Tasting Ontario Part One: Riesling

Riesling at Vineland Estates, 161 days on skins

Riesling is again on the rise and the reasons why are as varied as the artistry it’s equipped to display. It has been 40 years since the Pennachetti family of Cave Spring Vineyard and German vintner Herman Weis planted riesling in St. Urban Vineyard on what is now Vineland Estates. My how things have changed. The trending line ascends as the general public comes around and warms to the versatile grape so popularity is not just in the hands of geeks, oenophiles and connoisseurs. Ask your favourite sommelier, product consultant or wine writer. Riesling’s neighbourhood is beginning to gentrify in a big way but it’s also expanding experimental and ancestral horizons. It will always be just riesling but today’s varietal vernacular goes beyond dry, off-dry, semi-sweet, Süssreserve, late harvest and Icewine to now include skin-contact, barrel fermented, unfiltered, wild ferment, Blackball and The Geek.

A few weeks back I attended my 7th Cuvée in Niagara Falls to celebrate the next chapter with and for our wine industry, fresh on the heels of the 2018 Tasted Untamed edition of Taste Ontario in Toronto. Just a month before I rambled through the Niagara Icewine Festival in Jordan and the Icewine Gala in Niagara Falls. It was at the Icewine Gala where we watched and listened in on a great tribute to Ontario’s iconic pioneer, Karl Kaiser. We owe so much to Mr. Kaiser with respect to everything Icewine but also to how far we have come in terms of riesling.

A lovely tribute to #karlkaiser tonight at #icewinefestival gala

Just two weeks ago in Toronto we tasted the current offering of Prince Edward County wines at Taste of the County. Today we will immerse ourselves into the culture of global food and local wine at the Terroir Symposium and on Tuesday the Wine Council of Ontario will hold its first annual Ontario Craft Wine Conference. It has been a very saturated and intensive start to 2018, something that must be attributed to the maturity, confidence, preparedness and excitement of and towards Ontario wine.

My personal opportunities to taste wines from the Niagara Peninsula, Prince Edward County, Lake Erie North Shore and Ontario’s South Coast have been many. Before too long there will be greater access to the wines of emerging regions like the Oak Ridges Moraine, Georgian Bay the Northumberland Hills. Prior to 2017 I used this wine processing platform of godello.ca as a vehicle to review and discuss Ontario wines with much greater frequency but circumstances have changed. My work with Italian and French wine regions, most notably Chianti Classico, Brunello di Montalcino and Bourgogne have occupied a great deal of my time. So has tasting and reviewing many potential submissions for the WineAlign exchange and acting as a consistent contributor to the WineAlign Buyers’ Guides to the VINTAGES releases.  I 2017 I ceased publishing my bi-weekly tasting notes because it’s important that readers check them out on WineAlign. All this as added up to less constant coverage of Ontario wines on the site.

And a few of my favourite wine writers. Thx for coming to #cuvee2018 #vqawinesofontario

That is why I’ve decided to post a series of articles over the next few weeks solely dedicated to Ontario wine and I’m going to split them up by grape varieties, beginning today with Ontario’s great white hope, riesling. I’ve written about the grape many times before and my belief in its varietal power, finesse and omniscient existentialism for a signature and singular Ontario purpose is perpetual and unwavering. This work is possible because of the organizations and the people behind them who make it all possible. The Wine Marketing Association of Ontario, The Wine Council of Ontario and VQA Ontario are a triple-edged force that keep our wines flowing. Thank you to Richard Linley, President of WCO, Magdalena Kaiser, Head of Marketing and Public Relations for WMAO, Brian Schmidt and Laurie Macdonald, President and Executive Director respectively of VQA. The Icewine Festival Gala and Cuvée are not possible without the work of Fallsview Casino, Scotiabank Convention Centre and of course Brock University. Gala and Experts’ Tasting coordination is possible because of The Cool Climate Oenology and Viticulture Institute’s Barb Tatarnic, Manager, Wine and Sprit Education Trust and Kaitlyn Little, Marketing and Communications Officer.

Inaugural Winemaker of Excellence Award winner and riesling maker extraordinaire, Angelo Pavan of Cave Spring Cellars, with Donald Ziraldo

At Cuvée, the inaugural Winemaker of Excellence Award winner was Angelo Pavanchosen in a unanimous decision for his major contributions to the industry, his commitment to excellence and his mentorship to winemakers across Canada. Pavan, Vice-President, Winemaker and Founding Partner at Cave Spring Cellars, is known for his encyclopedic understanding of viticulture in Niagara. He was among the first in the province to work with numerous grape varieties and was a pioneer in the quest to improve wine quality and sustainability in vinifera varieties.

“It is humbling to be the first recipient of this great award,” said Pavan. “It validates the passion, time, effort and commitment of over 30 years dedicated to this great wine growing region and having participated in its evolution to international recognition.”

Pavan is also a founding member and Chair of the Vintners Quality Alliance (VQA) Standards Development Committee and has played a key role in determining the most suitable winemaking practices applicable in Ontario. As the founding Chair of the International Riesling Experience, held in conjunction with CCOVI, Pavan has also been instrumental in solidifying Niagara’s place as one of the world’s pre-eminent Riesling producing regions.

Related – Three Rieslings to believe

One of my first bold statements about Ontario riesling was this. “There are many reasons to believe in riesling, that versatile and brutally honest grape. Riesling holds no punches, speaks its mind, tells it like it is. Grown worldwide and vinified in so many varying styles, riesling is not so much a chameleon but rather a mutant. It takes root in every vineyard, marking its terroir, expressing itself singularly and without apology. Over the past two-four months I have exonerated and upheld with the highest riesling belief that (Ontario) does the variety justice above and beyond the pale, in the vineyard and in the glass. More reviews have been written, designed and pushed down your throats on (local) riesling than on any other grape. What’s up with that? Quality, that’s what.”

Related – 100 kilometre wine for spring

And this. “Riesling. Can there be a more versatile white grape? From natural, mineral spring, bone-dry to concentrated, candied sweet, this grape runs the diversity gamut like no other. ‘The Bench’ is home to a mineral wealth of local riesling, singular in composition not only by way of a global comparison, but also from plot to plot, soil to soil and vineyard to vineyard.”

Riesling Vine

Related – Are you wine experienced?

We held a symposium at Brock University a few years back and the technical, chemical side was addressed by Cornell University Sensory Researcher Terry Acree. For riesling, Acree focuses on chemicals that correspond to the strongest identified smells, the most important and prevalent of which is TDN (Trimethyldihydronaphthalene). TDN the chemical or diesel/petrol the sensation as an “odour strength (Damascenone) as related to by human subjects.” In order for the wine taster to “experience” these sensations, two things have to be there. “Memories of different kinds of features and features themselves.” That said, Acree believes you can only smell three things at once, a notion he borrows from M.F.K. Fisher.

Acree sees odour as “an evolutionary human response to history.” If you have never come into contact with a banana, you will never smell banana in Chardonnay. TDN is the dominant aroma and where riesling grows, more sunlight means more fruit and more TDN. TDN is a precursor but its prevalence does not necessarily increase as a wine ages. A very common theme when nosing an aged Riesling is to comment on the secondary aromatic emergence of a gas or petrol note. Acree believes that identifying increased petrol notes in aged Riesling is a bit of a misnomer. It had to already be there. “I’m just inventing a new, confusing way to discuss minerality,” he concludes.

At that time Toronto wine writer Mike Di Caro and I talked about Ontario riesling and we agreed that sugar levels are both arbitrary and unpredictable so Niagara’s best is and should be of the dry variety. I don’t think that way anymore. My friend and colleague Bill Zacharkiw of the Montreal Gazette wrote this last year.”Rieslings, especially from cool climates like the Mosel in Germany and Niagara tend to have residual sugar. Don’t be scared. You know what? I love them. The sugar makes the aromatics go “boom,” while the acidity keeps the wine tasting dry.” Bill is correct and it is also those sugars that allow the wine to stay alive, age and develop those aforementioned petrol notes.

Related – I shall be Riesling

Here is how VQA chooses to define typical Ontario riesling. “Classically exhibits refreshing citrus, peach or floral aromas with a light “petrol” element and racy acidity on the palate. Made in a range of dry, off-dry and sweet styles, including Icewine. Typically not oaked but good examples will age well with the petrol nose evolving.” Many would agree but there is so much more to think about. You don’t know anything about riesling and aging until you begin tasting them at five years only know then can you begin to understand. Some examples will stay the course of pure lemon, so taut and tight, perhaps shouldn’t even be released until they are ready. The acidity might be the most unwound, with pent-up aggression, a fighter in search of balance. Not typical perhaps but very much a part of the Ontario mix.

The curious thing about Ontario riesling is how it has pushed me to wax with unlimited hyperbole, as in “to purchase in increments any less than a case may be considered a crime against Riesling” and “one of the finest rieslings ever made from Ontario grapes.” For Treve Ring’s take on the great grape, head over to WineAlign for what she had to say after the 2017 WineAlign National Wine Awards of Canada (The Nationals). Treve writes,  “as our palates progress, we often shy away from these simpler, fruity styles for more structured, savoury and minerally wines, which again, brings us full circle (close the ring) back to serious and ageworthy riesling.”

Related – Moved by Riesling

I have been moved by riesling many times. In Alsace it happens every day and it has happened in Ontario, most notably after having comes across (any one of four or five) Charles Baker Picones and Emma Garner Thirty Bench Small Lots. Or in particular, Jay Johnston’s Nadja’s from Flat Rock and most notably Brian Schmidt’s Vineland Estates St. Urban. With Cave Spring it happened after tastes of Cave Spring CSV. It has happened again and again. It will continue this way.

As I mentioned, this is merely the first part in a long series of articles to come, including exposées on sparkling wines, chardonnay, other white varieties and appellative blends, gamay, pinot noir, cabernet franc, plus other reds and red blends. To begin this Ontario varietal march through spring here are 26 recently tasted riesling, plus a handful visited in 2017 yet to make it to godello print, all to give a glimpse into the portal of how far Ontario has come and to where it may be heading.

Riesling at the Carriage House, Vineland Estates Winery – March 7, 2015

Redstone Riesling 2014, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (Winery, $14.95, WineAlign)

So much lime, in flesh and zest, all over the lime map. Really juicy riesling for the cost of a song. Cool climate stamp right here; glade, citrus, wax and air up above. The palate follows, albeit thin and tinny. Ideal for current consumption though not likely made with the stuffing to evolve. Regardless it’s good value. Drink 2017-2018.  Tasted blind at NWAC July 2017 and October 2017  redstonewinery  @RedstoneWines  Redstone Winery

Featherstone Riesling Black Sheep 2017, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (80234, $16.95, WineAlign)

The Black Sheep strikes again, same price, same typicity and balance. This is the riesling we’ve come to expect and relish, with elevated sugar and acidity levels walking hand in hand. Plenty of lime spirit is more Bench styled than ubiquitous Niagara Peninsula so you can guess what fruit lurks to lead such a suspicion. Always high quality and quick to market, sip, rinse and repeat. You’ll see this wine in release cycles four or five times over, available at all times. Drink 2018-2020.  Tasted April 2018  #featherstonewinery  @featherstonewne  Featherstone Estate Winery

Flat Rock Cellars Riesling 2016, VQA Twenty Mile Bench, Niagara Escarpment, Ontario (43281, $17.95, WineAlign)

There are two types of traditional riesling made up on the Escarpment’s benches, both equally accessible and correct but so very different. There is the other way; dry, stoic and intense. And there is the Flat Rock way, slightly further adrift off-dry, weightier and to be honest, less serious and happier. Not that one style is more important than the other but if I’m a consumer expecting sweet riesling but hoping to learn how the other half lives and breathes it would be this Flat Rock that would help educate and ultimately help me grow into the new riesling lover I’d want to be. The sugar (while nothing extraordinary here) is balanced by equal acidity and athletic chic. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted February 2018  flatrockcellars  @Winemakersboots  @FlatRockCellars

2027 Cellars Riesling Wismer Vineyard Foxcroft Block 2016, Twenty Mile Bench, Ontario (225490, $18.75, WineAlign)

The wind is so tight and the expressive fruit bound up in a ball of fire and acidity but aching to break free. The pent up energy here is palpably felt, like a needle in the side, leaving you seized up, protective and tense. There is so much juicy citrus and fineness of acidity it’s hard not to see this riesling taking five years to unwind and five more towards developing characterful secondary personality. This is perhaps Kevin Panagapka’s best. Drink 2019-2026. Tasted July 2017 and March 2018  2027cellars  @2027cellars  2027 Cellars

Konzelmann Estate Winery Riesling Reserve Old Vines 2016, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (Winery, $18.95, WineAlign)

The by now classic house style of using late harvest fruit off of old vines on the estate’s lakefront property and barrel fermentation are the things that delve into the Konzelmann glück, density and complexity. Preserved lemon, grapefruit sorbet and mineral-mandarin cream define this riesling of zero trepidation, utmost confidence and old world charm. Who’s to say you aren’t sipping this in some Rhineland-Palatinate village instead of Niagara on the Lake. There will always be a place in hearts for riesling made this way. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted March 2018  konzelmannwines  @Konzelmann  @konzelmannwines

Megalomaniac Riesling Narcissist 2017, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (67587, $18.95, WineAlign)

Narcissist takes a turn to the flint with great citrus intent in 2017, simulating great German riesling that have been coming for generations and eons before. There is a youthful funky reductive yeastiness that tests the aromatics but in looking for balance we find tart fruit, fine acidity and a leanness that strikes like a laser through the microbial fog. Wow is this interesting and in a show of great potential. Drink 2019-2023.  Tasted March 2018  megalomaniacjhc  sobmegalo  @MegalomaniacJHC  @seb_jacquey  Megalomaniac Wine

Fielding Estate Bottled Riesling 2016, VQA Beamsville Bench, Niagara Escarpment, Ontario (251439, $19.95, WineAlign)

Though neither single-vineyard nor block specific make no mistake. This estate riesling from Fielding is a carefully selected and curated one with not a single wasted note in the varietal tune it plays. The chords are pure citrus, the arpeggio rising from stone fruit skin meets flesh and the overall score ambient in its keyboard hold. It’s so bloody juicy, mouth watering and intense, riesling in which there’s a torrent that rises gently. There’s a wind, like a drug, in new material from a great year to make a new record. Worth listening to and drinking in, on repeat, with a deeper understanding. Should develop a layered feel, of honey and petrol, with time. Drink 2017-2022.  Tasted October 2017 and March 2018  fielding winery  richiewine  @FieldingWinery  @RichieWine  Fielding Estate Winery  

Vineland Estates Riesling Elevation St. Urban Vineyard 2016, VQA Niagara Escarpment, Ontario (38117, $19.95, WineAlign)

By now the St. Urban Vineyards vines are as old as 37 years, a fact in longevity and experience never lost on this archetypal Niagara Escarpment riesling. There is a certain kind of interest here, first from track record and then because of the deferential vintage for the flagship variety. The nose is quite waxy, lemon-scented and vaguely sweet-fruity. There is even a bit of Niagara Gold cheese mixed with fresh florals, of white roses and then persimmon. So now the mind travels to the tropics, for flavours imagined of mango, marquesa and mangosteen. Warm days and nights will do that to riesling and while this may not live into its twenties it will go complex and curiously fascinating into the petrol and honey with more early unction, like 2012 but even more, akin to 2010. Drink 2018-2028.  Tasted December 2017  vinelandestates  benchwineguy  @VinelandEstates  @benchwineguy  Vineland Estates Winery  Brian Schmidt

Hidden Bench Riesling Bistro 2016, VQA Beamsville Bench, Ontario (Winery, $20.00, WineAlign)

If Ontario riesling can be referred to as classic it would be something as traditional and acumen-factored as this ’16 by Hidden Bench. This is due to the middle road meets the fine, direct and essential line taken, where along the way balance is struck with notable fruit, just shy of off-dry styling and a fashion of natural acidity. Correct is, as correct does. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted March 2018  hiddenbench  @HiddenBench  Hidden Bench Estate Winery  

Creekside Estates Riesling Marianne Hill 2016, VQA Beamsville Bench, Niagara Escarpment, Ontario (Winery, $21.95, WineAlign)

The next Marianne is a conundrum, low in alcohol and yet quite lean, avoiding both high strains of citrus and flesh. The nose is both inviting and very mineral but the palate is a bit staid, understated and seemingly dry. The skins of pears and peaches are touched but it’s just a bit too quiet right now. We’ll see what the future holds. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted April 2018  creeksidewine  @CreeksideWine  Creekside Estate Winery

Southbrook Vineyards Riesling Triomphe 2016, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (Winery, $22.95, WineAlign)

With all of her other varietal talents I wouldn’t normally pontificate winemaker Ann Sperling as exemplifying the riesling whisperer (at least in Niagara) though a pass at this warm and inviting 2016 may change that and with haste. At the risk of sounding a bit too establishment this is classic and typical Niagara but it accedes into such a category with impeccable sugar, acid and texture balance. Treating the fruit with respect, avoiding any unhinged decisions and delivering the three-pronged effects of sweet, tart and bitter with seamless intertwine is the work of a total pro. Gotta have the lime and the essential possibility of honey. Triomphe 2016 does just that. It’s what you want and need. Drink 2018-2021. Tasted January and March 2018  southbrookvineyards  @SouthbrookWine  Southbrook Vineyards

Mulled riesling anyone? Hidden Bench at Icewine Fest

Hidden Bench Riesling Estate 2016, VQA Beamsville Bench, Ontario (183491, $23.95, WineAlign)

Just a lovely bit of spring sun and dew picks up the stimulus, pace and attitude right from go in the Hidden Bench ’16. This is not only definitive for riesling by house, for estate and to regional necessity but also to all varietal wines done up right in this pinpointed place. The orbiting acidity is twisted like ties around wires along a circle drawn to lock in freshness, by fruit more lemon and lime citrus than stone or up the stairs. It’s a near perfect vintage for the omniscient one and sets the table for Roman and Felseck Vineyard rieslings to come. Drink 2019-2023.  Tasted April 2018  hidden bench  markanthonyon  @HiddenBench @MarkAnthonyWine  Hidden Bench Estate Winery  Mark Anthony Wine & Spirits

Hidden Bench Riesling Felseck Vineyard 2014, VQA Beamsville Bench, Ontario (Agent, $23.95, WineAlign)

Felseck delivers a concentrated, compact and direct riesling, very focused along linear Locust Lane lines, truly Beamsville stony, precise and even a bit demanding. Few Ontario rieslings can distill lemon, lime, green apple and stone like this without jumping around. That Felseck can stand firm in one place with such stoic and unwavering calm is a testament to a winemaker’s attention to detail. It begins in the storied vineyard and finishes with the same fineness of finesse. Drink 2017-2023.  Tasted October 2017  hidden bench  markanthonyon  @HiddenBench @MarkAnthonyWine  Hidden Bench Estate Winery  Mark Anthony Wine & Spirits

Perfect match to riesling? Some might say

Cave Spring Riesling Adam’s Steps 2016, VQA Beamsville Bench, Ontario (901211, $24.95, WineAlign)

Adam’s Steps is Cave Spring’s riesling with a bit more of everything, more depth, body, sweetness and texture. It really is the outlier in their varietal bunching, closer to the Estate than the CSV in style and yet firmly positioned in its own category. There is a true sense of spirit and energy, especially on the lively palate, with a waxy, almost peach coulis and lemon-lime pastille note that lingers like sucking on a riesling candy. Clearly dolomite in origin but fleshy and full. Holds the age ability card for a five-plus year run. Drink 2017-2022.  Tasted October 2017 and March 2018  cavespringcellars  thevineagency  @CaveSpring  @TheVine_RobGroh  Cave Spring Cellars  The Vine

Lundy Manor Riesling 2016, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (Winery, $24.95, WineAlign)

The fruit source is Wismer Vineyard for winemaker and Niagara College graduate Adam Kern’s ’16 riesling. Kern also makes the wines with Chris Fornasier and Bench Trial Wines. His straightforward varietal wine for Lundy’s Manor speaks of peach and tart citrus with a surprisingly tannic thrush. The equanimity between fruit and acidity keeps it in the airy space above the pull by extracted weight and will serve it well for two or three years time. Drink 2018-2020.  Tasted March 2018  lundymanorwinecellars  @LundyManorWine  @lundymanorwinecellars

Stanners Vineyard Riesling 2015, VQA Lincoln Lakeshore, Ontario (Winery, $25.00, WineAlign)

The Stanners Riesling evolution is upon us, happening and ready to blow. In replay of 2014 this is Niagara meets PEC fruit, two days of skin contact, six months on the lees, dry is as dry does and yeasty funky. In my mind it’s pretty much a repeat of that just about leesy enough and pear textured 2014 without anything new added or realized. But, for Colin Stanners it must be the vintage that wakes him up to what he needs to do next so this ’15 is therefore the first next step towards and set up man for what’s to come in 2016. This is a must step to taste on that ladder of evolutionary understanding so make sure to take it. Drink 2018-2020.  Tasted April 2018  stannerswines  @StannersWines  Stanners Vineyard

Keint-He Riesling 2016, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (Winery, $25.00, WineAlign)

It’s quite amazing how the texture, sugars and acidities all rise up as one, together for the common good, layered and in-synch. Labeled Niagara Peninsula but really noses and tastes like Twenty Mile Bench riesling. Lime sherbet and mandarin orange gelée. Nothing but pleasure from winemaker Lee Baker’s first start to finish wine at Keint-He. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted April 2018  keinthewinery  @KeintheWinery  Keint-he Winery & Vineyards

@mackbrisbois brought the past, the present and the future @trailestatewine to taste. Thanks Mack! Indeed, to my pleasure and my education. Delete Comment

Trail Estate Wild Ferment Riesling 2016, VQA Ontario (Winery, $28.00, WineAlign)

In 2016 the WFR is a blend of Foxcroft and BTL fruit, respectfully and respectively farmed by Craig Wismer and Greg Wertsch. This is tannic and textural, the sweetest of all the Trail rieslings, through some skin (or stem) whole cluster contact. The notes are not mind-blowing or expanding ones, of apple, pear and peach skin, again very textural and from a ferment stopped on taste. It’s loaded with 28 g/L of RS but good winemaking makes it seem drier than it is. “Everything else is dry so I guess when I go sweet, I go big” admits Mack Brisbois. So yes this is light, lean, not as fleshy and seemingly drier than it obviously is. Carries forward with a nice candied flower, citrus finish. It’s pretty middle of the road, perfectly correct and enjoyable, especially for a winemaker with an off the beaten track sensibility, antithetical modus vivendi and go beyond the pale ability. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted April 2018  trailestatewine  mackbrisbois  @TrailEstateWine  @MackBrisbois  Trail Estate Winery  Mackenzie Brisbois

Stanners Vineyard Riesling 2016, VQA Ontario (Winery, $28.00, WineAlign)

I find it curious that this Stanners Riesling is 95 per cent Lincoln Lakeshore fruit but now labeled as VQA Ontario, whereas previous vintages called VQA LL had less Niagara and more PEC fruit. No matter really because again this is Niagara meeting PEC with two days of skin contact, but elevated by 12 months on the lees. That time spent can’t be discounted, nor can the dry as a bone, mad as a hatter summer, not tom mention another year of understanding for Colin Stanners. In the end the acidity out of a chart topping pH and fruit accumulation (not in quantity but in phenolic brilliance) leads this riesling to great heights. Malolactic fermentation was allowed to occur naturally, helping to bring the acidity (and everything else) into balance. Lime, toast, flint and energy, boundless and invigorating. What a riesling, what a story. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted April 2018  stannerswines  @StannersWines  Stanners Vineyard

Cave Spring Riesling CSV 2016, Cave Spring Vineyard, VQA Beamsville Bench, Niagara Escarpment, Ontario (566026, $29.95, WineAlign)

The CSV from a warm 2016 really expresses the vintage on the nose with a heavy dose of wet stone and every part of a ripe peach. You have to get past the early sulphur but once you do you take a good bite into the flesh of this riesling and the juices will run with accents and angles fit by tonic, pith, tangy, nervy acidity and a hidden sweetness. The sugars are surely more elevated than realized or will ever be felt because the combination of acidity and pith are covers that will never peel back. Size matters and this CSV is built with great Escarpment architecture, stepping out of the paradigmatic 2015 shadow and into another age. This 2016 begins an epoch of structural expressionism and should easily carry its construct through to the next decade. That consequently, is when this CSV will really be ready to rock and roll for a full decade more. Drink 2020-2030.  Tasted March 2018  cavespringcellars  thevineagency  @CaveSpring  @TheVine_RobGroh  Cave Spring Cellars  The Vine

Trail Estate Skin Contact Riesling Hughes Vineyard 2016, Ontario (Winery, $30.00, WineAlign)

Times changes, as do winemakers, their hunches, hopes and dreams. Mackenzie Brisbois takes a sidestepping approach to this trailblazing riesling from the vineyard tended by Ed Hughes. It’s now all wild ferment elongated to 19 days on skins. Takes its time this little big one, moving no less than 25 per cent slower than ’15, in part because of the vintage but also because its wild pressed. More a dry matter of when over how or why, still in its aromatic infancy, suffocated by its nature. Also a case of a young wine caught in the 9 g/L total acidity crossfire of a sci-fi battle scene. Will most certainly take another 18 months to change. It does exhale this curious note of garrigue, like Peloponnese mountain tea and Alto Adige sweet fennel frond in broth, with apple and onion skin doused by shots of lime juice. There is even a chewy feel in the leafy texture, quite herbal with a mild pique in a green tea finish. Trust me, this will become something both fascinating and delicious at some point in 2020. There are approximately 76 cases made. Drink 2019-2023. Tasted April 2018  trailestatewine  mackbrisbois  @TrailEstateWine  @MackBrisbois  Trail Estate Winery  Mackenzie Brisbois

Leaning Post Riesling The Geek 2015, VQA Twenty Mile Bench, Ontario (Agent, $35.00, WineAlign)

The second instalment of the Geek takes Ontario riesling experimentation not just to another level but to a specific methodology that no one else has really attempted thus far. The geeking out goes further and edgier into territory both new and misunderstood. If it seems unconvincing it’s a case of both searcher and searched not yet on the same page but that’s what research and development are all about. All the 2015 lees from Leaning Post’s classic riesling and chardonnay were added to the Geek. As if that wasn’t enough solid, texture-variegating matter, the 2014 riesling lees were also employed. Two years later the Solera ideal was put to bottle. The complex equation comes out to the most autolytic riesling ever made in Ontario, distinctive in that it’s like drinking traditional-method sparkling wine, 36 months on the lees but without any fizz. It’s unusual and fascinating, full of baking apples, biscuits and citrus. It does not meet the expected and the normal, not just because it’s dry as the desert but because it’s enzymatic behaviour is self-cannabalistic. It writes a riesling idiom, having a meaning not deducible from the individual parts. It’s a neo-impressionist idiosyncrasy, a reaction to the empirical realism of “typical,” VQA-cornered and pigeon-holed riesling, accomplished by relying on scientific theory to achieve predetermined textural effects. While The Geek undergoes an oxidative process it’s not exactly Solera-styled because young wine does not replace a percentage of removed older wine. It’s a positive accumulation of solids and therefore a strict and formalized composition. The argot R & D will go on and winemaker Ilya Senchuk asks, “how much lees is too much lees? Only The Geek knows.” Drink 2018-2021. Tasted March 2018  leaningpostwine  nicholaspearcewines  @LeaningPostWine  @Nicholaspearce_  Leaning Post Wines  Nicholas Pearce

Trail Estate Skin Contact Riesling Hughes Vineyard 2015, Ontario (Winery, $35.00, WineAlign)

At the time of making this wine and then putting a label on a bottle there was no Ontario defined category and in fact this pioneering effort is one of the unheralded forerunners. From fruit sourced out of Ed Hughes’ vineyard it’s a shaggy yet ambitious riesling made mellifluent by 14 days skin contact, inoculated to keep the lees strain constant with with other 15s, meaning the Lakeview and Foxcroft brethren. Now smells just like riesling, unlike in its early “orange” wine days. No longer demanding and tannic, the high acidity too has mellowed and a petrol note has emerged, plus a pepper flake meets peach skin aromatic sedge. Still with the liquid salve texture, coming into its destined balance, dry and persistent in pulse by acidity but calm enough and settled. A great flesh of lime and raining complexity, with a final note of orange skin too. Drink 2018-2020.  Tasted April 2018  trailestatewine  mackbrisbois  @TrailEstateWine  @MackBrisbois  Trail Estate Winery  Mackenzie Brisbois

Trail Estate Barrel Ferment Riesling Foxcroft Vineyard 2016, VQA Twenty Mile Bench, Ontario (Winery, $35.00, WineAlign)

In 2016 the next wrinkle is a wild ferment (as opposed to the inoculated ’15), unfined and unfiltered, because as time progressed “I liked it more and more,” says winemaker Mackenzie Brisbois. No coarse filtration means some minor sediment will settle in the bottle. Smashed layers of tote-filled grapes are brought to the crushpad, in lieu of the crusher, to extract from the skins and stems, making use of the punchdown tool, while waiting before pressing. Recently bottled in December 2017 the BFR is something completely other and if 2015 was considered not, this follow-up is markedly fruity now, because it always was, all the way through during just more than a year in really old barrels. It’s a blonde riesling as per M. Gustave, if you will. “Why blonde? Because they all were.” This is the wisest of Mack Brisbois’ rieslings, calm, confident, collected and shining brightly from the word go. You don’t have to wait on this one, it’s riper, it’s unfiltered, made with a lot less sulphur than the skin contacts and those “dirty” 15s. “I like to see how little (sulphur) I can get away with,” notes Brisbois. The most accomplished riesling that she has made to date, the 16’s balance is spot on now and you will not have to wait for it to come into its cinematic stage. Drink it now and keep it longer. Drink 2018-2024.  Tasted April 2018  trailestatewine  mackbrisbois  @TrailEstateWine  @MackBrisbois  Trail Estate Winery  Mackenzie Brisbois

Charles Baker Riesling Picone Vineyard 2014, VQA Vinemount Ridge, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (241182, $35.20, WineAlign)

Can it be helped if the first 30 seconds with Charles Baker’s 2014 riesling seem like the opening of a film noir classic. Hushed tones, chiaroscuro shadows, off-screen characters and dramatic foreshadowing all solicit the need or the necessity to make use of a wild imagination. There have been older Baker vintages that acted with similar, almost hard to crack quietude. Perhaps it’s with ’13 etched in persistent memory but as a vintage it was (moderately) cooler and in the end, quite average. This ’14 works the benefits and the notes here are quite omnisciently lemon; curd, preserve, citrus tablet and then smeared by a bees-waxy salve. It’s really quite atypical for Baker and for the windswept Vinemount Ridge but misunderstood youth is a bitch. I’d like to revisit in 2019 and beyond to unearth and relish in the hidden meanings. Drink 2019-2027.  Tasted November 2017 and March 2018  cbriesling  stratuswines  cruwinemerchants  @cbriesling  @StratusWines  @CRUOntario  Stratus Vineyards  

Pearl Morissette Riesling Cuvée Black Ball 2015, Ontario (416073, $36.20, WineAlign)

The new age 2015 was tasted as part of a retrospective that included 2014, 2013, 2012 and 2011. Anyone who is interested in gaining a deeper understanding of what might be construed as idiosyncratic or antithetical riesling should be so fortunate to be involved in such a demonstration. The Pearl Morissette riesling endeavour was pretty much bone dry from day one. The Mosel style really never spoke to François Morissette. “We have 220 hang time days so we started fermenting riesling chardonnay style, then in 2012 and 2013 in foudres, which tightened them too much. So in ’14 we moved into concrete egg for aromatics but it was too intense.” So here in ’15 the joint between foudres and cement marks the new beginning. The juice is then transferred to become clear while the lees are kept and recycled for future vintages. This had just been bottled days before with almost no free sulphur “because they can take it.” Such low pH (2.97ish) and the up front skin contact brings tannin and then this silk road texture is followed by more tannin on the back palate. It’s a vintage Blackball and a vintage-driven riesling. A phenolically ripe one. The exercise proves that we really don’t know a thing about riesling, Cuvée Blackball and aging until we begin tasting at five years on. In order, 2011 is “a confirmation that we are on the right road,” ’12 may never be ready, ’13 messes with the riesling paradigm and ’14 is more like riesling of expectation. So what does that make 2015? Nothing yet, really. Have you not been paying attention? Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted July 2017  pearlmorissette  @PearlMorissette  Pearl Morissette

Riesling at Vineland Estates, 161 days on skins

Good to Go!

Godello

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

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Castello di Ama’s state of the art

Two months ago yet another Toscana adventure came to a close. The tastes and sights indelibly stamped are etched forever in memory. Before moving on down the SR2 from Siena to Montalcino we paid the most profound and contemplative Chianti Classico visit of all, sulle colline di Gaiole. To a place where wine, art and landscape interact, variegate and intertwine. A place where the slow pace of play is grounded in grace and nature slowly renders an intoxication of faith. Where the exceptionality of place, experience and innovation can’t be underestimated, not at Castello di Ama.

La Cappella di Villa Pianigiani (18th century)

It was mid-August 1995 and my wife and I were on honeymoon, holed up in a little nook of Castelnuovo Berardenga near Ponte e Bozzone, just outside of Siena. We used this idyllic spot as our base camp from which to explore Chianti Classico for two full weeks that summer, which incidentally was cool, often rainy and now, none to my decades of studiously learning about sangiovese surprise later, proved to have resulted in turning out some elegant and structured wines.

One day we drove up into the Gaiole in Chianti hills, up a long drive past what I now know as Vigneto Bellavista and parked on a crest of gravel straddling the picturesque vineyard on one side and on the other, Vigneto San Lorenzo of Castello di Ama. Just as it was on February 15th of this year, the scene was one of stillness and tranquility, frozen in time, albeit memory delivers the picture in black and white. We wandered aimlessly, taking in the vines and the quietude when a small voice came rising from a dwelling in the tiny hamlet. An old woman motioned for us to come down the steps and into a small room. We tasted a few sangiovese, purchased a few bottles and were on our way.

La Cappella di Villa Ricucci (18th century)

The woman was likely Lorenza Sebasti’s grandmother and five years ago I recounted the story for her when Lorenza was pouring Ama’s wines at their Ontario agent Halpern’s annual grand tasting. Her name was Ermellina, Lorenza’s nana that she called Mami. She could perhaps have been the fattoressa, or agente fondinario, land agent to the hamlet of Ama which takes its name from a small borgo, or agricultural village, nestled in the Gaiole hills at an altitude of almost 500 metres. Five centuries ago, it was the hub of a florid farming and winemaking business overseen by a group of local families. “The road from Radda leads to Amma, three miles away on a hill and home to the Pianigiani, Ricucci and Montigiani – the most prominent families in Chianti,” wrote Grand Duke Peter Leopold of Habsburg-Lorraine in his 18th-century Report on the government of Tuscany.

The winery was founded in the 1970s by a group of Roman families; Tradico, Carini, Cavanna and Sebasti and in the 1980s Lorenza’s husband Marco Pallanti, a Tuscan, took over the winemaking duties. Pallanti is a former President of the Consorzio Vino Chianti Classico and the pioneer who undertook one of the most ambitious vineyard transformations in the region’s history during a five-year period in the 1980s when he chose to re-trellis 50,000 vines (planted to 2,800 vines per hectare) to an open lyre system. Much of the vineyards were also grafted to new sangiovese clones and other beneficial varieties (like merlot) to take advantage of Ama’s specific topography and singular geology.

Carlos Garaicoa, Yo no quiero ver mas a mis vecinos

Castello di Ama’s 80 hectares of vineyards surround the hamlet of Ama by an extended radius of three kilometres at altitudes ranging from 450 to 550 metres above sea level. The four valleys are marked by harvested Galestro rock at the top of each vineyard; Bellavista, San Lorenzo, Casuccia and Montebuoni. Bellavista stands apart because set atop that hill at an altitude of 490m is the block that is used to make L’Apparita, Tuscany’s first pure varietal merlot. In 1975 this portion was planted with canaiolo and malvasia bianca, then grafted over with merlot clone 342 between 1982 and 1985.

Kendell Geers, Revolution/Love

The village of Ama is made up of aggregate buildings of medieval origin, along the axis of a main street and essentially protected by two villas on either end; Ricucci and Pianigiani. There are three small chapels, one dedicated to the Blessed Virgin of Carmine, at the Villa Pianigiani. The second, along the main street, is dedicated to San Lorenzo and the third, dedicated to San Venazio, in the garden of Villa Riccucci.

Michelangelo Pistoletto, L’albero di Ama

Marco Pallanti is proud of the more than 35 years of work and adventure he has poured heart, mind and soul into the purity of these Gaiole hills. “It is important for wines to maintain a link to their place of origin” he writes. “The fundamental idea of tasting a wine and displaying the vines from which it comes. Wine has to spring from the rocks of the vineyard and reflect the sun, the season, the heavens of that hill, in that moment.” Pallanti’s notion of connecting the past, in viticulture, viniculture and architecture with the future is manifested through 15 art installations on or abutting vineyards, set into landscapes and occupying cellar spaces. “To give the illusion of being able to perfect perfection,” he expounds from grape and through the intangible gift, to “make seen what cannot be seen.”

Ilya & Emilia Kabakov, The Observer

The 15 site-specific installations are a collection of explicitly contemporary works still in progress, all created to marry place and idea. The artists commissioned and represented are Michelangelo Pistoletto, Daniel Buren, Giulio Paolini, Kendell Geers, Anish Kapoors, Chen Zhen, Carlos Garaicoa, Louise Bourgeois, Cristina Iglesias, Nedko Solakov, Ilya and Emilia Kabakov, Pascal-Martine Tayou, Hiroshi Sugimoto, Lee Ufan and Roni Horn.

Hiroshi Sugimoto, Confession of Zero

Once inside the tasting room at Castello di Ama Marco led John Szabo M.S. and I through the estate wines, focusing as we should on the four vineyards, Bellavista, San Lorenzo, Casuccia and Montebuoni. Here are my reviews on the six wines tasted.

Marco Pallanti, Godello and John Szabo M.S.

Castello di Ama Purple Rosé 2017, IGT Toscana, Italy (Agent, $20.85, WineAlign)

Bottled recently, going to market on March 1st, this is sangiovese with a minor amount of merlot, a new Rosato for Ama, really fruity, of an amazing colour, viscous, spicy, tart and so bloody delicious. Savoury and herbal moments but always that return to fruit. A touch of citrus pith and tonic mark the finish. Very fresh and spirited Rosé and I can’t imagine anyone not wanting to drink two glasses. Drink 2018-2019.  Tasted February 2018

Roni Horn, Untitled

Castello di Ama Chianti Classico DOCG 2015, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $34.95, WineAlign)

The artist now known simply as “Ama” is a highly touted, self-reflective sangiovese with fruit to end all fruit, every iota of sensory and sensual fibre filled in and a deeply inward, charted impression. The first vintage was 2010, when Gran Selezione began its newly classified journey, so this is the sixth instalment in the Ama new age. The Chianti Classico equivalent of a Bordeaux Château’s estate wine, the one to explain the house style and philosophy. Needs three more years to develop all its charms and move to the next stage of its life. There are 90,000-100,000 bottles produced.  Last tasted February 2018.

“The road from Radda leads to Amma,” where some of Chianti Classico’s most fertile land treats sangiovese vines as if they were planted in a garden. Hard not to experience this Gaiole Chianti Classico as a sangiovese of extreme youth for a quick to bottle Ama, so floral and what just has to be so as a result of some whole cluster, feigning carbonic and hyperbole of managed freshness. Some exotic spice in perfume and real, certain, credible clarity. Not that this will entertain notions of Ama longevity but the purity clarifies the 2015 vintage position of consumer and critical mass quality. Drink 2018-2024.  Tasted February 2017  @CastellodiAma  @castellodiama  @HalpernWine  castellodiama  halpernwine  @halpernwine

Questa non è una finestra, @castellodiama an instrument through which something is represented. #danielburen #chianticlassico #landscapepainting … Daniel Buren, Sulle vine punti di vista

Castello di Ama Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG San Lorenzo 2014, Tuscany, Italy (418897, $48.95, WineAlign)

San Lorenzo is not actually a single-vineyard wine though the fruit source depends highly on this side of the estate. It is in fact a blend of all the best places of the property and from a vintage out of which no La Casuccia or Bellavista were made all the best fruit (including some merlot) ended up in San Lorenzo. The quality of the acidity and the tannin separate this from Ama but that wine’s pedigree should not be in question for it remains the broadest, most appropriate brushstroke for Ama. San Lorenzo delivers a domino structure, stacked and yet imagined as fallen, a set of roads and walls to walk and climb along, to eventually arrive at a pre-destined destination. This is the white meets grey meets sandy brown limestone of the broad amalgamation of the mineral estate, salty and rich, with depth into a grotto.  Last tasted February 2018.

Even with the benevolent San Lorenzo as the sample size, going at 2014 Gran Selezione is like trying to crack a walnut shell with your teeth, the husk so tough you might break two or more trying. What is noted in the single-vineyard San Lorenzo is a hyperbole of 2014’s general characteristics; firm grip, savour, herbology and liqueur. There is extreme Gran Selezione personality humming in San Lorenzo and help me if two years are needed simply for assessment and five for the drinking window to open. The attention to soil and Ama’s prized Gaiole in Chianti Climat is duly noted, as is the careful selection from the vintage. I will say this. No amount of selection, barrel or time can allow Gran Selezione to escape from 2014. In the short term it will be a downfall, in the long, long, long run a blessing. Drink 2021-2031.  Tasted February 2017

Castello di Ama Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG Vigneto Bellavista 2013, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $242.59, WineAlign)

You just have to stand and gaze out over said vineyard to feel the awe and then to understand its connection, for Castello di Ama, to the Gran Selezione category. The rise up to and astride the estate is a collina rocciosa so singular to Gaiole in Chianti. If it is not correct to intuit, self-convince and deduce that Bellavista just tastes like the salty, calcareous and deeply stony white rocks of that blinding light vineyard then so be it. The wine is saturated beyond imagination and without any possibility of feeling chalky on the palate. If this isn’t Grand Cru Chambertin or Montrachet in red, Chianti Classico form, then no wine in Toscana can be considered as such. That it also carries in pocket the great ripeness of sangiovese fruit, streamlined acidity and mille-feuille tannin is a variegation of thought to consider at every smell, taste and turn. Just amazing for the vintage with non-aggressive though confident tenets of structure. A Gran Selezione generally in production of four to six thousand bottles. Drink 2021-2031.  Tasted February 2018

Giulio Paolini, Pardigma

Castello di Ama Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG Vigneto La Casuccia 2013, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $242.59, WineAlign)

Vigneto La Casuccia is a vineyard with different qualities in the stones of the soil and with malvasia nera accumulating another level of spice, even spicy when you taste. The sangiovese nose is deeper in fruit, bricks baked in and in emission of a graphite sensation, with more and differing effects brought on by limestone, though in apposite effect by the Galestro of Bellavista. The acidity is even more striking than what is derived from the adjacent block and the tannin stronger, broader, more obvious though never over-demanding. If apprised in the poetic terms of a haiku, this may deal in the facile of a read while mired in the inability to ascertain ultimate meaning. We’re only in the first incomplete five words at this stage and it will be five more years before we can say the next seven will even enter the discussion. So be patient. As with the Gran Selezione Bellavista the production is generally in the range of four to six thousand bottles. Drink 2022-2034.  Tasted February 2018

Anish Kapoor, aima

Castello di Ama L’Apparita 2013, IGT Toscana, Italy (Agent, $242.59, WineAlign)

Castello di Ama L’Apparita IGT Toscana is merlot from atop the Bellavista hill and you just might see an apparition if you wander the rows in the dead of night. In reality, on a clear day when happening upon the vineyard, this is the spot from which the towers of Siena will appear. The first L’Apparita was 1985 so it is this 27th from 2013, with only 2002 and 2012 having been avoided. Merlot ripens earlier than sangiovese so it can be made more often. You recognize it as merlot, not Pomerol, not St. Emilion, not Maremma, but purely from this territory. The quality of acidity is vineyard-terroir driven and the tannins are sweet, plush and broad, different from Casuccia but sill set upon wide-developed shoulders. There is that ubiquitous Ama spice and in L’Apparita, a sense that tar is a factor and roses a quotient down the road. Drink 2020-2030.  Tasted February 2018

Good to Go!

Godello

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

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Garda’s Chiaretto success

Lago di Garda, Torri del Benaco

In northern Italy travel east from Milan towards and beyond Brescia or west from Venice through Verona and you will reach the southern shore of Italy’s largest lake. Lago di Garda is famous for many things, including an open invitation to pass through its gates to reach the Dolomite mountains. On either side of the lake two grand edifices gaze at one another across the crystal clear water. At the southeast end Castello Scaligero di Sirmione and fortress guards the harbour below Monte Baldo and across to the western shore Villa Galnica rises above the lake in Puegnago del Garda. It is on the hills and plateaus behind these great structures where something pink is happening.

Two wine regions on these opposing shores are disparate bedfellows but together sluice the Rosé key to collective success. Bardolino Chiaretto and Chiaretto Valtènesi are the most recent and important Rosato designations in Italy and their hopes, plans and dreams rest on the shoulders of two leading grape varieties, corvina and groppello.

Simply put, Chiaretto (key-are-et-oh) is the Rosé version of Bardolino. It’s made from those same grapes (corvina, rondinella and molinara) and the colour varies from rosy pink to coral-red. “Chiaretto Pink” is the battle cry of the Italian dry Rosato, “a lighter shade of pale,” hence the name “Chiaretto”, which derives from the Italian “chiaro,” meaning light or pale. The grapes are vinified using white winemaking practices, wholly apposite and antithetical to its other usages, namely in Bardolino, Valpolicella, and Amarone.

@chiarettopink @ilbardolino e tutte cose #corvina @villacordevigo #vignetivillabella with Il Presidente Franco Cristoforetti and Tiziano Delibori

As with Garda-west neighbour Valtènesi, Chiaretto from Bardolino’s roots go back to 1896 when Pompeo Molmenti learned of the Rosé vinification technique in France. In 1968 Bardolino Chiaretto was among the first Italian wines to receive DOC (Denominazione di Origine Controllata) status. Since the 2014 harvest, Chiaretto’s winemakers have collectively pursued a “Rosé Revolution,” choosing a pale pink colour and more floral-aromatic notes. Consorzio di Tutela Vino Bardolino President Franco Cristoforetti invokes the Rosé revolution in his introduction of the Chiaretto, confirming the region’s commitment to a very specific style and the key to its success. “Together, the Chiaretto of Bardolino and the Valtènesi Chiaretto,”  explains Franco Cristoforetti, “produce 12 million bottles, placing Lake Garda in the role of absolute leader in the Italian production of Rosé designation of origin.” The region’s greatest ambassadorial asset is Angelo Peretti, an economist and writer who fully understands that by gaining a true sense of community and having a common goal the two regions can be highly successful in their pursuit of Rosé. Chiaretto for the win.

Extending from south to west between the towns of Desenzano and Salò, in the heart of the morainic amphitheater on the Brescia side of Garda, Valtènesi includes the territory of the following municipalities in the province of Brescia, characterized by the microclimate of Lake Garda: Salò, Roè Volciano, Villanuova sul Clisi, Gavardo, S.Felice del Benaco, Puegnago del Garda, Muscoline, Manerba del Garda, Polpenazze del Garda, Moniga del Garda, Soiano del Lago, Calvagese della Riviera, Padenghe sul Garda, Bedizzole. It also includes part of the territories of the municipalities of Lonato del Garda and Desenzano del Garda.

Angelo Peretti

In Valtènesi the first and most commonly employed method makes use of a white vinification with red grapes and a short maceration to obtain colour, by direct pressing of the destemmed and crushed grapes. The second makes it possible to obtain more hue and structure in Rosato by means of a short maceration of the must and grape seeds in order to increase the extraction of anthocyanin and tannin. The first process is specifically used to vinify Rosé wines only. The second, not so widespread method has the primary purpose of enriching and improving the remaining red wines, which remain in the tank, after the subtraction, for salasso. The regulatory board instructs that the release for consumption of Valtènesi Chiaretto may take place from the 14th of February following the harvest, while the release for consumption of Valtènesi can take place from the 1st of September after harvest. The Denomination of Controlled Origin (DOC) was recognized in 1967.

Alessandro Luzzago is the President of the Chiaretto Valtènesi consorzio and tells us that over the last four years the Valtènesi have been working with the association of Provençe, sending their wines over to see where they are in relation to the region that produces the type of Rosé they want to imitate. The communication is leading to making better wines. “A change of philosophy is taking place and perspective,” notes Luzzago, “you start the work in the vineyard, thinking of Rosé.”

Anton Potvin, Bill Zacharkiw, Pascal Arsenault and Paola Giagulli on the shore of Lago di Garda

Back in October of 2017 I joined a group of intrepid sommeliers for a week long investigation into the wines of Bardolino, Valtènesi and Custoza. A report of the red, whites and sparkling from these regions will follow but this is strictly a Chiaretto exposé. I tasted these wines with thanks to the producers, John Szabo M.S., Bill Zacharkiw, Anton Potvin, Nadia Fournier, Maja Baltus, Brad Royale, Al Drinkle, Véronique Dalle, Pascal Arsenault, kidnapped American turned adopted Canadian Nicolas “Nicky Ray Beaune” Capron-Manieux, our chaperones and educators, Angelo Peretti and Paola Giagulli. Here are 30 reviews of Bardolino Chiaretto and Chiaretto Valtènesi.

Welcome to the new @chiarettopink on the #Bardolino shores of #lagodigarda #rosato #discoverchiaretto #lefraghe #villacalicantus #leginestre #poggiodellegazie #albinopiona #gentili

Bardolino Chiaretto DOC

Bergamini Bardolino Chiaretto DOC 2016, Veneto, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

Bergamini is located in Lasize with 13 hectares of vineyards farmed organically but not certified. The Bardolino Chiaretto is corvina of the minimum 70 per cent plus rondinella and molinara. Subjected to a 24 hours soak and it is the combination of location and the full maceration that drifts a bit darker than some, yet with plenty of salty sapidity. The molinara brings the salt. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted October 2017  bergaminiaziendaagricola  Bergamini Azienda Agricola

#chiaretto @chiarettopink #rosato #bardolino #discoverchiaretto

Cantina Di Custoza Bardolino Chiaretto DOC Biologico Terre in Fiore 2016, Veneto, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

A gathering of corvina, molinara and rondinella in the simplest Rosato, so similar in profile to the cantina’s whites. Metallic and balmy at the sam time, like citrus salve on a copper pipe. Drink 2017.  Tasted October 2017

Cantina Di Custoza Bardolino Chiaretto Classico DOC 2016, Veneto, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

Customer’s Chiaretto Classico is the conventional one, also like the cantina’s whites but with more mid-palate weight and overall intensity. This carries some acidity, real, natural or otherwise. Drink 2017-2018. Tasted October 2017

From tbe #bardolino shores of #lagodigarda to Toronto, benvenuti @chiarettopink Rosati to @pizzalibretto … @winerypoggiodellegrazie @tenutalapresa #villabella #lefraghe #gentili #caveg

Cantina Di Negrar Bardolino Chiaretto DOC 2016, Veneto, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

The cooperative’s Rosato is a full and fleshy one, with a healthy 7.8 g/L of residual sugar after two hours of skin-contact and a compressed version of gentle pressing. This is Rosé from an outfit that makes 1.2 million bottles of Amarone, one tenth of the total production in the area, out of a cooperative made up from 230 members. They produce 300,000 bottles annually (inclusive of the two different Chiaretto), this being the tart one, somewhat saline but more so tangy with the sugar so it’s ultimately sweet and sour Rosé. Would love to have had a bottle or two of this around with Cantonese food in 1975. Drink 2017-2018.  Tasted October 2017  cantina_valpolicella_negrar  @CantinaNegrar  @CantinaValpolicellaNegrar

Cantina Castelnuovo Del Garda Bardolino Chiaretto Classico DOC Ca’ Vegar 2016, Veneto, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

From vines with some established street cred (10-25 years old) the Ca’ Vegar is Rosato raised on promises and morainic, calcareous-cay soils. It’s a traditional Lago di Garda blend of corvina veronese (80 per cent) with rondinella (15) and molinara. So similar in vein to the Spumante and the Custoza in that it’s faintly herbal, with mild acidity and a rustic, sweet coppery sensation. This is just one of those really inexpensive far from petty wines that taste just fine for the less discerning but who also won’t drink fake and dishonest wine. You could sell the farm to promote and get temporarily rich off of pushing this Chiaretto. She was, a Veneto girl. Drink 2017-2018.  Tasted October 2017  cantinacastelnuovo  @BoscodelGal  Cantina Castelnuovo del Garda

Casaretti Bardolino Chiaretto Classico DOC Rosa Dei Casaretti 2016, Veneto, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

Classic Rosato from the eastern shore of Lake Garda, composed of corvina (70 per cent), rondinella (20) and molinara. Both colour and impression suggest a somewhat longer bleed though its maintains freshness, lightness and a reserve of attitude. It has some but also more fruit than many other examples, of red berries but not in any over the top way or tangy hyperbole. Pays ode to its reductive side of the Chiaretto tracks. Drink 2017-2018. Tasted October 2017  stefano_rossi  Azienda Agricola Casaretti

Le Fraghe Bardolino Chiaretto DOC Rodòn 2016, Veneto, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

Chiaretto Rõdon is 80 per cent corvina and 20 rondinella picked at red wine phenolic ripeness and subjected to six hours skin contact, i.e. a quick (50 saignée) and 50 pressed (no maceration) soak. Rõdon means pink (or Rosé in Greek) and Le Fraghe the “wild strawberry” which this so closely resembles. This is a prime example of how screwcap helps to keep freshness because it’s an easy wine (and varietal) to oxidize. This is really sapid, dry, sharp but so beautifully finessed Rosato. If you need to know the present and immediate future of Chiaretto Pink, look no further than this perfectly pure and honest effort from Matilde Poggi. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted twice, October 2017 and January 2018  #lefraghe  #matildepoggi      Le Fraghe  Matilde Poggi

Matilde Poggi and John Szabo

Le Fraghe Bardolino Chiaretto DOC Rodòn 2017, Veneto, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

In a stroke of pure Rosé genius and unwavering consistency Le Fraghe’s Matilde Poggi writes the next Chiaretto Pink chapter with this piu salé 2017 Rōdon. It’s both charming in its rusty rusticity and yet also crisp, clean and perfectly tangy. The wild strawberry is faint this early on and still beneath the sweet aromatic compost but by the time late spring comes this will bring all that fragola pleasure and unbridled joy. Rōdon is as good as Rosato gets in all of northern Italy. Drink 2018-2020.  Tasted February 2018  #lefraghe  #matildepoggi      Le Fraghe  Matilde Poggi

Gentili Bardolino Chiaretto DOC 2016, Veneto, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

Gentili sits above Costermano in the northern part of Lago di Garda, with high altitude vineyards, high sand soils with stone and light clay. The second generation winemaker follows in the footsteps of his father who started in the late 1970’s. “My dream was to select the best vines from the best vineyards.” Bardolino Chiaretto 2016 comes from the same vineyards as the red but not the same grapes. There is a selection here, from corvina, rondinella and molinara (60/30/10). This has the faux sugary, South African chenin blanc styled extract, tannin and personality. Apple and peach skin, somewhat tropical, fresh, vital and then a bite into red apple. A tart, somewhat sweet and crisp apple. Different than some Chiaretto but there is no residual sugar here. In its completely dry state there too is no flint, sulphite or struck notes. Very interesting. Drink 2017-2019. Tasted twice, October 2017 and January 2018  Azienda agricola Gentili

Le Ginestre Bardolino Chiaretto DOC 2016, Veneto, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

From oenologist Marco Ruffato, here Chiaretto comes from a vintage of low sugars and quiet phenols, but high acidity so expect a specific style that is lean, direct and prompt. A 24-hour soak in tank with no enzymes and then sulphites after fermentation. Mainly (80 per cent) corvina with rondinella and corvinone, all together leaving this at a great pale Rosato. Also with thanks to the Pergola training. So direct, really quite beautiful, on the right side of acidity. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted October 2017  leginestrewine    Marco Ruffato

The genesis of #tortellini perfect #loveknots so proud to have tasted the care of 58 years from Alceste and Nadia Pasquali #jewellcaskets #borsavallegio

Le Morette Bardolino Chiaretto Classico DOC 2016, Veneto, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

A typical blend of corvina (55 per cent), rondinella (35) and molinara picked in the production area of Bardolino hence the label “Classico.” You really get the peach skin and ubiquity of strawberry, also with a fresh squeezed lemon, juiced and tart. So very tangy and a sour candy flavour takes to a dry finish. Truly a “made” Rosato in a compressed and reserved style, lean and near-searing. Drink 2017-2018.  Tasted October 2017  lemorettelugana  @Le_Morette  @lemorette.lugana

Il Pignetto Bardolino Chiaretto DOC 2016, Veneto, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

From a southeastern location on the outer morainic range of Lake Garda, the Morando famiy’s Bardolino Chiaretto is composed of 60 percent corvina, (20) rondinella, (15) molinara and (five) sangiovese. A gentle 12-15 hour soak on the skins promises classic Chiaretto texture and flavour, broad in the mouth, with tons of lemon mixed into red fruit and a decided leesy texture, from some bâttonage. Really easy drinking with good acidity. Drink 2017-2018.  Tasted October 2017  ilpignetto  Cantina Il Pignetto

Silvio Piona

Albino Piona Bardolino Chiaretto DOC 2016, Veneto, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

Silvio Piona’s Chiaretto is from Custoza, in the south of Lago di Garda, between the lake and the city of Verona, the furthest village south in Bardolino. Albino Piona goes back to 1899 and here 118 years later we find a fine and elegant Rosato, void of power because frankly it never needs it. Fruit and spice, but certainly light, a prodigy by glacial till, some argileux clay and alluvial deposit. A different soil than up where they make Chiaretto on the steps of Monte Baldo. The climate is still the same and heavily influenced by the lake. Piona’s may or not be 100 per cent corvina, which would technically be illegal, so if you read this don’t write about something Albino may or may not have got a way with, the quasi legal Chiaretto. Light and fruity, sapid and fresh, just openly aromatic enough, knock it back Rosato. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted October 2017  Silvio Piona    Azienda Agricola Albino Piona  Monica Piona

Tenuta La Presa Bardolino Chiaretto DOC Baldovino 2016, Veneto, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

Baldovino the brand is corvina (70 per cent) with rondinella (20) plus molinara and the Bardolino outlier, sangiovese. Sourced from a twofold terroir, the Caprino Veronese and Località La Presa. Baldovino’s is the palest of the coppery-hued Chiaretto, with more sugar than is perhaps warranted and as so suppresses the inherent saltiness of the parochial appellative spirit. That said the salinity insists on paying heed to some necessary balance and proper personality so in the end this technically sound Rosato points the compass’ arrow straight up the DOC ruler’s median line. Drink 2017-2018.  Tasted October 2017  tenutalapresa    Tenuta La Presa

Poggio Delle Grazie Bardolino Chiaretto DOC 2016, Veneto, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

Out of Castelnuovo del Garda, Poggio delle Grazie’s is exactly what any doctor would and should order for a Chiaretto prescription. This a very fruity, ripe and balanced Rosato, from the predominant corvina (80 per cent) and rondinella. Raised only in stainless, 12 hours on skins, with the first vintage having been 2014. A very lithe and pretty strawberry blush, with rounder acidity than most, but light and perfectly pleasant. An 8,000 bottle export possibility steal at 4.0 euro ex-cellar. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted October 2017  poggiodellegrazie  winerypoggiodellegrazie  Poggio delle Grazie – ufficial page  Elisabetta Panetto  Massimo Brutti

Vini Rizzi Bardolino Chiaretto DOC Marco Polo 2016, Veneto, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

Highly typical Garda blend of corvina, rondinella and molinara from Cantina Seiterre, a group with holdings in Piemonte, Toscana, Valpolicella and here, in Bardolino. Big box Rosato yet full of weight and secondary thoughts. On the darker side of Chiaretto hue but in retention of the light and the salty, at least in terms of citrus and floral aromas, mild berry flavour and approved texture. Drink 2017-2018.  Tasted October 2017  cantina_seiterre    Cantina Seiterre Verona

Cantine Tinazzi Bardolino Chiaretto Doc 2016, Veneto, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

Tinazzi makes wines in the Veneto and Puglia and the Chiaretto is drawn off of the Valleselle Estate in Bardolino. The blend is 70 per cent corvina, with molinara and rondinella for a straight-ahead fruity and vinous Rosato, tart, the red fruits felt coated by a lactic, yoghurt shell. There’s a semblance to something akin a later harvest Rosé, something that could only happen in the Veneto. Drink 2017-2018.  Tasted October 2017  cantine.tinazzi  @CantineTinazzi  Cantine Tinazzi

Valetti Bardolino Chiaretto Classico DOC 2016, Veneto, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

Valetti’s Rosato is composed from 70 per cent corvina, 20 rondinella plus the outlier, 10 sangiovese. The faux sugary Rosé sniffed blind could very well be value Cape South African chenin albeit with a rhubarb savoury edge. Yet it has reached a phenolic ripeness which only the Bardolino area can achieve, unlike in Valpolicella where corvina can’t get there from here. It’s the Mediterranean climate and you feel it here. It gets neither more straightforward nor more small village, family tight commercial than this. Textbook Chiaretto. Drink 2017-2018.  Tasted October 2017  valetticantina  @CantinaValetti  Azienda vinicola Valetti Luigi srl

#vignetivillabella #villacordevigo #discoverchiaretto #bardolino #corvina

Villabella Villa Cordevigo Bardolino Chiaretto Classico DOC Biologico 2016, Veneto, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

Organic Chiaretto from 75 per cent corvina and 25 rondinella, for what Franco Cristoforetti refers to as “the Rosé revolution that started in 2014.” A short maceration/time on skins does the right thing for hue and in extracting citrus and orange from the corvina skins. Here it’s very much more like a white wine produced from red grapes, the only imagination of colour being red fruits, and so the method and the style deliver as much palate replay as any Rosé on the planet. So very not vinous and so far from the oxidized style that was still so very prevalent in the recent past. The difficult 2014 vintage marked the turning point. Picking was accomplished between September 10 and 20. Drink 2017-2018.  Tasted October 2017  vignetivillabella  villacordevigo  @VillaCordevigo  @VignetiVillabella

Villabella Villa Cordevigo Bardolino Chiaretto Classico DOC Heaven Scent 2016, Veneto, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

Heaven Scent in the words of Franco Cristoforetti offers “the feeling like here was to be in heaven,” speaking of his vineyards and this “place in the sun at Cordevigo. The style is similar to the Bio VillaBella but it thinks more in terms of an international customer, with less acidity and further roundness on the palate. More lemon but a preserved, compressed one and less orange. Still produced from the dominant corvina and the picking times are the same, albeit now in a less structured, milder acidity result. Drink 2017-2018.  Tasted October 2017

Villa Calicantus Bardolino Chiaretto Classico DOC 2015, Veneto, Italy (Agent, $31.95, WineAlign)

Villa Calicantus is the organic, biodynamic, terroir defending, smallest of Bardolino estates passion project of winemaker Daniele Delaini and his natural, vin de garde wines on the moranic hill above Bardolino and Lazise. Higher up than Cavaion, in Calmasino. Delaini also produces a bigger and deeper Rosato called Chiar’Otto but this Classico ’15, though very different than most still adheres to the paler, lighter and cleaner DOC example. Mostly. It’s certainly less of a geek out Rosé but again, like the Otto its methodology is essentially descried to that of a red wine. Young vines of corvina, rondinella, molinara and sangiovese of extremely low Chiaretto yields, native yeasts, five months of ageing in small still wood vats and zero clarification dole out a base, forward and natural blush. This just feels like trouble melting away and like a child comfortable in its alternative skin. A child encouraged and allowed mutual respect and friendship with its parents. For Daniele, sometimes you make the wine and sometimes the wine makes you. Drink 2017-2021.  Tasted October 2017  villacalicantus  thelivingvine    @TheLivingVine  @VillaCalicantus  The Living Vine inc.

Villa Calicantus Chiar’Otto Vino Rosato ADXVI 2016, Veneto, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

Chiar’Otto is Daniele Delaini’s Vino Rosato from a natural fermentation, the name meaning “Big Rosé” as opposed to the smaller, lighter and saline examples directed by the Bardolino Chiaretto DOC. The deferential and apposite qualities in Delaini’s are at the far end of the morainic Garda spectrum, far and away from any other winery in the entire region. It’s oxidative, the natural wine that isn’t, but it spills over in ubiquitary must while acting Garda-funk specific. This is a red wine spoken in a gamay cru way, almost Jura, like trousseau, but it really smells of oranges, red fruit and also the calcareous soil from which it comes. It’s certainly possessive and expressive of these affinities but also a matter of open barrel, overnight fermentation. Otto is the outlier and the pioneer for what the future holds in Rosato off of Bardolino lands. As a red wine of light composition and soil-loyal admonition it’s very good. As a Rosé it requires further understanding and evolution to elevate its game. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted October 2017  villacalicantus  thelivingvine    @TheLivingVine  @VillaCalicantus  The Living Vine inc.

Daniele Domenico Delaini #villacalicantus welcoming I Canadesi to #levignedeibardolino at #fortedegenfeld

Zeni Bardolino Chiaretto Classico DOC 2016, Veneto, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

Substantial vine vigour and generous yields of corvina 50 (per cent), rondinella (40) and molinara deliver substance in perfume. It begins with fennel and lemon thyme urged forward by a feeling of sulphur and Saccharomyces. Lean and tart on the palate, simple and easy in dimension. Drink 2017-2018.  Tasted October 2017  zeni1870  @Zeni1870  @zeni1870

Chiaretto Valtènesi

Valtènesi Chiaretto DOC

Cantina la Pergola Valtènesi Chiaretto Classico DOC Riviera Del Garda 2016, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

The blend is groppello (60 per cent), marzemino (20), barbera (10) and sangiovese (10) in a well extracted and bled, highly flavourful Rosato expressly Chiaretto and decidedly Valtènesi. Even the name suggests something haute in class and couture, for relaxation time, on a shore, in the sun. Ever-bearing strawberry and cherry meet a clay richness smack in the middle where salt and air collide. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted October 2017  @cantinelapergola

Costaripa Valtènesi Chiaretto DOC Rosamara 2016, Italy (SAQ 11415121 $20.90, WineAlign)

Costaripa’s Valtènesi Chiaretto is the perfect opener to gain a contrastive and apposite feeling from across the lake on this western side of Garda. It is here that Rosato takes on a decidedly Provençal feel. Nicole Vezzola explains. “I feel as much French as I do Lombardian.” Groppello is such a delicate grape and here the percentage is set around 60, with marzemino, plus 10-15 sangiovese and barbera. Costaripa is the only winery fermenting 30 per cent in old barrels before making the blend. “My father (Mattia Vezzola) believes that to make a good Rosé you have to make a blend, of varieties and parcels.” As a grape groppello carries more spice than let’s say, pinot noir, but this is a Rosé matter so the reference point need be cinsault, grenache and mourvèdre, but it’s just a matter of idea that starts and ends there. “The aim we have as Valtènesi is to shift the idea of colour to a structured wine.” It alights with lightness and freshness, then moves to salinity and finesse. Structure is more ideal than reality, or perhaps in Rosamara, just a different state of mind. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted three times, October 2017  costaripa  nicolevezzola  lenotecadimorenodemarchi  @costaripa  Costaripa

Godello with Nicole Vezzola

Costaripa Valtènesi Chiaretto DOC Molmenti 2013, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

The Molmenti Chiaretto spent two years in tonneaux and two years in bottle. This is something completely different for Rosé, treated with red wine poise and attention. Same blend as the Rosamara, with the intention to create more structure and ultimately, longevity. The saltiness persists and there is weight, even metallurgy but very little wood-addendum. The lightness of Rosé just doesn’t really attract too much barrel sheathing, perhaps in mild spice and texture, but not in bitters, tannin or any sort of salve. This too because even with two years of barrel time there is no achievement of malolactic, thanks to temperature control but also by virtue of being a low acidity, Mediterranean climate wine. Molmenti is likely a whereabouts that you have never been to before, in so many ways. There are a mere 4,000 bottles for a Rosato in command of 13 euros, cellar price. Drink 2017-2022.  Tasted October 2017  costaripa  nicolevezzola  lenotecadimorenodemarchi  @costaripa  Costaripa

La Guarda Chiaretto Valtènesi DOC 2016, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

Here Chiaretto exemplifies its position as a most characteristic and typical wine of the west coast of Lake Garda. A few hours of pressing leads to the desired pale, salmon and peach skin colour, replayed in stone fruit aromas mixed with citrus and dried clay. Stainless steel is used to lock in freshness and preserve aromatics. Guarda makes use of the characteristic processing method called “levata di cappello,” litterally to “take of the hat” with their classic blend of groppello, marzemino, barbera and sangiovese from the morainic hills of the Valtènesi. This is one of the more sapid tasting Chiaretto though with a mild mannered acidity. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted October 2017  @LaGuardadiNegri

Pasini San Giovanni Il Chiaretto Valtènesi DOC 2016, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

From Raffa di Puegnano (a fraction of the Brescia municipality on Lago di Garda), in contest for a perfect introduction and overview of the area of Valtènesi. Pasini’s is a blend of all four grapes, including sangiovese at less than 10 per cent (but for strength), whereas the groppello is 65 per cent, with the barbera (for acidity) and mazemino (sugar) delivering the overall balance. This organic Rosato is what Paolo Pasini refers to as the “overnight wine,” a child of only a slight vinfication and brief contact with the grape skins at the midnight hour of the first night. Carries the western Garda personality in pocket but with more sulphite-struck rock and iodine saltiness, even a note of hematic plasma. The palate delivers some sugar (4-5 g/L), just up from the bone dry style, not obtrusive but acting with the metallurgy on the nose to tun out more compression and down weighting. Price is 6.65 euro, ex-cellar. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted October 2017  pasinisangiovanni  @polpasen  @pasinisangiovanni

Pasini San Giovanni Chiaretto Valtènesi DOC Rosagreen 2016, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

Unlike the classico Chiaretto, the skin-contact is elevated from eight to 24 hours in the Rosagreen. It’s also a switch to varietal, single-vineyard (Soiano) groppello. The groppello can handle the triple contact time without darkening and compressing, remaining in its necessary state, vital and energetic. Not so much the sapid style but plenty of verve plus the elegance and easily achieved balanced by the singular and solo groppello. Conversely dried too, with less than 2 g/L of RS. Just a touch more expensive at 7.10, ex-cellar. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted October 2017  pasinisangiovanni  @polpasen  @pasinisangiovanni

Scolari Chiaretto Valtènesi DOC 2016, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

Scolari’s is the thoughtful, intuitive and even philosophical Chiaretto, a matter so gentle, pale and in their words, to “know how to grasp the fleeting moment.” The first and most pristine clusters of groppello, marzemino, barbera and sangiovese are chosen for the production of Chiaretto, into contact brief and subtle then moving to separate the must from the skins. What is fundamental is the sensitivity of the maker, who “must apply technology as art.” Scolari’s begins with salinity and a silky texture, passes by wild berries and then ends with a bitter almond note. It’s textbook and yes, everything is accomplished with a whisper, all things mild, even acidity and then the moment is gone. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted October 2017   #cantinescolari  Cantine Scolari

Lago di Garda, Torri del Benaco

Good to Go!

Godello

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The great Gabbiano

@castgabbiano in light of expression and meaning

A return visit at Castello di Gabbiano

Federico Cerelli is Chianti Classico’s new renaissance ranger, a man on a mission to not only seek out great terroirs but also to reinvent what can be induced, coaxed, persuaded and realized from his denizens of field and plantation. Though Castello di Gabbiano’s portfolio is a massive project with scopic reach, Cerelli never rests on complacency, laurels or sales figures. There is no settling for average at Gabbiano or the blasé delivery of unexciting wines just because you’ve already earned the trust of your buyers. If a Gabbiano owned or managed vineyard in Mercatale Val di Pesa requires the cash to improve the health of the vines or to rip out and replant, than it is done. Can there be a finer example of commercial scope meeting artigianale than the quixotic and obsessive Castello di Gabbiano?

About his masterpiece novel F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote “I want to write something new, something extraordinary and beautiful, simple and intricately patterned.” Like the vineyards of Gabbiano but also a project in Radda in Chianti that is Federico’s new baby, that being the remarkable IGT Toscana work at Poggio di Guardia with Stefano di Blasi. It is there on a storied plot and historical estate where they are producing sangiovese with cabernet, merlot and amphora raised rebo. Cerelli can thank the work he’s put in at Gabbiano and the team who support his endeavours for this springboard to something exciting and new.

Gabbiano’s hills in Mercatale Val di Pesa

Related – Three days, eight estates, Chianti Classico

A return visit to the 12th century Castello di Gabbiano touches an estate and a castle that remained in the possession of the Florentine banking family Bardi until the early part of the 15th century. After it passed to the Soderini family, one of the most politically influential families in Florence, it was converted of the turreted manor house of Gabbiano in Fattoria, already completed by the late 15th century.

Today the 147 hectare estate is divided up into DOCG Chianti Classico (109 hectares), IGT (35) and Vin Santo. I have had the pleasure to taste with winemaker Federico Cerelli, Managing Director Ivano Reali and Marketing Director Silvia Bottelli on several occasions and this most recent sit-down focused on vertical looks at Riserva and Gran Selezione. Ivano is responsible for directing the complete renewal of all estate vineyards including new plantings and managed improvements to the estate’s winemaking facilities and practices. At the start of our visit Federico drove us to the ridge opposite and to the east of the castle and winery to gain a clearer ante-understanding of Gabbiano’s soil types, slopes, aspects and exposures. Looking at the blocks you can intuit how the two men work side by side with meticulous attention, verging on obsessive, to focus on agriculture and how it connects to winemaking. Federico and Ivano are in constant analytic contact with the vineyards and corresponding production methods. There is no rest for these two. Later on our discussion on Gabbiano and Chianti Classico carried over to dinner at the estate’s restaurant, Il Cavaliere. These are my notes on the seven wines poured.

Triumvirate #chianticlassico Riserva and Gran Selezione verticals at @castgabbiano with Federico Cerelli 2011-2013

Castello Di Gabbiano Chianti Classico Riserva 2015, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (216309, $22.95, WineAlign)

The consistency of the Gabbiano Chianti Classico Riserva continues in 2015 and it is becoming increasingly impossible to find matchable quality at this price level. The 2015 is a Riserva of extreme youth, really grippy, full, extracted and liquid chalky rich. Don’t misunderstand or be duped because this ’15 isn’t brighter than the more than surprising ’14. It is not a question of stepping back from success and time will be a factor for both longevity and the preservation of freshness. So it is a matter of vintage. This carries an early and spicy sangiovese wisdom and this will serve it well. It’s frankly a bit hot right now but that too will relax. With each passing year another rung is ascended up the CCR ladder forged by the Federico Cerelli and Ivano Reali Gabbiano union. Drink 2019-2028.  Tasted September 2017  castellodigabbiano  markanthonyon  @castgabbiano  @MarkAnthonyWine  @castellogabbiano  Ivano Reali (Castello Di Gabbiano)  Mark Anthony Wine & Spirits

Castello Di Gabbiano Chianti Classico Riserva 2014, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (216309, $22.95, WineAlign)

Now tasting with winemaker Federico Cerelli he says he wasn’t even sure he would make Riserva out of 2014 but with more skin contact and longer maceration he was able to add some structure. The depth is the thing. This will age much longer than most would choose to give it credit for.  Last tasted September 2017

The difficulties presented by the vintage were determinate in excluding the Gran Selezione Bellezza from production so it is that bottle’s loss that became the Riserva’s gain. The single vineyard’s 2014 yield may not have been stellar but its significance is not lost on the overall Riserva gathering, down 40 per cent in quantity. It is here that we see the expertise of a winemaker like Federico Cerelli, to work with new parameters literally thrown at him by chaos and uncertainty. Less than 18,000 bottles came out of 2014 and the wine saw its expected time in barriques and botti, none of which were new. This is CCR of sangiovese brightness meets firm ’14 grip. The varietal freshness is preserved in ways previous vintages were not. Once again this incumbent year is put on vivid display, befallen to knowing hands and forward thinking minds. The aging potential here is excellent. Drink 2018-2029. Tasted February 2017

Castello Di Gabbiano Chianti Classico Riserva 2013, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (216309, $22.95, WineAlign)

The advanced character is minor but poignant, as expected and predicted. A touch of balsamic, softness and richness.  Last tasted September 2017

First and foremost it is the wood, or the lack of wood that stands out in the CCR 2013. It may be observed as a different kind of wood, less polished and more natural but what really wins out is the fruit. The cherries are surfeited by impressed tannin and linger with good tonic for a good length of time. Great restraint shown by winemaker Federico Cerelli. Drink 2018-2024.  Tasted June 2016

Burrata e pomodoro at IL Cavaliere del Castello di Gabbiano

Castello Di Gabbiano Chianti Classico Gran Selezione Bellezza 2013, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (652438, $39.95, WineAlign)

Bright, structured, vibrant, just in a great state, with tons of fruit and yet it will continue to improve, over the next two or three years.  Last tasted September 2017

Tasted with winemaker Federico Cerelli alongside the new era ushering 2012, a wine with six months further resolve, which is really just a moment in life. Looking at this 2013 it clings to that ’12’s ideal, still firm and in need of down time, stirring still, wasting some time. Here a gear switch, alteration and adjustment. A reduction of new oak, an increase of the mineral cogitation specific to the Albarese soil, with tannins great like in 2012 but finer, more elegant. This is more classic in the sangiovese thought because what also is allowed is the level of dry extract, “over 30 for sure” notes Cerelli. This Bellezza is pure sangiovese, the best Bellezza in years, classic to remind of many years ago but a very modern wine. It is the Gabbiano predicament and the predilection to announce what Gran Selezione means so in a word, bravo. You could actually drink this now and then over 25 years. “What is Bellezza? This is the best block of the estate” is the answer as told by Federico. Great tannins, simply great tannins. Drink 2019-2032.  Tasted May 2016 and February 2017

Castello Di Gabbiano Chianti Classico Gran Selezione Bellezza 2012, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (652438, $39.95, WineAlign)

Quite antithetical to the bookends of 2011 and 2013 this feels a bit cooked and raisined at this stage though it’s certainly a different sort of vintage and forged from a deferential set of structure parameters. Enjoy earlier while the others work their slower evolutions.  Last tasted September 2017

Sangiovese all in, 100 per cent pure-blood and nothing but new barrels to round off every divergence, angle and edge. Expectations demand secondary characteristics from such a bella Chianti and this piccolo Gran Selezione delivers. In 2012 it over-delivers, already hinting at tertiary aromas and flavours, leathery, cedary and potent. Due to its advancing ways it’s a bit of a double-edged sword, albeit carried by a knight on a beautiful horse. It’s a joust we should all be willing to wage in the near to medium term, especially if a Florentine steak or double cut-veal chop are part of the battle. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted February 2016

Castello Di Gabbiano Chianti Classico Gran Selezione Bellezza 2011, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (652438, $39.95, WineAlign)

Tasting Gabbiano’s Gran Selezione Bellezza 2011 in 2017 is a treat of timing and perhaps the advantage is unfair, also for having already tasted 2012 and 2013 on two occasions each. The slings, arrows and raptures of experience offer perspective for having waited out this Chianti Classico borne of a hottish and dry season. Now having gained another two years in bottle it has benefited from the integration and the settling. I really get true sangiovese character, savoury, tart, energetic but certainly sheathed in more new barrel than the more recent and scaled back vibrant 2013. Really chewy, this ’11 has come together in such an amenable and fortuitous way. Drink 2017-2024.  Tasted September 2017

Ristorante Il Cavaliere at Castello di Gabbiano

Gabbiano Dark Knight 2016, IGT Toscana (Agent, $17.99, WineAlign)

Dark Knight is cabernet sauvignon and merlot from the Tuscan coast with some estate sangiovese, It’s lush, dark, silky with a little bit of residual sugar (7 g/L). Fruity, simple, faintly sweet and for so many commercial purposes, it’s a slam dunk. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted September 2017

@castgabbiano in light of expression and meaning

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Godello

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If you’re going to San Casciano

Bistecca fiorentina, Villa Le Corti

Chianti Classico the region is both muse and magnet, its reservoir of territorial intrigue and sangiovese anthology infinite in possibility. By junket or by migration through its communes there is always a sense of awe and wonder, yet no matter how many times the roads, villages and vineyards are travelled there is always something new. This is the story of San Casciano in Val di Pesa.

Related – A river runs through Greve

San Casciano is one of nine sub-zones of Chianti Classico, also a hamlet, while the commune sits on the north-western border of the greater territory in Toscana. It shares only two sectional borders, with Tavarnelle Val di Pesa to the south and Greve in Chianti to the east and southeast. From the town’s centre to Piazza del Duomo in Firenze should take about half an hour, excluding summertime. The full name San Casciano in Val di Pesa tells us that it’s location is proximate to the valley of the Pesa river. My colleagues John Szabo M.S., Brad Royale, Steve Robinson and I paid a visit with an armful of San Casciano producers in September, 2017. Our host was the affable meets honourable Duccio Corsini of Principe Corsini – Villa Le Corti. The take away from this visit was a sense of San Casciano’s inner voice and exclusive temperament but also how it fits into the puzzle that is Chianti Classico.

Related – The ins and outs of Panzano in Chianti

The word congeries comes from the Latin verb congerere, which means “to carry or bring together,” though it could also move through the Italian, palificazione, or piling. I’m not sure any sub-zone typifies this concept more than San Casciano, in part because the multiplicity of its sangiovese rivals or even exceeds many to most anywhere in the greater district. When you pile one on top of another in a tasting you feel the weight and the density but also the permutation and variegation. These are a collection of sangiovese hard to pin down even if this particular sample size is perhaps too small and so a sooner over later return for more will be crucial.

The Gallo Nero of Luiano

Related – Into the Castelnuovo Berardenga great wide open

From San Casciano we expand outwards again to think on Chianti Classico the concept as based on the figuration that is the Gallo Nero, a symbol not only designed and enshrined to classify the wines raised from these multifarious soils but to ingrain something deeper, meaningful and soulful. The Gallo Nero stamps each bottle of sangiovese with a seal of amour-propre approval, for a conceit of quality, not out of outrecuidance but in recognition that the opinion of others does matter. San Casciano now sits in requiem of such avowal and validation.

Inside the Chianti Tower, San Casciano in Val di Pesa

Related – Because the night in Gaiole

Just as you’ve settled into the comfort zone of knowing your way around the landmarks of a place, the people take hold of your hand, put on a blindfold (not literally) and reveal a site that blows your mind. The Chianti Tower of San Casciano is an unusual spike of architecture, quirky and seemingly displaced, that is until you make the climb (by elevator) up to its observation deck. From up above there are vistas that take in the Florentine hills and Vallombrosa, the mountains of Pistoia, and Pisa. The panorama turns to the Chianti and Chianti Classico landscape, Siena’s hamlets and perhaps, on a really clear day, the Ligurian sea.

Related – Castellina in golden light

The 33 meters high cylindrical surge tank tower is part of the Museo di San Casciano in Val di Pesa, owned by the Comune and is characterized in form as suggestivo or evocativo. It’s post World War Two reconstruction continues its function as a storage water reservoir, but it is the panoramic terrace that steals the visitation show. Our group was joined by a gaggle of San Casciano winemakers to take in the immediate and extrapolated lands.

Related – Get Radda for Chianti Classico

Over these last few weeks I have published six articles on sub-zones and this seventh and final essay on San Casciano concludes the heavily scrutinizing reconnaissance mission. For now. By the time this week has come to its end I’ll be back in Chianti Classico for more, this time with the knowledge that everything I have thus far learned will be turned on its head, refreshed and begun anew. The goal is always deeper understanding but who am I to speak in absolutes. The journey has just begun. If you’re going to San Casciano you’re gonna meet some gentle people there. Here are my tasting notes on six examples from six wamhearted producers.

Niccolò Montecchi, Cigliano

Cigliano Chianti Classico 2014, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (Agent, 189803, $19.95, WineAlign)

Deep, dark and sombre inhalant of grand vineyard fruit in the premium selezione vein, this is indeed a sobering San Casciano in Val di Pesa Chianti Classico with wild berries, herbs and drops of fine liqueur, almost like Vin Santo but without sugar. Cigliano takes a certain road for 2014 and gets away with murder. This could have turned out hot and bothered but the balance is struck by chords of great acidity and tension. This pulls no sangiovese or vintage punches and is clearly the work of a rogue winemaker. Drink 2018-2023.  Tasted February and September 2017  Villa del Cigliano    @VilladelCigliano

Stefano Pirondi, La Sala

La Sala Chianti Classico 2014, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

La Sala from Stefano Pirondi carries 10 per cent merlot in address of the sangiovese with some green tannin integrated into the black cherry. From sites up at 300m, a mix of Alberese and deep clay but almost all red clay in 2014. Not a very ripe CC, only five hectares (20,000 bottles) were vinified. Half and half stainless and large French wood, very spicy and quite red citrus, but on the dark side. I would give it a year to soften. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted September 2017  cantinalasala  @LaSalaVini  La Sala

La Querce Seconda Chianti Classico 2014, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

From vineyards quite close to Florence (8 kms) this 100 per cent sangiovese has been organic since 2001. It now seems ripe for 2014, into the depth of steeping cherries, a touch hollow up the middle, but deep, rich and actually quite easy to drink. Last tasted September 2017.

From the most northern Chianti Classico vineyard located in the area of San Casciano in Val di Pesa, La Querce Seconda by Niccoló Bernabei is high-spirited, of tart to volatile brightest of bright red fruit with toasted fennel to nose. Quite a tart palate as well with furthered spirit and quite sweet tannin. This is old school but alive and vital. Will live this kind of life for a spell. Drink 2018-2022. Tasted February 2017    @LaQuerceSeconda  laquerceseconda

My triple-threat of @luiano terroir is right over there, in #sancasciano #alessandropalombo

Related – Three days, eight estates, Chianti Classico

Luiano Chianti Classico Riserva 2014, DOCG, Italy (Agent, $39.95, WineAlign)

Luiano’s Chianti Classico Riserva 2014 by Alessandro Palombo, is 95 per cent sangiovese with a touch of body-adding merlot. “For us Riserva has always been a cellar selection and a representation of Luiano’s three distinct sub-soils,” tells Palombo. This is a 2014 postcard in a nutshell, cool and deep, with some bretty and volatile nature though just a wonderful whisper. Done in bigger oak casks and recently bottled (well March of 2017), some cakiness is baked into the structure though filled in with binding mortar. It’s silky, supple and certainly a wine that will age into umami secondary character. Drink 2018-2024.  Tasted September 2017  luianowine  ale_luiano  tre.amici.imports  @LuiLuiano  Luiano®   Alessandro Palombo  @treamiciimports

Azienda Agricola Mori Concetta Chianti Classico Morino 2014, DOCG, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

It’s a wise old story but the San Casciano 2014 from Massimo Becattelli is a beacon to reel us in towards a new Chianti Classico understanding. Named after his mother Mori this vino is very much alive, anything but memento mori, more like a reflection on immortality. The very small production is the work of a one man band with modest hands, only one hectare, planted by Massimo’s father 40 years ago. It has now been replanted with the clones of the old vineyard in June of 2015. This Annata is 80 per cent sangiovese, 12 canaiolo and eight colorino. There is soul, volatility, depth, intensity and finesse in what is a rustic but cultured ’14 with fruit and more fruit, but graced by this underlying Galestro feel. Only 287 bottles were made of Massimo’s “lavoro di passione.” Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted September 2017  @az.agr.moriconcetta

Linguine con coniglio, Villa Le Corti

Villa Le Corti Principe Corsini Chianti Classico Gran Selezione Don Tommaso 2013, DOCG, Italy (Agent, $62.50, WineAlign)

Don Tommaso 2013 is named after Duccio Corsini’s father, was first made in 1994 and here contains 80 per cent sangiovese with 20 per cent merlot. The latter is meant for smoothing the angles, something that is also accomplished by aging in tonneaux and second passage barriques. Villa Le Corti – Principe Corsini’s Gran Selezione is a very silky smooth, deep black raspberry fruit forward wine with high acidity and green savour running through. Not from a cru originally, just the right grapes but over time narrowed down to three vineyards. Chocolate oozes all over the finish. “I do what I do with what I have, adding people,” says Duccio. Sounds like the Chianti Classico equivalent of climat. Drink 2018-2023.  Tasted September 2017  villalecorti  artisanal_wine_imports  @PrincipeCorsini  Principe Corsini  @artisanalwineimports

Bistecca fiorentina, Villa Le Corti

Good to Go!

Godello

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WineAlign

A river runs through Greve

Ruffoli, Greve in Chianti

Chianti Classico is not one of the more famous left versus right bank terroirs in Europe but in the case of Greve in Chianti a river does run through it. My recent September 2017 sangiovese exploration brought me to Greve and a retrospective concern shows how visits to Querciabella, Villa Calcinaia and a subset of Montefioralle wines now explain a contrast in landscape meets topography, position and soil that at the time was not fixed on my menzioni geografiche radar. What happens left or west of the river is one thing and to the right something other. Were that it were so simple I wouldn’t have to expand, but it’s not and I do.

Related – The ins and outs of Panzano in Chianti

The Greve river (fiume Greve) is a 43 kilometre slide of twists, turns, switchbacks, rises, falls and settles into floodplains. It’s origins are upon Monte Querciabella in Radda, north of Volpaia, southwest of Badaccia a Monetmuro and southeast of Lamole. Heading swiftly northwest it then crests as a flat flood plain between Panzano and Greve, known as the Piano di Montagliari. Continuing north it slices the village of Greve in Chianti and along Strada 222 past Villa Calcinaia, Verrazzano and Vicchiomaggio. It eventually spills into the Arno River at Firenze.

Related – Into the Castelnuovo Berardenga great wide open

Querciabella’s position in Ruffoli east of the Greve hamlet and the river is one of the more distinct and perhaps least understood of Greve’s areas. Ruffoli is another communal sub-zone that requires the introspective investigation for its singularities and peculiarities. It is the Chianti Classico poster child for seeing the vineyards through the trees. Along with neighbours Poggio Scalette and Il Tagliato there forms a special bond for the combination of altitude, great stands of forests and the multifarious soils that have been unearthed from beneath those heavy woods. In fact Ruffoli may be the most Burgundian meets Alsatian terroir in all of Tuscany. It’s a very cool place.

Related – Because the night in Gaiole

Not all clones are created equal #sangiovese #ruffoli #chianticlassico #greveinchianti #querciabella

Related – Castellina in golden light

Comparatively speaking Villa Calcinaia and the hills west of Greve are more of a landscape of tumbling rocks and stones down hills into gravel and silt where the river lies below. Stand on the upper terrace of Calcinaia’s property, look up into the hills and then back across the Chiantigiana and the study in contrasts is a fascinating one. Calcinaia’s soils down by the river are clay-loam and as you climb the hill the sand and calcaire with Galestro predominating lends the name “chalk quarry” to the estate.

Related – Get Radda for Chianti Classico

South from Calcinaia and Viticcio we come upon the next great Greve sub-zone known as Montefioralle. Simply assessed Montefioralle is close to Castello di Montefioralle, southwest of Greve and south of Greti. The hamlet has 79 residents and sits at an elevation of 352 meters. The zonazione is home to the Associazione Viticoltori Montefioralle of 14 producers; Altiero, Belvedere, Brogioni Maurizio, Villa Calcinaia, Podere Campriano, Podere San Cresci, Roberto Grassi, Le Palei, Luciano Meli, Poggio Riccioli, Schietto, Terre di Baccio, Castello Di Verrazzano and Vitticio. The growers refer to their collective soil soul as “on the left side of the river, the peculiarity of the soil and the microclimate give to the Sangiovese grapes a unique and strong identity.” The terroir in Montefioralle is indeed mostly calcareous clay, with sand and in some cases, outcrops of “compresso indifferenziato argille scagliose,” part schisty calcaire with less instances of Galestro or Alberese and more Macigno. Once again yet another micro-territory in Chianti Classico to be considered for menzione geographiche aggiuntive.

This sixth of seven exposés on i cru di enogea, the greater and smaller territories within Chianti Classico covers the visit to Querciabella and the Montefioralle tasting with Sebastiano Capponi at Villa Calcinaia. I’ve reviewed 18 wines in total.

Querciabella

Querciabella is the continuing vision of the late patriarch Giuseppe Castiglioni, a man of Milanese origins who purchased and launched the estate in 1974 in the post sharecropping, mezzadrina era. Since 1988 with his precocious and ahead of the global game decision to convert the farm to organic practices, it is the emotional and soulful braintrust of Sebastiano Cossia Castiglioni that leads Querciabella forward. The estate is also biodynamic (2000) although minus the hocus-pocus, voodoo chile, astrological, new age nonsense. There are no animal-based preparations employed, no stuffing cow horns with manure, only plants, all in the name of applications rooted in ethical principles. The forests are maintained and cover crops are composed of grasses, herbs, cruciferous vegetables and legumes. 

Our visit to Querciabella coincided with harvest so we were able to watch first hand the sangiovese grapes coming in and going through the presses. Grapes destined for Chianti Classico and IGT Toscana. In 2000 Querciabella’s Camartina was proclaimed as the greatest Italian wine of the year by virtue of combining scores rated by the Italian wine guides. At the time it was a sangiovese dominant blend and in this tasting we were able to taste a vertical that showed how it has transformed into the cabernet-led blend it is today. The cru of Ruffoli was investigated through pours of Chianti Classico and Palfreno, a merlot only made in selected vintages. We also got a glimpse into the history and evolution of Bátar, a white wine of not so subtle reference to Bâtard-Montrachet. Our tasting was one of patent application for full Querciabella disclosure, led by winemaker Manfred Ing and CEO Roberto Lasorte.

Revisiting the exceptional @querciabella @chianticlassico at the source

Querciabella Mongrana 2013, IGT Toscana, Italy (Agent, $28.95, SAQ 11192183, $25.25, WineAlign)

The first vintage of Mongrana was 2005 and the blend is now 50 per cent sangiovese plus 25 each cabernet franc and merlot. The fruit comes coastal from the Maremma, easy-going dusty and orchard red. Very red fruit, so crushable with ripe acidity and a grippy finish. Spicy and round, but pointed, in a right and delectable direction. Bloody delicious, this medieval blend of poetry, of knights and horses. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted September 2017  querciabella  grape_brands  @Querciabella   @querciabella

Querciabella Chianti Classico 2014, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (728816, $30.25, WineAlign)

This vintage is the third as a 100 per cent sangiovese and Manfred Ing points out how there is a lot less Radda fruit in the mix due to pest problems and so much of that fruit was dropped. Whatever (lack of) balance may have been in question last February is no longer debatable. This is a most exceptional 2014.  Last tasted September 2017

I am at first quite surprised by the aromatic candy and volatility on this Greve in Chianti Querciabella when considered after the extraordinarily balanced 2013 recently tasted. But this ’14 is still silly young and the sweet opening is just a portal in which to crawl through. Once inside there is this specific liquor, a pool filled with more wealth of sangiovese fruit than the basin can currently hold. So it’s spilling over the edges in its youth and it’s simply too much for the glass to hold. I think the house took this a bit too far in reaction to ’14’s weather and a bit of balance has been compromised. I’m not sure this will ever find the elegance that ’13 showed but it does match the ripeness and the necessary triumvirate opposition forces of grip, acid and tannin. Huge wine. Maybe it just needs five years to settle into its skin because of course the fruit is red bright, not dark, hematic and brooding. Drink 2019-2026.  Tasted February 2017

Querciabella Chianti Classico Riserva 2013, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

This Riserva picks up right where the ’13 normale left you hanging and wishing for more. As is so often the case when it can be excellent CC but disappointing, or at least, not quite meeting high expectations from CCR. This Querciabella carries the same pure fruit but with another layer of concentration and purity. Where it really excels is in a combinative and almost but not quite too serious combative struggle between texture and structure. The acidity is red tapioca pearly fine and the tannins ridiculously fine. So appreciative of this Burgundian-style, Beaune winemaking for sangiovese. Certainly Premier Cru in quality though in the end, if only by a splitting hair, I will always choose the CC. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted February and September 2017

Querciabella Turpino 2011, IGT Toscana, Italy (Agent, $54.95, WineAlign)

Turpino Toscana IGT is a blend of cabernet franc (40 per cent), syrah (40) and merlot (20), with this being the second commercial vintage. For winemaker Manfred Ing it’s about “having the ability to do small, micro-vinifications,” to produce a Super Tuscan wine from the Maremma coast, but here also including some cabernet franc and merlot from Greve. It’s hematic with still a minor reductive note that persists and though its draws from grapes and sites around the region the Querciabella liqueur distinguishes and pervades. The name’s origin might come from one of a few sources. Turpino, an eighth century monk and archbishop of Reims, Turpinus or Tylpinus. Turpino from the poem written by Ludovico Ariosto, the “Orlando Furioso.” Or perhaps fictional from the medieval verse Cronaca di Turpino o Historia Karoli Magni et Rotholandi. The wine is grandioso in its own right, really wound tight, still of the Querciabella red fruit but quite forward and stand alone despite the oak and the age. The freshness is actually quite remarkable as it seems both agronomist and winemaker really understand their fruit. There is even a marine saltiness running through. Drink 2017-2022.  Tasted September 2017

Camartina

Querciabella Camartina 2011, IGT Toscana, Italy (Agent, $100.00, WineAlign)

Camartina is Querciabella’s red of greatest reason, lineage and purpose, from Giuseppe Castiglioni through Sebastiano Cossia Castiglioni and Manfred Ing. The first vintage was 1981 of this 70 per cent cabernet sauvignon and 30 sangiovese from organic (1988) and biodynamic (2000), frightfully low-yield vineyards and it is not produced when the year is not right. The varietal obviousness from the cabernet is so transparent, especially for Toscana, dusty, Cassis-led, full of black raspberry fruit and ripe verbena. The sangiovese brings the acidity and a secondary layering of tannin but there is nothing fat or brooding about the cabernet. Freshness again and elasticity that starts wise and comes back in. Very focused and length that delivers more and more waves of that fruit. Tannins are pure and their fineness only stretches and further lengthens the accord. There can be no consideration of understanding until at least four years after vintage with seven being the correct launching point. Alas. Drink 2018-2028.  Tasted September 2017

Querciabella Camartina 2005, IGT Toscana, Italy (AgentWineAlign)

Camartina in 2005 is 70 per cent cabernet and 30 sangiovese, two years forward after 2003, the point where the cabernet replaced the sangiovese as the varietal so here we are early in that ideal. An ideal that has persisted to 2011 and beyond. Warmth of vintage shows with 12-year mark secondary character but of a vintage that wasn’t (at the time) considered great (being between 2004 and 2006). Here it’s really claret-Bordeaux like, with Cassis, graphite and this open phase of life. Really quite expressive and yet the wood is more a part of the mix, albeit with a savoury edge. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted September 2017

Querciabella Camartina 1999, IGT Toscana, Italy (AgentWineAlign)

Camartina back in 1999 was a very different wine, of 85-90 per cent sangiovese and 10-15 per cent cabernet sauvignon, all from Greve, specifically the cru of Ruffoli. Would have qualified as a Chianti Classico Riserva back then (and potentially Gran Selezione now, though not for long), both because of varietal percentage and location. So the reference point is taken, this from the last Camartina that winemaker/enologist Giacomo Tachis followed through to the end. The structure has made this one built to last with the umami factor running plateau high and the acidity persistent and lifted, but sweet and layered. The spice, savour and this mint-rosemary-lavender-sage mix is really quite striking. Drink 2017-2025.  Tasted September 2017

Querciabella Palfreno 2012, IGT Toscana, Italy (AgentWineAlign)

Palafreno is organic and biodynamic Greve farmed 100 per cent merlot from Ruffoli made in small quantities and only in the finest vintages, with 2000 being the first. Picking merlot is the most precarious preoccupation in Toscana, as explained by Manfred Ing, “it’s nearly ready, it’s ready and it’s gone.” The three-day window of merlot. Palafreno is an ancient Italian word designating a noble riding horse used by medieval knights for travel, parades or tournaments. Palafreno the merlot is an open book, quite ripe, not from a cold vintage to be sure but one of a a slow ripening gait, with some rain and then long, extended trotting through heat. Very spicy, really chalky, tart, tight and highly tannic. In other words, merlot of structure, musculature and regal status. Drink 2019-2027.  Tasted September 2017

Batter

Querciabella Bátar 2014, IGT Toscana, Italy (SAQ 12294771, $97.00, WineAlign)

Batar from the Latin battere, variant of battuere, to beat, strike repeatedly hit. Bátar, a not so subtle reference to Montrachet and at Querciabella the name used to have a D on the end, but a letter from the French changed that, to Batàr with the accent but the Milanese translation remains essentially the same. Between 1988 and 1991 the wine was called Bâtard-Pinot, which was a blend of Pinot Blanc and Pinot Gris. Between 1992 and 1994 the name was Bâtard because Chardonnay had been added to the blend. In 1995 the name was changed to Batàr in order to avoid confusion with French AOCs of Burgundy whose name contains the word ‘Bâtard’ (Bienvenues-Bâtard-Montrachet, Criots-Bâtard-Montrachet and Bâtard-Montrachet). Batàr is the Querciabella outlier, a long thought on project to combine pinot bianco and chardonnay and elevate its white appellative status though barrel aging and full malolactic. It may just be the most singular white wine in all of Chianti Classico, perhaps in all of Toscana. It’s like Beaune-Bourgogne and Norman Hardie rolled into one Tuscan white blend package, with a fine oxidative line running through a fresh, tannic and pure wine, with thanks to the generous use of French barrels. The length is exceptional but to be honest, not unexpected. Another galestro-elastic-saline wine, in its own special way. Drink 2019-2029.  Tasted September 2017

Querciabella Bátar 1998, IGT Toscana, Italy (WineAlign)

Batàr has been the name since 1995 after the Bourgignons forced Querciabella to drop the “D” at the end. This ’98 is certainly oxidative (and unavoidably so because of style and time) but the acidity really persists. A comparison with 2014 is quite futile as this is just from another era. Texture and flesh is strong, floral, honeyed, tannic again and even carrying some notes of pineapple, beeswax and almandine. Would make for a wonderful blind pour at a pirates on a picnic dinner. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted September 2017

Appassitoio (drying room) at Villa Calcinaia

Villa Calcinaia

For a full report on Villa Calcinaia please click on this link.

Related – Six hundred years of Villa Calcinaia in Chianti Classico

After a September evening visit to Calcinaia we convened at Ristorante Pane E Olio in Firenze for a final meal with the Consorzio Vino Chianti Classico’s Silvia Fiorentini, Christine Lechner and Calcinaia’s Count, Sebastiano Capponi. It was here that he opened the only varietal bottle of its kind.

Villa Calcinaia Occhiorosso 2015, IGT Vino Dei Colli Della Toscana Centrale, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

Occhiorosso is Endemic to Lamole, cultivated at Calcinaia and raised by Sebastiano Capponi. Only the lonely occhiorosso are the red eyes of Greve in Chianti, the war on drugs varietal feeling, in cohorts to cousin sangiovese. “Come and see, where or when there’s everything. On my ways, be better, get to my soul.” Drink 2017 -2019.  Tasted September 2017

I was under the impression this was called “Ocolos” which could very well be a shortened version of concupiscentia oculorum, “the lust of the eyes,” or in this case sarcopodium odoratum, with a sangiovese-copycat more volatile (but not screaming sour in any acetic way), just earthy, not microbilia, but soil funky. This is in fact Occhiorosso, drawn from a specific seven rows of vines, adding up to one barrique and it will go to bottle in July. Earthy, from Galestro soil located on the upper seventh and eight terrace of sangiovese, so different from the single-vineyard cousin, Gran Selezione Bastignano. The perfume is redolent of sweet scented bedstraw and exotics, like orchids just beginning to decay in water, still in control of its enticements. This is the natural sangiovese, very specific to place. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted from barrel, February 2017

Greve in Chianti – Montefioralle

The Montefioralle Divino wine festival organized and promoted by the Grape Growers Association of Montefioralle took place on September 23 and 24, just four days before we met at Villa Calcinaia to taste through the wine growers’ wines. The harvest festival is a two day event with tasting stalls and direct sale. The members are producers with estates and/or vineyards holdings around the Montefioralle hill west of Greve.  @ViMontefioralle  @viticoltorimontefioralle

A #greveinchianti #montefioralle @chianticlassico run through @villacalcinaia in Sebastiano’s caves

Altiero Chianti Classico 2014, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

Altiero Chianti Classico 2014 by Paolo Baldini is 100 per cent Montefioralle sangiovese with a distinct reduced balsamico, soy and tar complexity. Oak stands out in a deep, dark and handsome way. It’s kind of sweet in a chcolate ooze of dessert topping sort of way. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted September 2017  aziendaagricolaaltiero    Azienda Agricola Altiero

Brogioni Maurizio Chianti Classico 2014, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

Brogioni Maurizio is plain good funky Greve in Chianti Chianti Classico of its own sweet funk with a bounce in its step, a funk that does not so much blow away as carry on with the musicality of the fruit. The palate piles on with great harmonic volatility. The beat is part disco and part Funkadelic R & B all wrapped and warped into one crazy fun wine. Drink 2018-2020.  Tasted February and September 2017  #brogionimaurizio  Maurizio Brogioni

Villa Calcinaia Chianti Classico 2014, Docg Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $25.95, WineAlign)

From a challenging and low-yielding vintage that took away more than it gave. The varied renditions of Chianti Classico are all over the map so it’s a revelation to come across Sebastiano Capponi’s calm and beautiful ’14 life. His is a sangiovese that was allowed to just be itself, aromatic to savoury, immune from the pressures placed upon by vintage and expectation. Calcinaia’s is a Greve in Chianti of roses, violets, more amenability than most ‘14s and without any real bother from the barrel. Quite pure with very mature sangiovese flavours, circulating and by extension from natural acidity. The length is exceptional for annata. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted February and September 2017  @villacalcinaia  @Nicholaspearce_  villacalcinaia  nicholaspearcewines  @calcinaia  Nicholas Pearce

Podere Campriano Chianti Classico 2014, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (Win eAlign)

Podere Campriano Chianti Classico 2014 is Elena Lapini’s organic 100 per cent sangiovese. The label notes Greve in Chianti straight under the winery name and the sense of appellative pride is duly noted. Lapini’s ’14 is so proficiently correct, righteously tart, deeply rendered and soulful. The low-yielding, young adult (15 year-old high density vines) fruit was picked on fine acidity and carries this plummy note to counteract the launching tang and direct energy. Really stays focused and keeps it clarity through a long finish. Great example from Montefioralle. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted September 2017  poderecampriano  @ElenaCampriano  Elena Podere Campriano Lapini

Podere San Cresci Chianti Classico 2013, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

Santa Cresci Chianti Classico 2013 from David Ballini carries both five per cent of cabernet franc and merlot alongside the sangiovese in the only sample of ten from Montefioralle that comes from the little peninsula outcrop with a slightly different soil composition, “compresso indifferenziato argille scagliose,” part schisty calcaire with less Alberese and more into the Macigno than the others. The unfair playing field puts this in ’13 territory, with its silky and filled in mid-palate and plenty of vintage energy. The cab franc and merlot do indeed impart a right bank Bordeaux moment, however fleeting, and the roasted meat meets dark ropey fruit is quite the excitement creator if ever there was in sangiovese. This the outlier is quite vital even if some raisin notes pop in and out of the fruit. Drink 2017-2021.  Tasted September 2017  ballanza12_  David Arnold Ballini

Terre di Baccio Chianti Classico 2014, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

Terre di Baccio Chianti Classico 2014 from Montefioralle boldly expresses the rich brooding of sangiovese and an acquiesced savoury streak with 10 per cent cabernet franc in the mix. This final sample of 10 confirms the consistency of terroir, style and execution, readily apparent across the Montefioralle grouping. They are deep, hematic, dark and intense sangiovese. This is no exception. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted September 2017  #terredibaccio  @TerrediBaccio  Agriturismo Terre di Baccio

Castello Di Verrazzano Chianti Classico 2014, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $30.25, WineAlign)

Castello di Verrazzano Chianti Classico from Luigi Cappellini is 95 per cent sangiovese with five per cent “other varieties.” A really ripe and filled to the brim CC for ’14, fully pressed and expressed. Oak laden in as much as Greve in Chianti can be, like a milkshake with bitter almond elements. From the north part of Montefioralle on Alberese and some Galestro with sandy soils. A solid early drinking and lush Chianti Classico. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted September 2017  verrazzanopeople   @StaffVerrazzano  @Smallwinemakers  Castello di Verrazzano  The Small Winemakers Collection

Viticcio Chianti Classico 2014, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (283580, $19.25, WineAlign)

Viticcio’s also hails from the north part of Montefioralle (on the western side of Greve in Chianti) and its typical Alberese, Galestro and sandy soils. A good punch of dark red and black raspberry fruit is mostly sangiovese (with two per cent merlot), spicy and bitterish with wood notes and plenty of savour. This ’14 from the vintage of great demand and attention to detail is tart and chalky, needing some time. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted September 2017   viticciowinery  majesticwinesinc  @viticciowinery  @MajesticWineInc  Viticcio Winery  Majestic Wine Cellars

Good to go!

Godello

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

WineAlign

The ins and outs of Panzano in Chianti

Looking for two horsemen in #chianticlassico

Characterizing Chianti Classico as a most heterogeneous wine region is substantiated by the multiplicity of its sangiovese and the endless permutations of soil. The territory is commonly divided by commune but its tiers of structure do not end there. There lies within more specific sub-zones, zonazione, places of interest where microclimates and shared geologies bring land and producers together. Five of the nine Chianti Classico communes have their own Associazione Viticoltori or Vignaioli; Castellina in Chianti, Castelnuovo Berardenga, Gaiole in Chianti, Radda in Chianti and San Casciano Val di Pesa. Greve is the notable exception because the precincts of Lamole, Montefioralle and Panzano in Chianti have each formed their own associations. Panzano in Chianti exists inside the greater neighbourhood that is Greve in Chianti and while it is not the only sub-zone of its kind, at this triennial level of the pyramid it is arguably the most unified and defined frazioni of all. For good reason.

Related – Into the Castelnuovo Berardenga great wide open

Panzano is the first consolidated district for organic wine production in Italy and in which 90 per cent of its vineyards are grown according to the criteria of organic viticulture. There are other tertiary Chianti Classico zones associated with the hamlet they surround, like the aforementioned Lamole and Montefioralle in Greve, Vagliagli in Castelnouvo Berardenga and Monti in Gaiole. These towns, the vineyards and associated producers are tied by a parochial set of idiosyncrasies but they’ve yet to coagulate into an equally unified level of coercion that is found in Panzano. That being said, in Panzano there are both practical and political decisions that charge some producers to remain on the fence or even outside the tight circle of the area’s union. These kinds of decisions work two ways, whether you are in or out, dentro o fuori dal territorioThe question is whether or not diplomacy would lead to greater success for all involved. Does the group need the high-profile individual or the individual the high-profile group?

Related – Because the night in Gaiole

Either way you look at it, there is no denying that a band of brothers and sisters sharing information and mapping out their territory together is beneficial, especially towards defining the finest vineyards. The dividing lines in Chianti Classico are very difficult to establish because one always has to be wary of possible arguments over where a certain cru vineyard ends and another, lesser plot begins. If you ask the 19 members, Panzano is less prone to such argumentation. Besides, producers will speak their minds, but they may not always be able or willing to tell us exactly what we need to know. It’s ultimately a question of menzioni geografiche, or geographical notations, especially on wine labels, to tie the wines to place of origin. For Panzano the idea seems quite obvious with a playing field more equal than most but it’s not necessarily so simple for other frazioni in the region. Chianti Classico is fragmented and diverse with municipalities that may not always be homogeneously or consistently representative in terms of terroir or production style.

Because he’s Dario F-in Faccin, that’s why g-dammit! #carobbio #sangiovese #chianticlassico #panzano #galestro

Related – Castellina in golden light

The original Panzano Winemakers Association was founded in 1995 to celebrate common ground and for like-minded producers to articulate the necessity and pursuit of shared interests. With the famous Conca d’Oro at its epicentre, Panzano encompasses a set of hills aboard and encircling a plateau rich in Galestro and a rather significant altitude where vineyards are planted to between 350 and 500 meters above sea level. Today there are 19 member producers of the Unione Viticoltori Panzano; Candialle, Casaloste, Castello dei Rampolla, Cennatoio, Fattoria La Quercia, Fatttoria Rignana, Fontodi, Il Molino di Grace, Il Palagio, L’Orcio a Ca’ di Pesa, La Massa, Le Cinciole, Le Fonti, Monte Bernardi, Panzanello, Renzo Marinai, Tenuta degli Dei, Vecchie terre di Montefili, Vignole and Villa Cafaggio. There are 91 producers in Greve, 31 of those are in Panzano. The 12 non-members are Carobbio, Vallone di Cecione, San Cresci, Sassolini, Reggine, La Marcellina, Le Bocce, Il Vescovino, Festeggiata, Fattoria Casenuove, Fattoria Montagliari and Campocorto.

Related – Get Radda for Chianti Classico

“To ensure for themselves a healthy environment the wine makers decided to take the path of sustainable and organic viticulture, which allowed to enhance aromas, flavors, character and personality of the wines, produced exclusively from grapes of their vineyards” are the words of Ruggero Mazzilli, an agronomist with experience in viticulture biodiversity, who since 2000 has been working with the Panzano Association.  In a Chianti Classico world where drawing lines along commune or sub-zone borders fails to recognize the multi-faceted and variegated intendments of geology, it is Panzano that suggests  borders can be drawn by “fellow producers to organise their individual communes and sub-commune designations under their own respective unions, as Panzano in Chianti has already done.” The argument can be made not just one way or the other, but in so many ways. I am no genius nor close to the first to perpetuate the idea that drawing borders along any definable lines in Chianti Classico is a very complicated subject. This is why we continue to seek the truth in the villages.

Complimenti @johnszabo for riding 87 kms #granfondo @chianticlassico #gallonero looking fresh and refreshed post lunch at #osterialapanzanelle

John Szabo M.S., Brad Royale and I had arrived from Budapest after three volcanic days (in many and every respects) in Hungary. We arrived in Castellina to the sounds and sights of race cars before settling in at Pierafitta. The following morning John competed in the Gran Fondo del Gallo Nero and with great Canadian representation completed the 87 kilometre Media Fondo in world-class time. Congratulazioni Gian Burrasca. Non siamo degni. Meanwhile Brad, Steve Robinson and Godello joined Il Molino di Grace’s Iacopo Morganti for a preview of the 2017 infant sangiovese straight from the tank, followed by a walk through Vigne Raphaella, Magdalena and Jae, culminating with a new look meets retrospective tasting in IMG’s brand new tasting room.

Gian Burrasca

A few days later we returned to Panzano for a morning spent with Giovanni Manetti at Fontodi. A full report on that visit is chronicled in a link below. Later that afternoon we concluded our week-long Chianti Classico visit with Dario Faccin at Carrobio. This is the fifth instalment (of seven) reports concerning communes and sub-zones in Chianti Classico. In total I’ve written 24 notes on wines poured by these three Panzano producers. Enjoy.

Newly planted Carrobio Sangiovese vineyard on a dramatic Galestro slope

Carobbio

Related – Caro Carobbio

If my first visit with Dario Faccin was a profound and moving experience than my second Panzano summons later last calendar year could only be thought of as an epiphanic. In round one and nearing the conclusion of an epic lunch prepared by Chef Claudia, it was then that Faccin poured three acroamatic sangiovese blasts from the past in the forms of Chianti Classico 1997, 1991 and Leone 1995. In my Carobbio report I wrote “a great honour to taste this 1995 and in memory of Carlo Novarese, Thank you Dario and Silvia. Would like the chance to do it again in 22 years.” Though I was making reference to the age of Leone (and also a nod back in time to my 1995 Chianti Classico honeymoon) I was also making comment on the ideas of fortuity and generosity. I could not have known that I would return to Toscana seven months later and this time to be present when Dario chose to open both a 1990 and a 1982 Chianti Classico. Collectively these five 1980-90s sangiovese have shed so much light on evolution and on what Dario is setting out to accomplish at Carrobio. As you may have noticed, Carobbio is not part of the UVP.

A walk in the newly planted sangiovese vineyard tells me everything I need to know. The dramatic Galestro slope captures humidity in spite of drought conditions to keep infant vines alive with vital growth in their earliest formative years. This fruit will be a Chianti Classico game changer. It all begins with the rocks and soil of these über-specific Panzano vineyards. It moves into the winery where Carobbio’s position as protector and purveyor of sangiovese purity and honesty reigns over all else. It concludes in the wisdom and generosity of the annate wines, with consistency and focus.

Tenuta Carobbio Rosato Terrarossa 2016, IGT Toscana, Italy (Winery, $32.95, WineAlign)

Rosato Terra Rossa is the same 100 per cent sangiovese in 2016, from the red soil vineyard, a child of 15 days fermentation to a maximum 15 degrees of temperature and ultimately dry as the desert. The specs and methodology turn forth a classic blush of aridity, acidity and minerality; 6.0 tA, 3.35 pH, no malo, cooled down to six degrees after fermentation and one month on the lees. Dario Faccin lays it out clear and simple. “For me this is a wine, not an aperitif.” It is in fact built on character that lies between Rosé and the light Rosso; sapid, saline, rich and textured. Full of dry extract, perfect for lunch. La prossima annata may be even better. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted September 2017  @ 

Tenuta Carobbio Chianti Classico Riserva 2013, IGT Toscana, Italy (Winery, $58.95, WineAlign

A 100 per cent sangiovese from three vineyards in which Galestro, clay and Alberese each contribute by percentage of 30,30 and 10 towards an inextricably calculated Carobbio sangiovese in reward. Variegated for multiplicity purposes while complicit in even ripeness meets high and polished acidity. Once again the salty sapidity and the highest of polyphenolic qualities adds up to density, extract and layering. This wine will not turn secondary for at least five years and certainly not tertiary for 15. The composition and composure are one in the same and continue to repeat over and upon one another.  Last tasted September 2017.

For Chianti Classico Riserva the solo performance is 100 per cent sangiovese and just as 2013 must be this grabs you by the olfactory senses with elegant inhalant immediacy. You are immersed straight away into a wine without reserve in the way that the only the purest of Riserva can be. Philanthropic, generous and kind. Even more so and because it is Carobbio, there is no fence to jump over, hoop to hurl through or great wall to climb. Not in aroma and then what follows is palate texture and finally fine-grained tannin. Not even acidity will lash out but rather support, with more kindness. Everything is presented from the start with a wisdom that doesn’t rely on oxidative or cured character. Just elegance. Rich and affirming, for sangiovese and life. Humour this CCR ’13 and wait just one more year, per il rispetto. Drink 2018-2027. Tasted February 2017

Tenuta Carobbio Leone 2013, IGT Toscana, Italy (Winery, $119.95, WineAlign

Sangiovese as Leone sees 20 months in new French barriques and a minimum eight months in bottle. “I have only one child. This is my second son,” smiles Dario Faccin. The prodigal sangiovese is seductive, spicy and intense from south exposed vines, at the time 35 years of age. The Carrobbio extract meets ripe acidity is unquestioned and on repeat albeit with an extra note of conceit, attitude, promise and as a cumulative, ultimate respect. The first vintage was 1989. Last tasted September 2017.

Leone is Chianti Classico incarnate, a single-vineyard sangiovese and perhaps the artist of the future known as Gran Selezione. The aromatics are a force from fruit raised in front of the river (Pesa) on the border between Florence and Siena, a high-density (5,000-5,500 plants per hectare) vineyard. In the first week of June Dario says “I take all the leaves off of the stems,” executed with risk-reward abandon but on second thought, as a factual matter of personal volition and intuition. Then two weeks later the smaller leaves begin to grow. This allows the early phenolic process to work on the young skins and increase the early offerings of photosynthesis. The skins carry a natural protection against the sun (in June) but not in August. Voila, wine begins in the vineyard. Leone is incredibly young and perfumed with so much restraint. It gets neither more precise, elegant or wise, or even more important, as a vineyard representative or as such a mindful and consistently right expression as this. The tannins are the finest of any you are likely to taste in sangiovese. The fruit is so perfect, red and purple, living and loving together, and you don’t need to name them. Dario insists on the simple and the obvious. That you taste the grapes every day at harvest and when the bottom of the skins do not attack you with aggressive tannin and the brown seeds crunch, you are ready to pick. “If you want to produce a great wine, you have to walk in the vineyard every day.” Leone’s got soul and only 4,000 bottles are produced. Drink 2020-2033.  Tasted February 2017

Tenuta Carobbio Pietraforte 2013, IGT Toscana, Italy (Winery, $119.95, WineAlign

Pietraforte as cabernet sauvignon and its splash of cabernet franc is Carobbio’s ode to the Tuscan name for Galestro rock. Less than 1000 bottles were made and though it is a son or a daughter from French mothers, it is impossible to take the Panzano vineyard out of the wine. The varietal notes of Cassis and graphite are here, as is a pyrazine-savour but the sapidity and extraction of a Dario Faccin wine talks with clarity, even while thjs very dense young wine is so many years away from speaking loud and clear. The new wood is in charge, the perfume a bit closed and the tannins demanding more than the rest. Three years are needed, at the base minimum.  Last tasted September 2017

Pietraforte is the Carobbio diversion into 95 per cent cabernet sauvignon (plus five cabernet franc) out of a 30 year-old vineyard that generally yields 3,500 kg per hectare or what Dario Faccin deems “niente.” Only 2,000 bottles are produced and 2013 is still a bambino, with wood more apparent on the nose than the sangiovese, quite spiced and then even spicier on the palate. Nothing vegetal takes any place at this international varietal table but the franc lends its must give current, of currants and even a little espresso. This has cool red soil savour that the cabs will inherit from the wind and the earth. But I have to say and say it with conviction, this is more varietally correct and obvious than most. More cabernet than Toscana. Needs five years, minimum. 2022-2030.  Tasted February 2017

Carobbio Chianti Classico 1990 and 1982

Tenuta Carobbio Chianti Classico 1990, Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign

I love the irony of Dario Faccin choosing to open a 1990 and a 1982, two vintages from when Italy hosted (1990) and won (1982) the FIFA World Cup. Ironic because the next tournament will be the first without the great footballing nation for the first time since 1958. The 1990 Chianti Classico is from an exceptional vintage, in fact there are many who feel the finest 1990s are some of the best CCs ever made. The youth on this bottle is dumbfounding, still in full possession of the freshness originally locked in by the sweet and optimally extracted sangiovese fruit. This is the school of Vittorio Fiore and the vintage is a great contrast to the 1991 Riserva that we tasted seven months prior. In 1990 it’s so much more about fruit quality and though the acidity continues to lift and execute, the tones here are less floral, not as bright and fruit is a matter of pure thought. The innocence, clarity and luck of time and place is on display in this capsule. What more can you say? Drink 2017-2022.  Tasted September 2017

Carobbio Chianti Classico 1982

Tenuta Carobbio Chianti Classico Riserva 1982, Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign

Everyone knows that 1982 was one of Italy’s greatest years in the 20th century. Their beloved Azzuri won the FIFA World Cup 3-1 over West Germany and the wines were pretty darn good all over the boot. It was the final match of Group C stage play that may have been one of the most dramatic, exciting and famous because Italy won 3–2 with Italian striker Paolo Rossi scoring a hat-trick. The result eliminated Brazil. Meanwhile the only thing that matters right now about 1982 with respect to this Chianti Classico is how it shows and I’m overwhelmed with emotion to say it’s perfect. By now we’ve come to know that Dario Faccin demands a mentality of excellence, emotion and soul. He would not open a 1982 and a 1990 were they unable to meet expectations and deliver an intelligent quotient of age. These were and remain great and structured sangiovese to this day. This 1982 is full of fruit, like cherries preserved in cryogenic syrup and violets captured at the height of their scent, only to be released when the wine is poured into the glass. If this vintage was at all austere it could only have been for the benefit of guarding the fruit so that its purity and original virility and viridity could be revealed again and again, as it has here in 2017. Remarkable showing for a piece of Gallo Nero history. Drink 2017-2021.  Tasted September 2017

48 hours @chianticlassico picked Sept 22, #sangiovese so primary, for breakfast @ilmolinodigrace

Il Molino Di Grace

For a full report on the history and current production at Il Molino di Grace please click on the following link.

Related – Grace in Chianti Classico

Back in @chianticlassico with the progressivo, non dogmatico #sangiovese @ilmolinodigrace #volano #panzano #chianticlassico #chianticlassicoriserva #granselezione #ilmargone #gratius

Il Molino Di Grace Chianti Classico 2015, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (85209, $19.95, WineAlign)

Have yet to encounter an Il Molino di Grace Chianti Classico that was not deeply hued, refreshing and spirited. Nor has there be one not designed to drink early but 2015 refuses to be left on the racks. It’s a progeny of upbringing in large Slovenian casks with zero panoply by wood addendum, of freshness kept and preserved. The spice is indubitable sangiovese and the tannins are wistful ones. There is some chewy constitution, more than most 15s and those dreamy tannins have texture too, chalky and fine yet grainy, with a fine grated finish of good dark chocolate shavings. Drink 2017-2023.  Tasted September 2017

Il Molino Di Grace Chianti Classico 2014, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (85209, $19.95, WineAlign)

Now in a great place, fresh, direct, focused, clear, nothing to hide. This tells us right now why we should be more than satisfied with normale in ’14, with or without needing Riserva, because with no Gran Selzione and much of the Gratius grapes ending up in here you have a most impressive wine, with great structure.  Last tasted September 2017

Incidentally the first vintage on which the label reads organic, 2014 captures the freshness and the true Chianti Classico, its nature and its truth. No mask, nothing to hide behind, nowhere to run. “In some ways 2014 is more typical a vintage,” suggests Iacopo Morganti, because like other passed over and quickly assessed ones of the recent past (such as 1996, 1998 and 2008) the intrepid purity of sangiovese is decisive and built to last. This is deeply hued Chianti Classico, refreshing, spirited and crafted with a very specific type of actionable drinkability. With pasta, with filetto, with friends. Will not change course for four years and drink comfortably for four more. Sangiovese accented with canaiolo, colorino and malvasia nero. Drink 2017-2025.  Tasted February 2017

Il Molino Di Grace Il Volano 2015, IGT Toscana, Italy (Agent, WineAlign)

Il Volano is a new label for the house, the wheel of the windmill, “il volano di molino” and also really, the name of the place as a whole. It brings together sangiovese (75 per cent) and merlot, raised only stainless steel, for a chill and a quick spill. Here from a vintage that gets better with some young age added, perhaps now at its best so this is a wine to drink, with little to no thinking required. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted September 2017

Il Molino Di Grace Chianti Classico Gran Selezione Il Margone 2013, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (435115, $39.95, WineAlign)

It bears remembering that Il Molino’s Gran Selezione is the kind of Chianti Classico that remains in perpetual motion, of a consistency and of guarantees, like gravity and tides, from vintage to vintage. It is the embodiment of water passing over stone, like the windmill it carries in its name and it is a wine that was always the Gran Selezione, before, like the water and after, on the vine and in the barrel. Saw the same 18 months in barriques, the selection having long before begun in the vineyard. Violets are all over this very young GS, the elegant one, but typically tannic and while ’13 is very good, it seems to be showing its cards early. This is a surprise and a welcome thought because there needs to be one Il Margone to enjoy while other more fierce vintages take their sweet time to unfold. Drink 2020-2031.  Tasted September 2017

Il Molino Di Grace Chianti Classico Gran Selezione Il Margone 2012, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (435115, $39.95, WineAlign)

Chianti Classico Gran Selezione Il Margone 2012 comes structured from a vintage with frost in May that compromised 50 per cent of the crop and as a result, bestowed lowest of low yields and concentrated berries. After that happenstance of natural selection the vintage turned to hot and dry, with great weather at harvest. This is and could only have developed into a fleshy and magnanimous Gran Selezione with acidity equivocal and anti-acrimonious to bones draped with the ripest of fruit. And it’s a good thing the acidity is set to high because that fruit and richness will need it going forward. Such a GS had to be crafted this way, with compound aggression and aggressive behaviour. Ultimately defines what it means to be affirmative action Gran Selezione. Drink 2021-2030.  Tasted February and September 2017

Il Molino Di Grace Chianti Classico Gran Selezione Il Margone 2011, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (435115, $39.95, WineAlign)

The 2011 is persistent, that much is obvious, in a hulking, Gran Selezione monstrous state, big in alcohol and bones. A curious and precocious chocolate-balsamic secondary note is just faintly starting to peek through, teasing the idea of drying the fruit by nature and leading towards the beginning of a savoury ascent. This may really take hold ahead of schedule, perhaps at some point in the latter stages of 2019.  Lasted tasted September 2017

What is Il Margone? “This is the best selection. We taste the wine in the cellar and decide the wine that will be, to the end,” explains Iacopo Morganti, director of Il Molino di Grace. The name must also refer to the particular construction of the vineyard at Montefili, on Panzano’s west side, of its altitude, slope and the Galèstro within. Il Margone is a kind of wine for the (Molino) windmill, where the water goes over the stone and it is a wine that was always the Gran Selezione, before and after, on the vine and in the barrels. Now it can be called what is has been whereas before it was the second Riserva but the more important one, the best one. It now spends 18 months in barriques, 50 per cent new and 18,000 bottles are made. It runs deeper still, far through the Galèstro and into the pietra forte, for the cementing of strong sangiovese (not just religious buildings). From the hot vintage of 2011 and with the alcohol to prove it (14.5 per cent), there is an inherent sense of yeasty culture, a sheep’s milk pecorino that runs through the warmth. It functions as a cooling centre, then compression, layered spice and tannin. That late attack co-conspires with acidity to freeze the mouthfeel and seek years of patient desire. Really energetic Sangiovese, iron-fisted and demanding but with so much seeping cherry fruit. Wait four years minimum. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted May 2016

Sangiovese and Galestro at Il Molino di Grace in Panzano

Il Molino Di Grace Gratius 2012, IGT Toscana, Italy (Agent, $49.95, WineAlign)

Gratius 2012 is not the bomb that was (and still is) 2011, from the single, 70 year-old vineyard located seven kilometres away from the estate. Many of those vines are still thriving, with the hope to keep grafting for the purpose of perpetuating the biotypes through future plantings on the estate. Gratius is 95 per cent sangiovese with bits of canaiolo and colorino that spent 12 months in barriques. It’s always a chunky and tannic affair, of savoury red fruit but the nose here is more beautiful now, finally, as Gratius has scaled back just enough to be beautiful. When it’s now dry in the right way and not bent to steal anything from you or your palate it then reveals the chivalry and the charm. Lovely work here from the Bernabei-Morganti-Grace group. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted September 2017

Fontodi vineyards in the Conco d’Oro, Panzano

Fontodi

To read my full report on this September 2017 visit with Giovanni Manetti at Fontodi please click the following link.

Related – Fontodi’s one hundred per cent sangiovese

Sangiovese of Fontodi

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Looking for two horsemen in #chianticlassico

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Godello

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