wines can be cloying Popskull but Bodegas Toro Albalá delivers yet another impossible and crazy dessert wine of heavy fuel, impeccable balance in the face of Lugduname breaching sweetness and aromas sin fronteras. The gamut glides through roasted nuts and dried fruits, from almonds and Van Gogh Museum memories of their abundant flowers plus pomegranate, apricot, peach, nectarine, damson plum and pistachio. So much pistachio!! In between there is orange marmalade, quince jelly and prune preserve. Plenty of acidity extends and narrows into a sharp, pointed tang. No matter how many times you try to empty the glass there is always more wine. Always another sip. Is it viscosity, a truco del ojo or trampantojo? Is there some kind of wizardry at play? Then finally, well, actually never, a finish with no end, or a pause in a never-ending 49 year-old (and counting) story. So where is the beginning? 1967. Drink 2016-2040.  Tasted November 2016  @toroalbala  @sorgatoBTA  @MontillaMoriles  @LeSommelierWine

schram

Schramsberg Sparkling J. Schram 50th Anniversary Late disgorged 1999, Napa Valley, California (Winery $175 US, WineAlign)

In celebration of Schramsberg’s golden anniversary, 50 years after Jack and Jamie Davies revived the historic Schramsberg estate for the purpose of making the nation’s first chardonnay and pinot noir based, bottle-fermented sparkling wines. A North Coast (57 per cent Napa, 25 Mendocino, 15 Monterey and 13 Sonoma) blend of 74 per cent chardonnay and 26 pinot noir. Seventeen years have come to ginger, cumin, coriander and galangal in laminous, oxidative ingenuity, wholly arid in kicking up the aromatic dust. Flavours of pressed lemon, bitter brioche and then tannin, yes tannin. From a protracted year, picked as late as October 19th, disgorged in August of 2014 at a dosage of (very necessary) 11.5 g/L RS. Blessed with high natural acidity of 9.8 tA. How can I not concur with Hugh Davies. “What we’re really showing here is Napa Valley Chardonnay.” Drink 2016-2031.  Tasted February 2016  @Schramsberg  @TheVine_RobGroh

Down by the river with #raveneau #grandcru #blanchot #chablis @lafolieauxerre #2009 #francoisraveneau #thankful

Down by the river with #raveneau #grandcru #blanchot #chablis @lafolieauxerre #2009 #francoisraveneau #thankful

Domaine François Raveneau Chablis Grand Cru Blanchot 2009, Burgundy, France (WineAlign)

It would be misleading to address Raveneau’s Blanchot as chardonnay even as we know it as such because Raveneau produces wines as unique as door keys. They are so inimitable and each will only open the gate to its own unique perception. Blanchot is the southernmost of the seven Chablis Grand Cru climats and blankets the southeastern side of Les Clos. The Raveneau narration does not convey the notion of manifest feeling but instead splits the axiomatic atom of the climat. A sip and you are inside the Blanchot, gliding and passing through rock as if you are the ethereal and the wine is the solid foundation of thought, pathos and avowal. There are aromas that combine citrus and umami with a sweetness that can’t be denied or defined. The wine is just a child, complex, shy and yet unable to express both its meaning and power. But you try to get inside its head, stumbling over kimmeridgian rock replete with the smithereen-crushed shells of ancient fossils. This is a calm young Blanchot and you melt away while under its spell. Three more years should render its hidden meaning. Drink 2019-2034.  Tasted July 2016

A great pleasure and exercize in humility to taste with #vincentdauvissat in his cellar @BIVBChablis #humanity #chablis

A great pleasure and exercize in humility to taste with #vincentdauvissat in his cellar @BIVBChablis #humanity #chablis

Domaine René et Vincent Dauvissat Chablis Grand Cru Les Clos 2001, Burgundy, France (WineAlign)

Tasted from a bottle opened five days prior which is nothing really for a wine that can age easily for 30 years. It resides in a perfect state. Vincent concedes “over 20 there is nothing to be gained” and yet the still terrifically raging acidity would suggest this 15 year-old specimen is only halfway there. The texture is nothing if not persuasive. In 1931 Vincent’s father began this journey. Here 70 years later is a wine so perfectly intact, the lemon-waxy aspect almost on the edge of the hive. But not quite because of the taut bracing and tight embracing. There is a chew to this and Dauvissat shrugs. “What’s to say?” Nothing but a great piece of his history and his father’s legacy. If this wine is a sentimental tribute to a childhood village, it is never uncomplicated. Drink 2016-2031.  Tasted July 2016

2016-12-28_19-42-19

Catena Adrianna Vineyard Mundus Bacillus Terrae Malbec 2011, Mendoza, Argentina (Agent, $325.00, WineAlign)

In this extremely specific malbec from a diagnosed block of the Adrianna Vineyard we are graced with the micro-science of wine. And if you feel that using the name of an aerobic bacteria in the nomenclature is an odd choice, consider the mind of Dr. Laura Catena and her biological approach to viticulture. If we can understand and differentiate the microbes in the soil we can make better wine. It’s as simple as that. When wine is broken down to the biological level it becomes something entirely different and this is the road travelled by the Mundus Bacillus. Catena’s usage of 70 parcel pits per hectare has unearthed this single parcel within the vineyard, again completely different and the pinpointed microbial discussion initiates right here. The soil stakes a claim for this malbec only, certainly not in any way that tends to funk but surely as an impresario of soil. Talk about eugenics in the MBT because that science is compelling and can be related to in this wine. It can offer keys towards improving genetic quality of the vinous population. Here we are faced with rich and dusty, a mean streak of malbec intensity made elegant by earthly microbes. This section draws parallels to the (chardonnay) White Bones soil from which there transfers an excess of dry extract and tannin. Patience please for a malbec that will be long lived. Drink 2019-2027.  Tasted November 2016

Good to go!

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Franciacorta, Gambero Rosso and Terra Morreti

Foggy morning walk through November Chardonnay @bellavistavino #franciacorta #lalbereta

Foggy morning walk through November Chardonnay @bellavistavino #franciacorta #lalbereta

In wine, assessment is a slow business because one stops so often to take note and to take notes. Wine demands the activity of putting down into the well a number of tangent travelled thoughts. If ever the creative well should run dry, simply venture across the pond to spend some time in a place like Franciacorta. Witness the water table rise.

L'Albereta

L’Albereta Relais & Châteaux

November is a sublime time to visit the province of Brescia and the cellars of Franciacorta. The villages of Erbusco and Iseo decelerate with approaching dormancy and only the distant mountains are blanketed by the snows of winter. The recently completed vintage is safely tucked away, slumbering peacefully in ancient caves. Early morning fog begs to be habituated and when the sun shines Erbusco beckons with its hidden monuments, stashed away secrets and treasures buried around every corner. The Friday market at Iseo bustles and passively hustles. The Oglio River lies to the west, while Lago Iseo winds in the undertow of the snow-capped Dolomite Mountains on the jagged tablature horizon.

L'Albereta Relais & Châteaux

L’Albereta

On the grounds of L’Albereta a sculpture garden blends into the landscape and it can be imagined camouflaged, though always available for discovery hundreds of years from now, even if the architecture has been completely altered.

Related – Franciacorta: Best kept sparkling secret on the planet

Prosciutto, burrata and @BellaVistaVino @franciacorta the most perfect welcome in @albereta #erbusco

Prosciutto, burrata and @BellaVistaVino @franciacorta the most perfect welcome in @albereta #erbusco

Created to celebrate the third millennium, the Parco delle Sculture is a genuine open-air museum where thirteen contemporary art sculptures wind their way across 61,000 hectares of parkland, from L’Albereta to the nearby “Bellavista” and “Contadi Castaldi” wineries, in an intriguing dialogue with nature.

Sculpture garden, L'Albereta

A section of the L’Albereta sculpture garden

VistaLago Bistrò, L’Albereta

Such a salad speaks volumes. So much more to come from the @chef_lucatelli arsenal #benessere

Such a salad speaks volumes. So much more to come from the @chef_lucatelli arsenal #benessere

Notes on Bellavista and Contadi Castaldi

With help from @BellaVistaVino and @contadicastaldi notes with dinner @LAlbereta #bistrovistalago #erbusco #franciacorta

With help from @BellaVistaVino and @contadicastaldi notes with dinner @LAlbereta #bistrovistalago #erbusco #franciacorta

Market day in Iseo

Friday market at #iseo #carciofi #franciacorta

Friday market at #iseo #carciofi #franciacorta

The island of Monteisola on Lago Iseo

View from Cure post sublime hike up #monteisola #lakeisland #brescia #lombardia #monasteriasansalvatore

View from Cure post sublime hike up #monteisola #lakeisland #brescia #lombardia #monasteriasansalvatore

Looking for lunch in all the right places

Finding lunch in hiding places. Menu fisso 10€- pasta:carne:insalata:vino:acqua:cafe #iseo #lagodiseo #lombardia #ilombardiaristorante

Finding lunch in hiding places. Menu fisso 10€- pasta:carne:insalata:vino:acqua:cafe #iseo #lagodiseo #lombardia #ilombardiaristorante

Prix Fixe

I Lombardi Ristorante, Iseo

I Lombardi Ristorante, Iseo

We need this in Ontario

Every bookstore should have a bar in the back #iseo

Every bookstore should have a bar in the back #iseo

Bellavista wines at L’Albereta

Bellavista Franciacorta, L'Albereta

Bellavista Franciacorta, L’Albereta

Gambero Rosso Welcome Dinner at Leon Felice, L’Albereta Relais & Châteaux

by Executive Chef Fabio Abbattista

With Luigi Salermo, Marco Sabellico, Lorenzo Ruggeri and Tiina Eriksson, our hosts from Gambero Rosso.

Bellavista Alma Cuvée Brut, Franciacorta (Winery)

Cuttlefish, chicory and Taggiasche olive

Morbido

Morbido de seppia, puntarelle e olive Taggiasche

Bellavista Convento Ss. Annunciata Curtefranca Bianco 2011, Franciacorta (Winery)

From a 5.45 hectare vineyard, in homage to the friars of Mount Orphane dating back to 1449, Chardonnay meant to age with ancient tradition always tucked safely into the slow release, micro-oxyganted back pocket. Scents of lemony green and rose. Wood relations are important, fig and lactic notes apparent and this is stretched but weighty, very elastic Chardonnay. If the verve seems to be waning it must be understood that this wine begins, travels and ends this way. Bellavista is the chosen one to make wine from “a unique and unrepeatable section of vineyard, the expression of an ancient tradition.” Drink 2015-2022.  Tasted November 2015

Cappelletti with burnt wheat, rabbit and anchovy butter

Gambero Rosso Dinner 2

Cappelletti al grano arso, coniglio e burro di acciughe

Bellavista Gran Cuvée Rosé 2010, Franciacorta

Piemontese (razza bovina Piemontese) white Beef Filet with Pizzaiolo sauce

Gambero Rosso Dinner 4

Filetto di Fassona alla pizzaiola

Bellavista Nectar S.A., Franciacorta (Winery)

A demi-sec produced using exclusively Chardonnay grapes from at least 30 different vineyards located on high hillside plots with ideal south exposures. Over 30 per cent of the 􏰟􏰑􏰒􏰛􏰑􏰃􏰄􏰂􏰄􏰁􏰊􏰃􏰆􏰄􏰂􏰧􏰑􏰋􏰆􏰀􏰈􏰂􏰏􏰑􏰆􏰁􏰃􏰆􏰋􏰛􏰂􏰈􏰈􏰆􏰥􏰐􏰁􏰄􏰑􏰆􏰊􏰂􏰧􏰆􏰏􏰂􏰋􏰧􏰋􏰅fermentation takes place in small white oak casks. A balanced, pure, creamy, mellifluous honey dessert wine of a sweetness that hides in shadows. The question begs. How can this be demi-sec? Drink 2015-2018.  Tasted November 2015

Green apple sorbet, celery and passion fruit nectar

Gambero Rosso Dinner 3

Sorbetto mela verde, sedano e Nectar

In the evening

Persimmon and Dolomites. Must be #franciacorta #lalbereta #relaischateaux

Persimmon and Dolomites. Must be #franciacorta #lalbereta #relaischateaux

In the morning

Yesterday is wiped away by a day that begins this way #breakfast #lalbereta

Yesterday is wiped away by a day that begins this way #breakfast #lalbereta

Bellavista Gala

The purpose of the event was a journey of oenological discovery (Meraviglioso), music and gastronomy at the hands of Chef Vittorio Fusari.

Lost in a @BellaVistaVino dream that has just begun

Lost in a @BellaVistaVino dream that has just begun

In anticipation of Meraviglioso

Grazie mille @bellavistavino @gambero_rosso for welcoming us to your special #franciacorta celebration ~ @mgodello @winealign

Grazie mille @bellavistavino @gambero_rosso for welcoming us to your special #franciacorta celebration ~ @mgodello @winealign

Riserva Vittorio Moretti Magnum 2008, Franciacorta (Winery)

Puff pastry potatoes with caviar

Puff pastry potatoes with caviar, red onion cream, sardines, julien and parsley

Bellavista Meraviglioso Mathusalem Studio Vendemmia 2004, Franciacorta

Whipped risotto with Bagoss and Fatuli cheese

Whipped risotto with Bagoss and Fatuli cheese

Bellavista Curtefranca Bianco Vendemmia Storica 1995, Franciacorta (Winery)

It was a simple wine back then. Good luck and providence in this part of the world have made this wine so special. In 1995, it rained for 40 days. I know. I was in Italy for 17 days in August that summer. In September botrytis developed but low temperatures ending up concentrating the grapes flesh and thickened the berries over a course of five to six days. Harvest saw brown grapes and 12,000 bottles made were made. That it has survived for so many years is not surprising. It is impossible. The link goes to Mattia having seen an Yquem harvest in the 1970’s. How long to keep? Until 2075. “So I’m very hopeful for this wine.” When my father moved from his house in 2005 he asked me to take his “cellar.” Of the 17 bottles, there was a 1970 labeled Chablis. Burgundy. No producer. I brought it home and thought waiting even one more day would be one more day to long. It was perfect, alive, on the straddled line of oxidative, had been there and might stay there for 20 more years.  Like this 1995. Ethereal. Rich, elegantly, gently sweet, so fine. Why not see what 20 more years can do. Drink 2015-2035.  Tasted November 2015

Tartare

Venison Tartare with salad

Bellavista Meraviglioso Magnum, Franciacorta (Winery)

Guinea Fowl

Guinea Fowl with sprouts, pomegranate and lentil

Bellavista Vini

Bellavista Wines

Bellavista gala friends

Bellavista gala friends

Vitaliano and Godello 2

Arrivederci e grazie di tutto Vittorio Moretti @bellavistavino @GamberoRosso @LAlbereta #whatagala #mervaglioso

Arrivederci e grazie di tutto Vittorio Moretti @bellavistavino @GamberoRosso @LAlbereta #whatagala #mervaglioso

The last morning

Erbusco

Erbusco, Franciacorta, Brescia, Lombardia

Until next time

L'Albereta Relais & Châteaux

L’Albereta Relais & Châteaux

Good to go!

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

WineAlign: Michael Godel

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Franciacorta: Best kept sparkling secret on the planet

On the final, fourth day the most exceptional #bellavista becomes clear @LAlbereta #lagodiiseo #dolomites

Bella Vista Chardonnay, Lago Iseo and the Dolomite Mountains

As seen on WineAlign – Franciacorta and the Meraviglioso of Bellavista

Where can you find snow-capped Rhaetian Alps, double morainic amphitheatres, glacial lakes, ancient vineyards and one of the best kept Sparkling wine secrets on the planet? At the end of a day not in Franciacorta I could do well with a glass. Bubbles from north eastern Italy, where traditional method Sparkling wine of Chardonnay, Pinot Nero and Pinot Bianco come together masterfully to create Franciacorta. Satèn, Brut and Rosé, for Millesimato, Riserva and now the new elaboration, finalmente, some kind of wonderful, Meraviglioso.

Meraviglioso
perfino il tuo dolore
potrà guarire poi
meraviglioso

Large formats and the furnace @contadicastaldi @franciacorta #gamberorosso #moretti

Large formats and the furnace @contadicastaldi @franciacorta #gamberorosso #moretti

The month of November bids up translation to such an Italian vernacular as it is a wonderful time to visit Lombardy and the cellars of Franciacorta. A time before the snows of winter fall, long after the stems have turned to brown, the grapes picked, crushed and fermented, at a time when the vintage’s base wines rest comfortably in the caves of the region’s 110 wineries. You can take an early morning walk through a Chardonnay block and note the gentle south-east exposure slope engulfed by fog thick as porridge in the greater provincial Brescia world demurred a whiter shade of pale. On sunny days summon up a cool, crisp stroll through courageous Pinot Noir up on a hill above the village of Erbusco, with the Oglio River to the west, Lago Iseo and the snow-capped Dolomite Mountains rising in the deep distance. The vines stand stark, stripped and undraped, like petrified wood monuments, now only possessive of memories.

Standing with giants @BellaVistaVino Winemaker Mattia Vezzola and Vittorio Moretti.

Standing with giants @BellaVistaVino Winemaker Mattia Vezzola and Vittorio Moretti.

It is here where Lombardic legacies are cemented in this northerly Italian region, after 450 years of recorded Sparkling wine history. Newly appointed President of the Consorzio Franciacorta and Bellavista Winery proprietor Vittorio Moretti has recently bottled something no self-respecting vigneron on this fizz fermenting planet has ever had the enterprise or perspicaciousness with which to follow through. Not in Franciacorta and certainly not in Champagne. Moretti and his enologist/chef du cave partner of 30 years Mattia Vezzola gathered the wines of six great vintages (1984, 1988, 1991, 1995, 2001 and 2002) spread across three decades together in one singular, bold, ultra-elegant and exacting impossible cuvée. Meraviglioso.

Pouring Meraviglioso

Pouring Meraviglioso

Bellavista Studio Meraviglioso Vendemmia 2004, 6000 mL, Docg Franciacorta (WineAlign)

Poured from a Methuselah and can only be produced every 30 years. This is the first vintage. Studio equals a test product. This is something wholly other. The holy coming together of acidity (energy) and texture (elegance) From the best harvests of the last 30 years. Sparkling as the interaction between studying and working. One or the other alone will not achieve the culture of this wine. Middle rope lined by fine sea salt flecked by dried thyme. So refined. Gentlest mousse and forming the most amazing rim. As the winemaker notes, “it’s very exciting that technology must reside in the traditional. Idea must reside in craftsmanship. Manual work enables the soul.” Drink 2015-2045. Tasted November 2015

Meraviglioso

Meraviglioso

Bellavista Meraviglioso, 1500ml, Docg Franciacorta (WineAlign)

The best way to make a sensory profile last is to model it after someone. Choosing great vintages, as here with ’84, ’88, ’91 ’94, ’01 and ’04 is to offer a shared sensory profile and characteristics, along with the value of patience, something that lasts over time. This blend of vintages, which includes 1984 speaks to a winemaker’s emotion. “Nothing makes more sense than passion.” Will this leave a different mark on Spumante wines? “We wish that every of the 30,000,000 bubbles is a moment of happiness for each of you. Long term Franciacorta will have to take direction from this wine.” Words of proprietor Vittorio Moretti. The Studio (test) 2004 here transmogrifies into another turn of phrase, twirl of body, as told from marble. Watch the bubbles rise from the centre and widen to the edges, slowly, purposefully, without distraction. You can hear a pin drop with this wine sitting in glass. A wine to connect a string of great vintages, spanning decades, interlacing hands, sweat and passion, from contributors who are all represented in this bottle. They are all remembered, their lives, their wishes, their shared culture. Finesse, energy, mousse, elegance and length. For whom the Sparkling wine tolls. Drink 2015-2050.  Tasted November 2015

The playful and calculated wine pays respectful homage to a wine region immortalized, like warriors in stone, by classic authors; Pliny, Columella and Virgil. In the 16th century Lombardian physician Gerolamo Conforti encouraged a healthy lifestyle and widespread consumption, defining Franciacorta bubbles as “mordaci” or, lively and bubbly.

Temperatures at ripening are much higher as compared to Champagne. The mountains are a major part, as a barrier to the southern winds to preserve acidity. Franciacorta producers have the historic sparkling traditions of Champagne to compete against a crowded global market. That said, they have little interest in comparing their ancient method Sparkling wine to those from other regions, nor does it matter whether their roots were laid down prior to or subsequent from more famous peers. What matters is progression, innovation and resolution. Meraviglioso adheres and abides to Franciacorta’s deferential past. It also revises the scripture and reinvents the future.

Vigna Leone, Bellavista

Vigna Leone, Bellavista

The historic concept directs the winemaker to make wine that is fresh with acidity on the palate, but not felt in the stomach. Wines that are easy to digest. Wines to drink for all of eternity. Between 6.7 and 7.5 TA is the number on the base wines. This differs from Champagne in alcohol because the Champenoise reach a maximum level which is the minimum for Franciacorta and acidity is exactly the obvious. Everyone these days talks about terroir, which is important, but they seemed to have forgotten about genes.

Mattia Vezzola and Francesca Moretti

Mattia Vezzola and Francesca Moretti

The area’s modern era dates back to 1961, with 11 producers, 29 hectares of vineyards and a production of 2000 hectolitres of Pinot di Franciacorta. DOC status was granted in 1967, with nine pioneering agriculturalists in the mix. In 1990 the creation of the consortium for the protection of Franciacorta wines was accomplished with 29 producers as members. Now, after nearly 50 years of officially recognized production Franciacorta is poised to become the next big thing. Fizz is in demand worldwide and compared to other high quality traditional method sparkling wines, Franciacorta is well positioned. Pinot Noir has a role to play and perhaps everything to do with that. Chardonnay and its essential Blanc de Blancs sparkling oeuvre has managed bubble expectation and dominated output since time immemorial but the sweeping cloud of global warming is changing everything.

Erbusco, Brescia, Lombardy

Erbusco, Brescia, Lombardy

A portal into the Franciacorta compass dial only 15 years ago sees Chardonnay picked on average around August 15th. Cyclical weather patterns notwithstanding, temperature increases of nearly five degrees Celsius mean that in order to maintain freshness and protect necessary acidity these days the grapes are picked two weeks earlier. Short of washing this planet clean as the bible says or continuing to hot wire reality, something has to give.

Even while Chardonnay’s phenolic journey is finding its way to completion, some things can’t help but get lost in accelerated heat unit translation. Any winemaker worth their weight in viniculture excellence knows that the real future lies in the embrace of complex behaviour inherent within the later ripening condition of thin-skinned Pinot Noir. Chardonnay will not be abandoned any time soon but ripping up some of the dominant vineyard holdings and switching to Pinot Noir is in the cards.

Bellavista

Bellavista

On my late November trip the epiphanies came fast and furious when Franciacorta opened its arms to receive journalists from around the globe. My WineAlign colleague Treve Ring and I were introduced to Bellavista Vino and Contadi Castaldi pours at L’Albereta Relais & Chateaux and it was for me an initiation into a personal paradigm shift, in a dream that had just recently begun. Tasting the range on premises at Contadi Castaldi from Blanc de Blancs through Blanc de Noirs and into Pinot Nero aided in clarifying the varietal shift. The entire visit was qualified by Gambero Rosso’s principals Luigi Salermo, Marco Sabellico, Lorenzo Ruggeri and Tiina Eriksson, with their ushering of seminal tastings, including a Bellavista horizontal of 1987’s in 750 mL, Magnum, Jeroboam (3L) and Methuselah (6L), along with a Salmanzar 9L bottle from 1989. This line-up made for a rarest of opportunities, tasting chance of a lifetime.

Bellavista horizontal

Bellavista horizontal

Treve and I tasted a number of Franciacorta examples during our visit and we have also been able to sample imports in British Columbia and Ontario.

The Bellavista Horizontal

The purpose of this extraordinary tasting is to assess how this wine changes its sensory impression depending on the size of the vessel it was bottled in. Though it once contained 30,000,000 bubbles, now 28 years later, perhaps the number is just 13. Well, from now on I’m clearly only buying my sparkling wine in minimum 3L formats.

The wines were tasted in 1991 and 1998. This is the third and last chance to taste these large formats. From 1987, in 750 mL, Magnum, Double Magnum and Methuselah. The 9L bottle is a 1989 (because there are no more ’87’s in that format).

Five little ducks all in a row @BellaVistaVino #anothersongaboutthefizz #franciacorta #largeformats #1987 #1989

Five little ducks all in a row @BellaVistaVino #anothersongaboutthefizz #franciacorta #largeformats #1987 #1989

1987 (750 mL)

Composed of 80 per cent Chardonnay and 20 Pinot Nero, the harvest it refers to is 1987 though it is not a vintage wine. Runs straight to a marzipan and honey with lanolin dressing, marked  by orange rind and spice that needles into the olfactory nerve. Has aged well and would call it oxidative (at least this bottle). The hue has obviously changed. Was disgorged yesterday (November 27th) so there was no need for added liquor. Truth be told it has not developed into a tertiary, overly mature, oxidative step, but it has sublimated in micro-oxygenation.

1987 (Magnum – 1.5 L)

Sensory activation. Zero oxidation, prominent acidity and underlying nutty comprehension. No honeyed and waxy filming, a seeker yet to find any true tertiary life. In elegance now and with imaginations of 10 more years this way. Any yet only the Magnum.  Come back to it after ten minutes and the citrus is palpable. Finding a layer of preserved lemon 15 minutes later. Its next stage becomes more apparent with time, by size and in relation to what comes after.

1987 (Double Magnum – 3 L)

Completely different once again, now reductive, stinky, full of a preserved rage and with just two minutes in glass begins to soften and ready itself. A heap of aggression plus 28 years of time have blessed it with all the tools it needs. So alive, without the nutty accent but certainly in possession of the inside shaving of the barrel. Barrel peels, not fruit. More mineral here. Much more. Also tropical,  like ginger and cardamom. The most interesting of the three by kilometres.  The real access is toast and flint. This is the real deal. Rich and mature, not piercing and now accessible. Incredible length. Close to the edge in a mythical land, of impressions neither flora nor fauna, but of atmosphere.

1987 (Methuselah – 6 L)

The first wine to show similarly to another, this rocks out flinty and reductive like the 3L. The energy is consistent, but here the spice is magnified and the nutty sense that showed in the Magnum has come forth. This seems to combine the pique aspects of both the 1.5 and the 3. A best of all worlds bottle plus what it brings that neither had. Absolute freshness. Does not evolve in the glass in its first few minutes as the others that came before. It evens glistens unlike the others, as if it knows how complex, special, live and alive it is. This is the bomb for sure. Dart straight through the heart. Crazy exceptional Sparkling wine.

The big pour

The big pour

1989 (Salmanzar – 9L)

Absolutely, unequivocally, indisputably no evolution. If this dos not drive the point that if you want to age Sparkling wine you must bottle it in the largest format possible, then nothing will. At least do away with 750 mL bottles. Large format is not about pageantry. It is about age. The taste is very different than all the 1987’s. So much more acidity and vitality and it is wondered aloud that more Pinot Noir must be in the mix. The citrus is at the forefront and all over the hairs of this wine. Twenty six years in a 9L bottle is like five, certainly not 10.

It should be interesting to try and assess, which is a major act of liberty in assumption, to assume with accuracy how format affects age. To close one’s eyes tight and place a number on each wine, to where it has evolved and why. 750 mL left its post five years ago. Magnum is in the window as we speak and will not be perceived with evolutionary certainty to its tertiary development for two of three more. Double Magnum is still three to five years away from even that beginning. Methusaleh sits in a window of seven to 10 years and the 9L 1989 certainly 10-15. Perhaps as far away as 20. Truly.

The wines of Franciacorta

Bellavista Alma Cuvée Brut, Docg Franciacorta, Italy (SAQ 340505 $40.00, WineAlign)

Apropos alms giving Cuveé, in regards to balance, offering a broad swath and sweep of creamy, soft spoken bubbles. Produced from one half of the estate’s harvest selections, out of 107 plots ranged over 10 different Franciacorta municipalities. A child of both horizontal and (reserve wines) vertical blending. Composed of (80 per cent) Chardonnay, (19) Pinot Nero and (1) Pinot Bianco. Known to its makers by an “affectionate” term for the land that produces wonders, this may be the most calming of the Bellavista portfolio. Drink 2015-2019.  Tasted November 2015

Bellavista Brut 2010

Bellavista Brut 2010

Bellavista Brut 2010, Docg Franciacorta, Italy (Agent, $65.00, WineAlign)

This Sparkling blend of Chardonnay dominant with support from Pinot Nero is the welcome mat, regional conduit and arms open wide portal into the impressing preoccupation of Franciacorta. From vines of healthy altitude on south/south-easterly exposures and an average age of over 25 years. A sussurrare measure of and not much more than 30 per cent of the juice ferments and matures in small white oak casks for no less than seven months. When we talk of the natural balance in nature, we may as well be referring to an arid, saline, citrus and ontological yeast-filled Franciacorta such as this Brut. Compressed from a vintage with legs, creamy texture and dreamy ideas. Sparkling wine of soft bubbles, lace curtains and plentiful energy. The dictionary opens with this, a wine personified as a “villa delle delizie.” Drink 2015-2022.  Tasted November 2015

Bellavista Franciacorta, L'Albereta

Bellavista Franciacorta, L’Albereta

Bellavista Gran Cuvée Rosé 2010Docg Franciacorta, Italy (SAQ 10540051 $66.25, WineAlign)

Red chicory hue in a blend where Chardonnay (62 per cent) dominates Pinot Nero. Rosé of truth, unable to fib, a bit risqué and anything but rustic. Magnetic, full of multi-variegated citrus, magnified, petrified, magnetized, its Chardonnay and Pinot Nero polarized. The latter so important, like recherché of the occult and suggesting that its part should be increased. Like a tidal wave of blanc de noirs aromatics boarding at once. Rosé as the last train home. Drink 2015-2022.  Tasted November 2015

Betella Lovera Di Franciacorta Rosé Ardi, Docg Franciacorta, Italy (Agent, $40.00, WineAlign)

Like the Betella Blanc de Blanc, this is quite direct, but in a much different way. It’s funky reductive and yet super, hyper transparent and understood. Wound tight with racy acidity and spumes of an aridity that steals saliva and is nearly heart-stopping. These blush bubbles are savoury in a way the Chardonnay just can’t seem to herbalize and bracing in a way that does not fully compute. Exciting and tart if noticeably out of balance.  Tasted December 2014

Betella Franciacorta Brut Blanc De Blanc, Docg Franciacorta, Italy (Agent, $29.00, WineAlign)

This 100 per cent Chardonnay is so direct, so grounded, so black and white. Just a hint of funky earth and a swath of painted lees but otherwise fruit entrenched in traction and fermentation in beautiful suspended animation. Defines modernity in Franciacorta, a still frame of concentrated, dry bubbles, life affirming and void of any extraneous conditioning. No add-ons, just straight up sock it to me Sparkling wine. Tight, bracing and built for serious fun, without ceremony or pageantry. So effective and so well constructed.  Tasted December 2014

Ca’ Del Bosco Cuvée Prestige Brut, Docg Franciacorta, Italy (Agent, 105353, $39.95, WineAlign)

First introduced in 2007 after thirty years of Franciacorta’s salt pillar house’s trials, errors and magic. Chardonnay (75 per cent), Pinot Nero (15) and Pinot Bianco (10) are sourced from 134 vineyards, vinified separately and blended with the conceptualization towards “idem,” of being the same. Reserve juice from great vintages (at least 20 per cent) reinforces and elevates the cuvée, followed by 28 months on the lees. A stoic and somewhat tensely defined traditional method Sparkling wine with plenty of autolytic yeasty feel despite the modest time. Terrific, expansive and circulating mousse buoyed by unparalleled Franciacorta acidity. More Pinot Nero would really give it depth and breadth. Drink 2016-2020.  Tasted January 2016

Contadi Castaldi

Contadi Castaldi

Contadi Castaldi Satèn 2010, Docg Franciacorta, Italy (Agent, $45.00, WineAlign)

Disgorged February 2015. The opposite of the thoroughbred that is the Pinot Noir. Satisfying, saturated, stretched and churned though Brut in style. The soul of Contadi Castaldi even in a world in which the winemaker is want to make more masculine, Pinot driven wines. A caressing wine, gentle and creamy. Full mouth. Round putty smooth in spite of and in line with such stretched acidity. Drink 2015-2020.  Tasted November 2015  @contadicastaldi  @Cavinona

Contadi Castaldi Franciacorta Brut, Docg Franciacorta, Italy (Agent, $28.50, WineAlign)

The Contadi Brut is a much more direct, linear, in your cerebral cortex cement of a Franciacorta. Still in assumption of a lightly bruised and oxidative bent though the fruit is anything but mealy and the appetite yet whets. The apple in the eye is green, the grass greener still. In here “green grow the rushes go.” This sparkler seems to still be working, pushing itself and evolving. It begins in earnest and never ceases to cycle. It’s a bit exhausting and leaves a trail of exhaust. In demand of much attention it may never leave you to find and achieve that state of REM. But it is that vapour trail that will see it go deep into the night. Drink 2015-2022.  Tasted July 2015

Contadi Castaldi Franciacorta Rosé, Docg Franciacorta, Italy (Agent, $33.50, WineAlign)

Statuesque, rustic, ancient ruin of Franciacorta, on a clear day, of tall grasses, oxidative apples and slices of hard Lombardian cheese. A total, classical, storied package of gastronomy in a bottle. Not so much Rosé as much as bubbles with a fostered history of age. Arid as the desert and piercing from acidity. This will be misunderstood by some, reveled in by others. Drink 2015-2020.  Tasted July 2015

Contadi Castaldi Brut Zero 2011, Docg Franciacorta, Italy (Agent, $32.50, WineAlign)

Fashioned with essentially an equal proportion of Pinot Noir. A specificity to Franciacorta where Chardonnay is clearly pegged as feminine and Pinot Noir masculine. The winemaker demands this move, to power, vitality and how a cuvée’s direction is acclimatized from picking on acidity and through to firm, direct expression. Very balanced wine. Drink 2015-2019.  Tasted November 2015

Contadi Castaldi Piñonero Natura 2009, Docg Franciacorta, Italy (Agent, $45.00, WineAlign)

Only 9,000 bottles are produced of this ultra niche product. Part of the move in concept and passion to masculine, powerful and vital Pinot Noir. A bull of bubbles and extremely long, trailing a tail of star fire. Brut to the most natural degree. Lime and direct energy. Tight as a fist. This is Thibault to the Contadi Castaldi Blanc de Noirs Romeo. Drink 2015-2022.  Tasted November 2015

Ricci Curbastro Satèn Brut

Ricci Curbastro Satèn Brut

Ricci Curbastro Satèn Brut, Docg Franciacorta, Italy (Agent, $59.95, WineAlign)

A Franciacorta blanc de blancs with a settled elegance in its stride and the persistence of far eastern aromatics. Though Satèn can contain up to 50 per cent Pinot Bianco, Ricci Curbastro’s is exclusively made from Chardonnay and at this stage even less atmospheric than the freshest examples. A pinch of ginger and a dash of lemongrass mark the aromatic territory. Preserved lemon fills the palate with residual fruit. This 2011 is in its drinking window right at present, its 40 month (48 from harvest) autolytic yeast lees having done the yeomans texture work in completion for the overall expression. Drink 2016-2018.  Tasted January 2016  @Ricci_Curbastro

At the end of a day not in #franciacorta I could do well with one of these @contadicastaldi

At the end of a day not in #franciacorta I could do well with one of these @contadicastaldi

Good to go!

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15 Mind blowing wines of 2015

Old Sherry at the Cariñena Museo del Vino

Old Sherry at the Cariñena Museo del Vino

“You can choose your philosophy of critiquing just as you choose how to live. The freedom to personalize or substantiate thoughts on structure sacrifices the detail to meaning and meaning to preciseness.” I wrote that nearly a year ago. It holds true, as before, near, dear and clear to me today.

Extreme cold ushered in January of 2015 and the obvious lede was Coming wine from the cold. Halfway through the month an epiphany of sorts knocked upside the cerebral cortex, elaborated upon in Varietal Spanish wine. That smithy precursor would lead to revelations in October.

As January wound down and I prepared to hit the Niagara Icewine Festival, (revealed in We the Icewine) I first asked a matter of fat cat factual question, Is writing making a mess of wine? “The combined fugitive pieces of wine and its critics pose questions without answers. They must be asked very slowly.”

Related – Mind blowing wines of 2014

The weeks of suffering through frozen days and night breeds reflection and thought. While the temperatures remained cursedly south of 20 I begged the question, Why drink that?, “looking for heroic entablature and architectural wonder in bottles of wine. We see them as DNA and in their liquids we can read their entire future. We sip them again and again until we taste them for the first time. To remember generations.” Have wine forget winter.

Good bye and thank you for your hospitality South Africa @WOSA_ZA @WOSACanada @CapeWine2015

Good bye and thank you for your hospitality South Africa @WOSA_ZA @WOSACanada @CapeWine2015

I penned If it’s value you want, it’s South Africa you need and later in May, Shades of South Africa. Oh sweet, naive, wait until you travel there and see what’s really up, Godello. Same for A new Greek morning and Getting into Greece. One week in the Peloponnese and my psyche would be altered forever.

In March I explained Why it matters to taste wines again, urged sharing through the practice of Take a bottle, leave a bottle and waxed parenthetical in yet another meaningful soul-searching moment. Why hate wine? was waged with a comment on “the wine geek who hates certain wines. The wine aficionado who picks on specific bottles, bullies them to the point of hatred. Slags them beyond reproach. Rants to the world about the injustice of their existence.” Bugger off.

The Old Third, Pinot Noir 2008

The Old Third, Pinot Noir 2008

Then April. “The Ontario wine industry is the best kept secret in the world. It has grown, accelerated and advanced with more success than might have been imagined as recently as five years ago. Ontario winemakers have figured it out. The “world-class” comparative humanities of aging and longevity aside, the comprehensive and widespread phenomenon of excellence, regardless of vintage, is now an Ontario reality.” Now you know the answer to Why taste Ontario?

Related – 15 Canadian wines that rocked in 2015

In May further validation with Searching for Somewhereness and I’m a little bit County, setting the stage for an October visit to proportion enormity across ridges and eskers. Further understanding culled in The Old Third and older County wines and The ridges of Prince Edward County.

Saturday night @barquebbq #smokerschoice and '08 @bodegasmuriel #rioja #spain

Saturday night @barquebbq #smokerschoice and ’08 @bodegasmuriel #rioja #spain

“Wine is a commensurate animal, altricial such as it is, acaudal, acersous, agnostic, aculeate and allocryptic such as it is not. Wine that is not so much off the beaten path as actually growing on one.” Path straying wines. The game changer happened one day in May at Barque Smokehouse with Chiara De lulis Pepe and The natural wines of Emidio Pepe.

Cool Chardonnay at Ridley College

Cool Chardonnay at Ridley College

The June WineAlign National Wine Awards of Canada followed Ontario Wine Awards judging, inclusive of tastings at Niagara College, Creekside Estates, Ravine Vineyard, Trius, Treadwell CuisineDomaine Queylus and The Good Earth Wine Company. A great, learned experience at Master classes of Terroir shed brilliant light on Gamay. Then the most important query of the summer. Can Chardonnay get any cooler? Well, one of two. Great Chardonnay and Pinot Noir from Nova Scotia? My maritime wine sojourn is summarized in East coast swing 2015: Time, tides and wine.

View of the mountains from Tetramythos, Aigialia, Peloponnese

View of the mountains from Tetramythos, Aigialia, Peloponnese

My great Greek Achaian adventure was told in three tales, Till I reach Achaia groundBring me Achaia love and Gateway to Achaia, from Roditis to Mavrodaphne

South Africa’s memories spilled out in waves, from Once upon a time in the Western Cape to Wines of South Africa: It’s the fling itself, through South African duck dynasty and Wines of South Africa: Go Cars Go.

The Empire of Garnacha

The Empire of Garnacha

October and November trips to Aragaon, Catalonia and Franciacorta opened eyes and expanded minds like never before. We’ve Garnacha covered part one: Campo De Borja was followed by CariñenaSomontanoTerra Alta and Calatayud.

With Pablo Alvarez (#vegasicilia) and Laurent Drouhin (#josephdrouhin) at #fourseasonstoronto for #primumfamiliaevini Can there be a more visceral wine experience than tasting some of the world's greatest wine estates and all the while their principals just seem to only talk about history and family? Makes me think about parents, grandparents and children. About accomplishments, passing torches and smelling roses. Or something like that.

With Pablo Alvarez (#vegasicilia) and Laurent Drouhin (#josephdrouhin) at #fourseasonstoronto for #primumfamiliaevini…Can there be a more visceral wine experience than tasting some of the world’s greatest wine estates and all the while their principals just seem to only talk about history and family? Makes me think about parents, grandparents and children. About accomplishments, passing torches and smelling roses. Or something like that.

Far out, man

Far out, man

Here are some mind blowing wines tasted in 2015.

Tetramythos Roditis 2014

Tetramythos Roditis 2014

Tetramythos Roditis 2014, PDO Patras, Greece (SAQ 12484575, $15.75, WineAlign)

Pulled from four vineyards at 650-850m of altitude and from vines 19-42 years old. No skin contact though it shows a light, slight tinge of colour. Nearly platinum in its yellow hue, perhaps attributed to organics says Papagiannopoulos, Eighty per cent was achieved through natural ferment (with zero malolactic) plus “one tank for security.” Roditis can go clean or develop anti-austerity, texture, viscosity in the direction of a dirty projector. The Tetramythos glides “forward through the clover and the bergamot.” I can see what she’s seeing. Tasting like a leesy ripe peach, this is the best “basic” Roditis tasted in Achaia. Serious match of Aleria Restaurant‘s Sea Bass Tartare. Drink 2015-2020.  Tasted July 2015

To taste again @lafouceller in @doterraalta is today's master plan @VINOS_ICEX #lovegarnacha #garnatxablanca #crdoterraalta

To taste again @lafouceller in @doterraalta is today’s master plan @VINOS_ICEX #lovegarnacha #garnatxablanca #crdoterraalta

Lafou Celler Garnatxa Blanca 2014, DO Terra Alta, Spain (WineryAgentWineAlign)

Ramon Roqueta Segalés, winemaker, soothsayer, visionary, seeker of the Garnatxa Blanca of today from “a narrow valley.” Ramon is very concerned with the valleys, the landscape, the geology, how the wind, the mediterranean climate and the ancient rivers that run through, having left their glacial deposits, all combine for this particular and most important expression of Garnatxa Blanca. Established in 2007, this wine was first released in 2011. Combines old and young fruit, some harvested fresher at a greener stage and others picked later, riper, brought together. Vinified separately, with some skin maceration, looking for fat to surround acidity. Ripe fruit (10 per cent) sees oak, the rest in egg shape concrete tanks with six to seven months of lees contact. Smells like a ripe peach, fresh and without sugar but instead a sprinkling of subterranean, ancient riverbed harvested salt. The tang is layered, variegated, mineral, mastered over and in corralling of oxidation, elaborated with gentle but forceful demand. “We learned that you can get a balance by harvesting and an early and a later stage, sometimes three times.” Finishes with lime, fresh squeezed, sweet tonic and distilled flowers. A wine that has succeeded in “mastering the oxidation process.” Plus the tannic (anti-oxidative) aspects offered in micro-oxygenation from the slightly toasted new oak. Approximate price $28.95 CAN. Drink 2015-2025.  Tasted October 2015  @lafouceller  @oenophilia1

Maps & Legends, from Cartology to Flotsam & Jetsam @ChrisAlheit @ZooBiscuitsWine #alheitvineyards #hermanus #capewine2015

Maps & Legends, from Cartology to Flotsam & Jetsam @ChrisAlheit @ZooBiscuitsWine #alheitvineyards #hermanus #capewine2015

Alheit Vineyards Flotsam & Jetsam Days of Yore 2014 (Winery)

Chris Alheit’s brand might allude to a chapter in J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Two Towers but Days of Yore must pay some homage to the 80’s thrash metal band and with great irony. This Cabernet Sauvignon and Cinsault blend is no Doomsday for the Receiver and certainly No Place for Disgrace. What it is instead is pure liquid brilliance. Old 1960 Cabernet Sauvignon bush vines are (even if unintentionally) farmed the way they used to be, back in the days of yore. Now cropped, tended and produced in pitch perfect cure, the resulting wine (when Cabernet is blended with Albeit’s dry-farmed, stomped and tonic-singular Cinsault) shows smoky depth and musicality. Sour-edged or tart can’t begin to describe the tang. It’s something other, unnameable, sapid, fluid and beautiful. It brings South Africa from out of the heart of its wayfinding darkness. Drink 2015-2025.  Tasted September 2015  @ChrisAlheit  @ZooBiscuitsWine

"If you can see the differences of terroir in Gewürz, then you won’t see it in Riesling" @AlsaceWines #olivierhumbrecht

“If you can see the differences of terroir in Gewürz, then you won’t see it in Riesling” @AlsaceWines #olivierhumbrecht

Domaine Zind-Humbrecht Gewürztraminer Clos Windsbuhl 2011, Ac Alsace, France (Agent, $64.00, WineAlign)

This is the most northerly Zind-Humbrecht vineyard, in Hunawihr. Like oil and water from this to 2012. So much more richness, unctuousness, classic western European riverbank gluck and heavy weighted metal. Layers upon layers of texture though not nearly as dramatically sweet as it might appear to be. Hides it so well, thanks to those remarkable Windsbuhl gifting phenols and intense grape tannin. This has presence so very rare in Gewürztraminer. In the end its a glass full of liquid gems, polished, elegant and refined. Allow the sugars several more years to fully realize its potential relationship with the acidity. Drink 2018-2033.  Tasted November 2015  @olivier_dzh  @TrialtoON  @AlsaceWines  @VinsAlsace  @drinkAlsace

Don Melchor Cabernet Sauvignon 2010

Concha Y Toro Don Melchor Cabernet Sauvignon 2010, Maipo Valley, Chile (403980, $70.00, WineAlign)

The 2010 Don Melchor harkens backwards, to years like 2001 and 2003, rephrasing and rewriting the paradigmatic book. From seven contiguous, sub-divided blocks of Cabernet, the ’10 speaks most highly of Lot Two, emphasized by chocolate, menthol and mineral, in cohorts with Lot Four, in elegance and depth. Extended glom and time-lapse picking between April 22 and May 27 was the casualty turned blessing of a cooler growing season in the semi-arid Mediterranean-like scrub desert of Puente Alto. The alluvial motion hauteur of slow-ripened fruit can’t be overestimated. The frame by frame capture has resulted in aromatics wafting off the charts; violet, anise, roasting cocoa bean, garrigue, ferric filings, mortar on wet stone, Cassis and eucalyptus. There is no heat, rendering the 14.6 declared alcoholic irrelevant. Best of all, it smells like Chile as much as it does Cabernet. There is no need to discuss the (97 per cent) CS in terms of Bordeaux, that is until you taste. Then the tobacco angst and silky texture elicit Margaux. Black currants and fine chocolate melt on the finish, still with a mouthful of stones. For winemaker Enrique Tirado, this may be his “El opus.” It will age effortlessly for 12-15 years. For anyone who purchased this wine more than 10 vintages ago, comparing current cost can be a byproduct in natural preoccupation. Who would not want a return to the sub-$50 Don Melchor going back a decade or more? Yet while tasting the present decimus, $100 crosses the fiscal mind and seems completely apropos. At $70 the clarity and sonority of its value is the blazon of an epistle. Few Cabernet Sauvignon dominant wines from Bordeaux or Napa Valley can compare. Drink 2016-2025.  Tasted April 2015  @conchaytoro  @MikeAikins1  @DrinkChile

Mullineux & Leeu Syrah Iron 2013, Wo Swartland, South Africa (WineryAgentWineAlign)

If such cure, grip, ferric grab and intense tannin has ever infiltrated South African Syrah it has not yet found its way over to me. In a side by side comparative tasting with the Schist Syrah this one wrestles to win. The Schist is all perfume and soft elegance. The Iron draws power to strength from strength. It is an unrelenting conduit of energy, from soil clearly designed to outlive humanity. The Syrah is a product of geological wonder and winemaking that steps aside to let the terroir speak its mind. Demanding and filled with tension now, time will soften the stranglehold and loosen the wires. Lots of time. Drink 2019-2028.  Tasted September 2015  @MullineuxWines  @MullineuxChris  @Nicholaspearce_

Fleury Père et Fils Cépages Blancs Extra Brut Champagne 1990, Champagne, France (Winery, Agent, WineAlign)

The expediency of weighted oxidation in flight flies effortlessly as a traveller propelled with verve and intrepid behaviour. Dried tangerine and so many tannic aspects are exaggeratedly exceptional for Champagne, fast forward thrusted and draughted with effortless urge. Derived as if from concrete shaped in purest form, of and before life. The dried fruits and a pith so calming are gathered for a level of citrus almost never before encountered. A very, very special 25 year-old bottle of bubbles from a pioneering organic and biodynamic producer in Courteron. Drink 2015-2020. Tasted February 2015  @ChampagneFleury

Most exciting wines tasted in a long time @winesorarg #carasur #bonarda #criolla #argentina #valledecalingasta

Most exciting wines tasted in a long time @winesorarg #carasur #bonarda #criolla #argentina #valledecalingasta

Cara Sur Bonarda 2014, Barreal, San Juan, Agrentina (Approx. $140)

Dry farmed, mordant and agile varietal red, a garagiste of a dirt road, in minuscule production, from natural run-off water and wild yeast. Only 500-600 bottles are produced, from north of Mendoza, in the Valle de Callingasta and Zuccardi funded. The natural cure is off the charts, the Emidio Pepe of Argentina, in which winemaking is really just perfect. Smells like the scrape of the amphora, already imbued of the aromatics of years, the answers of age, the design of ancients. You could keep this in the glass for a week and it will hardly evolve. Imagined as a 40 year wine for sure. Purity incarnate. Drink 2015-2040.  Tasted August 2015  @winesofarg

As I get on the 707 @penfolds 1999 #cabernetsauvignon carries me far away #treasurywineestates #southaustralia #bookofdreams

As I get on the 707 @penfolds 1999 #cabernetsauvignon carries me far away #treasurywineestates #southaustralia #bookofdreams

Jonata La Sangre De Jonata Syrah 2008, Santa Ynez Valley, Santa Barbara County, California (220517, $150.00, WineAlign)

A tremendously ripe, rich and layered Syrah that has few equals or rivals in California so in that sense the price is benevolently justified. Winemaker Matt Dees is no flash in the pan. His wines are cerebrated and cogitated with no stone left unturned. They are showy, chiselled wrestlers, boxers and ultimate fighters but they are the real deal. This ’08 is a veritable protein potpourri, of wafts from the finest boucherie, all hung limbs and wrapped sheep’s cheeses, in caves, on counters and under glass. The expression is also very Côte Rôtie meets côte de bœuf rôtie, with added luxe perfume, chalk and lacy grain. The fruit boundaries are endless, the chew meaty, cured and smoky. Ultra Syrah of never wavering red fruit in a packed vessel with alcohol declared at a meagre 14.9 per cent. Even if it is really more like 15.5, the wealth of fruit, acidity, tannin and structure can handle the heat. With so much happening, this wine will age like the prized hind quarters and mother’s milk solids it smells of. Jonata La Sangre De Jonata Syrah 2008 says something and I’d love to hear what that is 15 years down the road. Drink 2018-2028.  Tasted May 2015  @WoodmanWS  @CalifWines_CA

As I get on the 707 @penfolds 1999 #cabernetsauvignon carries me far away #treasurywineestates #southaustralia #bookofdreams

As I get on the 707 @penfolds 1999 #cabernetsauvignon carries me far away #treasurywineestates #southaustralia #bookofdreams

Penfolds Bin 707 Cabernet Sauvignon 1999, South Australia, Australia (Agent, $175.00, WineAlign)

The Bin 707 was first produced in 1964 though passed over from 1970 to 1975 and then in 1981, 1995, 2000, 2003 and 2011. With Grange in mind, were it to look in the mirror, it would see its reflection as Cabernet Sauvignon. A true South Australian Claret, multi-regional blend from Barossa Valley, Coonawarra, Padthaway, Robe and Wrattonbully. The ’99 was the 28th and as I get on board in 2015 and taste the 707, it carries me so far away. Today, in this world and how we play it, this is as fresh as Cabernet Sauvignon can be. It reads like a book of dreams. It is a miller of fruit, in secondary ester of refinement. It is a jet airliner, leaving behind a voluminous, velutinous trail of exhaust. “I feel like it’s all been done,” but not like this, aged for 18 months in 100 per cent new 300 litre American oak hogsheads. Not with this precision from veraciously selected fruit. Not like this. Look to 2025 for the tertiary period to begin. Drink 2015-2024. Tasted August 2015 @penfolds  #treasurywineestates 

Fino, Don P.X. '86 and '62 w: @sorgatoBTA @toroalbala @LeSommelierWine Magical, impossible, unchanging. Bucket list to revisit in 150 years #pedroximenez #bodegastoroalbala #montillamoriles #spain

Fino, Don P.X. ’86 and ’62 w: @sorgatoBTA @toroalbala @LeSommelierWine Magical, impossible, unchanging. Bucket list to revisit in 150 years #pedroximenez #bodegastoroalbala #montillamoriles #spain

Bodegas Toro Albalá Don P.X. Reserva Especial 1962, Do Montilla Moriles (424085, $205.00, WineAlign)

Unlike the 1986 which under recent European law (because it is not a red wine) must not be named Gran Reserva, this grandfather of a Pedro Ximenez is free to be what it’s supposed to be. A wine that was housed in a home somewhere in the village 10 years before the winery was created. A wine harvested in 1962, then took two months to ferment (to 7 or 8 per  cent alcohol). Estate distillate was added to fortify and raise it to 17 per cent, followed by a slumber for two years in concrete vats. The final resting place was in American wood where it slumbered peacefully for 49 years until it was bottled in 2011. In a show of future forward thinking and in retrospect, of historical allegiance, the signature on the bottle belongs to its original maker. Egresses from such delicate aromas, from citrus to coffee and stands in remarkable freshness belying its 50 years. The nuts are smoked with a zesting by citrus and a dusting in nutmeg. Chestnut and hazelnut curiously form a crasis of sensation, airy and creamy like mousse, sabayon or Caudreau. If you allow it, the finish will not let go. The sugar (300 g/L RS) and acidity (5.73 g/L TA) are the tangible aspects of its futuristic longevity. Like the ’86 this is another dessert wine secured of natural preservatives; undefined, magical, impossible. These wines opened could last for 20 plus years, unchanged. Unopened that number could surpass 100, without question, no problem. Like honey, this is an earthly substance that can last, seemingly forever. So, one glass of P.X. every day, going forward, for self-preservation. Drink 2015-2060. Tasted October 2015  @LeSommelierWine

The line-up from Emidio Pepe

The line-up from Emidio Pepe

Emidio Pepe Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Riserva 1983, DOC BIO Abruzzo, Italy (Agent, $279.95, WineAlign)

Give Emidio Pepe’s reds thirty odd years to develop and the impossible happens. To postulate in a moment’s assessment without remembering the pious tradition with which this was made would be a crime against Pepe, Abruzzo, the natural world and the wonders of the universe. With this much passage the spice cupboard that emits is wow times a thousand. Clove, cinnamon, cardamon, orange peel, galangal and like golden raisins that pass through quarries to become rubies. This wine is perfect. It has not broken down an iota. It requires no decanting. It defies logic, perception and time. There is no sediment, only energy. Speaks from the glass as if it were a child of destiny and mythology. The 1983 Emidio Pepe Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Riserva arrives from along the same road taken but its transmogrification proves that the result, with thanks again to the endemic froth, is different every time. Drink 2015-2029.  Tasted March 2015

Gaia Gaja and 1978 Barbaresco #veryproud #nebbiolo @StemWineGroup

Gaia Gaja and 1978 Barbaresco #veryproud #nebbiolo @StemWineGroup

Gaja Barbaresco 1978, Piemonte, Italy (Agent)

Tasted with Gaia Gaja as an added, as good a bonus as there ever was to an already exceptional line-up of Gaja wines, the 1978 Barbaresco is untangled, untwisted and liberated. Nebbiolo spoken with the utmost clarity. Cherries falling from the tree the moment the tips of fingers come within a hair of the touch. Spring is indeed in the air (despite it being early fall), a trick of the Gaja Genesis tale, “fields of incentive covered with green.” A mesmerizing Barbaresco, pure as driven snow, clear as a pool of fallen rain, quiet as an undisturbed slumber. Ancient longings of leather and dusty cocoa are but pipe stuffing, not yet lit. This Nebbiolo is pretty, feminine, beautiful and forcefully elegant. “When you’re asleep they may show you, aerial views of the ground, Freudian slumber empty of sound.” Only available from Nebbioli of the highest caste and order. Drink 2015-2028.  Tasted September 2015

Five little ducks all in a row @BellaVistaVino #anothersongaboutthefizz #franciacorta #largeformats #1987 #1989

Five little ducks all in a row @BellaVistaVino #anothersongaboutthefizz #franciacorta #largeformats #1987 #1989

Bellavista Winery Brut Sparkling 1987, Franciacorta, Italy (From a Six litre bottle, Agent, Winery)

Tasted alongside a 750 mL, Magnum, Jeroboam and nine litre 1989. The Methuselah is the first wine to show similarly to any of the others so the comfort level rises and yet this rocks out flinty and reductive most like the 3L. The energy is consistent, but here the spice is magnified and the nutty sense that showed in the Magnum has come forth. This seems to combine the pique aspects of both the Magnum and the Jeroboam. A best of all worlds bottle plus what it brings that neither had. Absolute freshness. Does not evolve in the glass in its first few minutes like the others that came before. It evens glistens unlike the others, as if it knows how complex, special and alive it is. This is the bomb for sure. Dart straight through the heart. Crazy exceptional Sparkling wine. It should be interesting to try and assess, which is a major act of liberty in assumption, to gauge with accuracy how format affects age. To close one’s eyes tight and place a number on each wine, to where it has evolved and why. Here, Jeroboam still three to five years away from even that beginning. Truly. Drink 2018-2037.  Tasted November 2015  @BellavistaVino  @Noble_Estates

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Eleven 11th hour holiday bubbles

Betella Franciacorta

Betella Franciacorta

Two weeks ago I laid bare the bubbles I’d buy were I faced with the welcoming necessity of a holiday shopping day. With those bottles long ago secured I followed up with more Sparkling wine tastings. Naturally.

Related – Godello’s guide to holiday effervescence

The idiomatic phrase has infiltrated all kinds of desperation, from settling political disputes, to diffusing bombs, to shopping. Its origins are Matthew 20:6. “And about the eleventh hour he went out, and found others standing idle, and saith unto them, Why stand ye here all the day idle?” If it’s Sparkling you want or Champagne you need, stand up and be counted. The choices are all around you.

First a disclaimer. I have no intention of making this a Champagne-free holiday. Some wine writers and perhaps even a consumer or two will be joining Jim Budd, a.k.a Jim’s Loire, in a Champagne boycott. This in response to what Budd calls the governing board’s (CIVC) “ludicrous, extremely heavy-handed and ruthless attempt to crush Jayne Powell (aka Champagne Jayne).” The powers that be that are Champagne are attempting to out Powell in court for allegedly attempting to capitalize on the name in illegal marketing ways. They claim she is misleading Twitter followers for monetary gain.

The trial is both ridiculous and smells of a witch hunt but the prosecution weighs of the big houses, not the small grower. One reader commented that the small producers should speak out. Speak out? Why would a French farmer jeopardize his business and the food he puts on his family’s table to protect “a respected international media commentator, independent reviewer and expert in champagne.” Why join the complaint department with something you neither endorse nor renounce? Why chime in on something further from your radar than Sparkling Outback Shiraz?

Perhaps Jim Budd’s request to boycott will do for the Champagne strong-arm dialectic what the Leonardo DiCaprio narrated 11th Hour did for the earth’s environmental discourse. That is, “push the debate further down the road.” Maybe it will assist, as the film may have, as the “montage rolls inexorably forward, pitched somewhere between Koyaanisqatsi and An Inconvenient Truth.”

Sparkling wine aims to please in so many ways and yes, there are a multitude of Champagne alternatives. A recent one day affair with Lombardian Franciacorta left me weak in the knees, despite all attempts to figure out where the two samples found at WineAlign came from? If anyone has the answer, please let me know. I want more for Christmas. Most exciting was a second tasting in as many weeks with Stephen Cohen from Groupe Soleil. Stephen’s portfolio of Grand Cru, Grower’s Champagne is nothing short of brilliant. Treats to the nth degree.

Here are 11 more Sparkling wines to seek out over the holidays, through the LCBO and at the import of Ontario agents. Bubbles are worth buying by the case.

Betella Franciacorta Brut Blanc De Blanc, Lombardy, Italy (WineAlign)

This 100 per cent Chardonnay is so direct, so grounded, so black and white. Just a hint of funky earth and a swath of painted lees but otherwise fruit entrenched in traction and fermentation in beautiful suspended animation. Defines modernity in Franciacorta, a still frame of concentrated, dry bubbles, life affirming and void of any extraneous conditioning. No add-ons, just straight up sock it to me Sparkling wine. Tight, bracing and built for serious fun, without ceremony or pageantry. So effective and so well constructed.  Tasted December 2014  @Franciacorta

Betella Lovera Di Franciacorta Rose Ardi, Lombardy, Italy (WineAlign)

Like the Betella Blanc de Blanc, this is quite direct, but in a much different way. It’s funky reductive and yet super, hyper transparent and understood. Wound tight with racy acidity and spumes of an aridity that steals saliva and is nearly heart-stopping. These blush bubbles are savoury in a way the Chardonnay just can’t seem to herbalize and bracing in a way that does not fully compute. Exciting and tart if noticeably out of balance. Tasted December 2014

From left to right: Wolf Blass Yellow Label Sparkling Brut, Mionetto M O Prosecco, Foss Marai Extra Dry Prosecco,13th Street Cuvée 13 Sparkling Brut Rosé,Sumac Ridge Steller's Jay Brut Sparkling Wine 2009

From left to right: Wolf Blass Yellow Label Sparkling Brut, Mionetto M O Prosecco, Foss Marai Extra Dry Prosecco,13th Street Cuvée 13 Sparkling Brut Rosé,Sumac Ridge Steller’s Jay Brut Sparkling Wine 2009

 

Wolf Blass Yellow Label Sparkling Brut, Australia (649996, $17.95, WineAlign)

Smells like strawberries covered in crème fraîche with a sprinkling of brown sugar. Slightly if negatively overripe and even oxidized, limping to bruised. The mouthfeel is nothing if not luxurious, in an expansive way Crémant d’Alsace fills spaces. The bruising is joined by a bronzing, in apples stuck to cold metal. Terpenes wind the fruit in elastic release. The persistence is quite good on a light (11 per cent) alcohol frame.  Tasted December 2014  @WolfBlassWines

Mionetto M O Prosecco, Treviso, Veneto, Italy (266023, $17.95, WineAlign)

Paradigmatic, stoic, poised and essential Prosecco of ultra-utilitarianism and yet spirited in ascent. Like the combined discourse of soft, acidulated, creamy granny smith apples and bosc pears in baking anticipation. A hero seltzer for aperitif goings on. Celebrates the reformed religion of Treviso fizz. Our Prosecco of inclusive ascension.  Tasted December 2014  @Select_Wines

Foss Marai Extra Dry Prosecco, Veneto, Italy (729392, $19.95, WineAlign)

Light, lithe and indiscernible from an alcohol perspective. Candy factory meet concrete truck aromas to form a strange, but effective union. Like yellow-banana salt water taffy rolled in coarse aggregate and portland cement. The filling brings sweetness and nondescript bitters. Finishes bold yet abrupt. From my earlier note: “Funky and advanced character. Aromas of green vegetables, celery stalks and oddly like botrytis, or an anti-botrytis. Has a platinum, minerality like no other in its Prosecco gang. Fun to think on and to work with.”  Last tasted December 2014  @FossMarai

13th Street Cuvée 13 Sparkling Brut Rosé, Traditional Method, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (147504, $24.95, WineAlign)

The intensity of strawberries is palpable, with the woodsy and earthy leaves on the ground soiling the oozing juices. Only Jean Pierre Colas can coax mushroom and truffles from Pinot Noir and Chardonnay destined for blush bubbles, grown in Niagara clay soils. Starts out sweet, turns dry and finishes with a concrete stamp of evidence. Not everyone’s cup of steeped, developed and all over the map tea. From my earlier note of April 2013: “Autolytic, Brut-finished, traditional method sparkling that has that something in her style. Pinot Noir and Chardonnay emitting so much strawberry energy you might find yourself lost in the fields forever. But there is more than that, “something in the way she woos me,” maybe the rhubarb replay, or the tarragon, or the faint tang of cheese. You gotta like the Jean Pierre Colas style and to like her, you need to like her style.”  Last tasted December 2014  @13thStreetWines

Sumac Ridge Steller’s Jay Brut Sparkling Wine 2009, VQA Okanagan Valley, British Columbia (264879, $25.95, WineAlign)

A worthy if warmer and fuller follow-up to the wise and evolving ’08. Presents more yeasty opulence and sweet cream, not to mention density and conceit in alcohol (13 per cent). A slightly oxidized false front reveals a gregarious personality, with aromas of clementine rind, spritz and a concentration of enzymatic lees. This has to be imagined as an absolute, unequivocal take on Okanagan Brut, with a glide from gravel and slate to citrus all around. Gives length like it should and it will say, “like I knew I would.” Thing is, these bubbles are good.  Tasted December 2014  @SumacRidgeWine

From left to right: Deutz Brut Classic Champagne, André Clouet Brut Rosé Champagne, Diebolt Vallois Prestige Brut Blanc De Blancs Champagne, Champagne Agrapart De Blanc Grand Cru Champagne

From left to right: Deutz Brut Classic Champagne, André Clouet Brut Rosé Champagne, Diebolt Vallois Prestige Brut Blanc De Blancs Champagne, Champagne Agrapart De Blanc Grand Cru Champagne

Deutz Brut Classic Champagne, France (Agent, $54.95, WineAlign)

The Deutz has every right to call itself classic Champagne; full of charm and chaste caste, of ingot, pleasure in bottle and a calm, slow play. An armoury of bronze, gold and platinum set yet malleable, ready to mold with all that comes its way. A sipper extraordinaire, a meal companion and a celebratory tipple. Works its metals with every facet of its mettle and being. Bread yeasty, non-violent citrus aromatics and very, very linear acidity. Elasticity in forward stretch, rebound rewind and cast forth again. Quite remarkable in such a simple way. Most excellent value.  Tasted December 2014  @TandemSelection

André Clouet Brut Rosé Champagne, France (Agent, $62.95, WineAlign)

Clouet does Rosé in a unique and special way. With the slightest early whiff in miasma it bleeds residual in sanguine, plasma vitality. Disgorged in April 2014, the base wine is 100 per cent Pinot Noir from the 2010 vintage, with (20 per cent) support from 2008 and 2009. Its 6 g/L of dosage saturates the plasmic flow, just at the edge of sweetness without any elevated or heightened sense of being there. A tease of concept and precept; citrus, wild sage savour and berry fruits. Very fine, natural and pronounced, in a calm and precise way. Tasted  December 2014  @GroupeSoleilTO

Diebolt Vallois Prestige Brut Blanc De Blancs Champagne, France (Agent, $68.00, WineAlign)

From the tiny town of Cramant, this B de B could never be confused with the lithe and lively Alsatian unequivalent. The Prestige bottling is exactly that; a bubbly of searing intensity from a Blanc de Blancs operative with an ever so slight bent to oxidation. The oxymoronic activity that is simultaneously weighty and aerified will only improve with some age. Disgorged in March 2014 at 9 g/L it eschews a Brut mentality for extreme pleasure. Savour the savour in this grower’s Champagne. The lemon-lime-grapefruit flavours pierce and inject along with organic sourdough fury and a density of just over the top toasty goodness. This is sword fighting, swashbuckling Champagne, bottled Tybalt of honour, terroir and incredible length.  Tasted December 2014

Champagne Agrapart Terroir Blanc De Blanc Extra Brut Grand Cru Champagne, France (Agent, $72.00, WineAlign)

Disgorged in February 2014 at 3.5 g/L, this is the Extra Brut Agrapart, as amplified a grower’s Champagne expression you are ever hopeful to come across. The base wine is from the 2009 vintage, with bits of 2008 and 2007 added in. There is an increased green feeling, in herbs and savour, nettle and apple. The citrus component is from lime, acting as the key to elevation and weightless simulation. Here the Grand Cru terroir for a GC strikes an immolate dagger into the hearts of basic, big name, monotone Champagne. Their are bitter roots as underlay and the aridity is simply nuts, peanuts even, the citrus condense of pith and putty. The flavours at times are at odds but thoughts always return to soil and blocks. This has specificity and idiosyncratic relevance written all over its fierce face. Most interesting specimen.  Tasted December 2014

Good to go!

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