Because the night in Gaiole

Badia a Coltibuono

Badia a Coltibuono is not your average, been there, seen that Tuscan edifice. The castello is an awesome display of architecture meets hortus conclusus and a walk through its hallowed halls will lead a mind to wander. You can hear its creaks, sense the weight of its history and feel its ghosts. It was night by the time we arrived, already peering down the descent of a palate’s waning slope, nearing the end of a capacity cultivated day. It was a surreal and perfect time to experience the awe of Badia a Coltibuono.

Related – Castellina in golden light

The monastery was founded in 1051 by the Vallumbrosan order of Benedictine monks and many important manuscripts and deeds were housed here for hundreds of years. It was here where some of the earliest mention of towns, castles and villas of the Chianti area could be found. In the 15th century the Buon Raccolto (good harvest) Abbey, (Abbazia or Badia in Italian) was extensively developed under the patronage of Lorenzo dei Medici. The current owners are the Stucchi-Prinetti family and as I would ironically find out quite soon enough, they are the successful purveyors of the publications of Lorenza de Medici, wife of Piero Stucchi-Prinetti, on Tuscan cookery.

Related – Get Radda for Chianti Classico

John Szabo M.S., Brad Royale, Steven Robinson and Godello came to taste through 35 wines provided by 20 producers from the Chianti Classico commune of Gaiole in Chianti. We arrived tired but our strength was quickly and magically restored by the curative powers of Gaiole sangiovese. Located in Siena province Gaiole is one of two sub-zones with exactly two neighbours, in this case Castelnuovo Berardenga to the south and Radda to the west/northwest. It is one of the more complicated, diverse and checkered Chianti Classico zones, with many switchbacks, elevation changes and soil types. That said a thread certainly runs through, of wines that carry their own confident and specific structure. This tasting confirmed that the sangiovese of Gaiole have great aging potential, albeit often wrapped up in robes of rusticity, shacked up with the finest of Chianti Classico.

Click here to watch a quick video of the Gaiole in Chianti wines

To gain a deeper understanding of Gaiole it would be prudent to pry open the packaging and peel away further layers of sub-zone identity with a look at the sangiovese produced specifically on Monti in Chianti lands. Such a visit and tasting would unearth at least one of the more essential facets of Gaiole’s variegation and then the climb back up and into the greater commune could be acquiesced with a new level of experience.

John Szabo attempting to communicate by necromantic means with the revenants of the numinous Badia a Coltibuono world

Meanwhile, back to Badia a Coltibuono and because the night in Gaiole. After we finished tasting it was past the 10pm hour and so our auspicious and unpavid hosts Roberto Stucchi Prinetti and Emanuela Stucchi Prunetti wondered if we should eschew trying to convince a restaurant to serve us and instead make dinner in the abbey’s kitchen. I volunteered. I spent the better part of 1987-2013 cooking in restaurants and running my catering company and here I was making the decision to offer my culinary services to Tuscans of lineage dating back to who knows when. To custodians of Lorenza de Medici’s manifestos of Tuscan cookery while the family ghosts roam the castle halls. A moment of panic and a “what have I done” internal dialogue ensued. Then I set to work.

We kept it simple, local, traditional and went about using up product that recent cooking classes had left for the next arbitrary and unhinged cook who happened to find his way into this culinary vestibule sbalorditivo that has seen so much and lived to tell many a tale. The scene and hasty whip up of two platters of different but complimentary pastas could not have happened so quick without John’s fiduciary charges, the ambient distraction of Brad’s intense discourse with Roberto, Steve’s stoic, harmonic and sommelier savvy stature and Emanuela’s sous-support. An hour later we were seated at Badia’s dining room table. I’m quite certain I heard someone say “please bring me my wine” and then the voice of the captain saying “we haven’t had that spirit here since thirteen sixty-nine.” At some point I went for air and a stroll through the castello halls, feeling not exactly alone and yet quite positively at peace.

It had been 22 years since I last made pasta in Italy. This time for @coltibuono and alas, it was eaten #sigh

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

Though we had a very hurried tasting session in the early night hours of September 25th, 2017, I did taste every wine presented to us by the association of Gaiole winemakers and distilled them down into the production of these 20 notes. I expect some of you will be familiar with this group of producers and I pledge to investigate the depths of their collective soul when I attend CCC ’18 in Firenze next month.

Brad Royale surveys the sangiovese of Gaiole in Chianti

Badia A Coltibuono Chianti Classico 2015, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $27.99, WineAlign)

Badia a Coltibuono’s Chianti Classico is truly representative of 2015, or as proprietor Roberto Stucchi Prinetti notes “a microcosm of CC, a very diverse area.” This Gaiole in Chianti sings in the three-part harmony of the Gallo Nero territory, of Gaiole, through the voice of sangiovese and as close in honour to the territory as it will ever get. This take is rusty, rustic, red citrus sweet-scented, of cinnamon and strawberry meets ripe sour cherry red fruit. The medium to high acids and fine, unobtrusive chain of tannins take it where it just needs to go. Easy and proper. As I said before, classic. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted twice, September and October 2017     halpernwine   @coltibuono  @HalpernWine  Badia a Coltibuono  Halpern Wine

Badia A Coltibuono Chianti Classico Riserva 2012, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (3962, $23.95, WineAlign)

It was a big year and the fruit was certainly ripe so the house style of putting fruit first and oak second means that Badia a Coltibuono’s CC Riserva ’12 is now heading into secondary character. Not raisined mind you but drying a touch and developing some spice cupboard baking scents. Tart and firm, developed, evolved and quite liquid chalky in its tannic grain and established structure. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted September 2017

Barone Ricasoli Brolio Chianti Classico 2015, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (3962, $23.95, WineAlign)

Really classic and traditionally annotated Chianti Classico tastes just like this and is especially worthy when the clean and transparent adjunct of technology brings tradition well into the 21st century. A fine and amenable vintage and 1000 years of Ricasoli expertise combine to fashion a Chianti Classico of high commercial esteem. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted September and November 2017  francescoricasoli  churchillcellars  @barone_ricasoli  @imbibersreport  Barone Ricasoli  Churchill Cellars Ltd.

Casa al Vento Chianti Classico Aria 2015, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

Aria 2015 carries a profile like many young and ripe Chianti Classico, a sweet-scented spoon of red cherry fruit and fine, liquid gelid acidity. Chalky to a degree which will settle after a year more in bottle. Aria is simply a fine expressive, unaccompanied, unadorned and unadulterated melody sung by sangiovese for Gaiole in Chianti. “At ease with the thought that this nova won’t burn out.” Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted September 2017  @casaalvento  borgocasaalvento  @AgriturismoChiantiCasaAlVento

La Casa Di Bricciano Chianti Classico 2014, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

La Casa di Bricciano is is nothing if not delicious Chianti Classico and also not wholly representative of the sangiovese ideal. Listed at 80 per cent varietal with the other 20 per cent likely merlot and cabernet sauvignon it’s an IGT drama played out with style. It’s beautifully clean and effective stuff. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted September 2017  lacasadibricciano  La Casa di Bricciano

La Casa Di Bricciano Chianti Classico Riserva 2013, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

La Casa di Bricciano’s Riserva ’13 carries a stylistic that is eerily similar to the Annata ’14 but takes to welling, oozing and leading to a syrupy liqueur. Swirling in this pool of viscous plummy fruit there is this sense of confidence, finesse and stylish polish. A bit sweet perhaps but seriously good. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted September 2017

Podere Ciona Chianti Classico Proprieta Gatteschi 2014, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

The lower altitude vineyards of Podere Ciona were replanted in 1999, 2003, the rest in the winter of 2011-2012. Their annata 2014 is primarily sangiovese with nine per cent merlot and a pinch of alicante bouschet. Lorenzo & Franco Gatteschi’s Chianti Classico is a true exception to the term normale, especially in consideration of the challenges presented by 2014. Though it is quite reductive it’s also also intensely floral and bursting with aromatic spice. There is bite at twice the effectiveness of the typical, middle of the road CC and plenty of life in this bottle. It will release its charms slowly, for seven years, easy. Drink 2018-2026.  Tasted September 2017  podereciona  @PodereCiona  Podere Ciona Estate and Vineyards

Podere Ciona Chianti Classico Riserva Proprieta Gatteschi 2013, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

The Gatteschi family’s 2013 is a special sort of Riserva with that understood sangiovese character of wisdom gained so early in life, long before it should know what classica it can and will become. The late-picked sangiovese comes off estate vines as late as the first two weeks of October and is supported by merlot, picked two weeks earlier and alicante bouschet sometime in between the two. Élevage happens in large format French oak. It’s an extremely complex weave of fine acidity overtop red ropey fruit with accents in spice and citrus. Quite remarkable really. Drink 2018-2024.  Tasted September 2017

Fietri Chianti Classico 2015, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (AgentWineAlign)

Ripe and sultry fruit, perhaps just a bit into the ultra ripe which may lead to some dried fruit sooner rather than later. The high acidity indicates early picking so the conundrum does spell a quandary. The package is a deep well that includes oak driven chocolate. It’s big for ’15 Chianti Classico and not exceptionally fresh. Drink 2017-2018.  Tasted September 2017  Azienda Agricola di Fietri

I Sodo Chianti Classico Riserva 2013, Docg Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $29.95, WineAlign)

I Sodi’s Gaiole in Chianti Riserva is on the volatile and over the top youthful side but you can really get a grip upon the terrific red berry and herbal-savoury accents. Certainly led by raspberry but red currants are quite prevalent. Must admit the palate leaves a fuller and more demanding impression which is always important as opposed to the other way around. The change of gears from accelerated vitesse to grip on the road around turns and into pits is a sign of great Italian design. The finish carries dried fruit and compressed acidity with not overly aggressive tannin. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted February and September 2017  Agriturismo Le Trappoline – Azienda Agricola I Sodi

Dinner at Badia a Coltibuono

Podere Il Palazzino Chianti Classico Riserva Grosso Sanese 2011, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

Il Palazzino is owned by Alessandro and Andrea Sderci and is located in Monti in Chianti, in Gaiole in Chianti, 20 km northeast of Siena. Their flagship wine is this Grosso Sanese, a sangiovese of gorgeous aromatic waft with complexities provided by fresh cut roses, deeply mined minerality and fresh sliced morning summer fruit. Great tension, so much more variegation from the earth and a natural, let it be who it is and from laissez-faire from Monti village emotion. This is CCR with true soul and it truly is a really clean and natural wine. Really fine tannin, sweetness from round acidity and architectural design set in the past with innovation for the future. Amazing CCR. Drink 2019-2029. Tasted February 2017    Agriturismo Il Palazzino  #ilpalazzino

Matteoli Chianti Classico 2015, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

Matteoli is a young, primary, seemingly natural meets organic and playfully funky sour cherry sangiovese, distinctly Gaiole but striding away from the norm and the middle of the road. Some tart, tight and bracing acidity plays to a sweetish finish. Should develop some curiously cool secondary character. Drink 2018-2020.  Tasted September 2017  @agricolamatteoli

Castello Di Meleto Chianti Classico 2015, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (332114, $18.95, WineAlign)

Castello di Meleto’s is really refined sangiovese, taking a deeper step into the calcaire, welling with some hematic and even ferric notes, developing towards secondary functionality. Here alights the cerebral induction sangiovese with even a slight scant drop of syrupy liqueur. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted September 2017  castellodimeleto  @castellomeleto  Castello Di Meleto

Castello Di Meleto Chianti Classico Riserva Vigna Casi 2013, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

Vigna Casi 2013 falls very much in line with the vintage for Chianti Classico but with an added and deeper delve into a Gaiole soil variegate. With each passing taste of ’13 Riserva the most excellent vintage continues to show off its gifting capabilities. The liqueur is not only borne of what this Annata sangiovese brings but the continuum is persistent, insistent and will carry the fruit well into adolescence. It’s bright, juicy and just plain exceptional. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted September 2017

Rocca Di Castagnoli Chianti Classico 2015, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (222810 $19.95, WineAlign)

Rocca di Castagnoli’s is perhaps one of the prettiest Chianti Classico 2015s, certainly out of Gaiole and even anywhere in the greater territory for this vintage. The virtues of ripeness, properly timed picking, acidity and just enough structure comes through in union, focus and finesse. All this while always in control of its classic style, with colorino and canaiolo tucked in behind and in support of sangiovese. Such a properly executed CC ’15. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted September 2017  roccadicastagnoli  profilewinegroup  @Roccacastagnoli  @ProfileWineGrp  Rocca di Castagnoli  Profile Wine Group

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

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

Rocca Di Montegrossi Chianti Classico 2015, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (Agent $29.99, WineAlign)

It shouldn’t come as such a big surprise that Rocca di Montegrossi’s 2015 Chianti Classico is riper, richer and more immediately accessible than its previous annata, a wine I noted as “the most subtle and slightest dusty ride through a decidedly old-school Chianti Classico.” With a minor distraction and sacrifice to structure this step up to the modernity plate and organically configured (Gaiole) Monti in Chianti sangiovese boasts darker, intensely tart plum fruit and pinpoint accurate Rocca acidity. That said it’s just so fresh-squeezed, red citrus, thematically hematic delicious early. Hard to resist means less thought afforded patience and longevity but such is sangiovese life. It’s neither a better wine not is it a more or less important Chianti Classico to what has come before. It’s simply 2015, from a place where vintage really matters. Drink 2017-2021.  Tasted twice, September 2017   #roccadimontegrossi  @RoccadiMontegrossi  #roccadimontegrossi

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

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

San Giusto A Rentennano Chianti Classico 2015, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

San Giusto a Rentennano is a name of Etruscan origin, an estate that overlooks the upper course of the Arbia river in the farthest southern reaches of the Chianti Classico zone. The estate began life as a medieval monastery of Cistercian nuns and was called San Giusto alle Monache, “of the Nuns.” San Giusto A Rentennano Chianti Classico 2015 is a stunner. Virtuous, scrupulous and composed, it was surely picked on the perfected vortex point of acidity and ripeness. That it sports refined tannin to lead into structure speaks volumes on how it is more than a serious CC. It is in fact destined for greatness. The chain is long and woven for sustained pressure and sytemic viability. Drink 2018-2024.  Tasted September 2017  #sangiustoarentennano    #sangiustoarentennano

San Giusto A Rentennano Chianti Classico Riserva Le Baròncole 2014, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

In 1957 San Giusto A Rentennano was inherited by Enrico Martini di Cigala and in 1992, by his nine children. Today Anna, Lucia, Elisabetta, Francesco, Alessandro and Luca are partners in the estate company. Riserva le Baròncole 2014 is composed from 97 per cent sangiovese plus canaiolo, the 14th Baròncole of a Riserva that was first bottled in 1975. The rains of summer did not deter this determined Chianti Classico, thanks to great farming practices, favourable weather conditions at harvest and under the circumstances, the strictest grapes selection possible. A beautiful liqueur wells in this rich and aromatic, spiced and spicy CC, quite exceptional for 2014. The top of the quality pyramid is reached with its rich constitution and age conscious ability. Chalky in fine grain and sweet tannins, no green notes, good acidity and properly rendered (20 per cent new) barriques and big (5 hl) barrels. Get with the baron. It’s a prime “esempio” for Gaiole in Chianti. Drink 2018-2024.  Tasted September 2017

Badia a Coltibuono

Good to go!

Godello

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

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Castellina in golden light

Gallo Nero of Rocca delle Macie in Castellina in Chianti

Each time I travel to Chianti Classico the conversation regarding sub-zones rises closer to the surface. The deep and profound understanding of sangiovese as contributing to the greater good and power of Chianti Classico will not soon be superseded but producers are increasingly adamant about presenting their wines in the context of località and cru classificata. An annata is coming soon from which the names of both commune and village will proudly by worn on the bottle. With time comes change, however slowly, as necessity draws nearer and clearer into focus.

Granted there are some exceptions in Chianti Classico where fruit from neighbouring communes get together to make a Chianti Classico blend, so to speak, but these examples are few and far between. The Gallo Nero producers own, farm and harvest grapes from estate vineyards surrounding or in very close proximity to their production facilities. Chianti Classico is a highly territorial place, protected to the ultimate end of and by a family’s (or a custodian’s thereof) genealogy, history and legacy. As the region continues its march into the most modern of golden age there is a palpable and emotional push to celebrate the places within the place.

Related – Get Radda for Chianti Classico

The thinking or imagining about the landscape of Chianti Classico is more often than not acquiesced by a general feeling of winding roads through hilly landscapes, verdant vineyards and lines upon lines of cypress trees leading up drives to Etruscan estates. Generally speaking there is plenty of truth in such a conjuring but the distinct vistas, angles, geologies and visually speaking, the casts of light are so very different from one collateral enclave to the next. In Castellina there is a sense of wide open space and undulation you just don’t find in neighbouring lands. Borders are shared with Castelnuovo Berardenga to the southeast, Radda to the east, Greve to the north and Barberino Val d’Elsa to the northwest.  There can’t help but be some venn diagram drawn circles to adduce commonalities with neighbouring communes but Castellina is unique to itself and to its 66 producers associated with the Consorzio Vino Chianti Classico. In many respects and though it may be a generalization to say so, the sangiovese of Castellina are of the most lush, full-bodied and modern wines in the region. There is a thread that runs through, deep, mature and wise, an echelon of tangibility, from umbrage through illumination to loop a Castellina character from beginning to end and back again. The circle always returns to a point where Castellina is bathed in golden light.

This past September an ambassadorial group of Canadians paid visits to three historical properties in Castellina in Chianti. John Szabo M.S., Brad Royale, Steven Robinson and Godello took another step into the world of understanding, unearthing and disseminating the particular characteristics of communes and in the case of Castellina the epiphany was found in the consistency of the wines. It may be abstract to say but the Chianti Classico found here offer the greatest probability of correctness, high quality and regional guarantee. Read these 21 notes from Bibbiano, Castello di Fonterutoli and Rocca delle Macie, then judge for yourself.

Bibbiano

Related – Chilling with the bad boy of Chianti Classico

My second visit in as many years with Tommaso Marrocchesi Marzi reinforced the duality of landscape and sangiovese personality that the highly cerebral and zealous winemaker accepts, cherishes and celebrates through his wines. Bibbiano’s extraordinarily unique plateau position is a place of great dichotomy. The vines of Montornello slides gracefully down on the northwestern side and on the southwestern, Vigna del Capannino. “With glaring clarity is the determinate or indeterminate Bibbiano slope each wine draws their fruit from. In some cases one or the other and in others, a combination of the two. Montornello and Vigna del Capannino. The descending vineyards on either side of the Bibbiano plateau offer up an incredible study in contrasting Chianti Classico geology.”

We tasted eight wines with Tommaso, some of which were revisits for me. He also shared three new vintage samples, first a 2016 barrel pull from fruit drawn off the northern side. From tonneaux it gave beautiful, sexy fruit, spicy, tart, of great acidity and fine, spicy tannins. Structurally speaking this can only be from Montornello, albeit from wood, unblended with concrete sangiovese, so tannic, and very much in spice. The 2016 southern side is sangiovese grosso, from 25hL Slavonian oak botti and again, could only be the Capannino side with its big, thick and cakey fruit, massive, spicy and long. A 2016 blend or “taglio” may or may not have had some malvasia nera in there, from French tonneaux. Such perfume, alarmed, unparalleled, velvety, mouth coating and intense. With spice again and tight, taut, tannic (tight grain) structure. Really cakey and the thought again is just wow.  Here are the notes on the eight finished wines.

Bibbiano Listrice 2016, IGT Toscana, Italy (WineAlign)

Listrice is a blend of trebbiano and malvasia, pretty much 50/50, a fantasy name says Tommaso Marrocchesi Marzi. Il Istrice is a simple, fresh, straightforward white representative of the area. It’s salty, directly tart and made from fruit pulled only off the northern site/side of the Bibbiano estate. Is this so named because the northern vineyard’s fault dip is steeper near the surface then shallower with increased depth? Perhaps one day Tommaso will concur. There were approximately 2000 bottles produced. Drink 2017-2018.  Tasted September 2017  bibbianowines  lesommelierwine  @bibbianowines  @LeSommelierWine  Bibbiano Chianti Classico  Le Sommelier, Wine Agency

Bibbiano Rosato Scappalepre 2016, IGT Toscana, Italy (WineAlign)

Scappalepre, as in “the run away hare,” another whimsical name for a Bibbiano wine. This follows the growing number of specifically designed Tuscan rosés, especially for the Chianti Classico territory, to join the trendy ranks but with great sangiovese purpose. Scappalepre is from 100 per cent sangiovese fruit picked off of north and south vineyards and harvested purposely for Rosato. It is picked early, at least a few days before for Chianti Classico. Not quite saignée method but with a wealth of Rosé possibility, fresh and structured, confusingly phenolic and up there in the 14-plus per cent alcohol realm. A wine of sugars, acids and alcohol. It’s in a league of its own. Approx. 2000 bottles produced. Drink 2017-2019. Tasted  September 2017

Bibbiano Chianti Classico 2015, Tuscany, Italy (168286, $23.95, WineAlign)

“It’s a very genuine grape. It will never try to have fun with you,” explains Tommaso Marrochezi Marzi. This could easily have been said about the 2014 sangiovese though we know by now that the grape’s resilience has and will continue to bring itself about, and around. This 2015 shows its colours early, often and in great fruit strength. It’s beautiful and expressive, a spoken varietal message that is clear and understood. It should be enjoyed while it talks in fruit this way. Silky smooth, textured like fine satin, caressing and even sexy, sulty and lush. No colorino now and perhaps its inclusion with be more likely when the new vineyard grows up but for now the indigenous grapes are used in the Bibbianaccio IGT. Here again raised in all concrete for the élévage lending freshness, properly oxidative, anti-reductive character. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted September 2017

John Szabo M.S., Steven Robinson, Brad Royale, Silvia Fiorentini and Tommaso Marrocchesi Marzi

Bibbiano Chianti Classico Riserva 2014, Tuscany, Italy (AgentWineAlign)

The first vintage not called Montornello is now a Chianti Classico Riserva on its own with that (northern slope) vineyard separated as a Gran Selezione. The smooth depth of sangiovese fruit character here is entirely Riserva though without edges or toughness. No grit, some minor grip, fineness and silkiness of tannin. The perfect summer of September allowed picking to happen at the end of the month, in delivery of enough quantity and quality for both Riserva and Vigne di Montornello Gran Selezione. A Riserva as polished, modern, clean and drinkable as they come and a terrific effort for the challenging vintage. Drink 2017-2022.  Tasted September 2017

Bibbiano Chianti Classico Gran Selezione Vigne di Montornello 2014, Tuscany, Italy (AgentWineAlign)

The artist formerly known as Chianti Classico Riserva is now Vigne di Montornello beginning in 2014, from the northern side so not a single-vineyard so to speak but a collection of very specific vineyards. Spent 18 months in a mix of wood, the thread carried forward from the Riserva but with a more focused, intense and layered approach. Having already needed a reset of the compass to wrap my head around the Riserva now taking in some Capannino side fruit, the recalibration also involves moving upwards in pyramid quality. The plan is for the best of Montornello fruit to work with precocious acumen so that it may immediately transport this GS to a new plenary place for Bibbiano. It’s offer of gratification is fleeting in comparison because it’s a conceptual baby as compared to the Capannino, in this or any near future vintage really. Drink 2018-2024.  Tasted September 2017

Bibbiano Chianti Classico Gran Selezione Vigna Del Capannino 2013, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (AgentWineAlign)

The Chianti Classico Gran Selezione Vigna Del Capannino 2013 is monstrous, from ’58 and ’62 sangiovese grosso vines put in by Giulio Gambelli, then grafts from that material for masale propogation in 1999 and the 2000s. The departure from Brunello is here, a huge, muscular, dare it be said Bibbianaccio of the sangiovese Bibbiano family, in GS form, thick, tannic, brooding, exceptionally structured, robust and 15 years away from announcing its true plans. This bottle is subdued however slightly from a spot of TCA but not enough to warrant skipping on past. Wow. Drink 2021-2032.  Tasted September 2017

Bibbiano Chianti Classico Gran Selezione Vigna Del Capannino 2011, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (AgentWineAlign)

The vineyard “Del Capannino” was planted in the 1950’s by the late great Giulio Gambelli, assistant to Tancredi Biondi-Santi. Not surprisingly and in connection to Brunello di Montalcino it is a clonal planting of sangiovese grosso, with further propagation done in the 1990s. The rich Albarese soil of Del Capannino enjoys the finest exposure and microclimate on the estate and is considered the best expression of Bibbiano’s “genius loci,” the spirit of the place. The first single vineyard vintage was 1998 and the Riserva designation switched to Gran Selezione in 2014, retroactive to the 2010 vintage. Today Bibbiano uses Botti (di rovere) Grande and Tonneaux (beginning in 2008) after barriques had been used for years. Still and always has been 100 per cent grosso, the only producer to do so in Chianti Classico. And so theirs is a liqueur that of course takes your mind to Brunello but this is purely Castellina and Chianti Classico so don’t be confused or tempted to settle for idyll comparisons. This has freshness, purity and that enticing meets teasing acidity, certainly consistent with and of no divergence to Bibbiano style. Ties to CC and CCR are blatant, necessary and so very pleasing. There is great structure but you can think about drinking this in its youth. It wont let out all its secrets but it will begin to tell its story. A story of territory. Drink 2019-2028.  Tasted February and September 2017

Bibbiano Bibbianaccio 2011, Igt Toscana, Italy (AgentWineAlign)

Bibbianaccio comes to light in its inaugural vintage, “the bad boy of Bibbiano.” Who is this bad boy, wine or man, referring to Tomasso Marrocchesi Marzi perhaps, or is it something other? The 50 per cent sangiovese, (40) colorino and mixed varietal (including malvasia bianca) blend is an ode to a time before, when Chianti Classico regional wines were blends filled with whatever grew in the fields and men were men. This (mere production of 2,000 bottles) one is forged with extended battonage, malolactic is done in tonneaux and then the blend is assembled and sent to Slavonian oak. The bad more likely refers to a departure, a break from the stylistic and the the territorial approach. His purpose is “to show that we are capable of anything,” insists Tomasso. His rebel is floral and it reminds me of a northern Rhône syrah-viognier, in a sangiovese-colorino with white grape addendum body. Colorino brings the colour, but texture is also ushered in. The punch downs, the stalks mined in, the wood and the compression all give this a vivid, fleshy reality. It’s also much more tannic than the straight-shooting sangiovese. Bibbiannacio is yet another wine tasted in Chianti Classico with no frame of reference, or certainly not one that I have ever tasted before. It is drawn fruit on down from both sides of the Bibbiano plateau but I really taste the calcaire, liquid chalky and mixed with that tannin showing that some further bottle time is needed. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted February and September 2017

Castello di Fonterutoli

The Mazzei family lays claim to Chianti Classico’s origins in a document authored by Ser Lapo Mazzei in 1398. In correspondence from the 16th of December between “the keen notary” and Francesco Datini, “the merchant from Prato “Ser Lapo Mazzei made reference to “Chianti” as a production region and denomination. In 1435, when his granddaughter Madonna Smeralda Mazzei married Piero di Agnolo da Fonterutoli, the holding became part of the family’s estate. Since then, for 24 generations, the Mazzei family have produced wine at Castello di Fonterutoli.

Filippo Mazzei led us through a tasting of seven wines, including the experimental and visionary “Mix 36,” an IGT composed of 36 clones of Fonterutoli planted sangiovese. We then followed Filippo across the road from the estate and village to Osteria di Fonterutoli for lunch and some spirited discourse on sangiovese and the future of Chianti Classico.

Mazzei Badiola 2015, IGT Toscana, Italy (662197, $19.95, WineAlign)

Badiola is a sangiovese-merlot, 70-30 mix and its name comes from the tiny Roman times (circa 998) church set in one of the estate vineyard at 650m. This so happens to be the highest elevation in the area. Badiola sees 10 months in mainly used barriques for the intent to fashion a fruity, round, “everyday” Super Tuscan. It’s actually a bit lactic, dark berry dusty and with some solid grip. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted September 2017  marchesimazzei  profilewinegroup  @MarchesiMazzei  @ProfileWineGrp  Marchesi Mazzei – Castello di Fonterutoli  Profile Wine Group

Castello di Fonterutoli No. 10 2014, IGT Toscana, Italy (AgentWineAlign)

No. 10 is something akin to a lottery pick, chosen from a group of samples and this specific sample was number 10 in the testing. It’s a dusty, properly volatile, minor bretty young sangiovese (with some other varieties mixed in) and led by dark currant to black cherry fruit. It’s neither avant-garde nor a legend but it is very particular in style. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted September 2017

A week’s worth of sustenance in Toscana #5- Pici con ragu di cinghiale at Osteria Di Fonterutoli

Mazzei Chianti Classico Riserva Ser Lapo 2014, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (288530, $22.95, WineAlign)

Fonterutoli’s Chianti Classico Riserva Ser Lapo is named for Filippo Mazzei’s ancestor “Mr. or Signore Lapo,” the first to use the word “Chianti Classico” on a wine label, in December of 1398. This Riserva is 90 per cent sangiovese with 10 merlot and while it no longer fetches three florins, 26 soldi and 8 dinari for 6 barrels, it consistently represents one of the finest values for Riserva level on the CC pyramid. This 2014 spent 14-15 months in barriques and its classic, old time, rustica red tart fruit sangiovese with fine tannins wastes no time into the sidetracked distraction of unwanted meanderings. Walks the Chianti Classico line with classic distinction. Drink 2018-2022. Tasted September 2017

Mazzei Castello Di Fonterutoli Chianti Classico Gran Selezione 2013, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $75.00, WineAlign)

Some malvasia nera and colorino are blended in with the 92 per cent sangiovese, raised in 60 per cent new barriques plus tonneaux. The Mazzei GS is selected from the best parcels and finest quality grapes within those parcels. This is the fourth vintage, 2010 being the first and from a lineage for the wine known as Castello that began in 1995. Was not a Riserva before but just the Castello (IGT). It’s 2013 to be sure but with a deeper, nearly hematic and brooding character. Still the Fonterutoli dusty red fruit but with some iron fisted tannic management. It does carry this sexy feel and yet it’s so serious, so ’13. Drink 2018-2023.  Tasted September 2017

Filippo Mazzei in discussion with Brad Royale and Steven Robinson

Castello di Fonterutoli Mix 36 2013, Igt Toscana, Italy (AgentWineAlign)

Castello Fonterutoli’s Mix 36 IGT Toscana is a brilliant stroke of insular blending genius, from a plot with the 36 sangiovese biotypes planted together but all from the same rootstock, planted in 2003 and 2004. It’s from a very clay vineyard at 300m. An experimental wine to be sure, the commotion variegates layer upon strata, of multi-sangiovese personality interwoven with 35 more variations of its own distinct character self. The becoming may be muddled but it’s simply delicious, fruit juicy, high in acidity though the tannins seem tamed and rendered. Filippo Mazzei insists this to be considered at the top of the pyramid, on a Gran Selezione level. He’s more correct that even he might realize. Just bloody delicious multiplicity of sangiovese. Drink 2018-2024.  Tasted September 2017

Castello di Fonterutoli Concerto Di Fonterutoli 2015, IGT Toscana, Italy (AgentWineAlign)

Concerto di Fonterutoli is the Super Tuscan that started in 2001, originally with 20 per cent cabernet sauvignon. In the nineties there was only half a hectare, and so ’94 was then the last vintage. Over the last 20 years there has been a gradual migration to sangiovese and a restoration of this historical vineyard, but now there is a return or at least a mimic of what was done 20 years ago. So it’s a return to the 80-20 split, not a wine from Concerto Vineyard but a fantasy name, bringing two together, now sangiovese from Fonterutoli and cabernet sauvignon from Siepi. It’s deeply cakey, rich, tannic, very wooden sheathed, with almost a sweetness as a result, more like Napa than almost any wine from lands in Chianti Classico. It wells with big, sweet, grainy and chalky tannins. Huge monster of a wine. Drink 2019-2026.  Tasted September 2017

Castello di Fonterutoli Siepi 2015, IGT Toscana, Italy (AgentWineAlign)

Siepi is the 200m vineyard, west of Fonerutoli, a historical place that already had vineyards planted when the family arrived in the 1400s. This is the only exception to what is being done at the estate. Sangiovese (1995-2000) and merlot (1985) grown, picked and vinified separately. It’s essentially a single-vineyard blend, though on two sides of a road. A 50-50 split, separated and then brought together. It carries more tartness, high acidity and fine tannic structure. Very fine, less cake then Concerto and more of a seamless affair. Merlot in certain parts of Chianti Classico just seems to have this affinity, alone and in partnership with sangiovese, in ways that cabernet sauvignon just does not. Drink 2019-2027.  Tasted September 2017

Rocca delle Macie Estate, Castellina

Rocca delle Macie

Sometimes it just feels like Rocca delle Macie sits at the epicentre of not only Castellina in Chianti but the greater territory that is Chianti Classico. Consorzio President and estate proprietor Sergio Zingarelli is certainly a principal reason for the sentiment but it’s more than that. No other three-tiered pyramid set of examples for Chianti Classico, Chianti Classico Riserva and Chianti Classico Gran Selezione speak to the perseverance of presence and consistency of quality in the Ontario market (plus 40 other countries) and yet it feels as though Rocca delle Macie is just beginning to reinvent its oeuvre. Zingarelli’s late father Italo, a former boxer and producer of spaghetti westerns, bought Rocca delle Macìe in 1973 and today the company produces wines off of six estates, including Macie, Fizzano and Sant’Alphonso. Sergio and his wife Daniela, daughter Giulia, son Andrea and Marketing and Communication Manager Thomas Francioni welcomed us into the Zingarelli home for a comprehensive tasting and the most exceptional home cooking. Not to mention the finest gelato in Toscana and Andrea’s very special craft gin. I made notes on the following six wines.

ry  And in #castellinainchianti we taste @chianticlassico @roccadellemacie with The Presidential #sergiozingarelli

Rocca Delle Macìe Moonlite 2016, IGT Toscana, Italy (400879, $17.95, WineAlign)

Moonlite 2016 gathers vermentino, chardonnay and pinot grigio (40/40/20) from vineyards in southwest Toscana, not far from Grossetto. The lands are really, ostensibly, technically in the Morellino area. A white Super Tuscan so to speak, it’s fresh but also rich and funny in that it’s almost as wet stone smelling as it is pear fruity. There is this ubiquitous Italianate feel about it, not necessarily Tuscan but as a regional white (not sangiovese) it’s harder to define. The vermentino lends a saltiness and the nearby seaside a secondary note as such. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted September 2017  roccadellemacie  profilewinegroup  @roccadellemacie  @ProfileWineGrp  @roccadellemacie  Profile Wine Group

Rocca Delle Macìe Chianti Classico 2015, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (741769, $18.95, WineAlign)

This VINTAGES Essential in Ontario delivers a contiguous style continued since the brand switched to fresher, less brooding gears over the past five or six years. Sees 10-12 months in large Slavonian casks (5000L), from many estates and a selection of vineyards. Freshness is a virtue and depth of fruit as important as anything, in a consistent, well-mannered and fleshy experience, top to bottom. Carries a small amount or Bordeaux varieties.  Last tasted September 2017

Rocca delle Macie’s Chianti Classico 2015 makes the adjustment and will be perfect for the current market, now changing in style again, away from dark colour, with less cabernet sauvignon, to be so very sangiovese and to celebrate the vintage. The classic fresh, bright and righteously dusty red cherry is just so very subtle and refined for what sangiovese can be. You will be hard pressed to find a more amenable, reachable and commercially getable Chianti Classico from a vintage ready to roll. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted February 2017

A week’s worth of sustenance in Toscana #4- Ribollita da Daniela Zingarelli

Rocca Delle Macìe Chianti Classico Tenuta Sant’Alphonso 2015, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $22.95, WineAlign)

Tenuta Sant’Alphonso is the single vineyard Chianti Classico, from one of five estates, mostly clay and dictated by 100 per cent sangiovese. French oak of smaller size (25 hL mostly, up to 30) is employed because of the clay. The robust flesh and tannins need it and are coupled by it, but also refined by it. Aggressiveness only goes so far in sangiovese and then it hits you over the head so accepting the depth in espresso, dark chocolate and the eventuality of balsamic needs to be understood. The use of cement tanks (and less time in Inox tanks) helps to stave off reduction. This is one of the more Riserva like CCs on the market, carrying many characteristics that happen with more and smaller barrique aging. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted September 2017

Rocca Delle Macìe Chianti Classico Riserva 2013, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (930966, $23.95, WineAlign)

Rocca delle Macìe’s is a selection of the best grapes pulled from all four estates, but in different (separate) vinifications and vivifications, aged in French barrels, half new and half 2-plus year old. The methodology looks for consistency in every vintage, because it’s the gathering of best fruit, (including half the fruit from the Sergio Zingarelli Vineyard). Very round, fleshy, composed, integrated, a high acidity (more than many) vintage, dry and intense.  Last tasted September 2017

The vintage is not so much one for Gran Selezione but that category’s loss is the Riserva’s gain. This is a very balanced and structured Riserva with a healthy dose of oak and an even greater sense of the Zingarelli family style. It’s crucial and obvious, correct and loyal, so very modern. Why shouldn’t it be? Let is settle for one year. Drink 2017-2021.  Tasted September 2016

Rocca Delle Macìe Chianti Classico Fran Selezione Riserva Di Fizzano Single Vineyard 2013, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (699454, $33.95, WineAlign)

Fizzano is the historical single vineyard that Sergio’s father Italo purchased from The Bertoli family (who did not have any vines) in 1984. From 1985 to 2010 it was CC Riserva and moved to the category of Gran Selezione for the 2010 vintage, keeping the Fizzano name. Mostly (95 per cent) sangiovese with five merlot, only French oak (20 per cent barriques), from calcareous (with quite a mix of sandy) soil. iIt’s a silky affair, ripe in tannin and from fruit so much so. One of the oldest vineyards (planted in 1985 to 1990) but needing replanting, to a higher (5,000+ plants per hectare) density. Not so much exceptional length but now having evolved into a really round, balanced and amenable CC. More than almost any GS.  Last tasted September 2017

Certainly the most affordable Gran Selezione on the market, Rocca Delle Macie’s From Castellina in Chianti is remarkably defined and tannic. The (32nd) vintage prepares for another profitable possibility, with ripe fruit, solid structure and those formidable edges. The re-branded single-Fizaano vineyard Riserva to Grand Selezione is again worth every bit of that advantage. Big, balanced and in the end, still brooding, let this rest for another two years. Drink 2019-2026.  Tasted January 2017

Rocca Delle Macìe Roccato 2010, IGT Toscana, Italy (Agent, $51.95, WineAlign)

Roccato is the second Super Tuscan of the estate (along with Ser Gioveto), this beginning with the 1988 vintage. It’s a 50 per cent sangiovese and 50 cabernet sauvignon split and the reasons for pouring a not so current vintage will become clear. Aged only in barriques Roccato is rich beyond the pale and with the first (very apparent) volatility and bretty culpability, though remarkably not as tannic as expected. It’s quite a smooth, silky, velvet cupboard but filled with acidity. This seven year point of age is certainly part of the mystique and secondary character is beginning (or has well begun to take this next step). Most supple and round and then the finish goes into chocolate ganache, dark toffee and a feigned note of sweetness. Will likely carry more cabernet sauvignon in the future and conversely Ser Gioveto (not tasted) will likely become a Chianti Classico Riserva. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted September 2017

Gallo Nero of Rocca delle Macie in Castellina in Chianti

Good to go!

Godello

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

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Get Radda for Chianti Classico

Gallo Nero Sangiovese Vendemmia 2017

Most likely you’ve arrived at this page because you know that the story of Radda in Chianti will make for a terrific read. If you’ve landed here and do not yet know the blood of Radda’s sangiovese or are not yet excited about the commune’s 2017 harvest then I urge you to press on. In Radda they are farming higher, further and edgier. Their time in the sun as the cool kid on the fringe of selvage sangiovese viticulture in Chianti Classico has begun.

We’ve talked ad nauseam of late about the marginalia of climate change, about cool climates and growing regions finding ways to ripen grapes at the edge of what is possible. As a greater entity Chianti Classico is not one of them per se but Radda may just be entitled to boast about being cool, relatively speaking. Everywhere vines are grown there has to be a coolest spot, where the altitude is highest, the temperatures are lowest and the vines are slower to manage phenolic ripeness. Radda is the coolest sector and the rest of Chianti Classico should be paying careful attention. Like all wines subjected and connected to global climate change, in Chianti Classico the future of sangiovese will be inextricably tied to those from Radda. Until now it has been generally understood that above 550m (or so) of altitude it is more than difficult to ripen sangiovese in Chianti Classico. That too is changing and the 2017 vintage will offer great proof.

In #raddainchianti we find ourselves immersed in a recurring if revelatory theme #sangiovese #chianticlassico

Related – All in with Chianti Classico

Radda is one of four sub-zones in the province of Siena and shares its borders with four other Chianti Classico communes; Gaiole to the southeast, Greve to the north, Castellina to the west and Castelnuovo Berardenga to the south. There is something about the Radda sangiovese that stands alone, a thread that runs through, with traces and shadows of the territory omnipresent in the collective psyche of these wines. While other communes like Gaiole have begun to gather and band together, it is the group from Radda that is most keen and desperate to share their collective heartbeat from the eastern corner of Chianti Classico.

In Radda the shift to one for all and all for one has brought 30 producers together. The recently formed group share a commonality defined by soil types and estate vineyards set at an average elevation of 450m. This is one of the oldest areas of Chianti Classico, a commune of castles and vineyards that date back to the 12th century. Elevation, the soils and the expositions make for some of the most elegant sangiovese in Chianti Classico. The results are a cause and effect summation due to less sun, more finesse and a most prominent mineral influence. Radda’s destiny is defined by deeper root delving and more extraction of trace minerals from well below the soil surface. “The territory has always has been considered a cold terroir with more difficulties to grow sangiovese, especially as compared to other communes that are lower, hotter and with fewer difficulties,” claims Roberto Bianchi of Val delle Corti. Climate change has opened the door for this fringe commune to take center stage.  Says Bianchi, “other communes have tremendous problems of overheating. We don’t have that problem in Radda.”

Radda is a story built upon a multiplicity of limestone, in all its Chianti Classico permutations, from grey calcaire to Galestro and everything in between. Terraces are all used, irrespective of the orientation. Two rivers, Pesa and Arbia mark the lowest points at approximately 300m and the slopes rise up from the rivers, up to 600-650 at the top where the Galestro and Alberese change to Macigno, friable limestone and sandstone, less calcareous, harder to work and therefore, places of lower yields.

“A subzone system for a definitive denomination as big as Chianti Classico should exist.” These are the words of Volpaia’s Giovanella Stianti. Signora Stianti’s vision may not be a singular one but not everyone is bold enough to speak aloud about an idea that most likely will soon become a reality. Until now the Chianti Classico discussion has been limited to varietal and the insistence that the main concern be about the multiplicity of sangiovese. September tastings centred on Radda, Gaiole and even more specific still to Montefioralle and Lamole speak to the idea of breaking down a territory into smaller parts. Defining sub-zones and then sub-sub zones is potentially discriminatory and ultimately controversial but the communes and villages are ready and stating their case for individual due. The murmurings ask the question. Has the time not come to proudly wear Radda in Chianti on your wine label? This piece of prominent information would help the consumer understand where this wine is from. The impressive number of producers and wide-ranging diversity suggests there are more than enough reasons to get behind the plan. Chianti Classico will always come first but in all of Toscana only it is possessive of such distinct communes. So why not tell the world? Borders can’t be drawn underground but the lines can be demarcated above ground, by commune, village, river or road. Naturally the geologies will have to fall into line. In the case of Radda, that won’t be a problem.

Brad Royale, Steven Robinson and Federica Mascheroni

Related – The most important red wine from Italy

In September of 2017 I made my second visit to Casa Chianti Classico, located in the former Convento di Santa Maria al Prato in Radda in Chianti. It is here that the Consorzio Vino Chianti Classico has set up its new education and events centre to promote the wines of the Gallo Nero. Casa Chianti Classico has been converted from the old Franciscan monastery and is now home to meetings, conferences, events, a wine shop and a museum. Four intrepid Chianti Classico inquirers, John Szabo M.S., Brad Royale, Steven Robinson and Godello were hosted by three valorous representatives for the municipality. Federica Mascheroni of Castello di Volpaia, Roberto Bianchi of Val delle Corti and Oscar Geyer of Borgo La Stella. I have reviewed 23 examples from the tasting in Radda.

Sangiovese of Radda in Chianti

Borgo La Stella Chianti Classico 2014, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

The proposition indicts 2014 with a tight Chianti Classico, of fruit either berry or plum it’s hard to be sure, but either way it’s found wrapped and dragged through a stone-earthy ride. There is this deep into the soil liqueur that carries a mushroom funkiness, all within reason and finely integrated. Not a fruity CC by any stretch but carries plenty of character and might even be considered ripe for the vintage. From young vines, planted in 2006. That says something about its prescient present and the possibilities for the future. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted September 2017  borgolastella

Borgo La Stella Chianti Classico Riserva 2014, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

Made with oenologist Maurizio Alongi, Oscar and Christian-Oscar Geyer’s Borgo La Stella Chianti Classico Riserva 2014 was bottled at Mazzei in Castellina. The vintage is all over this sangiovese (with 10 per cent merlot) planted to heavy, heavy density. The vines are but a mere six years old but already the Alberese is felt in this impressively layered, deeply hematic and starchy tart CCR. The mineral sensation is something that it quite striking at the Riserva level. It’s a big and tannic arena in which the wealthy deposits of mineral salts are pulsating with Radda terroir. Drink 2018-2024.  Tasted September 2017

Brancaia Chianti Classico 2015, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (519173, $24.95, WineAlign)

Classic 2015 Chianti Classico of dark raspberry fruit and maximum ripeness with a side show of top notch acidity, bright enough to stay grounded in loyal and traditional footing. The tannins do cause a minor drying finish which only accentuates the correct and justifiable humility of sangiovese. An example to live and abide by. Drink 2017-2020. Tasted August and September 2017  brancaia_com  noble_estates  @CasaBrancaia  @Noble_Estates  @Brancaia  @NobleEstates

Brancaia Chianti Classico Riserva 2013, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (260802, $36.95, WineAlign)

Brancaia goes all in to exploit sangiovese and the for broke style solicits some patience to wait out in extra time. The dusty, musty and leathery notes are up front, closed and somewhat suffocating for the fruit. Though 16 months in barrel is nothing to call nothing it is not the wood that dominates these gregarious 2013 grapes. With time this swirls into a grosso sangiovese like liqueur with plums, cherries and spice. Really Riserva in style but not of the recent past, more like the older ways but translated to modern times. Needs three more years to perform due diligence, gain some traction and find its guaranteed due elegance. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted March and September 2017

Castello d’Albola Chianti Classico 2014, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (339937, $18.95, WineAlign)

Castello d’Albola Chianti Classico is really quite ripe for 2014, even perched on the next edge but short of the dangerous ledge. The acids are a bit hard and the compression somewhat intense in a sangiovese that reeks of personality spoken loud and clear. Both fruit and tannins are set out to drying on the savoury finish. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted September 2017 castellodialbola  zoninwines  @CastellodAlbola  @zonin1821  @castellodialbola  @ZoninProsecco

Castello d’Albola Chianti Classico Riserva 2014, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (315150, $24.95, WineAlign)

Castello d’Albola 2013 is a gamey Riserva, with aromas of roasted meat and salumi, expressly extracted and pressed. This goes for broke and makes the most impression it can, with big fruit, tart edges and big tannins. It’s a formidable mouthful to be sure though lacks some balance, at least while it’s quite young. Time might help to shape the finesse and sharpen the clarity. Drink Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted September 2017

Castello di Radda Chianti Classico 2015, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

Here the exchange between fruit and acidity is seamless if simple, easy going and with no risk taken. Hard not to understand what’s going on here with its simple plan, fine execution and classic tart, red fruit and salty stone bent. On the sour side for Radda in Chianti Classico, particularly when discussing 2015. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted September 2017  #castellodiradda  @CastellodiRadda  @castelloradda

Castello di Radda Chianti Classico Gran Selezione 2013, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

This 100 per cent sangiovese is from Il Corno, a single vineyard meaning “The Horn” upwards of 400 m above sea level. The soil is a calcareous clay and the vines were planted in the early 1990s. The ’13 Gran Selezione is rich and expressly ripe, simply linear for the category with very high acidity. Over the top high acidity. Let’s hope the twain is met before the end of this decade. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted September 2017

Castello di Volpaia Chianti Classico 2015, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (953828, $27.95, WineAlign)

Volpaia’s 2015 strikes me as a Chianti Classico with ancient wisdom and perfect vintage fruit quality in its calculated, curative concentration, a wine that modestly takes every advantage it can, which are few and far between. This is a rich and earthy red, of frutti di bosco, ropey and wild, yet generating power in its wonderful restraint. Take in and regard the gentile, non facile, wondrous mystery of Radda in Chianti Classico. Drink 2018-2023.  Tasted September 2017  castellodivolpaia  rogersandcompanywines  @volpaia  @rogcowines  @volpaia

Castello di Volpaia Chianti Classico Riserva 2014, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (705335, $41.95, WineAlign)

Volpaia Chianti Classico Riserva 2014 is expressly reductive with layers of beautiful fruit laid comfortable and resting below. The glycerin texture and fine, fine tannins tell us the life of this CCR will be long, slow developed and over time will become more beautiful than imagined. Benvenuto to the blessed nature of Macigno terroir exorcized properly, in allowance of place to hold court and fruit to slowly dance upon its stage, rhythmically and harmoniously together. This takes every advantage of a vintage that will build structure if you let it. Wait for Volpaia’s ’14 because two plus years from now the florality will floor you. So pretty. Drink 2019-2026.  Tasted September 2017

Before #bistecafiorentina #enotecanuvolari

Castelvecchi Chianti Classico Capotondo 2014, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

I had tasted both Capotondo ’14 and ’15 earlier in the week at Enoteca Nuvolari (Pietrafitta) though took no formal notes at the time. It was clear by way of perspective that ’15 was certainly drinking well but this ’14 holds more impressive and precise structure, at least by way of intensity. This is highly distinctive, chewy, somewhat chunky sangiovese, but the firm constitution and decidedly ferric edginess brings Radda soil into play. The “round head” tells us that it can be nothing but Chianti Classico in all its history and its glory. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted September 2017  cantinacastelvecchi    @chianticastelvecchi.it

Castelvecchi Chianti Classico Riserva Lodolaio 2014, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

Riserva Lodolaio 2014 is not only scented by a curious perfume but a bit of a nutty one, connected to sweetness by oak in an immediate gratification, prompt to the consumer kind of way. This old castle, heritage vines sangiovese from high territory altitude is a veritable legume and spice spider, with legs of clove, cinnamon, nutmeg, anise, vanilla, coffee, dried herbs and dark chocolate. Here in the short term is an example of Chianti Classico Riserva ready for many a believer and quick to act appreciative imbibers. Lodolaio, the Riserva awarded, in a frame. Drink 2017-2020. Tasted September 2017

After #bistecafiorentina #enotecanuvolari

Colle Bereto Chianti Classico 2015, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $31.95, WineAlign)

From Radda in Chianti and one of Chianti Classico’s great young, forward thinking winemakers Bernardo Bianchi the wisdom is easily noted, deduced, accepted, considered and abided. Red fruit with an earth’s dusty, cracked crust allows for smells like fresh tiles and the just mixed mortar but that fruit is aching to burst forth. Very seamless for a young Chianti Classico, so this building will stand strong and last through the centuries, which in wine years equates to seven, maybe ten. Terrific sweet acidity, life-affriming sapidity and vitality. As good as young CC gets with the longest, pitch perfect tang in elongation, drift and persistence. Drink 2018-2025.  Tasted February and September 2017   @NokhrinWines  Azienda Agricola Colle Bereto  Azienda Agricola Colle Bereto

Colle Bereto Chianti Classico Gran Selezione 2013, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $67.50, WineAlign)

The current incarnation of the single-vineyard Gran Selezione from “la vigna del Convento” is a wildly rich and structured, intuitive and interpretive expression. The vineyard resides in a great Radda amphitheatre, situated on the slope beneath Il Convento di Radda in Chianti. Winemaker Bernardo Bianchi does nothing to veer away from the house-composed, let the vineyard speak style, from a sun-worshipping, ambitious yet wise, 22 year-old Galestro soil block at a high Chianti Classico 500m peak. All together making for the new super Riserva of restrained power and elegance. If the aromatics in 2011 were of a wow factor they are somehow, magically and inexplicably improved upon in 2013. The field of flowering greens, the deep way you inhale the fruit and above all else, the mineral of this Galestro. It pervades and attacks, especially on the palate but when you taste sangiovese like this you understand the disconnected exaggerations, over-stressed acidity and the (comparative) imbalance in some of the GS peers. Bereto’s is one of the finest Gran Selezione and worthy of every charged sip. Drink 2020-2035.  Tasted February and September 2017

Istine Chianti Classico 2015, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

Istine Chianti Classico is made by Angela Fronti out of vineyards set quite high between 480 and 550m, on the road that runs from Radda to Castellina in Chianti. From a great variegation of soils; Alberese, marly limestone, Galestro and some light presence of quartz. A rich red limestone ruby sangiovese is the result, collecting to a mild but notable unctuous liqueur, manageable acidity and tannin. This sharp and correct CC is lovely, well made, so proper. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted September 2017  istine_raddainchianti    @istineraddainchianti

Istine Chianti Classico Riserva Levigne 2013, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

Levigne is considered the top wine of the estate and it is one of two assemblage-forged sangiovese. Angela Fronti produces three single-vineyard Chianti Classico, a CC that combines all three vineyards and this Riserva. Since the 2012 harvest Fronti has opted for separate vinifications of sangiovese according to each vineyard of origin. Through different wines the characteristics of each specific vineyard, as in exposure, soil and altitude, are exploited. Fronti notes “we tell our reality through the best sangiovese harvested in the Vigna Istine (between Radda and Castellina), the one collected in the Vigna Casanova dell’Aia (near Radda) and the one in the Vigna Cavarchione (in Vertine, Gaiole). Riserva is a story of assemblage and it seems to me, not the wine of Angela’s greatest passion. This CCR is chosen from her best fruit and spent 18 months in large botti. The fruit is raisin chewy and a bit stewed to be sure but with good acidity and tart, tight tannins to keep the faith. It’s disjointed and I would bet the single-vineyard CCs are more precise and focused. Should SV Riservas be the wave of Istine’s future? Only Fronti can answer that question, if adding more diversity to the portfolio is even a possibility. All that said this high quality blend will turn and morph for a more than interesting secondary CCR display of personality. Drink 2017-2022.  Tasted September 2017

Podere Terreno Chianti Classico 2015, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

In 2015 Podere Terreno Chianti Classico makes a bit of a funky entry, not reductive but seemingly drawn from a lower slope, deep and earthy. In this vintage it wells deep as an inhalant of cherries, macerated and yet it’s entirely Radda, cool and wet, stony and such a calcari expression. You can enjoy this beginning in six months simultaneously alongside the tougher ’14, but their worlds will parallel one another for the rest of the journey. In both cases Radda represents. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted September 2017  agriturismo_podereterreno  @podereterrenoallaviadellavolpaia

Poggerino Chianti Classico 2014, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (SAQ 878777, $25.95, WineAlign)

The vines date back to 2004 and 1994 for Poggerino’s Chianti Classico, a 100 per cent sangiovese that sits at a zenith where the most red limestone earth and sour intensity is noted above all 14s almost anywhere, not just from Radda but for all of the territory. Almost over the top in this regard but stand up and counted is what this amounts to. Then it grooves forward and rebounds with warmth and depth before returning to that earthy calacari bonding. Gathers itself, the moving parts and glides along with solid length. Very interesting, honest, organic and naturally curated work from Piero Lanza. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted September 2017  fattoriapoggerino  vins.balthazard    @vinsbalthazard  @poggerino  @VinsBalthazard

Poggerino Chianti Classico Riserva Bugialla 2014, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $45.00, WineAlign)

Here the ’13 vintage is really expressed for Chianti Classico in Radda with deep red cherry fruit, earth and real saline intensity. The tannins are a bit rough and tumbling but even in their coarseness there is charm and even beauty. In such a state of youth at this the deceitful Poggerino Riserva talks some trash, almost as if to lie (alla bugia) about what it’s worth, so let it settle, integrate, develop and expand. The chew and the grip will be replaced by something other. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted September 2017

Pruneto Chianti Classico 2013, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

Pruneto is the sole ’13 in the group tasting and the only one with Radda celebrated in larger font on the label. This is the outlier, from the singular winemaker (Riccardo Lanza) and was just recently bottled. The organics and organoleptic, earthy intensity are something to behold. It’s a stripped down ’13, Radda stye, needing time to unfurl and even bloom. This is hard to figure Chianti Classico 2013 but I suspect it will blossom after a few years time. Nothing else in Radda tastes like this. From the tiny, 3.5 hectare estate divided into just two vineyards, surrounded by forest. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted September 2017  #Pruneto

Val Delle Corti Chianti Classico 2015, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

Roberto Bianchi’s 2015 is a reserved and restrained aromatic Chianti Classico but there is a subliminal Galestro or Macigno message being delivered here and it would seem to be a grey to darker calcareous rock expression. The fruit is quiet but felt plummy and tart on the palate. This is a bit older schooled but surely carries great presence and length. A rich thorough finish concludes that ride through the mineral life. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted September 2017  valdellecorti  @ValdelleCorti  @valdellecorti

Val Delle Corti Chianti Classico Riserva 2014, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

From Roberto Bianchi, the Val delle Corti Chianti Classico Riserva 2014 comes from not just a challenging but also a complicated vintage. Despite the rains and the unusually cool temperatures the aromatics here are not just a pure distinction for CCR but also for Radda. This is because it eschews concentration, alcoholic heat and unnecessary intensity for purity, honesty and delicasse. Here sangiovese acts in a wine that stands on its own as the finest expression of fruit from this estate. It’s both pretty and earthy, peppery and really deep, really deep. This has layers and layers of trace mineral drawn up into the red cherry mixed with some dried fruit bright and vibrant of the bones of the Riserva level wine. It can’t be thought of as anything but most excellent. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted September 2017

Vignavecchia Riserva Chianti Classico Odoardo Beccari 2011, Docg Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $33.95, WineAlign)

A consistent and terrific follow-up to 2010 from old vines in Radda in Chianti, this is warm and creeping north (or south depending on your explanatory orientation) from deep, religious aromatics. Fresh slices of fennel bulb and wet concrete are rich, wet, juicy and vaporous. Sweet acidity and tannin join spicy red fruit from what is ostensibly the most unctuous and deeply tangy sangiovese you are likely to ever taste. This is quite something else, both hedonistically indulgent and propitiously wild and engaging. You had better like it hot and bothered, fleshy, gregarious and sexy. This really has it all. Drink 2017-2024.  Tasted February and September 2017  #vignavecchia    @VignaVecchia

Gallo Nero Sangiovese Vendemmia 2017

Good to go!

Godello

Twitter: @mgodello

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WineAlign

Seventeen mind-blowing wines of 2017

No, wines do not have to be old to blow your mind but there is just something so mysterious, magical and hypnotizing about the experience of age in preservation. When we use the cliché “tasting history” it distracts from what is most poignant about tasting older wines. It’s the humbling and how wisdom, acumen and meteorological circumstance conspire to take us away from our troubles, to forget about life for a while and to realize that forces greater than us are truly in charge.

There are also young wines so precocious and wise beyond their years that they somehow intuit the future. These too can blow our minds, addle us as if lovestruck and disoriented so that only this confluence of smell, taste, texture and structure are what we know. It takes all kinds to populate a list that separates greatness from the rest, but that does not means only 17 wines were tasted to be extraordinary in 2017.  It means that some struck a vein while others grazed on the skin. Most important is that all were experienced because someone chose to share them. Thank you to the producers and the benefactors for bringing these bottles to light.

Related – 16 mind-blowing wines of 2016

Honourable Mentions

Château Haut-Brion 1986, Saffredi 2004, Brokenwood Sémillon 2007, Domaine Gros Frères Clos Voguent Musigni 2013, M. Lapierre Morgon 2010, Domaine G. Roumier Bonnes-Mares Grand Cru 1996, Domaine Jamet Côte-Rôtie 2006, Coppo Barbera d’Asti Nizza Riserva della Famiglia 2009, Le Fraghe Bardolino 2015, Sordo Barolo Riserva Gabutti 2006, Carobbio Chianti Classico 1990, J & J Eger Kékfrankos 2006, Château Léoville Las Cases 2001, François Cotat Chavignol Sancerre Rosé 2009, Domaine La Vieux Télégraphe Châteauneuf du Pâpe La Crau 2005, D’Arie Syrah 2012, Julia Bertram Handwerk Spätburgunder 2015, Planeta Carricante Eruzione 1614 2015, Dominus 1994, Château Lafite Rothschild 1998 and Esmonin Gevrey-Chambertin Clos Saint-Jacques 1993.

Several times a years I gather with groups of like-minded, wine-spirited folks, to break bread and to pop established icons, singular archetypes, varietal rarities and supernumerary misfits. Many of the wines on this 2017 list are a result of having been fortunate enough to be included in repeated repasts with pirates on picnics and doctors at dinner.  Most of the rest are travel related, in fact this year alone I tasted approximately 700 sangiovese, 200 barbera, 200 corvina and 100 nebbiolo. So many more of those praiseworthy reds and rosés deserved spots on this docket but alas, the list is short. I do not fulminate them, nor you neither. Here are Godello’s 17 mind-blowing wines of 2017.

It began like this and I got 15 dollars hid above the stove.

Möet & Chandon Dom Pérignon Vintage Brut Champagne 1990, Champagne, France (280461, AgentWineAlign)

Tasted blind the hue immediately leads the mind in one of two directions; hot vintage or decades of age. I’m tempted to consider a combination of the two, so the decision is warm vintage and a minimum of twenty years age. Further introspection takes me back to 1990 and when the reveal confirms this and in the abide of Dom Pérignon it means one thing. Start the process of thinking again. This wine has done its work, having accumulated a diverse set of developmental traits and processed them so that the language it now speaks is clear and pure. At 27 years of age it’s delicate, smooth, soft-spoken and settled. The finest golden toast (again in hue and more importantly in aroma) glows into the creamy texture, like preserved lemon transformed into gelid curd. The mouthfeel is exceptional with baking bread rising, puffy and satiny glazed across the palate. The seamlessness of this Champagne seeks, solicits and makes rendezvous with no peer or challenger its equivalent, not should any comparison be made. Kudos to a wine that stands on its own and makes you feel this good. It will continue to do so up to and perhaps beyond its 40th birthday. Drink 2017-2030.  Tasted March 2017  moetchandon  @chartonhobbs  @MoetUSA  @ChartonHobbs  @Champagne  Moët & Chandon  Charton Hobbs Canada  Champagne

Famille Picard Saint Aubin Premier Cru Le Charmois 2014, AOC Bourgogne (522078, $57.95, WineAlign)

This is a chardonnay to place the village of Saint Aubin in a remarkable light if only because it’s the most stony, flinty and tightly wound example just about ever. The Charmois is the elevator that carries the appellation into a purity of climat for Bourgogne Premier Cru. In this case terroir delivers the idea of Climat but it is the interaction of the maker that defines the notion simply because there is no mess and no fuss. It just feels like drinking straight from a bleed of the calcareous land, as might happen in a limestone goblet filled with Montrachet. You have no idea how good a deal this is from the most excellent 2014 vintage. Drink 2019-2028.  Tasted October 2017  domainesfamillepicard  profilewinegroup  #bourgognewines #FamillePicard  @ProfileWineGrp  @BourgogneWines  Domaines Famille Picard  Profile Wine Group  Bourgogne Wines

Domaine Bouchard Père & Fils Chevalier Montrachet Grand Cru 2015, AOC Bourgogne (Agent, $480.00 WineAlign)

Chevalier-Montrachet is a matter of aromatics, of the finest of the finest, preserved, reserved, impressionable and of quietly powerful impression. The deistic and the parrhesiastic are reached in this Grand Cru, “one who speaks the truth to power.” Elysium in chardonnay is captured for the perfectly ripe orchard and crushed stones. The young palate is almost severe but takes its first steps down the most ethereal path, with the finest drawn lines and rendered streaks of energy lit, sparked and smouldering. This is Bourgogne of intrinsic value, slowly rising to a crescendo where a flame flickers but within the sheltered lamp of a hurricane. How is such harnessed power even possible? Only like this, in Chevalier-Montrachet . Drink 2021-2037.  Tasted April 2017  bouchardpereetfils  woodmanws  vinsdebourgogne  @BouchardPere  @WoodmanWS  @VinsdeBourgogne  Bouchard Père & Fils  Woodman Wines & Spirits  Vins de Bourgogne / Burgundy wines

Domaine Sigalas Kavalieros 2015, Santorini, Greece (SAQ 11814421WineAlign)

I’ve not yet tasted the Kavalieros 2014, so this single-vineyard, 18 months on lees done in stainless steel Kavalieros 2015 made by “Mr. George” is the benchmark for Santorini, assrytiko and salty white wines everywhere. The first release was 2009. Straight up and turning the world on its head, like the old man on the label and upside down against Apollo’s Aegean Cyclades. This ’15 richer still, more than the seven villages wines and a hyperbole as compared to the entry-level assyrtiko, of deeper mineral, compressed, layered and fantastic. Crushed rocks permeate in aggregate, it’s quixotically saline and textured, of intense presence and finally, structured. For 15 years at least. A late shot of natural Santorini tonic swirls in centrifuge with assyrtiko so wound up. This will need 10 years to unwind and allow for cracks to form in the mineral shell, followed by the birth of its fruit. It should never be forgotten that assyrtiko can and will show fruit but with Kavalieros you’ll have to be patient. Drink 2020-2031.  Tasted March 2017  @DomaineSigalas  @MajesticWineInc  winesofgreece  domainesigalas  @MajesticWineInc  @DrinkGreekWine  @DomaineSigalas  Panayiota Kalogeropoulou  Wines of Greece

Penfolds Grange 2011, South Australia (356121, $750.00, WineAlign)

There is just something about cool, rainy and irreconcilably regarded vintages that brings out the best in wines made by winemakers of elite acumen. Deliver your best from the greatest of harvests but also “give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free. The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.” Leave the middle of the road to someone else. This Grange faced adversity and won. The yields and output may only be 50 per cent of normal but what gives is the silky texture of Grand Cru Bourgogne. This chosen one of singular vision to represent the multi-tiered and faceted Penfolds Estate tells us about the world inhabited by the instinctual and the ethereal. It combines tannin, structure and aesthetic deeply engrossed in the shadow of its own looming destruction, but is designed from the first with an eye to its later existence as a ruin, forever preserved. If a perfect plum and a magical olive were crossed they would welcome this collective spice of no equal. The quality of bite and chew lead to rumination and the savour rests on a chart clearly defined but in high contrast and only to itself. An analgeisc meets hypnotic cooling is mentholated though if not specific in origin it is only and highly natural. Legendary vintage? Why not. This calm, cool and collected 2011 may just outlast some of the more recently considered top vintages of ’06, ’08 and ’10. Drink 2019-2035.  Tasted May 2017  penfolds  markanthonyon  wineaustralia  @penfolds  @MarkAnthonyWine  @Wine_Australia  Penfolds  @MarkAnthonyWine  Wine Australia

A deep #eredichiappone vertical delve with Daniele for perspective and a release of endorphins @ilNizza possibilities #progrettovini #collisionimonferrato

Erede Di Chiappone Armando Barbera D’asti Superiore Nizza DOC RU 2006, Piedmont, Italy (WineAlign)

RU by Daniele Chiappone is this, at first something altogether inexplicable but when tasted alongside his 2005, 2010 and 2011 it makes such perfect sense. Sense in where this fits in his evolution and to speak on behalf of the age-worthy ability of Nizza barbera. In a world where barbera perfume so often performs with perfunctory brevity this goes on and on. It is a unique combination of fennel frond, incense, hibiscus and violet to create an intoxicant and an anaesthetic. Yet another exceptional vintage is revealed, traditional and so alive, spun from earth crusting over cherry and then this smooth leather. The portal backwards 10 years allows for looks forward 10 more, especially into what’s coming from 2015 and 2016. To say the match with a prodigiously spiced in aromatic ragu over linguine was agreeable would be the understatement of the Monferrato century. Perfectly timed acidity seals the deal. This is barbera folks, of wit, age and history. Drink 2017-2021.  Tasted July 2017  erededi  ilnizza  @erededi  @ilNizza  Erede Di Chiappone Armando  IlNizza

Robert Mondavi Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon To Kalon Vineyard 1999, Napa Valley, California (WineAlign)

This from a time when Mondavi labeled the reserve cabernet sauvignon as “To Kalon Vineyard,” a moniker of essential meaning that would return 14 years later on the 2013 bottle. If this were what Mark de Vere referred to as “a confusing moment in history” I could not say but “this strange bottling” provided an unequivocal and seminal turning point in this wine’s storied past, present and future. It was in fact a small, special cuvée, a little bit different than the ’99 Reserve. “The coolest vintage on record, until it wasn’t,” because of a warm period at the end of summer and early fall that ushered forth a certain, singular sort of ripeness. Regardless of memories, characterizations and twists of fate, this single-vineyard cabernet is as finessed, focused and precise as any Mondavi Reserve. It persists chalky, fine and gritty in tannin running amok, dragging the acidity forward and around. The workout is something to behold, a dispatch of late Napa fashion and never more successful than right here. The dépêche mode of To Kalon is by now famous but culminated with this ’99 for everything to follow, with consistency and a guarantee of modern quality. Listen to it croon “try walking in my shoes.” Many have and many continue to pay homage to this Napa Valley originator and pioneer. It’s a cabernet sauvignon of faith and devotion. Drink 2017-2029.  Tasted May 2017  robertmondavi  @RobertMondavi  Robert Mondavi Winery

Quilceda Creek Cabernet Sauvignon 2003, Columbia Valley, Washington (Agent, WineAlign)

A truly remarkable nose, notably violets and peregrine species of spices. There is so much perfume and beauty, an Aishwarya Rai Bachchan nose and then there is the fruit. Blackberry, Cassis then into vanilla, scented happiness like ruby red grapefruit and bergamot. If it should have aged I can’t say but it’s still a voluminous and voluptuous thing to sip. It blinds like first Growth Bordeaux with its perfect extraction. Thoughts keep at it, to blueberries, cigar box and Kirsch. The tannins are sweet and gritty, not fully resolved and imagine Margaux. You could consider taking out a mortgage on yours and your neighbour’s house for this one. It was one of many great reds tonight but I’ve just tasted this. And I wept. Drink 2017-2024.  Tasted March 2017  @QuilCreekWinery  @thevineagency  winesofwashington  wa_state_wine  @QuilCreekWinery  @TheVine_RobGroh  Quilceda Creek Vintners  @WINESofWA  The Vine – Robert Groh Agency  Washington State Wine

A great honour to taste this 1995 #carobbio #leone and in memory of #carlonovarese Thank you Dario and Silvia. Would like the chance to do it again in 22 years #toscana #sangiovese

Tenuta Carobbio Leone 1995, IGT Toscana, Italy (WineAlign)

Leone 1995 was made under the auspices of the Vittorio Fiore-Gabriella Tani oenology stylistic for Carlo Novarese. To say that this single-vineyard sangiovese is youthful would be the biggest IGT understatement of the century. From vines that at the time were 25 years-old, Leone is not just a survivor of a universally-declared incredible vintage, it is a singular expression from 1990’s Tuscany, in Chianti Classico and for Panzano. The violets, dried espresso and plum-amaretti semifreddo (savoury, not sweet) mixes with fennel frond, fresh rosemary and the 20-plus years lingering Carobbio tobacco. The acidity is fully intact, still travelling up and down the sides of the tongue, repeatedly and soliciting so much savour, sapidity, a desire for a mouthful of hematic, rare sear of Claudia’s beef filet and then more and more sipping. After 20 minutes the aromatics deliver a raspberry purée and even a black olive and mineral-saline, short of briny caper into the fray by stroke of some aromatic brush and bush in the light afternoon wind. That’s enough. I’m not sure my heart can take any more. Time for Vin Santo. Drink 2017-2029.  Tasted February 2017  carobbio_wine  chianticlassico  @Tenuta_Carobbio  @chianticlassico  Tenuta Carobbio  Chianti Classico

In @chianticlassico mano nella mano 1986, @fontodi #vignadelsorbo & #flaccianello thank you Giovanni Manetti for sharing these two opposing forces of the Tuscan paradox #chianticlassico

Fontodi Flaccianello della Pieve 1986, Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

Flaccianello in 1986 is actually though not surprisingly so different from Vigna del Sorbo, more than any other reason because of the cabernet sauvignon, but in a more philosophical way, because they have built a paradox, from the Super Tuscan ideal in revolution. Now the sangiovese going forward will be the most important and also the best wine, like looking back at this 1986, OK, not better than Sorbo but purer, honest, a clearer picture from which to learn from and ultimately a model for the future. Beautiful power, restraint, structure and yes, the kind of wine that deserves to be praised with the term elegance, overused, or not. Perfectly rustic, earthy and full of fruit with its accompanying complimentary, enervating and necessary acidity. Drink 2017-2023.  Tasted September 2017  Fontodi  chianticlassico    @chianticlassico  Chianti Classico  Az. Agr. Fontodi

Cortonesi La Mannella Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva 2010, Docg Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $202.95, WineAlign)

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  marcora85  nicholaspearcewines  brunellodimontalcino  @LaMannella  @Nicholaspearce_  @ConsBrunello  Tommaso Cortonesi  Nicholas Pearce  Consorzio del Vino Brunello di Montalcino

Maison Roche De Bellene “Collection Bellenum” Grand Cru Clos De La Roche 1998, AOC Bourgogne, France (Agent, $364.95, WineAlign)

Clos de La Roche 1998 may be 19 years old but you have to swirl the britches out of this Grand Cru because reduction persists in its make-up. Once you work your way over the wall a field of wildflowers and a roses bouquet lays out as far as the nose can mind’s eye. This is pure candy in its most arid, blessed and gout de terroir way. It is as charming as Burgundy can be and yet so fine of tannin, tight and duplicitously-grained in clone upon itself. One of those wines so difficult to put to words because it teaches and you can do nothing but listen. I’d still want to wait two more years, maybe more, before knowing I’ve waited long enough. Close de la Roche speaks to me but to answer with any real credibility and respect I will need to think some more. Drink 2019-2035.  Tasted February 2017  domaine_de_bellene  nicholaspearcewines  vinsdebourgogne  @RochedeBellene  @Nicholaspearce_  @VinsdeBourgogne  Bellene  Nicholas Pearce  Vins de Bourgogne / Burgundy wines

Not just #meerlust more like major lust. Thank you for the sexy time travel @meerlustwine Laurel Keenan and The South African Wine Society.

Meerlust Rubicon 1984, Wo Stellenbosch, South Africa (WineAlign)

Meerlust dates back to 1693, the house that is “love or pleasure of the sea.” Less than five kms south from the Atlantic Ocean, the property was purchased in 1756 and to this day remains family owned, now in its eighth generation with 260 years of continuity. Rubicon 1984 is poured (with brilliant decision making) from magnum and is therefore fresher than the 1996 with an incredibly controlled level of fineness in tannin, from acidity and at the threshold of understood volatility. “Perhaps one did not want to be loved so much as to be understood,” like this early Rubicon. The future of Meerlust is foretold with Orwellian transparency, bold honesty and expert ability. “Who controls the past controls the future.” Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted September 2017  meerlustwine  wosa_za  wosa_ca  liffordgram  @MeerlustWine  @LiffordON  @WOSA_ZA  @WOSACanada  MEERLUST ESTATE  Lifford Wine and Spirits  Wines of South Africa

Boscarelli Vino Nobile Di Montepulciano Riserva 1982, Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

The Boscarelli acts like a much younger Nobile, from an exceptional vintage and a producer way ahead of its time. The key is to decide which side of the evolutionary fence we’re on, closer to that 1967 from Contucci or to what is happening today. This may actually be the turning point for Vino Nobile because it really has one foot entrenched in each world. Very much in the mushroom and truffle aromatic atmosphere, where sangiovese should feel free and comfortable to travel in the twilight of its golden years. This is beautiful, with some dark fruit persisting and acidity still in charge. You can imagine the old tannins but they no longer make any demands. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted at Anteprima del Vino Nobile di Montepulciano 2017, February 2017  #PoderiBoscarelli  lucadeferrarildf  artisanal_wine_imports  consorzionobile  #poderiboscarelli  Nicolò De Ferrari   Luca De Ferrari  @artisanalwineimports

Antichi Poderi Dei Marchesi Di Barolo Gia’ Opera Pia Barolo 1958, Piedmont, Italy (WineAlign)

Poured by Ernesto Abbona on his wife Anna’s birthday, a ’58 at the ripe old age of 58 (though it will turn 59 later this year). Simply, in the words of the Abbona family, “a special evening, special friends, special vintage,” with a cork that looks as good as new, though Ernesto takes great time and care in its extraction. The aromas are blessed of a collective umami but would better be served by a new descriptor because they are antediluvian and impossibly preserved. Forget mushrooms and truffles. These scents are brand new, with no truly identifiable frame of reference, as if plucked from some guise of Eden where never before tasted dark berries fall effortlessly into the hand off of gariga savoury-scented bushes, brambly and crawling intertwined with nasturtium on a composting forest floor. The 1958 was and still is a nebbiolo of struttura, of a fibra morale that tells a story of consistency and longevity. With air it became more complex if deeper and turbido. That this magical nebbiolo from another era hovered in the lasting air of a 30 minute long ethereal says that you could open a few more but perhaps not much beyond its 60th birthday. Drink 2017-2018.  Tasted July 2017  marchesibarolo  majesticwinesinc  @MarchesiBarolo  @MajesticWineInc  @marchesibarolo  Majestic Wine Cellars

The mythology of #thorle #riesling in Beerenauslese and Trockenbetenauslese #weingutthörle #gabsheim #rheinhessen #holle

Thörle Riesling Trockenbeerenauslese Hölle 2011, Rheinhessen, Germany (WineAlign)

The Hölle TBA 2011 is a minuscule 180 bottle single-vineyard production and the vintage was simply perfect for the effort. The process involved the collection of a few berries at a time over the course of three weeks, started in the fridge and was then pressed when the amount of approximately 100L could be obtained. “This is the king’s discipline for creating such a riesling” explains Christoph Thörle. Thick like honey, full of unctuousness and viscosity. It is expressly noticed how the colour and the development have not advanced considering the six year mean. The exoticism is what separates this, with fruits far east, creamy and perfectly easy to assimilate, in flavour, consistency and understanding. Sweet herbology, of thai basil and thyme and candied mandarin rind. Here, a piece of history and legacy from Christoph and Johannes. Drink 2021-2041.  Tasted March 2017  thorle_c  thorleestatewinery  univinscanada  @thoerle  @UNIVINS  @germanwineca  @gen_riesling

Will be a top ’17 from 2017 #louisguntrum #1976 @weininstitut #rieslingauslese #niersteiner #heiligen #nierstein #niersteinamrhein #roterhang

Weingut Louis Guntrum Riesling Auslese Niersteiner Heilibengaum 1976, Rheinhessen, Germany (WineAlign)

“Roter Hang is a geological statement” says Louis Konstantin Guntrum. If you want to hang around and try to understand its red soils and friable limestone fettle it requires a focused state of mind. Guntrum introduces this 1976 by saying “it’s a young guy, 40 years old,” the same thing he could have said years ago about a 1917 Roter Hang Riesling. The comparative studies is a matter of perspective, a theory of relativity, in reduction, colour, drama, florality and fabulousness. While certain vintages and specific wines will blow you away more than others there is something to be said about older just being more interesting, whether 1917, 1976 or whatever back vintage you want to try your luck with. It’s simply remarkable and crazy how sugar and acidity can preserve riesling like this, especially and/or truly withstanding the Roter Hang. The honey and candied orange blossom are so prevalent but it almost seems dry (relatively speaking) even though 100 grams or more of sugar have driven this wine. Beauty from bitter phenols blend with lanolin, paraffin, ginger and ginseng. Keep returning for 15 more years. Drink 2017-2031.  Tasted March 2017  #louisguntrum  @weininstitut  wines_of_germany  @LouisGuntrum  @WinesofGermany  Weingut Louis Guntrum  German Wine Institute i.e. Wines of Germany

\

Good to go!

Godello

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

WineAlign

 

Barbera d’Asti Del Monferrato E Nizza Monferrato

This report first appeared on WineAlign. Here it is expanded to include all the wines reviewed in July of 2017; 27 Barbera d’Asti and 44 Barbera d’Asti Nizza from 29 producers.

  • Consorzio Barbera d’Asti E Vini Del Monferrato
  • Cascina Gilli Di Vergnano Giovanni
  • Cascina Galarin
  • Bersano
  • Pico Maccario
  • Azienda Agricola Ivaldi Dario
  • Az. Agr. Garrone Evasio & Figlio
  • Michele Chiarlo
  • Castello Di Gabiano Marchesi Cattaneo Adorno Giustiniani Srl
  • Rovero
  • Coppo
  • Tenuta Il Falchetto
  • Az. Agr. Franco Roero
  • Viticoltori Associati Vinchio e Vaglio Serra
  • Marchesi Incisa Della Rocchetta
  • Marco Bonfante
  • Erede Di Chiappone
  • Gozzelino
  • Moretti Adimari
  • Berta Paolo
  • Borgo Isolabella Delle Croce
  • Il Botolo
  • Cascina Garitina
  • Villa Giada
  • Bava
  • La Gironda
  • Tenuta Olim Bauda
  • Cantina Tre Secoli
  • L’Armangia

Back in July of 2017 I hopped aboard the Collisioni Progetto Vino train in advance of four seminar-saturated days in Barolo, to immerse myself in everything the great red hope known as barbera holds in the territory of Monferrato. Here in Ontario we possess a pretty good idea about the nature and the competency of Barbera d’Alba, mainly because of its association with the Piemontese region’s more famous grape variety nebbiolo in production of the noble and regal Barolo and Barbaresco wines. The successes enjoyed by Barbera d’Alba are ensured, not solely because of but certainly by its proximate association. But what about Barbera d’Asti?

Collisioni Festival’s Ian D’Agata recently stated “it is undoubtedly in Piedmont where the grape performs best. To put barbera’s popularity in perspective, consider that 33 per cent of Piedmont’s 45,000 hectares under vine are planted to barbera.” Try throwing this statistic in the face of Monferrato, Nizza Monferrato and so many other Asti barbera growers. So the question begs as to why so many DOC’s exist is such a close proximate place? The answer is quite simple. I am “insert commune name here” and I am this DOC, around my village, with my own very special terroir. Yours may only be five kilometres away from me but I am special and my land and grapes are not like yours. It must be noted that in Piemonte there are as many native grapes then there are in all of France. This is the second and more important reason nearly 50, or almost 10 per cent of all registered Italian grapes are found in Piemonte.

The Barbera DOCGs via somesmartsomm.com

The consortium for Barbera d’Asti and Monferrato wines was founded in 1946 with distinctive labelling and while only seven members were originally on board, today more than 200 band together for the good of the grape and especially the agricultural practices of the territory. I will touch on other Piemontese denominations such as Ruchè di Castagnole Monferrato, Freisa d’Asti and Grignolino d’Asti in a follow-up report but now is the time to discuss, analyze and celebrate all things Barbera d’Asti E Vini Monferrato.

Barbera d’Asti is a DOCG with upwards of 3,900 hectares under vine with nearly 2,500 producers, 30 of which are cooperatives. The wines can be fresh reds made in stainless steel or receive some oak aging while the bigger Barbera d’Asti Superiore, made from selected grapes are required by DOCG law to be aged for at least six months in wood. Both the Barbera d’asti Superiore and Barbera del Monferrato Superiore DOCGs were awarded in 2008, both have maximum yield allowances of nine tonnes per hectare but Monferrato’s minimum alcohol requirement is a half a point higher at 13 per cent by volume. The Vigna (single-vineyard) Monferrato yields are lower, at eight tonnes per hectare. Aging for both is 14 months from November 1st the year after harvest. In Monferrato 85 per cent must be barbera with the remainder allowing dolcetto, grigolino and freisa while Barbera d’Asti Superiore requires 90 per cent barbera.

Barbera vineyards in Costigiole d’Asti

The rich limestone, clay and calcium hills of the Nizza wine zone is one of three Barbera d’Asti sub-zones (that also include Tinella and Colli Astigiani). Nizza’s terroir is a result of marine sediment and with proof supplied by a walk-around tasting and dinner during which wines dating back to 2001 were poured, it is indeed the zone where the most ageworthy and arguably the best barbera d’Asti is made. In 2014 the DOCG was created and the artist formerly known as “Barbera d’Asti Superiore Nizza” has now been abbreviated to simply, Nizza. Like Prince. Power and balance are married in Nizza and many perform well past the 10 year mark after vintage. Wines from Nizza must be 100 per cent barbera, the yields are capped at seven tonnes per hectare and the age requirement is 18 months (six in oak) from January 1st the year after harvest. Reserva is 30 months (12 in oak) and Vigna (single-vineyard) releases must have yields no higher than 6.3 with a minimum of 13.5 per cent alcohol.  The first Nizza DOCG wines were released in July of 2016.

Still today the barbera wines of Monferrato and Nizza are virtually ignored worldwide. Many consumers simply think of the name Asti and sweet sparkling wines come to mind. Many others know not of Asti and still countless more associate the grape with Alba. The Consorzio Barbera d’Asti e Vini del Monferrato is working tirelessly to change public perception, first with its proud public speaking president Filippo Mobrici, by enlisting the association with the Collisioni Festival and through the work of ambassadors like Michele Longo. The Collisioni Progetto Vino brings groups of journalists and sommeliers from around the globe to taste, educate and indulge in the multiplicity of barbera.

A compassionate barbera d’asti sky in the dimmet of a piemonte evening.

The following tasting notes of Barbera d’Asti and Nizza wines were executed in the consorzio headquarters in Costigiole and at the Enoteca Regionale di Nizza in July of 2017. The first tasting focused on Barbera d’Asti and Barbera d’Asti Superiore from the 2014, 2015 and 2016 vintages with the emphasis placed on four sub-zones and their differing soils. The second (walk-around) tasting allowed producers to pour at their whimsy so this included portfolios with varietal wines such as grignolino and freisa. The gathering of the Associazione Produttori del Nizza focused beautifully on a comparison of only wines from the 2014 vintage, by way of introduction, followed by two brilliant tastings in which verticals of their wines were offered, first at a (way too fast) high-speed walkabout and then later during a (beautifully slow) dinner at Locanda Del Boscogrande. My full report covers more than 75 reviews of Monferrato barbera from both the Asti and Nizza categories.

Barbera d’Asti DOCG

Consorzio Barbera d’Asti E Vini Del Monferrato Barbera d’Asti DOCG 2015, Piedmont, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

Every year one wine is chosen through a series of blind tastings from a selection of producers, to be bottled and labeled under the “taken as a while” entity Consorzio Barbera D’asti E Vini Del Monferrato Barbera D’asti. Only the producer and the President (Filippo Mobrici) know who’s wine is chosen, along with wink, wink, everyone else. This 2015 is quite the firm and brambly barbera, as it should be, with an omnipresent blanketing European vintage depth of character, from warmth, quality, quantity and length. This is typically barbera pressed, full on for fruit, specific to a Monferrato territorial claim and nary a moment of intrusive tannin. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted July 2017  barberadasti  @barberadasti  @barberadasti

Cascina Gilli Di Vergnano Giovanni Barbera d’Asti DOCG Le More 2016, Piedmont, Italy (Agent, WineAlign)

From the silty marl of Monferrato in Castelnuovo Don Bosco, here the traditionally rustic is acquiesced. Of dark berry, dusty, mulberry, a rich mid-palate, leathery, textured, solid if not profound structure. Only stainless steel and possessive of appropriate length. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted July 2017  cascinagilli  @cascinagilli  @cascinagilli

Cascina Galarin Barbera d’Asti DOCG Le Querce 2016, Piedmont, Italy (Agent, WineAlign)

Out of the silty marl comes this stainless raised barbera, of such a similar profile to Le More, less floral and also less obvious fruity berry. Made with five per cent freisa, here there is more caramel and dried plum, also more VA and a bit of residual CO2. The bitter finish blend into acidity so very tart. Drink 2017-2018.  Tasted July 2017  #cascinagalarin  Cascina Galarin

Bersano Barbera d’Asti DOCG Costalunga 2015, Piedmont, Italy (Agent, 348680, $13.75, WineAlign)

Bersano’s, like so many of its peers making barbera in and around Monferrato comes from a terroir of silty marl. It spends one year in (large) botti and is a most most floral and perfumed barbera, notably of violets, even a touch of liquorice or fennel. Fills in with more mid-palate and structure than many at this “posto che si chiama” entry level, with bitters as tonics well integrated into the mix. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted July 2017  bersano1907  profilewinegroup  @BERSANO1907  @ProfileWineGrp  @Bersanowine  Profile Wine Group

Pico Maccario Barbera d’Asti DOCG Lavignone 2016, Piedmont, Italy (Agent, WineAlign)

Quite the deep, dark and handsome barbera with a current of black currant and a pure stainless steel raising. Plums and chocolate mark the second half profile for the rich red, no oak lover in you. This pervasive barbera represents just about half of the house’s total (400,000 bottle) production. It’s truly a matter of fresh fruit and the already conscious awareness of its sharp, tart, fugacious youth. Solicits a knowing nod of the head when tasted at the source not long after a moment with the ’14 less than a year before. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted July 2017  picomaccario  @PicoMaccario  @PicoMaccario

Pico Maccario Barbera d’Asti Superiore DOCG Epico 2014, Piedmont, Italy (Agent, WineAlign)

Epico is the top selection from the oldest (60 year-old) vines developed 14 months in barrel. In its current state the oak is alpha dominant and the volatility quite pronounced. There is something of a jammy quality, not so much a viscous or pejorative, pectin-laced presence on the palate but more like a reduction as barbera syrup or liqueur. The epitome of modern and produced. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted July 2017

Pico Maccario Barbera d’Asti DOCG Tre Rovere 2015, Piedmont, Italy (Winery WineAlign)

The “three oaks” saw to six months in barrel and along with an expressly coffee aroma there too is this sugary scent. Candied plums bring fruit depth and richness and the wine sings the high notes of volatility. It’s quite a tart treat, from liquid clay to blackberry in a combined and distilled affair. A moment of cotton candy is fleeting because the heavy clays and ferric accent take over, stirring up some bitters to mix with the sugars. A deferential and adjustable barbera that condones the ups and downs of the oeuvre. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted July 2017

Azienda Agricola Ivaldi Dario Barbera d’Asti DOC 2015, Piedmont, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

In the pantheon of red wine made from the barbera grape in Asti lands it is Andrea Ivaldi’s that stands out, like a beacon or a lighthouse, lit up to help mariners find the shore. In this case a summoning light set in a white limestone vineyard and it is the youngest member of the Ivaldi family who resides as the current superintendent of this special barbera. At a locally low 14 per cent alcohol and a hue so Monthelie transparent this is classic, innate, intense liquid stone, bled from the pietra bianca at 300 masl. The blessedly honest red fruit raised in cement tanks for one year is hypo-reductive and only 4,000-5,000 bottles are produced. So balanced, melting, oozing and brisk, structured even. Drink 2017-2021.  Tasted July 2017

Az. Agr. Garrone Evasio & Figlio Barbera d’Asti DOCG 2015, Piedmont, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

Garrone’s barbera climbs out of the silty marl and exhibits more VA than the others but in a good way. If perhaps it acts a bit acetic, it thus so hides its florals, though there is more texture and integration, gliding silky across the palate and finishing long. More complexity and interest here. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted July 2017  @vinigarrone

Michele Chiarlo Barbera d’Asti DOCG Le Orme 2015, Piedmont, Italy (265413, $13.95, WineAlign)

Le Orme or “the footsteps” spent 16 months in stainless steel, taken from variegated terroir; sandy, marly and coarser soils. It sheds developed florals and high yet stretched and creeping acidity and in turn length. The acumen and experience comes through, leading to more refinement and almost a creamy (though unwooded) texture on bright, juicy fruit. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted July 2017  michelechiarlo  univinscanada  @michelechiarlo  @UNIVINS  Michele Chiarlo  @UnivinsCanada

Castello Di Gabiano Marchesi Cattaneo Adorno Giustiniani Srl Barbera d’Asti DOCG La Braja 2015, Piedmont, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

Gabiano’s stands apart in a barbera tasting of 13 wines because of its naturally wild personality. Run free off sandy soils it saw 16 months in a combination of botti and barriques. Beyond barbera it also contains some grignolino and freisa, more tannin, certainly reductive (which easily blows off) and I’d even call it righteously and properly stinky. More developed and even wise, this has that acidity that travels up and down the sides of the mouth. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted July 2017  castellodigabiano  @CastelloGabiano  Gazzola Katia (Castello di Gabiano)

#risotto #ristorantelabarbera #costiglioledasti @costiglioleat

Rovero Barbera d’Asti DOCG Superiore Rouvé (Bio) 2014, Piedmont, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

Rovero’s wafts with the most perfume by a long shot, by a soaking up and in from 24 months in barrique. The waves of vanilla infiltrate the purple berries, much like Rioja and its wood perfume but in barbera it comes with so much acidity. Like chewing on a stick of wood dynamite overcompensating for fruit that didn’t stack up, though it would have been honest and pure to allow the fruit to talk anyway, in whatever voice it may have chosen. Drink 2018-2020.  Tasted July 2017

Luigi Coppo

Coppo Barbera d’Asti DOCG Pomorosso 2014, Piedmont, Italy (Agent, $74.95, WineAlign)

From the house that Piero Coppo built, now in the forward thinking acumen-saturated hands, heart and mind of Luigi Coppo, comes a barbera most ambitious and in 2014, likely to be misunderstood in the throes of its youth. Pomorosso carries the baggage and the experience of 125 years of history in pocket, is only produced in the best vintages and spends 14 months in French oak. A fair to challenging vintage makes cause and pause to consider it a case of over-oak usage because it still overwhelms the terroir while simultaneously in disavow and disallow for the vintage to speak. The big but factor is spoken with a simple term. Balance. Even while the wood is very much in charge the craft behind the scene fills the screen, like a sepia toned vintage movie reel, in which hard at work agriculturalists, agronomists and oenologists move in fast frame motion, tending to their barbera. Beautiful fruit defends itself, because and for the land, reeks through the wood, integrates acidity and lingers, long after the wood perfume has dissipated. Fast forward to the end of the film and enjoy in retrospective view, somewhere mid next decade, while the credits roll. Drink 2020-2028.  Tasted July 2017  coppo1892  maitredechai_ca  @COPPO1892  @maitredechai  @COPPO1892  Le Maître de Chai

Tenuta Il Falchetto Barbera d’Asti DOCG Pian Scorrone 2016, Piedmont, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

Sees some stainless steel and six months in acacia wood. From a mix of soils in the Piemontese tertiary basin, characterized by sedimentary rocks known as “Marnoso Arenacea,” deposited from a marine environment 30-35 million years ago. A lovely barbera in purity of fruit, perfume and balance. Varietal honesty and bright personality bring dark plum, great acidity and ultimately just a pleasure to drink. 2017-2019.  Tasted July 2017  tenutailfalchetto  @ilfalchettovini  @tenutailfalchetto

Az. Agr. Franco Roero Barbera d’Asti DOCG Carbune 2016, Piedmont, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

Roero’s is another stainless specimen but this time off of mixed soils cut across two sub-zones. The fruit here is rich, darker, spicy and the acidity less pronounced, rendered, melted in. It too is a pleasure to drink but not as bright as some, to be sure. Just a bit pressed, quite solid and hefty at 15.4 per cent alcohol. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted July 2017  franco_roero_winery  @FrancoRoeroVini  @franco.roero

Az. Agr. Franco Roero Barbera d’Asti Superiore Docg Mappale 213 2015, Piedmont, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

From Montegrosso d’Asti Roero’s Mappale takes a heat index step back from Carbuné and from 2016. In 2015 the single vineyard, single (213) block is vinified separately from the others (including Siché and Cellarino) and spends 18 months in large barrels. Still it’s a dark, hematic bruiser with Cassis and dark chocolate, plus the omnipresent energy of acidity. Also ropey, tart and glazed, almost to the point of deep caramel. Then again it always comes back to how young it is. Drink 2018-2023.  Tasted July 2017

Viticoltori Associati Vinchio e Vaglio Serra Barbera d’Asti DOCG Vigne Vecchie 2011, Piedmont, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

The use of generous oak on these old vines rings and scents into secondary notes, of creosote, graphite, vanilla, clove and dried fruit from strawberry to prune. This will soon be turning to figs, chocolate and balsamic when in a year or two the fruit is no longer willing to sing and the acidity will step back into a phase otherwise quiet. From vineyards in Montegrosso, with caramel, more vanilla, creaminess and Amarone like character in alcohol and a perception of sweetness. Drake 2017-2019.  Tasted July 2017  vinchiovaglioserra  @vinchiovaglio  @VinchioVaglioSerra

Marchesi Incisa Della Rocchetta Barbera d’Asti Superiore DOCG Sant’Emiliano 2015, Piedmont, Italy (SAQ, 12278202, $29.45, WineAlign)

Marchesi Incisa Della Rocchetta is from Sassiccaia fame and also a family with a long Piemontese tradition. Their barbera is aged 18 months in French barrels and hails from near (southeast) of Asti. It’s certainly posied and appointed though I can’t help but notice the five-spice, caramel and balsamic aspect. A highly refined if tart style, seriously structured and wholesome though balanced within that formidable framework. As it fleshes and expands it reveals more charm, with some grace and elegance, kept warm and safe from the elements with an expensive scarf to be sure. Drink 2018-2023.  Tasted July 2017  #marchesiincisadellarocchetta  vins.balthazard  #marchesiincisadellarocchetta  @vinsbalthazard  #marchesiincisadellarocchetta  @VinsBalthazard

Marco Bonfante Barbera d’Asti Superiore DOCG Menego 2011, Piedmont, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

Marco Bonfante’s barbera d’asti made from fruit all over the hill is called Menego, the nickname and in honour of his and Micaela’s father Domenico who passed away in 2000. At the top of Domenico’s hill is Il Bricco and it is this one and a half hectares of south-exposed fruit that separates this barbera from the broad expression that is Menego. The calcareous terroir defines this wine and though the journey here is a high octane, jammy developing one through 14 months in barriques, this is the (relatively speaking) elegant vintage. It stills clocks in at a minimum 15 per cent alcohol and delivers a firm, confident and authoritative message but its elasticity and length allow it to breathe. Still it does not merely wave but punches and is more of a shout than a whisper. At six years the window of pleasure is open, if only just the first crack. Drink 2017-2023.  Tasted July 2017  marcobonfantewinery  @MarcoBonfante70  @MarcoBonfanteWinery

Marco Bonfante Barbera d’Asti Superiore DOCG Menego 2012, Piedmont, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

What a difference a vintage makes, here in 2012 out of warmth and into the highest of alcohol level with intensely ripe fruit. Marco Bonfante does not mess around, stretching the elevations of brix and alcohol while maintaining the natural acidity of barbera and waiting it out so the phenolic ripeness can fall, or rather climb to the high line. That he finds a way to work some magic so that balance is achieved is nothing short of remarkable. The most grip, power and brooding comes out of the 2012, like Madiran tannat, Cahors malbec, Napa Valley Petit Sirah and northern Rhône syrah all rolled into one. But this is the genesis of the new barbera d’asti and only Bonfante pushes such limits and scores in the end. This 2012 is the striker every great football club somehow finds, at most times blending in but always the silent assassin. This Menego is coursing with chocolate, Cassis, espresso and black cherry. It’s just a huge wine, easily at the 16 per cent mark and structured to go a decade before any withering or wuthering. Tension builds all the way until the end. Wot Gorilla. Drink 2019-2027.  Tasted July 2017

Marco Bonfante Barbera d’Asti Superiore DOCG Menego 2009, Piedmont, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

In 2009 the hill supplied fruit ready to kill so at eight years Menego has entered its secondary phase. It will not be expected that either 2011 or 2012 will travel this far, this fast though the (more elegant) former will certainly get there quicker then (the massive) latter. A new complexity has emerged with the developing 2009, from out of and with a nod to the southwest facing calcareous vineyard. Cinnamon, orange and subtler spices now grace the aromatics, things the young and powerful Menego do not release. The accents make the eyebrows rise and when noted integrating into the chocolate coated palate there is a tickling sensation. Yet another immensely impressive moment with a Marco Bonfante bruiser is had but with some age the time spent is relenting and ultimately offering some relief. Drink 2017-2021.  Tasted July 2017

Erede Di Chiappone Barbera d’Asti DOCG Brentura 2013, Piedmont, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

From Daniele Chiappone and a 100 per cent stainless steel upbringing at four years old the Chiappone retains remarkable freshness, with not a moment of reduction or careless redirection. Some dried fruit on the nose is curious so changes are in the air but the Brentura’s structure outside of the wood realm is more solid than most. So too is the warmer, rounder and more breathable acidity, now so integrated. Marvellous example of what barbera d’sati can be. Drink 2017-2019. Tasted July 2017  erededi  @erededi  Erede Di Chiappone Armando

Gozzelino Barbera d’Asti Superiore DOCG Ciabot d’la Mandorla 2012, Piedmont, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

The underworld of gariga and earthy fox holes are accessed through Gozzelino’s well-aged 2012, a barbera that saw its biased share of barrel by way of a 24 months full soaking in (3000L) Grande Botti. It has emerged vinous and boxy, foxy and full of heavy set moxy, like dried fruit and jerky absorbing like sponges in a pool of campari and aperol. The rusticity is palpable, the figs and the chocolate baking with spice. The alcohol persists while the wine acts fading but it’s certainly persistent. Old-school, traditional, out there in the antediluvian void. Drink 2017-2018.  Tasted July 2017  Azienda Agricola Gozzelino Sergio

Moretti Adimari Barbera d’Asti Superiore DOCG 2015, Piedmont, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

Moretti’s Superiore takes barbera further, out of a stainless steel world and into barriques for eight months. Perfume and acidity are barbera hallmarks, here now merged nicely together, but it is texture that elevates the game. The chalkiness gained from sandy, Franco (white) limestone soils make for a rover of a barbera, through liquid mineral and made creamy by barrel. Moretti as a producer experiments with riesling, chardonnay and sauvignon blanc so there is no surprise this barbera travels hither and thither. And it works. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted July 2017  morettiadimariwines    @morettiadimariwines

Montalbera Barbera d’Asti Superiore DOCG Nuda 2013, Piedmont, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

Montalbera’s calcareous soils are the catalyst to keeping this barbera scaled back, with teeth still shining white after 20 months in barriques. The unfiltered, oak driven wine is astonishingly divine and elegantly integrated with so much dripping, oozing and glazing chocolate. It’s rich and fine if for certain a mess in a mouthful. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted July 2017  montalbera  @Montalbera  @montalbera

Berta Paolo Barbera d’Asti DOCG 2015, Piedmont, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

From vineyards located between the areas of Monferrato and Langa, Berta Paolo’s barbera is a ceremoniously traditional one, possessive of a walk the line beauty specific to the area, at once sonsy in pure red fruit and then volatile to just the right degree. Here is the sort of barbera that exemplifies the natural while unbeknownst to just how raw an affair it really is. Honesty oozes from one that succeeds in being real without even trying. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted July 2017 vinifamigliaberta  @wineBerta  @viniberta

Borgo Isolabella Delle Croce Barbera d’Asti DOCG 2015, Piedmont, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

Were that is were so simple for all barbera to take one road or the other, as does Isolabella’s on the darker, full-tempered side. This is so perfectly solid, structured, architecturally sound barbera, with classically styled columns and porticos, tart and with a wealth of 2015 fruit. It’s dark but health-tempered, ever so slightly tannic and streaming with fine natural acidity. So well made. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted July 2017  isolabelladellacroce2001  @ISOLABELLA_D_C_  @isolabelladellecroce

The history of @ilNizza began long ago. Prepare for its storied future. Exceptional tasting, stellar wines #barberadasti #100percent #100percentapproval #piemonte #progettovino #collision

Nizza DOCG and DOC

Bersano Barbera d’Asti Riserva Nizza DOCG Generala 2014, Piedmont, Italy (Agent, WineAlign)

Suave, refined, silky smooth barbera, of a warmth to express and make accessible the sense of its strength, power and alcohol. It is the exceptionality of texture that really shines. Bersano’s Nizza (Riserva) has already done its 30 months of aging time so it can be released 12 days from now. A true case of catching a wine at its potential best. As they say, timing is everything. Like on the stage so on a lighter, theatrical note this is perhaps an ode to 20th century Italian drama, to Signora Ignazia. “Dear, dear Signora! Hail to our great Generala! To our patron saint!” And yet we could do without the theatre, as long as we have barbera. Drink 2018-2024.  Tasted July 2017  bersano1907  profilewinegroup  @BERSANO1907  @ProfileWineGrp  @Bersanowine  Profile Wine Group

Bersano Barbera d’Asti Nizza DOC Generala 2013, Piedmont, Italy (Agent, WineAlign)

Something about the 2013 vintage speaks with such great clarity as it does here in Roberto Morosinotto’s barbera from Nizza fruit that spent six months in tonneaux. The chocolate swirl has palpably settled on the palate but it’s just so silky smooth, tempered and demonstrative. Acidity surely runs high, it is barbera after all, but it also drifts into and with the waves of plum, wood spice and just spice in generala. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted July 2017

Bersano Barbera d’Asti Nizza DOC Generala 2010, Piedmont, Italy (Agent, WineAlign)

The summer of extreme heat (though perhaps holding no candle compared to 2017) has delivered a warm to warmest Bersano barbera with a calming effect achieved by cooling time spent in big barrels that date back to 1970. This ’10 is possessive of that sort of delicious perception of sweetness that puts it up there with the richest of the Nizza barbera. The élevage is half and half tonneaux/barriques and texture is full of this Mediterranean liquorice/black olive/gariga/briny tang. Nicely structured to last in this state for another three years. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted July 2017

Bersano Barbera d’Asti Nizza DOC Generala 2008, Piedmont, Italy (Agent, WineAlign)

Another excellent vintage for the Generala is found to be sound and generous at the nine year mark though the fully developed secondary character is duly noted. Helps to prepare and deduce a clear impression of where 2010 will go over the next two to three years. This ’08 has not quite reached the denouement stage though it has peaked, reeking resinous of fruit and wood clasped in a lover’s humid embrace, with notes of dried orange, apricot, fig jam, tar and roses. The acidity still rages quite assiduously while the briny and ecoregion earthy brush have now faded and disappeared from the fragrance trail. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted July 2017

Il Botolo Barbera d’Asti Nizza DOCG 2014, Piedmont, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

From soils with quite a bit of sediment, in the northeast part of Nizza. Quite the silky feel following on the heels of refinement and freshness. A liquid liqueur that is close to syrup but more of a natural feel, without tonic or medicine, but just pure limestone liquid fruit. The sort of tart that is elongated, elastic and stretched with ease. Drink early because it’s quite a glassful of immediate pleasure. Grows on you too. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted July 2017

Cascina Garitina Barbera d’Asti Superiore “900” Neuvsent CEC Nizza DOCG 2014, Piedmont, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

Why 900? Because Giancarlo Morino’s momma began working here in the 1900s but the local dialect was spoken so quickly so it was just, “900.” The vineyard “CEC” is pronounced “check,” or short for Francesca, who used to own the vineyard. From the (Castel Boglione) southern part of Nizza with higher acidity and alcohol, here at 15 per cent. Aged 12 months in barrel, there is some deep organic clay and (three) old vineyard (1924, 1949 and 1954) induced layering, astringency and brooding, of a seriousness about it that makes it dense and a bit tempered, finishing with dark chocolate. A minty, savoury and sapid streak runs through, likely with thanks to the cooling Mediterranean “Marin” winds that blow through the vineyards from spring to autumn. Well done but needs as much as five to seven years to show as silky and refined as some of the others. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted July 2017  cascinagaritina  @gianlucamorino  Gianluca Morino (Vignaiolo indipendente)

I’ve got 900 reasons to drink these @gianlucamorino #cascinagaritina #nizza but need only one #nizzamonferrato #progettovino #collisionimonferrato #cec #neuvsent #barberadasti

Cascina Garitina Barbera d’Asti Superiore “900” Neuvsent Nizza DOC 2010, Piedmont, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

Having tasted Gianluca Morino’s 2014 earlier in the day it makes this follow up, retrospective look at his 2010 such a satisfying confirmation of his work. That ’14 was way too young to make lifelong friends with but this ’10, well this is something other. While still a seriously brooding, hematic, ganache spread of fine chocolate barbera, the components have filled the kettle to overflowing, but time has worked to now emit a floral and spice perfume. The richness of oak has also rendered a touch of complexity, of caramel and baking spice but even further, into secondary beginnings. The tones are aromatic, musical and textural, of sweet, salty and faintly sour by a fineness of acidity. One more year will bring it all together. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted July 2017

Michele Chiarlo Barbera d’Asti Superiore Nizza DOCG Cipressi 2014, Piedmont, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

From a loamy locale, aged in large oak barrels, there is a rusticity about it along with its really dark cherry fruit. Some Bretty volatility too, complexity, character, oomph and reason for living. Quite high in acidity and structure is provided by that ideal with addendum by the gentle touch afforded by the higher oxygen exchange, large format wood. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted July 2017  michelechiarlo  univinscanada  @michelechiarlo  @UNIVINS  Michele Chiarlo  @UnivinsCanada

Michele Chiarlo Barbera d’Asti Superiore Nizza DOCG La Court 2013, Piedmont, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

Chiarlo’s La Court is actually one of the only Nizza barbera with a hard to get, slightly reserved character. It’s aromas are a bit muted though you get the sense that it’s quite floral behind the veil. Patience and air reveal dark fruits, of plum and black raspberry, then dusty earth and liquorice, with a silky patterning on the palate. Would love to get some wood spice but that too is currently in limbo so time is required to reveal such charm. The acidity is less than barbera raging, something that falls into line with the sneaky structure. Quite singular Nizza cru work right here. Drink 2018-2023.  Tasted July 2017

Viticoltori Associati Vinchio Vaglio Serra Barbera d’Asti Superiore Nizza DOCG Laudana 2014, Piedmont, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

From the hill known as “Bricco Laudana” this is one of two barberas produced from its clay and sandy marls, a barbera d’asti DOC and this extraordinary Nizza DOCG. The Nizza is aged one year in large oak barrels, thus mixing grace, elegance and full on liqueur with high, nearing acetic acidity. Very long but with angular bits and spikes in and out of the morello cherry fruit. Needs a year to settle in and amongst its sharp, moving parts. The cru is farmed by five or six producers and certainly one to watch, explore and anticipate the subsequent glory that near-future vintages will bring. Drink 2018-2024.  Tasted July 2017  vinchiovaglioserra  @vinchiovaglio  @VinchioVaglioSerra

Viticoltori Associati Vinchio Vaglio Serra Barbera d’Asti Superiore Nizza DOC Laudana 2012, Piedmont, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

Laudana is a warm and inviting barbera, dark with an ambling, rusty variegate, almost traditionally rustic but with a silky texture. Its notes play sweet and sour red fruits, namely raspberry and its constitution is right proper Nizza with the sort of traditional feel to demand not just attention but a raison d’être that says,”grant us our own DOCG.” It’s a dusty and vinous affair, like fully realized merlot with elevated alcohol, acidity and good phenolic ripeness. A solid, unafraid and unabashed barbera to represent the denomination with confidence and poise. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted July 2017

Azienda Agricola Ivaldi Dario Barbera d’Asti Superiore Nizza DOCG “1613” 2014, Piedmont, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

Ivaldi Dario’s barbera captures the honesty, clarity and purity of Nizza Monferrato, from grapes grown on clay-limestone soils and from vines 50 years of age. This perfectly suited barbera was aged in large Slavonian oak barrels and in 2014 turned out lithe and beautiful at 13.5 per cent. It’s tart as it should be, recounting a brief bit of tradition, earthiness and volatility. This is the most decent and convivial barbera of the lot, from longer, slower maceration with less pump overs and no unnecessary barriques aging. The lighter hue is vintage related but also house-curated, not to (re) mention classic styling. Picked early? Perhaps. Most important is that it is progressively hands-off, proper and most appreciated winemaking to celebrate a white limestone terroir. Drink 2018-2023.  Tasted July 2017  andrea.ivaldi  @ivaldidario  @vinidelmonferrato

Azienda Agricola Ivaldi Dario Barbera d’Asti Superiore Nizza DOC “1613” 2012, Piedmont, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

Few persuasions in the schemes of wine assessments are more fascinating to study than vintage variation, always great signs and portents from the fringe growing regions of the world. Monferrato is one such place, affected by swings in climatic conditions from year to year, raised here in magnification through the lens of Andrea Ivaldi’s multi-faceted barbera. The depth and structure in this ’12 is so contrary to the bright eyed ’14, now richer and almost brooding, even for Nizza. Ivaldi is a house with a self-predicated idiosyncrasy but here it speaks with Nizza style, perhaps antithetically reflexive but still with fruit that echoes from its manifest gaze into a mirror. Andrea makes exactly what the vintage gives, with blacker than red fruit bruised with a variegated hematoma and yet layered with a mineral underlap from that white limestone hill. As an arrangement it’s bigger than even he would likely have wanted to fashion but he’s a pragmatic winemaker who had to pick his fruit by September 20th. Do the math and see the forest for the trees. Drink 2017-2022.  Tasted July 2017

Berta Paolo Barbera d’Asti Superiore Nizza DOCG La Berta 2014, Piedmont, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

The Berta family wine estate dates back to 1842 with vineyards located between the areas of Monferrato and Langa. Their Nizza barbera d’asti is aged in large 500L oak barrels, lending a perfume that lingers long after this textured wine has stretched into the long aftertaste. Berta’s is quite a warm, rich, welling and dense example, fine liquid grainy, weighty and youthfully cumbersome. Having been afforded the opportunity to taste some older examples later the same day really put this one into perspective and provided a deeper understanding of Nizza structure. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted July 2017  vinifamigliaberta  @wineBerta  @viniberta

Berta Paolo Barbera d’Asti Superiore Nizza DOC La Berta 2011, Piedmont, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

The Nizza DOCG was added to Asti’s barbera portfolio in 2014 so this predates the appellative status, though for real intents and purposes this ’11 serves the same purpose. From a hotter than hot summer though the aromatics hide the thought and so you would never know just how warm it was. The palate speaks a different story with a deep-seated liqueur distilled from the top of the Berta Paolo terroir, a 40-70 year old set of plantings at Il Bricco, “The kettle” vineyard, 270 meters above sea level. The veins of this plot stretched over the hill of San Michele at Nizza Monferrato are the reason for Berta Paola’s distinct barbera texture. In 2011 this translates to a creamy, dreamy, suave and fine leathery parochial wine. Another example to set up one’s mind to realize what later vintages will turn out to be. Drink 2017-2022.  Tasted July 2017

If 2014 is anything like 2008 the future will shine on #famigliaberta #barberadasti @ilnizza Riserva #progettovino #collisionimonferrato

Berta Paolo Barbera d’Asti Superiore Nizza DOC La Berta 2008, Piedmont, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

More traditional than ever, partly and certainly because of age but also in an era that predates the level of current Nizza Monferrato understanding. This travels into a secondary, present state savour with the still flowing liqueur of the San Michele terroir. Speaks an older school, barrel-influenced vernacular, of a chocolate and vanilla vocabulary with an edge of Brett and volatility. Character from another time and quite persistent in voice. Drink 2017-2018.  Tasted July 2017

Villa Giada Barbera d’Asti Superiore Nizza DOCG Bricco Dani 2014, Piedmont, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

Here from Andrea Faccio struts with great confidence the dark, hematic, ferric and brooding barbera. A very serious Nizza, mercury rising, full on chocolate, espresso and an oily tar, imagining a nebbiolo-like modernity that places this in a stylistic and über-specific category. High acidity, some grainy tannin and sharp finishings so this needs some time. More than any other thus far in the Nizza DOCG flights. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted July 2017  villagiadawine  Andrea Faccio

Bava Barbera d’Asti Superiore Nizza DOCG Pianoalto 2014, Piedmont, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

A large (500L) barrel aging, this is highly, beautifully perfumed, restrained and deliciously tart. Savoury, herbal and tomato leaf herbal, from a hill with a crest, “the high plain,” or plateau. A current of currants, bell pepper and really ripe acidity. This is the most proper use of barrels, generous but exceptional. The most energy of all, modern and yet somehow classic, even traditional. Drink 2018-2025.  Tasted July 2017  bavawinery  @bavawinery  @bava.winery

Bava Barbera d’Asti Superiore Nizza DOC Pianoalto 2007, Piedmont, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

Barbera’s secondary moments are upon the 10 year-old Pianoalto though the wine still slides across the palate with creamy barrel texture. Notes of fig and prune are a case of a hot and dry vintage with very low yields. The nose has matured into a perfume only lifted now by the persistence of barbera’s elevated acidity so this continues to fly at a decent altitude. It’s quite perfect at the ripe old age. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted July 2017

Bava Barbera d’Asti Superiore Nizza DOC Pianoalto 2001, Piedmont, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

Certainly showing its age at 16 and perhaps not as long-lasting due to what was at the time a middle of the road sort of vintage. It was a low and slow, no real heat to speak of, natural and organically rendered season so the wine has in turn done the same in kind. Now into the tertiary it has little to no bite or reason to put up a fight. What does persist is a chocolate, espresso and spice sprinkling, then down towards a slightly sharp, tart and done with it finish. Tannins are now only woody but all in all it’s a curious and worthy look back at turn of the century Nizza. Drink 2017-2018.  Tasted July 2017

La Gironda Barbera d’Asti Nizza DOCG Le Nicchie 2014, Piedmont, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

A barbera return to dark fruit, glycerin into texture across a silky smooth palate. From old vines, many exceeding 50 years. Real concentration and developed fruit with an underlay of stone and clay. It’s rich and intense but not dense, warm but not searing. Everything rising but cresting, on a plateau where it can be handled. Structure is clear and obvious. Take this one deep into the cellar. Drink 2018-2025.  Tasted July 2017  la_gironda  @LaGironda  Susanna Galandrino

La Gironda Barbera d’Asti Nizza DOC Le Nicchie 2011, Piedmont, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

The vintage for Le Nicchie is deep, dark and handsome, with fruit woven into texture rich and thick, with lots of wood and lit-scented herbs. Smells like rosemary and thyme stalks thrown on an open flame. It’s also almost impossibly silky and smooth while in management of quite refined acidity and tannin. Very polished Nizza barbera. Drink 2019-2023.  Tasted July 2017

La Gironda Barbera d’Asti Nizza DOC Le Nicchie 2007, Piedmont, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

La Gironda’s is yet another 2007 that exhibits very high acidity. It was in fact a hot vintage that concentrated fruit but also that omniscient barbera acidity. Seems very young, almost impulsively so. The flavours are of an extreme Nizza variety, like a slice of Cru cake (in this case Le Nicchie) swimming in a syrupy pool of its own deeply reduced demi-glacé. For fans of barbera density with haute couture style and this is how this house does what they do best. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted July 2017

La Gironda Barbera d’Asti Nizza DOC Le Nicchie 2003, Piedmont, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

As hot as a vintage like 2007 might have been it held no fingertip burning candle to the likes of the scorcher of 2003. In the case of La Gironda and its Le Nicchie Cru the heat played right into the hands of the house style. This is quite a remarkable specimen because despite the warmth and the time elapsed this barbera is just in the early throes of secondary life, so the level of structure is quite astounding. The heavy wood aspect fully renders in chocolate tones piqued with spice. The combinative use of barriques and tonneaux has struck an accord and this still clings to viable life even if it’s quite the molten chocolate bomb. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted July 2017

Tenuta Olim Bauda Barbera d’Asti Superiore Nizza DOCG 2014, Piedmont, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

Few barbera from Nizza’s recently appointed DOCG are as polished as Gianni Bertolino’s ’14, a long developed piemontese that spent two years in large barrels. The fruit is really ripe, pushed to the limit of the vintage but just cresting at the edge of dried fruit and the tawny, figgy spectrum. Wild strawberry keeps it fruity and earthy, acidity is round and still in charge, thankfully, for the building and beguiling effect of great structure. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted July 2017  tenuta_olimbauda hobbsandcompany  @tenutaolimbauda  @hobbsandco  @tenutaolimbauda.it  hobbsandcompany

Tenuta Olim Bauda Barbera d’Asti Superiore Nizza Doc 2011, Piedmont, Italy (SAQ 11383570, $37.50, WineAlign)

From a hot vintage, especially in summer but the warmth was managed by enough cool nights. Gianni Bertolino tells me about picking on acidity, not sugar, in mid-September. Here is the generous, extremely fresh, tart and silky barbera. A seriously classy, chic, racy and almost perfectly modern wine, very much an acumen-acquiesced and benchmark leader for the Nizza appellation. Drink 2017-2023.  Tasted July 2017

Tenuta Olim Bauda Barbera d’Asti Superiore Nizza Doc 2010, Piedmont, Italy (SAQ 11383570, $37.50, WineAlign)

Earlier in the day it was Gianni Bertolino who commented on barbera from Nizza being a six-year wine. His 2010 must have hit its stride at just about exactly the six year mark because here in its seventh just the beginnings of secondary character are showing their tell tale signs. It’s in cantilever mode, stretching out over the barbera abyss, unfurling its wings and truly opening to reveal its charms. Though the acidity still burns, churns and plays devil’s advocate to the depth of fruit and territory, the wood has melted enough to reign in that sapidity and balance is coming into order. It may come as a surprise to find the acidity warm but no longer sharpening its stone but where chocolate, dried fruit (namely plum) and spice are concerned this will be the result. Yet so much life persists in this ubiquitously defined cru of a Nizza. Drink 2017-2022.  Tasted July 2017

Cantina Tre Secoli Barbera d’Asti Superiore Nizza DOCG 2014, Piedmont, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

Cooperative rendered barbera, aged for one year in small barrels. Soil is equally spread across several vineyards, from a rock, sand and loam accrue. Amenable, approachable, warm and vibrant acidity, dark fruit and negligible tannin. Some sweetness, black cherry, berry and fig. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted July 2017  #cantinatresecoli  @TRESECOLI  @tresecoli1887

Cantina Tre Secoli Barbera d’Asti Superiore Nizza DOCG 2011, Piedmont, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

It takes but a sip of the Tre Secoli 2011 to gain an understanding in comparison as to where the afore-tasted 2014 is heading. Few Nizza barbera swim with such full on chocolate and dried fruit depth and while the kinship resemblance between the two wines is uncanny, the heat of this ’11 vintage has brought on some fully realized evolution. The richness is all in, drying out and truffles are just around the next bend. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted July 2017

A quadrato of big, bold and balanced @MarcoBonfante70 #barberadasti @ilNizza Bricco Bonfante #progettovino #collisionimonferrato

Marco Bonfante Barbera d’Asti Superiore Riserva Nizza DOCG Bricco Bonfante 2014, Piedmont, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

In the hills of Nizza and Val di Sacca, Bonfante takes a deferential approach with some drying of the grapes for a handful of days, but unlike the three to four months as in Amarone. His fruit is aged in a combination of small and large oak barrels for 20 months. The extra concentration leads to higher sugar content and therefore elevated (15-16 per cent) alcohol but the wine is vinified dry. Sourced from the Bricco, top of the hill on calcareous clay marl. In the end this is a thick, viscous, shaken but certainly refined and balanced barbera in its large format, unabashed and even braggart style. Drink 2019-2026. Tasted July 2017  marcobonfantewinery  @MarcoBonfante70  @MarcoBonfanteWinery

Marco Bonfante Barbera d’Asti Superiore Riserva Nizza DOC Bricco Bonfante 2012, Piedmont, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

Bricco Bonfante is the one and a half hectare family vineyard though it’s not necessary to label the wine “vigna.” Bricco works just fine. Now the comparison (to the barbera d’asti Superiore) becomes clear because the silk and elegance is noted in clean and pure Nizza. The 5,500 density of vines producing 4,000 bottles works out mathematically to 800 grams of fruit per plant, a number nothing short of ridiculous economics. With necessity the mother of invention the quality must run high and so 24 months in new barriques is bequeathed the precious fruit. The bricco exalted is the origin of the barbera that delivers prescience, presence and a preciseness of being. The hill is the thing, the vineyard its totem, the hot vintage adding heat early and on repeat, at 15.5 degrees alcohol (declared) so ripe, so big and with structure so in control. Drink 2019-2027.  Tasted July 2017

Marco Bonfante Barbera d’Asti Superiore Riserva Nizza DOC Bricco Bonfante 2011, Piedmont, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

The vintage is in fact not so completely unlike the 2012 if perhaps a step taken back, away from power, terribilita and the heat. The palate has already begun to relent into a Nizza meets Bricco Bonfante sweetness and the tannins have resolved one notch down to a point closer to understanding. As a result there is more polish to Marco’s 2011 and a finer layer of silk. Here for the first time there is this purity of dark cherries mixed into the finest chocolate and a touch of secondary character development in balsamic. Should be good to go this time next year. Drink 2018-2024.  Tasted July 2017

Marco Bonfante Barbera d’Asti Superiore Riserva Nizza DOC Bricco Bonfante 2010, Piedmont, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

Travelling in reverse down along a Marco Bonfante vertical is a most interesting exercise and makes so much sense. The 2010 is so similar to 2011, even more than how that ’11 compares with 2012. The fruit in ’10 is less pitchy, in delivery of red to black berries (or black raspberry to be precise) and yet the silky thread runs through the red. The same 24 months in new barriques sends this reeling into the plum chocolate pudding as a veritable bomb of a Nizza barbera. There are some who might find the stylistic overbearing, weighty and dense. They would not be wrong but they would be missing the Bricco point, of a matter that comes from the top of the hill with lowest of the low yields out of a rarity of rarities vineyard. There is no denying the acumen and the ambition but also, mostly the necessity. Drink 2017-2021.  Tasted July 2017

Marco Bonfante Barbera d’Asti Superiore Riserva Nizza DOC Bricco Bonfante 2009, Piedmont, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

It was beginning to look like no matter how far back you travel in a Bricco Bonfante Nizza vertical there would be no signs of evolution, that is until you hit this 2009. Here the first to begin an inkling into secondary notes, if only the etchings of spice symbols and wood derived pericopes. There is also a faint, around the corner idea of tar and candied roses, or perhaps they’ve already begun to join the scented party. I find this 2009 quite cru Barolo-like and it’s interesting to note that this was Marco’s first Nizza Bricco. It also happens to be the one with the most apparent fruit, or perhaps time is the factor needed for such a reveal. It travels from red to black and back. Really quite amazing. Drink 2017-2021.  Tasted July 2017

Godello, Michele Longo, Michaela Morris and Dr. Michael Apstein

L’Armangia Barbera d’Asti Superiore Nizza DOC Titon 2013, Piedmont, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

Titon is a blend of three estate vineyards planted between 1934 and 1990. The plots are also a mix of exposures; southeast, east and west, with warm temperatures abundant throughout. This barbera runs a fever of acidity, doles out plenty of chocolate, has yet to fully integrate its wood and is truly well made Nizza. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted July 2017  armangia.giuly  @LARMANGIA

L’Armangia Barbera d’Asti Superiore Nizza DOC Vignali 2011, Piedmont, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

Vignali is the single-vineyard barbera from the estate vineyard planted in 1934. An approximate 24 months of barrel aging is performed before it then ages in bottle for a further 24 months. At first there are the new 300L oak casks, then small 130L barrels for 12 months and finally large casks for 10-12 months more. Well, all this to say that Vignali is fully involved in its secondary stage of life. It is a most mature barbera, with the three holy trinity tenets of chocolate, balsamic and high level acidity all working as one. The soil and barbera tang is fully felt. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted July 2017

L’Armangia Barbera d’Asti Superiore Nizza DOC Vignali 2010, Piedmont, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

A later harvest developed riper fruit with higher phenolics and with seven years under its belt that fruit is drying nicely. Chocolate as always with figs, raisins, apricots and as expected balsamic, though here with a shot of dark espresso. All of the above on repeat and that big barbera acidity. Drink 2017-2018.  Tasted July 2017

Going back to @ilNizza for a lesson in what tomorrow will bring @Coppo1892 Grazie Luigi #barbera #barberadasti #riservadellafamiglia

Coppo Barbera d’Asti Nizza Superiore DOC Riserva di Famiglia 2009, Piedmont, Italy (Agent, $74.95, WineAlign)

From a small cru located in Castelnuovo Calcea, born in 1998, “a project, not only a wine,” explains Luigi Coppo. Only produced in the best vintages, the previous being 2007 and the next will be 2010, though this ’09 is undoubtedly the finest. “It’s not a wine of economics,” continues Coppo, but a single-vineyard expression for people to think outside the barbera box. It shares less history than Pomorosso and thus the reason why it is only selected from very specific vintages, “to work on the craft.” Few if any Barbera d’Asti carry such precision and presence. It’s adult candy, wise and layered, the key to making great barbera right here, in this texture. Expertly woven are fruit, wood and acidity so that all are blended, with no ego, nothing taken for granted, all in balance. Drink 2017-2027.  Tasted July 2017  coppo1892  maitredechai_ca  @COPPO1892  @maitredechai  @COPPO1892  Le Maître de Chai

Coppo Barbera d’Asti Nizza Superiore DOC Riserva di Famiglia 2007, Piedmont, Italy (AgentWineAlign)

Higher acidity in 2007 and alcohol pushing at 15.3 per cent (as opposed to 14.7 in 2009) don’t mean the world has come to end but it does make for an electric Nizza barbera. Even then Coppo could be pragmatic when it was called for so the wood use in this barbera was increased, to soak up some of that fantasy and see if the components could strike a balance in accord. You can really sense the fineness of silk on the palate. Still so beautifully managed, or rather you can intuit looking ahead 10 years from signsin this 2007 how in future vintages the winemaker will know how to manage the realities of vintage variable acidities, through the adjustments in wood and how that will determine the levels of tannin. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted July 2017.

Borgo Isolabella Delle Croce Barbera d’Asti Superiore Nizza Doc Augusta 2009, Piedmont, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

All the Isolabella wines receive a girl’s name, in this instance Augusta, a vineyard selection from a couple of sites on each side of the village limits and named after the proprietor’s sister. The estate produces only 90,000 bottles, each highly specialized and this barbera comes out of the highly prized vintage. In retrospect and with the fortune to taste several 2009s in one walkabout it is now obvious that the season bequeathed the gift of age on its wines. Great because of an extra fineness of acidity from a grape that always gives this way but in Isolabella’s 2009 there is this cool, savoury, reserved character, not unusual but balanced in equal opposition to the strength of perfume and body. A delicato is expressed in what may be referred to as an ultra-über special 2009. Drink 2017-2025.  Tasted July 2017  isolabelladellacroce2001  @ISOLABELLA_D_C_  @isolabelladellecroce

A deep #eredichiappone vertical delve with Daniele for perspective and a release of endorphins @ilNizza possibilities #progrettovini #collisionimonferrato

Erede Di Chiappone Barbera d’Asti Superiore Nizza DOC RU 2011, Piedmont, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

Daniele Chiappone’s 2011 is his richest, warmest, most wood affected barbera replete with an armament of spice. While still in the care of its 16 per cent alcohol frame it is a most underdeveloped specimen but because it’s so big and burly it can’t help but reek, ooze and sweat out the aching masala of aromatics. In talking with Daniele he fully admits this to be the vintage of great demand and pressure so he simply made the wine it asked for. I liken this to Amarone from vintages like 2010 and 2011, unavoidable and so a great winemaker will simply do what must be done and try to seek out balance in a bold and crazy world. With fine acidity void of spikes, peaks and valleys Chappione puts this barbera in a state of equilibrium however high the plain may be. Give this two years minimum to integrate and match it with some lean venison over a bed of tangy polenta. Drink 2019-2027.  Tasted July 2017

Erede Di Chiappone Barbera d’Asti Superiore Nizza DOC RU 2010, Piedmont, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

Chappione’s 2010 is barbera of a powerful maturation and its polyphenolics are quite different than those from 2011. The hard skins, noted by Daniele as pelli durissime might lead to a personality ostinata impermeabilità but a longer maceration broke them down, turned the opposite around to make them flexible and permeable. Though still tightly wound and not yet pliant this precise and very present 2010 of intrinsic structural value will make use of another year in bottle to soften its pertinacious fibres. When it opens up it will bloom, but ever so slowly, over a 15-20 year plan. Its crazy legs, choice acidities and quality tannins will all conspire towards longevity of the indiction degree. Drink 2019-2027.  Tasted July 2017

Erede Di Chiappone Barbera d’Asti Superiore Nizza DOC RU 2006, Piedmont, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

RU by Daniele Chiappone is this, at first something altogether inexplicable but when tasted alongside his 2005, 2010 and 2011 it makes such perfect sense. Sense in where this fits in his evolution and to speak on behalf of the age-worthy ability of Nizza barbera. In a world where barbera perfume so often performs with perfunctory brevity this goes on and on. It is a unique combination of fennel frond, incense, hibiscus and violet to create an intoxicant and an anaesthetic. Yet another exceptional vintage is revealed, traditional and so alive, spun from earth crusting over cherry and then this smooth leather. The portal backwards 10 years allows for looks forward 10 more, especially into what’s coming from 2015 and 2016. To say the match with a prodigiously spiced in aromatic ragu over linguine was agreeable would be the understatement of the Monferrato century. Perfectly timed acidity seals the deal. This is barbera folks, of wit, age and history. Drink 2017-2021.  Tasted July 2017

Erede Di Chiappone Barbera d’Asti Superiore Nizza DOC RU 2005, Piedmont, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

The vintage was a tough one with some hail and difficult to get the grapes into a state of full maturity. It’s amazing how winemakers remember every painful moment of a vintage like 2005 and Daniele Chiappone recalls picking in the first week of October. While that may not be wholly unusual for the RU cru it is quite a late Piemonte harvest. This RU carries deep, dark depth in currant fruit, in a realm where cabernet franc hooks up with nebbiolo and sires a love child. Side by side with 2010 it is really just the quality of tannins that truly sets the two apart and here the chemical reactions in the natural world bring about spice; cinnamon, star anise and then this eminence of Chiappone acidity. In Nizza it is this speciality that is both singular and distinct that creates such a structured feeling of éclat, or in the case of Chiappone, fulgore. Drink 2017-2022.  Tasted July 2017

Il contingente canadese @Collisioni #nizza #barberalovers #represent #progettovino #piemonte

Thanks for reading up on the wines of Barbera d’Asti and Nizza Monferrato. Let’s all hope we begin to see more options in both categories made available here in Ontario. A special thanks to Ian D’Agata, Michele Longo, Michaela Morris, Giulia Corino and the entire Collisioni crew.

Good to go!

Godello

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

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Fontodi’s one hundred per cent sangiovese

In @chianticlassico mano nella mano 1986, @fontodi #vignadelsorbo & #flaccianello thank you Giovanni Manetti for sharing these two opposing forces of the Tuscan paradox #chianticlassico

I have spent quite a bit of time in Chianti Classico over the past two years, most recently during the last week of September. The occupation of study and discovery and the investigation into the intricacies and multiplicities of the region’s sangiovese prepossess a lifelong infatuation. If the cumulative is a factor of compulsive obsession so be it and while decades of learning are left to attack, an essential visit can now be crossed off the bucket list. With Giovanni Manetti at Fontodi.

Fontodi is a certified organic estate which extends over 130 hectares of which approximately 70 are planted to vines. When you break down the name into two parts, first fonte or “source” and odi, “hate” you paint an image in etymology that couldn’t be further from the truth. Take a walk through the estate’s vineyards set in Panzano’s Conca d’Oro and the exact opposite unfolds. Fontodi’s estate vines are as described (and for the effects on health and happiness) prescribed as a place of “high altitude, calcaire-clay-schist soil, lots of light, and a fantastic micro-climate – warm and dry with a marked difference in day and night-time temperatures.” Lots of light is really key, “un sacco di luce,” or as it could be construed, “a source of love.” Spend three hours with Fontodi’s proprietor Giovanni Manetti and you’ll get the picture. Fontodi as Fonte di amore.

Related – All in with Chianti Classico

Giovanni Manneti showing the sangiovese of the 2017 harvest

Today is September the 23rd. First we take a drive down into the Conca d’Oro and walk in the vines. The sangiovese blocks with the finest exposure and the most sun have just recently been picked. Others are coming in as we speak. The rest will be harvested by the end of the week. It has been a most unusual vintage in Chianti Classico. One of the warmest and driest winters on record is interrupted by a near-devastating spring frost then followed by scorching summer temperatures and no rain. The grapes dry up and desiccate to nearly nothing with the danger of an empty harvest looming. Then a miracle happens and the rains fall during one crazy week in early September.

There are producers who make a fateful mistake. They pick their sangiovese ahead of the rains. Sugar and alcohol are high in the shrivelled berries but phenolic ripeness lags well behind. The stems and seeds in these preemptively harvested sangiovese are green, underdeveloped and bitter. The tannins will follow suit. Though these wines will be jammy and flavourful in the first year or two, the hollow feeling on their mid-palate and the astringency on their finish will expose their weakness. Giovanni Manetti makes no such mistake. He allows the grapes to swell with the much-needed watering and then watches them develop their phenolics over the following weeks of warm weather. His sangiovese are beautiful, lower in yield, with many of the bunches and their berries smaller in size, but ripe nonetheless. It may not turn out to be a great year for Chianti Classico and Flaccianello economics but the 2017 wines will shine.

Have not seen a prettier cow than the #chianina raised for @dariocecchinimacellaio on the @fontodi organic farm in Panzano

We move on down to visit the Chianina. The Chianina are an ancient and very large Italian breed of cattle raised mainly for beef. The beautiful, regal and majestic cows are famous for producing the meat for Toscana’s bistecca alla fiorentina. Giovanni’s herd are nurtured for one specific purpose, to supply the most famous butcher in Italy Dario Cecchini with his meat. Says Cecchini, “The Officina della Bistecca is our convivial way of answering the difficult question of the perfect way of cooking Her Majesty the Bistecca alla Fiorentina and Her Sisters the Costata and the Panzanese steak.” The farm to table relationship between Fontodi and Antica Macelleria Cecchini is witnessed right here, first hand.

Pinot Nero in Amphora at Fontodi

Back in the winery Manetti is fully cognizant of a group of seasoned journalists and sommeliers having visited more than their share of estates so we skip past the stainless steel tanks, barrel cellars and bottling lines to get down to what is really right. Along with John Szabo M.S. (WineAlign partner and author of Volcanic Wines), Brad Royale (WineAlign judge, Wine Director of Rocky Mountain Resorts and most interesting man in Canada) and Steven Robinson (First Ontario Ambassador of Chianti Classico and Sommelier at Atelier Restaurant in Ottawa) we talk amphora with Giovanni. Much experimentation is taking place at Fontodi even while much of the world may not associate their iconic sangiovese with this sort of side work. Along with decades of producing tiles, the hand-made wine Amphoras manufactured by Manetti Gusmano & Figli are the result of eight generations of experience in the production of Cotto and high quality handmade terracotta.

What makes the Manetti Amphorae special is the uniqueness of the clay; the abundant presence of Galestro in the terroir of  Chianti Classico, the salts and the calcium carbonates confer the right microporosity, enabling the wine to breathe correctly. This feature, the antioxidant and antibacterial action and the high thermal insulation capacity make the terracotta Amphora  an ideal tool for the production of great natural wines. Fontodi and natural wines. Another partnership so worth exploring.

Fontodi vineyards in the Conco d’oro, Panzano

After the amphora we sit down to taste through the wines of Fontodi. There are good solid sessions and then there is the kind of catechetical research afforded with a proud and humble man of Giovanni Manetti’s stature. First the presentation and sangiovese appetite whetting pour of Meriggio, a sauvignon blanc from the Colli Toscana Centrale, a rest in the shade, “and as for compensation, there’s little he would ask.” Then the Chianti Classico from Fontodi and neighbouring Lamole in Greve in Chianti, for perspective and contrast. Manetti gets down to the greatest of Chianti Classico/Toscana IGT contrastive verticals with eight vintages of Vigna del Sorbo (now labeled as Gran Selezione) and Flaccianello della Pieve. When asked what he thinks of the Chianti Classico Gran Selezione category moving to 100 per cent sangiovese he laughs. “What do I think of the idea? It’s my idea!” The notes will explain the rest.

Fontodi Meriggio 2016, Colli Toscana Centrale IGT, Italy (WineAlign)

Meriggio is 100 per cent La Rota vineyard sauvignon blanc, whole cluster pressed with native yeasts, 75 per cent stainless steel ferment, no malo, 15 per cent in amphora and 10 per cent in French barriques. That said, without temperature control some malo, like it, happens. To go to Meriggio means to go and have a rest in the shade, from the verb meriggiare in reference to the (not Tuscan) poet Eugenio Montale, “merrigiare pallidio e assorto.” Empty is the literal translation but it’s more a case of the unoccupied mind at rest. Sauvignon should always be so calm and yet spirited, here with little to no oxidative character but rather metallurgy, saltiness and pure tang. The leesy reductive environment and Panzano acidity conspire with calcaire for a demonstrative locution. Bloody delicious sauvignon blanc for the man in me. Drink 2017-2022.  Tasted September 2017

Sangiovese of Fontodi

Fontodi Chianti Classico 2014, Tuscany, Italy (933317, $36.95, WineAlign)

No surprise here from stalwart Fontodi, to take a difficult vintage, push vanity aside and select the best fruit for a pure expression of sangiovese, natural and organically made, with precision and clarity. The red Panzano fruit spikes with cran-pom-rasp-currant bursting freshness. It’s just the right amount of tart and sapid, carefully rippling in acidity. So well made. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted February and September 2017  #Fontodi  rogersandcompanywines    @rogcowines  Az. Agr. Fontodi  #fontodi

Fontodi Chianti Classico Filetta Di Lamole 2014, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $35.95, WineAlign)

The old Lamole winery is owned by Giovanni Manetti’s cousins, where the grandfather made important wines until he passed away in the 80s and the grapes were then sold to bulk. Then Giovanni began working with the family in the 2000s and this first vintage was ready because the finesse of 2014 spoke to him, to begin the new journey. This has seriously improved, settled, come together, developed its excellence with seven months added in time to bottle. Its characters of amaro, earth and texture are now as one, inseparable and fully vested in the calm. Drink 2017-2023.  Last tasted September 2017

From the “forgotten corner of Chianti Classico,” Lamole of Greve in Chianti is perched in a natural amphitheatre between Volpaia to the south and Panzano to the west. Some of the vineyard’s older vines are still pruned in the alberello (bush) style. This is Giovanni Manetti’s inaugural vintage of the Filetta in cohorts with his cousin. So, decidedly a diffident partner and opposing force to the Fontodi Annata because the earthy-subterranean dwelling aromatics brood beneath the red, verging to riper and darker fruit. There is a liquor, aperitif amaro-ness to the Lamole. The clay must be darker and more compressed. The balance is struck though on deeper, more brooding and warmer alcohol-felt lines and in 2014, as if it were a Riserva. It’s an oak “vessel’ aged 100 per cent sangiovese, as opposed to other the estate’s usual use of barriques. It is perhaps counterintuitive but this acts more evolved than the “normale.” Neither better or worse but enjoyment time is now.  Tasted February 2017

Father and son- Giovanni and Bernardo Manetti @fontodi #panzano #chianticlassico

Fontodi Chianti Classico Gran Selezione Vigna Del Sorbo 2014, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $83.95, WineAlign)

The older vines are between 52 and 54 years old, the first vintage being 1985 and until 2011, contained some cabernet sauvignon, vines that have since been pulled out. The now site-specific, 100 per cent sangiovese Vigna del Sorbo may have been muscular in 2012 but no such hyperbole exists in 2014. The vintage determined this and despite the deep black cherry chalkiness the true spirit and stripped down honesty of sangiovese is in display. Purity has returned, floral like an artistically-rendered natural, realist and perpetual field of flowers in bloom, in installation, of violet light and rose-scented glass. I can imagine drinking this for decades, with its albarese-galestro saltiness and effortless concentration. Sometimes sangiovese never relents and at the same time never tires. Meraviglioso. Drink 2020-2038.  Tasted September 2017

Fontodi Chianti Classico Gran Selezione Vigna Del Sorbo 2013, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $81.00, WineAlign)

Fontodi Chianti Classico Gran Selezione Vigna del Sorbo 2013. (Takes deep breath). Just imagine a box filled with all things sangiovese, in all its incarnations and permutations, each aspect teaching something about what you need to know. History, legacy and tradition. Risk taking, forward thinking and progress. What is learned (in retrospect) from two poles; heat and power (2012) and cool savour and elegance (2014). The ’13 is not a matter of being in between but rather an exceptionality, a sangiovese of energy, precision, clarity, purity and a pure reflection in the window of honesty. Everything this vineyard can offer is in the 2013; florals, herbs, fruit, acidity and fine, fine tannin. All in, together, as one. Perhaps its best years will end sooner than 2014 but the time spent will be unparalleled. Drink 2019-2035.  Tasted September 2017

Fontodi Chianti Classico Vigna Del Sorbo 1986, Tuscany, Italy (AgentWineAlign)

Fontodi’s Vigna del Sorbo was obviously not a Gran Selezione designated Chianti Classico in 1986 but it was at the top of the pyramid. A sangiovese in which the acids and fine pear bitters stir in the tray, with a fruit from the (Sorbo) tree that was used to mix with grapes for Vin Santo. Not any more. In 2017 the freshness is impossible, implausible, perpetuated in the most floral and fine acidity combination of any older sangiovese ever experienced. This is like sucking on the most perfect lozenge of fruit, salt, mineral and Panzano mystery. This is Panzano sapidity perfectly realized, preserved and expressed. There is a touch of Cassis, less pyrazine but you can detect the cabernet sauvignon character, even in 10 per cent but combined with sangiovese it’s this frutta di bosco feeling. Just fantastic. Drink 2017-2023.  Tasted September 2017

#nebuchadnezzar @fontodi #flaccianello

Fontodi Flaccianello della Pieve 2014, Tuscany, Italy (Agent $125.00, SAQ 12123921, $97.25, WineAlign)

Flaccianello comes off of a different slope, aspect and exposition than Vigna del Sorbo, here facing straight south, collecting all the sun it can in the golden glow of the Conca d’Oro. The richness celebrates the legacy of this 100 per cent sangiovese, once so atypical and untraditional back in 1981, now the most legacy defining there may just be for varietal Panzano and for the territory in the sense of the greater good. Pure, nonpartisan just, unadulterated and perfectly powerful sangiovese with length from Firenze to Siena and back. Drink 2021-2036.  Tasted September 2017

Fontodi Flaccianello della Pieve 2013, Tuscany, Italy (Agent $125.00, SAQ 12123921, $97.25, BCLDB 55392, $109.99, WineAlign)

The Flaccianello is the Fontodi expression of uva nostrala, “our grape,” explains Giovanni Manneti, the most important local variety owned by Chianti Classico, protected and exalted by Fontodi. Sangiovese the solo act that must define Gran Selezione, to explain what is Chianti Classico in its purest form and to separate how it grows and what wine it produces, particularly when you are to compare it from commune to commune. This Flaccianello separates itself from the Vigna del Sorbo vineyard and Gran Selezione category, even from itself, with another bonafide elegant layer of Conca d’Oro stratified limestone richness and this ultra-savoury umami level of minty-herbal intensity. What else is there to say? Drink 2020-2034.  Tasted September 2017

Fontodi Flaccianello della Pieve 2006, Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

Tell it to the vintage perhaps but 2006 is so very floral, more than any Flaccianello in the memory bank and expressly sangiovese in temper. It’s a year with massive tannins and extreme acidity. For these reasons there is a tightness of being and even at 10-plus years it’s silly young to work with but the concentration impresses. Fruit at a premium indicates some citrus, in orange and lemon with compound interest calculated in further variegated acidity. The most sapid Flaccianello of them all has 15 years more initial development ahead before true secondary character will take over. It’s amazing when you stop to think about sangiovese of such structure. Drink 2019-2031.  Tasted April 2017

Fontodi Flaccianello della Pieve 2005, Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

“This is the vintage I open when I host a party or an important dinner, because no one asks me to open it.” The words are Giovanni Manetti’s and for him none truer are spoken, with a smile. The younger vines and super-selection from the “Bricco” part of the top of the hill in the exceptional vineyard make for a sangiovese of fine-grained tannin plus what the smallest berries of the smallest bunches gift. Their integration with wood has become a matter of balance, in terms of delicasse, even while supported by such structure. Secondary character is happening, in herbal, balmy and savoury, slightly pulsed and edging into balsamico. But it’s such a gentle and slow-sliding slope, years yet away from tertiary. Drink 2017-2026.  Tasted September 2017

Fontodi Flaccianello della Pieve 1986, Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

Flaccianello in 1986 is actually though not surprisingly so different from Vigna del Sorbo, more than any other reason because of the cabernet sauvignon, but in a more philosophical way, because they have built a paradox, from the Super Tuscan ideal in revolution. Now the sangiovese going forward will be the most important and also the best wine, like looking back at this 1986, OK, not better than Sorbo but purer, honest, a clearer picture from which to learn from and ultimately a model for the future. Beautiful power, restraint, structure and yes, the kind of wine that deserves to be praised with the term elegance, overused, or not. Perfectly rustic, earthy and full of fruit with its accompanying complimentary, enervating and necessary acidity. Drink 2017-2023.  Tasted September 2017

In @chianticlassico mano nella mano 1986, @fontodi #vignadelsorbo & #flaccianello thank you Giovanni Manetti for sharing these two opposing forces of the Tuscan paradox #chianticlassico

Good to Go!

Godello

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

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A Sordo affair

Sordo – I Fantastici 8 Crus di Barolo 2013

On Thursday, July 13, 2017 an event dedicated to  the “Fantastic 8 cru of Barolo 2013” was held at the farm of Giorgio Sordo. The program included a guided visit to the historic part of the 1912 cellar, the modern 2016 cellar and a tasting of Sordo’s eight Crus di Barolo, attended by experts, opinion leaders, sommeliers, influencers and journalists from all over the world. Senior Sordo Enologist Ernesto Minasso introduced the Sordo terroir and then Ian D’Agata took over, Scientific Director of Vinitaly and the Wine Project of the Collisioni Festival. The teachings of (Armando) Cordero were invoked, in discussion of respect for what each site can deliver, in working them exactly the same way, so that what you are left with is a true sense of each site, to recall an Ontario “climat” terminology, a Barolo somewhereness if you will, tells Mr. D’Agata. Sitting there, listening to these introductions and pronouncements, self says to self  “let’s see about these things.” A dinner followed, prepared at the hands of Chef Danilo Lorusso of La Crota di Roddi.

The two soil epochs of Barolo are divided by a diagonal line that runs from the northeast down to the southwest, drawn between Roddi and Grinzane through Castiglione Falletto down through Barolo and to Novello. The appellation’s two soil types are Tortonian and Serravallian (or Helvetian), both of which were formed millions of years ago and each are responsible for producing different styles of nebbiolo. La Morra and Barolo to the west are lands less compact and more fertile and the general consensus puts these nebbioli in the realms of the elegant and more (relatively) amenable. In and around Serralunga d’Alba, Monforte and Castiglione Falletto, the Serravallian is marked by dense, compact marl and the Barolo there tends to greater body and alcohol, ideal for a potential to longer aging.

La Morra’s famous cru include Arborina, Brunate, Cerequio, Gattera, Gianchi, Marcenasco and Rocche dell’Annunziata. Barolo’s are Bricco Viole, Brunate, Cannubi, Cannubi Boschis, Sarmassa, Via Nuova, Rue and San Lorenz0. In Castiglione Falletto there are Bricco Rocche, Villero, Monprivato, Fiasc, Mariondino, Pira and Ravera. In Serralunga d’Alba the Cru include Falletto, Francia, Marenca, Vigna Rionda, Marenca-Rivette, La Serra, Margheria, Ornato and Parafada. Monforte d’Alba holds the vineyards of Bussia, Cicala, Colonnello, Dardi, Ginestra, Mosconi, Munie, Romirasco and Santo Stefano.

The official recognition of the DOC Barolo happened in 1966 and the DOCG followed, in 1980. The grape variety is 100 per cent nebbiolo in a production zone covering the entire township of three villages; Barolo, Serralunga d’Alba and Castiglione Falletto, plus part of the territory of eight other small townships.  Sordo’s excellent eight are what the parlance of Barolo times would refer to as “sorì”, or Menzione Geografica Aggiuntiva (MGA), or individual vineyard names. There are more than 100 officially recognized MGAs in Barolo.

Sordo’s eight cru are spread across 53 hectares, 80 per cent cultivated to nebbiolo, plus dolcetto, barbera, arneis, chardonnay, viognier and sauvignon blanc. The total production is 350,000 bottles, with vineyards subsidized by grass and ground cover between the rows. No chemicals though sulphur is used, with stainless steel ferments, élevage in large Slavonian oak casks, further time in bottle of six months, 36 for riserva. The vintage 2013 saw a warm, dry winter, above average in that regard, a cold March, rainy spring, warm summer and dry fall. A 15 day harvest was executed across October. Here are the notes on the eight 2013 cru plus three extras poured with dinner.

Sordo Barolo Monvigliero 2013, DOCG Piemonte, Italy (459677, $47.95, WineAlign)

Monvigliero might very well be considered the “Grand Cru” of Verduno village, facing south/south east at 280-320 metres above sea level. The soils are loose, fine and dry marls and in 2013 the harvest happened on the 12th of October. The first vintage was 2005, from a cru set on the west side of the diagonal line drawn between Roddi and Grinzane through Castiglione Falletto down south west through Barolo and to Novello. Here the make up is more (relatively) fertile Tortonian epoch soils, facilitator of earlier developing Baroli. The comparison might be to Paulliac and Saint-Estèphe, to nebbiolo needing four to six years before entering the drinking window. Every producer that owns parcels in Monvigliero ends up with a top three Barolo portfolio cru from within. Here the Sordo ’13 is so very perfumed, of violet and rose petal, certainly an aromatic potpourri, light in hue and transparent, with texture, sour acidity as of cherry, not yet into the tar. The pearls of magnesium rich marly liquid rubies run amok in the mouth. Returning after tasting the last three (Rocche, Villero and Monprivato) musketeers this now shows how lithe, lovely and accessible (relatively speaking of course) this Monvigliero really is. There are 12,900 bottles made. Drink 2020-2029.  Tasted July 2017  sordowine  collisioni  @sordo_wine  @Collisioni  @SordoVini  @CollisioniFestival

Sordo Barolo Ravera 2013, DOCG Piemonte, Italy (AgentWineAlign)

Ravera is on the eastern slope of the township of Novello, also left bank of the diagonal soil epoch dividing line and like Monvigliero, facing south/southeast. Cuts more attitude and altitude, between 420-450 masl. Loose but richer, whitish marl and grey soils typify the cru. The Ravera harvest was on the 19th October, leading to 20,500 bottles and its first vintage was also 2005. It shows more austerity than Monvigliero, owing to being characterized by Serravallian soils found on the right bank, so this is the cru with an identity complex. This is compact, grippy, intense, sour wrapped up in a mystery folded into an enigma. A reticent, brooding hidden gemstone and texture of compression Sordo, but hard to get. Will unravel and work into its flesh no sooner than six plus years on. From a Ravera sweet spot but it’s not sweet now, nor are some other renditions. A return (30 minutes later) brings the unmistakeable nose of fennel. Drink 2022-2032.  Tasted July 2017

Sordo Barolo Perno 2013, DOCG Piemonte, Italy (AgentWineAlign)

Perno belongs to Monforte d’Alba and this particular single-vineyard portion (6.6 hectares of 190.96 total hectares in the large cru) is owned entirely by Sordo, though others farm the rest. Vines age from 15-35 years-old, on red soils with stones and it was the 18th of October for this harvest. The first vintage was 2000. Only Bussia and San Pietro are bigger in all of Barolo so there will be some variegation coming from the Cru. Located on the right bank, immediately to the east of the diagonal line, into Serravallian soils, of calcareous limestone and compacted sands. It’s bloody tannic, but aromatically speaking it does in fact speak its mind, of a fine porous vessel holding a sparked and stark, bitter and macerating cherry liqueur. The palate follows sharp and piercing, compressed, intense, of powerful structure and endless length. Brooding and massive but harnessed power that could run a small nation-state. That power never relents though a silk road certainly runs through that country. There were 48,000 bottles produced. Drink 2024-2036.  Tasted July 2017

Sordo Barolo Gabutti 2013, DOCG Piemonte, Italy (AgentWineAlign)

Gabutti (Serralunga d’Alba) sits at 250-300 masl, in compacted clay with 1989 being the first vintage. It ranges to the far east set into the quintessential seravalian soil and try hard to argue against the idea that it is the cru almost impossible to figure young. Sordo submits to its potential as unlimited and outrageous. There are spice aromas and acidity up front but otherwise it slams the door, locked tight. I disagree with Id’A in that the nose is not floral and accessible but do agree that it is civilized, on the first wave of palate, with soaking cherries and the idea of tar. Then the clutch sticks, it breaks down and shuts down. Wait 10 years from harvest with proof provided that 30 minutes does nothing to allow a Gabutti relent. It does indeed show some further precison when you get back to the back palate. Ultimately there can be little to say but that the jury is so fully out on Gabutti. There were 26,000 bottles made. Drink 2023-2035.  Tasted July 2017

Sordo Barolo Parussi 2013, DOCG Piemonte, Italy (AgentWineAlign)

Parussi comes from Castiglione Falletto at an elevation of 270-290 masl, with 15-40 year-old vines on loose surface soil and limestone with whitish, grey marls. The harvest was the 15th of October and the first vintage goes back to 2005. Sordo farms 1.8 of a small (13.4) hectares but the whole cru is not suited to nebbiolo, so only 83 per cent is planted to the grape. We are to understand that the idea goes beyond Parussi in that only certain portions are truly nebbiolo-Barolo cru territory. Parussi is from the crossroads of two soil epochs, between Barolo and Monforte and Serralunga to the south and east. The questions is asked whether or not it achieves a balance, of two banks on either side of a diagonal epoch line, like St. Julien, part Margaux and part Paulliac. It does but certainly resides on the brightest side, with the most fruit. The tart cherries are possessive of this striking personality so that they achieve a suspended animated moment in which they equilibrate to sweetness tempered by sour acidity moments and great fineness of demanding tannin. There are 13,000 bottles. Drink 2022-2034.  Tasted July 2017

Vitello Tonnato at Sordo

Sordo Barolo Rocche Di Castiglione 2013, DOCG Piemonte, Italy (AgentWineAlign)

Also from Castiglione Falletto is Rocche Di Castiglione, a formidable nebbiolo from 30-60 years of vine age, including a 1960’s planting. The elevation creeps up to 300-350 masl, on white and blue marl with dry and compacted sandstone. Harvest was on the 17th of October and production goes back to 1987 in this, Sordo’s first original cru. One of the greatest vineyards in all of Barolo, the new name is now Rocche di Castiglione Falletto, a place of crooked cragges or peaks, the altitude delivering more power and structure, but also grace and refinement. This is nebbiolo of a cooler climate personality, wound so tight, with sour cherry, rose petal and so much fruitier on the nose, certainly more than Villero. There is this smooth, satiny consistency through the modernity of flavours on the oldest fruit. A great dichotomy achieved. Drink 2023-2040.  Tasted July 2017

Sordo Barolo Villero 2013, DOCG Piemonte, Italy (AgentWineAlign)

Villero is an accumulation of purchased grapes from a farmer who follows a strict regimen. The cru is composed of calcareous, grey marls and compact grey sand and in this first 2013 vintage the later harvest was the 20th of October. Almost dukes it out with Rocche, this second of three musketeers with Castiglione and Monprivato. A balanced locale submits to make for optimum equilibrium for nebbiolo cru, looking at it this early as big, brawny, stiff and strong in its austerity. Giving so little away and yet it’s all imagination, driven by time. The cru is 22 hectares large with Sordo owning 0.4 and change, very small but it’s a true nebbiolo vineyard. Villero is nothing if not erected as a wall of acidity and tannin, so intensely taut, wound and as of yet, unforgiving. There are 3,600 bottles. Drink 2024-2039.  Tasted July 2017

Sordo Barolo Monprivato 2013, DOCG Piemonte, Italy (AgentWineAlign)

Monprivato is the third of the Castiglione Falletto cru, at variegated elevations from 240-320 masl. Sordo’s are 40 year-old vines and in this inaugural 2013 it was picked earlier (than Villero) on the 17th of October. Another true representative of Serravallian epoch austerity, with formidable tannin and a get down on my knees and beg to ask for more time before delivering accessibility. One of the true great Barolo vineyards, 98 per cent planted to nebbiolo. The 7.12 hectare large site gifts somewhere between the structure of Villero and the richness of Rocche. You get spice and sour cherry right away but also some other fruit in spice format, mulled in a way, of orange rind, apricot and pomegranate. It’s as if a piece of La Tâche suddenly became available to be farmed by someone else. Such fineness and nobility of tannins, richness and fine bitters, in the end the most tonic of all. This may be the whole package, a compromise in a way but an impressive and charming nebbiolo like no other. There are 3,200 bottles. Drink 2023-2040.  Tasted July 2017

More Sordo

Sordo Roero Arneis Garblet Sué 2016, DOCG Piemonte, Italy (AgentWineAlign)

Garblet Sué is on the Bricco Fiasco, a Castiglione Falletto vineyard owing in name to the Garbelletto Superiore farm that lies below. Sordo’s roero is rich in metallurgy, orchard fruit purity sporting equal parts pear and citrus, almost but not quite savoury. The balance of fruit, soil and salty mineral melts into arneis tannin. Overall it’s simply suave and polished stuff. Drink 2017-2021.  Tasted July 2017

Sordo Barolo Rocche Di Castiglione 2011, DOCG Piemonte, Italy (AgentWineAlign)

It’s difficult to say and even harder to admit that ’11 Rocche is any further advanced than the ’13 tasted 90 minutes prior. The fruit is a bit riper and if development can be quantified it’s a matter of millimetres by cru standards. And so the sour cherry is sweetened, rendered with more baking spice caress and attention to length, elastically so and with precise action. Five years further on and it will fall effortlessly into its next perfect phase, in a place called beautiful. Drink 2021-2032.  Tasted July 2017

Sordo Riserva Barolo Gabutti Edizione Limitata 2006, DOCG Piemonte, Italy (AgentWineAlign)

Sometimes it’s just a case of instant recognition, of the transparent Barolo-nebbiolo purity, crowned by acidity read from a very particular cru vernacular, spoken without any interference. At this 11-year itch, which incidentally seems only a year or two shy of the optimum window, Gabutti runs just a touch hot. A minor distraction in bitter phenol is balanced by ripe Sordo fruit that when combined acts like a salve melting on a tongue coated with tannin. Can formidable and elegant co-exist? In Gabutti, yes they can, easily, readily and in truth. Drink 2018-2028.  Tasted July 2017

Good to go!

Godello

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