Rewriting history at Meerlust back to 1984, one vintage at a time

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

It was on September 12th, 2017 that a once in a lifetime South African vertical tasting happened. The South African Wine Society managed to acquire 10 Meerlust wines from nine vintages gathered over 15 years. In Toronto. At The University of Toronto Faculty Club. It’s not that I want to invoke the dystopian dread of George Orwell nor do I equate the master’s writing with the wines of Meerlust but tasting 1984 through to 2010 has provoked the linguistic drama in me to invoke some wordsmith parallels. “Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past.” Winemaker Chris Williams may not totally disagree.

Few Cabernet Sauvignon vertical tastings are capable of determining such a clear picture in style, patterning and evolution, save for perhaps for obvious reasons what is possible out of Bordeaux. This focused collection from Meerlust connected past to present and with no real South African presence in the room. A 25-minute video presentation by Williams and the wines were all the 75 guests in attendance had to go on. By the time the winemaker had sped-tasted and rapid-dissected the nine vintages most of the four-ounce pours in the room were drained. It was a quick to state of bliss happy bunch.

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. On the 3rd July 1693, the Governor of the Cape, Simon van der Stel, granted the land to Henning Hüsing, who named the farm Meerlust, describing the sense of pleasure he obtained from the sea breezes that blew inland from False Bay. Johannes Albertus Myburgh bought Meerlust in January 1757. His ownership marked the foundation of the Myburgh Dynasty.

Hannes Myburgh, eighth generation owner of Meerlust, graduated from the University of Stellenbosch with a Bachelor of Arts degree majoring in French and English in 1982, before studying winemaking at Geisenheim in Germany. Hannes worked at Chateau Lafite in France and von Oetinger in Germany. Chris Williams was appointed Cellar Master at Meerlust in 2004 but has worked as Assistant Winemaker for the farm since 1995. He studied Oenology at Elsenberg and gained international experience in France while working for Michel Rolland. He is assisted by Wilson Waterboer and the cellar team.

Remarkable history and longevity through 10 back vintages of @meerlustwine #rubicon with the South African Wine Society. Thank you LK for the generous treat.

Rubicon is Meerlust’s flagship wine and considered one of South Africa’s premier Bordeaux Blend reds, first made in 1980. This vertical of nine vintages included 1996, 2001, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008  and 2009. I’ve added 2010, tasted recently through Ontario’s VINTAGES release program. In addition, we tasted cabernet sauvignon 2004, infrequently made, the previous time in 1993. This is the prime ingredient to the Bordeaux blend, usually making up around 60 per cent of the wine, with merlot, cabernet franc (and from 2008 on), petit verdot added. Thank you to Laurel Keenan of Wines of South Africa Canada, for having me and to Eleanor Cosman of the South African Wine Society, for hosting. Here are the notes.

Meerlust Rubicon 2010, Wo Stellenbosch, South Africa (64329, $37.95, WineAlign)

Meerrlust’s iconic blend is a Stellenbosch essential, of the ripest fruit and fully-rendered barrel. I’m quite amazed at its uncanny ability to appeal, even at this seven year mark, a show of generosity and gregarious character almost unparalleled for a wine of its Western Cape ilk. The geology runs deep, neither reductive, sap-flowing or bouncy, but the mineral sear and streak is certainly there. This Rubicion trades fecundity for earthy chocolate, uncompromising and unapologetic in its frosting. Beef is a must, preferably rare and dark from high heat char. Dry-aged and or Wagyu would pair even better. The blend is 62 per cent cabernet sauvignon, (24) merlot, (12) cabernet franc and (2) petit verdot. Drink 2017-2021.  Tasted February 2017

Meerlust Rubicon 2009, Wo Stellenbosch, South Africa (WineAlign)

Winemaker Chris Williams forged the people’s Rubicon in 2009, a Bordeaux blend as recognizable in name and style as much as any produced in not only South Africa, but worldwide. Everything is attractive in 2009, beginning with these quite lovely liquid dusty, rich mulberry and deep plum notes. To a crowd of 75 it can’t help but be the standout of general consensus for its sheer restrained hedonism and unabashed beauty. Youth has so much to do with how this shows but believe me 2009 is just a baby, so much more so than 2008 and they are only a year apart. The blend is 70 per cent cabernet sauvignon, (20) merlot, (9) cabernet franc and (1) petit verdot. Drink 2019-2027.  Tasted September 2017

Meerlust Rubicon 2008, Wo Stellenbosch, South Africa (WineAlign)

The 2008 is the first vintage with some petit verdot in the mix though it’s just a start, with one per cent to go along in a blend of (71) cabernet sauvignon, (19) merlot and (9) cabernet franc. Shows some volatility and also more wood in the context of an espresso-chocolate continuum. Here a deeply hematic and iron schisty Rubicon, intense, brooding, mineral well dug deep into the terroir. This goes strong and powerful up the sides of the tongue with that fine but intense acidity. Unquestioned as a fine wine with lots of wood derived chocolate flavours but the spice is all fruit and the tannin from off of that fruit. Massive structure and age possibility will go well into the twenties. Drink 2017-2027.  Last tasted September 2017.

Rubber dust, road macadam and strawberry jam. Fierce Bordeaux Blend home from a hot climate. This has gritty obduracy and doggedness. Like a red blend with a gun, walking the mean streets. Acidity shot through the roof. Bordeaux meets South Africa in every shared, resplendent and promising way. Rasping tannins contain bursting dark fruit, the grain running in multiple directions. Respect. Wait two more years on this and drink comfortably past 2020. Tasted November 2014

Meerlust Rubicon 2007, Wo Stellenbosch, South Africa (WineAlign)

Rubicon 2007 is the last to be made without any petit verdot (74 per cent cabernet sauvignon, (15) merlot and (11) cabernet franc) and is actually not too dissimilar to ’06 though truly lighter and with more high bright intensity. It is also possessive of that collective ropey, red dusty cured and dried fruit character, like what can happen with traditionally adhered to sangiovese and tempranillo. So really when you think about it this shares a style, at least in part with more than its Bordeaux cousins. Yet go and ask winemaker Chris Williams and he’ll tell you “I dont think this wine could be made anywhere else because of terroir and history.” Fair enough. Surely the winemaker knows. Drink 2017-2026.  Tasted September 2017

Meerlust Rubicon 2006, Wo Stellenbosch, South Africa (WineAlign)

Rubicon is one of the original South African Bordeaux blends, here in 2006 with merlot and cabernet franc to satisfy the blended needs of cabernet sauvignon. The blend is 74 per cent cabernet sauvignon, (8) merlot and (18) cabernet franc. This ’06 is a bit shy, reserved, not giving much away from its usual floral heights. There is a layering of palate density before then deriving its complexity through the alleys of acidity, tannin and structure. Still so far from coming around but this reminds me of that salty, saline and mineral 1996. Drink 2017-2022.  Tasted September 2017

Meerlust Rubicon 2005, Wo Stellenbosch, South Africa (WineAlign)

In 2005 the blend (69 per cent cabernet sauvignon, (15) merlot and (16) cabernet franc) saw an increase of cabernet franc, likely because of heat units and a vintage-driven jamminess exhibited by the cabernet sauvignon. The result is a cooler, increased savoury blend with a rising of steroidal currants so very sapid in a pool of high acidity. It’s the most lucent Rubicon, almost luminescent though not quite transparent, still so vital, pulsating and nearly raging in its wild, twitchy edgy energy, even beastly and in the end, just a bit out of balance. Like a Steve Vai riff in Zappa mode. Then again, the, Rubicon ’05, anything but a flex able leftover or quaint little wine might tell me, “I’m the beast of love and you just got in my way.” Drink 2017-2025.  Tasted September 2017

Meerlust Rubicon 2004, Wo Stellenbosch, South Africa (WineAlign)

Rubicon 2004 is a completely different animal, with animale musk and a deep, dark and brooding constitution. The blend is 63 per cent cabernet sauvignon, (27) merlot and (10) cabernet franc. Shows 13 years on as the young (Chris Williams) winemaker’s ambitious first solo effort, while the wood was once so obviously in power of demand, it’s now ameliorated and integrated. This must have taken some time to come around, perhaps as recent as a year or two ago. Rubicon has been produced since 1980, was previuosly a matter of cabernet sauvignon, now here with more cabernet franc than before. Drink 2017-2025.  Tasted September 2017

Meerlust Rubicon 2003, Wo Stellenbosch, South Africa (WineAlign)

Rubicon 2003 was made by Chris Williams’ predecessor Giorgio Dalla Cia and from ’04 on they are made by Williams. The blend is 69 per cent cabernet sauvignon, (19) merlot and (12) cabernet franc. From a long hot dry sumer, a classic Rubicon, again with some lovely complexity out of the shadow of volatility, more savour here and cedar, plus pencil lead and graphite. In the freshest of ways this is closer to the present stylistic of Rubicon and Stellenbosh and further away than 1996. It’s the transition from old to new, with concentrated black currant, Cassis and wine gum. Not quite tertiary bit meaty char, balsamic, fennel and mushroom are just around the corner. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted September 2017

Meerlust Rubicon 2001, Wo Stellenbosch, South Africa (WineAlign)

2001, a warmer vintage is the assumption, with its wood still in play and tannins truly continuing their assertion. Giorgio dalla Cia fashioned a truly proportioned blend, of 70 per cent cabernet sauvignon with equal parts merlot and cabernet franc. While it can’t hide from its ocean salinity and omnipresent terroir it is a stand out vintage because of new world opulence. I’m not sure there will be another Rubicon in this tasting or at any opportunistic time that will make one dream so vividly of Bordeaux (i.e Château Pichon Longueville Baron) but also Napa Valley (i.e. Opus One). The structure in this Rubicon is purely Stellenbosch and with its merlot/cabernet franc proportion it’s quite intriguing, especially because of the warmth and how dramatically this foreshadows how franc will become more important in the blend as the years progress by. A fantastic wine Drink 2017-2021.  Tasted September 2017

Meerlust Rubicon 1996, Wo Stellenbosch, South Africa (WineAlign)

In 1996 Chris Williams was a junior winemaker (to Giorgio della Cia) at the time but he remembers the vintage well. The blend is 70 per cent cabernet sauvignon, (20) merlot and (10) cabernet franc, from a cool vintage, here still dishing some Brettanomyces. It’s in check and so kind, gentle and helps to fixate towards thinking it a a sleeper vintage sort of personality There is much savour, still fruit (mulberry and plum), lots of acidity in quite a sour patch candy way but really dry and intense.Plenty of sediment! Very much alive with the silty, salty, but not fine pearly tannin. This falls into the saline-savoury style with wood just a dream from long ago, though admittedly a bit too pungent and earthy. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted September 2017

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

Meerlust Cabernet Sauvignon 2004, Wo Stellenbosch, South Africa (283390, $29.95, WineAlign)

Meerlust’s solo cabernet sauvignon ’04 is not merely very much alive it’s still full of bright fruit, though the wood is more noticeable than on the Rubicon. It is the lack of cabernet franc more than anything that seems to be the reason. The ganache component is highly significant, a chocolate factor magnified but still the Meerlust acidity drives the machine. Ripe and ripping with tannins still very much in charge, this wouldn’t be harmed by the generous and patient affording of more time so that it may further evolve to become the pleasing red it knows it will be. Drink 2017-2024.  Tasted September 2017

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

Good to go!

Godello

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

WineAlign

Pop goes VQA

Having just spent a full experiential week crushing vendemmia 2017 sangiovese grapes between fingers and teeth in the heart of Chianti Classico it’s more than exciting to be home in Ontario in the throes of wine country Ontario’s own ’17 raccolto. Every grape harvest has its challenges, intricacies, twists and turns but the antithetical coming about that has happened in both regions is nothing short of a set of miracles.

In Chianti Classico one of the longest droughts in recorded history threatened to suffocate and desiccate what tiny berries there may have been but an early September deluge filled the sangiovese with hope and a recharge towards quality and even quantity. The opposite happened in Ontario. A full summer of rain and mild temperatures has given way to an unprecedented warm Septenmber and now into October, the continued spell of gorgeous weather means that all parties should be celebrating. A glorious September has done more than save a vintage, it has elevated the quality and stretched the quantity so that winemakers can and will process their grapes into a wide range of exciting 2017 wines.

At a time when wine promotions are happening around the province with great intent and public positivity, the VQA-LCBO pot is simultaneously stirred, a recurring theme it seems in the world we call Ontario wine. The provincial board recently announced that “Ontario wines take centre stage at the LCBO ahead of Thanksgiving. The LCBO celebrates and savours the taste of Ontario. Local favourites featured online and in-store.” The four wines featured are a drop in the bucket of what is both capable and impressive about Ontario wine production so it is the LCBO’s “Taste Local Pop-up Experience” that digs a little deeper.

From Friday September 22nd through Sunday October 15th you can drop by 600 King St. West in downtown Toronto for a joint LCBO-VQA pop-up with an ongoing discovery tasting bar, flight tastings, classes (including life-drawing and chocolate bark making) and tutored events led by sommeliers, product consultants and local winemakers. You can also shop for your favourite VQA wines in the LCBO’s retail and digital store. In fact it was last night only that the irreducible Peter Boyd could be found working the first floor of The Spoke Club with a talk on “how to order wine in restaurants.” VQA wine, that is.

Back in March of 2017 while reporting on the VQA wines Taste of Ontario event I remarked how “new assessments are so important to understanding and gaining new perspective on not just how our (Ontario) wines age but also how they are affected by early reductive environment shock and their ability to change (for the better) after a mere six to 12 months in bottle. The first snapshots are not always the clearest.” The same attitude might apply to what happens when wines are presented to a VQA tasting panel. Only the most experienced palates, best winemakers and a select few Ontario wine cognoscenti can forecast evolution and are therefore capable of making immediate, correct decisions. Left to less experienced hands there are sure to be feathers ruffled.

Related – Fifty ways to Taste Ontario

On the heels of a summer during which VQA Ontario wines were celebrated at the 7th annual Cool Chardonnay conference with unprecedented zeal something is amiss, once again, but this time for curious reasons. An article published in the National Post last week goes on the all frontal attack, in short to the LCBO and long against VQA, the Vintner’s Quality Alliance of Ontario. The story contends that the best wines produced in Ontario do not make it to LCBO shelves. It states “all wine made in Ontario needs to pass through the VQA’s tasting panel if it is to be sold at Wine Rack and the LCBO.” The blame is placed squarely on the VQA tasting panel. The equation is simple. Fail VQA and no LCBO for you. Sounds correct but it’s not that simple. The two problems are only connected for the sake of argumentative convenience. As an Ontario wine producer, even if your wine passes VQA it may never be purchased to be sold at the LCBO. Such an equation takes liberties without substantiation. And, as John Szabo M.S. correctly points out, “there’s no law preventing the LCBO or Wine Rack from selling non-VQA wines. In fact, many wines at Wine Rack are offshore blends.” But even this diverges from the point.

Related – How can i4c the future through cool chardonnay?

More important are the questions of taxation in the discrepancy between VQA and non-VQA approved wines and whether or not a wine industry can grow and flourish when many of its makers feel stymied, both economically and philosophically, by a regulatory board they contend tells them what styles of wine they can make. They argue against a panel that carries the authority to send them to the highest level of appeal before granting approval, all the while bottling, labelling and delivery schedules may be compromised along the way. The bureaucracy is hardest on the smallest fries. Some are vocal about wanting to do away with the VQA establishment, or at least the tasting panel and to ask that they just concentrate on regional policing and labelling. Still others would like to see the end of that arm as well. Australia has gone that route, so why not Ontario? There is much talk about this golden era in which foreign wine writers and sommeliers around the world are raving about and drinking wines from Ontario’s great fringe terroir. Ontario is hot and the fear is that if more is not done to discourage mediocre wines that pass with ease and instead encourage risk-taking styles the mojo will be lost and the region be passed up for the next cool climate producer. Is this a fear based in reality?

This story is as old as Ontario wines time immemorial. There isn’t a local writer worth his or her words in salt that has not touched on the subject of the LCBO and VQA. I’ve read the most eloquently rendered articles of sophistication by David Lawrason, John Szabo M.S., Rick VanSickle, Christopher Waters, Tony Aspler, Beppi Crosariol and countless other excellent scribes about what’s right, wrong, fine and inexplicably deplorable about our monopoly and regulatory provincial systems. Even Godello has touched, broached and breached the subjects. A recent, arguably superficial National Post article by a young writer has caused a minor stir in wine circles though not surprisingly has fallen on deaf consumers ears. There is no new revelation here but I really have to thank the NP writer for her take because for one thing she is a very good writer. She should not feel unwanted if the comments sections remain quiet, nor should the winemakers who feel their plight is falling on deaf ears. I’ve made a living off of being ignored. I’m also not a fan of attacking writers and their work. It takes a great deal of dedication, passion and hard determination to produce such a story. Editors on the other hand are not what they used to be. My editor while I was at Canada.com was an expert in the art of knowing what to print and how to make adjustments for the greater good of the story. The National Posts’s editor was flat-out lazy and yet while the writer’s tirade in crusade against VQA is rife with errors and fact checking inconsistencies (like contending that VQA pumps “inordinate sums of money into promoting Ontario wines”) the provocation has provided me personally with a quick period of genuflection and ultimately, an epiphany.

The average wine drinker in Ontario is not privy to the inner circle of goings on with respect to what is typical and acceptable and how the Vintner’s Quality Alliance of Ontario screens the wines submitted for approval, thus deciding the financial fate and economic viability of selling said wines. There was a minor trickle of comment chiming to the article. Ontario Wine Chat’s Shawn McCormick noted “there’s a few facts wrong in the article, but they hit the key point that unless you regularly visit Ontario wine regions, you have a very narrow view on Ontario wine.” Ottawa’s Dr. Janet Dorozynski, Canadian Wine, Beer and Spirits, Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada noted, “pprovocative title and interesting perspective by a new-to-wine writer but as there are many factual errors NP editor would be wise to fact check before publication. And Ontario is not really so unknown anymore.”

André Proulx pulls no punches. Proulx writes “another lazy criticism of VQA. Cites 2 wineries issues failing to mention most wineries pass sans problem. Fault doesn’t make a wine daring…The VQA has its faults… but I’m sick of hearing the same two stories about Norm and PMs wines failing ” Hidden Bench winemakers states “this article makes it appear that the only artisanal wineries producing terroir driven wines are those who have had wines rejected by VQA.”

It is WineAlign’s John Szabo that really picks apart the article. On the idea that “many of the world’s greatest wines have naturally occurring faults, which are the result of the soils and wild fermentation processes,” he replies “ridiculous statement. Stay away from subjects you don’t understand.” In response to “in other words, some of France’s best wines would not pass VQA certification because their high reductive notes would be considered faulty,” he answers “more extrapolated nonsense.” Reacting to “many smaller Ontario wineries have begun experimenting with naturally occurring faults by fermenting their wines with wild yeast,” he says “you insult many smaller Ontario winemakers, and some yeasts, too. Nobody strives for faults.” And finally, when the story notes “adding conventional yeast to grape juice is a bit like buying insurance.… it can also stifle the terroir of a particular vintage,” he retorts, “countless top winemakers around the world disagree. Faulty tastes homogenize wine a helluva lot more than any yeast.”

One of our most esteemed and leading winemakers Norman Hardie had this to say. “It’s great someone has had the guts to take on the VQA…have great difficulty with the quote from the VQA claiming “one of our strengths of our model is our ability to flexible and responsive to be both winemaking and consumer trends”. .this couldn’t be further from the truth..it is a factual error given directly from.the VQA..says alot about our governing body.” I followed up by having a lengthy conversation with Norm. He contends that his statement is indeed one grounded in fact and I listened.

Winemakers feel they should not be told how to practice their craft or be penalized for pushing boundaries. Anyone who thinks this just isn’t so is not paying close enough attention and likely drinking boring wine. It is also a progressive imperative that winemakers seek ways to break from tradition, rules and etiquette, to challenge norms and traditions, but does a wine have to be a bad boy to be considered the most important expression of a local terror? And what fun or excitement is there is a governing board saying “yes “and “of course” in response to every submission? The financial ramifications can certainly be damaging but what’s so special about being accepted at every turn? Would William S. Burroughs, Andy Warhol, Frank Zappa, John Coltrane, Henry Miller, Robert Mapplethorpe and Jean-Michel Basquiat been half as interesting if their art did nothing to challenge or subvert? Immediate commercial acceptance comes at a price and much harder to those who choose to make a difference. Just as vines have to stress to produce exceptional grapes, so must a winemaker face adversity and suffer for his or her art. You can’t have it both ways. You can’t have your grapes and drink them too.

In 2011 David Leyonhjelm wrote in Business Spectator, “some believe that Australia’s policy of exporting fault-free but relatively bland wines has done more harm to Australia’s wine reputation than anything that might have been sold without Wine Australia’s approval…The market is a very efficient mechanism for sorting out these sorts of things. It is most definitely anti-entrepreneurial.” Hard to argue against this but a devil’s advocate position would say that undrinkable and or grossly faulted wines made by less than experienced producers can get lumped in with quality bottles in shared categories. What if the consumer was unable to remember one from the other or which was which? Would it not be better to rid the market of the shite before it makes it there in the first place?

After Wine Australia squashed their export vetting panel, wine journalist Max Allen wrote “anybody assessing whether a wine is ‘sound and merchantable’ need to be exposed to the incredible diversity of styles out there: from big, black, overoaked, over-alcholic shiraz to cloudy, orange, amphora-fermented sauvignon blanc, almost anything goes out there in the modern wine scene.” Indeed this is what we want to see, allow and encourage, though in Ontario, can it be done without some form of compromise? It must suck to make a great wine, have it applauded, reviewed with great scores and requested by international sommeliers, only to see it stalled before being accepted by a local tribunal. Something is obviously missing in such an equation but is the full-out scrapping of the tasting panel the solution? Doing so would mean eliminating an identity consumers have come to trust. Ontario wine not only needs VQA, it is VQA. In this part of the world you have to seek diplomacy.

The article in question notes “this is a situation unique to Ontario,” that wines must pass a tasting panel, when in point of fact most appellations make use tasting a panel. VQA continues to carry the function it was built for, just like its AOC, DOCG and VDP European equivalents, with a standard to protect for the greater good of the wine region it has been entrusted to promote. Is it perfect? Far from it. Has eliminating it helped Australia? Sure. Is the free for all system working in South Africa? You could say yes. But Ontario is not a form of the wild west. It’s diplomatically Canadian to a fault and inextricably linked in political and cultural fashions to Europe more than most would like to admit. Bureaucracy is part of the reason so many moving parts manage to get along. The system fails some and more often than not benefits the largest players even while it saves countless others from getting sick, though continued discussion and journalistic discourse will render said governance continuously relevant or perhaps moot, eventually in time.

If as a winemaker you want to forge your own path and make unusual, risk-taking, anti-establishment wines with character and personality you have to be prepared to suffer the financial casualty of making such products within the parameters of an organized and civilized society. VQA should seek a clearer picture so that wines either pass or fail, not string them along if they are just going to pass them in the end. Neither side benefits when good wines are held hostage. That said, when the system weeds out others which are neither curiously subversive nor special then the consumer will benefit. As for ground-breaking winemaking it can take years, sometimes a lifetime and in Bukowski-like cases, a posthumous party for great art to truly be recognized. The system can only change so fast. It’s not realistic, very frustrating and counterintuitive to creativity and productivity to think otherwise.

The VQA system is certainly flawed. So are the AOC and DOCGs in France and Italy. Even Ontario wine industry peeps who have to support VQA’s function and back its credibility could not argue against that statement. The panelists who decide the fate of submitted wines may not always be best equipped to deal with every fleeting snapshot placed in front of them. Even the best make mistakes. Only the most experienced referees and umpires get to work the NHL, NBA, NFL and MLB postseason. Same in World Cup, Champions League and Premier League Football. Why not in wine? At major wine competitions around the world only the most qualified judges get the nod. The same goes for the WineAlign National Wine Awards of Canada and Intervin and the latter includes some of Ontario’s finest winemakers as judges. Who’s better to make these decisions then they? Anyone who thinks that VQA’s processes don’t need any tweaking is hiding under a rock.

Illustrious panel @TerroirTalk ready to rock #orangewine @winecouncilont #vqaontario #vqa #skinfermentedwhite #faultsandall #terroir2017

So let’s talk a bit about progress and picking battles. Back in May of 2017 the annual Terroir Symposium was held and the first of three masterclass wine sessions focused on VQA’s new category of Skin-Contact Whites. That it took somewhere between 12 months and two years for VQA to get this far is not surprising nor should it be called out for taking so long. It’s a step. Italy would still be working on it. The hottest trend to grip the wine world in the last five years is indeed a style that has been the focus of winemakers in Europe for centuries but as a PDO (wines of protected origin) it is most certainly a relatively new ideal. You can’t just snap your fingers and expect everyone involved to know what’s going on.

The standards development committee has decided that 10 days is the minimum time needed on skins. Again, it’s a step and after review may soon be adjusted. This sub-committee of VQA made up of winemakers, educators, etc. arrived at “how long it would take to attract the typical characteristics of a skin fermented wine.” The number 10 was decided upon as a “good starting point, but it’s a living document and not carved in stone.” Vineland Estates winemaker Brian Schmidt added “the characteristics of orange wine require fermentation, as opposed to cold soak.”

As the distinction needs to be for skin-contact white wines, John Szabo asks and answers his own question. “What is the fundamental core character? Fundamentally they are about complexity and structure, about the tactile components of wine’s phenolic compounds and tannins. Heat and alcohol rip out aggressive tannins, so whole berry fermentation improves texture and structure. A cold soak gives you the salty component but not the structure you get from fermentation.”

Brent Rowland of Pearl Morissette adds, “Orange wine is not an in between wine, but skin-contact wine is just that, without texture and structure. You need the minimum 10 days to get to that point.” Or do you? But the argument agrees that the extended use of stems and seeds will lead you down that textured road. Just keeping it to stems and seeds you will be shortchanged in certain years because they may remain green, bitter and unpleasant. So more flexibility is needed. Are we just adding a category of trendy wine or are we adding a category of value?

“A small but significant number of consumers are excited by it” admits writer Fionna Beckett. “As an outsider I say why not. It’s a white wine that behaves like a red. A wine made from white grapes but made like a red.” Are they always oxidative? She says they are “white wine but with more structure?” Kind of seems counterintuitive because many whites are laden with texture and structure. So, Szabo asks if skin-contact wine enhances or hinders distinct regional character and what wines would you like to see excluded from this category?” The answer is dominant traits that make wine one-dimensional; but we haven’t set those parameters yet. “We’re looking to weed out flaws, like excessive sulphur, just as with any wine,” says Schmidt and adds Rowland “when you skin ferment white wine they produce glutamate, a precursor to umami. And there is a predisposition to enjoying umami, or not.” Ay, there’s the rub. There is also a predisposition to passing wines through VQA, or not.

Here are my notes on the skin-contact white wines tasted at Terroir in May 2017. After all, what would a post by Godello be without some tasting notes. Let’s not take ourselves too seriously, after all.

Does skin-contact wine enhance or hinder distinct regional character? @terroirtalk #vqaontario #terroir2017

Norman Hardie “Tornado” 2016, VQA Ontario (WineryWineAlign)

Tasted blind this strikes with immediacy in that it presents as so very much like chardonnay of high acidity, not to mention tannin and a Savennières meets somewhere in Alsace like texture and tang. So as varietal pinot gris it does confound and yet this really fine calcareous notion can’t be denied, so there is knowledge in that it would be there regardless. Not technically orange with its (maximum, if even) 12 hours on skins but under the rules of the appellation it more than qualifies as a skin-contact white. With more pronounced and less oxidative fruit than most, without a doubt speaks of its place. Drink 2017-2019. Tasted May 2017  normanhardiewinery  @normhardie  @NormanHardieWinery

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

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

Sperling Vineyards Natural Amber Pinot Gris 2015, VQA Okanagan Valley, British Columbia (Winery, $30.00, WineAlign)

So much beeswax and honey wine attribution. Porcine, delicate and quite elegant for the statement. Plenty of acidity and even more relish. Why not give a little Grauburgunder love to the winemaker for giving the style a shot, and succeeding. Tasted blind at #NWAC16, June 2016  sperlingvineyards  @AnnSperling  @SperlingVyds  @SperlingVineyards

From my earlier note of January 2016:

Ann Sperling is not merely fussing about with natural ferments, skin-contact macerations and non-sulphured, self-preservations. She is learning about winemaking, opening doors to perception and interested in doing things in different ways. Her second go ’round with a natural Amber Pinot Gris furthers the non-plussed discussion and the understanding. While pouring the inaugural 2014 from keg on tap last year at Vancouver’s Belgard Kitchen, it was Sommelier David Stansfield who so succinctly noted “this wine is a raw expression of vineyard, grape, and time.” This gets right to the heart and the crux of the Orange matter, especially within the context of a North American account. Sperling has many supporters in her corner, including husband-winemaker-consultant Peter Gamble, the folks at the Casorso-Sperling Kelowna Farm and Bill Redelmeier at Southbrook Vineyards in Niagara. This 2015 is a veritable pink cloud, anti-orange, still so very musty, funky, tanky, with great Sperling acidity and pierce. There is so much exuviation to evanescence and back again flavour. There is feigned sweetness that purposes towards and with gearing second wind into length. How much pleasure is this from and for Pinot Gris? Drink 2016-2017

Cos Rami Sicilia 2014, Sicily, Italy (Agent, SAQ, 12461525, $31.50, WineAlign)

The ornate “orangeness” of the Raimi is patterned and woven across a flat and linear map, introducing itself in a way no other wine can or will be willing to do. Still equipped with this fine acidity but it is the flavours and the texture that cause and solicit so much more sensory approbation, first savoury, then sapid and finally umami. A melted salve of orange skin, bergamot-scented and hazelnut-essential oil secreted beeswax. You gotta get into it to get in to it. Drink 2017-2027.  Tasted May 2017  #cosvittoria  #aziendaagricolacos  thelivingvine     @TheLivingVine  @cosvittoria  The Living Vine inc.

Domaine Viret Dolia Paradis Ambré 2015, Vin De France (Agent, $65.95, WineAlign)

Philippe Viret’s orange wine resides in a cosmoculture world, class and category of its own. Cosmotelluric principles, magnetic fields, homeopathic applications, natural preparations and ancient architectural rules destine this so very naturally flat, rusty and rustic wine into a nether world. The coppery blend of muscat petit grain, bourboulenc, clairette rose, roussanne, vermentino and grenache blanc spent 60 days on the skins and with transparent clarity leaves nothing behind. It does leave much to the imagination and requires some metaphysical fortitude, especially because it lingers, long after it has left the glass and the room. As for amber wine it’s as close to paradise as you are going to find. Drink 2017-2025.  Tasted May 2017  #domaineviret  nicholaspearcewines  @CosmocultureFR  @Nicholaspearce_  @ledomaineviret  Philippe Viret (Domaine Viret)  Nicholas Pearce

Norman Hardie Pinot Gris “Ponton” 2016, VQA Ontario, Canada (Winery, $39.00, WineAlign)

Unlike the Tornado, Hardie’s Ponton is the most Rosé like in this newly created skin-contact category. It’s pink and rosey, of great acidity, salinity, regional limestone and even liquid dusty. In its quantifiable sapidity and wispy lime-zippy personality it could actually pass for riesling and having spent up to and only 10 days on skins this continues to state such a case. The number is actually nine days in cold soak and then it began fermenting, so really just one day of fermentation to confound the category, then put into barrel. The natural fermentation and zero adjustments add up to this, neither white nor red, but comfortably in the land settled between. A clear and focused SCW in the natural world. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted May 2017

Pyramid Valley Vineyards Growers Collection Kerner Orange White 2015, New Zealand (Winery, WineAlign)

This Kiwi skin-contact blend almost smells like Icewine what with its tropical, exaggerated fruity nose but conversely and impossibly bone dry despite that aromatic sweetness. Kerner is the vineyard and its actually a one month on skins ferment of pinot gris, gewürztraminer and riesling. Tres cool. Drink 2017-2020. Tasted May 2017  pyramidvalleyvineyards  @pyramidvalleynz  @PyramidValleyVineyards

Pearl Morissette Cuvée Blu 2015, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (Winery, $25.00, WineAlign)

The amphora (qveri) fermented Cuvée Blu makes use of 100 per cent whole cluster chardonnay in blend with pinot gris, riesling and (in 2016, sauvignon blanc). This singular, go it alone fantasy spent three and a half months on skins pressed and aged in foudres. It may just dance with the funkiest R & B gait of them all and to the semi-trained noggin can only be Pearl Morissette. The risk taken here is done without fear, into sheep’s milk, unwashed rind, saline, earth-crusted, stoned immaculate. The accumulation of glutamate-umami-polyphenolic-brettanomyces and volatile acidity takes it to great lengths and yet all this might disappear around the next aromatic corner. So much interest and so playfully dirty at the same time is this geekiest of them all, whole bunch, aged in 60 year-old (Alsatian) oak vats SCW. The numbers show 14 per cent abv, though it’s not yet in bottle. Drink 2017-2024.  Tasted May 2017  pearlmorissette  @PearlMorissette  Pearl Morissette

Vineland Estates Chardonnay Musqué Skin Fermented White 2016, VQA Twenty Mile Bench, Ontario (Winery, $30.00, WineAlign)

Though Brian Schmidt’s floral chardonnay “experiment” might be considered the simplest and easiest of Ontario’s “orange” wines that is only because it’s so bloody delicious to consume. The character is rusty and textured and in a way tastes just like warm iced tea and all the tannic variations that come from such a profile of flavour. This chardonnay musqué spent 55 days on skins and in turn developed its tannic backbone though it seems to have lost its intrinsic chardonnay character. That said it soaked up its Bench terroir so if something is lost much has been gained. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted May 2017  vinelandestates  benchwineguy  @VinelandEstates  @benchwineguy  @winery.vinelandestates  Brian Schmidt

Good to go!

Godello

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

WineAlign

50 years of Vino Nobile di Montepulciano

Missed it by that much. #oldwine #vinonobile #sangiovese #vinonobiledimontepulciano #cantineriunite

During the eight-day locomotive migration through Anteprime Toscane in February 2017 there were nearly 1000 wines to try, mostly sangiovese in all its various genetic, clonal and stylistic fluctuations.  The aberration was in San Gimignano, a stop on the tour that I regrettably missed due to a deeper delve into Chianti Classico’s (even in) February verdant hills. One checkpoint and more specifically one tasting stood out from the rest. Fifty years of Vino Nobile di Montepulciano.

That the powers that be at the Consorzio del Vino Nobile di Montepulciano thought to amass ten wines spanning four decades and launching with that fateful year of 1967 was more than a stroke of regional genius. It was both a major risk to take and a gift of great generosity. There was no way of knowing how those early virgin wines of DOC origin would show or if in fact that life would still be left in them. Perhaps another shortlisted vintage or two was waiting in the wings just in case a 1967 or a 1975 failed to survive but regardless, some serious props, high-fives and sincerest thanks go out to the producers and decision makers of this most storied consorzio.

While some examples expressed themselves with more spirit and vitality than others, any doubt cast on the structure of the Montepulciano sangiovese has been vehemently cast aside. The prugnolo gentile and other (increasingly employed) varietal variants cultivated in the Valdichiana and Val d’ Orcia are more than a 50-year-old project. “The oldest documented reference to the wine of Montepulciano is from 789 in which the cleric Arnipert offered the church of San Silvestro or San Salvatore at Lanciniano on Mt Amiata, a plot of land cultivated with vineyards in the estate of the castle of Policiano. Later, Repetti mentions a document in 1350 (in his “Historical and Geographical dictionary of Tuscany”) which drew up the terms for trade and exportation of Vino Nobile di Montepulciano.”

“The Sixties brought a reawakening in winegrowing geared principally towards the production of Vino Nobile rather than Chianti. State and EU funds used by the wineries to convert their vineyards into conformity with the requirements of the DOC (1966), enabled new wineries to enter the market. Recognition of DOCG status came in 1980 and Vino Nobile began a new life.”

In advance of the 50-year seminar the Annata 2014 and Riserva 2013 vintages were presented. The challenge of the growing season showed the fortitude and the persistence of Montepulciano’s producers. You can throw a difficult set of weather patterns at the Vino Nobile but you can’t break their spirit. The ’14s are different, that much is clear, but more than enough quality, firm grip and structure is available to send these wines well into the next decade. They are a grounded bunch. The 2013 Riserva are more of an elegant crew, for the most part and as representatives of the multiplicity of sangiovese they are as falling snow, like the endless repetition of winter’s everyday miracle. They are also wines that do not swing their arms, an indication of a secretiveness of character. Which smarts into contradiction a connection to the ten 50 years of Vino Nobile wines. It explains how exciting it is to spend time with them in 2017.

Post Anteprima Vino Nobile we paid a visit to Avignonesi. Two extraordinary vertical tastings were held with proprietor Virginie Saverys, Max Zarobe and winemaker Ashleigh Seymour; Vino Nobile di Montepulciano 2014-2010 and Desiderio Merlot 2013-2010-2001-1998. “When I purchased Avignonesi in 2009 it was Mars, or Venus,” began Virginie, “it was not planet earth.” Today it is a model of Montepulciano consistency. Here are my notes on those Avignonesi vintages along with some Anteprima prugnolo and those 50 years of Vino Nobile di Montepulciano.

50 years of #vinonobile @consorzionobile #50anni #sangiovese #vinonobiledimontepulciano

Contucci Vino Nobile Di Montepulciano 1967, Vino Nobile Di Montepulciano, Tuscany, Italy (486068, Agent, WineAlign)

Contucci’s Vino Nobile di Montepulciano ’67 was produced during a significant year in world history. The first heart transplant, the Six-Day War, the Monterey Pop Festival, The World Exposition in Montreal, The first Super Bowl and the release of the Beatles’ Sgt. Peppers Lonely Heart Club Band. It was also the year Celtic beat Internazionale in the European Cup Final. Contucci’s Vino Nobile is from a time when there were maximum seven producers in Montepulciano and only the second vintage as a denominazione wine. A primitive wine from a primitive stage in the history of the area. If it’s not totally oxidized, it’s certainly most of the way there. Smells like a nearly petrified orange, fermenting lemons and toasted meringue. Certainly many white grape varieties in here. Old and chestnut barrels were used for a seven to eight month period of aging. Much more life shows on the palate, with lemon, orange, caramel and lanolin or paraffin. Lingers for a bit. More than interesting. Drink 2017.  Tasted at Anteprima del Vino Nobile di Montepulciano 2017, February 2017  andreacontucci  #contucciwinery  kylixwines  #cantinacontucci  @KylixWines  Contucci  Andrea Contucci  @KylixWines

Tramps like us. @consorzionobile #borntorun #1975 #vinonobile #fanneti #sangiovese #vinonobiledimontepulciano #toscana

Fanetti Vino Nobile Di Montepulciano 1975, Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

Fanetti’s Vino Nobile di Montepulciano almost defies 40 plus years having passed since 1975. The higher acidity may not exactly scream at this time but you can imagine it having done so for a long time in its harkening back to having been raised at a higher elevation. Fruit is completely gone (of course) but we’re still in forest floor, faint mushroom and compost. The acidity still kind of rages, incredibly and this smells like lemon wood polish but also musty leather. Twenty years ago would have been really nice. I like the mouthfeel, like old Rioja, really old, with a creamy and silken texture. Quite alive, despite the off-putting nose. This was worth the visit. Drink 2017.  Tasted at Anteprima del Vino Nobile di Montepulciano 2017, February 2017  #fanetti

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

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  #poderiboscarelli  Nicolò De Ferrari   Luca De Ferrari  @artisanalwineimports

Avignonesi Vino Nobile Di Montepulciano DOCG 1988, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, 943670, WineAlign)

Avignonesi’s Vino Nobile di Montepulciano 1988 picks up where its most excellent peers left off but also leads back into a quality level of parity tasted after Boscarelli’s 1982. This nearly 30 year-old sangiovese is not alone in its walk through the woods, leading to the autumnal mushrooms, unearthing the truffles and yet its trudge though the forest floor is even more prevalent. And then the intense pungency of porcini comes flying out of the glass. Good acidity still travels up and down the tongue and then it retreats so very drying on the finish. Wonderful look back. Drink 2017-2019. Tasted at Anteprima del Vino Nobile di Montepulciano 2017, February 2017  avignonesi  rogersandcompanywines  mdzbtz  @avignonesi  @rogcowines  @mdzbtz  @avignonesi  @rogcowines 

Poliziano Vino Nobile Di Montepulciano “Vigneto La Caggiole” 1988, Tuscany, Italy (AgentWineAlign)

Back in 1988 Poliziano’s Riserva style Vino Nobile di Montepulciano came from this single vineyard, the “Vigneto La Caggiole.” Named after an ancient farm and/or St. Mustiola’s “Caggiole” Parish, it comes from Cagio, a word in the middle ages meaning “a forest or a bounded area by forests.” When tasted side by side by each with the ’82 Boscarelli and the ’88 Avignonesi this Poliziano is much more reserved and muted aromatically so I’ll hedge a bet that the tannins are still in charge. Indeed this is the case but they are sweet and copacetic to fruit that persists, though only reveals its fleshy charms on the palate. A Vino Nobile yet very drinkable to date. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted at Anteprima del Vino Nobile di Montepulciano 2017, February 2017  polizianowinery  noble_estates  @PolizianoAzAgr  @Noble_Estates  @PolizianoAz.Agr  @NobleEstates

Carpineto Vino Nobile Di Montepulciano 1988, Tuscany, Italy (AgentWineAlign)

Carpineto’s Nobile dating back 29 years is now wholly and totally volatile, of the vinyl curtain as carpeting on the forest’s floor. Some mushroom and lots of wood on the palate. Smoky and smouldering to a tart and still persistent, tannic finish. Still waiting for the settling though after three decades if it hasn’t happened yet it’s not ever going to. Would have offered serious and substantial pleasure when the fruit was still active but that finest moment was in the last decade. Drink 2017.  Tasted at Anteprima del Vino Nobile di Montepulciano 2017, February 2017  @CarpinetoWines  @UNIVINS  Carpineto Wines  @agence.UNIVINS  carpinetowines  univinscanada

Tenuta Di Gracciano Della Seta Vino Nobile Di Montepulciano 1995, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, 487074, WineAlign)

The Della Seta ’95 hosts and boasts an aromatic combination of forest earthy and floral pretty and so is this most interesting 22 year-old Vino Nobile, with dried wild strawberry (fragaria vesca = fragola di bosco), fruit, leaves, mulch and all. Quite tart and with some real texture, more structure and remarkable considering this was produced at the beginning of the house’s history. Well preserved and if it holds no candle to Chianti Classico or Sienese/Florentine Hills IGT sangiovese from the same excellent vintage, it surely lives to tell a similar tale. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted at Anteprima del Vino Nobile di Montepulciano 2017, February 2017  tenutadigraccianodellaseta  @GradellaSeta  @GraccianodellaSeta

Salcheto Vino Nobile Di Montepulciano 1995, Docg Tuscany, Italy (Agent, 685180, WineAlign)

The volatility and Bretty quality is there but I don’t imagine it so much more aggressive than it may have been at the start. Dried fruit is full on and in with very little in the way of mushroom and truffle. The small French oak barriques have certainly given this some preserve so that the fruit can turn to preserves on the palate. Good acidity persists as does so much residual spice from the wood. Drink 2017-2018.  Tasted at Anteprima del Vino Nobile di Montepulciano 2017, February 2017   #salchetowinery  hobbsandcompany  @SalchetoWinery  @AMH_hobbsandco  @Salcheto  @HobbsandCo

Bindella Vino Nobile Di Montepulciano 1999, Docg Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

The wood used at the time is clearly in full view though in a settled, creamy and gently spicy aromatic way. This has evolved quite quickly and efficiently, now into a sangiovese turned to balsamic, five spice and soy wax. Was and still is a rich wine though I would bet that 1998 has fared better. The acidity is still quite prevalent, the tannins not so much. Two shots of doppio espresso mark the tail and it lingers long enough to suggest a couple of more years at this stage. Melts away like chocolate on the tongue. Drink 2017-2018.  Tasted at Anteprima del Vino Nobile di Montepulciano 2017, February 2017  #bindella  #tenutavallocaia    @bindellavallocaia

Tenuta Valdipiatta “Vigna d’Alfiero” Vino Nobile Di Montepulciano 1999, Docg Tuscany, Italy (AgentWineAlign)

Valdipiatta’s Vigna d’Alfiero is not quite as evolved a 1999 as the Bindella with some more presentable and viable fruit life available, though the wood is very sheathing and in full couverture. Balance is better though because the acidity is finer and still persistent. Tannic and drying, this is exactly what I would expect for 18 year-old Vino Nobile. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted at Anteprima del Vino Nobile di Montepulciano 2017, February 2017  #tenutavaldipiatta   rogersandcompanywines  @TenValdipiatta  @rogcowines  @TenutaValdipiatta  @rogcowines

Poderi Boscarelli

Boscarelli Prugnolo Rosso De Montepulciano DOC 2015, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $27.95, WineAlign)

Boscarelli’s use of varietal alias for the local sangiovese is both obvious and modern in approach. Their’s is a fresh and vibrant Rosso, lithe and unencumbered. Fragrant, sweet smelling roses lift the spirit and second the motion for needing no ornamentation. This completely self-adorned prugnolo is gentile but just firm enough a foil for the antipasti. Drink 2017-20219.  Tasted at Anteprima del Vino Nobile di Montepulciano 2017, February 2017

Boscarelli Vino Nobile De Montepulciano DOCG 2014, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $51.00, WineAlign)

A firm ’14, not so unusual in itself and yet just ripe enough, with fragrant roses as indicated in the prugnolo ’15. Yet here the flowers also deliver a dried and saline line while everything seems to soften and emancipate on the palate. Notes of a future with tar and tabby developed red fruit comes dreamy yet clear with spice notes by barrel and varietal keeping the youthful spirit alive.  Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted at Anteprima del Vino Nobile di Montepulciano 2017, February 2017

Boscarelli Vino Nobile De Montepulciano Riserva DOCG 2012, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $63.95, WineAlign)

In accord of time under its belt and meltable structure afforded by the barrel it is the Riserva that strikes a now balance between ripe fruit and the firm grip of Vino Nobile tannin. I Boscarelli reference the least amount of volatility but the particular acidity is quite fastening as it works in cohorts with the tannin. These are musical wines of ligature and kedging anchors. While the Annata 2014 may have more bob in its sailing drift the Riserva is the stable schooner. It’s just a question of approach. Drink 2018-2024.  Tasted at Anteprima del Vino Nobile di Montepulciano 2017, February 2017

Boscarelli Vino Nobile De Montepulciano Riserva Sotto Casa DOCG 2012, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $86.95, WineAlign)

Sotto Casa is a single-vineyard prugnolo from “beneath or below the home,” as the nomenclature suggests and is the house Vino Nobile paved with 15 per cent cabernet sauvignon and five merlot. I don’t take huge stock in the need to discuss Bordeaux varietal addendum versus the endemic though in this case the floral lift and forgiving nature is worth a word or two. The 20 per cent expatriate accents make for a prugnolo of inclusion, in this case bringing the best out of that local sangiovese. Richness goes above and beyond, with nary a shrinking or chocolate shaken moment. The freshness here in such Riserva clothing is to be lauded. Really fine. Drink 2018-2024.  Tasted at Anteprima del Vino Nobile di Montepulciano 2017, February 2017

Boscarelli Vino Nobile De Montepulciano Riserva Il Nocio DOCG 2012, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $148.95, WineAlign)

With some variegation in the alluvial soil to include sand and clay this 100 per cent sangiovese is drawn from the east side of the estate. The four hectare, 280 to 350 metres of altitude Vigna del Nocio has been owned by Poderi Boscarelli since 1988. It is here where terroir, aspect and existential vine placement changes everything. More than four and less than 5,000 bottles of the vineyard’s finest produce are gifted in this wine, “the nuts,” but also the bolts of Boscarelli’s noble fruit. Yes there is this bifurcate character about it, at once roasted nuts meets frutta seca and then this depth, seriousness and structure. The forked Vino Nobile is both blessed by that Boscarelli grip and lifted into noble elegance. Three years will pass and little will change. I’d expect it to linger for 15 more. Drink 2019-2027.  Tasted at Anteprima del Vino Nobile di Montepulciano 2017, February 2017

Tenuta Valdipiatta

Tenuta Valdipiatta Pinot Nero Rosso Di Montepulciano IGT 2008, Tuscany, Italy (AgentWineAlign)

This small lot production is one of the most unique wines made in the Montepulciano hills, from just half a hectare on sand and clay. The vineyard was planted in 2000 to what must have been some whispers, giggles and closet envy, at the base of the hill beneath the winery. Dark berries, red ropey, ruby yet firm pinot nero fruit leads a wine of amazing toughness and grit. This must have really been something to behold in its first two or three years. All terroir and the hardest of nuts to crack. It has now softened somewhat but I wonder if in 2000 they could have known what might happen. The vines should hit their elegant stride beginning with perhaps the 2015 vintage, would be my best guess. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted at Anteprima del Vino Nobile di Montepulciano 2017, February 2017

Tenuta Valdipiatta Rosso Di Montepulciano DOC 2015, Tuscany, Italy (AgentWineAlign)

Valdipiatta’s Rosso was just recently bottled, with 10 per cent mamaiolo and canaiolo in support of the prugnolo. It spent only three months in (20 per cent) used barriques and like the pinot nero is truly a terroir driven wine. While certainly dusty, firm, deeply clay fruit deepened its musicality plays anything but an astringent tune. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted at Anteprima del Vino Nobile di Montepulciano 2017, February 2017

Tenuta Valdipiatta Vino Nobile Di Montepulciano DOCG 2014, Tuscany, Italy (AgentWineAlign)

A multi-barrel slumber of six months in small barriques and 12 months in 500L Slavonian casks has ushered this firm sangiovese (with five per cent canaiolo) through the world of the traditional and the historically noble. In spite of its old school charm in upbringing it’s quite the amenable one with a wide reaching, outstretched arm of generosity marked by a salty-sweetness of candied-savoury accents. It’s quite the minty cool and fruit prosperous Vino Nobile that while tending to grippy is almost always open for business. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted at Anteprima del Vino Nobile di Montepulciano 2017, February 2017

Tenuta Valdipiatta Vino Nobile Di Montepulciano DOCG 2013, Tuscany, Italy (AgentWineAlign)

The 2013 Vino Nobile is a softer, understated in grip version of the ’14, still terroir-driven but from a less demanding albeit singular vintage. What’s different, aside from an extra year beneath its legs is the presence of sweeter and finer-grained tannins but also a wider, open door of invitation and possibility. The Valdipiatta acidity is quite consistent, as is the traditional way of styling. A pattern is forming, of the ideal out of which an intrinsic understanding is able to cogitate the links in these wines of place. Strong genes run through the lineage of the Valdipiatta family. Drink 2018-2023.  Tasted at Anteprima del Vino Nobile di Montepulciano 2017, February 2017

Tenuta Valdipiatta Vino Nobile Di Montepulciano Riserva DOCG 2013, Tuscany, Italy (AgentWineAlign)

Unlike the allure into a smiling reception offered up by the Annata 2013 the Riserva is conversely closed and not yet in a forgiving mood. The firmness of fruit, tart shrill of acidity and fineness of tannin all combine in procurement of one seriously intense Vino Nobile. The orotund voice and dramatic attitude follow the company line and in the Riserva do so with great hyperbole. It’s quiet remarkable actually. Unmistakable Valdipiatta. Drink 2019-2025. Tasted at Anteprima del Vino Nobile di Montepulciano 2017, February 2017

Avignonesi’s Virginie Saverys with Wine & Spirits Magazine’s Stephanie Johnson, on her right and The Reverse Wine Snob Jon Thorsen, on her left

Avignonesi

Avignonesi Vino Nobile Di Montepulciano DOCG 2014, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, 943670, $41.95, WineAlign)

Quite relaxed for sangiovese from the demanding coincidences of implausibility that arose out of the 2014 vintage, clearly directed as such to drink well while others have to wait. Tannins are certainly ripe and whatever agitative spearing or sparking that seems to be going on is given a healthy and humid oak bathing. Not so much found in the elegant oasis occupied by either or both ’12 or ’13 but a very grounded and centred Vino Nobile nonetheless. Drink 2017-2021.  Tasted at Avignonesi February 2017

Avignonesi Vino Nobile Di Montepulciano DOCG 2013, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, 943670, $41.95, WineAlign)

Like so many 2013s the fruit is quite plussed, pure and distinctly raw, dusty, cured and naturally craft sangiovese. The wood also seems to be in a diminutive position and so distinguishes the fruit though when all is said and done this equivocation can only be from Avignonesi. Terrific spice elements rub in and out of every crevice. Long like 2012, elegant in of itself and it’s quite possible the better or best is yet to come. The elusiveness of development means that we can’t yet really know. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted at Avignonesi February 2017

Avignonesi Vino Nobile Di Montepulciano DOCG 2012, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, 943670, WineAlign)

The vintage is the one with the reductive “lamentala,” but merely just a fraction of that idea and is quick to blow off into the Val di Chiana. “We have to be careful with sangiovese,” cautions owner Virginie Saverys, “it has a very thick skin.” Extraction must be a delicate process and so a gentle délestage is performed, plus from the bottom up, “not a very physical pump over from the top.” This leads to big fruit, well endowed by barriques and tonneaux towards and always elegant result. Drink 2018-2023.  Tasted at Avignonesi February 2017

Avignonesi Vino Nobile Di Montepulciano DOCG 2011, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, 943670, WineAlign)

The 2011 was augmented by late August into September warmth so late phenolic ripeness made for an adjustment to picking and a new wine was born. Though less floral and perhaps not quite as elegant as 2010 the slower developed will and power were a perfect fit for an Aussie winemaker’s roots. You can’t help but note the shiraz-like attitude in this ’11 but balance is afforded by a more extreme acidity. With thanks to prudent picking passes the greens were avoided and all was gifted by the reds and the blacks in one massive but now mellowing coexistence. Drink 2017-2021.  Tasted at Avignonesi February 2017

Avignonesi Vino Nobile Di Montepulciano DOCG 2010, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, 943670, WineAlign)

This first year production under the transfer of full ownership to Virginie Saverys was marked by a long, cool growing season and as a result, a lovely, long-developed ripeness. The 2010 Vino Nobile is one of alcoholic meets polyphenolic balance. Though quite young yet there is a triumvirate fineness of fruit, acidity and tannin in a sangiovese where richness and elegance meet at the intersection of texture. This is a wine of shoulders lowered, at ease and at peace. Ripeness is the virtue on a road that flows like a river. Drink 2017-2021. Tasted at Avignonesi February 2017

Avignonesi Desiderio Merlot Toscana IGT 2013, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, SAQ 10993456, $72.00, WineAlign)

Desiderio is Avignonesi’s wine of “desire,” an IGT usually made with 15 per cent cabernet sauvignon though it’s as much a varietal wine as any sangiovese, or perhaps better as a comparison to Napa Valley merlot. From the Val di Chiana, a wine looking for Chianina beef. Proprietor Virginie Saverys explains the terroir is “the southern most limit of making a decent merlot in Tuscany.” Any further south and “you can lose your whole crop to the heat over the course of three days.” Concentration due to clay rich soils and a consumption of oak by healthy fruit like there is no tomorrow. It’s quite remarkable how little heat spiked spice is found on the nose. Smells as merlot should with just a touch less than obvious jamminess, a dusty and complex emulsion of fruit and herbs. The bite, spice and concentration well up on the palate. Desiderio is intense and implosive merlot. Drink 2019-2031.  Tasted at Avignonesi February 2017

Avignonesi Desiderio Merlot Toscana IGT 2010, Tuscany, Italy (AgentWineAlign)

From a selection off of 32 hectares of merlot with 15 per cent cabernet sauvignon, the 2010 Desiderio is not unlike ’13 but with more elegance, softness and demure. The spice is again hidden and here in ’10 it’s really a full case of fruit and what seems at first like nothing else. Time and the effects of that vintage have already conspired to soften a bring about this creamy mouthfeel and texture. Vanilla, chocolate ganache and a restrained sense of power. It’s quite pretty, ready to drink and yet there is this feeling that it’s not quintessential Desiderio. It’s beautiful nonetheless. Drink 2019-2031.  Tasted at Avignonesi February 2017

Avignonesi Desiderio Merlot Toscana IGT 2001, Tuscany, Italy (AgentWineAlign)

From a classic, important and proven Tuscan vintage and for merlot, very good, if not wholly and unequivocally exceptional. The wood on 2001 carries more weight and massive couverture and at 16 years of age the rendered effect is dripping in chocolate and fine espresso. There is this sense of exotic spice in airy accents, like five-spice and liquorice, but then a swirling descent into demi-glacé. Tannin and acidity are both a bit lower here, a reminder of time and evolution, not the most lashing in any shape or form. Paolo Trappolini was the winemaker for this 2001, a powerful merlot with plenty of glory. Drink 2017-2023.  Tasted at Avignonesi February 2017

Avignonesi Desiderio Merlot Toscana IGT 1989, Tuscany, Italy (AgentWineAlign)

Proof is in the varietal pudding that merlot is much more forgiving than sangiovese and also more adaptive in its longevity. This ’89 is from a time when the winemaker could not have truly known what would happen or have the varietal expertise to provide the tools for making exceptional merlot. That was Ettore, one of the two brothers (along with Alberto Falvo) who procured a merlot of structure and this passive commitment to time. It’s more welled up with chocolate but there is this tension that obviously never wavered nor has oxidation really crept in. Incredible really. Drink 2017-2021.  Tasted at Avignonesi February 2017

The Valdichiana from the terrace of the Enoliteca del Consorzio del Vino Nobile di Montepulciano

Good to go!

Godello

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

WineAlign

Flights in and out of Niagara, ere Terroir

The Niagara crew getting a load of #BallsFalls in Jordan

In May of 2017 the 12th annual Terroir Symposium brought many magnificent folk to Ontario. They were dreamers, disruptors, international luminaries, thought leaders, visionaries, creative influencers, innovators, chefs, hoteliers, drink experts, writers and business leaders. With VQA Wines of Ontario and the Wine Marketing Association of Ontario as chaperone, a dozen of these invitees flew from Billy Bishop Airport to Niagara District Airport for an ante-Terroir Talk Sunday fun day in wine country immersion. I joined Robert Gilvesy, Fiona Beckett, Jeremy Bonia, Magdalena Kaiser, Jamie Drummond, Nikki Bayley, Dick Snyder, Ursula Heinzelmann, Christoph Thörle and Jim Poris for the excursion. In between return nine-seater shuttles we ran through flights at Flat Rock Cellars and Henry of Pelham Estate Winery. Who amongst us was not taken by these VQA wines and their unselfconscious excellence?

First a hot air balloon and now this!!!

After a quick first pit stop at Ball’s Falls to show off Niagara’s famous escarpment limestone to the international contingent, we settled in at Flat Rock to taste six wines with Cellarmaster Allison Findlay. Next it was a dozen at Henry of Pelham Estate Winery with proprietor Daniel Speck, Ryan Corrigan of Rosewood Estates and Suzanne Janke of Stratus Vineyards. A blow your mind lunch was prepared on site by Wellington Court Chefs Erik Peacock and Cait Bermuhler. Here are the notes on the 18 wines.

Revisits with @Winemakersboots and a seven-year Crowned epiphany

At Flat Rock Cellars

Flat Rock Cellars Riddled Sparkling 2010, Méthode Traditionnelle, VQA Twenty Mile Bench, Niagara Escarpment, Ontario (383315, $29.95, WineAlign)

Time makes a difference so here the extended lees age (six months further, to 60) takes Riddled to another level. Considering the cost and attention to time, in the broad realm of traditional method sparkling wine there are some that are given away. Riddled. A whole lot of biscuit warmth, sody saleratus, gingersnap, tart Ida Red apple, breadth and a smile-inducing creamy palate. There is more wisdom and calm from 2010 so do not come around demanding tension and over-exciteability. Think Grower’s Champagne with Ontario heart and soul, dedication and purpose. The extended arm of Madronich-Johnston love is here, this year. It won’t get much better than this. Great length. Drink 2016-2025.  Tasted October 2016, March and May 2017  flatrockcellars  @Winemakersboots  @FlatRockCellars

Flat Rock Cellars Crowned Sparkling Brut 2009, VQA Twenty Mile Bench, Niagara Escarpment, Ontario (Winery, $45.20, WineAlign)

Crowned ’09 was disgorged this spring after seven years on the lees, sealed under crown cap and sent to market with a crowning achievement in mind. Feather gingery, faintly oxidative, this Blanc de Blancs wafts in copper-veined breezes and fennel frond ahead of its palate piercing chardonnay intensity. It delivers a cooler climate interaction than the Riddled, with preserved lemon and please concentrate if you will on it as a wine of heavy forethoughts. What with it resting on its lees, in limbo this long out of practice, necessity and as a result, now fortuitous and of great luck. The animal was created early on and now anything less might be difficult to justify and accept. Plus the bar is raised for the entire Sparkling community. Here the perfect example of low, slow and minute by minute evolution. Only 500 bottles (plus one) were made. Drink 2017-2023.  Tasted May 2017

Flat Rock Cellarmaster Allison Findlay

Flat Rock Cellars Gravity Pinot Noir 2013, VQA Twenty Mile Bench, Niagara Escarpment, Ontario (1560, $30.25, WineAlign)

Flat Rock’s ever involving vines (on 33 hectares planted in 2001 and 2002) enter a new phase with indicators blinking and refreshing in this 2013 Gravity Pinot Noir. Youthful adolescence and gregarious fruit expression initiated in 2010 and carried through the 2012 vintage. Those years saw to a world of astringency and tension relegated to mites in the rear-view mirror. The wine is now in a nexus cross-roaded with exigency holding pattern. To understand its confusion and survey fast forward to its future is not easy. Gravity is a bit large right now, seemingly advanced, but to me the fight is between that fruit abundant state and the return of, though eased by meditative Jedi tension. Gravity just needs a parachute to bring it back down to earth. That lifeline may not materialize in this 2013 but that does not take anything away from its discriminating and diagnostic tones. Brightness, astatic inflection and succulence. This vintage may suffer from some level of snafu but it will age, evolve and breath. That much fruit has to have some level of expectation. The follow up ’14 and ’15 will win the hearts of horses and men. Drink 2016-2021.  Tasted October 2015 and May 2017

Flat Rock Cellars Gravity Pinot Noir 2012, VQA Twenty Mile Bench, Niagara Escarpment, Ontario (1560, $29.95, WineAlign)

Seven months have softened and mothered Gravity’s adolescence in ways to now see it as the most feminine, certainly of the last four vintages. Pretty dabs, perfumes of natural conditioning, warm days and warm nights in the bottle. More accessible than previous takes and of a new modernity perceived. Sweet dreams and sweet fragrances, roses and cinnamon, nothing fancy here mind you, with no bite and no gathering moss. Cherries and vanilla, lavender and simple pleasures. Straight up Gravity, no pull down, no drag and no excess weight. At $30 and from the best barrels, this trumps $40-50 most locales not called Lowery, La Petite Vineyard, Central Otago, Hengst or Pfinstberg. From my earlier, March 2014 note: “In a vintage potentially muddled by warmth and a humidor of radio frequency, duplicating berry phenolics, Flat Rock’s Gravity remains a definitive, signature house Pinot Noir. In 2011, the head of the FR class from its most expressive barrels shared the limelight (and top juice) with the Pond, Bruce and Summit one-offs. In ’12, Gravity’s sandbox was its own. The style is surely dark, extracted, black cherry bent, as per the vintage. Yet only the Rock’s soil does earth in this variegate, borne and elevated by the barrel’s grain. There are no fake plastic trees in a Flat Rock Pinot. “Gravity always wins.”  Last tasted October 2014 and May 2017

Flat Rock The Rusty Shed Chardonnay 2013, VQA Twenty Mile Bench, Niagara Escarpment, Ontario (1552, $24.95, WineAlign)

It’s as if this label had bided all this time to be the benefactor of 2013 fruit. This Rusty Shed, this 20 miler with the track record to age, a wine that sheds baby fat over a 10 year mineral through echelon stratum, in ways few other peninsula to bench chardonnay can do. This Jay Johnston handled surfer of a wine, buoyant and balanced, centred and able to withstand turbulence, oscillation and tidal sway. Here with sumptuous and spiralled fruit gaged in lode intervals and a tartness held in lope and line by a membrane of extract and tannin. Best ever. Showing well, repeatedly and to forecasted repute. Impressing critics and consumers alike. Bravo. Drink 2016-2025.  Tasted June 2016 and May 2017.

Flat Rock Cellars Nadja’s Vineyard Riesling 2015, VQA Twenty Mile Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (578625, $24.95, WineAlign)

This is an outlier for the Nadja’s Vineyard riesling, with deeper concentration and compression than before. More Mosel and less Twenty Mile in 2015, of light alcohol and an increase in off-dry, extract meets acidity. There have been Nadja’s with more air and exhale but I can’t recall one with such density in vitality. A great Nadja to be sure but of a deferential sort of character. Two or three years should bring it back into its self-imposed and created line. Drink 2018-2024.  Tasted May 2016 and May 2017

VQA wines at Henry of Pelham Estate Winery, May 2017

At Henry of Pelham Estate Winery

Rosewood Estates Gamay Rosé Emerald Shore Vineyard 2016, VQA Creek Shores, Ontario (Winery, $15.95, WineAlign)

The inaugural gamay Rosé is from fourth leaf vines in the spot where the famous sémillon once lived. It delivers essential gamay aromas; strawberry modified with a tisane into raspberry and cherry, salinity clarified and fined. It’s lactic tonal, nicely tart and with a Beamsville mineral, very specific and just this emerald side of intense. Finished dry, but was allowed to go through three quarters malo to bring the cream and the layers. Finished by the incumbent winemaker Ryan Corrigan who once “lived out of a backpack and chased grapes,” committing in fleeting methodology, to northern and southern hemisphere harvests. In 2017 Niagara is all his. Drink 2017-2018.  Tasted May 2017  rosewood wine  @Rosewoodwine  @rosewoodwine

Welcome to @rosewoodwine Ryan Corrigan. Gamay and Cabernet Franc are in fine hands.

Henry Of Pelham Speck Family Reserve Chardonnay 2015, VQA Short Hills Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (616466, $29.95, WineAlign)

Spice and toast more than anything else come to define the early life of the SPR ’15 chardonnay. Not overtly or overly fruit forward at this (nearing) two-year mark, but green apple, pear and the unusual tangy bite of south asian palm (Salak) snake fruit are just around the corner. This speaks to the phenolic grab and go, the hang time and then that barrel exploit comes through. The palate delivers sappy moments and then the weight of the wine is felt. If texture were quantifiable in aromatics, it would be the SFR that would provide such intellectual fodder to describe what that might feel like. The perfume is layered, chewy, unctuous and viscous. Another year should inflate the fruit and integrate the wood. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted twice, May and September 2017  henryofpelham  @HenryofPelham  @SpeckBros  @henryofpelham

Wellington Court Chef Erik Peacock and Cait Bermuhler’s appetizer trio

Rosewood Estates Chardonnay Origin 2014, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (Winery, $28.95, WineAlign)

Rosewood’s Origin 2014 is highly representative of Beamsville chardonnay, pacing a bridge that connects the cool of the climate and the nook in the escarpment’s abutting warmth of the overall Bench. The skins matter, as per the departing winemaking Ross Wise expertise, if only and alt-heightened in elevating texture, but even more so the rusty, soil tart, intensely wound and taut orchard fruit speciality. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted May 2017

Wellington Court Chef Erik Peacock and Cait Bermuhler’s salt grass point oyster, beet mignonette, cucumber gel, horseradish foam

Stratus Vineyards Stratus White 2013, VQA Niagara Lakeshore, Ontario (660704, $38.20, WineAlign)

There can be little doubt that anticipation would haver to run high for the aromatic, elongated and coolest of Niagara white wine vintages, especially for the chardonnay, but also for the iconic, four-varietal (with sauvignon blanc, sémillon and viognier) blend. The five sensory tenets are solicited and provided for; salty, sour, sweet, briny and umami. The last is exotic and punchy, so this White does it all, speaks for it all and completes it all. It is the most designed and seamless their’s can be.  Last tasted May 2017  stratuswines  @StratusWines  @StratusWines

In 2013 viognier is back in the varietal mix, in reprise of its earlier role in support of chardonnay, sauvignon blanc and riesling. A different sort of vintage here for the White, seemingly led by a circular turning of chardonnay and viognier, like a cat chasing its tail. This really goes round and round with no obvious signs of where it will stop. Quite fleshy and lime juicy with stone fruit flavours in righteous abound. Really amalgamated and seamless even for itself. It is here that I think of it as The White. Niagara’s White. Lake Effect™. Drink 2017-2022.  Tasted November 2016

Rosewood Estates Riesling Origin 2014, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (Winery, $22.95, WineAlign)

Smells like Bench riesling spirit. The energy comes from the über vineyard’s way of emission, gasseous and vital, linear, introspective and direct. This may just be the most aridity and brine ever teased from a Mima’s riesling, acidity coveting sugar notwithstanding, startling from beginning to end, with spirited shots of lime. Underrated and honest, the consistency of this riesling is possessive of great triggers and so beautifully defines the mineral Bench. Early suffocations blow off with ease and in the denoument there are crunchy stones, forever and always something to like. Mima’s never really needed an abundance of sugar for balance and kudos to that. Drink 2017-2022.  Tasted March and May 2017

Wellington Court Chef Erik Peacock and Cait Bermuhler’s simcoe asparagus, ramp aioli, sous vide hen’s egg, puffed wild rice

Stratus Gamay 2014, VQA Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario (Winery, $29.20, WineAlign)

When asked about his approach to gamay winemaker J-L Groux responds with “continuously with changes.” This is what takes place in 2014 with the barrel time cut back by a full year, now only nine months, if nothing else for to place ultimate emphasis on fruit. Sounds simple but it’s anything but in a Groux universe. His gamay now gifts fresh strawberry and raspberry, a slight 13 per cent alcohol spine and the uplifting effect of zero-noticeable steaminess, steminess, aggression or grass. In contrast to many overly and overtly ambitious Ontario gamay here Stratus enters the antithetical to harsh realm and instead occupies the amenable-ethereal void. Less pressing means smoother transitions and weightless chimera. This captures varietal and place with its coax of maximum fruit. The plantings are from 1992 and 2001 (with an imperfect memory that includes the possibility of 1985 too). Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted twice, May 2017

Thanks for hosting Daniel. Cab-Merlot ’12 SFR @HenryofPelham is one for the ages @WineCouncilOnt @winecountryont

Henry Of Pelham Pinot Noir Speck Family Reserve 2012, VQA Short Hills Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (Winery, $34.95, WineAlign)

Always the elder, wise and delicate if elegant statesman for Ontario pinot noir. There is real demure and reserve, Speck family style and this dried red berry savour to both aromatics and flavour. Tart is an undercurrant and red currants run above. Right in its wheelhouse now, for a spell and then the slow fade will come. Drink 2017-2021.  Tasted May 2017

Henry Of Pelham Speck Family Reserve Baco Noir 2015, VQA Ontario (Winery, $24.95, WineAlign)

From vines planted in 1984, a more than significant fact of experience, wisdom and acumen from this baco noir. Couple that with what is arguably the finest varietal vintage in many years makes this the collector bottle for the baco fanatic. The rubbery reductiveness is so nicely offset by the flowers, the red fruit and the delicious appeal. Easily the finest ever, by anyone and especially this most prominent house. Great ripe acidity and fine, fine tannin. Drink 2017-2024. Tasted May and June 2017

Wellington Court Chef Erik Peacock and Cait Bermuhler’s confit lake huron pickerel, fingerling potatoes, chorizo vinaigrette, celery, capers

Rosewood Origin Cabernet Franc 2014, VQA Beamsville Bench, Ontario (Winery, $29.95, WineAlign)

It’s a deep, dark fruit, rich currant, pyrazine and savoury vintage for the Origin. It’s cabernet franc that brings strawberry, raspberry and ripe rhubarb to the table. It’s tart and layered, rich and even a touch hematic. Quite pure, red fruit driven and of finely tuned acidity. Never tries too hard, refuses to hide the naturally green character, does nothing to sheath or blanket and leaves the fruit to shine red, bright and vital. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted May 2017

Stratus Cabernet Franc “Decant” 2014, VQA Niagara On The Lake, Ontario (Winery, $95.00, WineAlign)

“A designer’s hands are tied. They are only as good as their opportunities.” The words of the brilliant bottle designer Karim Rashid fully apply to the mirrored universe in which winemaker J-L Groux works, here with a deferential and ulterior cabernet franc, bottled with its lees. When I first tasted it in February (in advance of this auspicious release), its unfiltered state spoke of a hyperbole of perfume, marked by exoticism. The aromatics gave far east five-spice, star anise, cardamom, miso and incense, all natural by-products of its purposed ferment. More grain spoke out but also a roundness of tannin and a smoothness both coating and comforting. There was chocolate accentuated by the treatment, with thanks to those lees left in the bottle. The chopped up and constructed bottle catches the lees while the volume flows out and the function out of form mimics the thought of lees delivering structure and yet they are invisible, caught in a hidden net or nook, out of sight, out of mind. But it’s not about pouring. It’s about the hand, or the slight thereof. Then there is the copycat idealism of strata in the vineyard, of geology transferred to the bottle and kept there, like a ship perfectly preserved inside. This cabernet franc will age better, as is the plan, with thanks to the lees that you’ll never have to deal with. There were 110 cases made. Drink 2019-2029.  Tasted twice, February and May 2017

Wellington Court Chef Erik Peacock and Cait Bermuhler’s earl grey friand, poached rhubarb, vanilla mascarpone mousse

Henry Of Pelham Speck Family Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot 2012, VQA Short Hills Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (616433, $39.95, WineAlign)

The warm 2012 is an ideal vintage for this very specific cabernets and merlot blend, a wine as deliberate and iconic to the Niagara effort as any that have come before or currently exist. The vintage falls into a line that remembers 1998 and 2002 (with a half wink for 2007 and three-quarters nod to 2010). The brightness of red fruit and the dusty grounding of that fruit into earth integrates quietly and when acidity joins, the balance is pitch perfect. The fineness of that acidity will allow the mild astringency and dark chocolate by barrel to melt with slow dripping ooze into proper and educated tannin. Is this Cabernet-Merlot Speck Family Reserve one for the ages? In a word yes and likely to rival that 1998 for a 15 year run through excellence. Drink 2017-2027.  Tasted May 2017

Run any machine on the harnessed marmalade energy of this @StratusWines Riesling Icewine #specialstuff #niagaraonthelake

Stratus Riesling Icewine 2015, VQA Niagara On The Lake (56671, $30.25, 200ml, WineAlign)

The Stratus Riesling Icewine 2015 simulates a true orange and apricot marmalade with a preserved lemon note and a bitter pitch edge. It actually goes into grapefruit a touch, develops unction as it fleshes in the mouth and never fattens or sweetens too much. A show off in triumvirate display of quality, beauty and rhythm. Drink 2019-2030.  Tasted May 2017

Good to go!

Godello

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

WineAlign

Twenty white and sparkling wines of the Veneto

Ponte Pietra, Verona

My trip to Verona and its surrounding hills in September of 2016 was clearly destined to reveal the charms and intricacies of Valpolicella, Ripasso and Amarone. That much I made clear in a report published last week and though it included 64 tasting notes, I’ve yet to make public those on Amarone, in part because a July Masterclass in Barolo at Collisioni will need to join the party. Sooner rather than later all of those reviews are sure to follow.

Related – Valpolicella, Ripasso Valpolicella

I had been travelling with a Canadian contingent tighter than Spoon the Band and a 2014 Chablis Grand Cru. We were a group on the same page, collectively in knowledge and agreement of where we stood on the 100-plus wines we tasted and in how we viewed the 18 producers who poured them. Six of those Valpolicella wineries also presented some white and sparkling wines because they hold estate plots, farm or purchase grapes from Venezia, Soave and Prosecco area vineyards. Some grow garganega and chardonnay on Valpolicella lands. These are the twenty wines tasted.

Sparkling wines

Ca’ Rugate Fulvio Beo Spumante Metodo Classico, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

Fulvio Beo Spumante Metodo Classico opens the portal to sparkling enriched by Brognoligo di Monteforte d’Alpone volcanic soils and the magic intendment clause it backs with second fermentation in bottle. Beo’s 100 per cent garganega spends 24 months on its lees, developing mid-range texture that will not use ego to steal from the flighty and haute-citrus aromatics. That said the broad palate welcomes plenty of acidity, seemingly equal and opposing to the (6-7 g/L) of sugar. Drink 2016-2019.  Tasted September 2017  carugatevini  oeno2   @oenophilia1  @carugate.aziendaagricola  @ConnexionOenophilia

Ca’ Rugate Amedeo Lessini Durello Riserva Doc Spumante Metodo Classico Pas Dosè, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

The near solo 90 per cent durello particular sparkling takes on 10 per cent garganega for grounding. The elevated acidity (more than 9 g/L TA) can’t help but deliver this searing lemon nose, reminiscent of an early-picked Franciacorta Blanc de Blancs or generally speaking of a northern Italian chardonnay pierce. A patient 42 months on the lees makes for quite an extraordinary palate, yeasty and plush with plenty of fleshy texture. This is bubble tart and so very to the volcanic point replete with a green streak of mineral-herbal business. Very busy, wound tight and immediately satisfying. It may be taut but its amassed parts mean that it’s ultimately not overly acidic. Drink 2016-2020.  Tasted September 2017

Emilio Fidora

Fidora Tenuta Civranetta Prosecco Spumante Brut, Veneto, Italy (Agent, $19.95, WineAlign)

Fidora’s Tenuta Civranetta Spumante Brut comes from the estate close to Venezia and is composed of one hundred per cent glera. The base wine spends its time in stainless steel, followed by the addition of fresh must and (the 9 g/L RS) collects no extra sugar in dosage. Longer fermentation (six to eight weeks) is completed for a finer pelage, starting out at a low alcohol and then brought up to 11 per cent. The richness is an ulterior one, fruit-driven, must-augmented, double-juiced if you will. A mix of vines of many ages are used, up to 30 and as young as just a few years. Flavours are complex enough to pause at pears and delve into peach, even mango. It’s not creamy and the acidity has a directness to it. Quaffable but also for under $20 Prosecco, a step taken forward. Drink 2016-2017.  Tasted September 2016

Fidora Tenuta Civranetta Prosecco Spumante Extra Dry, Veneto, Italy (Agent, $18.95, WineAlign)

From the Venezia estate known as Tenuta Civranetta the Prosecco qualified as Extra Dry holds 14 g/L of RS but comes across as quite arid despite the healthy must dosage and curiously less aromatic than the Brut. Returns to straight pear and wet concrete, ginger, salinity and pinpoint accurate Prosecco rendering. There is more drinkablilty if less flavour compound complexity and this because the acidity is more direct and directed. A conundrum for sure if you can’t decide, so why not choose both? Drink 2016-2019.  Tasted September 2016  fidorawines  thelivingvine  @eugeniatorelli    @TheLivingVine  @fidorawines  The Living Vine inc.

Sneak label preview of Camilla’s @massimago pét-nat sparkling. Così grande, così perfetto

Massimago Zurlie, IGT Verona, Italy (Agent, $21.95, WineAlign)

Zurlie is Massimago’s newest product, a 100 per cent confondere corvina made in the sur lie Vino Rifermentato In Bottiglia style. The fruit is 100 per cent 2015 and until now, no one in Valpolicella has tried to make sparkling wine in this confounding style. Passes through secondary fermentation with sugar added into the bottle and then a seal under crown cap. Extreme acidity abounds because it’s accomplished sur lie, a wine to clean your mouth at the end of a wine tasting. Delicately raises a perfume almost after the fact from an easy drinking picnic wine stolen straight from the fridge. So much fun and just extreme freshness, in a way cider does but also cannot do. This speaks at the highest level of simple brillance. A four year dream in the making. Drink 2016-2018.   Tasted September 2016  massimago  @Massimago  Massimago

Magò Brut Rosé

Massimago Spumante Brut Rosé Millésime Magò 2014, Veneto, Italy (Agent, $34.95, WineAlign)

Magò is Camilla Rossi Chauvenet’s Charmat Method, 100 per cent corvina blush sparkler and another Massimago wine born of dreams and initiative. We climb to the top of the exposed white limestone ridge to sample this unmitigated refreshing fizz, light, aromatic and ethereal. To say it does wonders for grape, method and place would be the correct way to explain the situation. Magò sees 10 hours of maceration and eight months of lees aging. Though intentionally sweet (10.4 g/L RS) it is expertly balanced by acidity and even more so by exceptionally dry, limestone-conditioned extract. This is the key and the kicker, that and elevation, on a windswept, exposed geological place of wonder. The setting and presentation notwithstanding this is an impressive effort from the simplest of technologies at the hands of the soft-spoken and the kind. So yes, do enjoy this with “an elegant dress, the magic of waiting and the taste of freedom.” Or whatever romantic notion you prefer to call your own. Drink 2016-2019.  Tasted September 2016

Pasqua Prosecco Doc Treviso Brut Romeo & Juliet, Veneto, Italy (Agent, WineAlign)

Pasqua’s Prosecco is made with 100 per cent glera, from the hills around Conegliano and dosed with approximately 10 g/L of sugar. It’s semi-sweet and fresh tanky, of pears quite ripe, basic as basic gets. Some citrus slips in to taste and a pastry note pipes commercial grade. Would likely retail in Ontario at $14-15. Drink 2016.  Tasted September 2016  pasquawines #ChartonHobbs  @PasquaWinery  @ChartonHobbs  @pasquawinesitaly

Pasqua Prosecco Superiore Conegliano Valdobbiadene Brut Millesimato 2015, Veneto, Italy (Agent, WineAlign)

Like the Romeo and Juliet, this is again 100 per cent glera and much more substantial, with lees contributing to aroma and texture, some yeast into the citrus, much greater persistence and presence. A slice of lemon meringue pie with some positive bitterness. Just a hair less at 9 g/L RS dosage. Should gain a biscuity flavour or two as time passes. Drink 2016-2018.  Tasted September 2016

Tenuta Ca’ Bolani Prosecco, Veneto, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

A Zonin property, from an estate with 600 hectares of vines, much of it planted to glera for Prosecco, while here there is the inclusion of must from other producers. Very frothy, airy, light and made round by acidity. Dry and just a touch concrete-earthy. Technically sound. Drink 2016-2017.  Tasted September 2016  zonin1821  @Zonin_USA  @zonin

Antica Osteria Paverno

Whites

Ca’ Rugate San Michele Soave Classico 2015, Doc Veneto, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

The tender young vines take on great responsibility for this 100 per cent garganega, wines from all over the hills, Brognolino and Monte Forte, all Classico, all hillsides. Soave fresh, crisp, crunchy white and yellow fleshed, of really corporeal fruit. The clean, gulpable, cool and minty Soave with a firm finish. Drink 2016-2017.  Tasted September 2016

Ca’ Rugate Soave Classico Monte Fiorentine 2015, Doc Veneto, Italy (Winery, SAQ 12469375 $20.85, WineAlign)

Monte Fiorentine Soave is fully and completely a single cru garganega that was picked over three days late in September (22-24), off of black basalt volcanic soils. It’s rich and mouth filling, variegated in all sorts of lemon; curd spooned atop and with meringue, fleshy and zesty, without pith. Quite amenable and ready to please though by nature it will likely develop some sémillon like honey and gaseous character with a few years. May not be as long lived as some of its more recent vintages so let’s say five plus years to be safe. Drink 2017-2022.  Tasted September 2016

Ca’ Rugate Soave Classico Monte Alto 2014, Doc Veneto, Italy (Winery, SAQ 10775061 $25.85, WineAlign)

Monte Alto is the barrel aged volcanic garganega, subtle in aromatics but much more pronounced on the palate. Spent eight to ten months in big barrels (60 per cent) plus first, second and third fill barriques (40). Even more striking than the wood impart is the flinty, gassy, basalt interference, a static electric push-pull into wood out of soil with a whack of acid on the fruit. It was a very good year 2014. Finishes with another lightning strike. Drink 2017-2024.  Tasted September 2016

Ca’ Rugate Soave Classico Monte Alto 2015, Doc Veneto, Italy (Winery, SAQ 10775061 $25.85, WineAlign)

In a year that saw fruit ripen and develop with both abundance and ease the Monte Alto needed to be less the barrel aged volcanic garganega and more the incredibly fresh, fleshy step up Soave. The scent of scratched peach skin and the multi-vitamin flavours of many a stone fruit abound. Less subtle in aromatics but equally pronounced on the palate, the big barrels and barriques weigh in and reduce the effect of flint, basalt and acidity on the fruit. It was a very warm year so look for flesh in the fantasy. Drink 2016-2024.  Tasted September 2016

Fidora Pinot Grigio Tenuta Civranetta 2015, Doc Venezia, Italy (Agent, $17.95, WineAlign)

This estate’s (near Venezia) organic, mildly (and would hazard a guess nearly unsulphured) pinot grigio is actually dosed at 40 mg/L. A mineral direct articulation and posit tug by association transcends from a second calcareous layer of soil below the fertility line. This layer is replete with sea creature and shell fossilized dirt, appearing in this wine in terms of salinity and funky muscadet-like mustiness. Yet its clean and of a purity borne out of an order delivered by a Venice moment in pinot grigio. Timeless, of clarity and via precision.  Drink 2016-2017.  Tasted September 2016

Fidora Pinot Grigio Tenuta Civranetta 2015, Doc Venezia, Italy

The Tenuta Civranetta experimentation changes gears with pinot grigio and increases the sulphur dose to 90 mg/L. Nothing is lost in terms of salty-mineral-calcareous-fossil shell notes but here we are involved in a game played more alive, an increase of flint and without any noticeable oxidative properties.  Might live to drink fresher one year longer. Drink 2016-2019.  Tasted September 2016

Fidora Pinot Grigio Tenuta Civranetta 2014, Doc Venezia, Italy (Agent, $17.95, WineAlign)

Already a touch oxidative and losing flesh but the mineral is as strong as ever. Lemon and herbs on the back drop of the tart oyster shell and waning moon of acidity. Drink 2016-2017.  Tasted September 2016

Pasqua Pinot Grigio Delle Venezie 2015, Veneto, Italy (213496, $11.95, WineAlign)

Similitude never had it so easy in what is the most generic and unassuming white wine there can be. Fresh as it can and needs to be, kind of terpenic, non-descript multi-apples juice with determined acidity major and sulphur minor. The choice to grow pinot grigio on expensive Valpolicella land is curious but the market demands more so the economy of scale makes the plantings worth the while. Drink 2016-2017.  Tasted September 2016

Tenuta Santa Maria Soave Lepia 2015, Doc Verona, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

Lepia is 100 per cent garganega Soave from the Illasi Valley, rich but with an important mineral influx, not so much a streak but more like a cloud. Leesy, akin to chenin aromatics, almost flinty, with 150 years of Bertani Soave experience behind it, at least in spirit and from 40-45 year old vines. Still acts reductive so shake it up, listen to the Cars and nod in agreement. “Don’t let nobody pick your fun,” step outside the volcano and see how limestone can also perform for Soave, as such a garganega will abide. Drink 2016-2020.  Tasted September 2016  tenutasantamaria  @TenutaPieve  @tenutapieve

Tenuta Santa Maria Chardonnay Torrepieve 2013, Veronese, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

Cool, savoury, flinty and like the garganega, reductive as per the house style and for chardonnay in Italy. Immediately noted as an exceptionality. There is barrel used to great effect and considering there is some age here it is strikinglky youthful and not yet unhinged. Certainly caramel and vanilla aromas and flavours but plenty of lime and spice. The first vintage for the TSM di Gaetano Bertani chardonnay was 2004. Drink 2017-2021.  Tasted September 2016

Zonin Garganega De Gambellara 2015, Veneto, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

Estate grown, from a vineyard 150m above the church in the Classico area (of Prosecco). Though simple and straightforward, the terroir of basalt volcanic delivers a distinct mineral edge. Strikes as chenin like, really chenin like, full of major citrus and minor lees. Perfect vintage, with notes of yellow plum, glade, a touch balmy but plenty of acidity boiling down to sapidity. Hard not to like this a lot with thank you to the dry extract. Keep it chilled and drink to sooth and quench. Drink 2016-2017.  Tasted September 2016

Fall at Fidora

Good to go!

Godello

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

WineAlign

Valpolicella, Ripasso Valpolicella

#rondinella #valpolicella #novaia

In September of 2016 seven Ontario friends, colleagues and I paid visits to 18 Valpolicella estates over four days. We stayed at the perfectly situated Hotel Villa Moron in Negrar. We were formally introduced to the Veronese gastronomy and a set of Valpolicella wines at Locanda ‘800, a Negrar Valley institution. I expect some of you will know it. We visited the following estates. Buglioni, Pasqua, Santa Sofia, Ca’ La Bionda, Novaia, Sartori di Verona, Nicolis, Tenute Salvaterra, Valentina Cubi, Fidora, Cantina Valpolicella di Negrar, Ettore Righetti, Tenuta Santa Maria Alla Pieve, Massimago, Corte Adami, Bertani, Zonin and Ca’ Rugate. Dinners were also taken at Osteria Numero 1 in Fumane, Antica Osteria Paverno in Marano and Ristorante Nicolis in Verona. It is my pleasure and, indeed, my privilege to tell you this Valpolicella story. Such as it is.

Valpolicella 101 for i canadese #locanda800 @C_Valpolicella

The permutations are many but well-defined. Valpolicella, a style of wine as much as anything though qualified as a set of possibilities all capable of being labeled as a DOC; Valpolicella, Valpolicella Superiore and Valpolicella Classico Superiore. Ripasso, a next level stylistic, a traditional technique that promotes a second fermentation through the basic Valpolicella’s contact with warm dried grape skins from which Amarone has been pressed. This practice slightly decreases the acidity and increases the alcoholic content and enriches the wine with a greater concentration of sugar, glycerine, dry extract, polyphenolic substances and aromas. Ripasso intends to promote a heavier structure and longevity.

Amarone knowingly set aside, at least outside the terms of this report, tradition looks to Ripasso as the top of the pyramid for Valpolicella wines but when we talk of terroir, of marl, clay and limestone, of 11 valleys and all the hills, what represents the truest expression of Valpolicella? Authenticity must be borne out of spontaneity, in a product that shows itself in different ways, in every year. It should never act the same way twice. Valpolicella must remember the primaries; geology, geography and climate but also colours, uncontrollable forces and natural tendencies. Memories are only built on that which is not forced. “The importance of little details,” with thanks to Camilla Rossi Chauvenet.

Lavoro stradinario da cuoco Diego Donatelli #locanda800 #negrar #valpolicella

It’s all about the valleys. Do the grapes grow in the Valpolicella Classica or not? Corvina is king, corvinone and rondinella (often for colour) support while molinara may or may not bring up the rear. Sometimes there is croatina and oseleta. Pergola or Pergoletta Veronese is perpetuated as the training system of record, at times in double Pergoletta style. Guyot and high density planting continues to creep into consciousness. The Burgundy ideal will always play into the minds of all.

Valpolicella hails from the hills north and east from Verona. To the immediate west is Lago Garda and further to the east, Venezia. The Valpolicella extends from Sant’Ambrogio di Valpolicella to Val Tramigna in three sub zones, Valpolicella DOC Classico, Valpolicella DOC Valpantena and the eastern or extended Valpolicella DOC. The valleys; Fumane, Marano, Negrar (Valpolicella Classica), Quinzano and Avesa (Valpolicella), Vaplantena (independent), Squaranto, Marcelisse, Mezzane, Illasi and Tramigna (Eastern Valpolicella). The area is 80,000 hectares of which 7,600 are planted under vine. The Classico area is 45 per cent of the total. More than 60,000,000 bottles are produced annually, 45 per cent of which are Ripasso and (32) Valpolicella. For an in-depth analysis of the appellation production zone and a proposal for the delimitation of the principal viticultural areas of the hillsides seek out the map of Valpolicella Crus by Alessandro Masnaghetti.

Masnaghetti contends “however vast and variegated it might be, the Valpolicella is rather easy to sum up and describe.” Geographically speaking, that much is true. From a quality standpoint, there can be much debate. Tradition, even if spoken in terms of dry red wines, is hard to break and in Valpolicella the collective style is virtually unparalleled anywhere, considering the breadth and quantity of wine produced. Over the past 20 years the area of vineyards has doubled in the Valpolicella and the 60M bottles produced put it highest for any Italian PDO. The consistency of homogeneity is clearly a harbinger of sales and quality but sustaining such growth without a compromise to quality is surely the tallest of orders. Those producers attempting to challenge the current order are necessary for diversity and to preserve the perpetual health of Valpolicella.

When the light is just right #verona

A trip to Valpolicella is a most intense, concentrated and often repetitive exercise, much like and in mimic of the wines produced throughout the vast area and so pit stops in and out of Verona are both obvious and necessary. Verona may be most famous as the setting for Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet but it is truly one of the unconscionably beautiful cities of this world. It is a place that brings characters and events to you. With eyes open wide and faculties able to maintain focus you will continuously look and carefully listen, so that the stories come to you. Verona repeatedly delivers moments of awe. At dusk overlooking the Adige from the Ponte Pietra. At night in the busy Piazza delle Erbe. Musing over several hundred varieties of Gin at the Frz Lab Bar. Sipping on Champagne outside of Osteria Alcova del Frate and Patrick Piuze Chablis at Antica Bottega del Vini.

Via Marconi, #verona #frzlab #ginbar

I’ve included some examples of IGT Verona at the end of this report to expound on two polar bookends of the 21st century ideal. Winemakers make use of the designation to fashion Super Veronese, wines of local meets expatriate varietals bathed in oak. Still others make Valpolicella doppelgängers with traditional varieties that can sometimes act more like Valpolicella than so many legal examples approved under the DOC. The IGTs with international grape varieties blended in and subjected to new oak need time to develop and will age into their bubbles welling with balsamic, chocolate, espresso and even truffle. There is no disputing the modernity and mimicry of other Italian brethren and sistren. Recent changes to labelling say that a wine exceeding 80 per cent of a local variety (like corvina) could in fact now be called a Classico Superiore though if the methodology of winemaking (and/or growing) messes with the plan there are some that don’t resemble one in any shape or form.

More pertinent to this investigation is in holding hope that wines produced under the auspices of rogue decisions will soon find their way out of the scrap heap piled high due to discriminatory DOC penalties. Things like bottling under screwcap, omitting sulphites and exploring “the terroir and grape varieties to the fullest by pushing all boundaries.” Valpolicella is and can be even more progressive, not just to increase market presence, Amarone sales and the bottom line of all Valpolicella wines riding the skins of their provider, but also to lead with innovation.

This report is due with great respect and thanks to Olga Bussinello, Director of the Valpolicella Consorzio Tutela Vini. Also to John Szabo M.S. and Federica Shir. The trip and subsequent 8,500 words would not be possible without the company of esteemed, stupid smart and even funnier colleagues; Julie Garton, Joshua Corea, Annette Bruley, Lauren Hall, José Luis Fernández and Nick Chajoglou. Last but certainly at the top of the list are the Valpolicella wineries, their proprietors, winemakers, export and marketing folks who received us. Tiziano Accordini, Roberta Speronello of Bertani, Mariano Buglioni, Alessandro Castelanni of Ca’ La Bionda, Giorgia Lanciai of Ca’ Rugate, Valentina Cubi, Gabriele Righetti (and the whole family) of Ettore, Eugenia Torelli and Emilio Fidora, Camilla Rossi Chauvenet of Massimago, Luca Bissoli of Cantina Valpolicella Negrar, Martina Fornaser and Giuseppe Nicolis, Marcello Vaona of Novaia, Chiara Pinamonte of Pasqua, Gianpiero Rotini of Salvaterra, Alex Guardini, Elisa Biasolo and Giancarlo Begnoni of Santa Sofia, Carmen Stirn and Andrea Sartori, Gaetano Bertani of Tenuta Santa Maria and Francesco Zonin.

I give you 64 reviews; Valpolicella, Ripasso Valpolicella and IGT.

Great old table, Villa Mosconi Bertani

Valpolicella

Bertani Valpolicella DOC 2015, Veneto, Italy (Agent, WineAlign)

Bertani’s Valpolicella is not classified Classico because the grapes come from Valpantena and Valpolicella Classica, 80 per cent corvina and 20 rondinella. Fermented in stainless and aged one year in concrete. Basic, commercial, effective, red cherry and tanky leather, seamless and untouchable. Commercially corrected and correctly traditional Valpolicella. Low in alcohol, acidity and complex capability. Drink 2016-2017.  Tasted September 2016  cantine_bertani  churchillcellars  @CantineBertani  @imbibersreport  @cantine.bertani  @imbibersreport

Cantina Di Negrar Valpolicella DOC 2015, Veneto, Italy  (467936, $11.95, WineAlign)

It gets neither more obvious or direct in a perfectly commercial Valpolicella package, one that is highly fruity with a sidle over to the funky cherry side and would always benefit from a slight chill. A leathery note more suede than new strop distracts but only for a moment because of the omnipresent acidity. Drink 2016-2017.  Tasted June 2016  cantina_valpolicella_negrar  noble_estates  @CantinaNegrar  @Noble_Estates  @CantinaValpolicellaNegrar  @NobleEstates

Ca’ Rugate Valpolicella DOC Rio Albo 2015, Veneto, Italy (Agent, SAQ 10706736, $18.00, WineAlign)

Rio Albo is drawn from vineyards in the hilly area of Montecchia di Crosara and is a blend of corvino (45), corvinone (40) and rondinella (15). Fresh fruity, very tangy, viscous, liquorice and plum Valpolicella. Firm but very juicy, with quite a bit of concentration. Very modern and forward but not overly extracted or pressed. Just up there with the ambitious, confident and in balance. Drink 2016-2019.  Tasted September 2016  carugatevini  @carugate.aziendaagricola

Tasting at Fidora

Fidora Valpolicella DOC Monte Tabor 2015, Veneto, Italy (Agent, $24.95, WineAlign)

Monte Tabor is the name of the Sant’Ambrogio estate and this is pure delight from the purest, cleanest and most honest red fruit found anywhere in Valpolicella. Fermented and aged in only stainless steel, to push the fruit borne in requiem of a proper selection, even in the giving 2015 vintage, but pushed by higher learning from the challenge of the previous one. Establishes a base, like a song in celebration tells Emilio Fidora. “We are very good farmers, even if we are not super with making wines.” Joking aside there is no cheating here, just honesty and back to basics ethics. The notes talk of cherries at peak but then there is this calcari and marbling as per the mimic of the terroir. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted September 2016 and July 2017  fidorawines  thelivingvine  @eugeniatorelli    @TheLivingVine  @fidorawines  The Living Vine inc.

Fidora Valpolicella DOC Monte Tabor 2014, Veneto, Italy (Agent, $24.95, WineAlign)

From the Illasi Valley, composed of 50 per cent corvina, (30) corvinone and (20) rondinella, another singular effort in its inaugaural vintage, rusty and rustic, not exactly light in spite of its transparency. Great visceral soil tang, in line with a top notch bardolino and while firm there is a brightness about it. A moment of tonic. Could drink this often and with thanks to some good length in its persistence. Excellent for the vintage with 5 g/L of RS and also richer than you think. Drink 2016-2018.  Tasted September 2016

“I gotta have some of your attention, give it to me.” @massimago #special #brassinpocket

Massimago Valpolicella 2014, Veneto, Italy (Agent, $29.95, WineAlign)

Few reference points can prepare you for Massimago’s style of Valpolicella so simply use this as the ingress. Plucked from vines in the Mezzane Valley in the east part of Verona province, rising from the village of Vago towards Mezzane di Sotto. Camilla Rossi Chauvenet’s precocious blend is the crisp, crunchy, pure as driven white limestone portal into the soils laid out in amphitheatre vineyard grid. Camilla uses only stainless steel tanks here to accentuate a basal clarity brush stroke on her Valpolicella canvas. This from a selection of the grapes that will not enter the Amarone process, the second and third pass harvested bunches. Cherry and silty saline mingle at the interces of limestone. How can you miss the white stone in the naked Valpolicella? You can’t. It’s without make-up, transparent, naked to the world. The wine speaks a natural vernacular and the land is spoken for. If villages-level Bourgogne were made like this all would be well in the world. Lithe, delicate and perfumed. Drink 2016-2019.  Tasted September 2016

Marcello Vaona of Novaia

Novaia Valpolicella DOC Vino Biologico 2015, Veneto, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

Family history matters. It begins with Paolo Vaona, then Bruno, followed by two sons, Gianpaolo and Cesare. Today it is Marcello (Gianpaolo’s son) and Cristina (Cesare’s daughter) who have transformed Novaia, or “new courtyard” into the organic farm it is but also to the new age for Valpolicella, predicated on experimentation, mistakes, triumphs and changing the way the region will think about its storied wines. Because, as Marcello reminds us, “in the beginning there was only Recioto. So getting to this moment was a long journey and Novaia’s Valpolicella named Vino Biologico can’t be labled Classico because it’s under screwcap. That will change. It’s fresh, spicy and of no oak. It’s natural ease and yeasty feel mesh with saline, terroir-drawn variegate and it’s so very specific and focused. Love the cherries and the lithe 12 per cent frame. Drink 2016-2018.  Tasted September 2016  bwwines  @NovaiaAgricola  @bwwines  Marcello Vaona (Novaia)  @bwwines

The last tasting with The Master and the Canadian apostles at #fumane

Valentina Cubi Valpolicella DOC Iperico 2014, Veneto, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

Iperico (St John’s Wort) is made of corvina (65 per cent), rondinella (25) and molinara (10), a wine confidently in purport of the ’14 intel., with an early note of musty, damp forest floor, currants and flower compost. All of the earthy components are exaggerated by the vintage with nothing to cover it up, but the palate is silky in a transparent way and acidity that softens, like a saline streak, as an ancient underground river would impart, as if by Willamette Valley pinot noir. This is singular stuff in Valpolicella. As before, raised only in steel. Drink 2016-2021.  Tasted September 2016

Valentina Cubi Valpolicella DOC Iperico 2013, Veneto, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

Iperico is a blend of corvina (65 per cent), rondinella (25) and molinara (10), similar in character to 2014 but with a compressed reduction to the compost and yet a striking come about from an increase to the sharpness. The acetic push is a key factor in the linear definition. Torched marshmallow skin, bitter herbs, umami savour, the flowers still fresh, the fruit vibrant and all tolled, a beautiful vitality. An intense wine, again like pinot but also like Trentino-Alto Adige/Südtirol teroldego or Piemonte alter-ego varieties, specifically grignolino. As with Sin Cero, raised only in steel. Drink 2016-2019.  Tasted September 2016  #valentinacubi  @valentina_cubi  Valentina Cubi

Good times in #valpolicella with @johnszabo

Valpolicella Classico

Buglioni Valpolicella Classico DOC 2015, Veneto, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

In 2014 the entire crop was sold off to bulk wine because the quality was not considered up to standard. The Valpolicella Classico 2015 is composed of corvina, rondinella and 18 per cent croatina, with no oak and a flash raised three months in stainless steel. An increase in quality might arise from training by Guyot (2-4 but generally 3 kilos) says Mariano Buglioni, but this Valpo is from vines trained by pergola to yield quantity (3.5 to five kilos per vine). Certainly some warmth on the nose and the result here is both floral and acetic, fully crushed, simple, firm and fruity, though not too firm nor infirm. The vintage is promising across the range and here this lingers quite long, clean, crisp and a bit chewy. Drink 2016-2018. Tasted September 2016  buglioni_azienda_agricola  marianobuglioni    @cantine.buglioni.9

A sense of wonder beneath the pergola, Vigneti di Ettore

Vigneti Di Ettore Valpolicella Classico DOC 2015, Veneto, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

From the Righetti family, from grandfather Ettore to grandson Gabriele, Vigneti di Ettore’s Valpolicella Classico may just be possessive of the most quaffability of any Classico, all red fruit and in the optimum bring it on zone. The acidity and whatever momentary firmness accorded is functiional and better still, beautiful. As basic and categorical as life in Valpolicella grapes should be and only made more complex because it pleases so. Drink 2016-2018.  Tasted September 2016 vigneti_di_ettore     @vignetidiettore

Vigneti Di Ettore Valpolicella Classico DOC 2014, Veneto, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

Stylistically this Ettore Valpolicella Superiore ’14 is a departure, or perhaps it is ’15 that changes course. I get the feeling there is more grandfather Ettore inherent here and grandson Gabriele drives the ship next season. Or perhaps it’s just a case of vintage. Nature versus nurture arguments aside this ’14 takes a step deeper and away from simple red fruits into a more variegated gathering that includes blue (berry) and black (currant). Still quiet and quite restrained, elegant even, said despite the creative license employed with that word. Greater acidity balances the more developed and deeper fruit and so balance is fully realized. More pleasure in a slightly adjusted bell-curve way. I’d drink up some ’15s for a couple more months while waiting for the more awkward 14s to come around. Drink 2016-2020.  Tasted September 2016

Cantina Santa Sofia

Santa Sofia Valpolicella Classico DOC 2014, Veneto, Italy (Agent, WineAlign)

So simply pure, clear, concise and precise. Ripe cherry, brightness, transparency and unadulterated. Every day Valpolicella, the way it was and the way it needs to be encouraged to remain. Drink 2016-2018.  Tasted September 2016  santa_sofiawines  @SANTASOFIAwines  @SantaSofiaWines

Tasting and lunch at Tenute Salvaterra

Tenute Salvaterra Valpolicella Classico DOC 2014, Veneto, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

A post oxidative must has made transference to personality lifted by a reductive odour within and expressive of ripe, firm fruit without. Dark but not exactly black cherry, with little to no oak but certainly cariries the characteristics of a wine that has had a cup of coffee with wood. The collection is ultimately reductive, smoky and dangerous. The caramel finish is a sign of a wine not unlike some new world takes on old world grapes. Drink 2016-2018.  Tasted September 2016  tenute_salvaterra  tre.amici.imports  @vinosalvaterra  @treamiciwines  @tenutesalvaterra  

Buongiorno from @sartori_verona @C_Valpolicella

Sartori Valpolicella Classico DOC 2015, Veneto, Italy (378109, $12.95, WineAlign)

This silly inexpensive blend of 45 per cent corvina, (30) corvinone, (20) rondinella and (five) croatina spent five months housed in the big barrels. Valpolicella of stronger, deeper, traditionalist methodology. Firm and low tonal, baritone Classico, mahogany and leather, naugahyde and deep black cherry. Clean and balanced. Old school with a great understanding of things done right. Drink 2016-2018.  Tasted September 2016  sartoriverona  fwmcan  @Sartori_Verona  @FWMCan  @SartoriVerona  @FWMCan

Zonin Valpolicella Classico DOC 2015, Veneto, Italy (475145, $13.10, WineAlign)

Zonin’s Valpolicella Classico 2015 is corvina with some molinara and rondinella, aged in 2nd and 3rd passage large barrels but no barriques. Clean red fruit and despite some tonneaux time really quite fresh. Sour cherry, textbook, elevating, commercial, technically sound. Clean as a whistle. Drink 2016-2018.  Tasted September 2016  zonin1821  @Zonin_USA  @zonin

Ponte Di Castelvecchio

Valpolicella Superiore

Massimago Valpolicella Superiore DOC Profasio 2012, Veneto, Italy (Agent, $54.95, WineAlign)

Profasio establishes new territory for Valpolicella Superiore from Mezzane Valley fruit in a wine over dinner “that lets you talk.” A careful and specific selection of Corvina, Corvinone and Rondinella (65/30/5) is subjected to “un leggero appassimento,” or a “slight withering” from one month of drying and the rest kept thankfully and respectfully fresh. The child is raised in stainless steel for five months plus one year in 2nd and 3rd passage barrels. This is Valpolicella meant to partner up with dinner for two, replete with secret recipes and crossing glances. “We feel the appassimento method is about levels of aromatics,” tells Camilla Rossi Chauvenet. In such a contrary to Superiore belief we find freshness and anti-jam the goal and as a result, the wine is allowed to tell a story. A script written cursively, crisp and pure, crunchy like the normale with an addendum of aromatic profiling; cherry, leather and red citrus. Profasio is a wine of good temper and vision (and could mean profezia, or prophecy, or perhaps a surname in reference to Dante and the Veronese ebraico’s Almanacco Perpetuo), a Valpolicella into a second level of contemplation, but not too much. The wine causes no worries, no anxiety and shoes are left at the bottom of the mountain. Profasio with its hint of dried momentum is a wine of communication and a new way of communicating. Drink 2016-2021.  Tasted September 2016  massimago  @Massimago  Massimago

Valpolicella Classico Superiore

Buglioni Valpolicella Classico Superiore DOC 2013, Veneto, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

Mariano Buglioni’s Valpolicella Superiore 2013 sees a blend of French and Slavonian oak, aged for two years, the first 18 in Inox plus six months in the barrels. The blend is nearly the same as the Valpolicella Classico 2015 but with eight to 10 per cent croatina. A well-balanced split between fresh and dried fruit comes through on the nose, with some fennel, tar and rosemary. Firm and mildly tannic, black cherry and bokser to the palate, chewy again, of texture, with structure and the slightest tingling fizz. Not so much a fizz as much as an electric current tang. Drink 2016-2018.  Tasted September 2016

Good morning @C_Valpolicella from @accordinilgino

Stefano Accordini Valpolicella Classico Superiore DOC ‘Acinatico’ 2015, Veneto, Italy (Agent, WineAlign)

From the Fumane Valley, an airy, aerified, soft and blowsy, carbonic felt Valpolicella, at once to a whole bunch sensory response and then for thoughts to big hose pumpovers. Saline, from vineyards stretching up the hillside from 350 up to 500 plus metres high. Classic red fruit and nettle meets impartial red limestone, citrus with as much salty sting as their can be. Many Valpolicella turn out this way but few are as blatant and obvious as this. Drink 2016-2018.  Tasted September 2016  accordini_stefano  majesticwinesinc  @AccordiniIgino  @MajesticWineIn  @accordini  @majesticwinecellars

Once you go Casal Vegri you can never go back, Eh @lesommelierwine ?? #calabionda

Ca’ La Bionda Valpolicella Classico Superiore DOC ‘Campo Casal Vegri’ 2015, Veneto, Italy (Agent, $32.95, WineAlign)

In 2015 the blend is 70 per cent corvina, with 20 corvinone, rondinella and molinara. Some producers decide not to produce this level in Valpolicella but Alessandro stresses its importance. It allows him to make a selection for the other categories and the young vines can better service this wine. Only in stainless, bottled in February, this is beautifully natural. Molinara has less colour but brings salinity (a.k.a minerality). Here plays the opening card for the cellar. Fresh cherries, inviting acidity, such freshness, bright, effusive, so drinkable. Began the harvest on September 2nd. Must have been the first in town. The acidity is that special. As a footnote, no Amarone is made from this vineyard. Drink 2016-2020.  Tasted September 2016  #calabionda  lesommelierwine    @LeSommelierWine  Azienda Agricola Cà La Bionda  @LeSommelierWine

Ca’ La Bionda Valpolicella Classico Superiore DOC ‘Campo Casal Vegri’ 2014, Veneto, Italy (Agent, $32.95, WineAlign)

In the world of Valpolicella Classico Superiore 2014 was a difficult vintage with lots of rain, some development of botrytis and as a result many bunches were dropped, reducing the output from 120,000 to 80,000 bottles. It was also (and concurrently) not a great vintage for Amarone so some of the vineyards that would feed the big wine were diverted to the Superiore. Aged 18 months in oak barrels, averaging 20 years (16-25) from Casa Vegri vineyard, the wood is by now integrated, the vintage compendium resolved with kept freshness and ripe tannins. Very young, alive, in and out of biting but never sharp. Drink 2016-2020.  Tasted September 2016

Ca’ La Bionda Valpolicella Classico Superiore DOC ‘Campo Casal Vegri’ 2012, Veneto, Italy (Agent, $32.95, WineAlign)

It was a warm vintage, similar to 2009, here at four years with a stand up and be counted, noticed and no questions asked applauded level of maintained freshness, despite the heat of the moment. I say this because there is a slight elevation in volatility, a hyperbole as compared to 2014, but also more compression and mineral tonic. With eyes shut tight I get to this point with such properly rendered corvina, corvinone et al swirling in my mouth and my senses acute to the variegated fruit character. And I know this is more serious and of a Campo Casal Vegri structure to let it age another seven to eight, at the least. How does this apply to later vintages? Only time will tell. Drink 2016-2024.  Tasted September 2016

Dry, baby dry. Corvina at #calabionda

Ca’ La Bionda Valpolicella Classico Superiore DOC ‘Campo Casal Vegri’ 2010, Veneto, Italy (Agent, $32.95, WineAlign)

Alessandro Castelanni comments how “it’s nice to taste old vintages because we have to stop and note the things we need to do. To figure out how to get acidity, freshness, lesss quantity, more quality.” Looking forward to 2016 Campo Casal Vegri will be the first vineyard of full organic certification and looking back 2002 was the last year using selected yeasts. And 2010? “One of my favouritre, classic vintages,” smiles Alesandro, “cool, with some rain but not too much.” A season of the enervating diurnal shifts in temperature and with “the colour of corvina.” Late September harvest, now here, suddenly, the magical Classico Superiore impossibility, shy but real, the moment of volatility anything but, the plum-cherry-strawberry current running through with live wire elegance. Natural wonder of corvina and subsidiaries, with secondary character just beginning though they were always there, fennel, the territory occupied by he who may not be named, but fresher, cleaner, more precise. Again, not a baby Amarone and not giving the market what it ignorantly thinks it wants. This wine can establish or re-establish the market, to bring back (or bring the contiguous and contagious style from out of the dark and into the mind of tasters that need to be directed. Drink 2016-2023.  Tasted September 2016

Ca’ La Bionda Valpolicella Classico Superiore DOC ‘Campo Casal Vegri’ 2008, Veneto, Italy (Agent, $32.95, WineAlign)

A little bit more rustic than the foward ’10 and ’12 vintages, more liqueure and from a smaller production, more bretty volatility, certainly concentrated, with colour and yet the acidity is still buzzing. “Too rustic for my tastes,” insists Alessandro and here greener than the younger vintages. The linger is quicker and the drying tannin a force more blunt than the forward years. Drink 2016-2017.  Tasted September 2016

Generations of Ca’ La Bionda

Corte Adami Valpolicella Classico Superiore DOC 2013, Veneto, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

When the vintage offers great fruit ambition often follows and so the strength, volatility and power comes with little surprise. A really dense and equally tart Superiore has this citrus streak running through. After an hour in the glass it’s all chocolate and the perception of heat units increases though 13.5 per cent alcohol is a reasonable frame on which to cling. Give it a year to come together and see it seduce with some secondary notes, including balsamic, dried fruit and spices. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted September 2016  corte_adami  coliowinery    @ColioWinery  @CorteAdami  @coliowinery

#lastsupper #nicolis #verona

Nicolis Valpolicella Classico Superiore DOC 2015, Veneto, Italy (Agent, WineAlign)

The traditional wines of Nicolis are mostly from the Valpolicella Classica region which are night and day different than those from Valpantena (central Valpolicella and eastern Valpolicella “alla garta,” the stertched boundary. Their Classico shows high acid, cherries, past red before black fruit, liquid pomegranate, red ruby chalk. Reduction keeps talking, a bit hot methinks but with some air it cools off and just acts simple, amenable and what it needs to be, which is fruity. Drink 2016-2018.  Tasted September 2016  nicoliswinery  #thevineagency  @NicolisWinery  @TheVine_RobGroh  @NicolisWinery  The Vine – Robert Groh Agency

Novaia Valpolicella Classico Superiore DOC 2012, Veneto, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

This Valpolicella is ahead of the Ripasso in terms of quality because it is a particular Superiore, from a volcanic soil and single vineyard, “I Cantoni” at 400m. The wine submitted to a 10 per cent loss during the one month drying process plus 18 months in wood in a combination of barriques but also 1000L and 1500L larger barrels. An expanded, airy, moussy, floating fresh Superiore. There is spice in its step and so it dances on the tongue. Not so much floral as ambrosial in its rich and thick aromatics. Definite bitter chcolate and cimmerian dried fruit but the palate is not heavy or cloying. Some mushroom and truffle demi-glace, savoury, umami initialization in in the stages of the begin. But it can still improve. Drink 2017-2024.  Tasted September 2016

Vero @SantaSofiawines @C_Valpolicella

Santa Sofia Valpolicella Classico Superiore DOC Montegradella 2013, Veneto, Italy (Agent, WineAlign)

Montegradella is 70 per cent corvina and corvinone plus 30 rondinella that saw 40-45 days of drying. The grapes come from the Valpolicella classica region, from vineyards planted on loamy marl in the hilly countryside of Fumane, San Pietro in Cariano and Marano. A special multi-vineyard designate Valpo aged for two years in 70 per cent large oak and 30 per cent small barriques. Some of the terse corners receive the smooth couverture of the amalgamation of barrels, the amore and aroma deeper into black cherry and beginning to hint at chocolate melting into espresso. Structure forms like the first sculpted clay to practice and prepare before switching more permanently to work with the marble of it to receive its first chisled stroke. Persistent and concentrated, Montegradella is a full cupboard of slow-developed spice. Drink 2017-2021.  Tasted September 2016

Valentina Cubi Valpolicella Classico Superiore DOC Il Tabarro 2014, Veneto, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

Il Tabarro (The Cloak) is an opera in one act by Giacomo Puccini to an Italian libretto by Giuseppe Adami, based on Didier Gold’s play La houppelande. Il Tabbaro the Valpolicella is a house-consistent blend of corvina (65 per cent), rondinella (25) and molinara (10) plus some wood aging after the steel. The use of selected yeasts, temperature control and some sulphite addition separate it from Iperico though the Guyot, Pergola doppia and Pergola semplice growing methods are the same. A selection is completed both in the vineyard and in the winery to pick the right grapes for this classification. Deeper and richer but still pure red fruit, wild cherries and because of the treatment, an extra level of refinement. I would still drink this any day over a high percentage of the region’s Classico Superiore. Bright and alive palate with nothing but fruit and spice. And length. Plenty of length. Drink 2016-2020.  Tasted September 2016

A #verona right of passage #getinthere

Ripasso Valpolicella

Bertani Ripasso Valpolicella DOC 2014, Veneto, Italy (395087, $17.95, WineAlign)

Just released, also a combination of Classica and Valpantena fruit, 85 per cent corvina, 10 merlot and 5 rondinella. Not much distinction from the Valpolicella, of a similar fruit profile, cherry and leather, here restained in alcohol and in avoidance of seeling itself with sugar. Some firm grip, a step towards liqueur but very clean, celar and precise for Ripasso. Quite dry especially in relation to many other regional takes. Aged in Slavonian oak barrels. Drink 2016-2019.  Tasted September 2016

Fidora Ripasso Valpolicella DOC Monte Tabor 2014, Veneto, Italy (Agent, WineAlign)

Certainly carries the torch forward from the Valoplicella but with some pomace addendum, without the concentration and with a mere tacky furthering from the barrels. Older ones (225L) and for just six months. Same on the verge but quite shy of oxidative so that the fruit stands out and the rusty quality remains bright. Plums are fresh with that variegated purple skin/red fleshiness and then plenty of spice. The sugar level is 6.5 g/L RS but it’s negligible considering the style. Drink 2016-2020.  Tasted September 2016

Massimago Ripasso Valpolicella DOC Marchesi Mariabella 2014, Veneto, Italy (Agent, $40.95, WineAlign)

Yet another new launching point, this time for the much maligned Ripasso category, acquiesced through the fresh urgency of the whimsical Marchesi MariaBella. The fruit is borne of a a much earlier ripening vineyard outside of Massimago, perched only at an insignificant 100m on Argileux soil. This a Ripasso I will wager large you have never tasted before. La Bella Poesia, “is different because its literary destiny has followed a strange path.” To say that a feminine disposition, temperament and engagement fills not just the aromatics but also the texture would be a Valpolicella understatent of this early century. There is virtually no dried fruit on the nose; there is more tension than the two classic Valpolicellas which is both counter-intuitive to terroir and to methodology. Ripasso needs to carry both weight and tension. It needs to have some elegance. It requires acidity and freshness. This walks that very line and it will age gracefully and with beauty. Incidentally to answer the query of whimsy each character on the label represents the democracy of the proletariat. Drink 2016-2022.  Tasted September 2016

Novaia Ripasso Valpolicella DOC 2014, Veneto, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

From a not very good to certainly difficult vintage, the alt-Ripasso is made in the following manner because Macrello Vaona explains that “it’s a strange way to make wine but we do it to improve the body and the structure.” No drying, just the use of the wet skins towards the second fermentation. This has a very elegant, smooth, controlled, cool (13.5 abv) temper. Sees one-year in barriques and larger tonneaux, very little new to gain the calming Ripasso. Black cherry though light and fresh but on the flip side firm and direct. “What I want to produce is a drinkable wine, without thinking too much because the wine is too strong and has destroyed the food.” Well done Marcello. Drink 2016-2021.  Tasted September 2016

Novaia Ripasso Valpolicella DOC 2013, Veneto, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

The vintage in Novaia’s hands is antithetical in terms of Ripasso, with more acetic notes but also elevated florals, more fresh than potpourri. It’s quite spiced but in deep, masala ways, into the umami of mushroom and a roasted forest wood smoulder. Plenty of tea and then a clearing of the skies with brightness at the finish. One of the more variegated Ripasso studies to ever come across. Drink 2016-2018.  Tasted June 2016

Post i canadesi light lunch carnage @PasquaWinery

Valpolicella Ripasso Superiore

Pasqua Valpolicella Ripasso Superiore DOC Romeo & Juliet 2014, Veneto, Italy (476903, $18.95, WineAlign)

In the realm of Ripasso this busy label Romeo and Juliet love letter of a Venetian is markedly more Valpolicella Superiore in style. No Ripsasso ever breathes so fresh and light and the Pasqua-made red is therefore part deception and part delight. I for one am pleased with the result, all fruit and little to less hydration and rehydration. There is a simplicity to it that leans nouveau but again, the simple and pure act of red fruit love is a laudable attribute. Just a bit of white peppery spice late reminds that fruit was once passed over some Amarone lees and that barrels parts were in the leavening mix. Chill this for best results. Many a consumer will enjoy the platitude. Drink 2017-2018.  Tasted twice, September 2016 and February 2017  pasquawines  #ChartonHobbs  @PasquaWinery  @ChartonHobbs  @pasquawinesitaly  

Hey #rossettadimontagna endemic grapes drying museum #cantinadinegrar #valpolicella #totallycool

Valpolicella Ripasso Classico Superiore

Stefano Accordini Ripasso Valpolicella Classico Superiore DOC ‘Acinatico’ 2014, Veneto, Italy (85159, $19.25, WineAlign)

An inviting initial feigned freshness but then a posit tug of structure in the difficult vintage. Plum fruit and the same balsamic tone afforded the Classico but here the darkness begins to cover the fruit, with the classic but modern secondary fermentation passage over the Amarone skins. One year in French oak plus some large Slavonian oak. Already showing some secondary mushroom and truffle. High acidity, stark and driven, like a Doors Texas back beat. The smokiness heads straight to the back of the brain. Drink 2016-2018.  Tasted September 2016

Stefano Accordini Ripasso Valpolicella Classico Superiore DOC ‘Acinatico’ 2010, Veneto, Italy (Agent, $19.95, WineAlign)

Quite similar and consistent to the ’14 though with more personality and further resolved into the secondary character traits; mushroom, truffle, forest floor, savoury herbs, tart berries, juniper, tonic and nearly umami. Pretty much what would be expected. Some affirming vitality reappears at the end. Nice Ripasso. Drink 2016-2018.  Tasted September 2016

Stefano Accordini Ripasso Valpolicella Classico Superiore DOC ‘Acinatico’ 2009, Veneto, Italy (Agent, $19.95, WineAlign)

Quite evolved, deeper into the boletus and digging into a spongy, mid-autumn forest. Composted pine and some limestone here with more chcolate than either of the two younger (’11 and ’14) were showing. Seems to be more oak impart in 2009, either because the barrels were newer or because the vintage made the request or showed some intrinsic accord with it. Acidity is still quite solid, tannins nearly past. Drink 2016-2017.  Tasted September 2016

Stefano Accordini Ripasso Valpolicella Classico Superiore DOC ‘Acinatico’ 2008, Veneto, Italy (Agent, $19.95, WineAlign)

More acetic vintage and not as much oak as expected, especially as compared to 2009. A consistency of secondary aromas is noted, from the woods and the boletus that appears every fall, depending on the vintage, in 2008 not quite as pronounced. Good persistence, very classic, totally in the zone. Drink 2016-2017.  Tasted September 2016

Buglioni Ripasso Valpolicella Classico Superiore DOC ‘Bugiardo’ 2013, Veneto, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

Fermented on skins from the Amarone, Buglioni’s Ripasso went with four weeks of drying grapes, blended as 75 per cent with 25 per cent. Nicknamed “Bugiardo,” the liar, because this is what the wine is. Another electric Valpo but here with some salumi, quite a bit of salumi actually and some liquid cherry smoke. Also earthy with a truffled note and then more smoke, smoulder, in the chamber beside the fire. Quite an even keeled Ripasso, in between concentrations, acidity and tannin. Clocks in at a very reasonable 14 per cent. Drink 2017-2021.  Tasted September 2016

Ca’ Rugate Ripasso Valpolicella Classico Superiore DOC 2014, Veneto, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

Here we are again fully entrenched in 2014, from whence it was nearly impossible to make a really fine, elegant and getable Ripasso. Again 45, 45 and 15 (corvina-corvinone-rondinella), the holes filled in with more extract and careful selection than many. The green current and tobacco are not instigators but rather spectators to the fruit. Perhaps a lower percentage of skins here and more fresh fruit. This has the liquid red ruby citrus-grapefruit and orange play and then some grain in the tart, quite tannic structure. Modernity again and a success for 2014. Drink 2016-2020.  Tasted September 2016

Ca’ Rugate Ripasso Valpolicella Classico Superiore DOC 2015, Veneto, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

Produced in the traditional way where the pomace from the dried Amarone grapes are left to referment in a Valpolicella wine from the same vintage. The wine is aged half and half in tonneaux and stainless steel for approximately eight months. The gravel and limestone estate vineyards are located in the hills around Montecchia di Crosara. This 2015 perpetuates the house blend of (45 per cent) corvina, (40) corvinone and (15) rondinella, consistent and familial similar to ’14 but carrying more freshness, bite and intensity. It will require a year more settling to bring the Ripasso vigour and rigour into real time Valpolicella by way of Amarone connectivity. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted September 2016

Cantina Di Negrar Ripasso Valpolicella Classico Superiore DOC Le Roselle 2014, Veneto, Italy (620831, $17.95, WineAlign)

Le Roselle is a woman’s name, the diminutive of Rosa but in Valpolicella terms her character is both rich and acetic, fully consumed from Amarone skins and pressed to the maximum for colour and potential. Her name should see her as feminine from head to toe, but here in Ripasso she is highly permeable to the atmosphere of wherever she happens to be. She can repeat herself too, like the bird or parrot, so that her consistent nature will translate wherever she is consumed. In 2014 the results are quite intense, with full-on acidity wrapping up the optimum concentrated fruit in a Ripasso package so global, so far and wide reaching. Drink 2016-2018.  Tasted September 2016

Cantina Di Negrar Ripasso Valpolicella Classico Superiore DOC Domìni Veneti Vigneti Di Torbe 2014, Veneto, Italy (Agent, $19.95, WineAlign)

Domìni Veneti Vigneti Di Torbe Ripasso is made with the skins of Recioto (as opposed to Amarone), drawing uopn the sweet-bleeding for refermentation towards a developing potential, with heavy fuel, dense compression and brooding character. Another Cantine Negrar cooperative stylistic to make the biggest wine possible from a variegated collection of Classica grapes. Full bore plum fruit, a rage of acidity and some Amaro tannin. Even bigger of an expreession than the already glycerin-listed Le Roselle. Drink 2016-2019.  Tasted September 2016

Cantina Di Negrar Ripasso Valpolicella Classico Superiore DOC Domìni Veneti Vigneti Di Torbe 2013, Veneto, Italy (Agent, $19.95, WineAlign)

This is the third of three Negrar Ripassi tasted side by side by each from a much better vintage without the necessity to over do, not from pressing, not for extract nor to dish hyperbole of concentration and last but so very important, accomplished without heavy oaking. The fruit is a bit baked but not without charm, the sun-ripened and passed over skins sets of berries turned to dehydrated plum and piqued by a contiguous found balance from major wood spice. The equilibrium here is quite improved and born that way. Drink 2016-2019.  Tasted September 2016

Vigneti Di Ettore Ripasso Valpolicella Classico Superiore DOC 2014, Veneto, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

Ettore’s Ripasso comes from 20 year-old vines, of four grapes, corvina (45 per cent), corvinone (30), rondinella (15) and croatina (10). Needs air because of a minor reduction and a whiff of SO2. The first vintage was 2008 (as with all the Ettore labels) and here the small portion of dried grapes melds into passed over Recioto skins for a (5 hL) tonneaux experienced Ripasso of great spice and cool savour. This is arid and tense Ripasso with linear drive and vital spirit. Ripasso of clarity and direct connectivity, to the 40 million year old friable rock soil, the calcaire and the basalt. Well-made in a very difficult vintage. Drink 2016-2019.  Tasted September 2016

Vigneti Di Ettore Ripasso Valpolicella Classico Superiore DOC 2013, Veneto, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

The aromatic tones are quite high and even acetic (especially as compared to the bookend vintages) but this Ettore is as floral as they come. It’s a veritable potpourri flower bowl and then meaty, in dried charcuterie and splashed by balsamic. Deep flavours dip into chocolate and then a back bite into char-crusted, rare roast beef. Acidity pierces into the finish, with an injection of pure vanilla and finally some sour cherry. A satisfyingly gastronomic wine. Drink 2016-2019.  Tasted June 2016.

Lunch at Ettore Righetti

Vigneti Di Ettore Ripasso Valpolicella Classico Superiore DOC 2012, Veneto, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

Assuming Ettore’s Ripasso Valpolicella Superiore ’12 grape make-up is the same as in 2014 the benefit is beautifully obvious from a most excellent vintage that is a gift (especially in comparison to ’14). The real purport to avoid the “sumo-warrior” Valpolicella shows in this bottle of finesse and one that you can finish. These are pure plum notes, in aroma and flavour, with balancing acidity and really fine tannins. This wine is so young still, spicy and spirited, jumping from the glass. What Ripasso can be. Drink 2016-2020.  Tasted September 2016

Nicolis Ripasso Valpolicella Classico Superiore Seccal DOC 2013, Veneto, Italy (Agent, $29.95  WineAlign)

Seccal is a single-vineyard Ripasso, 70 per cent corvina, (20) rondinella, plus five each molinara and croatina. It spends 16 months in big Slavonian oak barrels and takes the stylistic reigns from the fruit juicy Classico. With a firm grip it adds low and slow big wood time lapse release to develop breadth and slightly bretty volatility. Reductive again (a recurring Ripasso theme) dry and tangy, very soil-driven to supersede the volatility and so it really reminds of cooler climate grenache (top part of the southern Rhône Valley) or even salty, marine cannonau. I find this really terroir driven with the fruit less prominent but acids are high and tannin low. A very specific, old-school, the way it used to be Valpolicella but with a tie to the vineyard that is undeniable. Though the grapes comes from a single vineyard because Amarone grape skins are used for the second fermentation its single-vineyard status is changed. Drink 2016-2020.  Tasted September 2016

The @garton_jules and #godello at such a nice place #tenutasalvaterra

Tenute Salvaterra Ripasso Valpolicella Classico Superiore DOC 2013, Veneto, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

The closest of cousins to the Valpolicella Classico, from a different vintage but similar in styling. Reductive and silky in texture, with the dried grapes addition adding layers of impression and compression. Acidity is neither tough nor linear and while it is present, its support is a lift, not a distraction. Drink 2016-2018.  Tasted September 2016

Santa Sofia Ripasso Valpolicella Classico Superiore DOC 2013, Veneto, Italy (Agent, $27.95, WineAlign)

The Ripasso 2013 is 70 per cent corvina and corvinone plus (30) rondinella, of no dried grapes, only secondary fermentation with amarone grape skins, simply and originally Ripasso. “Many Ripasso are like the small brother of Amarone,” explains proprietor Giancarlo Begnoni, “but in our case Ripasso is the big brother of Valpolicella Superiore.” Something added, augmented, not taken away. Aged only in old (up to 30 years) old (Slavonian) oak barrels. This is completely new and yet so very old, modern but ancient. The great dichotomy built through slow evolved structure. Tense, terse, direct, liquid yellow tufo rock with red citrus, pomegranate and the most refined tonic. More structure than so many but less freshness than some for sure. Superiore speaks only to the appellative minimum content plus context and speaks nothing to structure. That changes in the stylistic hand of Novaia. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted September 2016

Andrea Sartori and our Lauren Hall

Sartori Ripasso Valpolicella Classico Superiore DOC Valdimezzo 2014, Veneto, Italy (Agent, $17.95, WineAlign)

Sartori’s Ripasso Valdimezzo is a blend of corvina (60 per cent), corvinone (20), rondinella (15) and croatina (five) in a mix of medium and large format oak casks. The deep mahogany wainscotting and black cherry notation is recognized for aligning house style clarity though the acidity and the vital tonality are elevated. The purple to black plum fruit controls the depth. Really high acidity. Drink 2016-2019.  Tasted September 2016

Old school indeed @dobianchi @tenutapieve #gaetanobertani #classico

Tenuta Santa Maria Ripasso Valpolicella Classico Superiore DOC 2014, Veneto, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

Some vibrant bright red fruit bridging fresh to dried, right on that line. The kind of Ripasso that feigns fortified when it really isn’t that way at all. Lots of spice and once again the liqueur like old school, old barrel aged tempranillo or sangiovese but here on the fresher side. Plush texture and tannin. Very solid for a 2014 and not so dry, with 8 g/L RS. Drink 2016-2020.  Tasted September 2016

Valentina Cubi Ripasso Valpolicella Classico Superiore DOC Arusnatico 2013, Veneto, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

Arusnatico is dedicated to one of the few underground groups that refused to submit to the Romans. This is hard to be believed as Ripasso, light, cool, crisp, very citrus (orange) directed and a bite into chocolate that might be white or dark I couldn’t really say. The nose does not speak to Ripasso (nor does the hue or the construct) but the palate does more so. Richness is observed and permitted with grace throughout and and as more than just an impression. Hard to believe that Amarone pomace is used and in fact it will be impossible to know what churns this Ripasso until we return and the similarly vintage-dated Amarone is tasted. Once again in a league of its own. Drink 2016-2020.  Tasted September 2016

Zonin Ripasso Valpolicella Classico Superiore DOC 2014, Veneto, Italy (170142, $16.40, WineAlign)

Very similar, in fact impossibly consistent with the Classico, of red fruit first, freshness second and commerciality in confident control. Clean, crisp, here smoky and with just those slight notes of earth, forest floor, savour, tobacco, umami. The additions are the smokiness and the 2014 challenges unable to find their clear. Drink 2016-2017.  Tasted September 2016

Zonin Ripasso Valpolicella Classico Superiore DOC 2005, Veneto, Italy (AgentWineAlign)

A test of time for this Ripasso is an all well and incredible Superiore certainty, now all mushroom and truffle, earthy forest, umeboshi plum, darkening soy sauce and bubbling brown sugar. The acidity is clearly alive, then tempered chocolate, dried and slightly torched espresso bean, ground and pressed. Very alive. One punch and a knockout, short finish. Drink 2016-2017.  Tasted September 2016

Valentina Cubi

IGT Rosso Verona, Veneto and Venezia

Valentina Cubi Sin Cero IGT Rosso Verona 2015, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

The truthful or sincere one is the third vintage after 2012 and 2013 (there was no 2014), a blend of corvina (75 per cent) and rondinella (25), of zero sulphites and possessive of the naturalische, straight from the soil and a breath of fresh air. There too is a bready, yeasty, enzymatic air and this is IGT you are pleased to put in your mouth. Spontaneous fermentation and microbes no other Valpolicella varietal IGT (or approved) has thus far granted. Is it typical? No. Could it be labled Classico Superiore? Stylistically speaking why not. But it’s bloody atypical, potentially consumer confusing but there is every reason to drink it. It’s beautifully dirty and with a cereal quality, like sugar crisp but not the commercial, fructose glazed crap, but more like the bulk bags of slightly earthy, whole foodies stuff. Fermented and aged only in steel. Drink 2016-2020.  Tasted September 2016

Bertani Secco-Bertani IGT Rosso Verona 2013, Italy (Agent, WineAlign)

Secco Bertani is an IGT Verona composed from corvina (80 per cent), sangiovese grosso (10) plus equal parts merlot and cabernet sauvignon. Aged in (cherry and chestnut) Veronese barrels, this is IGT of high tones, red and black fruit and dry-aged beef bresaola. Travels through an acidity fire and comes out smouldering with tobacco and chocolate. Cimmerian IGT of high acidity and big, sweet tannins. Needs two years to settle down before beginning to age into balsamic and truffle territory. Drink 2018-2024.  Tasted September 2016

Vigneti Di Ettore Rosso Veronese IGT Arsi 2011, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

Arsi is from 15 year year-old vines at 400m in volcanic soil. No malolactic and higher acidity bleed lava from corvina veronese (30 per cent), corvinone (30), croatina (30) and pelara (10). A different wine for Valpolicella and for IGT, the wine is highly saline, from grapes dried for 50 days, of lovely red fruit with the saline streak that is not found in the other wines. A wine I feel many winemakers, especially from the larger houses and cooperatives would not understand. Though there is some emptiness on the palate this highly distinctive, salty umami Rosso is in a world of its own and that world is one I am delighted to visit. Drink 2016-2021.  Tasted September 2016

Nicolis Rosso Verona IGT Testal 2012, Italy (Agent, WineAlign)

Testa, “the head,” from grapes at the head of the vine, left to hang for two or three weeks longer than usual. The Ripasso aspect is the short drying time on the vine. A late harvest IGT from Corvina (90) and 10 per cent other (not named) varieties. This alters the house style and does something other, something Classico Superiore but it can’t be this because it exceeds the DOC Corvina maximum of 80 per cent. The large casks have added more sheathing than you might expect. This is highly wooded and toasty with quite a bit of vanilla, lavender and clove. Certainly made for a crowd that loves this style. Changes to labelling mean you can’t call this Rosso del Veronese anymore but now this wine could in fact be a Classico Superiore. Though it doesn’t resemble one in any shape or form. Drink 2016-2021.  Tasted September 2016

Pasqua Passimento 2014, IGT Veneto, Italy (141952, $13.95, WineAlign)

Passimento is “Passione Sentimento,” part of the Romeo & Juliet line, composed of merlot (40 per cent), corvina (30), and croatina (30). It’s somewhat experimental and yet traditional, from grapes partially dried for one month, half way between Valpolicella Superiore and Amarone, in weight and alcohol. Four months in barriques has given this lean and green red a decidedly merlot bent, with memories of stems and herbal dill plus some balancing corrected sweetness. At 14 per cent alcohol and extra body it represents market driven wine in a nutshell. Drink 2016-2018.  Tasted September 2016

Tenuta Salvaterra Rosso Delle Venezie Igt Lazzarone 2011, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

The word Lazzarone comes from Campania, from the men who hung around the church either begging money or looking for a day’s work. Just a small portion of grapes are dried (30-40 per cent) and for a shorter period than Amarone, between five to seven weeks. A baby Amarone this one, maybe with a bit more umami or certainly a different one, wooly and weedy, herbal and crazy. Some teroldego is added in here with the corvina and rondinella. Some freshness and palate softness but still, it’s the modern house style. The soft back side is filled with plump raisins, fresh figs and a shave of truffle. Oh will people eat this up, for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Drink 2016-2019.  Tasted September 2016

Elisa Biasolo and Giancarlo Begnoni of Santa Sofia

Santa Sofia Igt Rosso Del Veronese Arlèo 2011, Italy (Agent, WineAlign)

Arléo is 85 per cent corvina, the wine Giancarlo Begnoni is proud to have invented, from a longer (60 day) dry-aging, more like Amarone, plus 15 per cent of (not dried) merlot and cabernet sauvignon. Two years in large Botti plus one year in barriques, for body, complexity and variegated intensity. Bretty volatility delivers in the great and righteous stylistic success that walks up to the threshold, teases to climb over, turns, grins and perches at the precipice. This shares a commonality with sangiovese, either Brunello or Gran Selezione, in more ways than you would imagine or think it should. But this is structure, traditional risk and wisely decided upon confident decision making, calculated and successful. The right grapes are essntial to pull it off and the winemaker musty have known otherwise or would not have moved them or this wine in this direction. Drink 2017-2021.  Tasted September 2016

Tenuta Santa Maria Igt Rosso Veronese Pràgal 2013, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

Pràgal is corvina (50 per cent), syrah (25) and merlot (25), all estate fruit and admittedly kind of foxy and boxy. Dried red fruit, fresh figs and grape must. Rustic and oxidative. Then an old Rioja or Chianti liqueur, so in some ways this walks the line. Quite the smouldering, bretty, lit up experience with a note of pickling brine and wet horse. Drink 2016-2017.  Tasted September 2016

The Verona gang, Ponte Di Castelvecchio

Good to go!

Godello

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Benvenuto Brunello 2017 report: Rethinking Rosso and disciplined Brunello

#benvenutobrunello 2017 @consBrunello #montalcino #brunellodimontalcino #rossodimontalcino

It was a milestone edition of Benvenuto Brunello and also a gathering of symmetrical proportions. Looking back a half century, just after recognition of the D.O.C., it was in 1967 that the consortium was set up as an association of producers, “as a free association between winemakers bent on safeguarding their wine and on accentuating its qualities.” Twenty five years later the Benvenuto concept was conceived and now fifty years later this 2017 and 25th Benvenuto Brunello presented a preview of Annata 2015 Rosso di Montalcino, Annata 2012 Brunello di Montalcino, Riserva 2011, Moscadello and Sant’Antimo. Every year in February the Consorzio del Vino Brunello di Montalcino organizes Benvenuto Brunello and by my count in 2017 there were 133 producers and 379 wines on hand to taste and evaluate, grouped together on February 17th and 18th in the Chiostro Museo Montalcino.

The vintages on hand offered up a study in contrasts beyond the obvious connotations served by the youth of Rosso Annata contrastive to aged Brunello. So many Mediterranean wine regions reaped huge benefits from the 2015 growing season but I’ve not personally seen such an across the board level of quality from a group of structured wines as I saw in the Rosso Annata. You would have to go back to 2010 to find a vintage with a near-chivalrous level of generosity and as far back as 2001 for its equal. That said I would suggest with extreme prejudice that 2015 Rosso di Montalcino is the vintage to change your mind about its quality and its ability to stand alone. As an entity, the Rosso are produced from grapes farmed explicitly for a purpose and it is this ’15 vintage that can be used to back up that very proposition. Rosso are fashioned to make a young sangiovese distinctive and antithetical to Brunello, but with the resolution to forge ahead with an intrinsic and personal level of structure.

The Brunello vintage at the 2017 Anteprima is the one that growers, producers, marketers and critics will chime in with a wide variance of opinion. There are many ways to look at the 2012 growing season. It is prescribed as a five-star vintage by the Consorzio, putting it on par with the best of the last 20 years, including 2010, 2007, 2006, 2004 and 1997.  Critics remain skeptical and producers seem content to say “we’ll see,” knowing that structure is a guarantee but that fruit may peak early. There is little doubt that fruit quality is prodigious to say the least and that to a wine, these are fine and refined sangiovese. The producers who resisted temptation to make huge wines and the ones who took a step away from the machine will likely be the ones who found the best balance and in turn will have forged the longest aged Brunelli. I for one see 2012 as closer to 2008 and 1998, firm, a little misunderstood in the early days and capable of improving dramatically with five to seven years of age. The fruit just seems to speak this truth.

Buongiorno #montalcino La Fortezza di Montalcino

Montalcino is one of the most iconic Tuscan hilltop villages, a high density designed labyrinth of winding streets with the medieval La Fortezza di Montalcino at the peak and heart of the city. La Fortezza is a monument rich in history and a symbol of the last glorious defence of the Sienese Republic in 1555 against Spanish-Florentine troops. Begun in 1361 to improve the fortifications of the city, the fortress became a symbol of the then dominant Sienese power, however, counterbalanced by the opportunity that was offered to the residents of Montalcino to have Sienese citizenship while delocalised. It was precisely this fact that led to important political, economic and administrative relations between the inhabitants of the two cities. By the time the 16th century came to a close the fortress had lost its military significance. La Fortezza Wine Shop and Wine Bar founded in 1980 by Mario Pianigiani and Marzio Giannelli sits inside the main tower of the fortress.

Montalcino rests at 564 meters above sea level between the valleys of three rivers; Ombre, Asso and Orcia. This island city has for centuries been cut off from major transit roads and subsequently avoided or missed out on the typical economic practices of the surrounding region. So it developed wine and olive oil as its primary industry. The world and Montalcino are all the richer for this fortuitous destiny.

#montalcino

Brunello di Montalcino is referred to as “a very modern and ingenious intuition,” a phrase that so aptly depicts how it has separated itself from other sangiovese producing neighbours, namely Chianti Classico and Vino Nobile di Montepulciano. Only the Brunelli are possessive of a very certain and special sort of sangiovese aromatic liqueur, an amalgamation of deep, dark cherry, fresh leather, earth and flowers that differs from the others. Brunello also carries its own unique type of acidity and a fineness of tannin that speaks to how the grapes develop on the slopes and in the valleys below.

Only 15 per cent of a surface area totalling 24,000 hectares is planted to vines, just under 60 per cent to Brunello, approximately 15 to each Rosso and Sant’Antimo, 1.5 to Moscadello and 10 per cent to other grape varieties. The vineyards are set in a charmed square amphitheatre of geology, with the 1,740m high Mount Amiata to the south acting as protector and climate mitigator. Soils vary but at its most beautiful the decomposition of quatenary rock gives way to marl and albarese. The area is blessed with a Mediterranean climate, thankfully free of frost, great temperature fluctuations, the disease combative frequent presence of wind, mild and full days and in the end long, phenolic developing growing cycles.

Benvenuto Brunello gala dinner

Brunello’s rules call for maximum yields of eight tons per hectare and an obligatory ageing period in wood of two years in oak casks. A further four months (six for Riserva) is required in bottle. Bottling must take place in the production area and the wines can be made available for sale on the first of January in the fifth year following the harvest (sixth for Riserva). Only Bordeaux style bottles are permitted.

Rosso’s rules call for maximum yields of nine tons per hectare, bottling must take place in the production area and the wines can be made available for sale on the first of September of the year following the vintage. Like big brother Brunello, Rosso can only be housed in Bordeaux style bottles.

Moscadello’s yields climb to 10 tons per hectare for both natural and bubbly (five for Late Harvest) made from moscato bianco. The wines may be made available for sale on the first of January of the second year after the harvest, for the Late Harvest type. Sant’Antimo’s yields are set at nine tons per hectare for the Bianco and Rosso and eight for the other reds. It can be produced from all grape varieties recommended and authorized in the province of Siena, with specific limitations for the types with a variety name and for the Vin Santo. Bottling must take place in the province of Siena.

Sommelier service at Benvenuto Brunello

The Cooperative Cellars Biondi-Sant & Co are mentioned in the volume “Vini Tipici Senesi,” published by the chair of agronomy at the Università di Siena in 1933. The cooperative winery Biondi Santi & Co. was established in Montalcino in 1926 by a group of enthusiastic land owners who were also wine producers. They understood the necessity and importance of promoting two of Tuscany’s classic wines, Brunello and  Moscadello from Montalcino. The Brunello di Montalcino style did not emerge until the 1870s, soon after Il Risorgimento (the unification of the Italian regions into a single state). Its evolution was expressly due to the efforts of Ferruccio Biondi-Santi. A soldier in Garibaldi’s army, Biondi-Santi returned home from the campaigns to manage the Fattoria del Greppo estate belonging to his grandfather Clemente Santi. It was here that he developed some state-of-the-art winemaking techniques which would revolutionize wine production in Montalcino and greater Tuscany.

The word we know as Brunello translates loosely to “little dark one”, in reference to the local vernacular name for sangiovese grosso, “fat sangiovese,” the large-berried form of sangiovese which grows in the area. While Brunello di Montalcino and the clonal sangiovese grosso have been symbiotically synonymous for decades, in today’s modern Brunello lexicon it is simply sangiovese that speaks to the grape of the famous wines.

Vancouver’s Michaela Morris, Godello and our amazing sommelier Leia

Montalcino’s reason for breathing, loving and living is to celebrate the wines of its immediate territory and the most noble locally-produced sangiovese has made the history of Brunello while the younger Rosso have taken up the challenge to become the protagonists of the new market.

This report is due and with great thanks to the producers from Montalcino, Patrizio Cencioni, Chairman and President of The Consorzio del Vino Brunello di Montalcino and Vice Presidents Tommaso Cortonesi, Andrea Machetti and Riccardo Talenti. Benvenuto Brunello is the culminating visit for the larger, week long roadshow of Anteprime di Toscana and so thanks is also afforded to Regione Toscana, Tuscany Wine Consortiums, PromoFirenze and the entire Anteprime di Toscana team. My 88 reviews in total cover 22 Rosso Annata 2015 and 2014, 26 Brunello 2012, 34 Brunello Vigna 2012 and six earlier vintage Vigna and Riserva.

#benvenutobrunello 2017 @consBrunello #brunellodimontalcino #rossodimontalcino

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Rosso Di Montalcino 2015

Fattoria Dei Barbi Rosso Di Montalcino 2015, Doc Tuscany, Italy (Agent, WineAlign)

Quite delicate and elegant in Rosso from Barbi so perfectly executed to suit the effects of the vintage. A poster child actually, with brightness belied by red fruit and then enough grip to solidify the future. This will drink perfectly consistent from now and to the end of these ‘10s.  Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted February 2017  @FattoriaBarbi  @Noble_Estates  fattoriadeibarbi  noble_estates  @FattoriadeiBarbi  @NobleEstates

Podere Brizio Rosso Di Montalcino 2015, Doc Tuscany, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

From warmest of warm southwest sandstone and marl Montalcino vineyards of solid rock and altitude. Marks the old school/new school twain as an undisguised expression and honestly prepares you for more structured Brunello without ever abandoning what Rosso must be. Red fruit, chalky liquidity and some fine tannins. Drink 2017-2021.  Tasted February 2017  @PodereBrizio  poderebrizio  @poderebrizio

Capanna Rosso Di Montalcino 2015, Doc Tuscany, Italy (Agent, WineAlign)

Capanna’s is a drink as fast as you can sort of Rosso with red tinging to black raspberry red fruit. There is a plum pudding space from the short barrel and such an inflection gifts true blue baby Brunello character. Enjoy this while the older siblings develop some of that formidable 2012 charm. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted February 2017    @capannamontalcino  #capanna

Castello Romitorio Rosso Di Montalcino 2015, Doc Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $28.99, WineAlign)

As young, fresh, beautifully whole-bunch startling and come get me by the trunkful as Rosso di Montalcino can really be. Strawberries soaking in their own macerating juices and straight out of the vat lithe tartness and beauty. For every day and just a hint of what tannin will want to be in the bigger, slowly rendered wood-spiced Brunello. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted February 2017    @WineLoversAgncy  castelloromitorio  wineloversagency   Castello Romitorio  @wineloversagency

Collemattoni Rosso Di Montalcino 2015, Doc Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $28.99, WineAlign)

Firmer than some other Rosso but not in sacrifice of charm or elegance. Depth of berries and even a hint of plum both in aroma and on a silky, pleasurable and meaningful palate. Grown-up is one way of naming it but I prefer to think of Collematoni’s Rosso as in a category of its own, neither Rosso nor Brunello but something to take pleasure without needing any supply from either or. Rosso for next year and five after that. Drink 2018-2023.  Tasted February 2017  @collemattoni  @StemWineGroup  collemattoni  stemwinegroup  Collemattoni Brunello  @stemwine

Cortonesi La Mannella Rosso Di Montalcino 2015, Doc Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $29.95, WineAlign)

The advance is a young winemaker’s approach, using fruit from the youngest vines but from the same vineyards used for Brunello production. Clonal selection permits early success from the fourth to fifth leaf for precocious wines off vines so young. Others may use vineyards dedicated to Rosso, so farmed with ulterior motive and expectation, neither better nor worse, but different. The old way was simply a matter in selection of grapes, something young winemakers are abandoning for now one or the other ways of making Rosso. Tommaso Cortonesi’s is luminous and bright within a frame of ascension in reference to the darker cherry sangiovese point spectrum, with three levels of variegated hue and aromatic profile. Char, fennel and fruit. Great structure, agreeable and yes, drinkable now Rosso. Drink 2017-2021.  Tasted February 2017  @LaMannella  @Nicholaspearce_  marcora85  nicholaspearcewines  Tommaso Cortonesi  Nicholas Pearce

Donatella Cinelli Colombini Rosso Di Montalcino 2015, Doc Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $29.95, WineAlign)

Donatella’s is a beacon at the shore, up on the fortress and statuesque at the central piazza, standing sentinel to draw attention to the 2015 vintage. Rarely will you find this combination of bright and firm, lithe and intense, ripe and in charge. All the attributes of Montalcino sangiovese are ingrained, albeit with a feminine hand, into its bricks and mortar. Perfectly sculpted and executed, with grace and humility.  Drink 2018-2023.  Tasted February 2017  @news_donatella  @LeSommelierWine  donatellacinellicolombini  lesommelierwine  Donatella Cinelli Colombini  @LeSommelierWine

Fattoi Rosso Di Montalcino 2015, Doc Tuscany, Italy (Agent, WineAlign)

Relatively reserved as far as Rosso is concerned, with a darker berry, heavier clay and expressly extracted into juicy palate. Bigger expression that take full advantage of the generous vintage to be sure. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted February 2017    @BrunelloImports  #fattoi  brunelloimports  Lucia Fattoi  Brunello Imports Inc.

Gianni Brunelli Rosso Di Montalcino Le Chiuse Di Sotto 2015, Doc Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $34.00, WineAlign)

Le Chiuse Di Sotto, “the closed below,” is beautiful, full and yet not so generous on the nose (above) in sangiovese pure and simply wanting to give Rosso expressly to the palate. The mouthfeel graces better than most, not wanting for anything more than what it knows and has. Nothing astringent about this firm grip and of a concentration yet elegant in tension. Drink 2018-2023.  Tasted February 2017  @Noble_Estates  giannibrunelli  noble_estates  @NobleEstates

Il Poggione Rosso Di Montalcino 2015, Doc Tuscany, Italy (Agent, SAQ 12921974, $25.15, WineAlign)

Refined and expertly executed if on the side where acidity really makes a play for queen in this Rosso. In a matter for when fruit so red, smoky and ripe is up to the balancing task. Another Rosso that just kills it for the vintage. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted February 2017  @IlPoggioneWines  @LiffordON  ilpoggione  liffordgram  @villailpoggione  @liffordwineandspirits

La Fiorita Rosso Di Montalcino 2015, Doc Tuscany, Italy (Agent, WineAlign)

Simpler and straightforward for Rosso, with the feel of quickly pressed fruit with little extra time spent waiting for its response. There is this herbal note on the palate and a chalky feel that is floral, like a candied pansy and/or exchanged for/mixed with something dairy, even enzymatic. A bit unusual that needs time to settle in. Drink 2018-2020. Tasted February 2017   @NatalieLFiorita  @natalie_lafiorita  @TWCimports  TheWineCoaches  La Fiorita Wines (Natalie Oliveros)

La Leccaia Rosso Di Montalcino 2015, Doc Tuscany, Italy (Agent, WineAlign)

Resides on the roses and ethereal side of Rosso, of lithe and bright fruit, red all the way to the end. The palate is less expressive and somewhat carbonic, pulsating and pushing its way to the back. Deferential in ways not tasted yet. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted February 2017  @TWCimports  TheWineCoaches

La Togata Rosso Di Montalcino Carillon 2015, Doc Tuscany, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

If an imagining of the 2015 Brunello vintage can be foretold in the eyes, nose and mouth of a Rosso, La Torgata’s Carillon, “a group of small bells,” may just be the oracle. Sweet fruit in red cherry, ripe plum and then the dusting of fennel pollen will turn this to flow fluidly over river stones. So bright, light and pleasant. Could drink this with my pasta every night, no matter the preparation. Rosso like this is perfect, come questo è perfetto, for right now. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted February 2017    #latogata  Brunello La Togata

La Togata Rosso Di Montalcino La Togata 2015, Doc Tuscany, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

La Togata is firmer than the estate’s Carillon and quite certainly taken from lower, deeper and heavier clay. La Torgata also confirms a pleasing vintage to come for Brunello. Fruit is just that much darker and with more grip and welling tension. Deep earthy charity all over the palate leads to great tang on the finish where the tannin thankfully arrests and relents. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted February 2017    #latogata  Brunello La Togata

Lazzeretti Rosso Di Montalcino 2015, Doc Tuscany, Italy (Agent, WineAlign)

Very modern and expressive. Unexpected but bright and wonderfully fanciful. Fantasy Rosso to imagine ways you had not before. A bit of a wild, natural child. Would look forward to watching this develop over the course of an hour or two. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted February 2017  @ViniLazzeretti  @ViniLazzeretti

Maté Rosso Di Montalcino 2015, Doc Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

Maté’s is darker, richer and more productive on track with dead aim to please. Got graphite in the pencil and plenty of savour.  Spice is at the top in between and down below. Sultry really, hot and bothered. Good long finish. Drink 2017-2019.   Tasted February 2017  @MateWinery  mate_winery  Candace Máté  @MateWine

Scopetone Rosso Di Montalcino 2015, Doc Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

Scopetone’s Rosso is quite perfumed, nimble and of a nose that thinks potpourri. Here Rosso again needs the palate to flesh and firm up the overall package. Turns just a hair musty and dusty in that respect but does proper work, for the house and for ’15. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted February 2017    #scopetone

Tiezzi Rosso Di Montalcino Poggio Cerrino 2015, Doc Tuscany, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

Poggio Cerrino certainly acts on the nose more like the reputedly bigger Brunello so this is the provider of such a style. As a Rosso this is the most liqueur focussed and so defines their corner of the 2015 market, of which the school is older and the tone slightly volatile, not to mention deep in extraction. Deeply entrenched in tradition with plenty of tannin, including some verdant strands. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted February 2017  @BrunelloTiezzi  brunellotiezzi  Brunello Tiezzi

Ventolaio Rosso Di Montalcino 2015, Doc Tuscany, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

More than just rustic and charming, here carefully considered to present a modern expression of sangiovese and what it amounts to is a refined, purposed and most excellent expression. There is this anaerobic, aerified inhalant impression that really takes away from expression so think about waiting a year to let the two fronts come together for a more perfect storm. Nothing precious about such a Rosso, only the sort of pure sangiovese roots laid down for success. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted February 2017    #ventolaio  @Ventolaio

Rosso ’15 highlights from #benvenutobrunello 2017 @consBrunello #latogata #carillon #castellodiromitorio #collemattoni #giannibrunelli #donatellacinellicolombini #ventolaio

Rosso Di Montalcino 2014

Le Ragnaie Rosso Di Montalcino V. V. 2014, Doc Tuscany, Italy (Agent, WineAlign)

A more than beautiful rendition from 2014, regal and rewarding. Elegant and firm to nose, not so perfumed and holding back a touch, with thanks to the Montalcino old vines compression. Firm is the operative, elongation the plan. A mineral-focused sangiovese with years of persistence lay ahead. Drink 2018-2023.  Tasted February 2017    @KylixWines  #laragnaie  kylixwines  @leragnaie  @KylixWines

Le Ragnaie Rosso Di Montalcino Petroso 2014, Doc Tuscany, Italy (Agent, WineAlign)

Petroso is much more beautiful and even on the edge of ethereal as compared to the old vines Rosso. This has bright red fruit and a lightness of Rosso character. Really perfumed, not so much, exactly or specifically fruit but also the mineral, wood and plenty of spices. Love the cross-section of firm, tangy and grippy. This just goes, flows and keeps flowing. Very long and definitive, of vintage and certainly, ostensible, place. Drink 2018-2024. Tasted February 2017    @KylixWines  #laragnaie  kylixwines  @leragnaie  @KylixWines

Il Marroneto Rosso Di Montalcino 2014, Doc Tuscany, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

It is a pleasure to discover the beautifully rendered combination and complimentary connection between the bright and the structured in a best of both colliding worlds Rosso. Some weight also lends credible Brunello regional character, followed by a mouthfeel silky, fluid and in the end, full of tension and grip. It’s a veritable roller-coaster sangiovese ride, slowly climbing the hill to the crest and pausing, as if in a dream, without going over the edge. Fantasy and edging in Rosso di Montalcino. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted February 2017  @IlMarroneto  #ilMarroneto  @BrunelloIlMarroneto

Eyes on annata 2012 @consBrunello #brunellodimontalcino #benvenutobrunello 2017 #montalcino #toscana

Brunello Di Montalcino 2012

Argiano Brunello Di Montalcino 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (154609, $54.00, WineAlign)

A solidified crust of earth and red fruit intertwine in Argiano’s 2012, a Brunello that resides on the firmer as opposed to brighter side of the 2012 vintage. Argiano will always deliver the goods, in quality fruit, from important terroir and with the building blocks to carry it for 10 to 15 years. The palate brings viscosity, unctuousness and more than enough finishing chocolate ganache. Drink 2019-2027.  Tasted February 2017  @Argianowinery  @Noble_Estates  cantina_argiano  noble_estates  @argiano  @NobleEstates

Fattoria Dei Barbi Brunello Di Montalcino 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (928028, $53.95, WineAlign)

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

Podere Brizio Brunello Di Montalcino 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

Brizio’s is quite fresh for Brunello in a style that won’t knock you down, from marl and galestro soils expressive of plum fruit and non-quelling oak. The warm southwest Montalcino corner rolls out a convection of buterred savoury pastry as though this were like Champagne in a sangiovese, Brunello style. Red velvet brioche and gingery exoticism from Montalcino with the fineness of tannin. Drink 2018-2026.  Tasted February 2017  @PodereBrizio  poderebrizio  @poderebrizio

Castello Romitorio Brunello Di Montalcino 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (Agent, 236356, $69.99, WineAlign)

Take a deep breath and take this beautiful 2012 Castello Romitorio in, full of the purest sangiovese, florals and a moist crust of the earth. Seamless, already full of clean and open window clarity and ultimately beautiful. There are no astringent moments of heavy, barrel chested wood huffs or puffs. This Brunello is traditionally pure while at the same time clean as a whistling sangiovese. Nothing finer or more enjoyable to drink, without any cure or a care. Drink 2018-2026.  Tasted February 2017    @WineLoversAgncy  castelloromitorio  wineloversagency   Castello Romitorio  @wineloversagency

Castiglion del Bosco Brunello Di Montalcino 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (956391, $59.95, WineAlign)

This is the press train to get to the 2012 station, of the right and correct fruit but with the sense to pull in on time. You do not have to wait for Bosco to fight its way through the Brunello crowd. The journey is already complete so if you need a drink me now Brunello this is your train. The fruit darkens and fleshes just in the time it travels from glass to mouth, with temporal, juicy acidity and easy tannin. Finishes with a shot of fine espresso.  Drink 2017-2021. Tasted February 2017    @LiffordON  castigliondelbosco  liffordgram  @castigliondelbosco  @liffordwineandspirits

Cava d’Onice Brunello Di Montalcino 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

Brunello 2012 in the hands of Cava d’Onice is blessed of a most heady and pretty perfume in a decidly gregarious expression, though with no danger of inching over the strada. Really tests the limits of fruit and wood and comes out clean and fresh, with much liquid ruby, chalky and spiced addendum. It’s the sangiovese equivalent of old school charm in modernist, retro clothing. Drink 2018-2024.  Tasted February 2017  @cavadonice  azienda_cavadonice  @cavadonice

Col D’orcia Brunello Di Montalcino 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (306852, $49.95, WineAlign)

Typically Col D’orcia for Brunello, firm, grippy and designed with angles, lines and box vector precision. Fruit is not at once ready and willing to tell a story because tannins are on top and suppress the basket down. I will admit that the vintage is more relenting than many, not quite 2007 mind you but certainly not a factor of 2008. This normale will need three years to open up before it really begins to celebrate its fruit and then offer evolving subtleties for five to seven after that. Drink 2020-2027.  Tasted February 2017  @Coldorcia  @DionysusWines  coldorcia  dionysuswines  @coldorcia.brunello  Dionysus Wines & Spirits Ltd

Collemattoni Brunello Di Montalcino 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $61.99, WineAlign)

Gorgeous red fruit as generous and dare it be said, magnanimous as it gets. Collematoni is a fruit machine, but also a mineral maker and a long-distance, slow-evolutionary walker. The calcareous-clay impression (from San Angelo in Colle on the southern hill of Montalcino) leaves a lasting imprint on your Brunello soul. This carries fine millefoglie layers of fruit, woven in lattice and with alternative material from that fruit, of ground stone, acidity and sweet, fine-grainy tannin. No shards, no cruising and no need for rehydration. Carries it all in one bag, or bottle. Drink 2020-2032.  Tasted February 2017  @collemattoni  @StemWineGroup  collemattoni  stemwinegroup  Collemattoni Brunello  @stemwine

Cortonesi La Mannella Brunello Di Montalcino 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $70.95, WineAlign)

La Mannella, meaning the manna from heaven is a five hectare, five block vineyard in surround of the winery at the centre of the Cortonesi universe. A vineyard that is used exclusively for the production of the estate’s Rosso and La Mannella Brunelli. La Mannella (as opposed to I Poggiarelli) is a single block Brunello but not a “single-vineyard,” planted in 1985 and 1998 in a relative Montalcino colder northern clime. This emits and represents the epitome for floral sangiovese, a bouquet that speaks to violets and elegant, light purple fruit. The penetrability and explicability of purlieu is an act of focus and the cynosure of assessment. Brunello should be exacting, something you get and it must define itself in clear sangiovese-speak. Large slavonian oak for 36 months maintains and celebrates the perfume. The wood shows up late, in white peppery spice and that just have to lay on your tongue and swallow with sublime delight, liquid chalky finish. Drink 2019-2027.  Tasted February 2017  @LaMannella  @Nicholaspearce_  marcora85  nicholaspearcewines  Tommaso Cortonesi  Nicholas Pearce

Donatella Cinelli Colombini Brunello Di Montalcino 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (431718, $58.00, WineAlign)

Donatella Cinelli Colombini’s ’12 presents a step up in character provided by the soil in her most masculine expression, if there is indeed such thing from this house. More density, seemingly lower-slope and deeper soil inflection comes replete with a handsome terroir-funky feeling. The fruit is currently secondary and not the most obvious for 2012 as a whole, though it is for the house. The palate is typically rendered by Donatella, creamy and fluid, liquid mineral ruby and carried by a fineness of tannin all the way to the finish. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted February 2017  @news_donatella  @LeSommelierWine  donatellacinellicolombini  lesommelierwine  Donatella Cinelli Colombini  @LeSommelierWine

Fuligni Brunello Di Montalcino 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (245225, $61.95, WineAlign)

Fuligni’s is a fine and refined sangiovese and quite perfect for and from the 2012 vintage. Quite an inhalant at first, savoury, strong and then turning tannic, properly rigid and wood-tough on the chalky and chocolatey palate. It’s not quite how it once in delivery a more traditional statement, now more streamlined, internationally understandable, bigger, grander and in search of suits around the table at a steakhouse. Will work for Tomahawks. Drink 2019-2026.  Tasted February 2017     @HalpernWine  Fuligni  halpernwine  @halpernwine

Gianni Brunelli Brunello Di Montalcino Le Chiuse Di Sotto 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $70.00, WineAlign)

The Brunello from Chiuse Di Sotto is lovely in that it enters with that classic sangiovese purity, namely fruit but with the vineyard stowed comfortably in its iron-rich pocket. This strikes as perhaps schisty (or the Montalcino equivalent) Brunello, with a slight hematic and ferric aromatic complement. Really full, rich and acidity-laced palate is followed by a grand finale from which you wished you’d have been afforded an additional four years to make the assessment. Alas, that’s not how this works. Drink 2020-2027.  Tasted February 2017.  @Noble_Estates  giannibrunelli  noble_estates  @NobleEstates

Il Grappolo Brunello Di Montalcino Sassocheto 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

The 2012 Brunello vintage is taken to an extreme side in Sassocheto’s Il Grappolo, with very firm and vacuumed aromatics shut and locked in so very tight. The depths are occupied by cherries drying, losing their body weight and settling into a floor of forest leaves and a future occupied by mushroom and truffle. The old-school, fine leathery and old barrel tonic bequeathes much hope for the mouthfeel and it gives every reason to confirm the possibilities. The world as we have known it here in Brunello sits right in this glass. It’s both comforting and filled with ancient wonder. Drink 2019-2027.  Tasted February 2017  @GrappoloFortius   #ilgrappolo  @IlGrappoloFortiusMontalcino

Il Marroneto Brunello Di Montalcino 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

High on the red liqueur but not equally so with high-octane tones, this is more accessible than you might think. It’s really big on its fruit, both on the nose and the palate. Quite classic in every respect and wholly respectful to the vintage. Bright and firm, direct and down to earth. Plenty of new wood will send this deep into the next decade. Drink 2018-2028.  Tasted February 2017  @IlMarroneto  #ilMarroneto  @BrunelloIlMarroneto

Il Poggione Brunello Di Montalcino 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $62.50, WineAlign)

Like the 2015 Rosso the house style really concentrates fruit and soil, here into a solidly constructed, carefully considered architectural Brunello from the ground’s foundation all the way up. Aromas and texture act argilo-calcaire in origin, deep, humid and alive. The mouthfeel is fuller than many in 2012, tasted here in 2017, full of liquid chalk, 80 per cent cacao and really fine if currently intrusive tannin. Will need time, this grippy 2012. Drink 2020-2028.  Tasted February 2017  @IlPoggioneWines  @LiffordON  ilpoggione  liffordgram  @villailpoggione  @liffordwineandspirits

Fattoria La Leccaia Brunello Di Montalcino 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (121905, $57.95, WineAlign)

La Lecciaia’s 2012 continues the house roll with a fourth straight proverbial, essential and impressive Brunello. As much as any this is a true, red-blooded 2012 and after tasting near 100 samples it really stands out as exemplary and respectful to the vintage. There is this rustic but very pure curative quality in the way such wines remember everything that came before without pausing to crawl forward into the future. This drinks as it always will, with clean and fiery temper alongside flesh and freshness. Lovely example of 2012 that will age really well. Drink 2019-2030.  Tasted February 2017  @TWCimports  TheWineCoaches

Le Ragnaie Brunello Di Montalcino 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $50.00, WineAlign)

Le Ragnaie’s ’12 is reductive and terroir-driven, the combative combination rendering this Brunello reserved and shy. There is a modicum of freshness from the fruit but also some dried character, likely a cause and effect created by its aggressive tannins. I like the way it switches gears to the palate with no break or change of pace and how it reaches deep into the well for more fruit and tannin. Several years will be needed to scale the wall, pry open the cracks and spill out the charm. Three at least. Drink 2020-2028.  Tasted February 2017    @KylixWines  #laragnaie  kylixwines  @leragnaie  @KylixWines

Mocali Brunello Di Montalcino 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (64956, $44.95, WineAlign)

Highly aromatic but also warm, the alcohol on this Mocali seems elevated to the higher end of the 2012 scale. For this reason the fruit succumbs to it and the tannin. There is plenty of stuffing and modern styling to keep Mocali’s sangiovese afloat so that it may glide well into the next century and reveal a Brunello charm from Montalcino roots. Drink 2019-2026.  Tasted February 2017    @LiffordON  #mocaliwine  liffordgram  Mocali Azienda Mocali  @liffordwineandspirits

Pian Delle Vigne Brunello Di Montalcino 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (651141, $62.95, WineAlign)

A perfectly perfumed Pian Delle Vigne from 2012 is vintage-relegated and vintage-captured. You need to appreciate how the Antinori team has kept the handling and the sheathing to a comfortable minimum, allowing fruit and collection of place to shine. Well made Brunello for 10 years easy. Drink 2018-2027.  Tasted February 2017  @AntinoriFamily  @HalpernWine  #piandellevigne  halpernwine  @MarchesiAntinori  @halpernwine

Poggio Antico Brunello Di Montalcino 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $70.00, WineAlign)

Warm and in full dispensation of all that 2012 has on offer, the fruit is at once bright and then deepens, in hue and aroma, by extraction. There is this fennel to liquorice scent that isn’t so very 2012 but that extra bit of personality is Poggio Antico’s calling card. The mouthfeel is one of the better in this Benvenuto Brunello line-up, cool, sapid and elastic. Wild cherries are all over the tannic finish. Drink 2019-2027.  Tasted February 2017  @poggioantico  @HalpernWine  tenutadelpoggioantico halpernwine  @tenutadelpoggioantico  @halpernwine

Poggio Antico Brunello Di Montalcino Altero 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (SAQ 11300367, $90.50, WineAlign)

Altero might be considered in all of its possible meanings; elevato, nobile, dignitato. Lofty, noble and dignified. It provides a step up in extraction, firm tannic grip and a blessedly variegated aromatic personality built on pure sangiovese perfume. This really is a clean and fine, structured and clearly alterarsi (alternative) Poggio Antico expression, if more than obviously transparently defined Brunello di Montalcino. The level of refinement is felt in shivers, palpable and loaded with contentment gifted Brunello terms. Modernity is not so much a stylistic choice as much as it is necessity. Drink this comfortably for 20 years but not into the next dark ages. Drink 2018-2035.  Tasted February 2017  @poggioantico  @HalpernWine  tenutadelpoggioantico halpernwine  @tenutadelpoggioantico  @halpernwine

Poggio Di Sotto Brunello Di Montalcino 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (337774, $180.00, WineAlign)

The present and the future are only bright coming from the heady and purposeful red fruit in the Poggio di Sotto glass. This is pure, clear and distinctly 2012, so very well made and quite elegant. I’m not sure what more you could ask from the vintage in a Brunello prepped to drink beginning of next year and for five equally lustrous more. Drink 2018-2023.  Tasted February 2017    #poggiodisotto  Poggio di Sotto

Rodolfo Cosimi Brunello Di Montalcino Il Poggiolo 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

The “little knolls” comes with a whiff of old hides, barrel cellar walls and already a note of forest mushroom so the first thought is certainly placed back into another time. The palate is so welling with liqueur, acidity, tannin and endless possibility. There is grip but not too much and while this lingers it does so with waning grit and grip. So in the end, modernity is part of the plan and in what is ostensibly a big, sumptuous mouthful of sangiovese. Drink 2018-2025.  Tasted February 2017  @ilmioBrunello  il_poggiolo  @ilpoggiolomontalcino

Rodolfo Cosimi Brunello Di Montalcino Il Poggiolo Bionsega “Lifestyle” 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

Il Poggiolo’s Bionsega is a very amenable sangiovese, ready to drink in the short term while the others bide their developing and softening time. The “Lifestyle” moniker will clearly be written in Brunello stone for a group of imbibers who want the label without the anxiety. This will indeed offer them immediate pleasure and gratification if they can afford the money and the necessary if unavoidable cerebral time. But to be honest at the end of the glass the good and sincere Bionsega is not so out there so drink up and enjoy. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted February 2017  @ilmioBrunello  il_poggiolo  @ilpoggiolomontalcino

Rodolfo Cosimi Brunello Di Montalcino Il Poggiolo Terra Rossa 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

Terra Rossa soil is a fascinating thread, connecting disparate wine regions by soil, from Coonawarra to Chianti Classico and here into Montalcino. The territory’s red soil sangiovese delivers distinct purity and clarity earlier than the “normale” from Il Poggiolo. This Brunello is bright, cheery and full of ripe red cherry. Just a touch of grippy tannin comes swift but the impression is more tang from that soil and how the wine must be made from there. An earlier drinking Brunello to be sure and quite progressive in style. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted February 2017  @ilmioBrunello  il_poggiolo  @ilpoggiolomontalcino

Scopetone Brunello Di Montalcino 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

Scopetone is higher in tone and alcohol warmth but balanced by top quality and the clarity of fruit. Though the vintage does not necessarily bring such a fractive sort of behaviour the Scopetone sections itself into fruit, acidity and tannin, after it has stopped acting so bloody reductive. The hematic and ferric aspects mix with burgeoning acidity and a return of that exceptional fruit. This will live so very long and as such it’s deferential attitude to the vintage is easily forgiven. Drink 2020-2032.  Tasted February 2017    #scopetone

Brunello Di Montalcino 2012 (Vigna)

Altesino Brunello Di Montalcino Montosoli 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (SAQ 10221683, $104.50, WineAlign)

In its present state Montesoli is a beast. There, I’ve said it. Shut tight, chains securely in place, reduction the retaining wall to keep predators out and so good luck on unearthing any early secrets. You know there is classic and earthy red fruit hiding but you can’t quite feel it. The palate is chewy, crunchy, propitiously and indubitibly enriched. This is a massive Brunello with underlying elegance and charm but ultimately all-powerful. Drink 2021-2037.  Tasted February 2017    @rogcowines  #altesino  rogersandcompanywines  Winery/Vineyard  @rogcowines

Castello Banfi Brunello Di Montalcino Poggio Alle Mura 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $69.95, WineAlign)

As expected a rich, preserved and developed liqueur from Poggio Alle Mura but what is exceptional is the lesser or lack of barrel on both the nose and the palate at such a young stage. This is the most red-fruit reasoned PAM I have ever tasted and I can only say that Banfi has listened to the vintage and the land with great exception and care. The chocolate and the viscosity are left behind so that purity and traditional (or is it forward-thinking) tenets of sangiovese can take centre stage. Bravo. Drink 2019-2028.  Tasted February 2017  @CastelloBanfi  @AuthenticWineON  castellobanfi_ilborgo  awsmwest  @CastelloBanfi  @awsmon

Fattoria Dei Barbi Brunello Di Montalcino Vigna Del Fiore 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (SAQ 10217300, $64.75, WineAlign)

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

Bellaria Brunello Di Montalcino Assunto 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (206854, $36.95, WineAlign)

Bellaria’s Assunto is funky and truffle earthy, etched and forged from and for the past. Red citrus concentrate and wild thyme are further scents gotten and then such tart compression on the palate. Hard acidity and desperate tannin take this straight down the line. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted February 2017

Camigliano Brunello Di Montalcino Paesaggio Inatteso 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

Camigliano’s sangiovese is rather reductive and ornery at this stage, perhaps specific to the Paesaggio Inatteso Vigna bottling. It is a wine that will not give up easy. The dusty rustic fruit and heady to woodsy aromas are surely meant to spread some kind of traditional word but it’s hard to get past the fortress gates. Quite out of touch with fruit it’s hard to imagine that this will not develop much more charm anytime soon. The barrel is very strong on the flavours so added up you get what you got. Drink 2018-2021. Tasted February 2017

Caparzo Brunello Di Montalcino La Casa 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $69.95, WineAlign)

Caparzo’s Vigna La Casa is quite rich and more approachable than many at such an early stage with the home vineyard ready to provide both the beauty and the stuffing almost before you realize you can sit down with a bottle to enjoy. It is refreshing to take a Vigna-designate bottle and be offered the immediacy of fruit though La Casa is more than capable with structure to take it through a five year primary stage. Some interest will develop after that but these early years will be the best. Drink 2017-2022.  Tasted February 2017  @CaparzoWines  @TheCaseForWine  #caparzowinery  

Castello Romitorio Brunello Di Montalcino Filo di Sesta 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

A perfume of fine spun sweet red fruit fills the glass and prepares you for what can only be a case of smitten by love in sangiovese. The tree fruit is ripe and falls into the hand almost before it is picked. The traditions of the Brunelli are deeply entrenched into the genetics of such a wine and onto the palate we go with more sweet acidity-laced and tannin-gripped fruit. Quite seamless and propitiously endowed with a quiet and highly effective linger. Not as tough as many and yet indicative of the vintage without needing to scream for to be heard. Drink 2018-2024.  Tasted February 2017    @WineLoversAgncy  castelloromitorio  wineloversagency   Castello Romitorio  @wineloversagency

Castiglion del Bosco Brunello Di Montalcino Campo Del Drago 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (SAQ 10708424, $63.25, WineAlign)

A divergence from the normale comes from the dragon, with an increased level of aromatic airiness and simultaneous inhalant, like gastronomy coming from the kitchen of demi-glacé, herbs and roasting meats. Such culinary wafts are perfect for preparing the palate and the crunchy, chewy and marbled work is a reminder that salty protein (I’m really thinking fresh Tagliatelle and wild boar) is the focus in handling such sangiovese. The grip on the finish indicates a long life ahead. Drink 2018-2028.  Tasted February 2017    @LiffordON  castigliondelbosco  liffordgram  @castigliondelbosco  @liffordwineandspirits

Cava d’Onice Brunello Di Montalcino Colombaio 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

Cava D’Onice’s Colmbaiao delivers high quality red fruit antics form the aromatic front in cloud-burst vitality from what is nothing but a striking expression of sangiovese. Expertly straddles the line between acidity-laced, sour-edged and ripe from extracted excitability. Bright, fresh and full of spirit. Sweet viscous purity of palate fruit, a bit of roll-up and then such round acidity. Ben preparato e qualificato. Drink 2019-2026.  Tasted February 2017  @cavadonice  azienda_cavadonice  @cavadonice

Celestino Pecci Brunello Di Montalcino Poggio Al Carro 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

The wagon (or perhaps, chariot) “Al Carro” delivers a single-vineyard’s increased level of aromatic liqueur, reductive as if by concentrate and is the first to really give off that feeling of cherries seeping in their own syrupy liquid. Such an oozing coulis of sangiovese is what we have come to expect from Brunello though I don’t think it typical of the 2012 vintage. What it says is lower elevation fruit, likely from a warmer Montalcino spot and not quite so efficiently managed to stay cool, elegant and alive. It is delicious in current state but without sufficient grip and tannin structure not necessarily built for the long haul. Drink 2017-2022.  Tasted February 2017     celestinopecci  Celestino Pecci

Citille Di Sopra Brunello Di Montalcino Vigna Poggio Ronconi 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (187955, $49.00, WineAlign)

This single-vineyard Poggio Roncioni exhibits quite a bit of reduction and the warmth wells deeply on the nose with notes that bring some pine forest and cypress into the mix. Really layered and also firm, though decidly extracted and sitting cross-legged on the palate with some of that bitter red citrus pith and slightly astringent tannin. Solid if hard-working Brunello. Drink 2018-2024.  Tasted February 2017    #citilledisopra

Cortonesi La Mannella Brunello Di Montalcino I Poggiarelli 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $95.95, WineAlign)

This is Cortonesi’s single-vineyard sangiovese from the warmer, southern part of Montalcino at 420m of elevation. Expectation allows for deeper, and darker yet the display comes without the La Mannella block crimson and cimmerian variegation, perhaps instead more like the single-brushstroke, dark side of dusk angle created by a fuzzy, warm blend of fiery colours. More Galestro soil influence here as opposed to clay at La Mannella and two years in part new French tonneaux followed by stainless steel vats. A deferential élevage to the one exercised with La Mannella and one to encourage depth and structure without too much power. Classic, modern, elegant and an apple to La Mannella’s orange. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted February 2017  @LaMannella  @Nicholaspearce_  marcora85  nicholaspearcewines  Tommaso Cortonesi  Nicholas Pearce

Donatella Cinelli Colombini Brunello Di Montalcino Prime Donne 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy ($69.95, WineAlign)

With a nod to an all female produced Brunello, Donatella Le Cinelli Colombini’s Casato Prime Donne vineyards specific Brunello is rich, traditional, firm, seamless and structured. Really fine. Exceptional purity from red fruit and an ideally calculated transference of rusticity gives it that supplicated balance, from what was and going forward must be. There is this cooler site and climate-controlled type of phenolic fruit ripeness managed for a struck accord that will see this age gracefully for two decades. In a vintage that in many ways was predicated on a called for requiem of combined blocks and sites this is a true blocks of specific vineyards success. Drink 2019-2033.  Tasted February 2017  @news_donatella  @LeSommelierWine  donatellacinellicolombini  lesommelierwine  Donatella Cinelli Colombini  @LeSommelierWine

Fanti Brunello Di Montalcino Valocchio 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $84.69, WineAlign)

The four vineyard Valocchio is Fanti’s Vigna-designate Brunello, a massive sangiovese speaking for four blocks; Vigna Bellavista, Vigna Sassone, Vigna Casabandi and Vigna Macchiarelle Nuova. This strikes as hailing and indeed fact checking tells it does come from a south-east exposed warm spot with some density in the soil. The red fruit is deeply submerged in earthy-rich demi-glacé. There is a mild-mannered personality of volatility on the nose so some old-school thoughts creep in though I would not call this overly traditional Brunello. It is not hard to see past the microbes and to dig deeper into the concentration and grains of ropey acidity meeting tannin to clamber over the ever intense finish. Huge Brunello. Too much for now and in great need of a calming slumber. Drink 2019-2029.  Tasted February 2017 @tenutafanti  @LeSommelierWine  tenuta_fanti  lesommelierwine  Elisa Fanti  @LeSommelierWine

Il Marroneto Brunello Di Montalcino Madonna delle Grazie 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

Though certainly concentrated and likely from a warmish location the clarity on the nose and obvious purity of fruit renders this Madonna delle Grazie a great success. Cherries never smelled so fine and the palate that follows brings the same sort of brightness with thanks to equal and supportive acidity. When the fruit is finished occupying all your time you can expect those sweet but persistently chalky and tight-grained tannins. Drink 2019-2031. Tasted February 2017  @IlMarroneto  #ilMarroneto  @BrunelloIlMarroneto

La Fornace Brunello Di Montalcino Origini 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

La Fornace’s Vigna Origini is reductive and volatile so exercise as much patience as you can before passing judgement on the origins and path forward of this Brunello. Keen herbal and savoury aromas come clean, along with tart red citrus and a zest of grapefruit. This is really steeped somewhere in the pretty deep distant past and at present acts with the sort of character that lacks the fruit density to keep up with today’s forward thinking Brunelli. Drink 2019-2026.  Tasted February 2017

La Fortuna Brunello Di Montalcino Giobi 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

La Fortuna’s Giobi is much more approachable and gifts sweet perfume in 180 degree about face opposition to the previously tasted La Fornace Origini. The fruit’s warmer location has granted better possibility in conjunction with the older-stylistic and what comes from Giobi is more concentration and focus. Though a knowing nod comes from current character it’s not quite ready now and the future will offer further personality qualified as copacetic and correct. As for and from 2012 and relative to Brunello as a whole, this sangiovese is still quite present. Drink 2018-2024.  Tasted February 2017 #tenutalafortuna  @lafortunaaziendaagricola

Fattoria La Leccaia Brunello Di Montalcino Vigna Manapetra 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (185009, $59.95, WineAlign)

La Lecciaia’s Vigna Manapetra delivers a fair bit of welcoming Montalcino demure and the lithely floral aromas are the entry-point for this pulchritudinous sangiovese. Manapetra is a wine that just seems to jest and tease what is to eventually come. The feminine rapport is a lovely side-track to the ripe vintage away from the producer who failed to manage the duality of ripeness and over-bearing tannin. The presence, precision and clarity here edges forward and nears the divine. One of the best so far. Drink 2019-2035.  Tasted February 2017  @TWCimports  TheWineCoaches

Fattoria La Màgia Brunello Di Montalcino Ciliegio 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

Il Ciliegio brings the best of the 2012 vintage to light and here we have come into the depth and elegance of what the most modern of Brunello can and really have to be. The fruit is ripe and I imagine the winemaker walking the vineyards every day coming into and at harvest time, eating grapes, chewing on seeds, waiting for that optimum combination of tannin resolution and crunch. This found the sweet spot. Elegance, purity, precision, focus, organically divined and from the most obvious of terrific terroir. Drink 2019-2039.  Tasted February 2017  @fattorialamagia  lamagiamontalcino  @lamagiamontalcino

Cantina Leonardo Da Vinci Brunello Di Montalcino 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (Agent, WineAlign)

Sweet, sour, salty and earthy fruit make a total sangiovese play for well rounded pay dirt in the Da Vinci Brunello and yet this is expertly high-toned and succinct in edgy ways. There is some flesh and unctuous palate activity so the cumulative is deemed more than respectable in a Brunello next door kind of way.. Finishes with chocolate shavings and dusty espresso. For best results drink this in the early stages. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted February 2017  @CantineLeonardo  cantineleonardodavinci  @CantineLeonardoDaVinci

Le Ragnaie Brunello Di Montalcino V. V. 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (Agent, WineAlign)

I sense an increase in alcohol from the old vines and perhaps this is completely necessary because of what they do in terms of compression and density. As a rule I am not finding high alcohol in 2012 even as I do find richness and ripeness that is not always easy to manage. These old vines are not a problem for the latter but the heat on the nose mutes the fruit and is ill prepared to set up the palate for acidity and tannin management. A bit rustic and old-school and certainly right for fans of the style. Drink 2019-2026.  Tasted February 2017    @KylixWines  #laragnaie  kylixwines  @leragnaie  @KylixWines

Le Ragnaie Brunello Di Montalcino Fornace 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (Agent, WineAlign)

Le Ragnaie’s Fornace (the furnace) is riper than the old vines but lower in warmth, and I suspect, alcohol. Also prevalent on the nose is some reduction, along with more obvious wood than many. The intent here is clearly for size so more than a few years will be needed to settle the heavy door on its hinges and nearly immoveable parts. The reduction will dissipate in a few and the tannins should begin to relent in two more. Drink 2021-2028.  Tasted February 2017    @KylixWines  #laragnaie  kylixwines  @leragnaie  @KylixWines

Mastrojanni Brunello Di Montalcino Vigna Loreto 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $64.95, WineAlign)

Mastrojanni’s Vigna Loreto takes an express route through vintage ripeness to some jam and warmth in the nose though the fruit is really quite pure and rendered with clarity. The mouthfeel is round and fulfilling, markedly ripe again with pure fruit though not in the same kind of jam that seemed first apparent on the nose. To say this is exemplary for 2012 would be a gross understatement. Tannins are well-managed to package up the fruit and acidity in solid structure. Drink 2018-2024.  Tasted February 2017  @MastrojanniWine  @MajesticWineInc  #mastrojanni  radalinke  majesticwinesinc  @MastrojanniWine  @majesticwinecellars

Ridolfi Brunello Di Montalcino Mercatale 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

Some traditional rendering comes clean from the start with rich liqueur, those classic cherries and even some nebbiolo-like tar and roses. Continues the thread and coats the tongue with sour-sharp acids followed by anxiety styled tannin. I suspect the vintage posed stiff challenges to the house style and though the fruit will wane this will show its best after a few further years in bottle. Drink 2019-2023.  Tasted February 2017  Societa’ Agricola Ridolfi srl

San Polino Brunello Di Montalcino Helichrysum 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

Depth and reserve make cause to wonder what will be though it is the combination of breaching ripeness and warmth that seem to dominate the internal, in the present moment’s discussion. Richness of fruit is undeniable, from red clay depths and the advancing severity of tannin make this a formidable and virtually irreproachable ’12. Five undisturbed years lay ahead for this Helichrysum sangiovese from San Polino and one should hope the fruit will outlast the bitter chocolate, grainy tannin and chalky sensibility. Probability, recent track record and a heavy hunch say this will work out just fine. Plain and simple, put this away. Drink 2021-2030.  Tasted February 2017  @SanPolinoVino  @TheLivingVine  #sanpolino  thelivingvine  #SanPolinoBrunello  The Living Vine inc.

Fattoria Scopone Brunello Di Montalcino L’Olivare 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

The amount of fennel and amaretti cookie on the plateau of aromatics is joined by really traditional but such a fine inhalant of Brunello specific-sangiovese. This L’Olivare vigna-designate from Scopone carries all the necessary attributes; cherry, leather, fine-distilled syrup, roses, fennel again and always a seamless integration of it all. As classic as classic gets, all moving parts within reason and decades of future in its proverbial ancient but timeless pocket. You know where you are. Drink 2019-2035.  Tasted February 2017  

Azienda Di Franci Franca Brunello Di Montalcino Tassi Di Franci Franca Selezione 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

Plenty of vacuuming liquor is sucked up into the bubble supported over the thinner air of this sangiovese. Warm to fiery fruit is traditionally rendered and fully accountable for its actions. There is just a touch of fungi and forest floor on the umami-configured nose so complexity is in despite the heat and the volatility. The palate offers some sweetness of fruit and a first hint of advancing times. Drink this traditional Brunello early with a rare bisteca and enjoy the fine ganache on the finish. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted February 2017  

Azienda Di Franci Franca Brunello Di Montalcino Tassi Di Franci Franca Selezione Franci 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

A small production of this Brunello out of Castelnuovo dell’Abate develops a deeper clay-influenced and markedly darker black cherry-raspberry fruit rendered sangiovese. This Tassi Di Franci Franca Selezione Franci is distinctly polar to Tassi’s Franci Franca normale. As a result the wood is more on top while the acidity and tannin wait, but only for a few moments, before attacking with fervour. So much chocolate swaths the palate with that fine-grainy brushstroke of tannin. This selezione is a big wine that needs a few years to back down. Drink 2020-2027.  Tasted February 2017  

Tenuta Buon Tempo Brunello Di Montalcino P.56 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

Tenuta Buon Tempo’s plot specific p. 56 is quite full-throttle on the nose but a bit reserved or rather locked in within that aromatic structure, as if it needs some sort of catalyst to find its way out of the shell. What I reach for is fruit but I get a mineral streak first, something almost calcari but certainly argilo in origin. This must be from a higher location as it is cool-tempered and very refined. The palate is cool again, not so much herbal as it is swelling with the holy trinity of fruit, acidity and tannin. Were the acidity just a touch elevated I think this would travel over mountains, rivers and valleys to decades ahead. It’s just that close but will still commit to being a 15-20 year wine. Drink 2021-2036.  Tasted February 2017    tenutabuontempo  @TenutaBuonTempo  Carpe Vinum

Tenute Silvio Nardi Brunello Di Montalcino Poggio Doria 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

Silvio Nardi’s Poggia Doria is fruit forward for Brunello with a wild cherry to black cherry lineage, but also some fragola di bosco. The ripeness is pushed to the limit for 2012 and this continues onto the very rich and sumptuously endowed palate. There is plenty of chocolate and tongue climbing acidity on that smothered palate. Drink this early and often. Drink 2018-2022. Tasted February 2017  @TenuteNardi  @MajesticWineInc  tenutenardi  majesticwinesinc  @tenutenardi  @majesticwinecellars

Tenute Silvio Nardi Brunello Di Montalcino Vigneto Manachiara 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $80.00, WineAlign)

In opposition to the Poggio Doria, Nardi’s second Vigna delivers a complete about face turn around to see the other side of the moon, this time the landscape where Brunello is found in the Manachiara. If at first it seems a bit rendered in stencilled acetone keep drifting into its fine liqueur and patiently wait out the transformation. It deepens, condenses and then breathes. This is a fine-grained, tight coiling, re-coiling and fanning out across the moonscape sangiovese. The wood is very much in charge, with baking spices and cool, sapid and savoury edges. It needs time. Drink 2020-2027. Tasted February 2017  @TenuteNardi  @MajesticWineInc  tenutenardi  majesticwinesinc  @tenutenardi  @majesticwinecellars

Tiezzi Brunello Di Montalcino Vigna Soccorso 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

Funky and markedly reductive young Brunello is easy to discount as problematic but something tells me to hang in there with Tiezzi’s Soccorso. The tension is palpable and the fruit suffocating behind the microbial wall of fame. Traditional can go either way; southerly sour or northerly nettled. This will mark the twain but the fruit will never be the focus of attention. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted February 2017  @BrunelloTiezzi  brunellotiezzi  Brunello Tiezzi

La Togata Brunello Di Montalcino La Togata Dei Togati 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

A quite firm and traditionally challenged Brunello here from Togata cries for patience before it has even slipped from the glass into your mouth. Reserved to unrelenting at least aromatically, when you have a taste you are reminded that history, tradition and ancient sensibility must be apart of the future. The old large botti have established a void for which this sangiovese to hang and suspend so that it will be reluctant in its early bottle years. With time it will release its flesh and charm from out of a carefully crafted and designed complex system of architecture. Drink 2020-2034.  Tasted February 2017    #latogata  Brunello La Togata

Villa Poggio Salvi Brunello Di Montalcino Pomona 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (Agent, WineAlign)

A new era of sweet Brunello fruit is borne from Poggio Salvi’s Pomona, one that is hard to describe but here goes. It’s like a cross between pink roses, sweet ruby grapefruit and wild saskatoon berry, or the Tuscan equivalent. The newfangled aromatics aside this is also older school than expected and yet is graced with incredibly fine tannins and very purposed acidity. More palate fruit would elevate the game but this should gain some flesh and slowly unwind for 10 to 12 years. Drink 2019-2029.  Tasted February 2017    @HalpernWine  #villapoggiosalvi  halpernwine  Winery/Vineyard  @halpernwine

Brunello Di Montalcino 2011 (Vigna)

Cortonesi La Mannella Brunello Di Montalcino I Poggiarelli 2011, Docg Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $95.95, WineAlign)

Looking rearward into the recent past what comes into near focus is the combination of liqueur and firmness, a handful for sure and yet it seems that time (even just an extra year or two in bottle) brings out that specific Cortonesi perfume. The tang and richness of concentrated acidity really elevates at this stage so that tannin begin its resultion so young and impressively so. This is not the big, bad Brunello but the one to make enjoyment haste. The length is exceptional with pretty tonic and bitter moments that pop in and out. Drink 2018-2029.  Tasted February 2017  @LaMannella  @Nicholaspearce_  marcora85  nicholaspearcewines  Tommaso Cortonesi  Nicholas Pearce

Brunello Di Montalcino 2008 (Vigna)

Cortonesi La Mannella Brunello Di Montalcino I Poggiarelli 2008, Docg Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $95.95, WineAlign)

If the argument was ever made to sway in the “yes it was and is” direction, this Cortonesi example from the exceptional vintage leads the parade with aromatics that go exotic and then return domestic. A spirit of the east, of bougainvillea and hibiscus plus a Montalcino gustatory aromatic spice. Then that return to fennel, a walk through flora Montalcino brush and sweet French tonneau spice. The liquorice is one bred out of aromatic acidity, like a fine chalky dusting of red crimson and ochre to purple powder on a plate next to a perfect charred slice of beef. Elegant sangiovese cuisine in a glass, deconstructed and all obvious in their parts but when you taste you pause and it all comes together. The flavours mingle and weave, of cherries and fruit leather, more mellowed spice, still lingering fresh, persistent and remarkably bright. Southern vineyard be damned, this is a cool, elegant and lithe drop. Harkens back to a mind’s eye and nose in memory of Brunello 1998, maybe a bit of 1999, but more like 1998. Drink 2018-2030.  Tasted February 2017  @LaMannella  @Nicholaspearce_  marcora85  nicholaspearcewines  Tommaso Cortonesi  Nicholas Pearce

Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva 2010

Podere Brizio Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva 2010, Docg Tuscany, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

Consistency shines in the Brizio sangiovese triumvirate, from Rosso through Brunello and into this fine, precise and focused Riserva. The wine is once again aged in 54hL Allier French oak casks but for Riserva the time increases to 48 months, followed by bottle rest refinement for no less than one year. Riserva 2010 goes straight to the heartstrings, rich and warming. That liquor is red cherries and fine new leather with incredible structure. The linger is great, warm but within means. Drink 2019-2029.  Tasted February 2017  @PodereBrizio  poderebrizio  @poderebrizio

Col D’orcia Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva Poggio al Vento 2010, Docg Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $129.00, WineAlign)

Poggio al Vento Riserva 2010 is so very smoky and wood charred so you wonder about the fruit but air brings a fleeting glimpse of that red toned life before the wind swirls to send it back to the smoky embers beneath the roasting bones of the cinghiale. Charm in Poggio al Vento is hard to come by so early and this is far too early. The palate is richer than you think and again with wood so prevalent. There is no doubt that a wait of five more years is needed before beauty can be coaxed out of this formidable Brunello. The vintage, the vineyard and the traditional house style all conspire for this Etruscan structure, meant to impress, influence and last just long enough. Drink 2021-2031.  Tasted February 2017  @Coldorcia  @DionysusWines  coldorcia  dionysuswines  @coldorcia.brunello  Dionysus Wines & Spirits Ltd

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  @LaMannella  @Nicholaspearce_  marcora85  nicholaspearcewines  Tommaso Cortonesi  Nicholas Pearce

Good to go!

Godello

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