Franciacorta, Gambero Rosso and Terra Morreti

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

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

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

L'Albereta

L’Albereta Relais & Châteaux

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

L'Albereta Relais & Châteaux

L’Albereta

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

Related – Franciacorta: Best kept sparkling secret on the planet

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

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

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

Sculpture garden, L'Albereta

A section of the L’Albereta sculpture garden

VistaLago Bistrò, L’Albereta

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

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

Notes on Bellavista and Contadi Castaldi

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

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

Market day in Iseo

Friday market at #iseo #carciofi #franciacorta

Friday market at #iseo #carciofi #franciacorta

The island of Monteisola on Lago Iseo

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

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

Looking for lunch in all the right places

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

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

Prix Fixe

I Lombardi Ristorante, Iseo

I Lombardi Ristorante, Iseo

We need this in Ontario

Every bookstore should have a bar in the back #iseo

Every bookstore should have a bar in the back #iseo

Bellavista wines at L’Albereta

Bellavista Franciacorta, L'Albereta

Bellavista Franciacorta, L’Albereta

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

by Executive Chef Fabio Abbattista

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

Bellavista Alma Cuvée Brut, Franciacorta (Winery)

Cuttlefish, chicory and Taggiasche olive

Morbido

Morbido de seppia, puntarelle e olive Taggiasche

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

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

Cappelletti with burnt wheat, rabbit and anchovy butter

Gambero Rosso Dinner 2

Cappelletti al grano arso, coniglio e burro di acciughe

Bellavista Gran Cuvée Rosé 2010, Franciacorta

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

Gambero Rosso Dinner 4

Filetto di Fassona alla pizzaiola

Bellavista Nectar S.A., Franciacorta (Winery)

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

Green apple sorbet, celery and passion fruit nectar

Gambero Rosso Dinner 3

Sorbetto mela verde, sedano e Nectar

In the evening

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

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

In the morning

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

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

Bellavista Gala

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

Lost in a @BellaVistaVino dream that has just begun

Lost in a @BellaVistaVino dream that has just begun

In anticipation of Meraviglioso

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

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

Riserva Vittorio Moretti Magnum 2008, Franciacorta (Winery)

Puff pastry potatoes with caviar

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

Bellavista Meraviglioso Mathusalem Studio Vendemmia 2004, Franciacorta

Whipped risotto with Bagoss and Fatuli cheese

Whipped risotto with Bagoss and Fatuli cheese

Bellavista Curtefranca Bianco Vendemmia Storica 1995, Franciacorta (Winery)

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

Tartare

Venison Tartare with salad

Bellavista Meraviglioso Magnum, Franciacorta (Winery)

Guinea Fowl

Guinea Fowl with sprouts, pomegranate and lentil

Bellavista Vini

Bellavista Wines

Bellavista gala friends

Bellavista gala friends

Vitaliano and Godello 2

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

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

The last morning

Erbusco

Erbusco, Franciacorta, Brescia, Lombardia

Until next time

L'Albereta Relais & Châteaux

L’Albereta Relais & Châteaux

Good to go!

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

WineAlign: Michael Godel

Facebook

Franciacorta: Best kept sparkling secret on the planet

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

Bella Vista Chardonnay, Lago Iseo and the Dolomite Mountains

As seen on WineAlign – Franciacorta and the Meraviglioso of Bellavista

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

Meraviglioso
perfino il tuo dolore
potrà guarire poi
meraviglioso

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pouring Meraviglioso

Pouring Meraviglioso

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

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

Meraviglioso

Meraviglioso

Bellavista Meraviglioso, 1500ml, Docg Franciacorta (WineAlign)

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

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

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

Vigna Leone, Bellavista

Vigna Leone, Bellavista

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

Mattia Vezzola and Francesca Moretti

Mattia Vezzola and Francesca Moretti

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

Erbusco, Brescia, Lombardy

Erbusco, Brescia, Lombardy

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

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

Bellavista

Bellavista

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

Bellavista horizontal

Bellavista horizontal

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

The Bellavista Horizontal

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

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

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

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

1987 (750 mL)

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

1987 (Magnum – 1.5 L)

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

1987 (Double Magnum – 3 L)

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

1987 (Methuselah – 6 L)

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

The big pour

The big pour

1989 (Salmanzar – 9L)

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

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

The wines of Franciacorta

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

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

Bellavista Brut 2010

Bellavista Brut 2010

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

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

Bellavista Franciacorta, L'Albereta

Bellavista Franciacorta, L’Albereta

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Contadi Castaldi

Contadi Castaldi

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ricci Curbastro Satèn Brut

Ricci Curbastro Satèn Brut

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

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

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

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

Good to go!

Twitter: @mgodello

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WineAlign: Michael Godel

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Secret agent wine

Champagne Laurent Perrier, https://twitter.com/Noble_Estates

Champagne Laurent Perrier, https://twitter.com/Noble_Estates

Most consumers regard the LCBO as the only source for purchasing wine in Ontario. That is understandable when you consider the blanketing influence a monopoly has over the public. The commodification of wine in this province can be like gasoline and health care. You know exactly where to go when you need a fill-up, a prescription or a bottle of wine. Or, do you?

There are options. The most obvious is a one or two-hour drive west on the QEW or east on the 401 from Toronto, to the Niagara and Prince Edward County wine regions. A bit further west you can find cellar door availability in the Lake Erie North Shore and Ontario South Coast areas. There is something else out there. You can also buy by the case.

The greatest little secret in Ontario lies in the briefcases full of fine wine in the hands of Ontario’s importers and agents. The importers tote portfolios of consignment wines rarely seen on LCBO shelves, often found on restaurant lists, ready and willing to fill cellars, wine fridges and passive wine racks in homes scattered across this province. You just need to know where to look, who to ask and get some sound advice on what’s worth purchasing, by the case.

Related – Buy the Case: Trialto Group

The thing is, you have to buy by the case when using an Ontario importer as your source and there are many reasons to do so. At WineAlign we break it down for you. Restaurant pours buy the glass, cellar-worthy wines, cases to split with friends, house wines, etc., etc.

There are some who might question the motive and the execution. It’s quite simple really and transparent. The agenda is straightforward and obvious. WineAlign is a dual-sided platform for wine commerce and education. One hand allows agents and local wineries to promote their wares and to introduce their hard work to a public that might not otherwise know they are there. The other hand allows critics from across the country to write independent reviews on their wines, the best of which are included in reports on those agents and vignerons. Some of the wines do not receive favourable reviews. As a consumer, do you want to see those reviews linked to in the article? Would you not rather be informed about what floated the critical boats and to know what to buy? The sponsored content is advertorial. The reviews are not.

“Importers pay for this service. Ads for some wines may appear at the same time, but the decision on which wines to put forward in our report, if any, is entirely up to each critic, as it is with our reviews of in-store wines.”

A Report on Consignment Wines in Ontario
Written by WineAlign

BuyTheCaseLOGOimageFor an explanation of the program, the process and our 10 Good Reasons to Buy the Case, please click here.

Over the past six months we have tasted wines from several portfolios. I wrote about the first Buy the Case with Trialto Wine Group, listed in the link above. Here are some of my reviews from the more recent tastings, from Noble Estates, Treasury Wine Estates, Cavinona and Da Capo Wines.

 

Noble Estates

Domaine Pfister Pinot Blanc 2013, Alsace, France ($22.99, WineAlign)

Hillside Marl sites provide the fruit and fodder for this precise Pinot Blanc. Auxerrois can be used to infuse brio bolstering punch for such a pristine white made by the deft hands of winemaker Mélanie Pfister. I have tasted this 2013 more than 15 times and it always come up the same; clean, polished, lithe and on a sure bee-line away from the honey comb. The need for development is not the crux of this pleasure. Sips alone and swallows alongside much varied gastronomy is the matter at hand and should be on many an occasion. Drink 2015-2018.  Tasted many times, November 2014 to September 2015

Planeta Etna Bianco 2014, Sicily, Italy ($29.99, WineAlign)

From Castiglione di Sicilia (Catania) and the most ancient of Sicilian grape varieties, what more could be ingratiated in depth of Carricante and its carbon dating fascination. The rich mineral layering is intense and munificent at the same time. Herbs and salinity in candied flowers grace both nose and palate. This is a near perfect vintage for such a wine. Clearly built slowly by sunshine and long shadows. Finishes as philanthropic as it began. Drink 2015-2021.  Tasted September 2015  @PlanetaWinery  @WinesOfSicily

Planeta Etna Bianco 2014

Hedges Cuvee Marcel Dupont Syrah Red Mountain Les Gosses Vineyard 2012, Washington ($49.99, WineAlign)

Less than 3,000 cases were produced of this single-vineyard (Les Gosses), 100 per cent Syrah. This has the je ne sais quoi of Syrah meets Red Mountain AVA, in fact it has the JNSQ of anywhere in the Syrah diaspora. The regular attributes of meaty, gritty, peppery, pitchy and prime are all in. What sets it apart is balance and chivalry. “Everybody has their own opinion” and mine of this wine could lead to addiction. Addicted to the mountain song it sings in refrain, again and again. This is no Jane doe of a Syrah. It steals the limelight and puts on a terrific show. Drink 2015-2022.  Tasted September 2015  @hedgeswine  @WINESofWA

Hedges Cuvee Marcel Dupont Syrah Red Mountain Les Gosses Vineyard 2012

Nickel & Nickel John C. Sullenger Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2012, Napa Valley, California (142546, $174.99, WineAlign)

Gorgeous aromatics from the depths of deep clay, raised on sunshine and held back from crossing any extracted or sullen wood lines. A keen sense of graphite shredded into wheat and concrete streaks through the purity that is pristine 2012 Oakville fruit. This is Cabernet for the cellar, to collect by the half dozen (or more if you can afford it) and open one every two years for the next 12 to 24. This has the legs and the agility to slowly braise and develop for at least that long. The balance and the length are as good as it gets. Drink 2017-2036.  Tasted October 2015  @NickelandNickel

Nickel___Nickel_John_C_Sullenger_Vineyard_Cabernet_Sauvignon_2012_web

Laurent Perrier Grand Siècle Grand Cuvée, Champagne, France (379982, $199.99, WineAlign)

Grand Siècle is a wine paid full attention in detail. The master’s blown glass should make that crystal clear. Chardonnay (55 per cent) and Pinot Noir (45), give or take a few approximating points is culled from a blend of 11 grands crus; Avize, Chouilly, Cramant, Le Mesnil-sur-Oger, Ambonnay, Bouzy, Louvois, Mailly, Tours-sur-Marne and Verzenay. If freshness, elegance and structure are the intent, here is a wine in kind of a perfect three for three, though elegance is the clear winner. When all aspects are aligned, where finesse talks in soft spoken tones and why Champagne can be so delicate is the mystery revealed in the Grand Siècle. A walk through this cuvée is getting lost in a ten foot flower garden, canopy overhead. A taste means delicate gastronomy. A glide to the finish is effortless. All this adds up to wonderful symmetry. Champagne can be great when it tows a direct, purposed line. This will last decades and it can certainly, twist my arm, be enjoyed now. Great combo. Drink 2015-2035.  Tasted September 2015  @ChampagneLPUSA

Laurent Perrier Grand Siècle Grand Cuvée

Treasury Wine Estates

Chateau St. Jean Cabernet Sauvignon 2012, California ($19.95, WineAlign)

This California-designated Cabernet is composed from fruit drawn out of the North Coast and Central Coast. The North Coast vineyards stretch from Sonoma to Lake County and the Central Coast fruit in Paso Robles and Santa Barbara. A warm (13.8 per cent alcohol) Cab to be sure but several shades this side of hot. The tones are elevated and a bit jumpy, with fruit noting plum, pomegranate and ultra ripe to sweetened cranberry. Wood spice (from eight months in French and American oak) gives cinnamon and Goji berry. The perfume keeps wafting in waves, intoxicatingly so, prepping the palate for really solid fruit flavours. Though not the deepest nor the longest spoke on the Cabernet wheel, this CSJ works in the simplest, apropos ways. Highly aromatic, well-structured, righteously crafted and respectfully restrained. The sweet finish is dipped in chocolate. Drink 2015-2019.  Tasted May 2015  @CSJWines

Chateau St. Jean Cabernet Sauvignon 2012

 

Castello Di Gabbiano Chianti Classico Riserva 2011, Tuscany, Italy ($22.95, WineAlign)

Always at or near the apex of CCR value, the 2011 is of a rich, modern, pitched deeply and highly purposed vintage. It elevates its game in all facets; fruit, acidity, tannin and warmth. A muzzle of bees seems to add muted, buzzing complexity in a Sangiovese with a faint if unusual smell of honey. In this Riserva, the “sun gets passed, sea to sea…with the breeze blown through.” The natural ripening leads to aromas indicating slow-cured plum, anise, and candied rose petals. The deeper tones are like hot autostrada surface, the gait slow roasted, with charred protein and dehydrating red fruits. In three years the fruit will seem fully dried, slightly oxidized and potentially caramelized. Express compliance of these instructions need heed by agreeing to drink this in the short term with an hour or two of radio air time. This to allow the astringent tannin to be tamed. Roger, Wilco that. Drink 2015-2018.  Tasted May 2015  @castgabbiano  @chianticlassico

Castello Di Gabbiano Chianti Classico Riserva 2011

Coldstream Hills Pinot Noir 2012, Yarra Valley, Australia ($29.95, WineAlign)

Culled from the upper and lower Yarra Valleys, the ’12 is a high-toned tome of rusty, dusty, ricochet in fruit. Seemingly warmer than its 13.5 alcohol suggests, but like the Arizona desert, it’s a dry heat. The metal urgency of sloping hillside impart is a bit tense. The is the OZ equivalent of terse Burgundy when mired in youth. The copious quantity of red fruit, both tart and ripe, is admirably in and with more time, beyond the current anxious phase, will come around again. The depth of flavour and grain ingrained in texture pushes the point. The finish is distinctly parallel and long. Drink 2016-2020.  Tasted May 2015

clone_wine_15160_web

Etude Pinot Gris 2013, Carneros, California ($39.95, WineAlign)

Made in Pinot Gris exactitude, of inklings warm, in certitude dry, to intimations Alsatian, with nobly bitter flavours and a wealth of grape tannin. The preceding aromas recalled late August orchard’s stone fruit. With lieu-dit (think Altenbourg) premier cru (equivalent) ability, this is a very stylish Pinot Gris with layers of fruit and acidity. It’s certainly one for the cellar, to forget and allow for a secondary set of developments, in wax, honey and atmospheric, elemental aerified notions. Quite fearless PG. Were it $30, it would surely be a multi-case buy. Drink 2017-2022.  Tasted May 2015  @etudewines  @CarnerosWine

Etude Pinot Gris 2013

Da Capo Wines

Mas Las Cabes Côtes Du Roussillon 2012, Ac Côtes Du Roussillon, Languedoc-Roussillon, France ($19.75, WineAlign)

Beautifully funky southern French Syrah-Grenache meld, at once warm and then modern, entrenched in earth and laden with a smother and a smoulder. Syrupy but characterful far beyond simple, with spice, savour and garagiste intent. The garrigue accent runs across the grain in high altitude, windswept ways. Solid protein red for any day of the week and a candidate for restaurant list partner. Drink 2015-2019.  Tasted August 2015  @LanguedocWines

Mas Las Cabes Côtes Du Roussillon 2012

Frank Family Zinfandel 2012, Napa Valley, California ($42.75, WineAlign)

A really lovely Zinfandel, of pure red fruits and just a fine, delineating, if zig-zagging swath of bramble. Though the alcohol (listed at 14.8 per cent) is anything but peckish, the heat does not overtake the fruit. This has so many barbecue forms and fetishes written into its DNA. It will comply with nary a complaint. Drink 2015-2020.  Tasted August 2015  @FrankFamilyWine  @TheZinfandelOrg

Frank Family Zinfandel 2012

Albino Rocca Duemilaundici Barbaresco 2011, Piedmont, Italy ($65.95, WineAlign)

Point blank Barberesco, autarchic and traditional, built on memories and bent on making new ones. From a clay-limestone, south facing, single vineyard in a cru called Montersino (in the Treiso commune). Where it differs from the Ronchi is the natural cure coursing in slow food motion through its blood stream, carrying micro-oxygenated blood. There are notes of crushed aniseed and sweaty clay. The mouthfeel is silkier, more refined and the tannins sweeter. Can actually imagine this pleasing sooner and also for longer. Drink 2017-2032.  Tasted August 2015  @regionepiemonte

Albino Rocca Duemilaundici Barbaresco 2011

 

Cavinona Wines

Terre Di Giurfo Kudyah Nero D’avola 2013, Doc Sicily, Italy ($19.50, WineAlign)

Kudyah is the arabic name for the Sicilian town of Licodea Eubea nearest to Terre di Giurfo’s vineyards. Quite classic, rich, ruby red raspberry and earth Nero d’Avola. Tons of fruit, chews of liquorice and a mineral finish add up to a very direct, simple pleasure. A scrape of orange zest adds a florality to lift spirits and relieve stress. Just a bit salutary and saline on the finish. Very honest Nero. Tasted 2015-2018.  Tasted July 2015  @WinesOfSicily

Terre Di Giurfo Kudyah Nero D'avola 2013

Contadi Castaldi Franciacorta Rosé, Lombardy, Italy ($33.50, WineAlign)

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

Contadi Castaldi Franciacorta Rosé

Fattoria Di Milziade Antano Montefalco Rosso Riserva 2011, Doc Umbria, Italy ($50.50, WineAlign)

From arguably a better vintage than 2012, this Montefalco exhibits a deeper treasury of fruit, thankful and necessary to handle the wood it has been dealt. The fusion into such a sanguine and ferric stream has been achieved with more direct consciousness than the free-feeling and liberismo 2012 normale. The red fruit here is dense, steroidal even, yet still pure and direct. Largesse in rusticity is the plainly assessed goings on, chewy and dusty, a figure head for Sagrantino in Umbria. This is Italian wine to define the meaning of provinciale, deeply ingrained for place, history and tradition. Like its baby brother it will need time to settle but not so much that the fruit submits to the tannin. Drink 2018-2023.  Tasted July 2015

Fattoria Di Milziade Antano Montefalco Rosso Riserva 2011

Good to go!

Twitter: @mgodello

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WineAlign: Michael Godel

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Catch 22 wines

Godello's garden meets Greek Horaitiki

Godello’s garden meets Greek Horaitiki

Twenty two wines I tasted from the August 22nd release. Some are really good. So what’s the catch? Some not so much. As always, take a grain of salt and judge for yourself. Godello is not traditionally a site to explore the good, the bad and the ugly. The good news is that the worst of these 22 are actually quite well-made. The bad news is that each will only satisfy a certain kind of palate and a specific sort of temperament.

Something for everyone. LCBO 101. I hope you find something you like.

From left to right: Koncho and Co. Tsinandali 2012, Man Vintners Free Run Steen Chenin Blanc 2014, Featherstone Four Feathers 2014, Grace Lane Riesling 2013, Henri Bourgeois Petit Bourgeois Sauvignon Blanc 2014, Perrin Réserve Rosé 2014, Vineland Sauvignon Blanc 2013 and The Crusher Viognier 2013

From left to right: Koncho and Co. Tsinandali 2012, Man Vintners Free Run Steen Chenin Blanc 2014, Featherstone Four Feathers 2014, Grace Lane Riesling 2013, Henri Bourgeois Petit Bourgeois Sauvignon Blanc 2014, Perrin Réserve Rosé 2014, Vineland Sauvignon Blanc 2013 and The Crusher Viognier 2013

Koncho & Co. Tsinandali 2012, Kakheti, Georgia (412981, $12.95, WineAlign)

Boxy, foxy, contained, constrained, aromatics waiting to burst, in big timbre and quite spicy. A bit reductive and very juicy. Boisterous, wild-eyed expression. Drink 2015-2018.  Tasted August 2015  @GeorgianWineSoc

Man Vintners Free Run Steen Chenin Blanc 2014, Wo Coastal Region, South Africa (126847, $13.95, WineAlign)

Good texture and mouthfeel in this Chenin, dry but unctuous, direct and filling. Works coastal wonders in many ways. Drink 2015-2018.  Tasted August 2015  @MANVintners  @vonterrabev  @WOSACanada

Featherstone Four Feathers 2014, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (341586, $14.95, WineAlign)

Though Riesling dominant this is a shared experience, with cool climate Chardonnay and richly aromatic Gewurztraminer lifting spirits and exhaling breaths. The Sauvignon Blanc seems to add ripeness and juicy palate flow. A mouthful of ripe fruit to be certain and amenable beyond its pragmatic ways. One of the better value white blends and one to look at for Niagara Peninsula propensity within the context of designing an appellative blend. Drink 2015-2017.  Tasted August 2015  @featherstonewne

Grace Lane Riesling 2013, Yakima Valley, Washington (420737, $14.95, WineAlign)

Simple, straightforward, slightly spritzy Riesling with a full-blown lemon lime palate and a finishing set of bitter piths. Good length gives it life. Drink 2015-2018.  Tasted August 2015

Henri Bourgeois Petit Bourgeois Sauvignon Blanc 2014, Igp Vins De Pays Du Val De Loire, France (672345, $15.95, WineAlign)

A lithe and petite Sauvignon Blanc, balmy, touched by spice accents and a whisper of lemon/lime. Tart but not really striking or biting. Soft Sauvignon Blanc, quick and effortless. Drink 2015-2016. Tasted August 2015  @ChartonHobbs

Perrin Réserve Rosé 2014, Ac Côtes Du Rhone, France (719062, $15.95, WineAlign)

Pretty Rosé, arid enough though really juicy and presentable to a wide army of followers. Some tonic and even more brine. A late feeling of pickles and preserves. Better than many. Drink 2015-2018.  Tasted August 2015  @Beaucastel  @ChartonHobbs  @RhoneWine  @VINSRHONE

Vineland Sauvignon Blanc 2013, VQA Niagara Escarpment, Ontario (551168, $16.95, WineAlign)

Spicy vintage for the Escarpment, concentrated in many ways, for juicy fruit, capsicum and savoury herbs. A touch effervescent which does not detract, but rather adds a buoyant lifeline because the tart acidity is really something else. Fun with Sauvignon Blanc from up on the shelf. Drink 2015-2017. Tasted August 2015  @VinelandEstates  @benchwineguy

The Crusher Viognier 2013, Wilson Vineyard, Clarksburg, California (361964, $16.95, WineAlign)

Reductive Viognier, nice and fresh for a change, cool Clarksburg fruit thankfully kept shy and in absence of high alcohol, overly heated sunshine gluck. A bit of a mouth breather, tropical in a longan way and of enough though not striking acidity. Finishes overly bitter, in lime pith and a kind of nettle. Drink 2015-2018.  Tasted August 2015  @SebastianiWines  @Select_Wines

From left to right: Trivento Golden Reserve Malbec 2012, Pascal Jolivet Attitude Sauvignon Blanc 2014, Gérard Bertrand Côte Des Roses Rosé 2014, Paco & Lola Albariño 2013, Herdade Do Rocim Red 2011,S. Cristina Massoni Lugana 2014 and Gray Monk Pinot Blanc 2013

From left to right: Trivento Golden Reserve Malbec 2012, Pascal Jolivet Attitude Sauvignon Blanc 2014, Gérard Bertrand Côte Des Roses Rosé 2014, Paco & Lola Albariño 2013, Herdade Do Rocim Red 2011,S. Cristina Massoni Lugana 2014 and Gray Monk Pinot Blanc 2013

S. Cristina Massoni Lugana 2014, Doc Lombardy, Italy (200097, $17.95, WineAlign)

Tanky and metallic, coastal and postal for Trebbiano di Lugana. Quite herbal, reminiscent of Sancerre, with spice, nettle and linear length. Layered and structured white with a seriousness in its expression. Drink 2015-2020.  Tasted August 2015

Herdade Do Rocim Red 2011, Alentejo, Portugal (423574, $17.95, WineAlign)

A regional blend of Antao Vaz, Arinto and Roupeiro. Very cimmerian, rich and dense Alentejano, wildly berry delicious and yet fierce. Lots of oak, lots of optimism and plenty of swagger. Very spicy and toasty finish. Drink 2015-2019.  Tasted August 2015  @winesportugalCA

Paco & Lola Albariño 2013, Do Rías Baixas, Spain (350041, $18.95, WineAlign)

Concrete and tank Albarino, steely and mineral, cool and bristling. Turns to stone fruit on the palate, gets down to juicy and then ricochets off the walls, drawing salinity and pulverized limestone into the very linear finish. Such a calcareous, wound white wine, on a spindle, in a vacuous void of aggregate and steel. Drink 2015-2020.  Tasted August 2015  @pacolola  @azureau

Gérard Bertrand Côte Des Roses Rosé 2014, Ap Languedoc, Languedoc-Roussillon, France (373985, $18.95, WineAlign)

Dry, floral, medicinal, quite tight and angled, not angular Rosé. The sea salinity and briny strawberry confluence is quite striking. Doesn’t really linger so in the end it’s a bit of a simple quaffing Rosé but what of it? That’s right. Drink 2015-2016.  Tasted August 2015  @GBvins  @LanguedocWines  @FwmWine

Pascal Jolivet Attitude Sauvignon Blanc 2014, Loire, France (971887, $19.95, WineAlign)

A neat feat to stretch Sauvignon Blanc like this, in phyllo layers and like bitter greens braised to sweet tenderness. Savoury though the herbs are not the most recognizably cultivated, used or considered. Like winter savoury, or Spruce tip, edible seaweed even. All tossed lightly, gingerly in a citrus vinaigrette. Playful SB, at times tight and bracing and then generous, giving, forthcoming. Previous vintages have had more shine. Drink 2015-2020.  Tasted August 2015  @HalpernWine  @LoireValleyWine

Trivento Golden Reserve Malbec 2012, Luján De Cuyo, Mendoza, Argentina (588731, $19.95, WineAlign)

Heavy handed, much wood and chalky, full on bloody Malbec. Has Oz strength and gumption. Good lengthy finish. Drink 2015-2019.

From my earlier note of August 2014:

This Golden Reserve Malbec by Trivento is a juicy, dusty, fruit tree addition to the #WWAC14 flight and arrives just in the nick of time. Despite the dark fruit, it has no Drake spoken word conceit. It sings in classic Drake lullaby, with beefy meet pine forest aromas and so “you find that darkness can give the brightest light.” Tender refrains soften chalky, stalky wood and corresponding bitter chocolate. Big tannins on this balladeer. Has impressive stuffing.  @TriventoArg  @Select_Wines  @winesofarg

Last tasted August 2015

Gray Monk Pinot Blanc 2013, BC VQA Okanagan Valley, British Columbia (321612, $20.95, WineAlign)

Into another cool climate Pinot Blanc poster from Gray Monk, the standard bearer for the variety, in this price and stylistic niche, for anyone who cares or dares to join the bandwagon. Juicy stone fruit of a peach, yellow plum and nectarine fold, circular bites of acidity and mineral bleed and just a touch of tonic to tie it all together. Always great stuff. Length even better than in 2012. Drink 2015-2020. Tasted August 2015  @GrayMonkWinery

From left to right: Domaine De Rochebin Vieilles Vignes Bourgogne Pinot Noir 2013, Buena Vista Chardonnay 2013, Benjamin Bridge Nova 7 2013, Featherstone Onyx 2010, King Estate Signature Collection Pinot Noir 2013, Charles Baker Picone Vineyard Riesling 2012 and Cantina Del Pino Barbaresco 2010,

From left to right: Domaine De Rochebin Vieilles Vignes Bourgogne Pinot Noir 2013, Buena Vista Chardonnay 2013, Benjamin Bridge Nova 7 2013, Featherstone Onyx 2010, King Estate Signature Collection Pinot Noir 2013, Charles Baker Picone Vineyard Riesling 2012 and Cantina Del Pino Barbaresco 2010,

Domaine De Rochebin Vieilles Vignes Bourgogne Pinot Noir 2013, Ac Bourgogne, Burgundy, France (424275, $22.95, WineAlign)

Such a pretty red cherry, fine earth and cinnamon heart confluence on the aromatic front, with no palate or late tannin affront. The acidity seems particularly natural and fitting, the finish quick and efficient. Very good old world look at the world of Bourgogne. Drink 2015-2018.  Tasted August 2015  @BourgogneWines

Buena Vista Chardonnay 2013, Carneros, Sonoma County, California (67405, $23.95, WineAlign)

Cream in your coffee, sui generis housed and reductive Chardonnay with a chip on its shoulder. Aromatic rhythms are modulated by the barrel’s influence while flavours are pleasant though not wholly distinctive or full of character. Very directed Chardonnay and an exemplary regional example for the price. Will show better a year on. Drink 2016-2018. Tasted August 2015  @BuenaVistaWines  @TandemSelection

Benjamin Bridge Nova 7 2013, Gaspereau Valley, Nova Scotia (256289, $24.95, WineAlign)

Down $1 in price from this time last year.

From a bumper crop, there came to market 11,000 cases of this Nova Scotian feel good, faux-sparkling story. Winemaker Jean-Benoit Deslauriers’ Nova 7 dissimulation in bubbles is a true trick of the trade and though this white wine strikes as if it were a child of a warm vintage, there is a classic lightness of Rosé fizz being in its ever so slight effervescence. A singular wine in many hybrid incarnations, in Muscat ways, of pink Perle de Csaba, segmented and pressed for a sweet burst of grapefruit. It’s low (7 per cent) in alcohol, excellent in acidity, sweet and sour, citrus zesty, juicy and dry at the same time. Batch delineated and loyal to continence, though if the quantity creeps much higher that may come in to question. Grown up pink lemonade and so easy to consume.  Tasted June and July 2014, July 2015  @Benjamin_Bridge  @jbdeslauriers

Featherstone Onyx 2010, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (372433, $29.95, WineAlign)

Strikes as Cabernet Franc dominant and quite savoury so, slightly cured and richly layered. Merlot appeals and appears with its own distinct clarity, gift-wrapped with tidy flavours in refrain of Franc that acts like fruity Cabernet Sauvignon. The vintage is very in and though it’s warmer and coated with more wood than would best service its needs, this has settled into a really nice glass of red berry and plum red wine. Kudos to the blender and the patience afforded the result. Drink 2015-2018.  Tasted August 2015  @featherstonewne

King Estate Signature Collection Pinot Noir 2013, Oregon (984005, $34.95, WineAlign)

High quotient of ripeness, astringency below, earth above sprinkled and saturating. Quite an effusive design and rambunctious effort. All over the map. Big, bouncy and biting. Drink 2015-2018.  Tasted August 2015  @KingEstate

Charles Baker Picone Vineyard Riesling 2012, VQA Vinemount Ridge, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (241182, $35.00, WineAlign)

This ripe Picone in 2012, not a surprise and ripping at the same time. The orchard stands out, the texture overlaid and the length outstanding. Picone in ’12 has presence of more immediate notice, standing firm and tall to be counted early and then, for years to come, often. Like juice bled from escarpment cragges, a speciality that is singularly Picone. Drink 2016-2022.

From my earlier note of June 2014:

A vintage that begged to be protected in the vineyard, meaning no leaf plucking and no thinning. A most excellent goal of (0.691895068 kg / m2), or 2.8 tons an acre was realized, as opposed to one in 2010. Heavy vigor slowed down the ripening (leaving that kind of tonnage on the vine), to an elongated balance. Comes from terroir Baker nods to as “a barren tundra,” which you don’t get down the hill. In 2012 there was no waste, no rot, no problems. Its residual climbs to 15 g/L but you’d never know it. There is a confit of citrus, a mellifluous sensation of preserved lemon. Total count is 600 cases.

From my earlier note of March 2014:

“Baker’s iconic child yet breathes in unsettled, spumous emission from out of a warm vintage. So primary and such a hard act to follow. Vanguard Vinemount Ridge, arid as the desert and citrus, carbonic tight. Treated with cool, cooler and colder methods to seek result and strike balance in an opulent, lees-appertained, tangy finish. A Picone that says I don’t live today, so it is told and canvassed, “uh, get experienced, are you experienced?”  Last tasted June 2014  @cbriesling

Cantina Del Pino Barbaresco 2010, Docg Piedmont, Italy (922880, $37.95, WineAlign)

Nebbiolo of intonation, modulation and stress, with a noticeable mid-life moment in volatility, in contrast to an enamoured aromatic loveliness in rose petal and candied flower. Dusty swirls and tight red fruit meets stark acidity. A Barbaresco such as this has historical advantage on its side but scares a bit in the present. A very fair price for a wine that has to be stashed away for at least three years for the angst to subside. Drink 2015-2018.  Tasted August 2015  @LeSommelierWine  @piemonte_italia

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Eleven 11th hour holiday bubbles

Betella Franciacorta

Betella Franciacorta

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

Related – Godello’s guide to holiday effervescence

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Off the beaten Italian path

Catarratto of Azienda Agricola Gregorio De Gregorio and Frappato of Valle dell'Acate<br /> Photos (c): http://www.valledellacate.com/ and http://www.degregorioagricoltura.com/

Catarratto of Azienda Agricola Gregorio De Gregorio and Frappato of Valle dell’Acate
Photos (c): http://www.degregorioagricoltura.com/ and http://www.valledellacate.com/

Of all the idioms that have proliferated in the English language, “off the beaten path” is one of my all-time ironic favourites. Modern definitions and thesaurus entries make straightforward sense; not well-known or popular with many people, offbeat, novel, out of the ordinary, the secret, special or sacred places, the B-sides, the ones that no one else knows about. The term was not always about travelling or looking for something. There was a time when “off the beaten path” was a dis, when it negatively described a person as heterodoxical; as a heteroclite, a dissident, an iconoclast, a heretic.

The paradox applies to grape varieties with I can see the light clarity. In the late 19th century the Phylloxera pest epidemic nearly wiped out most of the vineyards in Europe and with no cure available, the best recourse was to graft Phylloxera-resistant American rootstock to more susceptible European vinifera vines. As a result, many an indigenous varietal proliferation slowly, over the course of 100 years, dropped off the face of the grape growing map, or if I may, the beaten path.

My WineAlign colleague John Szabo M.S. recently penned a column on Portugal in which he challenged semantic references using the confabulation “indigenous,” claiming that the term is often misused. Szabo contends that “most European grapes are more correctly termed endemic varieties, that is, belonging exclusively to or confined to a certain place, even if they are not originally from there. The true origins of most Vitis vinifera varieties is almost certainly somewhere in the Middle East.” Using scientific data and study to corroborate the theory, Portugal is put forth as the only European country that may comfortably lay claim to housing true indigenous grape varieties.

John admits that “the line is purely arbitrary,” so there certainly is some leeway when it comes to the glossology of ancient grape authenticity. Everyone knows that Cabernet Sauvignon is not indigenous, endemic or even domestic to Italy, or for that matter Canada, but is the more important question not one of how many years must pass before a grape can call itself home? How can we really pinpoint when a grape may have migrated from Mesopotamia to Lazio, to “a secondary domestication centre.” Do we need to be so precise in qualifying roots? How many millennium must pass before Chardonnay can consider itself a citizen and its children should no longer feel like unwanted, second-class adoptive wanderers? The answer is a very long time. Longer for grapes than for humans, that is for certain. In the case of Italy, has enough time passed to consider its native vines as indigenous?

The most famous and successful of domestic Italian grape varieties have trod a well-navigated, kept in the limelight track. The list includes Aglianico, Barbera, Corvino, Garganega, Glera, Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, Nebbiolo, Negroamaro, Nero d’Avola, Pecorino, Sangiovese, Trebbiano, Verdicchio and Vermentino. Italian acreage swells with their plantings. However, “off the beaten path” could actually be considered a metaphor for “authentic” and this is what winemakers and consumers (even if they need to be enlightened), really want. Perhaps people want experiences with real grapes and away from the “tourists.”

You can’t help but notice that modern winemakers with a wistful eye are casting reflexively into the past with a hunger for vinous resurrection. By grafting their pre-Phylloxera ancient vines onto healthy root stock they have turned the varietal compass on its head. As they have moved through their days with an open-mind to the panoply of grape interactions, they have beget the endemic revival.

Old is new again. Meet the awakening of the Italian grape vernacular: Albana, Albarossa, Bellone, Bombino Bianco, Canaiolo, Casavecchia, Catarratto, Carricante, Catarratto Comune, Cocociolla, Cortese, Grecanico, Groppello Gentile, Frappatto, Grignolino, Nerello Mascalese, Pallagrello, Passerina, Pelaverga and Ribolla Gialla. Every one of these ancient varieties are coming to a restaurant list near you.

Finally, I find the irony in the idea that for a winemaker or vine grower to step off the quotidian they need to plant, cultivate and make wine from grapes once considered the norm and the go to in their region. Today, the production from lesser, even totally unknown grape varieties, despite the zealous search for them by hipsters and geeks, is still considered a marginal pastime and a financial risk. The comeback continues to gain traction and with every passing vintage, the wines made from once Herculean grapes get better and better. Rusticity persists but with ever-increasing modern techniques, so is structure and balance. Endemic is the new vino da tavola and if I were Chianti Classico, Barbera d’Alba or Valpolicella I would be working even harder to keep hold of my market share.

Related – Wine around the boot in 40 days

Linda Siddera of Casale Del Giglio and Francesco Ferreri of Valle Dell'Acate

Linda Siddera of Casale Del Giglio and Francesco Ferreri of Valle Dell’Acate

On November 3, 2014, the Italian Trade Commission rolled out the red carpet at Toronto’s Roy Thomson Hall for the 19th annual tasting of Wines from Italy. At least 90 producers from 20 regions poured their wines, including the brightest and biggest stars; Amarone, Barbaresco, Barolo, Brunello, Chianti Classico, Sagrantino, Taurasi and Vino Nobile. The ICE-ITA assembly is the most formidable Italian tasting show in town. The impossibility of sampling everything on hand is more than evident so planning ahead is key. For 2014 I chose the lesser-known, the black sheep, the heretics. When all was said and done I felt like I had done “off the beaten path” some justice. Here are notes on 10 #OBP wines.

Alois

Alois

Alois Terre del Volturino Trebulanum 2011, Terre del Volturno IGT, Campania, Italia (Agent, $42, WineAlign)

From volcanic soils, this 100 per cent Casavecchia, a name which means “old house,” was all but forgotten after the Phylloxera plague. Legend has it that it was rediscovered inside a walled garden, according to farmers, among some ancient ruins in Pontelatone. Trebulanum, considered by Pliny to be one of the best Italian wines, grows 25 miles from Mout Vesuvius. Cassavecchia is a wine that came from vineyards on the hills surrounding the old town of Tremula Balliensis, an area that now incorporates the townships of Pontelatone, Castel di Sasso Liberi and Formicola. Re-planted (the cut and the setting of a small branches and the pro-vine, an ancient method that places the vine branch in the soil until it develops its own root) by Alois in 1992, Casavecchia is a troubled vine because of hermaphroditic pistulates and so it is light producing (less than 600 grams of fruit per plant). Massimo Alois says it took 10 years to get comfortable with the vines, mainly due to its extremely firm structure. The grapes produce loose batches of small berries of big colour (twice as much as Aglianico). Micro-oxygenation helps to release tension, modernize the rusticity and allow the intense acidity to play nice with the fruit. From a cool vintage, this Trebulanum is a phenom of an individual, of great strength and individual character. Ideal introduction to the future of its past.  Tasted November 2014  Vini Alois  @vinialois

Casale Del Giglio Bellone 2013, IGT Lazio, Italia (Agent)

In ancient Rome, it has been reported that Bellone was called “uva fantastica” (“fantastic grape”) by Pliny the Elder in his Naturalis Historia. True? Maybe, maybe not. Linda Siddera tells me that Bellone hails out of the Trebbiano famliy tree from coastal vineyards thirty miles south of Rome. A child of sandy soils and sea breezes, the oldest local varietal found new life when planted by Casale Del Giglio 10 years ago. This Bellone exceeds many Trebbiano in body, viscous texture and finishing mineral natation. It may not be the most complex white on the boot but it will work beautifully with seafood and finish with the right kind of bitters.  Tasted November 2014  @CasaleGiglio

Casale Del Giglio Bellone 2013

Casale Del Giglio Bellone 2013

Casale Del Giglio Cesanese 2012, IGT  Lazio, Italia (Agent)

There are two sub-varieties of Cesanese: Comune (common), and d’Affile, from the eponymous village. Two years ago Wine Enthusiast’s Claudi Ricci said that “Cesanese is poised to become one of the hottest rediscovered red grapes in central Italy.” That is yet to happen but Casale Del Giglio’s take should raise an eyebrow or 10. Their vines grow in the Roman hills and although the variety has its own DOCg the territory (d’Afille) here  is wrong so here it must be labeled IGT. The wine spent six months in stainless steel tank and another six in neutral oak. Freshness preserved, freshness is everything. If a comparison could be made it would be to Montepulciano but here the opaque purple Cesanese is tighter and writes its own chalky narrative from limestone maculated, alluvial soils. Red raspberry, spice and exotic perfume give much character, suppress rusticity and make for a really approachable red.  Tasted November 2014  Wine World Importers

Casale Del Giglio Cesanese 2012 and Castello Di Verduno Pelaverga Basadone 2013

Casale Del Giglio Cesanese 2012 and Castello Di Verduno Pelaverga Basadone 2013

Castello Di Verduno Pelaverga Basadone 2013, Piemonte, Italia (Agent, $29.95)

Basadone can mean more than one thing in the local dialect of Verduno. It is a “king of wine’s” naughty little brother, a “wild poppy” and can mean “lady kisser.” The first is in reference to Barolo, Pelaverga and the 19th century vintner Carlo Alberto, king of Savoy. The second for its fruit-forward, low tannin and highly perfumed aromatics.The third because it was once considered an aphrodisiac. Winemaker Mario Andrion says that Pelaverga evolves on its own, that it is a gentle giant requiring no oak. Andrion uses traditional vinification methods, in stainless steel, to maintain purity. Though it dates to the 16th century, the current history of the grape goes back to 1974 when it was replanted using massal selection rootstock and then received its DOC status in 1995. This ’13 is firm, spicy, full of red fruit (notably cherry) with silky yet drying tannins. The wine is in heady balance and finishes with a brood of spice.  Tasted November 2014  Castello di Verduno  @3050imports  @CatlandF

Civielle – Cantine Della Valtènesi E Della Lugana Elianto Groppello Garda Classico 2010, Lombardia, Italia (Agent, $21.50)

Groppello Gentile has been cultivated in Valtènesi since the 14th century. The name comes from “gróp”, meaning “knot” in the local language, because of its tight clusters. Though “upon the beaten path I kept on my blinders,” it is grapes like Groppello that take us out of our comfort zone. Grapes from the good life. This is a most robust and rustic organic take on a very old grape grown on the southwest shores of Lago di Garda at the edge of the Veneto. High-toned spices and floral notes are really unique, drawing no obvious comparisons. Fresh, tart and with great length, this would benefit from some settling time and then work well with selvaggina, notes Export Manager Orlando Bonomo.  Tasted November 2014  Civielle  @VinoAllegroBC

Fantinel Ribolla Gialla Brut NV, Friuli-Venzia Giulia, Italia (Agent)

‎Presented by Export Manager for North America at Gruppo Vinicolo Fantinel Patrick Sacha Cappellini, this Ribolla dates back to the middle ages and when used for Sparkling wine it exhibits a fuller sense of body, one that the everyday Prosecco just can’t seem to match. Made in the same Charmat Method, this is a Brut style though at (6 g/L) residual sugar it pushes the line. Soil, in this case “ponca,” the dark marly limestone of the region is key. This fizz juices rocks, literally (to a point) from friable calcium, resulting in bitters in mind of lemon and lime zest and the pith from which they are scraped. There is a delicate elegance and a creamy texture by way of battonage, with white flowers on that forceful nose, good verve in high acidity and a more than decent, dry finish.  Tasted November 2014  @FantinelWinery  @ProfileWineGrp

Fantinel Ribolla Gialla Brut NV and Planeta Etna 2013

Fantinel Ribolla Gialla Brut NV and Planeta Etna 2013

Azienda Agricola Gregorio de Gregorio Catarratto IGT Terre Siciliane 2013, Sicilia, Italia (Agent, 764837, $17.40)

Not only is Catarratto one of Sicily’s most planted variety (60 per cent), it is also one of Italy’s most employed. Reputation lends to parts of speech such as bulk juice, grape concentrate and blending but when vinified with ancient acumen and love, Cataratto is capable of revivalist contention. Here, from plantings in the late 1990’s, the fruit was extricated off vines 18 years of age. The Mediterranean composition, feel, tone and character of this unique white, while simple, straightforward and utilitarian, gives forth an ooze of balm and brine that Grillo just can’t match. So much sapidity and savour, like olives, capers and wild herbs muddled into one fine tapenade. Bring on the calamari.  Tasted November 2014  Azienda Agricola Gregorio De Gregorio  @ColioWinery

Planeta Etna 2013, DOC Sicilia, Italia (Agent, $27.99)

When a white wine comes across all rocks, citrus and breeze you know that a) you are somewhere in the vicinity of the Tyrrhenian Sea and the western Mediterranean Sea and b) there is something beautiful and endemic going on. The highly aerified, vitreous, bracing, juicy 100 per cent Carricante is Sicilian vine flora at its finest. A stark cement tank ferment and six months in large format Slovenian oak casks has taken rocks, coarse sea salt and viscous atmosphere and just beat it, squeezed it and juiced it to become ground, white sunshine. When it comes to wine from this ancient grape, in the hands of the island’s master prodocer, “the fire’s in their eyes and their words are really clear.” This Planeta is the king of Sicilian Pop.  Tasted November 2014  @PlanetaWinery  @Noble_Estates
Poderi Dal Nespoli Pagadebit 2013, DOC Emilia Romagna, Italia (Agent, $15.95)
Presented by Brand Ambassador Nicole Poggi, who notes this is literally the “pay back” wine. Pagadebit is 90 per cent Bombino Bianco, with help from Sauvignon Blanc. Bombino is a productive, disease-resistant variety, traditionally grown by peasants so thus the moniker. From vines located between the Adriatic and Tuscany, this gains complexity in sandwiched compression of both region’s acidities. At the price, this is more than a no-brainer replacement for dull, insipid and often insulting, mass-produced Pinot Grigio. The corpulence and relish are of a movable feast, a compendium of white wine excitement that leaves PG in the dust of its neutrality and condescending patronage.  Tasted November 2014  Poderi Dal Nespoli   @_hiniky  Select Wines
Valle Dell'Acate

Valle Dell’Acate

Valle Dell’Acate Vittoria Il Frappato 2013, DOC Sicilia, Italia (Agent, $28.99)

Presented by Francesco Ferreri, this unique red from Sicily was the eye-opener to finish in endemic style. The roots from this 100 per cent Frappato go back at least six generations to pre-Phylloxera times. All organic and replanted using massal selection, the Vittoria is one of only five in the region. The textural impression left by its calcaire, sandstone and clay strata soils is significant. Extremely berry-oriented, with strawberry and raspberry leading, along with a sour hint of pomegranate. Like Sicilian Gamay, with great personality, fresh, tight, bracing and very territorial. With more attention paid to the expressive Sicilian the new battle cry could become #FireFrappatoFire. Tasted November 2014  @VdaWinery  @HalpernWine

2013: It was the best of wines

Red wines

15 wine releases $30 and over
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The long and wine-ding road of 2013 began with a personal plea for it to be the year of drinking better wine. I wrote about iconic wines at affordable prices and a personal hermeneutic public service announcement, a wine prescription for cold and flu. January rounded out with good reds, twenty-somethings, Robbie Burns, weekday wines and a wine analogy Super Bowl prediction gone bad.

I played pond hockey, chatted about wine and said no to ambient, rich pinks because you gotta be cruel to be wine for Valentine’s.  Real wines, more hockey, Oscars, French grapes and a Somewhereness sea of grape-driven humanity occupied my winter thoughts, along with California, The Beamsville Bench, Cuvée 2013 and the zeitgeist of my virgin expert’s tasting with music as its guide. Cool grapes marched on with wines for the Ides, St. Patrick, Passover, Momofuku in Toronto and New York City.

Spring brought 100-km wine, value reds, sunshine, Masters’ colours, a Stanley Cup for house league hockey, Ontario wine events, Peter Franus, wild leeks and Mother’s Day. There was a ‘London Calling’ for Canadian wine, Go Gamay Go, an averted LCBO strike and the Elsie Awards. I delved into the schadenfreude matters of tasting notes, the humanity in real value wine and the Venn Diagrams in a paradox of accents.

The weather warmed, I cooked for 1,300 Ultimate Frisbee players, contemplated the Rolling Stones and struck Semillon in a showcase showdown. Father’s Day, Riesling and the Canada Day long weekend preceded excursions to Fenway Park and the eleemosynary earth in the North Fork of Long Island. This followed by a search for the wine pulse of the Finger Lakes and the indelible stamp of British Columbia‘s Okanagan Valley.

The International Cool Climate Chardonnay conference took Niagara by storm (literally), leading into the August long weekend. I wrote on Sauvignon Blanc, chill red wine, The Great Canadian Wine Challenge, Free My Grapes and the plea for wine to flow across Canadian provinces.

September came, as did Low alcohol wine for the High Holidays. Ontario wines shone on, especially those from Stratus, along with Spanish and Italian reds. I touted the vinous acumen of Canadian wines for Thanksgiving, the wines of Chile, the best from Ontario and presided as guest judge at the WineAlign World Wine Awards of Canada 2013. October ended with Champagne and reasons to pour a glass of wine on Halloween.

Napa Valley came to town, there were private tastings with Ontario winemakers and I made notes on Canadian made apolitical wines. There were gems, Friday bites, Beaujolais Nouveau and more from Italy. At the end of November I wondered if the wine sign of the apocalypse was upon us. Sparkling wines and the unavoidable Christmas picks have brought us to here.

Edward Steinberg once asked Angelo Gaja, “how do you make the best wine?” to which Gaja replied, “with the best grapes.” In tasting notes I extrapolate from that base and simple notion, with an intent to convey the salient facts of the grape’s life, to give life to the agriculture, even if the first two syllables are removed in the process.

Tasting notes can be clerihews, pithy poems that begin with a winemaker’s name, become the reviewer’s purport and more often than not, are penned in four lines. Word play leading the mind to consider wine as anagram, palindrome and lipogram. Writing a tasting note not as a vinous jape, but rather an artfully woven acrostic.

Reviews align like Burma Shave signs on North American highways, spaced one hundred feet apart, connected by their language. Phrases are turned on their heads, causing the notes to be peculiarly unsuccessful in making any decided impact upon the consumer college. So be it.

The musical and other (sometimes) obscure references bring about metaphasis to the tasting notes, an habitual transposition of sounds, connecting smell, flavour and structure to groove, pitch and aesthetic. The best wines produce the greatest emotion and excess of language. Here is a look back at the top 15-$30 and over releases tasted in 2013 and the tasting notes that brought them to light.

15 wine releases $30 and over

From left: RAINOLDI CRESPINO VALTELLINA SUPERIORE 2006, TAWSE CABERNET FRANC LAUNDRY VINEYARD 2010, CHARLES BAKER WINES RIESLING 'PICONE VINEYARD' 2011, PETER FRANUS RED WINE 2008, and FEUDI DI SAN GREGORIO TAURASI 2007

From left: RAINOLDI CRESPINO VALTELLINA SUPERIORE 2006, TAWSE CABERNET FRANC LAUNDRY VINEYARD 2010, CHARLES BAKER WINES RIESLING ‘PICONE VINEYARD’ 2011, PETER FRANUS RED WINE 2008, and FEUDI DI SAN GREGORIO TAURASI 2007

RAINOLDI CRESPINO VALTELLINA SUPERIORE 2006, Lombardy, Italy (316331, $31.95, WineAlign)

Composed of 100 per cent Chiavennasca (Nebbiolo) from Lombardy. Grace, flowing ruby robe, striking. Lit by cherries bathing in a silica and gravel mineral bath, tightly wound in a swirling pensieve of real vinous thought. Elevated by cool, altitudinous breezes and gothic, statuesque like a Mantegazza. Northern, alpine and proud.  93  Tasted April 2013  @VinumValtellina  From: Top ten wines for May Day

TAWSE CABERNET FRANC LAUNDRY VINEYARD 2010, Lincoln Lakeshore, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (130997, $31.95, WineAlign)

Assures us of several things. First, 2010 was a gift for making idiot-proof Cab Franc in Niagara, Second, the Lincoln Lakeshore is one of three obvious and essential CF locales in Niagara. Third and most important, properly adjudicated new oak can elevate CF to the upper reaches of the cool-climate troposphere. While not as masculine or bovine like brother Van Bers, Laundry’s got black cherry, tar, coal, herbs and a peaceful, grilling feeling. Essential CF from winemaker Paul Pender.  92  Tasted July 2013  @Tawse_Winery  @Paul_Pender  From: Alternative wines for the August long weekend

CHARLES BAKER WINES RIESLING ‘PICONE VINEYARD’ 2011, Vinemount Ridge, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (241182, $35.20, WineAlign)

Does not so much pick up where cracking ’09 left off (with no offence meant to the soothing and tuneful ’10) but rather re-writes the Baker book. From the almost famous windswept vineyard atop the Vinemount Ridge, this Picone, from older Riesling plantings is crazy lively. That ’10 is now imbued with rich, oily glück. The ’11 will realize such a future, but much further along and in combination with its inborn tension. Right up there with Baker’s “perfect vintage” 2006.  93  Tasted October 2013  @cbriesling  From: Top wines shine at Taste Ontario 2013

PETER FRANUS RED WINE 2008, Red Hills Lake County Red, California ($39.95)

Composed of Syrah (85 per cent), Grenache (10) and Mourvèdre (5) comes from Fore Family Vineyards fruit on the top of 3000 foot Cobb Mountain. A fiery paradox of climate met by altitude works a strange magic on the grapes. It’s no mistral but rather some sort of wine weather occult. This SGM is highly influenced by a very tempest of dramatic temperature changes, from solar radiation to cool, tempering Pacific breezes and at great heights. Exhibits the hills’ red earth, in colour, in fragrance and in rich berry flavour. I’m grateful for this SGM blend, cool and hot at the same time, “almost ablaze still you don’t feel the heat.”  93  Tasted April 2013  @ProfileWineGrp  From: The Wine Diaries: Peter Franus

FEUDI DI SAN GREGORIO TAURASI 2007, Campania, Italy ($39.95)

Lush and gorgeous. The most immediately gratifying young Aglianico yet such an infant. Earthbound red berries, perfectly ripe plums, biting tannin and off the charts acidity. Epochal verve of Middle Pleistocene volcanic rocksSouthern Italian equivalent to Southern Rhône reds, offering tremendous value under $50 where Bordeaux and Tuscany pedantically fall short. Should join the ranks of recent great vintages, ’01 and ’04.  93  Tasted January 2013  @FeudiDSGregorio  @StemWineGroup  From: Iconic wines, affordable prices

From left: CHÂTEAU DES CHARMES EQUULEUS 2010, BACHELDER CHARDONNAY WISMER VINEYARD 2010, CLOSA BATLLET GRATALLOPS 2007, GIROLAMO RUSSO SAN LORENZO 2008, and PALLADINO BAROLO PARAFADA 2008

From left: CHÂTEAU DES CHARMES EQUULEUS 2010, BACHELDER CHARDONNAY WISMER VINEYARD 2010, CLOSA BATLLET GRATALLOPS 2007, GIROLAMO RUSSO SAN LORENZO 2008, and PALLADINO BAROLO PARAFADA 2008

CHÂTEAU DES CHARMES EQUULEUS 2010, St. David’s Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (319525, $40, SAQ,  11156334, $41.25, WineAlign)

From the Paul Bosc Estate Vineyard is a classically styled blend of 50 per cent Cabernet Sauvignon, 25 per cent Cabernet Franc and 25 per cent Merlot, only made in exceptional years. Apropos choice from 25-year old vines (in 2010) from the warmer St. David’s Bench for Cuvée’s 25th show.  Poised, balanced and regal yet this mare is temporarily a head-shy, sensitive equine red. Will trot out furlongs of tobacco and meaty aromas from now and through maturity in five plus years. A saddle of round, red fruit will age gracefully.  92  Tasted March 2013  @MBosc  From: Top juice flows at Cuvée 25th anniversary

BACHELDER CHARDONNAY WISMER VINEYARD 2010, Twenty Mile Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (345819, $44.95, WineAlign)

So sumptuous, presumptuous and precocious. Ahead of the curve, effortless and full of 20 mile mineral length. The ripe green apple never quits. My earlier note from Top juice flows at Cuvée 25th anniversary from the Twenty Mile (Vineland) Bench is the most righteous, understated charred butterscotch remoulade sauce of dreams. Richly textured and built upon a sneaky, slow and stretched breath of wild yeasts. A creeper, gatherer and traveler of both knowledge and persistence. The journey with Thomas Bachelder as related by partner Mary Delaney, from out of Quebec, by way of Ponzi and Lemelson in Oregon and to Niagara is the stuff of dreams. Tasted twice same night and hypnotized both times.  94  Tasted July 2013  @Bachelder_wines  From: Hot weekend wines and cool Chardonnay

CLOSA BATLLET GRATALLOPS 2007, Priorat, Spain (156398, $49.95, WineAlign)

Stupid gorgeous Priorat and though inaccessible to most of us mere mortals, if you were to shell out $50 in November for one wine, this has to be considered. A blend of 65 per cent Cariñena, 22 per cent Garnacha, with a smattering of Syrah and Merlot. Pure purple pitch, an early summer Catalonian garden in bloom, air warm, breeze light. Wow. Blows high priced Napa and over the top Châteauneuf-du-Pape out of the water. The oak is so beautifully integrated.  94  Tasted October 2013  From: Nine big November best buy wines

GIROLAMO RUSSO SAN LORENZO 2008, Sicily, Italy ($59.95)

From agronomist and oenologist Giuseppe Russo lives a Sicilian dream. Composed of Etna’s indigenous Nerello Mascalese with a small percentage of Nerello Cappuccio, this red is a veritable lava flow of molten magma, volcanic igneous solder and opulent Scoria. Pure, unchained fruit, no disguise, striking.  94  Tasted February 2013  @Oenophilia1  From: Real wines, whisky and boys night out

PALLADINO BAROLO PARAFADA 2008, Piedmont, Italy (280412, $68.00, WineAlign)

This just has the look, the look of love. “A look that time can’t erase.” Nebbiolo you can see right through, this impossible light, this impossible life. Tea, tar and roses. A mineral spring, iron-earth field, where the game runs wild. You can relate to this Barolo, love it, relish it now but it will give pleasure for years. Not necessarily 25 but certainly 10-15. “Well, it takes my breath away.” Great vineyard.  94  Tasted October 2013  From: Holiday wine gems hit November shelves

From left: M. CHAPOUTIER LES BÉCASSES CÔTE-RÔTIE 2010, MOËT & CHANDON GRAND VINTAGE BRUT CHAMPAGNE 2004, DOMAINE LONG-DEPAQUIT MOUTONNE GRAND CRU CHABLIS 2011, CHASSAGNE MONTRACHET VIDE BOURSE 1ER CRU 2010, and MASI MAZZANO AMARONE DELLA VALPOLICELLA CLASSICO 2006

From left: M. CHAPOUTIER LES BÉCASSES CÔTE-RÔTIE 2010, MOËT & CHANDON GRAND VINTAGE BRUT CHAMPAGNE 2004, DOMAINE LONG-DEPAQUIT MOUTONNE GRAND CRU CHABLIS 2011, CHASSAGNE MONTRACHET VIDE BOURSE 1ER CRU 2010, and MASI MAZZANO AMARONE DELLA VALPOLICELLA CLASSICO 2006

M. CHAPOUTIER LES BÉCASSES CÔTE-RÔTIE 2010, Ac Northern Rhône, France (280420, $82.95, WineAlign)

Strictly beautiful Syrah. The offspring of the Côte Rôtie’s two necessary points of view. First, the schist, silt and shingle of the Brune. Second, the silica and limestone of the Blonde. In combination they produce an iron-rust wine of a ferruginous nature, in colour and in aroma. Seeping, exotic Rooibos tea, Provençal tapenade and smouldering flowers send smoke signals clear as day. Smells so rich though it’s full of grace and bathed in ultra-elegance.  94  Tasted October 25, 2013  From: Holiday wine gems hit November shelves

MOËT & CHANDON GRAND VINTAGE BRUT CHAMPAGNE 2004, Ac Champagne, France (69773, $83.95, WineAlign)

May not be the esteemed house and vintage of the century’s love-child but I can’t think of a single reason not to spend a pittance more on a vintage-dated Champagne like this Moët in lieu of a sea of NV alternatives. Granted it’s wound maddeningly tight, spewing still young venom, crazed by pear and citrus concentrate but…trust must be placed in its charms. This Moët is quite refined. Apples tempered in acidity, beloved for its building blocks, it’s really good Champagne.  94  Tasted November 2013  @MoetUSA  From: Ten sparkling wines to life

DOMAINE LONG-DEPAQUIT MOUTONNE GRAND CRU CHABLIS 2011, Monopole, Ac, Burgundy, France (46706, $89.95, WineAlign)

From Mathieu Mangenot’s ”Grand Cru” plots, the Monopole holdings in the steep amphitheatre slope of Vaudésir and the gentle rise of Les Preuses. The Two Sides of Monsieur Valentine. He spoons piles of flint and chunks of rock. He explains the tin pan elevation of Chablis and Chardonnay squeezed from the bedrock, capturing every last drop of geology, refuse of stars and fossils of the ancient animals. Stoic, metazoic, super Chablis, with tremendous length. How can this Chablis have so much fruit but no apple, no lemon, no pith. “You think things are straight but they’re not what they seem.” Candy for the soul. Novacaine in liquid form. Amazing.  94  Tasted November 2013  From: Twelve days of wine for Christmas

CHASSAGNE MONTRACHET VIDE BOURSE 1ER CRU 2010, Ac Burgundy, France (344887, $101.95, Quebec $85.00, WineAlign)

A mild sylvan reductive stink is neither abstruse nor in fruit obstruction. What we have here is a brass tax in Chardonnay histrionics. Yellow and green tree fruit, wicked wild yeast game and just about as much ruminating, mineral tang as one might desire. Something wicked this way woos my wistful longing for quality white Burgundy. I could imagine drinking this well into my pension days.  95  Tasted November 2013  From: Twelve days of wine for Christmas

MASI MAZZANO AMARONE DELLA VALPOLICELLA CLASSICO 2006, Doc, Veneto, Italy (215764, $99.95, WineAlign)

If a wine clocking in at 16 per cent alcohol by volume can be considered elegant and restrained and if that’s even possible, the Mazzano is the one. Though there is nothing outright prune, dried raisin or fig paste about it, this single-vineyard Amarone is enormously tannic. Any attempt at cracking its hard shell inside of 15-20 years should be thought of as counter-productive. Smells like the aforementioned fruit just picked at maximum ripeness so there is nothing cooked, roasted or overdone here. You simply have to wait for tertiary complexity to see what it will become. I sense great. Near-perfect vintage.  96  Tasted October 2013  From: Holiday wine gems hit November shelves

Good to go!