Looking out for San Donato in Poggio

Castello delle Paneretta portal to San Donato in Poggio

These days of writing feature articles about a place within a commune inside a territory tells and potentially schools us about something highly profound. Riddles, mysteries and enigmas are now yielding to solutions, comprehension and understanding. The special nooks in Chianti Classico are tenderly referred to as frazioni, geographically defined pockets where vineyards and villages align for organized, like-minded production and same-belief system marketing. San Donato in Poggio is one such frazione, a hilltop village, hamlet and fraction united by the make-up of both constituents and terroir.

Barberino Tavarnelle from Isole e Olena

San Donato is found inside Barberino Tavarnelle, a new commune established on January 1, 2019 (reducing the total in Chianti Classico from nine to eight) by merging the municipalities of Barberino Val d’Elsa and Tavarnelle Val di Pesa. The joining of Barberino Tavarnelle is one of fourteen mergers of municipalities in Tuscany approved in recent years. On May 26, 2019 the citizens of Barberino Tavarnelle were called for the first time to the polls for the 2019 municipal elections. Mayor David Baroncelli was elected.

Paolo de Marchi in the Galestro of Isole e Olena

Going back in time the near-northerly and fully-westerly section of Chianti Classico saw Barberino Val d’Elsa and Tavarnelle Val di Pesa as border cousins sharing one particular mitigating and characterizing commonality; a ridge running from the southeast to the northwest affectionately housing the vineyards and paeselli of the people of San Donato in Poggio. SDP may not be household named to all but it’s surely the most prominent and prestigious of the angling, corrugated crests running through the entirety of the greater territory. 

Castello di Monsanto, Barberino Val d’Elsa

The Evolution of Chianti Classico

What was controversial only three or fours years ago is now part of everyday, commonplace discussion. While the Consorzio Vino Chianti Classico has yet to take an official stance on frazioni, especially with regards to labelling or menzione geografica, the fact is they are open-minded and even encouraging towards promoting the associations in search of marketing for their collective soul. Several years ago it was Roberto Stucchi of (Gaiole’s) Badia a Coltibuono who spoke about the “The Evolution of Chianti Classico.” Stucchi wrote “this zone is too large and diverse to remain locked in the current DOCG regulations, which make no distinction between the extremely diverse expressions of Sangiovese in its original territory. The first natural level of evolution above the simple “Chianti Classico” appellation would be naming the commune [township] of origin of the grapes for wines that truly represent their territory. The next step would be to define the village appellations, the smaller zones that are distinctive and that would clearly define some of the top wines in the appellation. So we could have Panzano, Monti, Lamole, as possible zones as well as the many others that have a common geography and history. This type of classification wouldn’t eclipse the current definitions of Classico, Riserva, Gran Selezione.”

Without being able to categorize by geological commonality the defining of sub-zones is always somewhat arbitrary, conceived of subjective opinion and potentially discriminatory to fringe participants, either for reasons of location or ideology. Borders can’t be drawn underground and to try do so above is nearly impossible. The only way is seemingly by commune but in the case of San Donato in Poggio, the namesake village situated upon its prominent ridge allows for its constituents to double down on the prospect.

A great big hug

The San Donato in Poggio room is tied together by climate in a well-bounded area affected by the mistral wind coming off of the Tyrrhenian Sea wafting in from the northwest natural corridor of Monte Serra between Pisa and Lucca. Winters are warmer than the Chianti Classico interior average while summers are cooler and windier. Bud break comes early, seasons are stretched longer and later hang-time allows for top quality phenolics. While finesse and elegance are the two go-to descriptors, those of glycerin and high-toned grip should also be considered. San Donato’s are some of Chianti Classico’s sneakiest tannins, shrouded in the beauty of these wines in their youth. Potential and possibility for great longevity is a hallmark trait of SDP’s sangiovese. If you are looking for comfort or a hug in Chianti Classico, you’ve come to the right place.

The Galestro of Isole e Olena, Barberino Tavarnelle

Rocks in common

San Donato in Poggio’s lifted ridge is typical of the Ligurian sea’s platform push but here the cause and effect is two-fold. Flysch (an alternating sequence of sedimentary limestones, sandstones, and shales, the beds of which are thin, regular, and alternating) is this frazione‘s ace up the sleeve. That and the Galestro (schisty clay with friable white, grey, blue and charcoal rocks) typical of the greater territory are the soils with which all of these producers have in their vineyards to some varying degree. It may be argued that no other commune, village or valley shares such distinctly common terroir. Some compact limestone (like Alberese) exists as well but in some cases it is the Galestro clay and rock known as the Iolithium Unit that is found in large, hard and ghostly white Colombini that separates San Donato from the rest of the territory. Of great interest is to see how the sliding of the two platforms caused on the contact surface and the composition of blue clays prevents water loss in the deep layers. This creates natural availability of water, essential during drought vintages. Now you know where to look for 2017 Chianti Classico.

Natascia Rossini, Podere La Cappella

Associazione Viticoltori di San Donato in Poggio

The association of thirteen producers began their collective journey on January 24, 2018. Their total land holdings add up to just under 2000 hectares, 20 per cent of which are planted to vineyards.  “A time of change and exchanging ideas,” explains association secretary and Podere La Cappella’s Natascia Rossini. “Here there is a longer growing season and we tend to harvest late” and yet two years ago just a couple degrees cooler in temperatures meant that the frazione avoided damaging frost, with help from the winds blowing in 60-70 kms away from the coast. While it is difficult to find a commonality within a sub-zone, you can agree that the climate here is consistent throughout.

Passione per le nostre terre ed i suoi frutti, un territorio ed una cultura unici al mondo, un tesoro comune: il vino.
Siamo un gruppo di viticoltori, di un piccolo ma prodigioso territorio del Chianti Classico raccolto tra i comuni di Tavarnelle Val di Pesa e Barberino Val d’Elsa, che vogliono tutelare (o custodire) e far conoscerne la loro secolare tradizione agricola, storica e culturale evidenziandone le eccellenze vitivinicole, nonché le caratteristiche che le contraddistinguono sottolineando l’importanza degli aspetti climatici e geologici.

The manifesto translates as such. “Passion for our lands and its fruits, a unique territory and culture in the world, a common treasure: wine. We are a group of winemakers, from a small but prodigious Chianti Classico area gathered between the municipalities of Tavarnelle Val di Pesa and Barberino Val d’Elsa, who want to protect (or preserve) and make their secular agricultural, historical and cultural tradition known highlighting their wine excellence, as well as the characteristics that distinguish them, emphasizing the importance of climatic and geological aspects.”

Paolo de Marchi

The thirteen members currently ensconced in the all for one directive are Badia a Passignano, Casa Emma, Casa Sola, Castello delle Paneretta, Castello di Monsanto, Fattoria La Ripa, Fattoria Montecchio, Fattoria Quercia al Poggio, Fattoria Spadaio e Piecorto, Isole e Olena, Le Filigare, Podere La Cappella and Poggio al Sole. The following are 21 examples from the association’s 13 members (plus three likely soon to join) tasted in September 2019 with Alberto Albisetti at Castello delle Paneretta and with Paolo de Marchi at Isole e Olena.

Antinori Badia A Passignano Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG 2016 (384552, $49.95)

Presented by Stefano Carpaneto. From Barberino Tavarnelle and well entrenched in the association of vintners in San Donato in Poggio. Surprisingly high toned but also immensely structured in a 100 per cent sangiovese Gran Selezione. You can really feel both the calcari inlaid and braided through the Galestro clay by a richness albeit under the influence of the highest tone. Gains flesh, bone and energy as it goes. Drink 2021-2029.  Tasted September 2019

Casa Emma Chianti Classico DOCG 2016 (56952)

From Paolo Paffi off of 25 hectares at 450m in production of 95,000 bottles. San Donato sangiovese with five per cent each canaiolo and malvasia nera, 70 per cent raised in tonneaux and 30 in Inox tank. What’s good for goose is great for sangiovese and so 60 are employed in the vineyard, helping to release the compaction in the clayey Galestro soil. Classic in every expected respect, in the specific savour, motivating intensity, high tonality, deeply good and plenty cherry fruit. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted September 2019

Casa Sola Chianti Classico DOCG 2016

A 120 hectare property owned and operated by a Genovese family, third generation now. The Gambaro Family has been in Barberino Tavarnelle since 1960; Giuseppe, Claudia and their children, Matteo and Anna. Some canaiolo, cabernet sauvignon and colorino augment the sangiovese, for one year in barrel. A sapid and savoury sangiovese snack of red fruit deepening to dark and sullen. Deep toned wine. Really deep. Drink 2019-2020.  Tasted September 2019

Castello Della Paneretta Chianti Classico DOCG 2016 ($24.00)

Presented by Alberto Albisetti, owner of the Castello della Paneretta. A mix of fruits fresh and dried mark the basket of this San Donato sangiovese, with 10 per cent canaiolo and (five) colorino off of 23 hectares of vines. Dry and duty, red ropey, some liquorice and a real estate cuvée blended from vines across the estate. True blue stylistic from large 5000L French barrels. Old school in some ways, classic, like old Rioja. Perfect for the style. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted September 2019

Castello Di Monsanto Chianti Classico DOCG 2016 

Showing in the only way Castello di Monsanto can, with forest scents, of cypress and all the brush you can shake into the fine liquid of a sangiovese off of these San Donato hills. Mainly Galestro schisty soils bringing the essential balance, along with some volcanic tufo. It all adds up to a posit tug between freshness and structure. Experience tells us that the possibility exists for 2016 to go long like 1968. Perhaps.  Last tasted September 2019

Annata of 90 per cent sangiovese with both canaiolo and colorino, traditional, loyal and streaked by the Galestro qualified off this ridge extended out of San Donato in Poggio. Juicy, fresh and forward, expressive of the vintage, not so muscular. Sangiovese like going home and crawling into the bed you slept in as a child. Drink 2018-2030.  Tasted September 2018

Castello Di Monsanto Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG Il Poggio 2013 ($85.00)

Il Poggio from the San Donato in Poggio Galestro and Flysch has barely even climbed the hill of its first stage. Not even sure it has left the stable and surely has no current aspirations of making it to the fortress. The seventh year should show the first signs of initial ascent and transitions into secondary life. Formidable structure and presence are in surround of fruit from one of Chianti Classico’s most distinguished cru.  Last tasted September 2019

The cooler, cloudy vintage has been taking its time to emerge and 2018 is now live, in the present and in the flesh, ready for its time. This is confirmed by the grand artist known as Riserva from perhaps the most iconic hill in all of Chianti Classico. Still bright, effusive and not fully ready to let its tannin melt away. The sangiovese component is in the 90-95 per cent range, again with canaiolo and colorino coming around to complete the whole. The tension persists and the tannic structure in this “Selezione” is much tighter than the Annata or the first, non terroir specified Riserva. Still hard to believe how grippy this is. A soon to come epiphany with the 1968 helps to explain Il Poggio’s phenomenon. As a racer Monsanto’s Riserva 2013 is Marco Pantani, greatest climber of a generation, with so much grandiosity, potential and possibility, straight to the top of Il Poggio. Drink 2020-2030.  Tasted September 2018

Fattoria Le Masse Chianti Classico DOCG 2016

Though not in the association Le Masse is unequivocally a San Donato in Poggio institution, under the auspices of brother and sister Robin and Lea Mugnaini, owners and winemakers. Theirs out of Barberino in Val d’Elsa vineyards is a child of natural fermentation, has been organic 10 years and two as biodynamic. No sulphur, no pumps, all manual, a mano. This 2016 is the last year of barrel use, of those in their fourth year. The solo/varietal Annata is 100 per cent sangiovese of high energy, intensity and impressively developed structure, linear and so driven. Drink 2020-2028.  Tasted September 2019

Fattoria La Ripa Chianti Classico DOCG 2016

Presented by winemaker Nicholas Caramelli, La Ripa farms 12 hectares in Chianti Classico divided into two valleys, one marked by Alberese, the other alluvial deposits. Ten clones of sangiovese adding up to 90 per cent of the Annata, with other native varieties. Quite high-toned and graced by liquorice inflected red fruit, a touch leathery and dry. Only stays in tonneaux for six months. Drink 2019-2021.  Tasted September 2019

Fattoria Montecchio Chianti Classico DOCG ‘Primum Line’ 2016

Presented by Riccardo Nuti, of 95 per cent sangiovese with alicante in big (33hL) barrels for aging. The vineyard source happens to be the most recently planted, with a combination of Galestro and Flysch (rhythmic alternations of sandstone and fine-grained layers that contain siltstones, silty shales, and clayey shales) to the south of San Donato.  Last tasted September 2019

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

Il Poggiolino Chianti Classico DOCG Il Classico 2016

Alberto Fabbri is also not yet a member of the San Donato in Poggio association and his work from vineyards in Tavarnelle Val di Pesa is exquisite. A combination of reduction and cured meat, pancetta, from Galestro soils at 300m with five per cent canaiolo. Even finer touch from the most excellent 2016. Drink 2020-2024.  Tasted September 2019

Isole E Olena Chianti Classico DOCG 2016 ($34.95, 704346)

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

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

Isole E Olena Chianti Classico DOCG 2013 (704346)

Poured from magnum. Should we expect an Isole e Olena ’13 to be the least unusual in the appellation? Yes. While higher in acid and lift it’s more a representation of the land and the soils, but also the style. In a way a classic vintage because grapes hung into October. Quite youthful, an uprising of energy, a pump up, not over. Quite seamless and full of Paolo de Marchi pride. Spice and strength, fortitude and extension.  Last tasted September 2019

Quite the syrupy aromatic liqueur fills the glass for the ripe and nearly floral brooding Chianti Classico from I e O out of the gregarious 2013 vintage. The stylistic makes me think Riserva but that just says so much about the quality and layering of the fruit. More than ample tart and variegated acidity up the equanimity and longevity factor so the house’s ability with Chianti Classico of less time in barrel is once again confirmed. Drink 2017-2022.  Tasted February 2017

Isole E Olena Chianti Classico DOCG 2010 (704346)

Poured from magnum. A beautiful vintage, certainly apposite to the challenge of wet, stretched then long 2013. A vintage with fine tannins that developed early enough and without much compromise to elongated structure. A top notch sangiovese vintage from which a great Cepparello was extracted. Wow factor winding and circling, dramatic and savoury with all the bushes and herbs magnified as they will be. Magnum perhaps but if nine years has only beget this, well then surely nine plus nine more will soothsay forward towards the secondary and tertiary numbers. Drink 2019-2028.  Tasted September 2019

Le Filigare Chianti Classico DOCG 2016

Presented by Alessandro Cassetti Burchi, proprietor of the smallest producer in the San Donato in Poggio association. Vineyards at 450m and from a winemaker who strikes an uncanny resemblance to American rock legend Tom Petty. With five per cent each colorino and canaiolo raised only in old barriques. Quite rich and savoury, of maritime pine, comfortable, old school, long developed with help from extended, even late harvests. So charming. This sangiovese belongs amongst the wildflowers, by a house in the woods, where “I ain’t got a neighbour for nine or ten miles, back in the tall pines.” Drink 2019-2023.  Tasted September 2019

Ormanni Chianti Classico DOCG 2016

Presented by Ivan Batignani, from the family with a presence in Dante’s Divine Comedy. Immensely and incredibly rich in acidity and tannins over some pretty solid and heady fruit. Big Slavonian oak. Big aging, big vessels, big wine, all in balance. A 100 per cent sangiovese that still needs time.  Last tasted September 2019

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

Ormanni Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG Etichetta Storica Dugentanni 2013

Dugentanni, as in two hundred years, a reference to contiguous ownership by the Brini Batacchi family. The oldest vineyards in western Barberino Val d’Elsa supply the fruit for Ormanni’s top level sangiovese and one held back with traditional territory patience before its release to market. More loyal to the past then many, with a crisp clarity and the kind of Gran Selezione that wafts with nonno’s pipe tobacco flavour. Tells a story of tradition with unclouded vision and empathy for both family and place. Really smart Classico and ready to be enjoyed. Drink 2020-2028.  Tasted September 2019

Quercia Al Poggio Chianti Classico DOCG 2016

Presented by Michaela Rossi. Located on the hill in front of Paneretta, of 100 hectares with only 15 planted. Maximum altitude is 300m with 360 degrees of exposition. Organic practices since ’97 and officially certified since 2009. Clay and Galestro terroir with sangiovese, ciliegiolo, canaiolo, malvasia nera and colorino. This Annata is 80 sangiovese with the rest in 20 parts. One year in concrete after spending a year in wood. Terrific energy and balance, a wildly vibrant and driven Annata with great presence and intuition. Structure too. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted September 2019

Quercia Al Poggio Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2013

From Vittorio and Michaela Rossi and their best fruit from an amphitheatre of a hillside vineyard as rich in clay of any found in San Donato is Poggio. Pockets of Galestro and limestone take on some responsibility for the grip ins and structural outs of this glycerin beauty of a sangiovese but rich fruit is the catalyst and the star. That said there is a sculpted or architectural notation mixed with the excellence that this frazione in this commune (Barberino Tavarnelle) is able to provide and prove from a vintage of mixed feelings. The feelings are obvious from 2013 and for Quercia al Poggio, of sumptuousness and delight. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted September 2019

Podere La Cappella Chianti Classico DOCG 2016 ($28.95)

Always something completely other. From vines six to seven years old. A blend of sangiovese (90) and 10 merlot. The elixir that the others in San Donato are not, a gentle syrup, a sweetly endowed savour and a texture silky fine.  Last tasted September 2019

Only San Donato in Poggio delves into this kind of specific calcaire, the Colombino in lieu of most other’s Galestro. The coolest of notes are broken down and fragmented in mimic of the soil and run like a river of savoury stone through stratified fruit. There is a perception of sweetness, imagined as perfectly ripe, low-lying fruit in early summer. But the sweetness is just a dream because with such a level of mineral, not salty but sapid, it is impression that supersedes expression. The young vines are growing up before our noses and eyes, lending impeccable balance in the here and now, with appreciable development laid out ahead. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted February 2018

Poggio Al Sole Chianti Classico DOCG 2016

Presented by Project Manager Valentino Davaz. “Hill at the sun,” and the most northerly winery in the association of San Donato in Poggio, near to the abbey of Badia a Passignano. Organic and at good elevation, at 420m with five per cent each canaiolo and also merlot, in one quarter barriques for one year. One of the more wooded wines in the lot, lush, rich and silky smooth. Needs time to submit and gently glide into that sunset over the hill. Drink 2020–2024.  Tasted September 2019

Tenuta Bonomonte Chianti Classico DOCG 2016

Presented by Sonia Gianni. Bonomonte is situated in front of the Paneretta hill in Barberino and their Annata’s sangiovese is blended with five per pent each canaiolo and colorino. A production that has been in play since 1982, the 2016 goes for the entirety of the vintage, a bit pressed with some overripe fruit and drying tannins. Drink 2019-2020.  Tasted September 2019

Good to go!

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Castello delle Paneretta portal to San Donato in Poggio

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WineAlign

 

Nineteen mind-blowing wines of 2019

1964

Tout vient à son heure pour qui sait attendre, wrote Clément Marot, Renaissance poet. Everything comes at its appointed time. From Cahors to Turin. War, peace, hate, love, fruit, acid and tannin. Wine is all about the pauses and the balances. At its core the value is in that feeling of things being natural and equal. That’s the way it should be. When you drink you enjoy what you have, without competition. One sensation after another. You feel like you have more, even if you have less. Like consomée with just a chop of vegetables.

Welcome to Godello’s annual list of the most conspicuous, head-turning and psychotropic moments, better known as his 19 mind-blowing wines of 2019. Godello first initiated the concept for a year-end culminating evaluation in 2012 though did not actually coin the phrase until publishing his 14 mind-blowing wines of 2014. Call it the sixth or the eighth but who really cares because the wines are the crux and the heart of the matter.

Related – Eighteen mind-blowing wines of 2018

Related – Seventeen mind-blowing wines of 2017

Hard to know how many wines he actually tasted in 2019 but the best guesstimate would be 2,500 because that is how many reviews have been posted to WineAlign in this calendar year. A couple hundred were for wines tasted in 2018 but the editing and posting of at least that many for wines tasted in 2019 have yet to become permanent. So the number is pretty close, one way or another.

There were at least a few dozen stellar and jaw-dropping wines that should of, could of, would of made this list. For every one chosen another was left behind for no reason other than necessity and its relationship to the mother of invention. These images exhibited are but a few that had every reason to be one of 19’s 19.

Related – 16 mind-blowing wines of 2016

With thanks to everyone who poured a glass. The producers, winemakers, export managers, friends, colleagues and pirates, please be encouraged and read on. Godello’s 19 mind-blowing wines of 2019.

AB Wines Opçāo Avesso “A” Vinho Verde 2016, Portugal

From winemaker/oenologist António Sousa’s personal label (with partner Bernardo) and a vineyard planted in 2003, in Amarante. These are avesso grapes just a few years away from what António considers the optimum age, when they reach 18 years, 10 years older than the age from which they begin to deliver excellence. This A is in position A, from a perfect vantage point out of a very good vintage. This is the role model and exemplar for avesso, from a project that began in 2016, with all the adjunct components in line; lemon, lime, orange, ripe acidity, juicy nature and just a minor creamy, fleshy and boozy happiness. Great balance. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted October 2019

Marco Felluga Russiz Superiore Tocai Friulano Collio DOC 1997, Friuli, Italy

So remarkable, from the old messaging in the riesling/tocai bottle, stricken from the consorzio record. This is now a wine bottled in Bordeaux style but this look back 20-plus years shows freshness, spirit and only the beginnings of secondary character. Gassy and lemon intense, a near-perfect example of what was and could be, of how aged whites of Collio can keep freshness and the saltiness of place. All thjis and without crazy acidity. That is the conundrum and the magic of Collio. The persistence is romanticism incarnate with fruit oozing out of pores in great remain. Drink 2019-2021.  Tasted May 2019

Goisot Gulhem Et Jean Hugues 2015, Côtes D’auxerre AOC, Bourgogne, France ($36.00)

A soil of kimmeridgian and marl, of white and blue, with great layering of fruit and that is in fact what you feel from Gondonne. There is something rich and overtly expressive here and while it’s anything but simple it could be imagined that so many consumers would understand this chardonnay, love it and want to drink it with abandon. That said the structure, goût de terroir and joie de vivre are just exceptional. The wood and the land just melt right in. Drink 2020-2029.  Tasted November 2019

Ken Forrester Old Vine Reserve Chenin Blanc 2007, WO Stellenbosch, South Africa

These Helderberg vines would have been 33 years of age at the time and to think the wine would have cost $10 or so. Now 12 years later we’re graced with this hyperbole of toast, smoulder, lit paraffin and the edge of saffron honey. It’s hard to believe and this the from the tier-two, non-selected grapes at the back of the line behind a Forrester wine like the FMC. Nothing less than incredible. Drink 2019-2021. Tasted October 2019

Ornellaia Bianco 2016, IGT Toscana Bianco, Tuscany, Italy

The Bianco was first introduced in 2013, following fast forward to the original 1980s and 1990s work with Poggio alle Gazze dell’Ornellaia. That project had been abandoned because says Axel Heinz “stylistically it just wasn’t right.” That wine was mainly sauvignon blanc on one of Ornellaia’s great vineyard sites. What was wanted was something more than a varietal wine and a new age of finding vineyard sites that were more than merely good for white wine. That means making use of northern slopes and those blocks favourable to whites, including the use of (indigenous) vermentino and viognier. The practice had already been proven with success by colleagues. Bianco is the alter ego to the Rosso, priced as such “and reflects the spirit of Ornellaia, but it had to build itself up to that premium level. We intend to make one of the great white wines of the world,” explains Heinz. That may sound like bragging swagger but the reality is that experience, acumen and especially confidence breed the truth. I Bianci are aged for 12-15 months in (30 per cent new) barriques before bottling. I do dare you to find a wine that smells anything like this Bianco. They are flowers unnamed or perhaps not yet discovered. The flinty reductiveness is also truly and wholly unique. Though the way sauvignon is raised and the place are surely not the same, the Bordeaux styling and sensibility of affinities are more than uncanny and even served by purpose. The vintage brings great maturity, fruitiness and salinity. Fruit presence under the spell of fleur de sel. Nothing but a brilliant combination. Says Heinz without equivocation, “it’s a benchmark for us, ’16 that is.” Drink 2020-2031.  Tasted March 2019

Domaine Bouchard Père & Fils Chevalier Montrachet Grand Cru 2017, AOC Bourgogne, France

The couverture is all encompassing acting as a full sheathing tapestry in surround of a fruit core of sheer concentration and yet as a whole so understated. It’s hard to imagine more coaxing and less pronouncement. Relatively speaking there’s no estate equal to what has happened here. Great mineral crash into life and love, into fruit and impossible acidity. A magnificent chardonnay with 25 years of life ahead. Drink 2021-2039.  Tasted September 2019

Adelsheim Pinot Noir Boulder Bluff 2015, Chehalem Mountains AVA, Oregon

From a steep, southwest facing site and picked really early, especially in the warm 2015 vintage. Again the confluence of vineyard conflagration of more than one soil type leads to an estate stylistic but let’s face it one that is bent into shape by focus and precision. There is great generosity and freshness, again in spite of or despite the hot vintage. More floral from this bluff and bigger, albeit finer quality signature tannin from this neighbourhood, with more thanks to basaltic blocks. Long ageing surely ahead with fruit turning to bramble, at times. Drink 2021-2028.  Tasted April 2019

Tenute Bosco Etna Rosso DOC Vigna Vico Pre Phylloxera 2015, Sicily, Italy

The litheness of this nerello mascalese from Mount Etna off of 100-plus years of age pre-phylloxera vines cannot be over-stated or overstressed. The light, ethereal beauty of this wine may very well transport you to a place, to a vacuum within a bubble that is a hidden world inside a biodome. Few words are available when a wine speaks to you such as this Vico does to me at this time. This impossibility of such fruit concentration is also implausibly understated, as are the tannins and the acidity, yet all align and intertwine along a perfectly rendered line. You recognize the automatic brilliance, for the people and from the place. You just know it when you taste it. If you can find this wine, if you ever get the chance to purchase a bottle or two, you owe it to yourself to act, for you and for anyone you might happen to share it with. Drink 2019-2035.  Tasted May 2019

Donnafugata Mille E Una Notte 1996, DOC Contessa Entellina, Sicily, Italy

An arch classic from Sicilia sud Occidentale and more specifically Tenuta Contessa Entellina. Of the oldest wines this is one of the highest tonality, not unlike older and older schooled nebbiolo from Barbaresco, in a queen’s throne sort of way. There is siply no way to argue that this wine did not deserve to be aged this way and to be waited on for such a moment of appreciation. Age worthy and load management indeed, with every resolution hoped for and expected. Brilliance and a benchmark, with a half decade of life still ahead. Drink 2019-2026.  Tasted May 2019

Scarpa Barbera d’Asti DOC La Bogliona 1996, Piedmont, Italy

At 23 years you just have to launch yourself headfirst into the blood orange. That this piece of barbera wow factor happened before the year 2000 is the thing, especially because climate was very different. Rain fell often and slowly through the year, as opposed to the deluges of globally disaster-orchestrated today. Higher acidity simply speaking and this of the great lean, salty and direct-fitted pieces of barbera composure. Still fresh with dried fruits and low alcohol (at 13.0 per cent declared) but who knows which way the marketing directed labelling in those days? More than a lovely look back. Educational, instructional, cerebral and mind-bending from the lesser appreciated Piedmontese sector. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted December 2019

Maison Roche De Bellene Charmes Chambertin Grand Cru 2012, AOC Bourgogne, France

Do not adjust your set. The vintage brought everything to the table and while the foreground presents a picture crystalline and transparent the entirety of the frame is frozen clear. As for the aromatics this teases a meaty cure like few other and teases as if by the ambience of a cave, restricted of access, hiding what lurks, hangs and excites. Crunchy to say the least, layered to say more and complex to speak the ultimate truth. Magnifique and still twenty years away from the beginning of the end. Drink 2022-2037.  Tasted September 2019

Domaine De La Pousse D’or Pommard Premier Cru Les Jarollières 1964, Appellation Pommard Controlée, Bourgogne, France

Calling this 55 year-old Bourgogne Premier Cru a piece of history is not enough to do justice because family, lineage and the passing of the generational torch beyond domaine lines are everything that matters. Nicolas Potel pulled this one out of thin air and not merely by a human ability to disappear and reappear. No, Nico chose the way of disapparating and then apparating (in the wizard sense of “apparition,” a magical form of teleportation). His father Gérard’s ’64 was in his hands and a great big, merde-eating grin was posted all across his face. Les Jarollières is a 1.44 ha plot of marl and calcaire and even today half of the plantings are those that were fitted in 1925 and 1962. It was Gérard Potel who resurrected Domaine de la Pousse d’Or to its glory and in 1964 he acquired the domaine through a marriage to the then owner’s niece. Along with Henri Boillot this cru has been famous being meaty, earthy and owning an ability for supernatural integration. This 1964 had taken all that, everything and more, left nothing in the vineyard and had now become the epitome of the ethereal. The fruit was fully intact, so bloody strawberry, still with lightning quick reflexes and able to pour fresh glasses of spirit and energy over the course of a full hour. The experience was a once in a lifetime type, a shared moment and the kind to create a banked memory that will always be generous when a good one is needed. Thank you Nico. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted December 2019

 

I Fabbri Chianti Classico DOCG 2000, Tuscany, Italy

At the time it was labeled as an (Annata) Chianti Classico though it was really Riserva. Yes it has evolved but 18-plus years should have moved it much further along. Carries a spice like the exoticism in resemblance to 2006 but this is something other. Still some very fine, present and notable acidity. Amazing purity, honesty, luck, circumstance, place and gentile personality. The sapidity is there again and the age ability nothing short of remarkable. Drink 2019-2021.  Tasted February 2019

Volpaia Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG Il Puro 2015, Tuscany, Italy ($150.00)

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

Le Chiuse Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG Diecianni 2010, Tuscany, Italy

“A muscle vintage, of huge character,” tells Lorenzo Magnelli. The name of the wine is Diecianni to tell us that Lorenzo’s Riserva is not released until the 10th year. Brings about all the complexities that come from such an extended elévage. Tobacco, savour, forest floor, frutta di bosco and frutto secco but don’t be succumbing to depths and sottosuolo because the freshness persists. A wine so wise beyond its years, like its maker. Sure you can release a Riserva one year after Annata but when it has been protected and taken care of for you then it presents as it was intended to. We are thankful for the triage and the investment on our behalf. The fruit persists with great natural sweetness out of 2010. Drink 2019-2035.  Tasted October 2019

Conti Costanti Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Colle Al Matrichese 2015, Tuscany, Italy

Andrea Costanti is convinced this is a great vintage. “One of the best.” The weather was perfect following a beneficial cold winter. The harvest was early but not compromisingly so and it saw no hurdles, obstacles or intendments. The barrel use is bigger, older and wiser. This is the sort of concentrated Costanti that speaks to the 2019 philosophy, of acidity, ripeness and balance. Time on skins was about a month (including two weeks of fermentation and oxidation introducing délestage) and no protective sulphur. There is a control in this sangiovese, a powerful restraint but more than that, more so a calm, but not before storm. Finesse, grip and beauty, like a statue of a stag, in a courtyard, lit by moonlight. Tannins are all pervasive, fully stated, yet to feel a necessity for attack. They will and we will retreat, Then we will advance, with caution, further to find full pleasure for two decades. At the very minimum. Drink 2023-2039.  Tasted February 2019

Le Ragnaie Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Vigna Vecchia 2015, Tuscany, Italy ($177.00)

Planted in 1968 and from a warm vintage all the way to the end, into October. Riccardo Campinoti is smiling wryly, knowingly and confidently after he pours and begins to speak of it. “The longer you waited the riper it became” and the healthy grapes allowed for hanging to mid-October. Deeper and of more sponge-soaked earth in the old vines with a higher tone juxtaposed against the depth drawn by long vine roots. The aromatic complexities run, jump and ride off the proverbial charts and you may find yourself drunk and mystified just from the smells. Once you gain palate entry you are hooked and then you climb in, headfirst, unencumbered, no strings attached. A tour de force beloved of sangiovese, Montalcino and old vines. Vigna Vecchia is the epitome of a true structured wine, one which does not grow old, despite the passage of time. Drink 2023-2039.  Tasted October 2019

Antiche Cantine Dei Marchesi Di Barolo 1990, Barolo Riserva, Piemonte, Italy

A grande dame or marchesa in the parlance of these woods, a nebbiolo of persistence, resilience and strength of character. Initiates contact with the past and a contract with tradition by way of the things that matter most. Family for one, roots dug into the earth second and the vineyard’s tongue, if it were able to speak. The overall gist in the parlance is heard and even understood although the dialect is hard to decipher if you are not of this place. This 1990 is found to be of high though level tempered energy and then with an ear, a nose and a soul so close to the earth. Smells like the soils amalgamated, preserved and demonstrated through the tempered liquor of a wise old 29 year-old nebbiolo. So much more than a piece of the past, this is an auguri gathering of storytelling, kin, culture and DNA. You must pay thanks for a chance to taste a thing such as this. Drink 2019-2033.  Tasted December 2019

Gaja Sorì Tildìn 2016, Barbaresco DOP, Piemonte, Italy ($810.00)

Angelo Gaja sees 2016 as a perfect vintage in Barbaresco and the one from which climate change is viewed with great irony in the wink-wink guise of parenthetical thanks. That means the cosmic and astronomical alignment makes for wines that are both pleasant in their youth and also impossibly structured to age. Named for the sunny position of the slope and Mr. Gaja’s grandmother Clotilde. Now the clay and the calcaire have conspired, along with the purchased land of which Clotilde was custodian and in how she pushed her husband to make great wine. The vines are now on average 50 years-old and the composition meeting aspect bring a depth of complexity as poignant as it gets in this tiny part of nebbiolo production. All the flowers, rocks and elements are contained within the interior walls of this gently forceful Langhe red. It mimics the matriarch by the strongest power of suggestion and will not take no for an answer. Perhaps never will. Drink 2025-2045.  Tasted December 2019

Good to go!

godello

1964

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WineAlign

Conceptual and aesthetic Brunello di Montalcino

Montalcino, 6pm

October 2019

Montalcino. Harmony and Unesco Heritage Centre of a surface area totalling 31,200 hectares, 3,660 of which are vineyards planted predominately to sangiovese. An accord of 2,100 to Brunello di Montalcino and 510 for Rosso di Montalcino, delineated and defined in consensus by the late 1990s, set into the Galestro, Arenaria and Calcare soils on hills and over valleys in surround of its medieval village. The merits of change, alteration or expansion have been debated, voted upon and ultimately dismissed every three years and so there has yet to pass any thought of increase or reconfiguration. Neither for Rosso nor for Brunello. What was learned on this particular October visit? For one thing the idea that patience, exactitude and static sobriety are assumed of a confident Montalcino. That and the new discourse concerning both a conceptual and an aesthetic Brunello di Montalcino.

Montalcino. Typically a Mediterranean climate with hot summers and cold winters, 700 millimetres of annual precipitation and a moltitude of soils; alluvial fluvio-lacustrine, clay, clayey-marine, sandy-marine, limestone, sandstone, shale, siltstone, magmatic rock. Argille, Calcare, Sabioso, Galestro, Alberese, Macigno, Arenaria. In every permutation, inculcation and combination, though the understanding in Montalcino is perhaps more readily defined because the pockets of specific soils are large and often uniform. This means that diversity and complexity can be distilled into a deeper and knowable comprensione. The confidence of Montalcino.

Brunello 2019

I’m not a clairvoyant. If nothing out of the ordinary happened or presented itself I’d still see things the way everyone else does, or sees. In that sense I am the epitome of the boring writer. But I am a most fortunate writer because I travel a considerable amount and during a most recent visit to Montalcino extraordinary things were in fact presented to me. My game can’t help but to be elevated with the knowledge that a confident Montalcino is once again passing through a portal into a time of re-invention. In due course I will explain.

Road to Montalcino

Montalcino. Village at 564 metres above sea level and many vineyards reside at a similar altitude. Plots, blocks and Italy’s most famous village overlooking great swaths of rolling valleys; Asso, Orcia, Arbia, Ombrone. The first known wine label dates back to the 1800s and the DOC was recognized in 1966. Brunello was afforded DOCG status in 1980, Italy’s first, followed by Rosso as a DOC in 1984.

The Consorzio del Vino Brunello di Montalcino was formed in 1967 as a coalition of 25 original members. There were 15 producers who signed the page on this accord kept at Bellaria Estate: Assunto Pieri, Ivo Buffi, Loffredo Gaetani Lovatelli, Giuseppe Cencioni, Bramante Martini, Pierluigi Fiovaranti, Silvano Lambardi, Annunziato Franci, Ferruccio Ferretti, Giovanni Colombini, Dr. Leopoldo Franceschi, Silvio Nardi, Gino Zannini, Lucia Perina and Elina Lisini. The other nine original members were Nello Baricci, Siro Pacenti, Milena Perina, Orazio Machetti, Dino Ciacci, Guglielmo Martini, Emilio Costanti, Sabatino Gorelli and Rev. don Leopoldo Bianchi.

Montalcino sunset

Brunello’s maximum yields are eight tonnes per hectare (approximately 52 hl/ha of wine) and the aging requirement is five years (six for Riserva), of which two must be in oak barrels, followed by four months in bottle. It may be introduced to market on January 1st of the 5th year after harvest (January 1st of the 6th year for Riserva). Rosso’s maximum yields are nine tonnes per hectare and it may be introduced to market on September 1st of the year after harvest. There are nine million bottles of Brunello and half that of Rosso produced on average each year. More than a quarter are certified organic and/or biodynamic and that is double as compared to just five years ago. Seventy per cent of the wines are exported. Current vintages on the market are 2014 for Brunello, 2017 for Rosso.

Related – Awash in Brunello di Montalcino

Most of the October visits were arranged and facilitated through the auspices and generosity of the Consorzio del vino Brunello di Montalcino. President Fabrizio Bindocci, Vice-Presidents Giacomo Bartolommei, Stefano Cinelli Colombini and Riccardo Talenti. Director Giacomo Pondini and Consorzio facilitator Martina Iannotta. One month after returning from Italy the Consorzio paid us a visit here in Toronto for a gala event and 2015 vintage preview at Alfonso Iaccarino’s two Michelin-starred Don Alfonso 1890.

We traversed the roads and landscape in covering much of the parts that make up the whole of Montalcino. We being a group of four, two Canadians and two Americans; Christopher Sealy, graduate of French Language and Literature Degree from University of Toronto, Sommelier and Wine Director of Toronto’s Alo Restaurant Group. Cathrine Todd, a.k.a Dame Wine, New York, WSET Diploma graduate, Freelance Wine Writer, Forbes Contributor and the Wine Columnist for La VOCE di New York. Jeffrey Porter, Sommelier, Consultant, Educator, NYC-based beverage professional with over 18 years experience in retail and restaurants. Now starring in his video series creation, SipTrip Italy, an exploration of many of Italy’s best wineries and wine regions: the ultimate Italian wine adventure.

Related – Diversity in Brunello di Montalcino

Cathrine Todd, Godello, Jeff Porter and Christopher Sealy

Conceptual versus aesthetic function

Consider this phrase. “Discontinuity attains a level of aesthetic creation.” If we look at this through the lens of conceptual versus aesthetic truth and apply it to the Rosso and Brunello of Montalcino then we are on to something. Examples of both are what define the appellations in southern Tuscany. A tradition exists in which making wines is ensconced in rational truth but these last two decades have seen a wave of aestheticism rival, take over and even surpass that of rational winemaking behaviour. The wave of richness, ripeness and over-oaking the local sangiovese is not over and there still persists many pockets and factions of IGTism. To each his own and yet the pendulum has begun to swing with more producers coming back to basics. The neo-conceptualization of Montalcino sangiovese has returned a freshness to Brunello and the gleaning is real because a greater void has opened up for all to share. It’s a mathematical game of philosophical implication.

Part of a week’s pasta induced coma thanks to Montalcino. #gnocchialtartufo

“Continuous functions are of utmost importance in mathematics, functions and applications. However, not all functions are continuous. If a function is not continuous at a point in its domain, one says that it has a discontinuity there.” Sangiovese and even more so grape varieties like merlot and cabernet sauvignon grown in the Montalcino hills form a discrete set, a dense set, or even the entire domain of the territory’s function. They are examples of appellative discontinuities “in the simplest case of functions of a single real variable taking real values.” They are wines that represent the aesthetic function.

Let me count the ways. Comfort and classicism from Mario, Anna and Michele at Il Giglio, Montalcino

Sangiovese of purity, honesty, transparency and a sense of place are those that hold court for the conceptual truth of Montalcino. They are neither better or worse than their aesthetic brethren and sistren but they are making themselves open for discovery in 2019, 2020 and beyond. If you travel to the region at this time you will collide with them and their makers because they are crying to be heard. In October of 2019 I heard from both sides and their stories were expressed in understated forms of beauty, at times in the varietal austerity of the times and at others quite spiritual. In all cases we are taught that we are nothing and that we are all deserving of life. And to taste the wines from Montalcino. Wabi, if you will.

The visits

Le Ragnaie Winery was established in 2003 by the Campinoti Family. The estate follows the guidelines for organic agriculture and the vineyards are divided into three distinct parcels throughout Montalcino which allows the production of three diverse Brunello terroir. There is no usage of fertilizer but instead cover crops are planted of legumes, clovers and grasses.
 This helps to regenerate the land after a long summer season of work and aids in enriching the organic substance of the land all the while penetrating deeply the roots of the various planted species.
 The diversity of plants in the vineyard prevents superficial erosion and instead favours the absorption of water and creates an important habitat for many species of animals and insects.
 This process guarantees the formation of an ecosystem full of life which is essential to the health of the vines.

Le Ragnaie

Riccardo Campinoti at Le Ragnaie poured so many instructive sangiovese that work their conceptual way into his poignant, powerfully restrained and profound Rosso and Brunello. He also afforded a glimpse into two new aesthetic behavioural wines, the Vino Bianco and Fiano. Both are seven day skin-contact Montalcino whites, the first made from estate grown malvasia and trebbiano. They are fashioned like reds, with punch downs and very traditional styles in a Tuscan white vein. The Bianco is all orange skin and lemon arid as it gets but also gelid, surging, textured. The fiano is made for fun, tastes salty and acts so fine. So delicious and only 600 bottles made.

Mario Bollag

At Terralsole Mario Bollag and Athena Tergis Bollag reside on a hilltop peninsula plateau that is surely one of Montalcino’s most beautiful locations. They embrace aesthetic function like no others, in the food they cook, the music they play and the wide array of wines they make. Philanthropy, art, whimsy, generosity, warmth, sangiovese and the only cabernet franc in Montalcino.

Athena Tergis Bollag

Trio is a real “Super Tuscan” because it’s made from international varietals; cabernet franc, merlot and syrah. Takes 18 months in barrel and seven more years in bottle give or take, to be ready. Super fruit forward, super heady and super structured. Now integrated and singing smoothly, silken and fine. Coldoro, Solista and Pasticcio round out the symphony. Their first vintage for Brunello was 2000, 2001 for the Rosso.

Felix and Sabine Eichbauer

Podere Salicutti is in a south-eastern Montalcino location, on route SP 55 towards Castelnuovo dell’Abate. Now in the altruistic stewardship of owners Sabine and Felix Eichbauer who heed the tradition and ideology created by its previous owner, Francesco Leanza. The agriculture and winemaking team remain to keep the promise and the faith for all of the estate lands and and inner workings. They do so as custodians of three essential vineyards, Piaggione, Teatro and Sorgente. We should all look forward to what this power couple and team will bring to the community, wines and landscape of Montalcino.

Cortonesi and Cortonesi

Your next trip to Montalcino must include a stop at La Mannella to discover the conceptual present and future of the area. Tommaso Cortonesi is a young superstar full of spirit who knows and understands the beauty and enchantment of wine. Sangiovese that gives you the feeling of having come through a storm because of simple wines that make you happy with the present moment. Also complex wines of great functionality, pragmatism and all due to great work ethic. Watch Tommaso’s father pumping juice at dusk and you will understand. The future is here, in these hands, with great humility, ethos and promise.

Gianni Bernazzi

The Bellaria Estate first came into being in September 1963, when Assunto Pieri and Bruna Tempori purchased a farmhouse and land in one of the finest and most characteristic Montalcino winegrowing areas. Bellaria’s position just a stone’s throw from the village speaks to its founders’ connection and who else but Gianni Bernazzi could carry forth what his grandfather “Sunto” had set out to accomplish. In ode to his grandfather who passed away in 2018 at the age of 97, a man who in 2017 was one of two remaining original members from the original coalition at the 1967 signing of the Brunello community’s accord. Now Gianni is blessed with extraordinary terroir filled with Galestro schisty clay, iron, Alberese limestone and Arenaria sandstone.

Francesco Ripaccioli

Conversely at Canalicchio di Sopra with Francesco Ripaccioli a Rosso di Montalcino 2018 barrel sample instructs that sangiovese is built on dry extract. It is silky, sensual, full of acidity and fine chiseled tannins. Very giving and also serious but in a nurturing way. The Canalicchio di Sopra Brunello di Montalcino 50th Harvest “Canalicchio di Sopra” 2015 barrel sample is a fist full or armistice, liquid cocoa limestone gold, in a desperate state and full of mineral of potential explosive nature and ready to spew graphite and chalk all over the place. It currently sits at 15.6 alcohol and 6.5 acidity. Crazy talk.

Lorenzo Magnelli

At Le Chiuse it was Lorenzo Magnelli who introduced us to a Montalcino speciality, the sparkling Stellare Rosé from the most recently planted vineyard (Pullera) at Il Greppo. This vineyard is destined for Le Chiuse Riserva when Lorenzo’s daughters will be making these wines. For now it’s a no dosage, picked three weeks early, two to three years on lees Rosé made from 100 per cent sangiovese. Quite a lot of sangiovese fruit with high acidity taking this into tart currant territory. An eight hour maceration and healthy hue extraction. Named for Lorenzo’s wife, Stella Renzetti. A wine that says “you can’t have a full barrel and a drunk wife at the same time.” All about happiness, in marriage and making sparkling wine.

Montalcino from Le Chiuse

The sangiovese made by Lorenzo Magnelli are not merely genetic ties to Biondi-Santi. They are without argument some of the most important and expressive Rosso and Brunello di Montalcino in the territory. And they are produced for reasons so intrinsically correct the results perfectly fit the methods. Learning from Lorenzo is the best two hours you could ever hope to spend in Montalcino.

Poggiali

Ciacci Piccolomini d’Aragona estate is located on the South East hillside of Montalcino, close to the medieval village of Castelnuovo dell’Abate and to the famous Abbey of Sant’Antimo. Ciacci Piccolomini d’Aragona is more than a storied estate and in fact lies in the heart of the Val d’Orcia Park, UNESCO World Heritage. In 1985, after the end of the Ciacci Piccolomini d’Aragona family, Giuseppe Bianchini took control of the winery that is managed today by his sons and nephews. That includes pro cyclist Paolo Bianchini who moved giros to switch paths en route to becoming one of Montalcino’s most important winemakers.

Poggio di Sotto

Luigina Villadei led us through Poggio di Sotto’s certified organic portfolio. The estate was founded in 1989 on the south-eastern side of Montalcino and in 2011 became part of the ColleMassari family. Monte Amiata looms and protects while sea breezes blow in for a property that enjoys a unique microclimate immediately southeast of Castelnuovo dell’Abate. The same winemaking team of nearly three decades continue to produce sangiovese of great traditional and authentic construct. The sangiovese are timeless, unparalleled for this special part of Castelnuovo dell’Abate and the rising of San Giorgio. Perpetual upholding for decades of generational standards.

Altesino

It would have been a great pleasure to spend another visit with Elisabetta Gnudi nevertheless at Altesino we sipped on aesthetic Palazzo Altesi, made from 100 per cent sangiovese. The barriques used to aged this Altesino IGT for 12-14 months change everything about the way the grape is expressed from Montalcino vineyards. Younger, less experienced fruit succumbs to the silky beauty and vanilla lushness for an elixir that’s just different than the local Rosso and Brunello, Call it international or what you will.

Leonardo Bellaccini

Thankful to Leonardo Bellaccini for driving down from Castelnuovo Berardenga in Chianti Classico to Campogiovanni in Montalcino to walk the San Felice vineyards and pour for us the Brunello only he can make. At San Felice’s Campogiovanni property we walked the vineyards with Leonardo Bellaccini and tasted Brunello di Montalcino Riserva Il Quercione out of the barrel. There is lift and bright character in 2017 despite the desiccation, concentration and aridity but this was well judged, especially in picking time so poly-phenolic ripeness matches the sugars. It’s big and brawny but curiously, magically and mysteriously carries ripe and ripping if round acids. It keeps everything buoyant and alive. There is 2016, a vintage with excess everything, namely fruit and tannin. This is the year where balsamico and vineyard notes speak louder, of Galestro, clay and calcari. There is more balance between all the parts even while the fruit acts deeper, broods more and talks with more barrel adjunct. Big vintage to be sure and will be long lived. 

Filippo Chia

Then there is Filippo Chia. Filippo’s father is painter and sculptor Sandro, considered the leading member (along with Francesco Clemente and Enzo Cucchi) of the Italian Neo-Expressionist movement,  baptized as Transavanguardia by Achille Bonito Oliva. Sandro Chia bought Castello di Romitorio in 1984, producing his first vintage in 1987 from neighbours’ grapes, now the Loacker property. The Martinis, father and son, have been cellar masters at Romitorio for six generations. Said Sandro, “sangiovese aged for five years is the most extreme and also the most naive. It’s sweet and kind and are wines made by dreamers.” Surely one of Italy’s first expressionistic ideas after the unification of 1861, in 1868 it began with Biondi-Santi. Said Filippo. “Inexplicably and inescapably you can recognize sangiovese from Montalcino. I like a Brunello you can drink six months after release, after it’s five years of aging.”

I had been tasting Filippo Chia’s Castello Romitorio wines for a few years and so now it is this discourse, tasting and northwest Montalcino experience that brings it all together. Another sangiovese epiphany. Thanks for your time Filippo. Of dramatic note is the new vineyard Filippo has cleared for Romitorio’s future. You must stand on this rocky, deeply ferric red soil to understand the estate’s position and its future in Montalcino.

Stefano Cinelli Colombini

All visits to Montalcino should conclude at La Fattoria dei Barbi. Barbi has been owned by the Cinellí Colombini family in Montalcino since 1352. The property extends over 350 hectares (865 acres) of fields and vineyards in southern Tuscany, in Montalcino, Scansano and Chianti. Production of Brunello dates to 1892 and Barbi were the first to export it to Europe, America and Asia. Fattoria dei Barbi is now run by Stefano Cinelli Colombini, educator, historian, keeper of tales, lore, mythology and chosen one who continues a story that has seen the Colombini family connected to these lands for more than six centuries.

With Stefano Cinelli Colombini

Stefano Cinelli Colombini’s ability to relive and rejoice every iota of this territory’s history is the crux of everything Montalcino. His deeper understanding is what you need to know and is based in his family’s long time defence of the traditions and values of the culture of Montalcino, whose ultimate and most valuable fruit is the Brunello. A Montalcino education begins with Stefano Cinelli Colombini, in museums housed of edifice and in mind. What a visit.

The tasting notes

The following 56 tasting notes cover the Rosso and Brunello di Montalcino tasted at the 13 estates we visited in October 2019. Hundreds more will follow when I visit Montalcino again in February 2020 for the next edition of Benvenuto Brunello.

Altesino

Altesino Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2016 ($27.95)

Generally aged right to 10 months is large Slavonian oak barrels. Takes off straight from where 2015 left us, that is to say from fruit and into more fruit, of sangiovese in wild berry form, expected and imagined. Exactitude from winemaker Alessandro Ciacci, polished, crunchy and then more tannic as a vintage. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted October 2019

Altesino Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2015 (994095, $56.95)

From the vintage where agriculture, winemaking and now selling came and will come easy so you can expect the warm, fuzzy, generous and soft. Perhaps too straightforward to be what the powers that be call a five-star vintage but if Brunello is what you want or even what you think you need then begin or continue the journey right here. Very berry, ultra liquorice and über morbido. Soft, amenable and unencumbered. Positive but certainly not overbearing structure. A now and through mid-term years drinking Annata. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted October 2019

Altesino Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2014 (994095, $56.95)

Making the most of the vintage and a quantity 20-30 per cent down from the norm there is a stoic, classic Altesino benchmark quality about the knowing impression derived. It’s just the thing, the feeling, the absolute confidence and polish and precision, out of fields, through winemaking and into glass. Fruit arises out of savoury ashes and ultimately there’s a sense of inclusion, amenability and proper consciousness. Good acids and fine tannins come about without any overbearing qualities. Fine work to no surprise. Drink 2020-2027.  Tasted October 2019

Altesino Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Montosoli 2015 ($121.95)

Expect more from Montsoli, open your mind and palate to the possibilities and 2015 will deliver more complex notions as it must and should. Always the savour, the rocks bleeding or rather in 2015 causing the fruit to bleed through acid structure and then tannins, ever-bearing and in charge. Not quite the power and ability of other vintages in this regard but still Montosoli generated. Also a mid-term prospect but clearly destined for a minimum 10 year run. Drink 2021-2031.  Tasted October 2019

Altesino Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Montosoli 2014 ($121.95)

Montosli is so antithetical to the Annata, a Brunello cuvee that takes its fruit from a wide gamut of Montalcino sources. The northern Galestro-strewn hill brings brushy and bushy savour, a pinch of salt and plenty of site specific sapidity. The cherry aspect is replete with a charred sense of skins and a dusty, alloy bled feeling. Grippy, taut and structured. We’ll see about Montosoli from 2014 but you can bet on the house. The track record is undeniable. Drink 2021-2029.  Tasted October 2019

Fattoria dei Barbi

Fattoria Dei Barbi Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2012 (928028, $54.95)

Barbi accomplishes an Annata Brunello just haste in 2012, taking expressly written sangiovese red fruit and pushing it to the limits of its natural tendencies, in hue and expression. I would have to say that consistency from this house is an absolute guarantee and that its style trumps vintage as much as any other. This is simply more Barbi than 2-12. That’s all there is to it. Tannins are firm, acidity is strong and fruit is up to the 15 year task. Nothing time sensitive about it and its timeless structure cements the absolution. Drink 2019-2027.  Tasted February 2017 and October 2019

Fattoria Dei Barbi Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Vigna Del Fiore 2012

Barbi has also listened to the wind and vintage ear worms sung from their iconic, 16th century vineyard known as Vigna del Fiore. Red fruit of clarity and purity reigns while acidity is at its finest for the house. The rusticity of cherry, leather and roasted beets combine for full gastronomic effect and lead into a rather sumptuous and mouth coating texture for the palate. This scales the wall and retreats again to stay in the game in which you can play now (well, soon), then repeatedly, at consistent increments, later and later. VdeF from Barbi is a best of both worlds Brunello for both consumer and collector. Drink 2019-2031.  Tasted February 2017 and October 2019

Bellaria

Bellaria Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2017

One year in Slavonian and French oak. In more than one way a deep and developed Rosso though when you look at the iron-rich Galestro vienayrds there’s little surprise. To many this would strike with Brunello immediacy and in fact many producers would make Brunello from this level of juice. There’s some VA though beneficial integration is the command and the order of its ways. Quite ferric and traditional with a salty, near volcanic-esque, certainly mineral vein. A tannic Rosso that will improve with two years time. Drink 2021-2026.  Tasted October 2019

Bellaria Estate

Bellaria Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2015

Remarkably alternative vintage for Gianni, fresher and more effusive to be clear and sure. Shows with great immediacy and tells a story of vintage variation, especially at altitudes like Bellaria (550-600m) and from soils so poor in organic materials. It’s luxe but also so perfumed, pretty and expressive. Just gorgeous Brunello with fine acidity and sweet tannins. The window will open wide sometime early in 2021 and stay that way for as much time as you need.  Drink 2021-2031. Tasted October 2019

View of Bellaria

Bellaria Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2014

Spent 28 months in Slavonian and French oak. An extension from the Rosso in every respect; colour, depth, volatility, tannin and the edge of ripeness. The 550-600m of altitude would have been a problem in the past and was indeed in 2014 so don’t come here in search of lush, fruit bomb Brunello. This is sangiovese in requiem for years of time. It’s as grippy, firm, traditional and prim as you are ever going to taste. That said a few minutes of air brings about a swelling of liquid chalky texture. Drink 2021-2029.  Tasted October 2019

Gianni Bernazzi and Assunto Peri

Bellaria Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Assunto 2015

Stratified depth of vineyard layers are so controlling, the sangiovese classically styled, Gianni acting as messenger, custodian and shepherd for this place. It’s all here; Galestro, iron, Alberese, Arenaria, tradition, nonno Assunto and everyone else who made Brunello happen in Montalcino. Drink 2021-2029.  Tasted October 2019

Bellaria Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Assunto 2013

Selection of grapes from the oldest (30 year-old) vineyard, 30 months in French oak. First produced in 2006 and now an ode to Gianni’s grandfather who passed away in 2018 at the age of 97. An ode now to a man who in 2017 was one of two remaining original members from the original 16 at the 1967 signing of the Brunello community. Rich, luxurious, deeply traditional and long, with fine tannins and plenty of barrel feel. Old school, wood spiced and spread throughout the mouthfeel, though never cloying or misdirected. Drink 2022-2032.  Tasted October 2019

Gianni Bernazzi

Bellaria Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG Assunto 2012

A vintage with everything in place and though the barrel speaks with so much deeper resonance there’s a variegation of shadows, sweetness and intensity to watch over you, control you and let you know what’s happening in this place. It has become silky smooth, elongated, angles erased with beautiful curves and acidities everywhere. Fine, from another era and living longer than just about anyone else. Drink 2020-2028.  Tasted October 2019

Canalicchio view

Canalicchio Di Sopra

Canalicchio Di Sopra Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2017

Gets neither more ripe nor more effulgent than this Rosso from the vintage of extreme heat salvaged by late season rains. From plants that knew when to shut down and protect themselves before being saved by water re-introduced by nature just before harvest. Taut and near bursting so get at these 17s straight away. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted October 2019

Zonazione investigations with Francesco Ripaccioli

Canalicchio Di Sopra Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG “Canalicchio Di Sopra ” 2014

Quite fulsome and layered for 2014 with a push-pull sensation that charms while conversely creating tension between two vineyards, La Casaccia and Montosoli. More fruit than most from this vintage with thanks to six people making a prudent selection by hand, almost to the point of prejudice. Three passages in the vineyard also led to the clarity, purity and plain fruitiness of what came from these challenged grapes. Explains Francesco Ripaccioli: “What we harvested for Brunello was grapes from all blocks that only added up to a tank and a half as compared to the full 19 of potential out of 2015.” Luxurious sangiovese to be sure and so much better understood with six further months in bottle.  Last tasted October 2019

There is a substantiating reality to this sangiovese, typical of the sourness that vintage will not allow to be hidden though with more concentration than many. Chewy really comes to mind when you attack and in turn allows the palate to wage battle on your buds. Things fall into place well enough in spite of what 2014 wants to do to distract from the truth. Clearly a set above the norm. Drink 2020-2025.  Tasted February 2019

Canalicchio Di Sopra Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG “Canalicchio Di Sopra” 2013

Riserva is a selection in the cellar though certain blocks from certain vintages are premeditated and in fact 2013 Riserva is solely selected from the Montosoli hill. The perfume stands apart, rising, haughty and full of fresh roses. The expression of rocks drawn into vines from the new age, climate-affected northern exposure are for perhaps the first time in the Cru’s history a brand new Canalicchio di Sopra Brunello. Salinity, sapidity, power and elegance. Truly. Drink 2022-2035.  Tasted October 2019

Canalicchio Di Sopra Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG “Canalicchio Di Sopra” 2012

A year previous to the ’13 Riserva (which will be made exclusively from Montosoli hill fruit) there is the depth of clay and controlled power out of Canalicchio cru vines. The absolute attention paid to patience and time is noted from a Brunello such as this, spoken out within the constructs of fruit extraction and wood usage. The tannins are red meaning they are ripe and request that you give this wine as much time as it gave before going to bottle and then to market. Lush, consistent from start to finish and just hinting at notes not quite Balsamico but something other, something derived from sangiovese grown in the grey clay of La Casaccia. Drink 2021-2032.  Tasted October 2019

New Romitorio vineyard soil

Castello Romitorio

Castello Romitorio Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2017 ($28.99)

Re-tasting the ’17 Rosso with Filippo Chia begins like this. “It’s Sisyphus pushing a boulder up a hill, like making wine in Montalcino. If you do it a day late you’re going to come up a dollar short.” Don’t miss out on selling Rosso from 2017. A good if hot year but this is a cool sector in Montalcino. Some second and third passage French tonneaux to gift a sweeter perfume, a development into pretty rich liqueur, an acidity that keeps on driving, the fruit, the energy and the point.  Last tasted October 2019

A bigger and richer Rosso with fully extracted and rendered red fruit, somewhat sour and ripping, grippy acids and totally present tannins. Needs a year or two to be itself and then drink respectfully of the appellation for five more. Drink 2021-2026.  Tasted February 2019

Castello Romitorio Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2015 (236356, $63.95)

Dad (Sandro Chia) bought the estate in 1984, the first vintage being 1987 from neighbours’ grapes, now the Loacker property. Martini father and son, as in cellar master, have been here for six generations. Sandro is known to say this. “Sangiovese aged for five years is the most extreme and also the most naive. It’s sweet and kind and wines made by dreamers.” Son (Filippo) will remind that it’s one of Italy’s first ideas in 1868, after the unification of 1861. Begins with Biondi-Santi. “Inexplicably and inescapably you can recognize sangiovese from Montalcino. I like a Brunello you can drink six months after release, after it’s five years of aging.” This 2015 was bottled, is finished and now as is for three and a half months in. Pretty like the previous declared Annata from Sandro and Filippo Chia but truth be told the level of richness and power is raised up, albeit without any compromise to construct and yes, elegance. The E word applies here, like it or not because this place demands it and you would absolutely know were this messed with, made up or polished by wood, pomp and circumstance. These are some stretched, elastic and elongated tannins. Will extend for hours, days, months and years, open forever, long before it thinks about bouncing back. Drink 2020-2029.  Tasted October 2019

Castello Romitorio Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2013 (236356, $63.95)

Upward push, rising perfume, no bass or very little. Red fruit, clean and fresh as there needs, wants and must be on this ridge at heights above the warmer valleys, from variegated soils, lots of red earth, tons of fine mineral expediency. This is what you want to drink in 2013 Brunello. Drink 2019-2021.  Tasted October 2019

Ciacci Piccolomini d’Aragona

Ciacci Piccolomini d’Aragona Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2017

The Rosso that has been produced since 1987, now approximately 30,000-35,000 bottles per year. Six months each in Slavonian oak and in bottle. From the third warmest vintage of the last 100 years. A spicy and well-spiced Rosso from humidity, baked grapes and concentrated fruit at the height of Rosso while finding freshness and accepting being quite high-toned. Speaks resolutely of an accumulated expression for the southern vineyards of the place. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted October 2019

Ciacci Piccolomini d’Aragona Rosso Di Montalcino DOC Rossofonte 2015

A cru selection from four blocks at Brunello yields (six tonnes per hectare) and unique for Rosso. Surely no other Rosso di Montalcino noses this way or speaks with such elevated discourse. Quite aristocratic as such, stubborn of acidity and strong in tannin. Not an everyday wine but one with identity, grip and circumstance. Try to understand that this is Rosso from micro activities; vineyards, climate, selection and production. Which means don’t rush though tasting or thinking about this one. Drink 2020-2025.  Tasted October 2019

Ciacci Piccolomini D’aragona Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2015 (1065, $84.95)

You can’t help but note the southern Montalcino tone of this fruit first Brunello because there’s just something stingingly distinct about the aromatic tones. It’s a specific savour, direct, grippy and intense. Ages in Grandi Botti, 60-70 hL making for a breadth of fruit, acids and tannins that span a great horizon. Comes from the lighter grey-yellow sand, clay and Galestro soils and it shows in the language of this broad shouldered sangiovese. Lush and perfectly clean. Drink 2020-2028.  Tasted October 2019

Ciacci Piccolomini D’aragona Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2014 (1065, $72.95)

The only label representing the winery in 2014 is this Annata, inclusive of all the grapes brought forth by Pian Rosso. A highly savoury, sandy Galestro spiced sangiovese that just has to stand of its own accord. Firm, linear and taut. Will age without question or equivocation.  Last tasted October 2019

Ciacci e buono, from the beginning, instilled with confidence, finesse and grace. The fruit is beguiling Brunello sangiovese, sour cherry sweetening and flashing as it sits and you taste. Gathers all the necessary attributes along the forest path, through the well-attended vines and into a cellar ready to make things happen. That they do, with charm and structure. Drink 2022-2028.  Tasted February 2019

Ciacci Piccolomini D’aragona Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2013 (1065)

Unheralded perhaps and should never be considered as such because 2013 is wonderfully expressive, effusive, very much alive. Showing its colours in truth and clarity today. Needed exactly this amount of time. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted October 2019

Ciacci Piccolomini D’aragona Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Pianrosso 2015

There was no Pianrosso made in 2014 and so Pianrosso the cru returns from the warm, easy and generous 2015. A large cru with red Galestro soils, deeper in mineral content and so imagine everything magnified, magnetized and hyperbolized. The fruit carries some dried character, surely dark berry flavours and a sweetness of salty sapidity. It’s grippy and tannic but also a touch toasty, sun-dried and roasted. Magnanimous whelp of a Brunello, big-boned, structured and surely capable of developing balsamic, porcini and tartufo character. Drink 2020-2025.  Tasted October 2019

Ciacci Piccolomini D’aragona Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Pianrosso 2013

Similar to 2015, Pianrosso is baked and toasty, fruit very much in the dusty, plum, sun-dried dark berry, frutta di bosco and fragola realm. Liquorice leathery and red soil crusted for quite the structural, stylistic and textural variegation.  Last tasted October 2019

Striking aromatics emanate from Ciaaci’s 2013 Pianrosso and you know immediately where it stands and where you will be taken. The level of excellence is noted without hesitation and the launch into taking it all in is done without trepidation. A beautifully lit sangiovese, flitting and twirling, “like a flame dancing in a candle, lighting up your living room.” Great presence and finesse, a tight little strummed set of chords and soulful if traditional harmonies. So beautiful and refined. Drink 2021-2032.  Tasted February 2019

Cortonesi

Cortonesi La Mannella Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2016

Not simply freshness but unction, fruit culpability and basic perfection. The young vines of five years are just now coming into their speciality, that being quality fruit meeting and melting into more than a modicum of grip and structure. You could pour this Rosso for young Brunello seekers and old Rosso knowers. It will solicit and win over their collective hearts.  Last tasted October 2019

Lovely effulgent fruit in this Cortonesi family Rosso radiates to extrapolate for a 2016 Brunello future, in many ways. First it is this Rosso that benefits from the particular handling, showing in an immediately gratifying plus available sangiovese that drinks with fast-forward Rosso promise and does so on its own terms, for the right Montalcino reasons. Second, even though the producer’s approach to Brunello is another matter in which generally speaking it deals only with older vines, it is this youthful exuberance and wealth of amenability meeting attack that bodes well for the impending grandi vini. It is here that we see the present and the future of Rosso di Montalcino and the respect it is both given and deserved. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted February 2018

Cortonesi La Mannella Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2014

Mostly from the youngest vineyard above the winery on the way up and on the northeast side of the Montalcino hill. No more than six months in big barrel in terms of elévage. Still quite fresh for Rosso and from the challenge of the vintage. Carries a texture too, almost like a dry candy melting, with liquorice and herbal undertone by summer savoury. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted October 2019

Cortonesi La Mannella Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2015 (279083, $66.00)

I’d like to say the tannins on 2015 Annata are sneaky but they are so much more than that. These are grippy, layered and nearly formidable tannins. Good thing the easy, generous and lush fruit is somehow capable of defending itself. Boom this is one of Tommaso Cortonesi’s most accomplished Annata and more capable of aging than even he would probably have guessed he was making. Power and beauty. This is that and more. Drink 2021-2031.  Tasted October 2019

Cortonesi La Mannella Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2014

Like the same vintage Rosso the Brunello is showing with perked up freshness and almost no development. Slavonian oak and just the right amount of time has elevated the game and brought all the parts into line. There’s fresh porcini in this moment so no matter that Tommaso found none on a quick forage today. Good earth and crunch from in depth older vines construction and very impressive length. Fine quality for 2014 from a producer to look for when adversity tests your mettle.  Last tasted October 2019

Cortonesi works through the challenge with a sangiovese in 2014 that finds critical mass and therefore celebrates la vita bella in Brunello. With no reason to choose a Vigna-designate nor a Riserva to produce, the best of the best therefore finds its way into this eponymous family Brunello. It’s equipped with notable vintage fruit, finer acids than many and a tannic structure that is not only correct but highly promising. Lengthiness is one of the best in the vintage. Drink 2023-2031.  Tasted February 2019

Cortonesi La Mannella Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2005

Quite evolved, certainly a bottle specificity and now diving well into the funghi and the porcini. That said I sense and even think these to be classic 2005 acids still moving upwards while the fruit settles into an ulterior classic pool of liqueur. Just a moment’s amaro and plenty of languishing action, with or without anguish. Drink 2019-2021.  Tasted October 2019

Cortonesi La Mannella Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG 2010 ($202.95)

Now talking post-aggressive behaviour in Riserva not yet advanced ahead of time. There are secondary aromatic hints but the tannins remain in tact, charged and controlling. There’s a circular motion happening hear as fruit and acidity whirl around, outrunning the tannins or at least attempting to. All the sweet things that grow wild and are picked to accent your braises are swirled into the aromatic potpourri of this fine sangiovese of whispers, shadows and silhouettes. It’s a chiaroscuro of a Brunello, all in and we are in turn fully engaged.  Last tasted October 2019

With Tommaso Cortonesi

There are few Brunello vintages afforded more attention in the last 10-plus, certainly ’04 and ’06, increasingly better even from ’08 and looking forward towards what greatness will come in 2015. Yes but not solely magnified through the lens of patience and bottle time, from 2010 La Mannella has coupled upon and layered over itself like compressed fruit and puff pastry. Though it begs for drink now attention, another seven years will be needed before it can safely be labeled as uncoiled and to reveal all that is wrapped so tight. Rich is not the operative but unmistakeable as Cortonesi it is; that natural clay soil funk of resolution and fully hydrated chalk. This is to sangiovese as Les Preuses Grand Cru Chablis or Rangen Grand Cru Alsace are to Riesling. It carries in its pocket the absolute meaning and genetic responsibility of where it comes from, with a curative and restorative ability to get you lost. Drink 2019-2031.  Tasted February 2017

Lorenzo Magnelli

Le Chiuse

Le Chiuse Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2017

Chosen from the bigger clusters aged in the youngest barrels for one year. “Rosso must reflect sangiovese’s character more than any other wine,” insists Lorenzo Magnelli. Balance is key and perhaps more of a challenge out of ’17 so expect more flint (soil) and spice (fruit and wood) in this vintage. “For our culture this is the most important wine, it’s what we drink daily.” Morbido, with spice and frankly just plain get me delicious. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted October 2019

Le Chiuse Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2015

There is a perfume about 2015, a ripe cherry that stands apart for the vintage and even more specific to Le Chiuse. There are cherry trees planted by Tancredi Biondi-Santi here that mimic or rather the aromatics do so, especially in this wine. It’s all texture and a true sense of the land, a feeling of Galestro, rich clay in mouthfeel and Le Chiuse, the place where the dam closed the water off for irrigation. So much fruit and harmony, between acidity, alcohol and tannins. Drink 2020-2029.  Tasted October 2019

Le Chiuse Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2014

Just eight thousand bottles made in this vintage with no Riserva in production. A completely different look at 2014 with this bottle, at the top of integrity, with Le Chiuse savour, throwback complexity and great brightness, surely blessed and pushed upwards for the future. Showing the way it was meant to. A reflection of the vintage and proof of time afforded the vineyard. Last tasted October 2019

Le Chiuse delivers one of the realer deals in 2014 Brunello, with admirably pleasing and concentrated fruit set against a traditional backdrop of ripe acidity, minor Brettanomyces and full-bodied tannins. As it’s not an overly perfumed sangiovese it bucks the vintage trend if only because it avoids botrytis-affected atypical aromas. It’s quite a rich 2014, certainly a bit volatile and capable of going longer than most. Finishes by leaving you a linger of its chewy mouthful. Drink 2022-2030.  Tasted February 2019

Le Chiuse Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG Diecianni 2010

“A muscle vintage, of huge character,” tells Lorenzo Magnelli. The name of the wine is Diecianni to tell us that Lorenzo’s Riserva is not released until the 10th year. Brings about all the complexities that come from such an extended elévage. Tobacco, savour, forest floor, frutta di bosco and frutto secco but don’t be succumbing to depths and sottosuolo because the freshness persists. A wine so wise beyond its years, like its maker. Sure you can release a Riserva one year after Annata but when it has been protected and taken care of for you then it presents as it was intended to. We are thankful for the triage and the investment on our behalf. The fruit persists with great natural sweetness out of 2010. Drink 2019-2035.  Tasted October 2019

Riccardo and Godello

Le Ragnaie

Le Ragnaie Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2016 ($45.00)

Top quality vintage, elegant and balanced, from the non disposto star of Montalcino, Riccardo Campinoti. His is a Rosso for Rosso sake, discriminant, linear, vertical and come up for the rising. If Rosso can be spiritual it would be like this, poignant and effen-solid good. These are the acids of Montalcino and the depth of earth which holds you firm in the face of a fluent perfume. It’s all in this bottle, fluid and affluent. What you need to know and what you want to drink. It can live for a dozen years. Drink 2019-2029.  Tasted October 2019

Le Ragnaie Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2015 ($115.00)

The come and get me vintage but don’t be misled, distracted or misunderstood. The fraganza di Ragnaie is an intoxicant of the highest order from the highest elevations. This is tonality of verified airy exceptionality. There are fruit landings and destinations, from patches and orchards, without pith and with stone seeds. From only six hectares of the 15 total planted and the balanced one, with Montosoli fruit joining Petroso, Castelnuovo dell’Abate and the four vineyards at 600-plus metres around the winery. Still firm and shadowy so wait three more years. A redux of ’13 but in a wholly antithetical way and only in the ways of Le Ragnaie. Drink 2022-2033.  Tasted October 2019

Le Ragnaie Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2013 ($114.00)

Forty days on skins from a vintage of beneficial balance acting out of cool weather. The content and concentration are from the long maceration, not from hard pressing or mechanization. Now eighteen months since last tasted it has come into elasticity and more length. It’s the real deal.  Last tasted October 2019

Le Ragnaie farms four vineyards in the central zone of Montalcino; Vigna del Lago, Vigna Fonte, Vigna Cappuccini, Vigna Vecchia but also plots in Castelnuovo dell’Abate and Petroso close to the village. It is the gathering of contrastive and complimentary fruit that deals in defining an estate stylistic for the Classica Brunello. Le Ragnaie’s emits the most exotic perfume of almost any of the oft-stingy ‘13s, in fact this brings a level of fragranza that’s almost impossible for the vintage. I will admit to having waited the entire morning to come across such a floral sangiovese from a vintage that seems reluctant to give such aromatics away. The palate follows along, with smoky smoulder and spice, then turning wonderfully savoury, sapid, salty and herbal. This is the complexity we’ve come to covet from Montalcino, along with a fineness of acidity and lightness of touch. Drink 2019-2027.  Tasted February 2018

Le Ragnaie Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG La Fornace 2015

From Castelnuovo dell’Abate at 400m of elevation, planted in the 1980s. A former lake bed, with clay and round sand stones. Strikes the Brunello accord between richness and balance with more fruit than 10 other houses combined. The transparency is the thing; smells like fruit, perfume and the land, like rocks and sandstone. The bleed of Pietraforte into the blood of sangiovese. There’s really no reason to find fault and in fact there is every reason to breath, exhale and smile. That is what happens when you taste a Brunello like this special single-vineyard wine from Le Ragnaie. Drink 2022-2037.  Tasted October 2019

Le Ragnaie Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Vigna Vecchia 2015 ($177.00)

Planted in 1968 and from a warm vintage all the way to the end, into October. Riccardo Campinoti is smiling wryly, knowingly and confidently after he pours and begins to speak of it. “The longer you waited the riper it became” and the healthy grapes allowed for hanging to mid-October. Deeper and of more sponge-soaked earth in the old vines with a higher tone juxtaposed against the depth drawn by long vine roots. The aromatic complexities run, jump and ride off the proverbial charts and you may find yourself drunk and mystified just from the smells. Once you gain palate entry you are hooked and then you climb in, headfirst, unencumbered, no strings attached. A tour de force beloved of sangiovese, Montalcino and old vines. Vigna Vecchia is the epitome of a true structured wine, one which does not grow old, despite the passage of time. Drink 2023-2039.  Tasted October 2019

Le Ragnaie Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Montosoli 2015

Riccardo’s first vintage from the Galestro strewn soils at 220m next to Baricci on the northerly Montosoli hill is a completely different animal altogether. The tannic structure is so opposite to the southerly wines, here taut, twined laces pulled oh so tight. Not without the Ragnaie tonality mind you and the transparency, clear, distinct and honest. Not necessarily a terroir vintage and fermentation occurred in oak vats (as opposed to the concrete for the others) and yet it’s so bloody sangiovese. Blood of Montosoli. Drink 2022-2038.  Tasted October 2019

Poggio di Sotto

Poggio di Sotto

San Giorgio Ciampoleto Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2017

From Poggio di Soto’s somewhat recent acquisition. Quite the rich expression of dark red fruit, early harvested, low yielding and carefully extracted. Attention to detail makes for a remarkably drinkable Rosso but one with a serious, tight and intense expression on its face. Very smooth and round. Vine age in the 15 year range, soils of tufo, with gravel and calcari. Drink 2019-2022.   Tasted October 2019

San Giorgio Ugolforte Brunello Di Montalcino 2014 DOCG

From Poggio di Soto’s somewhat recent acquisition. Ugolforte was a 12th century bandit who led a rebellion against Siena. Ugo the strong he was called. In a year when Poggio di Sotto is mitigated with extreme prejudice and no Riserva was made it is this San Giorgio that is allowed to sing and express the quality fruit separated from the chaff in this vintage. It’s a beautiful one, silky smooth and available for interaction right at the word go. Acids are fine not just for the vintage but for clarity and future understanding. Vine age in the 25 year range, soils of tufo, with gravel and calcari. Drink 2020-2028.  Tasted October 2019

Poggio Di Sotto Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2016

Very fine quality of tannins wind their way around the ripest fruit picked right in time to keep the acidity (6.3 tA) not just in line but up there in full regale with the gathered parts. The red fruit is so very specific to appellation and place, two interchangeable parts that make Rosso shine. Crispy and crunchy with juicy fruit in the savoury candy way that’s just what this ideal new deal has to be. Few Rosso will age like this from Poggio di Sotto. Drink 2020-2028.  Tasted October 2019

Poggio Di Sotto Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2015 (337774, $180.00)

The red fruit of this place and only this place is amplified or better still exemplified in appellative Brunello. There is a glycerin derived and in possession of balance, from soils, elements and climate that is unparalleled for this specific area of Montalcino just to the west and below Castelnuovo dell’Abate. The fine shift from earth to fruit and into tannin through mineral bleed and finally peppery savour all works on the palate. This ’15 is proof of how a team continues to uphold standards of these vineyards no matter the ownership or the hopes, dreams or wishes of those who support and also those who drink from the deep well of this project. Drink 2022-2033.  Tasted October 2019

San Felice – Campogiovanni

San Felice Campogiovanni Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva Docg Il Quercione 2015 ($136.00)

The combinative adjunct of extract, barrel and soul are at the crux of the San Felice grasp and the very core of winemaker Leonardo Bellaccini’s life work. Never shy, always looking for density, in vineyard plantings, vintage and concentration of this Brunello. Leonardo is very happy with these results if questioning the balance between big fruit and even bigger tannins. What is amazing are the acids he finds, coaxes and extends to lift this from its depths. Done up in 100 per cent oak. Unparalleled for Montalcino. Drink 2021-2027.  Tasted October 2019

San Felice Campogiovanni Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva Docg Il Quercione 2008 ($136.00)

The 2008 expresses a character or at least has transformed with one that smells so much of all the pretty bushes and herbs that grow so low to the vineyard’s ground. Here the true spirit of the Campogiovanni Azienda comes clean, speaking in pure vernacular tongue and expressing all that is this place. Don’t misunderstand that this Brunello is as its namesake suggests, a wine of big oak, but also bones and persisting fruit. The tannins are so fine, plush and still in control. So much texture, very precise actions and wholly deserving of a place at the table. A real style and a product of new oak blanketing the fruit of old vines. Drink 2019-2028.  Tasted October 2019

San Felice Campogiovanni Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Vigne Vecchie 2011

A perfect sunny summer, like 2010, with some late August showers. Just before harvest there were two heat waves, spiking the sugars from 22 to 25 brix. The potential alcohol breached 16 per cent as a result. The Aussie shiraz vintage, of faux sugar and unusual for Brunello. Glycerin persists just as it showed so early in fermentation, ripe to the edge but did it cross over? To be honest, no. But there is a reduction of balsamico, a tarry feeling, a Sant Angelo in Colle character. Plenty of chocolate, warmth and zonazione personality. Drink 2019-2023.  Tasted October 2019

Vineyard at Salicutti

Podere Salicutti

Podere Salicutti Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2016

There’s something special about a Rosso di Montalcino that speaks to a place, in this case the moderate specificities of the Sorgente vineyard for a 6,800 bottle lot of pure and focused sangiovese. An ease back on the sugar ripening and colour content throttle makes for a transparency and clarity of delight in the way Rosso should be, at least for this lower section of the three main estate vineyards. Inox fermentation, 18 months in larger Allier barrels, further bottle refining and then no filtration makes for Rosso of true to Salicutti spirit, bright, effusive, uncompromising and willing to stick with what works. What else do you need from Rosso di Montalcino? Drink 2019-2023.  Tasted October 2019

Podere Salicutti Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Piaggione 2013

Salicutti is in a south-eastern Montalcino location, on route SP 55 towards Castelnuovo dell’Abate. Now in the altruistic stewardship of owners Sabine and Felix Eichbauer who heed the tradition and ideology created by its previous owner, Francesco Leanza. The agriculture and winemaking team remain to keep the promise and the faith for all of the estate lands and and inner workings. They do so as custodians of Piaggione, the movie star of Salicutti’s vineyards, fastest to ripen from both a sugar and phenolic standpoint but also lending the deepest colour to its grapes. That in itself creates some great oxymoronic irony because Salicutti’s are some of the most transparent and clearest expressions of sangiovese in the territory. As is this stunning 2013, a Brunello of pure, unadulterated and sexy fruit with all of its natural, vintage specific and structured parts on full display. The combined effects of three years spent in an array of French and Slavonian barrels has come to this, meaning the fruit has been coaxed but never pushed so that is speaks only of Piaggione. Blood orange acidity and lightning strike energy make for such a buzz of a Brunello. Barrel tastings of 2016 through 2018 ferments will only magnify and hyperbolize these feelings. The future will hold and be something else. Drink 2019-2028.  Tasted October 2019

View from Terralsole

Terralsole

Terralsole Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2013

Always a blend of the two vineyards, including Vigna Pian Bossolino, which incidentally was not made in this vintage. The tannins here are nothing short of remarkable, silken, succulent and so strong. A woody and hematic sangiovese with blood and oranges running through its veins. Drink 2021-2028.  Tasted October 2019

Terralsole Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG 2013

This is the baby and yet already more in the approachable realm, offering up lush fruit, ganache of a rich consistency, spice rendered and layered. A chewy Brunello, fruit leathery, up front and generous. Drink 2020-2026.  Tasted October 2019

Terralsole Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG 2012

A concentrated vintage, with muscles and also highest quality phenolics. Truth is spoken in that last bit of content because this noses high, mighty, rich and ripe. The fruit carries a sweetness from which skins and seeds are most certainly responsible. Always Terralsole silky, fine and golden in liquid sangiovese form. Drink 2020-2028.  Tasted October 2019

Terralsole Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG 2007

Even if ’13 and ’12 Riserva are current releases it is this ’07 that should be considered the present tense. The label depicts and angel with an attitude, by Whistler artist Lisa Geddes. Showing its 12 years of development, with plenty of rendered chocolate. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted October 2019

Good to go!

godello

Montalcino, 6pm

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San Casciano’s nascent time in Chianti Classico

Poggio Torselli

As per the recent wave of Chianti Classico producers creating regional associations because of their shared geographies and ideologies, so too has L’Associazione San Casciano Classico followed suit. Just about one year ago in the Fall of 2018 the producers of San Casciano Val di Pesa organized to promote and protect the wineries of the municipality. This past September there were 19 (of the 23) members of the association on hand to host 13 Canadian journalists and sommeliers for a San Casciano summit at the historical Villa Poggio Torselli.

Villa Poggio Torselli

The villa’s origins are recorded in the land registers as early as the beginning of the 15th century. It is approached by an awe-inspiring boulevard of cypresses and is one of the largest and most elegant residences in the area of the San Casciano Hills, near Florence. “Queen of all villas” as it is known dates back to 1427 bearing the name of Poggio Torselli. These noble family names are associated with the villa; Macchiavelli, Corsini, Strozzi, Antonori, Capponi and Orlandini, who owned the villa until 1722. Status is a draw for important figures, so visits were made by Pope Pius VII who stopped over on his way to Paris to crown Emperor Napoleon in 1804 and also Paul I, Emperor of Russia.

Poggio Torselli Seasons Garden

The gardens are astonishing and surely one of the Chianti Classico territory’s finest. Known as the “Seasons Garden” it was created in the 18th century, teeming with narcissus, tulips, hyacinths, dahlia, sage, clematis and giant Indian hibiscus. Most notable are the fritillaries, also known as “imperial crown” and the entire garden is surrounded by the golden crown of 120 secular lemon trees.

Related – If you’re going to San Casciano

San Casciano the village is also one of eight sub-zones in Chianti Classico’s most northwesterly sector. The full name San Casciano in Val di Pesa tells us that its location is proximate to the valley of the Pesa river and it shares a border with two other communes, Barberino Tavarnelle to the south and Greve in Chianti to the east and southeast.

 

The sangiovese of San Casciano are made in the image of their makers; stoic, serious, at times austere, surely classic and noble. They speak with a succinct and old-school vernacular that lends great credence to the adage that sangiovese needs the bottle. The wines are unabashedly uncompromising in that they talk the talk of a sense of place that shares affinities only with each other and themselves. Their time in the sun has come, with help no doubt from a changing climate. That glaring condition was on full display the day we met and tasted because a deluge the likes there was never seen rained down and for many hours. When the tasting was complete the skies cleared and the sun shone on what was a symbolic calling to San Casciano’s nascent rebirth. The time for their distinctive sangiovese has surely come.

These are 21 of the wines tasted in September at Fattoria Poggiopiano and with the L’Associazione San Casciano Classico at Poggio Torselli.

Antinori Pèppoli Chianti Classico DOCG 2017 (606541, $19.95)

Chianti Classico from Peppolì, 90 per cent sangiovese with merlot and syrah. An enriching wine and enriched by the international grapes, juicier and more refined, if not also a very concentrated version of these wines. It’s mature and stylish to be sure. Drink 2019-2023.  Tasted September 2019

Famous volumes

Carus Vini Chianti Classico DOCG Baldéro 2016

Presented by the estate’s Sales Manager Pamela Bernini. Estate grapes of 12-13 hectares grown on clay-calcareous soils. Eight are sangiovese, the other three being syrah, merlot and cabernet sauvignon. Baldéro is 100 per cent sangiovese with only a small portion raised in tonneaux. Rich, spirited and juicy stuff. Really fresh, effusive and expressive. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted September 2019

Fattoria Cigliano Di Sopra Chianti Classico DOCG 2017

Only the second vintage of organic, 100 per cent sangiovese and an indigenous ferment. There were a mere 1400 bottles produced from a seven hectare plot, planted in 1982 and 2004. New plantings are going in. From Maddalena (age 26) in cohorts with Matteo (age 24). Quite sharp, fresh and also tannic. A start-up with experience on the fly. Drink 2019-2023.  Tasted September 2019

Castello di Gabbiano Chianti Classico DOCG 2016

A threefold experience of fennel, blood orange and pancetta. There are equal parts five per cent merlot and “other complimentary varieties.” The classic in every respect, dark cherry fruit, dusty, savoury and taut. Fresh, elegant as need be and utterly solid.  Last tasted September 2019

Castello di Gabbiano’s Chianti Classico may repeat itself and act the obvious one, but once again in 2016 it is full and ripe, filled in at every turn, deep, dark and handsome. The ability to deal in pleasure is immense from gathered quality fruit and as always this Annata finds the quickest line for us to appreciate the unwavering sense of equilibrium. Simply put it is Gabbiano and winemaker Federico Cerelli who offer a quality guarantee at the most attractive price. Leaves no reason to doubt. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted February 2018

Azienda Agricola Mori Concetta Chianti Classico Morino DOCG 2018

Mainly sangiovese with canaiolo, colorino and pugnitello. An excessively savoury and forest brushy Classico with the fruit edging away from cherry and into plum. Peppery spice adds to the complexity of this grippy sangiovese. Juicy and sharp, totally in charge of all the fun and more. Reminds me of a slow ripened ’14 with more flesh and sapidity. Drink 2019-2023.  Tasted September 2019

La Querce Seconda Chianti Classico DOCG 2016

Niccolò Bernabei and this project that began in 1995. Organic since 2001 in the most northern spot of San Casciano. Fifty per cent comes from a newer property in the south, for lightness of being and balance. Clay with stones for one of the darker and developed sangiovese in the commune. Toffee and coffee juxtaposed against freshness and really elevated acidity. Also a product of long fermentation with plenty of extraction, tannin and structure. And it needs it desperately. Not green in any means but certainly pressed and expressed. Grows in stature and also widens into greater breadth with air and time.  Last tasted September 2019

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

La Sala Chianti Classico DOCG 2015

A combination of two estate vineyards and it shows in the depth of layering, rich, chocolaty and silky smooth. Dark berry fruit, a bit pressed and good high level acidity.  Last tasted September 2019

La Sala’s Annata 2015 is a bambino, a San Casciano in Val di Pesa sangiovese with 10 per cent merlot to speak for sites at 300m, seemingly more instructed by Galestro from out of the Argilla Rossa in 2015. It was raised in grande (45 hL) botti and has now only been in bottle for five months. It’s tart and firm, strong with doppio shots of espresso and very structured for the vintage. Tells a tale about the sort of sangiovese that comes from San Casciano. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted February 2018

Fattoria Di Luiano Chianti Classico DOCG 2017 ($24.50)

This is San Casciano and the wines are linked by being characterized with soils prevalent in the Greve River Valley, in connection with Antinori’s Peppoli, of river stones and Alberese, into which roots can dive deep in search of water, trace elements and minerals. “A representation of a season for our place in Chianti Classico,” explains Alessandro Palombo. Classic Luiano florality and botanical lift in spite of ‘17s challenge. A tisane for sure, of violet and lavender but also spices. Rounded out by cabernet sauvignon and merlot planted at 330m on less rocky soils. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted September 2019

Antica Fattoria Machiavelli Solatio Chianti Classico DOCG 2017

Located in Sant’Andrea in Percussina, neighbours of Poggio Torselli and the house in exile where Niccola Macchiavelli lived. From 27 hectares of vineyards, stony and porous soils. Really the first reductive Annata in this San Casciano lot, protected, protractive and taut. Called Solatio because it’s a sunny place in an otherwise cooler area of the greater territory. Ripe sangiovese with 20 per cent merlot, tannic and just a touch green. Drink 2019-2023.  Tasted September 2019

San Casciano Hills

Famiglia Nunzi Conti Chianti Classico DOCG 2017

Winemaker Gianpaolo Chiettini and what he considers some of the bigger sangiovese of Chianti Classico. Estate carries 40 hectares in the southern San Casciano area of Mercatale where calcari-Alberese soils are there to bring grip and structure. Also some vineyard with clay to mitigate and keep things swimming richly along. Much of the harvest was tossed away and sold for bulk. True selection was performed and with the stringent work through several picks. Thirty per cent saw older barrels in what is clearly a wine of soil and place. Drink 2019-2023.  Tasted September 2019

Orsumella Chianti Classico DOCG 2016 ($23.95)

Presented by Sales Manager Andrea Fabbri from a San Casciano farm located on the road from Bargino (near Antinori) proximate to Monte Ridolfi at 300m. Takes the name from the small river. The Annata is 100 per cent sangiovese eased through a short maceration and conversely similarly in extraction as a result. Native yeasts are used and it spends one years in Grandi Botti, 2500L and very old. A simple execution equals a simple equation. Young, fresh and delicious. Drink 2019-2021.  Tasted September 2019

Poggiopiano Chianti Classico DOCG 2017

From proprietor Giovanni Battista Bartoli, of sangiovese and colorino and a San Casciano winery with no international varieties. Also no Riserva. High-toned, dark fruit and dusty sangiovese, rich in syrup swirl, certainly a vintage matter, concentrated, with a notable spike of heat. No new barriques used, only second and third passage. Long and consistent. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted September 2019

Poggiopiano Chianti Classico DOCG La Tradizione 2016

“I am quite Taliban in this idea,” says Giovanni Battista Bartoli, of being 100 per cent anti-international varieties. These San Casciano soils are of clay, sand, river stones and “limo” a silty-clay. Vinification in concrete tanks, for no better reason than micro-oxidation. La Tradizione is pure varietal sangiovese and curious to even remarkable in that the palate accentuates or rather elevates the floral notes, in violets and blues. Tone spikes in whole bunches, really tart acidity and implosive intensity. A touch pressed. Drink 2020-2024. Tasted September 2019

Poggio Torselli Chianti Classico DOCG 2016 ($24.85)

In the northern part of San Casciano at 250m of altitude. Pressed for success, caramel, vanilla and simple savoury syrup. Strawberry with some of it deeper into wild types. Rich and fleshy, smooth, silken and proper acidity. Mainly clay soils with some Alberese. Creamy with help from lees and battonage. A bit of a chocolate finish again with solid acidity. High quality for the style. Drink 2019-2021.  Tasted September 2019

Corsini and Capponi crests

Principe Corsini Le Corti Chianti Classico DOCG 2016 ($26.95)

Duccio Corsini’s vineyards mostly face south, though some point to the east and the west. Vineyards teeming with fluvial sediment and river stones, large, medium and small. Ostensibly an ancient river situation on a hill. Showing beautifully today and at this time; juicy, fleshy and bloody expressive. The sweet tannins need two more years to resolve. Made with five per cent colorino. Drink 2020-2026.  Tasted September 2019

Fattoria San Michele A Torri Chianti Classico DOCG Tenuta La Gabbiola 2017

From Franca in the far north of San Casciano on 470 hectares and 65 planted to vineyard, 15 of which are in Chianti Classico, 12 in production. Mostly sangiovese with five per cent syrah planted closest to the river just because it’s not a site for sangiovese. A true peppery syrup to nose, haughty and heady with no shortage of concentration and grip. Quite stylish and modern. Very enticing and a bit heated at the same time. Drink 2019-2021.  Tasted September 2019

Terre Di Perseto Chianti Classico DOCG Albòre 2016

Presented by Beatrice Landini. Two young brothers take over from grandfather. A notable mephitic sangiovese crusted in its major reduction. Really wound tight, quite juicy and if traditional it’s done with plum pudding and spice. No oak and yet done up in a very closed environment to give a crisp, tight and crispy expression.  Last tasted September 2019

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

Villa Belvedere Campoli Chianti Classico DOCG 2017

Deep, dark and handsome from an old estate in the south of San Casciano on the north end of the ridge up from Radda, through Panzano and into Mercatale. Purchased five years ago and re-planted. Carries the richness meeting mineral notes of Galestro raised sangiovese albeit in the depth of a San Casciano vein. A note of smoky fennel and pollen with ripe acidity. Very much a product of young vines that will lead to more elastic and structured wines in years to come. A wine with shared affinities, to Mercatale in San Casciano and also Panzano. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted September 2019

Villa Sant’Andrea Chianti Classico DOCG 2017

A large 600 hectare estate with 50 hectares under vine, including merlot and two cabs to go along with sangiovese. The nose indicates jam and verdancy, likely picked ahead of the rains at high sugars early in September. Merlot especially in the first week and the sangiovese 15 days later. Phenolics are close but one more week (to ten days) would have likely taken this fruit to its final destination. Drink 2019-2021.  Tasted September 2019

Villa Mangiacane Chianti Classico DOCG 2016

Presented by estate director estate manager Graziano Santoro. Very near the village of San Casciano, from Galestro filled vineyards, well pressed and of a specific density. There’s a curious oyster shell note and dark black cherry fruit, pit and all. Plenty of oak, plenty of ambition, spice and pique. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted September 2019

Villa Vallacchio Chianti Classico DOCG 2017

In the areas of Campoli and Tignanello, juice only sold to bulk through the 2015 vintage. Beginning in 2016 an Annata and a Riserva began to be produced. Ripe and floral with phenols very close to being fully realized. Still just a touch of verdancy with what can best be described as extreme fruit. A crunchy and tight Annata. Drink 2019-2020.  Tasted September 2019

Good to go!

godello

Poggio Torselli

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All the wines of Sicily

Temple ruins of Giunone, Parco Valle dei Templi Agrigento

People get ready and listen up. Back in May of 2019 I paid a visit to the great and ancient, melting and wondrous pot of multiculturalism that is the island of Sicily. Sicilia en Primeur, a.k.a Anteprima Siciliana is one of Italy’s finest. JustSicily founder Giusi Macchiarella and her staff on a mission to be great provided my companions and I with an Enotour designed to make tracks through green pastures and winding roads mostly covering the eastern and southeastern sectors of the island. Though it flew by in an instant there was plenty of time afforded intensive investigations over backroads of Catania and Agrigento, replete with return engagements at four near and dear properties; Feudo Montoni, Tenuta Regaleali, Baglio di Cristo Campobello and Feudo Principe di Butera.

Related – Notes from 2019 Sicilia en Primeur

A walk through #villaromanadelcasale to see the exorbitant 4th century splendour of Roman nobility

These visits reconnected me with some of Sicily’s smartest and greatest characters; Fabio Sireci, Melissa Muller, Alberto Tasca, Davide Bacchiega, Carmelo Bonetta, Rosario Ferro, Antonio Paolo Froio and Alessandra Zambonin. It also made cause to pause and be reminded of the important vineyards and wines for which these messengers are custodians; Vrucara, Barbietro, San Lucio, Campobello di Licata and Deliella. On this 2019 leg of the journey a new vineyard discovery called Diodonos told an old nero d’avola story for the Agrigento cooperative Canicattì beneath the temple ruins of Giunone. Perfect segue for a walk through Villa Romana del Casale to see the exorbitant 4th century splendour of Roman nobility.

A glorious finale in Ortigia at Castello Maniace with @siciliaenprimeur

After the 2018 Sicilia en Primeur I asked “have you ever felt so at home or been so comfortable travelling as you have been in Sicily? If you’ve not been then you might not understand what I mean. Sicily is Casa quantu stai e tirrinu quantu viri, “home for as long as you need to be and land as far as the eye can see.” I always assumed it would be the water to captivate me, but from endless seas of wheat to grapevines covering plains, hills and terraces, it would always be about the land.”

“You might also think this island in the southern Mediterranean would ripen grapes with the sort of ease akin to some of the world’s warmest climates, like South Australia or the Western Cape of South Africa. Oh that it were so simple. In Sicily they say, Austu e riustu capu i mmennu, “after August, winter starts.” Growing grapes is truly a matter of place. You need to be specific with your grape varieties and match them to your micro-climate, but also your soils. This is a Sicilian necessity.”

Calling it a day with the @siciliaenprimeur sommeliers @orteapalace

In Siracusa we tasted all the wines of Sicily over two glorious Ortigia days in the palace. I have split up my 136 tasting notes into 12 separate categories, five of which cover the winery visits. If you’d like to go straight to a particular section covered in this report, please feel free to skip forward and click the quick links for any of the following categories:

It’s on the way back home We’ll be there soon.

Sicily’s Viticultural Year: 2018

For those who keep such records, 2018 will go down as the fifth hottest year on the Mediterranean  Italian island since 1900. Sicilia en Primeur took place between May 6th and 10th, 2019 as Assovini Sicilia presented that peculiar vintage to 100 international wine journalists through three days of eno-wine tours and two more of anteprime in Siracusa. This sixteenth edition of Sicily en Primeur hosted 50 producers in the Ortea Palace Luxury Hotel of Ortigia, with more than 500 wines available to taste. The technical presentation was delivered by Mattia Filippi, winemaker and founder of Uva Sapiens. Five masterclasses were presented by five Masters of Wine; Vineyards with a sea view, Travelling through time, DOC Sicilia, Etna, a constantly evolving territory and Small Destinations, a great history.

#piazzadelduomo #ortigia #syracusa #sicilia

We learned three simple truths about the Sicilian wine industry because of the collective reaction to the heat brought forth by 2018. First, production numbers were consistent with 2017. Second, the other two wine production regions of Italy with similar horizontal exactitudes were Piedmont and Tuscany. Third, Sicily proved that staying true to core values, paying attention to quality and limiting yields in the name of productive balance puts the island’s denominations in a league with the country’s elite.

Related – Sicily in review

Sicily’s aromatic whites

In Sicily, the climate and especially the many micro-climates bless the island with levels of aromatic complexity that come straight off of the skins of the grapes, especially the whites. The winemaker attuned to and in tune with his or her terroir is not in search of fat wines because quite frankly, in Sicily they already have so much of everything. So the question begs, “why do they need more?” This fundamental approach is surely an existential one but also one that is highly practical and when followed always leads to some of the most truthful aromatic white wines on the planet. From catarratto, grillo and inzolia to carricante and zibbibo, Sicilian whites are simply killing it. Two prime examples are noted from May visits with Fabio Sireci at Feudo Montoni and Alberto Tasca at Tenuta Regaleali. Many others offered up thrilling discoveries, including those made by Planeta, Tornatore, Donnafugata and Rallo.

Fabio Sireci and Melissa Muller

Feudi Montoni

Feudi Montoni Catarratto Masso 2018, Sicilia DOC ($22.95)

Masso is the cru, “conglomerate stone,” from the soil. Fermented in cement, locked in for and with freshness, sapid and ultra fresh. In 2018 it rained every 10 days, including during harvest so the aromatics are an about face from 2017, a vintage that saw no rain from March to October. What was a relative tropical 2017 is now an herbal, verdant 2018, with aromatics filled by wild finnocchio, fava, honeysuckle, chick pea and lentil. So to speak. Great freshness and so linear, with more age potential. More lime in ’18 and sapidity but only having tasted ’17 will you heed to that belief. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted May 2019.

Feudo Montoni Inzolia Dei Fornelli 2018, Sicilia DOC (539932, $22.95)

‘Tis a perfumed vintage for inzolia in Montoni’s world and while the length of time for its stay in stainless is not defined, it remains at service, ready when ready and different every year. If it’s floral so be it with thanks to the blooming heather or in this property’s case, the purple honeysuckle. Another indigenous wine extended from the pied de coup, wildly elegant and yet so simple. Will gain some honey and more flinty strike with a few years in bottle. “And we’ll all go together.” Drink 2019-2023.  Tasted May 2019

Feudo Montoni Grillo Timpa 2018, Sicilia DOC ($22.95)

Like the cattaratto and the inzolia the aromatics have turned 180 degrees in ’18 from the wet year, with linearity and direct to the senses notes. Still the fresh squeeze of lemon gets you quick, with smiling spirit. A wholly soulful grillo that will keep you woke and alive. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted May 2019

Feudo Montoni Nerello Mascalese Rosé Di Adele 2018, Sicilia DOC ($22.95)

“For you Adele I will pull out all the thorns and put in roses.” This from Fabio Sereci’s father to his mother. Also symbolic for bringing a vineyard back to life. The only wine not named after a cru, but after mama, the mama, the only mama. The “roses of Adele.” The most sapid, herbal, linear and did I mention sapid Rosé in the these parts and any nearby and far away. Take nerello mascalese, grow it in the wilds of Feudo Montoni and this is the result, elegant, lengthy and certainly piu sale. Drink 2019-2021.  Tasted May 2019

Feudo Montoni Nero d’Avola Lagnusa 2018, Sicilia DOC (523738, $23.95)

The cru where the nero d’avola grows, the lazy one or better yet the smart one, intelligent one who is a late starter, but when he works he’s very good at what he does. Lagnusa. Also a grape gown in clay soils from which yields are low, once a negative now very positive in terms of quality. Some concrete aging and only a short contact with mostly (approximately 80 per cent) old barrels. Another factor of a vintage, herbal, dusty, so very fennel and aromatic enhancing legumes, non marmalata, far from dense, heavy or over the edge in any possible sense of reality. Just balanced in its slightly wild, feral, cured and elegant way. Drink 2019-2023.  Tasted May 2019

Feudo Montoni Nero d’Avola Vrucara 2015, Sicilia DOC ($58.00)

The en primeur nero d’avola, finished but so far from even hinting at a readiness. Wild strawberry and the dreams of aromatics to come; carob, liquorice, salumi and all the herbs. Grasses and magical things that grow in a Montoni natural world. Top quality acidity for 2015, reeling, supportive and wild. A truly structured wine and one that will resist growing old despite the passage of time. Drink 2020-2029.  Tasted May 2019

Feudo Montoni Nero d’Avola Vrucara 2010, IGT Sicilia

From Fabio Sireci’s pre-phylloxera vineyard in which some heritage nero d’avola with unparalleled root structures find water six to eight metres below the sand and clay layers. Some are as old as 120 years and still others have been raised by the Sireci method of propaginato, the bending of a heritage vine cane into the earth and then brought up as a new vine. The savoury here is fed by so many surrounding native plants, aromatic oils and how they share the terroir with the Vrucara vines. It’s a great wine, singular, mature and mellowing but done with such confidence and lessons learned. One of Sicily’s greatest wines of confidence and humility. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted May 2019

Feudo Montoni Nero d’Avola Vrucara 2008, IGT Sicilia

Still just a baby, curative youthful, high acidity very much in charge with an uncanny at present aroma of wild strawberry. Impactful wild fennel and roses still in bloom. Just the first stages of secondary character are upon the aromatics but structure controls the rest, all of whom still lay in wait around the next decade. We visited the queen by pickup at night where she sits on her throne, as she has for 120 years, with her children born by propaginato, over the course of all that time. Like a cavallo indonato or, if you like, non manzito. Untrained, not wanting to be fenced in, needing time to civilize, habituate and domesticate. We’ll all be long gone.  Last tasted May 2019

The answers are so simple and yet unanswered because magic is involved. You can understand the old vines and the way their fruit turns into wines that begin with ancient wisdom but move so little in the first seven years. What happens at 10 is the turning outward, to express the place and speak the dialect of the cru. The acidity is still high but is now in lift, with fruit at the height and en anergy that flows, really flows, moving across your palate with grace, grab and attention. A contiguous wine from start to finish, with intensity, impression and precision. The structure is come cavallo domato, like a trained horse. Dramatic nd’A but with no drama at all. Tamed and in respect of ancient vine, where it grows and what it wants to give. Ma zitto, a wine to keep you silent. Drink 2018-2029.  Tasted May 2018

Feudo Montoni Perricone Core 2008, Sicilia DOC ($22.95)

The most interesting of grapes, known as guernaccia in this part of Sicily, “the grape of the farmer,” thick-skinned, disease resistant and perfect for making home made wine. Full phenolic perricone still has a green pit, picked late (in November), so Fabio cuts/crimps the vine very hard, blocking the flow of sap from the rootstock to the clusters, ostensibly creating an appassimento technique but in the vineyard, one week before harvest. Intriguing from bitter cocoa, through tobacco, carob, bokser and liquorice. You absolutely need lignification, brown stems, for whole bunch fermentation and add all this up, the grape, the techniques and the result is almost singular for any red wine in the world. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted May 2019

Feudo Montoni Passito Rosso, IGT Terre Siciliane

From nero d’avola and perricone. Upwards of 200 g/L of RS. That nero liquorice and carob is magnified, hyperbolized and liquified. The acidity brings stability and re-introduces the varietal centrifuge and microcosmic sense of place to the wine. This is like the place itself, centre of some people’s necessary universe, where everything goes on and on.  Drink 2019-2029. Tasted May 2019

Feudo Montoni Passito Bianco, IGT Terre Siciliane
From grillo with some cattaratto to elevate and manage acidity in a passito that is upwards of 136 g/L of RS. So much fruit goings on; gelid orange, caramelized orange, burnt pineapple and apricot. Just faintly nutty, surely unctuous and fine. Drink 2019-2029.  Tasted May 2019

So good to be back @tenutaregaleali with @albertotasca

Tenuta Regaleali

Tenuta Regaleali Nozze d’Oro 2017, Sicilia DOC

A wine with a nod in ode to Alberto Tasca’s grandparents and their 30th anniversary, made from inzoilia off of the old (back to 1966) Barbieto Vineyard and blended with sauvignon blanc grown at the highest site on the estate. From a hot and quick vintage the two aromatic varieties layer to create something intense and the connection to Bordeaux Blanc in style is somewhat an uncanny one. A seamless and straightforward white wine with top quality sweet acidity and exceptional food pairing ability. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted May 2019

Tenuta Regaleali Nozze d’Oro 2014, Sicilia DOC

A cooler vintage makes for a flintier, tighter and more snappy white blend, from Barbietro Vineyard grown inzolia and sauvignon blanc. If the hot 2017 was thought to be a Bordeaux ringer than this will double down on that idea, in fact this makes that vintage seem downright tropical. Crunchy, sapid and in the truest sense of the word, so bloody mineral. Lovely bit of grapefruit like bitters with a note on ginger on the finish. Drink 2019-2028.  Tasted May 2019

Alberto Tasca

Tenuta Regaleali Nozze d’Oro 2006, Sicilia DOC

A remarkable study in longevity for a Sicilian white blend but you have to delve deeper and into the microcosmic world of the Tenuta Regaleali Estate. Flinty like 2014 though of some more humidity and also residual, semi-tropical fruit substance still relative within the subtext of a cool vintage. It’s like lime dousing mango and gooseberry in cooling mode out of the stufa. Still very flinty and implosive, spirited and gaining speed, if traction even. Impressive look at a 13 year-old joint between inzolia and sauvignon blanc, acidity and structural elegance. Drink 2019-2020.  Tasted May 2019

Tenuta Regaleali Perricone Tasca d’Almerita Guarnaccio 2016, Sicilia DOC

The artist also known parochially as guarnaccio is the magical grape variety of endemic proportions that only Sicilia can claim. A wine that will open doors to perception and change the way you see Sicily, not just because it’s different but because it’s exciting. Like cabernet franc with sweet basil, liquorice and sweet peppery plum. Just an ideal vintage, liquid chalky, high acid, full fruit complement and ideal extract. Crunchy like a mouthful of berry rocks.  Last tasted May 2019

Endemic perricone is the grape that has always existed at Regaleali, since 1954, in the historical San Lucio vineyard. The massal selection allowed for extending the vineyard, because believing in perricone (always known as Guarnaccio at the Estate) means respecting the winemaking past of western Sicily, which was rich in this grape. Because brother Rosso del Conte was always offering an age able wine, it was decided to bottle this varietal wine for freshness and possibility. It sees 12 months in 2nd and 3rd use barrique. The first vintage was 2012 and there is a sweet nuttiness about this grape made in this way, like marzipan or nougat, with currant red fruit and in a way, like cabernet franc but without any pyrazine intrusion. A note of carob or bokser joins in, advantageous acidity for buoyancy and a calmness without any real demand by tannin. So much pleasure and confidence. Too early in its tenure to know about aging solo but how can confidence not speak to an avowal of yes? Drink 2019-2026.  Tasted May 2018

Tenuta Regaleali Rosso Del Conte Tasca d’Almerita 2014, Sicilia DOC

The famous blend of perricone and nero d’avola that does not tread into the danger zone of over ripeness and jam, keeping acidity and running with the devil, for the better part of 50 years. Extremely youthful wine, still reductive, still reeking of its multi-vegetal/floral scents of herbs, legumes, grasses and flowers that grow all around the infamous vineyard. The oak regime is still very much in charge of the fruit and so a vanilla-graphite film rests atop the syrah-like pepperiness of the endemic fruit blend. Should begin talking in a dialect that lends a sense of place in two or three more years time and will be a long-lived RdC. Drink 2021-2032.  Tasted May 2019

Tasca d’Almerita Rosso Del Conte 1998, DOC Monreale

The original Super Sicilian is a nero d’avola and perricone marriage though over the years they have swapped place in terms of which one leads. Still a secondary time and place, with fruit coming around again and again, especially at the finish. A perricone bulk head wonder with nero d’avola wings. Very much a creamy chocolate ending that while certainly a matter of oak it’s really quite dreamy and through a connection to earthiness it brings you back to the vineyard. Drink 2019-2021.  Tasted May 2019

Baglio Del Cristo Di Campobello

Baglio Del Cristo Di Campobello C’D’C Cristo Di Campobello Rosso 2018, Sicilia DOC

Proper Rosato, of chalk and a faint feign of sweetness, lithe in legerement, no more than two or three hours of free press run. An expression of nero d’avola, of currants and savoury but also sweet herbs. Perfectly salty and in salivation solicitation. That’s what you need and also because there is fruit, real nero d’avola fruit, inclusive of tiny wild strawberries. Only 8,000 bottles are made, out of an estate total of 300,000, in this the fifth year of blush production. Drink 2019-2021.  Tasted May 2019

Baglio Del Cristo Di Campobello Adènzia Bianco 2018, Sicilia DOC

The 50-50 grillo and inzolio blend that is the expression of white wine as a philosophy from the estate. A Sicilian dialect word that means “pay attention and take care, to the little details, to something or someone.” A soil enriched white blend with tang, silk, salt and richness. It reminds of some Western Cape chenin blanc with melon and sweet lime flavours filling up a frame built on white crumbling stone and aridity. Good persistence noted from a persistently wet year. Drink 2019-2021.  Tasted May 2019

Baglio Del Cristo Di Campobello Adènzia Bianco 2009, Sicilia DOC

Now a look at the 50-50 grillo-inzolio joint going back 10 years and a wine you might not expect to age this long. An estate credo for the dialectical expression that asks to “pay close attention, take care of the things and people you know and love.” Still carries some impressive energy mixed with some warmer fruit like banana and mango, dusted with dried herbs and fine chalky salt. The acidity persists cut with tonic. Better showing than than the 2008 poured here one year ago. Drink 2019-2020.  Tasted May 2019

Baglio Del Cristo Di Campobello Grillo Lalùci 2018, Sicilia DOC

And so grillo on its own from Campobello stands alone with a pulse and a stand up to be noticed personality that speaks to a relationship with the land. “A most representative white for us,” says Carmello, “a great variety with a great potential.” Literally translates to “the light,” in reference to times when economics and potential were in the dark. Also means “hope” in light at the end of the tunnel. Rich and sapid, implosive and saline, like peaches sprinkled with rock chalk and fresh basil. Very fresh, very young, at heart. It’s Papa Bonetta who says it best. “I’d like to make a toast with Lalùci, to think positive and see the light in every day of our life.” Drink 2019-2023.  Tasted May 2019

Baglio Del Cristo Di Campobello Grillo Lalùci 2013, Sicilia DOC

Two bottles are opened because one is just slightly deeper hued and showing an oxidative note. Each does to an extent which comes us no surprise for a six year-old white from grillo of micro-oxygenated life moments. It’s still reductive, smoky, flinty and like a Sicilian marriage between Bordeaux Blanc and Hunter Valley sémillon. The oxidative bottle is not nearly as smoky or expressive and while it’s not necessarily faulted the advancement must be a result effected by the quality of the cork. It’s actually quite flat in comparison with the sound bottle offering more richness meeting salinity and tension on the palate. More than curious, in fact this is a fascinating look at grillo. Drink 2019-2021.  Tasted May 2019

Baglio Del Cristo Di Campobello Laudàri Chardonnay 2017, Sicilia DOC

Tasted last year after only only week in bottle, now the reductive aspect and the equalizing barrel are front and centre in this youthful wine from a very warm and even more so, an extremely arid vintage. The chardonnay vines were planted back when no one wanted wines made from autochthonous grape varieties and here twenty some odd years later have become some important heritage vines for the estate. It’s chewy and structured chardonnay, will be improved in another year’s time and while may not live like some cooler vintage brethren, will still develop more interest. Drink 2020-2023.  Tasted May 2019

Baglio Del Cristo Di Campobello Adènzia Rosso 2017, Sicilia DOC

Silky red, fine, refined and thorough. The blend is 50-50 syrah and nero d’avola, raised in large 100hL barrels. Tini in Legno is the tradition, from tanks meeting barrel where the bottom and the top portions are stainless steel. This allow every aspect of the winemaking to be controlled and the technique combines the old and the new. No surprise this is as smooth as you might imagine. There’s a chalky terroir doubled down by the chalky grain of barrel running through the veins of this deep and warming red blend. Drink 2020-2023.  Tasted May 2019

Licata hospitality @cristodicampobello is always on point.

Baglio Del Cristo Di Campobello Lusirà Syrah 2016, Sicilia DOC

Lusirà is Syrah in dialectical Sicilian speak. From a micro-climate and a soil that can express syrah with elevated, aerified and intense aromatics. Fermentation in stainless steel and aging in French oak barriques, new, second, third and fourth passage. All blended back together and the result is rich, richer and richest. It’s a silken feeling, a peppery liquidity and good persistence. Highly modified and prepared syrah for pomp, pop and pleasure. Drink 2020-2025.  Tasted May 2019

Baglio Del Cristo Di Campobello Nero d’Avola Lu Patri 2016, Sicilia DOC

“The father” is the ultimate red wine expression from Campobello for which all things endemic and traditional are drawn upon for the crafted nero d’avola. The process is the same as Lusirà Syrah, stainless steel fermentation and aging in barriques from one through four years old. Rich as nero d’avola can be, of sweetly endowed fruit and plenty of swagger. This nDa knows exactly what it wants to be, sticks to its guns and tells the world. Look at me, I am nero and I am proud. Drink 2020-2026.  Tasted May 2019

Baglio Del Cristo Di Campobello Nero d’Avola Lu Patri 2009, Sicilia DOC

The father, as opposed to “my father,” so that it celebrates all fathers. That and the fact that nero d’avola is the father of Sicilian grape varieties. A patriarchal wine and three different samples are poured. A bit oxidative and musty with some raisining fruit. More freshness and spirit with good acidity in the second but still showing similar to the first. The third is most similar to the first. They are all past their best but all show what nero d’avola can do if treated with hands off kid gloves. The 2016 is an example of the trending direction en route to finding the strange, kind and fine magic. In the end it grows on you to make you think of things that matter.  Last tasted May 2019

We tasted two bottles of Lu Patri 2009, the first being a bit muted, not very evolved, a character that could be described as one of slow micro-oxygenation. In the second a minute advancement and I agree with Carmelo that this is preferable, because by now it is clear that all of his wines get better with age. They are not that much fun when stuck inertia-like in their undeveloped youth. The evolution at this stage has brought wild cherry, part fresh (Yes!) and part dried. The acidity is linear up and down the sides of the mouth and the length exceptional. First wine with true chocolate and espresso ahead of the balsamico. The last supper nero d’avola. Truly. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted May 2018

Canicattì

Canicattì Catarratto Aquilae 2018, IGP Terre Siciliane

From the contrada of Aquilata, municipality of Canicattì and the “hinterland” of Agrigento off of limestone and silty soils. The quickest and fruitiest catarratto there just might be, with straight to the point starlight fruit after just a few months of fermentation/aging completion. Like value vermentino or greco, straightforward of recognizable orchard and tree fruit. The minor complexity is like Eledrflower and blanched almond. Simple, fresh, clean and dry. 4.35 euro ex-cellar price. Drink 2019-2020.  Tasted May 2019

Canicattì Grillo Fileno 2018, Sicilia DOC

From the municipality of Canicattì and the “hinterland” of Agrigento off of limestone and silty soils. With some higher altitudes at play (up to 600m) this child of zibbibo and catarratto is a spiced, herbal and wildflower grillo, fresh and direct though quite expressive. There’s a fruit tincture meets tin cup sweetness elevated by arranged acidity and garnished by mint. Solid and very drinkable with a minor lemon pith bitter note on the finish. Drink 2019-2020.  Tasted May 2019

Dining with the boys of @cvacanicatti at #restaurantecaico in #valleditempi #agrigento

Canicattì Grillo Acquilae Bio 2018, Sicilia DOC

From the contrada of Aquilata, municipality of Canicattì and the “hinterland” of Agrigento off of limestone and silty soils. The organic one and like father catarratto it’s a quick ferment and ageing for easy, fresh, sapid and instant access. What is lacks in complexity as compared to the Fileno it more than makes up for it in acidity, clarity and ubiquitous amenability. No over-thinking needed or involved. Fry some small fishes and exhale. Drink 2019-2020.  Tasted May 2019

Canicattì Rosato Delicio 2018, IGP Terre Siciliane

From the municipality of Canicattì and the “hinterland” of Agrigento off of limestone and silty soils. The Rosé is 50-50 nero d’avola and nerello mascalese taken from younger vineyards and aged for four months. More about fruit than acids, although the latter’s presence is noted quite prominently. Strawberries, red delicious apple and currants meet sweet herbs and this is ultimately really well made Rosé with nary a bitter moment. Drink 2019-2020.  Tasted May 2019

Canicattì Nero D’avola Centuno 2016, Sicilia DOC

From the municipality of Canicattì and the “hinterland” of Agrigento off of limestone and silty soils. Saw 12 months in barriques and the graphite-eucalyptus notes confirm the newness of the aging. That said it exhibits some notable varietal character albeit in a lush, modern, oxy and forward manner. Clearly a wine made with a specific idea and executed plan in mind. Drink 2019-2020.  Tasted May 2019

Canicattì Diodonos 2016, Sicilia DOC

Next vintage from the 2010-ish resurrected vineyard beneath the temple ruins of Giunone, off of sandy, alluvial soils at valley floor altitude. This is mostly nero d’Avola two months in tank and 10 in barrels, then six more before release. A sense of place truly comes through from this youthful 2016 with both sugar ripeness and phenolic ripeness walking hand in hand. The 10 per cent coming from nerello mascalese and cappuccio is nicely supportive for a wine that tastes like nero d’avola should. Balanced, bright, fruit full and structured. Drink 2021-2026.  Tasted May 2019

Canicattì Diodonos 2015, Sicilia DOC

From a once abandoned and now resurrected vineyard (around 2010) below the temple of Giunone, off of sandy, alluvial soils at valley floor altitude. Varietal nero d’Avola two months in tank and seven or eight in barrels, then six more before release. A sense of place is important because this carries more, albeit some dried fruit varietal character and in spite of 10 per cent coming from nerello mascalese and cappuccio. Chewy, fruit leather character and some finishing bitters. Goes all out for sugar ripeness, pressing and extraction with a minor green seeds astringent note. Drink 2020-2024.  Tasted May 2019

It is such a pleasure to travel across oceans, to talk, taste and learn with friends, colleagues and wine’s sharpest minds ~ at #siciliaenprimeur with @principidibutera @antoniopaolofroio and @alessandrazambonin

Feudo Principi Di Butera

Feudo Principi Di Butera Grillo 2018, Sicilia DOC

The child of zibbibo and cattaratto, a recent story actually, from an agronomists’ experiment. This is “A” type of grillo, also know as the “green one,” as opposed to the “B’ used in sweet Marsala production. The green association is a sauvignon blanc one. The verdant character may be present but plays second and third strings to the freshness and the acidity. Implosive grillo and salivating quite frankly. Drink 2019-2021.  Tasted May 2019

Feudo Principi Di Butera Inzoila 2018, Sicilia DOC

A new soil which is both a blessing and a curse, a pain and a joy to work with. Quality comes from lower yields and specific soils. Here inzolia grazes into hyper-metallic and mineral territory, protected from the heat of the sun, in avoidance of saturated copper, sunflower and gilded gold. Very short skin-contact and nurturing care turn inzolia into this, sapid and even salty, expressive of the calcareous soil and the sea breezes coming from a mere eight kilometres away. Drink 2019-2023.  Tasted May 2019

Feudo Principi Di Butera Inzoila Séro 2018, Sicilia DOC

Serò is inzolia that saw some time in old barrels and also extra time in bottle. It has maintained its vineyard and atmospheric character while also carrying an oxidative note in opposition to the reductive sibling. Takes the varietal out of vintage and into something structured, with tonic spirit and implosive tang. This is surely something new for inzolia, to be taken seriously into something from a winemaker’s (Paolo Antonio Froio) imagination and beyond. The finish adds toasted chestnut and brown butter, not atypical for wines that pass through Bourgogne barrels. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted May 2019

Feudo Principi Di Butera Syrah 2017, Sicilia DOC

The first red to harvest in August at a time with less of a probability to face climate stress. It’s rich, spicy, liquid chalky, peppery and finishing with a minor note of creosote or mesquite. The vintage only accentuates the character, concentrating floral aromas and fine-grained structure without compromise or consequence to über-heightened flavour. A third is put to 350L tonneaux and it shows, in depth of accent and overall composition. Drink 2020-2026.  Tasted May 2019

Butera Pasta

Feudo Principi Di Butera Nero d’Avola 2016, Sicilia DOC ($18.95)

Find another nero d’avola that smells like this. I dare you. It’s wildly floral, feral and meaty but not really a matter of sauvage. The fruit optimization and concentration is simply unparalleled and while extraction is ambitious this never gets into over mature berries and cherries. Right now there is strawberry and the just ripe cherry but not so far away are balsamico, tobacco, truffle and all things leather. Only large botti and no tonneaux are used, in respect to the terroir.  Last tasted May 2019

Really complex perfume, jumping from the glass, fresh, vital, from large plantings that make up more than 50 per cent of the agriculture. It’s both dark red fruit expressive and also herbal, of fennel and then a territorial limestone impression running through the fruit. Quite chewy and expansive in the mouth, all a result of stainless fermentations followed by older, larger barrels, 30 and 50 hL. Gives a broad, soft, elasticized and stretched palate texture with no departure from varietal and place. Very focused, clean, modern interpretation with no excesses, attitude or conceit, nor ambition neither. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted May 2018

The man, the thinker, the legend- Antonio Paolo Froio @principidibutera ~ calcaire soils, focused wines, ocean breezes, calming vistas and @zoninwines hospitality. A perfect Sicilian storm.

Feudo Principi Di Butera Nero d’Avola Deliella 2015, Sicilia DOC ($55.00)

Take everything you think you have come to know about a Butera nero d’avola and begin to multiply, extrapolate and exaggerate. High acidity and a mentholated accent work with the dark purple fruit. Did not think the “normale” was one dimensional but this makes that wine seem simple by comparison. Only the best berries are chosen and only those of the right size and dimension. Precision and focus define this structured wine first produced in 2000 and one that has the potential to age gracefully for up to 20 years.  Last tasted May 2019

Deliella is a selection in the vineyard, from edgy, prurient and analytical investigations in special vineyard blocks with maximum of five bunches per vine to find more concentration from each vine. It’s actually quite a taut and reserved nero d’avola with a slow release of aromatics and charm, dark liquid fruit chalky, structured and quite calm. Takes its time but the acidity carefully climbs up and down the sides of the mouth to stress its position in the overall architecture. Aged in 30 hL casks (and larger tonneaux) for 14 months. There will be some extended longevity here, not forever but likely five to seven years. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted May 2018

Feudo Principi Di Butera Nero d’Avola Deliella 2013, Sicilia DOC ($55.00)

From a time before Antonio Paolo Froio took over the winemaking duties and yet you can’t help but notice the terroir in this single-vineyard nero d’avola. Blacker fruit than red and plenty of spice. Although the oak-aging is stronger than perhaps what needs the fruit persists, the acidity is vibrant and supportive and the concentration handles tannins with great ease. Love the way the caress in energy remains in charge and expressive over the palate. Still very youthful but if you’ve tasted more recent vintages it will then come as no surprise. Very capable wine. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted May 2019

Sparkling Wines

Cantine Nicosia Sosta Tre Santi Carricante Brut Metodo Classico 2016, Sicilia DOC ($55.00)

Varietal carricante from Catania province carrying true green character, lime over lemon and dried herbs. Great grape spirit, high elevation airy tension and flavours promising orange zest, spry and finishing fine bitters. Make use of this ambitious, finely leesy and refreshing sparkling wine as a most excellent aperitif. Drink 2019-2023.  Tasted May 2019

Cantine Nicosia Sosta Tre Santi Brut Metodo Classico 2014, DOC Etna ($55.00)

The use of nerello mascalese is certainly intriguing for traditional method sparkling wine, here from volcanic soil on Etna. The varietal character is not without its obviousness in light berry meets currant aromas and then the citrus aspect of red fruit takes over on the palate. Tart in just the right way, balanced and driving steady right down the middle of the road. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted May 2019

Firriato Gaudensius Blanc De Blancs, IGT Terre Siciliane

Labeled as B de B though a 50-50 carricante and chardonnay joint from Catania province with sulphur and citrus dominating the intensity on the nose. Leesy and creamy with some lemon pith for what adds up to a disparate and meandering sense of pleasure. Drink 2019-2021.  Tasted May 2019

Casa Vincola Fazio Grillo Spumante Brut, Sicilia DOC

Here grillo from Trapani delivers the basics, with some sugar residually noted and not entirely captured by quick acting fermentation and acidity. Very peachy as per the varietal, the technical guru’s instruction and the method. Drink 2019-2020.  Tasted May 2019

Sibliana Due Sorbi, Sicilia DOC

Trapani raised grillo supports a supple and fairly still bubble with concrete and lime aromas leading to a gain of ascension on a palate that comes as quite a pleasant and tension filled surprise. Goes herbal and tannic at the finish. A program with plenty of potential in need of more lees, more acidity and more time. Drink 2019-2021.  Tasted May 2019

Sibliana Grillante, Sicilia DOC

Grillo from Trapani in Grillante form is much more direct, dry, intense and ultimately refreshing. There’s a true lemon and lime spirit in this simple, effective and really well made, balanced and focused bubble. Drink 2019-2021.  Tasted May 2019

Tenuta Gorghi Tondi Palmarès Brut

Grillo of no specific production zone is a child of Trapani provincial heritage (Mazara del Vallo, south-western Sicily) and it’s one of the more leesy sparkling wines in Sicily. That and great acidity balance out the sweetness and the creamy consistency. Kind of goes for all out broke to layer and solicit pleasure, albeit with quite a whack of flavour packet concentration. Drink 2019-2021.  Tasted May 2019

Firriato Gaudensius Blanc De Noir, DOC Etna

Mount Etna, nerello mascalese and downright intensity are the triad of notation from a sparkling wine of great freshness and drive. The lime notes are there from start to finish and there’s a reductive and peppery green apple bite, with an amazing note of green nasturtium seed. This would pair so well with a salad augmented by salty chèvre or feta with nuts, seeds and fresh nasturtium. Like a Brut Zero from Franciacorta, in a way, with great length and potential right here. Drink 2019-2023.  Tasted May 2019

Feudo Principi Di Butera Nerlouce, DOC Sicilia

A 100 per cent Charmat method nero d’avola that was first produced in 2018 to initiate a sparkling wine program under the guide of winemaker Paolo Antonio Froio. The new traditional method program will launch in 2020 from the 2016 vintage and this “black light” is a careful play on words for a varietal wine made light, fresh, fruity and a touch sweet from the dark-hued red grape. It’s vibrancy is very useful for midday sipping under the Butera sun with a cool breeze and a view across the surrounding hills. It’s just the beginning of a long sparkling relationship ahead. Drink 2019-2021.  Tasted May 2019

Planeta Carricante Brut Metodo Classico, DOC Sicilia

The varietal classic method sparkling wine come from the same vineyard as the Eruzione, picked around the 20th of September. First bottles were made in 2009 and first commercial release was 2010. Today the vintage (2015) is defined but actually on the back label. Stoic and sharp, attention grabbing and if short of eruptive, still blowing ash, smoke and pumice. So to speak of course but there is true intention, pet up tension and after a sip, release. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted May 2019

Gurvinder Bhatia

Whites from Etna

Cottanera Etna Bianco Contrada Calderara 2016, DOC Etna

Salty volcanic single cru Etna Bianco (at 750m) with a distinct lava-wild finocchio aroma that demands immediate attention. Also quite floral with as much of a sense of place in pocket as any carricante from anywhere on the volcano. Some tonic and ginger-orange bitters mark the back end in finale. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted May 2019

Cusumano Alta Mora Etna Bianco 2018, DOC Etna

Herbal, rich and lightly salty carricante with yeoman acidity and good soil derived tang. Quickly on the lime and savoury herb angle without equivocation. Basic really and perfectly serviceable. Drink 2019-2020.  Tasted May 2019

Gulfi Carjcanti 2016, IGT Terre Siciliane

Highly curious and salty savoury carricante from Gulfi, apposite to Etna Bianco in more than simple denominational ways. It’s flinty reductive, white peppery and bloody spirited stuff, a Ragusa white of parochial and carefully if rebelliously constructed purpose. The tart aspect is angular to implosive and the length a matter of exceptional extract and tannin, if not necessarily acidity. It’s a different sort and so worth the visit. Will age really, really well. Drink 2019-2026.  Tasted May 2019

Pietradolce Sant’Andrea Bianco 2016, IGT Terre Siciliane

This Catania Bianco is quite evolved in its own idiosyncratic way, with a barrel influenced note that still indicates reduction in a wine that has clearly seen its share of oxygen. The paraffin and beeswax are just ahead of what soon will be honey and lemon curd entangled romantically for soft lighting and music. A natural, in the local demure of dimly lit carricante for those who need to get lost in their wine. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted May 2019

Pietradolce Etna Bianco Archineri 2018, DOC Etna

The Archineri cru brings the most laser-like and saltiest intensity to carricate from Etna. It’s a syringe filled with concentrated lemon and grape spirt injected into the utmost varietal conjecture that can be captured from this volcanic moonscape. Such a crunchy mouthful of lava, basalt and love. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted May 2019

Pietradolce Etna Bianco 2018, DOC Etna

The Etna Bianco normale from Pietradolce shoots less of a laser shot into carricante and while it may be seen as rounder and more amenable than the Archineri and it is a perfectly knowable introduction to Etna Bianco. You should and will not be fooled for its honesty. It shoots from the hip and means serious Etna business. A must have for licensees and those who just want to share the volcano with friends, enemies and colleagues. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted May 2019

Vivera Salisire Contrada Martinella Etna Bianco 2015, DOC Etna

Salsire is by now well accumulated in character from time and evolution to bring a lovely sense of that secondary expressiveness only carricante can do with idiosyncratic oath. It’s round and full of lemons in many respects; juice, curd and zest. Has come to where volcanic Etna can and will. It just is, that’s all there is and it’s alright. Drink 2019-2021.  Tasted May 2019

Alessio Planeta

Planeta Etna Bianco 2018, DOC Etna

Planeta’s Etna Bianco is the poster child, smiling face and sharp as a tack example, also carrying a smirk and an all pervasive knowing of what do to. This fruit and the way it is handled go hand in hand with what you want, need and desire from carricante, volcanics and winemaking. There is substance, a serious basaltic injection and more fruit than most white grape varieties are capable of giving without gushing, cloying or tropically distracting your attention. Such an ideal vintage too. Drink 2019-2023.  Tasted May 2019

Planeta Eruzione 1614 Carricante 2017, Sicilia DOC ($42.99)

Eruzione lies in wait, impulsively structured, set marbled in state as an implosive carricante (with five per cent riesling) class of its very eruptive own. It is a mimic of its volcano, a wine spewing smoulder and gaseous aromatics surrounding a core of fruit so compact, connected, exacting and protected. Perhaps a misunderstood and even strange vintage advance but in a world’s away way the evolution will take time to unwind and reveal what lays behind. There is nothing like fantasy and musical sci-fi imagery in a wine of such mystery and we’re all better off to be caught up in the presence of this great unknown. We’ll find some things out when this casts in a future light so for now, just enjoy whatever laser light show and sonic beeps happen to come your way. Drink 2021-2029.  Tasted May 2019

Torre Mora Etna Bianco Scalunera 2018, DOC Etna

Scalunera is a new player steeped in Etna volcanic tradition from the house that Puccini built. The carricante fruit is highly augmented with complexities of almond pit, peach blossom and soft marzipan. It’s both herbal and fruity with these accents providing the salve greeting proviso to consumer pleasure. Can’t go wrong here. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted May 2019

Firriato Le Sabbie Dell Etna Bianco 2018, DOC Etna

The blend of carricante and catarratto (60-40) from the sandy basalt on Mount Etna is a rounder and more herbal pesto expression with sweet verdant personality and very lime driven flavours. It’s the salsa verde of Etna with fine acidity and true salinity. Golden and purely pleasurable, if slightly metallic Bianco. Drink 2019-2021.  Tasted May 2019

Firriato Cavanera Ripa Di Scorciavacca 2016, DOC Etna

This Firriato carricante-catarratto blend (60-40) takes an about face turn away from the Sabbie sister and goes more linear, direct and intense. Still verdant but this time less herbal and more reductive, with green apple bite. A bigger and more focused and extracted Etna Bianco with more bones and further potential to develop beneficial bitters and secondary notes. Drink 2020-2024.  Tasted May 2019

Tornatore Etna Bianco Pietrarizzo 2017, DOC Etna ($34.00)

The cru Pietrarizzo concentrates fruit, style, cause and effect in a carricante (with 10 per cent catarratto) that really builds texture upon a core of stability. There’s a lemon layering as mille-feuille as any on the mountain from which mouthfeel and balance are well-afforded time, grace and place. This is the quintessentially responsible, responsive and remonstrative Etna Bianco. It’s giving, generous and free-spirited, taking cleanest fruit and bringing a Contrada’s specificity to light. Drink 2020-2027.  Tasted May 2019

Tenute Bosco Piano Dei Daini 2018, DOC Etna

If any other Etna Bianco were considered round and generous previous to now, this from Bosco re-writes the script. The fruit is quelling, welling and so up front, mostly citrus in orientation but aromatically speaking this bursts from the glass. Extreme freshness with heavy prejudice towards immediate gratification brings you in and keeps you fascinated. A gregarious wine with a solid core and a karst from bones that bodes very well for the future. Drink 2019-2026.  Tasted May 2019

Tenute Bosco Etna Bianco 2017, DOC Etna

A blend of the two contrade (Santo Spirito and Pian dei Daini) made with 90 per cent carricante blended into by catarratto and inzolia. A triad of clean clarity, salty aromatics and confident fruit unction. Meyer lemon to peach and a metal-mineral set of moments. Basalt tang and pure intensity with persistence to just an amount you would ask for and to manage the bites you are enjoying from various depths plucked out of the sea. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted May 2019

Assorted Whites

Rallo Bianco 1860 2017, DOP Sicilia

No member of the Rallo family remains a part of the winery yet that need not distract us from a catarratto out of the terroir in Patti Piccolo ad Alcamo,with luminous acidity plus low and slow developed phenolics. The fruit has come full growing cycle circle so that the pith is truly a part of the lushness that flirts with the tropical. Organic, perfectly bitter and so drinkable. Nothing neutral or boring here. Should develop a sense of caramelization by way of flinty, smoky and smouldering ways. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted May 2019

Assuli Donna Angelica 2017, DOC Sicilia

A sample somewhat metallic, oxidative and quite glycerin in texture, of catarratto, grillo and zibibbo in the production area of Mazara del Vallo. A completely different style of extraction, longer maceration and lots of richness. Certainly a style and one that will solicit a consumer who likes their fruit and their metals. Drink 2019-2021.  Tasted May 2019

Alessandro Di Camporeale Catarratto Vigna Di Mandranova 2017, DOC Sicilia

The parent of garganega (Soave and Gambelara) is a firm, giving and well endowed in acidity catarratto from this single vineyard in Agro di Camporeale. Some wood aging adds tonic and marzipan to what began as a smoky varietal wine. The concentration can handle the movement through wood so that basalt, fruit and elemental fineness all get on the same page. Quite complex and morbido (in two languages) at the finish. Drink 2019-2021.  Tasted May 2019

Centopassi Terre Rosse Di Giabbascio R14 2014, IGT Terre Siciliane

From a warm area in San Giuseppe Jato on the northwest part of the island and a cooperative on lands confiscated from the mafia. Long aging adding up to nearly four years in tank plus barrel make for a tannic, evolved, metallic and soft catarratto. Full development and extract of all phenolics available in a wine predicated on winemaking above all else. Drink 2019-2020.  Tasted May 2019

Feudo Arancio Bianco Riserva Dalila 2017, DOC Sicilia

The blend is grillo (80 per cent) and viognier from Contrada Portella Misilbesi in Sambuca di Sicilia. Very yellow orange, quite muscat like with sauvignon blanc lime, floridity and florality. It’s like how that grape can seem botrytis affected because of the peach sweetness and noble rot sensation. Nothing exciting but surely has its place. Drink 2019-2020.  Tasted May 2019

Le Casematte Peloro Siclia Bianco 2018, DOC Sicilia

A blend of grillo and carricante, more than 60 per cent is grillo and yet the carricante develops the good and plenty complexity from high toned aromatics. A flinty and striking scintillant with laser sharp flavours. Lovely wine, focused, mineral, salty and fine. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted May 2019

Dei Principi Di Spadafora Catarratto 2018, IGP Terre Sicilane

Out of northwest Sicily, of land and respect for nature first. An organic vineyard, 100 hectares, 215,000 bottles produced annually. From sand and marl, essentially argiloso, so a very Good texture, some peach and almond pit notes that are gentle and influential. Lovely wine. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted May 2019

Dei Principi Di Spadafora Don Pietro Bianco 2018, IGP Terre Sicilane

A 50-50 split of catarratto and grillo, named for Enrica’s grandfather who first made this wine in 1993 and named it as such in 1994. The grillo adds sunshine but this is in fact more amenable and understandable with a different sort of mineral, here in alloy conglomerate accumulation. A beautifully arranged appellative blend. Drink 2019-2021.  Tasted May 2019

Dei Principi Di Spadafora Grillo 2018, IGP Terre Sicilane

Grillo is held back two years, one in concrete tank and one in bottle, to mitigate the potentially obstructive freshness though more so, like riesling, a little extra time will bring more balance and delight. There needs to be middle ground between the old oxidative grillo and the new must drink in the first six months style. This is the compromise but even better the right way to accomplish what’s right, proper and necessary, And one to age as well. Drink 2020-2025.  Tasted May 2019

Planeta Allemanda, Sicilia Noto DOC

A dry moscato (de Noto) that ranks as one of most aromatic you are likely to come across. While it is dry there’s a sweet and savoury tug at once herbal and then metallic enough to pique your interest straight up into the atmosphere. Drink 2019-2021.  Tasted May 2019

Planeta Alastro 2018, Sicilia Menfi DOC

A varietal sauvignon blanc from the unheralded and exceptional outpost of Menfi which just may be Sicily’s version of the wild, wild, west. This is a searing, straight-shooter, powerful, elegant, direct and unintentionally ethereal. There’s a punchiness, a fruit punch lag and great mineral thoughtfulness. All terroir right here. Or if you could make riesling in Sancerre, when done well, this is what it might be. Drink 2019-2023.  Tasted May 2019

Planeta Cometa 2018, Sicilia Menfi DOC

Cometa has changed or rather in its youthful state of ultimate reductive freshness is so straight-laced, linear, tightrope walking along a razor sharp edge. There’s a tonic injection that helps to propel it forward and the envisioning projects two years ahead to see it develop some sweeter fruit notes, straight from the orchard’s hip. Watch for this special vintage of fiano, the ancient noble variety from Campania that Planeta’s braintrust took a well-advised flyer on in the 1990s. Drink 2020-2026.  Tasted May 2019

Planeta Didacus 2016, Sicilia Menfi DOC

The chardonnay dedicated to Diego Planeta, from the oldest Menfi vines, planted in 1985. The name Didacus is indeed Diego in Latin and the inherent plus inferred further meaning is as thought, a didactic one, which says something about many things. It speaks to the pioneer Mr. Planeta’s two-toned, ahead of its time work and to the way chardonnay takes Sicily into another realm and brings reductive freshness into buttery bites that ties two voices together. And they will speak as one. Soon. Drink 2021-2027.  Tasted May 2019

More dry #zibbibo please ~ tasting a diverse lot @siciliaenprimeur ~ terrific wines

Zibbibo

Donnafugata Lighea 2017, DOC Sicilia ($27.99)

Now into the lost art of grillo’s parent zibbibo, a once dominating Sicilian grape that can and will demand your attention when made this way. Like muscat with greater acidity and metal-magic ability, zibbibo carries fine lime and grapefruit bitters like the best of riesling and with a florality that intimates gewürztraminer. Just this example will tell you why some winemakers choose the skin-contact route with a grape that’s such a chameleon and able to maintain acidity plus structure without heading out to salve pasture. Prime example of that right here, finishing with a perfectly tart, just bit into green peach. Drink 2019-2023.  Tasted May 2019

Sibliana Eughenes Zibbibo 2018, DOC Sicilia

Another example of dry zibbibo here with less petrol and floral notes but so much citrus fruit. Along with the lemon and lime comes that grapefruit and zesty orange. It’s amazing how it’s expressive of all this plus the kind of bitters that really tie the zibbibo room together. Some will find it challenging but the linger and length are nothing short of remarkable. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted May 2019

Tenuta Gorghi Tondi Rajàh 2018, DOC Sicilia

Yet again another sort of zibbibo and even within the dry spectrum we see the versatility and diversity of this disappearing variety. More verdancy, herbal pesto, honey dew melon and unction now, with the floral return in lily of the valley and then some drops of orange in a tincture of coriander, stem and hay. The grassiness here is more sauvignon blanc than riesling or muscat and yes, a new way to look at dry zibbibo. Drink 2019-2021.  Tasted May 2019

Rallo Al Qasar 2018, DOC Sicilia

The richest and sexiest of the five zibbibo tasted in this flight, of tropical, glycerin fruit and spicy white pepper. Surely less arid than the others, rounder and with added metallics. Drink 2019-2020.  Tasted May 2019

Fina Taif Zibibbo 2018, IGT Terre Siciliane

Taif is zibbibo from Trapani and once again it’s profile and style is unlike any of the other four tasted in this flight. Though linear, high in striking acidity and certainly lemon-lime focused it’s also an aromatic white of texture and mouthfeel. Brings the muscat nose and zibbibo palate capability together for balanced culpability. Just a terrific example of pleasure meeting structure for the next five years of tight and copacetic togetherness. Drink 2019-2023.  Tasted May 2019

Sunset over Siracusa

Rosato

Spadafora Dei Principi Rosato Don Pietro 2018, IGT Terre Siciliane

A wild strawberry and mildly earthy-funky Roasto without any bones about who he, she or they happen to be, which coincidentally is nero d’avola of the quickest press for just a hint of varietal inclination. Tart, tight, salty and direct, the brain with knowable and nodding understanding. Serious and who cares at the same time. Drink 2019-2021.  Tasted May 2019

Cottanera Etna Rosato 2018, IGT Terre Siciliane

Well, now this is really something in nerello mascalese Rosato. It seems at first so fruity, amenable and commercial. The masses will love its fruitiness and what seems like the right amount of sweetness. Then it turns, salty and fine, complexities woven through the extract of time, tannin and crushed rocks sprinkled with lime. It’s chameleon ability to now reel in the the intellect and the discerning one is something to behold. Smart, funny and so charming. Drink 2019-2023.  Tasted May 2019

Tenuta Gorghi Tondi Rosa Dei Venti 2018, IGT Terre Siciliane

A lovely dry and herbal Rosato with a distinct rose petal aroma that leads to saltiness and real Provençal styling on the palate. It’s the way nerello mascalese can imitate, intimate and walk the walk of such a stylistic. Really well made in that regard. Drink 2019-2021.  Tasted May 2019

Tenuta Bosco Rosato Piano Dei Daini 2018, DOC Etna

Daini’s is recognizable nerello mascalese in Rosato styling and clothing with its tart aridity and fruit of a cranberry, currant and pomegranate vein. If that makes sense to you then read on. There’s a red citrus notation that some Rosés just seem to acquiesce and I tend to find it polarizing for those who like Rose. In this instance it can be imagined to work really well for grilled meats. That much I know. Drink 2019-2021.  Tasted May 2019

Tenuta Bosco Etna Rosato 2018, DOC Etna

Rosato from only the pre-phylloxera vines found in Santo Spirito and yes, this is Rosato from those grapes, albeit at the lowest part of the vineyard. The saltiest (within perfect reason) and great fruit concentration rosato that makes you wish you could have the bottle all to yourself. A natural extract sweetness that Rosé so rarely gifts. Just ideal. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted May 2019

Pietradolce Etna Rosato 2018, DOC Etna

Pietradloce does Rosé with certain weight, not in density or heaviness but in magically drawn dry extract and grape tannin. Though it’s lithe Rosato made like a white wine from local nerello mascalese it comes across as a red because the unspoken and hidden possibilities in that extractive process bring trace minerals, elements and earth that most don’t find the way to do. Curious, expressive and with some serious potential. Drink 2019-2021.  Tasted May 2019

Pietradolce Etna Rosato 2017, DOC Etna

Perhaps less expressive as ’17 but equally salé with a touch of pepe bianco, or if you concentrate the fruit like this and gift such clarity, the delicasse is more pepperosa. Lovely, fine, special and ideal. Celebrates the young vines growing in the pre-phylloxera Santa Spirito vineyard. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted May 2019

Torre Mora Scalunera Etna Rosato 2018, DOC Etna

Here is truly fruity, amenable and aromatic Rosato from nerello mascalese that walks the textured line. The components are all raised up on the bar; fruit, acids and also sweetness. It’s ostensibly made dry by its balance but the market is meant to be pleased with this style. And it will be. And more because the sneaking factor suggestive of structure raises the ceiling of potential. Drink 2019-2021.  Tasted May 2019

Donnafugata Sul Vulcano 2018, DOC Etna

Here Donnafugata serves up a serious yet humorously chic Rosato of more seamlessness when you consider the gathering of fruit, texture and acidity. This just has a way of tying the varietal and purgatorial room together with some method in its magic madness and the result is quite hypnotizing. It’s both gratifying and mystifying from a hermaphroditic wine that crosses between the poles. So for Sul Vulcano there is no mystery. As for the rest of us, there is plenty. Erstwhile will watch to see where this goes. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted May 2019

Assorted Reds

Castello Solicchiata Cabernet Franc 2013, IGT Terre Siciliane

If you are not fascinated by what can happen when cabernet franc takes to the diaspora streets than clearly you are not a golfer. It is unfortunate that this particular bottle is a bit oxidized, not as a matter of age but just the bottle. And yet the captured acidity is still more than intact but it can’t make up for fruit that is at the edge; hints at cooked, roasted, torched and drying. Drink 2019-2020.  Tasted May 2019

Castello Solicchiata Cabernet Franc 2012, IGT Terre Siciliane

While the bottle of 2013 is not so sound this 2012 resides in a place of much better condition. The fruit ripeness persists with a drizzle of reduced balsamico and a lingering that really drives the point. There’s a real sense of crunchiness now rendering into chewy leather and liquorice. Highly instructive wine that is a true rarity in these parts around Catania. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted May 2019

Tenuta Gorghi Tondi Dumé 2018, DOC Sicilia

This frappato from Trapani is a fruit bomb in the lightest and most acid-driven expression of the word. The light, airy and unencumbered brilliance is buoyant and responsive. This is clearly on the sour side of frappato and in a wholly intense and gastronomic way. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted May 2019

Valle Dell’acate Frappato Il Frappato 2018, DOC Sicilia

Here is a richer and riper frappato that has been pressed for success and squeezed for every last good and plenty drop it can give. There’s a sour candy apple tartness to the fruit and nearly negligible tannin. Ready to drink anytime you are ready. Drink 2019-2020.  Tasted May 2019

Centopassi Cimento Di Perricone 2017, IGT Terre Siciliane

Cimento is high glycerin and rich perricone in the garnacha realm, nearly into syrup and certainly at maximum fruit. Dark and blue blood fruit mysterious with pectic and fine-grained tannin. Really well made. Drink 2020-2024.  Tasted May 2019

Azienda Agricola Todaro Perricone Feotto 2016, DOC Sicilia

Rich, thick, unctuous and all pervasive glycerin perricone. Highly modern, extracted and wood modified red. Drink 2019-2021.  Tasted May 2019

Assuli Furioso Perricone 2016, DOC Sicilia

The longest living variety in Italy, kept alive by a couple dozen producers that was at a time (in the late 19th century) the most planted variety in Sicily. From Contrada Carcitella in Mazaro del Vallo, far western Sicily. A varietal play with rocks, crunchy texture and highly parochial flavours; amaro herbal, blue pulpy fruit and quite forthright. Juicy, juicy wine. Drink 2019-2021.  Tasted May 2019

Todoro Shadir 2017, DOC Sicilia

Varietal nero d’avola from Contrada Feotto in San Giuseppe Jato in western Sicily on the north coast. Clay soils at 450m bring dark, rich and warmth for fig, raisin and caramelized sunshine. Not very expressive aromatically though finely tannic and chalky. Acidity is quite supportive though the toasted fruit is not so interested in what it might improve upon were it so accede. Drink 2019-2021.  Tasted May 2019

Baglio Di Pianetto Viafrancia Rosso 2014, DOC Sicilia

Contrada Pianetto in Santa Cristina Gela is the source for merlot (70 per cent) and cabernet sauvignon raised in controspalliera (cordone) trellising. Carries all the hallmarks of international varieties grown in foreign lands where it may or may not have found its way. The acidity is searing while the fruit fades into acetic ways. Chalky and grainy but very tart. Drink 2019-2020.  Tasted May 2019

Feudo Maccari Maharis 2016, DOC Sicilia

From Contrado Maccari, in Noto with 100 per cent varietal syrah off of calcareous soils. Quite layered and expressive, peppery, high-toned and fruit liquorice leathery. Fragrant and crunchy at times too with savoury-sinewy, nearly resinous but just dialled back enough syrah style. The name comes from the watchtower built by the Arab inhabitants on this coast. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted May 2019

Duca Di Salaparuta Duca Enrico 2009, IGT Sicilia

This is just a lovely older wine with perfectly intact albeit transmogrified cherry fruit, uncanny as cherries dried, leathery and still somehow deliciously fresh. That it is nero d’avola, allevato ad alberello in Tenuta di Suor Marchesa in Riesi may or not bring further surprise but the tertiary qualities are nothing short of remarkable. Acids are still supportive and though the syrupy palate is advancing into marbella-like territory that earthiness just adds to the overall charm. As does the sweet smoulder of tobacco that comes at you in waves. Drink 2019-2021.  Tasted May 2019

Duca Di Salaparuta Làvico 2015, IGT Terre Siciliane

Take a turn about face in such a nerello mascalese, not quite Etna and surely something other. There is a glycerin and wood structuring if mottled by a soothing coolness about this Rosso. It’s lavished with gilded texture and is very lengthy, like a dress on a mosaic depiction that runs the length of a 4th century Roman villa’s welcome hall. Another example of what a particular house in a particular place can do with nerello mascalese. Drink 2020-2029.  Tasted May 2019

Gulfi San Loré 2001, IGT Sicilia

Gulfi’s Vigna San Lorenzo is the source for this umami-marmite-vegemite-roasted vegetable-meat curative Alberello raised nero d’avola from Pachino/Eloro/Val di Noto. This is essentially Sicilian royalty winemaking from fruit concentration at its very optimum best. Twenty-four months in all the right vessels has extracted all the magical character in charm and possibility from and for the grape variety. The acidity is extraordinary and the balance just spot on. So much life and further potential lay ahead. Drink 2019-2026.  Tasted May 2019

Spadafora Nero d’Avola Selezione Limitada 2013, IGP Terre Siciliane

“We like to wait, we’re in no hurry. When the wine is ready we release it.” So says Enrica Spadafora. This ’13 is the current release, six years forward. The aging has been done for you and this one needed the time, in fact the tannins are still demanding and in charge. The dark fruit has not dissipated a moment or lost a step. Has 10 years left easy. Delightfully structured nero d’avola of tension, purpose and definitive direction. Drink 2020-2025.  Tasted May 2019

Spadafora Schietto Nero d’Avola 2009, IGT Sicilia

From Contrada Virzi in Monreale this is nero d’avola fuller and with more tart ability. While the aromatics are less curious or idiosyncratic there is a wet concrete character that suggest less oxygenation and freshness, though with it comes more unresolved tannin. From Sicily’s northwest with rich soil structure that translates into this nero d’avola heading towards the sunset. It’s really good though not necessarily magically complex. Drink 2019-2021.  Tasted May 2019

Leonardo di Bella and Enrica Spadafora

Spadafora Cabernet Sauvignon Selezione Limitada 2012, IGP Terre Siciliane

One of the few Sicilian wineries to not just bottle varietal cabernet sauvignon but to do so with such intention and to treat it with the same respect nero d’avola affords. From the island’s northwest and a small total output off of organic vineyards. So bloody smooth, of ribena and chocolate and one of the island’s great textural wines. Quite a Sicilian expatriate epiphany this one. Drink 2020-2025.  Tasted May 2019

Spadafora Syrah Sole dei Padri 2009, IGP Terre Siciliane

This 2009 is the current release, held back for the consumer as will all the reds. A 100 per cent syrah, 50 per cent seeing 25hL barrels, 25 per cent in barriques and 25 in stainless tank. High toned, of creosote, graphite and syrah’s distinct pepperiness. Travels far beyond nero d’avola and cabernet sauvignon in terms of reductive expressionism though without the dusty plum or black forest cake syrup glaze. The flavours here are singular and striking, needing even more time to integrate because the tannins are formidable. Drink 2021-2027.  Tasted May 2019

Donnafugata Mille E Una Notte 1996, DOC Contessa Entellina

An arch classic from Sicilia sud Occidentale and more specifically Tenuta Contessa Entellina. Of the oldest wines this is one of the highest tonality, not unlike older and older schooled nebbiolo from Barbaresco, in a queen’s throne sort of way. There is siply no way to argue that this wine did not deserve to be aged this way and to be waited on for such a moment of appreciation. Age worthy and load management indeed, with every resolution hoped for and expected. Brilliance and a benchmark, with a half decade of life still ahead. Drink 2019-2026.  Tasted May 2019

Le Casematte Faro 2017, DOC Sicilia

A four-poster blend of nerello mascalese (55 per cent), nerello cappuccio (25), nocera (10) and nero d’avola. Another wine from Gianfranco Vailati that smells and tastes like the sea, like the far northeastern corner on the strait of Messina to almost reach out and touch Calabria. Sea urchin again, great black fruit, acidity and fine tannin. Drink 2019-2027.  Tasted May 2019

Le Casematte Nanuci Nocera 2017, IGP Terre Sicilane

A salty and marine, “ricci di mare,” totally and utterly uncanny in how it smells like sea urchin or perhaps Sicilian mussels and this is a red wine to drink with such an animal and to gaze out over the sea. Dark fruit and massive tannin from the native grape variety. Sit on this thymus one, take deep breaths and take in the vastness of life. Drink 2021-2028.  Tasted May 2019

Planeta Santa Cecilia 2016, DOC Noto ($75.00)

The flagship 100 per cent nero d’avola must be poured last because of the power and the fact that it’s not something so easily understood. If you were to try and taste other wines after this it would be like Eric Clapton going on after Jimi Hendrix. There’s a deep olive, blood orange, tar and ribena profile that you just know will seek out truffle, porcini, tar and roses. Welcome to the world of aging Sicilian wines and in this very specific world, nero d’avola from Noto. Drink 2022-2034.  Tasted May 2019

Planeta Nero d’Avola Plumbago 2017, Sicilia DOC

Young and chalky, a nero of very blue fruit, very much a Menfi d’avola, led to believe and also to act like it must from the place. The acidity demands mouth attention, not just up and down but also all around. There’s a certainty and a need for time, a waiting period for those grains of tannins to turn liquid, fill in the cracks and solidify as stalagmites and stalactites. Balance is already confirmed so the result will do the same. Drink 2021-2027.  Tasted May 2019

The blend in 2017 is 60-40, nero d’avola and frappato and if there was ever so much power before I’m not sure I’ve been there alongside. The nero loves warm vintages and so really takes grippy control of lighter and more submissive frappato, but conjoined they form a formidable fruit team. Peppery plum and pomegranate plus a tarry note on fresh roses that speaks to an idea that reminds of modern nebbiolo. Big structure in the first of two CdV’s. So much teen grape spirit here. Smells like it. Drink 2021-2028.  Tasted May 2019

Planeta Cerasuolo Di Vittoria DOCG Dorilli 2016

The blend in 2016 is 70-30, nero d’avola and frappato with the addition of 12 months in old grandi botti, 25 and 36hL. If the CdV (non-classico) was considered to be firm, grippy and in charge then just get a load of the chalky, non-grainy tannins that mark the structure in this DOCG. The aromatics speak to time, as in what’s needed to settle the graphite, creosote and distilled extracts that well up in elemental tension. Great liquid smoke of peppery fruit permeates and percolates. This wine is alive, organically reverberating about while it tries to find itself and you.  Last tasted May 2019

Cerasuolo di Vittoria Classico is one thing, Dorilli 2016 is another matter altogether. The name of the estate marks the iconography of this Planeta blend, from a chosen vineyard carrying the dialectical tome of the river passing by. The old maps say Dirillo but through time this has changed, just like this Burgundian wine will draft through wake and evolve. There is a minor reduction here so it’s not as open as the normale though it’s offset by an extra year of aging for release 18 months after harvest. Blooming should happen some time in 2019 after the 70 per cent nero d’avola and (30) frappato begin to unfold out of itself for a full and layered Vittoria. Still there is the Cerasuolo fragrance from a guarantee by vintage and for texture. Drink 2019-2027.  Tasted May 2018

Planeta Nocera 2017, DOC Sicilia

This varietal rarity from Menfi is a tannic bruiser and while it often offers no respite at all, this vintage, warm as it was brings fruit nearly capable of standing up to the mother of all acidities and tannins. It’s like sangiovese, barbera and tannat all wrapped up in one big package; tart, tight, taut and of the most solid backbone. Black cherries and black olives through and through. Drink 2021-2026.  Tasted May 2019

Planeta Mamertino 2016, DOC Sicilia

From Capo Milazzo the blend is 60-40 nero d’avola and nocera, so apposite to what such a blend will be with frappato instead, out of Vittoria. Here from a dry and relatively cool vintage though the vegetation period was fortunate with water filling the table beneath the surface. Richness preserved, ripeness exceeded and fine tannins resolving, nearly, almost, maybe. Drink 2020-2025.  Tasted May 2019

Reds from Etna

Pietradolce Etna Rosso Contrada Santo Spirito 2016, DOC Etna

Santo Spirito seems like it doles fruit that wants to solicit immediate gratification when in fact it’s been structured to advance only to this point. It teases that luxe fruitiness and then lashes at you with repeated whips of acidity and tannin. Much bigger, bolder and grippier than the first attack provides and so it just keeps coming at you in waves. Not a wine of first impression so be sure to take your time or it may just overwhelm you. Drink 2020-2027.  Tasted May 2019

Pietradolce Etna Rosso Barbagalli 2016, DOC Etna

Barbagalli is not merely just a year older than Santo Spirito but it is a contrada to deliver the most fruit in the Piertradolce stable. There’s also an earthy underbelly impression, plus a richness and an unctuous stability that breeds sour edging over the sweetness of its fruit. Does not fool around in fact it’s structured to last a short lifetime, or 15 years at the very least.  Last tasted May 2019

The estate flagship Etna Rosso Barbagalli is taken from Contrada Rampante in the area that is known as “Barbagalli” in Solicchiata. This northern Etna 80 to 100 year-old pre-phylloxera vineyard delivers the most naturally earth-crusted, umami-laden expression in hyperbole, concentration and peak spiciness. There is a buzz about this nerello mascalese that the rest of the portfolio does not pulse with, neither outward through expressionistic energy nor inward, retracted and self-effacing by implosive feeling. The texture separates itself with multi-faceted tenor and a tremor of explosive potential that might strike at any time, anywhere, any place. This will turn into something ethereal, of that there can be little doubt. Drink 2022-2032.  Tasted May 2018

Tornatore Etna Rosso Pietrarizzo 2017, DOC Etna ($34.00)

Pietrarizzo comes with mentholated cool and savoury fruit that soothes the palate, this after having anaesthetized by way of the inhalant it provides. If you hang in there for 10 minutes or so it will exude lovely cherry and tisane notes before coming to grips with its firm constituent behaviour. The development over time shows the character of its building blocks for structure and longevity. Very fine wine indeed. Drink 2021-2028.  Tasted May 2019

Tornatore Etna Rosso Trimarchisa 2016, DOC Etna

Tornatore Trimarchisa in Rosso clothing is rich, luxe and luxurious nerello mascalese with darker fruit as compared to many,. The volcanic basalt is reductive and reduced like a lava demi-glacé for Etna Rosso of deep, dark and hematic-blood orange display. Impressive concentration and intensity with seven to 10 years of ideal Etna DOC exemplary drinking ahead. Drink 2020-2029.  Tasted May 2019

Tenute Rapitalà Etna Rosso 2016, DOC Etna

Here we climb right into the depths of the Etna Rosso glass in a structured nerello mascalese of hematic and ferrous red fruit. Plenty of depth, wood spice and high acidity, not to mention wound up, pent up and grippy tension. That’s the tannin speaking, fully extracted and presented to the fruit, which incidentally want no part of that anxiety at this time. The architecture is Roman and if not for an emperor, is at least at the level of nobility. Wait five years before returning to this place. Drink 2021-2028.  Tasted May 2019

Vivera Etna Rosso Martinella 2013, DOC Etna

At nearly six years of age it’s a wonder this Martinella cru nerello mascalese from Vivera is till tight and reductive. It’s quite the spool of tannin this fruit layered with fine acidity is wrapped around. Good fruit concentration brings sour berries and sweet pomegranate into a pool where pectin and acids swirl with the fishes. Fine wine here. Drink 2021-2029.  Tasted May 2019

Cittanera Zottorino Etna Rosso Riserva 2013, DOC Etna

Cool vintage, late pick, some rain at harvest for nerello mascalese in Contrada Zottorino, Castiglione di Sicilia. Fruit driven aromatics still quite persistent now coming into flowers and spices. Acidity and freshness plus structure in line with Etna’s possibilities plus an affinity with more famous or more established Italian kin like nebbiolo and sangiovese. Very much alive, less advanced to taste and eight in the window. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted May 2019

Cantine Nicosia Etna Rosso Riserva 2012, DOC Etna

From Contrada Monte Gorna in Trecastagni. Impressively youthful, still pulsating with original fruit and magically or if you will, skeptically un-evolved. Transparent and clear as a late summer afternoon sky with nary a moment of distraction. If only a perfect bottle it matters little because the showing speaks volumes about vintage, luck and acumen. Fruit rom start to finish but also a searing tartness on a sour spectrum that talks the varietal talk. If you love Etna Rosso this is a perfectly vibrant and classic example. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted May 2019

Benanti Etna Rosso Rovittello 2014, DOC Etna

Rovittello cru is a structure gifting one and that much is obvious from Benanti’s 2014, a wine at five years that has yet to move an inch. This from an estate known well for the elegance and understated nature of their nerello mascalese. Sometimes the volcanics in the soils give you pomegranates and at other time they give you demi-glacé. This is a long and winding structured road Etna Rosso travelled one. It winds in and out of fruit, acidity and tannin so where it will emerge remains to be seen. I would imagine the truth will lie somewhere between five years and not more than 20. Drink 2021-2032.  Tasted May 2019

Benanti Etna Rosso Serra Della Contessa 2011, DOC Etna

From Contrada Monte Serra I Viagrande on the southeast volcanic slope soils of Etna. More evolution, looser and well into secondary character. Acidity keeps it alive while the fruit has moved into dried, leathery and browning personality. Quite earthy, nearly stewed and further along by a long shot. It’s both a glass of pleasure and also one of puddle mud. That said it’s charming and even if it may seem at least five years older than it really is, there is still something to get onside with, especially with a plate that might sing along. Drink 2019.  Tasted May 2019

Torre Mora Etna Rosso Càuru 2016, DOC Etna

Torre Mora Etna Rosso Càura is the entry level blend of nerello mascalese (85 per cent) and nerello cappuccio (15), meaning hot in the local dialect, taken off of younger vines 7-10 years old. Nicely floral and also a bit salumi curative, tangy and freshly volcanic. Chewy and persistent, somewhat youthfully rustic in the precocious ways of nerreli bambini on Etna’s slopes. Bodes well for what’s more to come. Future vintages from more mature vines will bring next level expressiveness. Count on it. Drink 2019-2023.  Tasted May 2019

Torre Mora Etna Rosso Scalunera 2015, DOC Etna

From Imboscamento (inside Rovittello, or hiding in the bush within), the next level blend is not even what the top tier Contrada specific wine will be, either next year of the one after that. Tier two is older vines in the 15-20 year range, with savoury basaltic notes typical of the cooler clime and quite high-toned like Marsannay. An uncanny connection to cooler limestone raised Bourgogne, like the lighting red fruit pinot noir, here in nerelli clothing. Says that this Etna Rosso comes from a place, from a very specific terroir. Drink 2020-2025.  Tasted May 2019

Cottanera Etna Rosso Diciassettesalme 2017, DOC Etna

Youthful to say the least and so the operative here is reductive, tight and unforgiving. A swirl, some air and some time releases the essential oils of a nerello mascalese out of a historic contrada with a great history of aging the wines. The fruit concentration is markedly given to the obvious and the fineness of acidity may be equalled by the high level of glycerin available. That said it’s a balancing act performed by going to the edges of all these places and peeling back to try again. This will age gracefully and consistently so that subsequent trips and sips provide new and improved information all along the way. Drink 2021-2032.  Tasted May 2019

Tenute Bosco Etna Rosso 2016, DOC Etna

The Rosso’s fruit is in Contrada Piano dei Dani, with 90 per cent nerello mascalese and 10 cappuccio. It’s ripe, bright, knowable and the fruit concentration reaches an apex of optimization without tempting fate, going over or pressing any problematic buttons. There’s a succulence with thanks to level-headed and easy-handed oaking so that the overall expression goes hand in hand with your wishful senses. Drink 2019-2026.  Tasted May 2019

Tenute Bosco Etna Rosso Vigna Vico Pre-Phylloxera 2015, DOC Etna

The litheness of this nerello mascalese from Mount Etna off of 100-plus years of age pre-phylloxera vines cannot be over-stated or overstressed. The light, ethereal beauty of this wine may very well transport you to a place, to a vacuum within a bubble that is a hidden world inside a biodome. Few words are available when a wine speaks to you such as this Vico does to me at this time. This impossibility of such fruit concentration is also implausibly understated, as are the tannins and the acidity, yet all align and intertwine along a perfectly rendered line. You recognize the automatic brilliance, for the people and from the place. You just know it when you taste it. If you can find this wine, if you ever get the chance to purchase a bottle or two, you owe it to yourself to act, for you and for anyone you might happen to share it with. Drink 2019-2035. Tasted May 2019

Tenute Bosco Etna Rosso Vigna Vico Pre Phylloxera 2013, DOC Etna

Allora e adesso. And so we travel back another vintage to when Vico was in its first vintage and the word Vigna was still on the label. Nothing else on the mountain smells like Vico, is as delicate while having fruit concentration that is so mysteriously connected to transparency, grace and structure. Though the vintage was difficult this is Etna Rosso of heritage and love that only this house can procure, from Sofia Bosco, the men and women in her crew. Drink 2019-2029.  Tasted May 2019

Tasting @planetawinery with @plantdependent

Planeta Eruzione 1614 Nerello Mascalese 2016, DOC Sicilia ($42.99)

Mainly nerello mascalese but there is in fact nine per cent nerello cappuccio. Not so much an eruptive vintage but certainly a rumbling one, a low murmur, gardening at night. This is imagined to be the nerreli red that would work in the garden, at night, under an Etna moon, no clouds (as if) and absolute quiet. Fruit concentration is outstanding, liquid pepperiness calming and yet grappling for you attention. The grip is easy but wrapped tight and the next five years will see very little movement. A beautifully textured Etna red with everything to look forward too.  Last tasted May 2019

Like the yellow lorry carricante thriller it is Etna Rosso incarnate that is portrayed in this Eruzione red lorry nerello mascalese (with nine per cent nerello cappuccio) from up the mountain’s 890m vineyards of (Contrada) Sciaranuova, but with some fruit from lower altitude at 600m. The vine age is part 2008 and part 20 year-old vines and a small section going back 90 years but just a small spot. The higher you climb for nerello macalese the more finesse you acquire. This Eruzione is swimming through lava with it, smoothed by plenty of silky texture, raspberry and chalky liquid tannin. Nerello, “you ain’t nothing but a true embrace. You ain’t nothing but a hidden face.” Your Planeta edition gets neither more refined, elegant nor focused. You’ve been descried as the “alternative classic” or the new light pinot noir. Maybe frappato, but not you, nerello mascalese. Let’s leave you out of the discussion. Leave you alone. Talk about the weather. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted May 2018

Good to go!

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WineAlign

Varietal artistry of Collio Bianco

San Floriano Del Cóllio, Friuli-Venezia Giulia

If the wines of Collio are to be described and more specifically if we are to look at the white blends collectively known as Collio Bianco DOC, this is what we see. Collio Bianco are wines of performance without obstacles, fluid achievements free of interruption, representing the vital energy and élan of their territory. Unbeknownst to many they are filled with an unfamiliar blissfulness, for how all will be realized.

Enjoy Collio Experience 2019

I visited in late spring as days warmed and nights still played it cool. Collio sits one kilometre from the Adriatic coast and also Slovenia so it’s no wonder that its white wines are highly aromatic and unique to a shared concentration of mito and geography. They stand alone in European character from out of soils variegated by sand, clay and rock to give them their distinct personality. They are to be paid great attention. I for one have made new space for them.

Collio is in fact one of Europe’s most fascinating wine regions, a white wine specialist located in the Gorizia Hills of the Friuli-Venezia Giulia region. The amphitheatre of Collio vineyards follow a line along the western border of Slovenia in the northeastern corner of Italy. It is here where centuries of a mélange of multicultural histories meet in a venn diagram of multifarious Italian, Slovenian and Austro-Hungarian mythology. For introspective, historical and prospective perspective one only needs to walk the vineyards with the area’s director of connectivity, the one, the only Matteo Bellotto.

Matteo Bellotto

My trip to Collio in the last days of May was indeed an experience of territory, vineyard, cellar and people. Though the autochthonous varietal triumvirate of ribolla gialla, friulano and malvasia are the bones of Collio’s body politic, international grape varieties like pinot bianco, sauvignon and chardonnay add much to act as representatives of the heart, head, mind, body and soul of the producers. Ultimately it is the Collio Bianco that have emerged as front runners for spokes-wines of the place. The appellative white blends unite and really tie the territorial room together.

Collio Bianco

Richard Baudains of the Wine Scholar Guild speaks to a group of foreign journalists during what is the culmination of the wettest month of May since 1973. He is THE master Collio educator.

Collio Bianco is both business card and calligram, a Field Blend that speaks to the idea of co-fermented grapes, working together, for complexity and the possibility of aging, like the music and the story of the area. “Go inside the area and the tradition and don’t worry so much about the grapes,” tells Richard Baudains. Cuvées or field blends can fall within the DOC, or not. There are a total of 1,500 ha planted, as opposed to 1,700 in Soave and 1,900 in Macon and a production of 6.5 million bottles, as opposed to 10 in Soave. This is an indication to lower yields and significantly so. In fact it represents 11 per cent of Friuli-Venezia-Giulia and three per cent of total Italian production. There are 16 DOC mono-varietals and two DOC blends. More than 95 per cent are white wines, made by 350 growers, 180 bottlers and one cooperative on an average 4.0 ha of planted space. The lead is pinot grigio at 26 per cent, followed by sauvignon (19) and friulano (15). The latter endemic grape declined dramatically and was in fact at 50 per cent just a couple of decades ago. The rest include ribolla gialla (7.5), chardonnay (9), pinot bianco (4) and malvasia (2.5).

In 1966 the English author and journalist Cyril Ray remarked upon the pre-DOC “white wine made from a mixture of Tocai Friulano, German and Italian Rieslings, and a number of other varieties grown in the hills that encircle Gorizia.” The DOC was then created in 1968 with the suggestion to “drink young when it has a fresh taste and floral bouquet.” A vino contadino. In 1968 the numbers were more like ribolla gialla (45-55 per cent), malvasia istriana (20-30) and tocai friulano (25). Wines of “pale straw, neutral aroma, lightly sparkling, not for ageing, alcohol around 11 per cent.” Whereas all the mono-varietals came in at 12-13 per cent. So the concentration at the time was on indeed on mono-varietals, eventually leading to the evolution of the Bianco in the 1990s.

Marco Felluga Russiz Superiore

A proposal was made by then Consorzio President Marco Felluga, the idea being that Collio Bianco shouldn’t be the second or even last wine but rather the flagship of the estate. The most representative wine, top of the quality pyramid and to condense the total number of wines made in the area. He had to liberalize the blend, by taking away all restrictions. A carte blanche stylistic. Your best grapes go into the Bianco.

Wine villages in Collio form a half-moon shape around Slovenia though with not a lot of variety in the soils. Climate is highly variable however and if a line is drawn from east to west you go from warmer to cooler. Chardonnay and sauvignon are grown to the west, ribolla gialla to the east. The overall territory encourages for a connectivity that allows for producing blends. Aromatic grapes defined; including traminer and muller thurgau, “The whole is more important than the sum of the parts,” is what Marco Felluga thought. “These are wines that will keep because they maintain their freshness and won’t oxidize. The question is this. Are they long aging whites worth keeping and will they develop interesting tertiary aromas?”

The following Collio Bianco DOC were tasted blind.

Autochthonous Blends

Livon Collio Bianco DOC Solarco 2017, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Italy (WineAlign)

A blend of autochthonous varieties friulano and ribolla gialla, herbal, sweetly so and also dissolving lime tablet. Noses like white wine brought up in concrete with a wet stone character though somewhat grey and dullish. Simply rendered, fresh, quiet and quick. Improves with time and develops increased and variegated citrus notes. And he shall be Livon. Drink 2019-2020.  Tasted blind, May 2019

Terre Del Faet Collio Bianco DOC 2017, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Italy (WineAlign)

Gathers friulano and malvasia and if at first seems just a touch musty the lingering turns to dissipating, more than enough to move forward. Also a wet concrete nose and then more expressive on the palate with white peach juicy flavour and a bit of lime. Good persistence and fresh as required. Well-shouldered, spalla as they say and certainly necessary to elevate the Bianco ideal. Drink 2019-2021.  Tasted blind, May 2019

Keber Collio Bianco DOC Edi 2017, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Italy (WineAlign)

The mix is friulano, malvasia and ribolla gialla from stalwart producer Keber and a completely different stylistic. More extraction and if not a longer skin-contact time, at least a higher percentage of a grape variety that adds hue and flesh. A bit reductive with an uva-sulphury note and then again, more expressive on the palate. Perhaps a bit of wood here so a disjointed wine in youth, plus this petrol natural sensation in the oxymoronic way it just seems to want to be. I’d say the winemaker is perfectly happy with the result. Drink 2019-2021.  Tasted blind, May 2019

Muzic Collio Bianco DOC Stare Brajde 2016, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Italy (WineAlign)

Made from friulano, malvasia and ribolla gialla. Even just a year has aged this Bianco with some oxidative advancement, off of a warmer set of sites and one particular variety involved that moves forward quicker. Barrel certainly a catalyst, so malolactic too and all tolled acting like chardonnay, or a blend involving an endemic variety when subjected to barrel that turns out like chardonnay in that it acts this way. Terpenes in an apple motive, moving along pretty quick. Drink up. Drink 2019-2020.  Tasted blind, May 2019

Tenuta Baroni Del Mestri Collio Bianco DOC Monte Quarin 2016, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Italy (WineAlign)

Lovely combinations here from the holy Collio triumvirate of friulano, malvasia and ribolla gialla, of white flowers and sweet herbs, advancement and next level complexities. Brings together flowers and petrol, likely an aromatic variety mixed with one that has its own fruit flesh and then something with shoulders. Broad and punchy, with good acidity though not aggressively so. White pepper and a pinch of salt so properly seasoned. Like grüner or better yet gemischten satz, revivalist, so very interesting, of grasso, ciccia and glycerine. Drink 2019-2023.  Tasted blind, May 2019\

San Floriano Del Cóllio, Friuli-Venezia Giulia

Autochthonous plus International Blends

Gradis’ciutta Collio Bianco Riserva DOC 2015, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Italy (WineAlign)

The traditional triad of friulano, malvasia and ribolla gialla are here in a good advancement for a blend that has aged the way and in the timing it should. Quite gaseous and preserved lemon, plus aromatics that indicate potpourri. Certainly seen some time in barrel and gone through at least a partial level of malolactic. White caramel, vanilla and more lemon though mild acidity and in then end, a touch pine resinous, mild tonic, pith and bitters. All the while an effect created by 24 months of Riserva-level aging. Essentially a lone wolf of a Collio. Drink 2019-2021.  Tasted blind, May 2019

Cociancig Collio Bianco DOC 2018, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Italy (WineAlign)

A mix of endemic and expatriate varieties, of friulano, pinot grigio, sauvignon and traminer. Intensely fresh and fruit punchy, florals and fruit pectin up front and nigh gregarious. The presence of something gooseberry-passion fruit unctuous is very sauvignon blanc mixed with a lemon gelée sweetness that indicates malvasia mixed with pinot grigio. Very fresh and drinkable wine. Drink 2019-2021. Tasted blind, May 2019

Colle Duga Collio Bianco DOC 2018, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Italy (WineAlign)

Somewhat aromatically reserved or at least demurred, a touch of apple terpene and herbs in the basil world. A mix of friulano, malvasia, chardonnay and sauvignon that acts quite grigio and/or bianco by notation, ubiquitous, easy and properly dressed with grain acidity. Not overtly complicated or complex. Drink 2019-2021.  Tasted blind, May 2019

Raccaro Collio Bianco DOC 2018, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Italy (WineAlign)

The four-poster then and now gathering ying-yangs between friulano, sauvignon, ribolla gialla and pinot grigi. Reserved but indicative of something serious. Stone fruit on the nose with a minor addendum by mandarin though not overtly fruit sweet. A touch of petrol-alcohol but no advancement, just not fresh and spirited out of the gate. Great palate presence, fleshy and broad, unctuous and quite forward in mouthfeel clarity. Lingers and fleshes as it goes. This could get very interesting with a few years of age. A solid combination of richness and age. Drink 2020-2025.  Tasted blind, May 2019

Renato Keber Collio Bianco DOC Beli Grici 2017, Friuli-Venezia-Giulia (WineAlign)

A blend of autochtonous plus international grape varieties that includes friulano, pinot bianco, pinot grigio, ribolla gialla and sauvignon. My how things have changed in this aromatic ham. Lemon in every respect, squeezed, preserved and baking with hocks. Both earthy and candle-waxy. Uncanny note of beeswax really points to extended skin contact mixed with wood-aged Riserva character. Then a gas note mixed with grasso and glück on the palate and high acidity. This might be construed as a train wreck to some and still an amazing revelation for others. A wine that separates camps and instigates prejudices. Depth to be sure though wood is just a bit intrusive with or without enough terroir to back up the ambition. In a way reminds me of some alvarinho in the Minho. Drink 2019-2023.  Tasted blind, May 2019

Korsic Collio Bianco DOC 2017, Friuli-Venezia-Giulia (WineAlign)

Combines friulano and ribolla gialla with chardonnay. Solid if certainly unassuming and zero risk taking production. Juicy and tart, fruity and ultra clean. Really travels the apple to pear to white peach spectrum on repeat and in replay. Hue, aroma, taste and bones are all cut from the same cloth. In thats sense it’s perfectly balanced, amenable and fine. Poster child and ambassador for the DOC. Drink 2019-2021.  Tasted blind, May 2019

Bracco Collio Bianco DOC La Mont Brach 2016, Friuli-Venezia-Giulia (WineAlign)

The local friulano amd malvasia take on sauvignon with a slightly reserved nose and that’s seemingly unusual when you consider it is 2016 and has had time to come about. Terpenes and sweet herbs do emerge, along with a scrape of orange zest and then a gaseous note. Nicely complex within reason and seasoned with just a pinch of salt, pepper and fresh herbs. Pretty wine, field blend rich and exemplary. Very Collio. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted blind, May 2019

Collavini Collio Bianco DOC Broy 2016, Friuli-Venezia-Giulia (WineAlign)

Really pretty wine this modern combination of friulano, chardonnay and sauvignon, not so much aromatically floral but just enough to speak to elegance and balance. Some orchard fruit still quite fresh, with a high level of flesh, extract and unction. Almost crunchy and wealth simple in blended white wine defined. There may be a minor level of wood aging here. Drink 2019-2021.  Tasted blind, May 2019

Tenuta Di Angoris Collio Bianco Riserva DOC Giulio Locatelli 2016, Friuli-Venezia-Giulia, (WineAlign)

The blend is friulano, malvasia and sauvignon.A chewy, fleshy and broad shouldered Bianco with all the expected and necessary components present and then some. Highly focused and accomplished white blend, full of white flowers, mild seasonings, orchard and stone fruit, pectin, glycerin, grasso and acidity. It’s all here, clean, simple and straightforward. That said it’s certainly more on the perfectly understandable and less on the risk assessment, task-taking spectrum. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted blind, May 2019

Russiz Superiore Collio Bianco Riserva DOC Col Disore 2016, Friuli-Venezia-Giulia, (WineAlign)

The Felluga friulano, pinot bianco, sauvignon and ribolla gialla show an advancement because of the notable petrol immediacy crossed with more than obvious barrel addendum. A malolactic creaminess pervades and yet good acidity gives it drive and ambition. Vanilla and spice, sweetness and tinned fruit. A well made wine in the force a square peg into a round whole kind of way. Finishes with some resinous notes, in pine and eucalyptus. More cellar blend than field in execution. Drink 2019-2021.  Tasted blind, May 2019

Pascolo Collio Bianco Riserva DOC Agnul 2016, Friuli-Venezia-Giulia, (WineAlign)

Agnul from friulano, pinot bianco and sauvignon is lifted by this herbal, minty, orange scrape expressive nose. Rich, wood-influenced unctuous palate with mild acidity and definite character so rich, pork belly fatty and rendered. Good grape spirit and extract. Proper for the style, pungent and leaning to sauvignon blanc. Drink 2019-2022. Tasted blind, May 2019

Pascolo Collio Bianco DOC Studio Di Bianco 2016, Friuli-Venezia-Giulia, (WineAlign)

A different mix, of friulano, riesling and sauvignon. One of the more curious and complex aromatic profiles thus far. Perfunctory herbs and citrus rolls into perfectly sweet and and savoury profits, from chou pastry to profiterole. Gastronomic Collio blend at its best, with florals and gasses, fruit and acidity. Proper, focused, flinty, salty and fine. Will age with the best of them. Jumpy, spicy, gassy and in the riesling vein. Drink 2019-2026.  Tasted blind, May 2019

Ronco Blanchis Collio Bianco DOC 2015, Friuli-Venezia-Giulia, (WineAlign)

Four grape varieties contribute here, friulano, malvasia, sauvignon and chardonnay. Terpenes and metals meet dried herbs and alloys. Lemon and lime but more preserved than fresh. These grapes do Collio like riesling, traminer and pinot bianco do elsewhere. Strangely reminds more of Alsace than anything else. A bit sweet to near cloying as it accumulates to the honeyed, sweet tart finish. Seems there is some botrytis here though there is no residual sugar to speak of. Drink 2019.  Tasted blind, May 2019

Venica Collio Bianco DOC Tre Vignis 2015, Friuli-Venezia-Giulia, (WineAlign)

Three vines, friulano, chardonnay and sauvignon from which a little bit of age goes a long way as witnessed by this richly hued, gregariously aromatic and notably metallic Bianco. It’s all here in this ambitious and gregarious example. Plenty of orchard fruit, wood-induced texture and an overall creamy impression that suggest a whole lot of battonage. Vanilla, crème frâiche and almond paste. Rich, rich blend. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted blind, May 2019

Ca’Ronesca Collio Bianco DOC Marnà 2015, Friuli-Venezia-Giulia (WineAlign)

Only pinot bianco and malvasia. Metallic in the way of aromatic grapes like riesling and yet there’s also an herbal quality. Quite verdant actually, a pesto, a green goddess dressing and a blanch of legumes. Really fine acidity keeps everything lit and elevated. Quite fresh for 2015 and with impressive length. Not overtly fleshy and the extract is dry, not unctuous. Might just develop some salted honey or caramel in a year or so. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted blind, May 2019

La Rajade Collio Bianco DOC Caprizi 2015, Friuli-Venezia-Giulia (WineAlign)

The three varieties are malvasia, friulano and chardonnay in quite a developed white blend, in every respect, hue, flesh and structure. Deeply golden, some botrytis affectation and a floral-spicy spectrum breached. Apple custard, metals and all sorts of elemental activity, from pyrazines to thiols. Almost fresh, somewhat famous. In the end freshness without acidity. Curious. Drink 2019-2020.  Tasted blind, May 2019

Marco Felluga Collio Bianco DOC Molamatta 2015, Friuli-Venezia-Giulia (WineAlign)

The binding pinot bianco gets in between friulano and ribolla gialla in this blend of curiously reserved aromatics, especially for a twenty fifteen. Sweetly herbal though faintly so. Composed, confident, stoic and sure of a slow evolving self. A Bianco for bianco sake, as if pinot is elevated and the international addendum is just not that important, i.e. bianco without overtly necessary barrel time. The palate tells a different story and so the richness and ambition comes out. Tart, tangy and creamy, long and metal fine. Drink 2019-2022. Tasted blind, May 2019

Primosic Collio Bianco DOC Klin 2015, Friuli-Venezia-Giulia (WineAlign)

The blend in 2015 is the ideal autochthonous plus international mix, with friulano, sauvignon, chardonnay and ribolla gialla. Rich, juicy and complex, with full fruit compliment, extraction and heft. Orchards of every respect offer layers and layers of fruit substance and unction. Moment’s notices of salt and surety add to the layers of pure fruit. Nectarines are part of the mix. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted blind, May 2019

Primosic Collio Bianco DOC Klin 2013, Friuli-Venezia-Giulia (WineAlign)

Poured from magnum with friulano, sauvignon, chardonnay, and ribolla gialla. A metallic aromatic blend, namely friulano like, with glycerin, paraffin and now, a honeyed back half. Quite a special accumulation and a speciality of the whole Collio experience. Great spice on the tongue here, piqued and peppery, special in so many ways. Some botrytis like notation but the wood involved is either beautifully integrated or wasn’t that substantial in the first place. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted May 2019

Good to go!

godello

San Floriano Del Cóllio, Friuli-Venezia Giulia

Twitter: @mgodello

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WineAlign

Spotlight on South Africa in VINTAGES August 6th

South Africa’s South Coast

as seen on WineAlign

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

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

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

Related – Heritage and diversity in South Africa

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

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

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

Fourteen South African producers and wines you need to know

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lismore Chardonnay Estate 2017, WO Greyton (WineAlign)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Sadie Family Palladius 2016, WO Swartland (WineAlign)

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

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

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

Silwervis Cinsault 2016, WO Swartland (WineAlign)

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

Van Loggerenberg Wines Kamaraderie 2017, WO Paarl (WineAlign)

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

Stellenbosch Braai

In VINTAGES

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

South Africa picks – August 6th Release

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

South Africa picks – July 20th Release

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

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

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

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

Best of the Rest for August 6th

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks for reading up on South Africa once again.

Good to go!

godello

South Africa’s South Coast

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

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