Awash in Brunello di Montalcino

Ninety-five tasting notes and reviews on primarily Rosso di Montalcino DOC 2017, Brunello di Montalcino DOCG 2014 and Brunello di Montalcino Riserva 2013 at Benvenuto Brunello 2019

The preview or anteprima tasting of current vintage releases known as Benvenuto Brunello took place on February 15th and 16th in the Chiostro Museo Montalcino. The producers were on hand to introduce their most recent (or imminent to be released) Rosso DOC 2017, Brunello DOCG 2014 and Brunello Riserva and/or Vigna 2013. Journalists from all over the world were present, including myself and WineAlign’s John Szabo M.S. John and I also paid most opportunistic, informative and excellent visits to the properties of Conti Costanti, Casanova di Neri, Col d’Orcia and Sassetti Livio – Pertimali. I’ll have more extensive reports on those visits coming in the next few weeks. I also had the opportunity to discuss the most pressing and current matters of the territory and the landscape with Consorzio Director Giacomo Pondini.

Related – John Szabo’s Benvenuto Brunello 2019 Report

Last year I asked the questions, “are the 2013s much better than the 2012s? Do they exhibit more character, structure and depth?” If that contrast was a difficult one then the one moving from ’13 to ’14 is surely not a fair fight, nor should we spend any real-time engaging in the comparisons. Better is almost always the wrong word, especially because we are once again discussing the nature, merits and potential of sangiovese, a grape that needs the bottle before showing its true character. As I noted about the 13s, I am confident that history will be kind to 2014, though selection will be a greater part of the reconciliation. I repeat the mantra. “Diplomacy, kindness and patience will reward us all.”

Looking east from Montalcino

Related – Diversity in Brunello di Montalcino

Meteorological credentials are not required to understand how difficult the 2014 growing season must have been in Montalcino. Rather than focus on disconnects like dilution, astringency and bitterness it would be much more beneficial to celebrate what attributes went right. There are two examples of excellence in 2014 Brunello di Montalcino. On one hand there are sangiovese of clarity, transparency, honesty, grace and finesse. There are also a few handfuls of highly concentrated and glycerin-curved Brunello urged on by succulent acids and sweet tannins. Taste as many as you can to find the best of the best.

In Ontario market Brunello di Montalcino

These are the wines from producers with importation agency representation in Ontario available for purchase either through LCBO channels (LCBO General List, VINTAGES, Classics Catalogue, VINTAGES Shop-Online or Destination Store) or through case purchases in the LCBO-Agent Consignment program. The list does not include producers’ wines represented in Ontario that are either brought in periodically through Private Order or have not yet been imported at all.

Brunello di Montalcino DOCG 2014

Franco Pacenti Brunello Di Montalcinio DOCG Canalicchio 2014

Clear, transparent, honest and finessed. This is what you hope for from the 2014 Brunello. The clarity here is apparent from the get go, with fruit locked and shut tight beneath a reductive shell. Acids are succulent and far from sour, tannins pure, sweet and of the finest grain. Not about concentration because the vintage will resist allowing it. But this is made in the best possible way and will live a few decades or more. Drink 2024-2038.  Tasted February 2019  francopacenticanalicchio  maitredechai_ca  @franco_pacenti  @maitredechai  @francopacenticanalicchio  Le Maître de Chai

Talenti Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2014

Here comes a sangiovese with swagger and confidence born and bred out of understanding and finesse. Sweet rose and violet candied floral fruit gives way to a caressing palate of fine acids and some of the vintage’s finer tannin. Drink 2020-2025.  Tasted February 2019  talentiriccardo  brixandmortarwineco    @brixandmortar  Talenti Montalcino  @brixandmortarwineco

Poggio Di Sotto Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2014

Substance, glycerin and concentration gather for a Brunello of Brunello standards in Poggio di Sotto’s ’14. Intensely saturated and insular the nose is closed and for good reason. What you notice about the quality here is the silk across the palate and the length., It surely indicates quality, fine and ripe tannins and an ability to age. Drink 2022-2029.  Tasted February 2019  #poggiodisotto  elixirsvinsspiritueux    Poggio di Sotto  @ElixirsVinsSpiritueux

Cortonesi La Mannella Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2014

Cortonesi works through the challenge with a sangiovese in 2014 that finds critical mass and therefore celebrates la vita bella in Brunello. With no reason to choose a Vigna-designate nor a Riserva to produce, the best of the best therefore finds its way into this eponymous family Brunello. It’s equipped with notable vintage fruit, finer acids than many and a tannic structure that is not only correct but highly promising. Lengthiness is one of the best in the vintage. Drink 2023-2031.  Tasted February 2019  @LaMannella  @Nicholaspearce_  marcora85  nicholaspearcewines  Tommaso Cortonesi  Nicholas Pearce

Ciacci Piccolomini d’Aragona Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2014

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

Gianni Brunelli Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2014

Le Chiuse di Sotto in Podernovone just southeast of the Montalcino village where famous neighbours lurk and the valley stretches east to Pienza and Montepulciano. Gianni Brunelli’s is a careful, four-part curation of estate cru sangiovese for an honest, exacting and hearty worn on every family members’ sleeves Brunello. This may be exaggerated more than ever because of the 2014 vintage but we see it as the truth. Red fruit as sparked and punchy as ever meets equally spirited acidity and sharp, pinpointed tannins. Take me as I am this whispers beneath the vintage screams and you hear it clear as a blue sky Montalcino day. Bang on, banging the drum slowly so that cellar-aging is also possible. Drink 2019-2028.  Tasted February 2019  giannibrunelli  brixandmortarwineco  @brixandmortar  Laura Brunelli (Le Chiuse Di Sotto)  @brixandmortarwineco

Casanova Di Neri Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2014

In the vintage there was no Cerretalto or Tenuta Nuova produced so this is an amalgamation of the three. All the best selections into one Brunello at the price of the white label. The vineyards from that label are in Podernuovo and Fiesole, with the Tenuta Nuova grapes coming from Cetine and Pietradonice. What does it all mean? In a sense it’s a super house-style and exaggeration of the way the white label has been made (expect for 2002 and 1992). Very specific red fruit, strawberry very alive and concentrated, with some variegated ripenesses beginning at one and showing up in many increments. High acids vintage, seemingly more savour than many and tannins quite intense. Drink 2021-2027.  Tasted February 2019  giacomonericasanovadineri  halpernwine   @HalpernWine @CasanovadiNeri  Giacomo Neri  @halpernwine

Argiano Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2014

Argiano is expressive of a lovely herbal nose with blood orange and a little bit of sanguine personality. Typical vintage character done right, proper and well. Fleshy like a very ripe peach crossed with a tart red plum and certainly offers more of the it Brunello character than many or most in the field. A bit commercial for the house but understood of a vintage clarity and appreciated out of great necessity. Drink 2021-2027.  Tasted February 2019  @Argianowinery  @Noble_Estates  cantina_argiano  noble_estates  @argiano  @NobleEstates

Fattoi Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2014

Fattoi delivers sharpness and vitality for 2014 with verve, energy and rigour. Though the fruit is by now classically 2014, meaning it’s tangy and sour, the acids and the tannins are driven or are powerfully driving forces, of nature and for success. Would really like to see where this one goes. Could be a sleeper and one of the great values of the vintage. Drink 2023-2033.  Tasted February 2019    @BrunelloImports  #fattoi  brunelloimports  Lucia Fattoi  Brunello Imports Inc.

Sassetti Livio – Pertimali Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2014

From primarily grey arglileux (clay) soils though truth be told the variegation includes yellow, black and brown. Also found is Galestro, Pietra (like Forte) and a wide array of fossil shells, all much larger than it would be imagined. Here to the south west of the Montosoli hill is a warm and humid place so airflow is much more important than anything, to prevent disease and because ripeness is rarely an issue. The fruit is dark, hematic, all in. I tasted 45 examples of 2014 this morning and none were like this. It’s also silky smooth without any oak sheathing, make-up or cake icing. Salumi notes define the curative nature, acids are fine and driving, a high-toned moment is slightly Bretty and tannins are super smooth. High quality from 2014. Drink 2022-2032.  Tasted February 2019  pertimalisassetti  profilewinegroup    @ProfileWineGrp  Livio Sassetti- Pertimali  @ProfileWineGroup

Il Marroneto Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2014

Correctly light and transparent, accepting of vintage and what such a sangiovese needs to be. The grandi botti feel comes across on the palate, with a sweetening but even more so a true spice clarity. Fine acids and generally sweet tannins put this lightning Brunello in a class of its own, not often seen, surely atypical but well done in the context of limestone-light and sharp red Italian reds. Drink 2021-2027.  Tasted February 2019  alessandromori  @IlMarroneto  @BrunelloIlMarroneto

San Polino Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2014

The rusticity is apparent in Brunello with mouth attacking tannin and excellent acidity. Very much appreciate the lack of sour-edging that is so prevalent in many 2014s. This is more along the dried fruit and savoury-herbal lines without the tang. Some volatility though not a sour one. Lingers well and seems built for aging as well as any. Drink 2022-2029.  Tasted February 2019 #sanpolino  thelivingvine @SanPolinoVino  @TheLivingVine  #SanPolinoBrunello  The Living Vine inc.

Silvio Nardi Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2014

Nardi takes the vintage hand and likewise opens up their hearts, throws their cards down and makes public the plan. Ripe fruit, short to moderate structure and relatively easy early drink ability. Some more tannin than a few, some it of underdeveloped but for the most part sweet, fine, ready and willing to work with protein, preferably on the saltier side of hard rock life. Drink 2021-2026.  Tasted February 2019  tenutenardi  majesticwinesinc  @TenuteNardi  @MajesticWineInc  @tenutenardi  @tenutenardi  @majesticwinecellars

La Gerla Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2014

La Gerla finds and coaxes some pretty fruit out of 2014 in a stylish Brunello that affirms the appellation in the best possible way. Though really quite dusty and even a bit sharp it is ripe cherry fruit that leads the way. A bit chewy and on the sour-edged vintage side but mostly balanced and showing good length. Solid work up against all odds. Drink 2022-2027.  Tasted February 2019  lagerlamontalcino  profilewinegroup    @ProfileWineGrp  @ProfileWineGroup

Ridolfi Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2014

Very pretty nose on Ridolfi’s ’14, more floral than many and willing to bloom early in the process. Carries the grace note of tar and is chewy, of roses and then accents come by fennel and tarragon. A serious sangiovese with plenty of structure that remains to be seen if amiability can triumph over grip. With time I believe this is a prime example of one that will. Drink 2020-2025.  Tasted February 2019  ridolfimontalcino

La Lecciaia Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2014

Not too many Brunelli were able to rise above the simple and the superficial in 2014 so La Leccaia’s perfume and grace stand apart. The palate texture is all ’14, tangy, tart and fully equipped with demanding acidity and tannin. That said there is nary a moment of astringency, leading to believe the age ability here is at the fore. Drink 2022-2030.  Tasted February 2019  lecciaia  @TheWineCoaches  Fattoria La Lecciaia

Lisini Brunello Di Montalcino Docg 2014

Lisini’s rises quickly to another level with some glycerin fruit full of pectin and pure energetic drive. The extraction and concentration are at the forefront of the vintage which allows the high-toned acids and demanding tannins to stay in balance with the rest. Aromatics and texture are righteous and proper though the sour notes are just a pinch awkward early on. Drink 2022-2029.  Tasted February 2019  aziendalisini  @AziendaLisini  Ludovica Lisini  @AziendaAgrariaLisini

Mastrojanni Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2014

One of the more reductive 2014s, the concentration is above average in Mastrojanni’s non-vigna designate Brunello. There is some solid palate richness and while acidity leans to the sour it’s quite rich in its own right. This is a pretty viscous sangiovese for the vintage and with few years time should deliver one of the more authentic Montalcino experiences. Drink 2023-2030.  Tasted February 2019  @MastrojanniWine  @MajesticWineInc  #mastrojanni  radalinke  majesticwinesinc  @MastrojanniWine  @majesticwinecellars

Canalicchio Di Sopra Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2014

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

Caprili Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2014

Caprili is quite tense, nervous, unable to relax. It pulses with acidity and tannin, structure is certain and intensity over the moon. Welcome to one side of the tracks, the one without compromise and where Brunello is Brunello and over on the other side sangiovese is sangiovese. Drink 2020-2025. Tasted February 2019  capriliwine  @Caprili  @NaturalVines  @officialcaprili

Collemattoni Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2014

Collematoni is a ripe one without breaching the grey areas of 2014 Brunello. Fruit in the pomegranate and red currant spectrum is protected beneath a hard tannic shell with circulating acids. Quite a beast this young and needing three to five years to gain its charms. Drink 2023-2028.  Tasted February 2019  @collemattoni  @StemWineGroup  collemattoni  stemwinegroup  Collemattoni Brunello  @stemwine

Donatella Cinelli Colombini Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2014

Despite and in spite of the northern vineyard’s location of six small plots in a 10 hectare area surrounding Casato Prime Donne this from Colombini is quite ripe for the vintage. Strawberries and dusty, savoury accents drive the fruit into a pool of fine, welling and syrupy acidity. It’s an unusually simplified and somewhat flatlined wine for Donatella out of a vintage neither old-school nor flashy modern, yet major challenges are no obstacle for this estate and so her sangiovese is still very full of charm and grace. Drink 2021-2027.  Tasted February 2019  donatellacinellicolombini  lesommelierwine @news_donatella  @LeSommelierWine  Donatella Cinelli Colombini  @LeSommelierWine

Fanti Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2014

Fanti’s takes no bait nor tries to fit odd shapes into even holes simply because 2014 was not the time to do so. And so their Brunello strides straight down the middle of Broad Street like a champion in 2014. Which I suppose is exactly where it needs to be. This is sangiovese confident in ripe if sour and tangy fruit supported by high toned acids and middle weight tannins. Perfectly middle of the road and commercially viable Brunello. Correct, wholly acceptable and well-made. Do what you gotta do. Drink 2021-2026.  Tasted February 2019  tenuta_fanti  lesommelierwine  @tenutafanti  @LeSommelierWine  Elisa Fanti  @LeSommelierWine

Antinori Pian Delle Vigne Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2014

Pretty expressive fruit, a touch variegated, plenty of savoury and dusty accents, verdancy and dried components. Hints at astringency and stays clear enough, with fine, almost sweet tannins. Careful selection keeps this on course to do what it’s supposed to, vintage in and in this case, vintage out. Drink 2020-2026.  Tasted February 2019  marchesiantinori  halpernwine  @AntinoriFamily  @HalpernWine  @MarchesiAntinori  @halpernwine

Val Di Suga Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2014

Val di Suga’s is well extracted and rendered sangiovese with a combination of fresh and dried fruit. There is a good wealth of triangular attributes running in a straight line up, across and back down. First that fruit, then ripping acidity and finally a variegate of tannin. Quite solid and composed with admirable structure. Drink 2021-2027.  Tasted February 2019  #valdisuga  churchillcellars    @imbibersreport  Val di Suga  Churchill Cellars Ltd.

Fattoria Dei Barbi Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2014

The difficult vintages separate the adulte from the bambine and so expectation can’t help but run high for this storied house. I expect the 2014 may be misunderstood. Though quiet and maybe even needing to be described as in a state of demure, this from Barbi translates to grace. Forget vintage for this is Barbi, albeit in a world occupied by some not so unusual aromatics and flavours. Apples? Limes? Apricots? Perhaps. For now the state of grace is not fully accessible or appreciated. After some passage of time, in conjunction with good grip and slowly dissipating astringency, this will live on as a Barbi Brunello. It will do so in honesty, as if there could be any doubt. Drink 2023-2029.  Tasted February 2019  fattoriadeibarbi  noble_estates @FattoriaBarbi  @Noble_Estates  @FattoriadeiBarbi  @NobleEstates

Capanna Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2014

Capanna delivers the goods for the vintage with a fruit, acidity and tannin appropriation for solid commercial appeal. Ambition is set aside for a different sort of plan and one that includes asking folks to just buck up, sit down and sip. Don’t think too much on this. It won’t reinvent the wheel but it will pour a fine and decent glass of Montalcino sangiovese. Drink 2020-2025.  Tasted February 2019  #capanna    @capannamontalcino

Col D’orcia Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2014

A gregarious and sour-edged entry marks the ’14 Col d’Orcia with plenty of spice. Cinnamon and star anise are exotic notes off the top and then things turn tough and closed. This is a tightly wound 2014, clearly one of the ambitious albeit traditional attempts at perpetuating great and storied Brunello glory. Remains to be seen if it can reach the heights of 1979. Drink 2021-2031.  Tasted February 2019  @Coldorcia  @DionysusWines  coldorcia  dionysuswines  @coldorcia.brunello  Dionysus Wines & Spirits Ltd

San Polo Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2014

Lovely sweet candied rose and herbal nose to this sangiovese and for the first time some reduction. Quite intense, locked down, massive and working for a living. Give some credit to this wine. It will settle into a lovely place in a few years time. Drink 2021-2025.  Tasted February 2019  #sanpolobrunello  profilewinegroup  @ProfileWineGrp @SanPoloMontalcino  @ProfileWineGroup

Fornacella Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2014

Fornacella, as in “fornace,” the furnace, from a nearby and still standing 1490 built brick kiln. Fornacella is both fruit fleshy and high-toned, full of tangy if unusually designed, orchard and stone fruit. Really tart and high strung, it’s as if the fruit spent time in that kiln, so much so it could take 10 years to come down. Drink 2024-2030.  Tasted February 2019

La Màgia Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2014

La Màgia’s is rich and extracted sangiovese with tangy acids that linger for quite some time. Some quality fruit marks the way but it’s two years away from finding any real integration. It seems there should be some more substance, even if concentration is compromised because of the season, to merit and handle the level of acidity and then tannin. Nevertheless it should find a few years of good open window drinking. Drink 2022-2025.  Tasted February 2019  lamagiamontalcino  @fattorialamagia  @lamagiamontalcino

Terre Nere Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Campigli Vallone 2014

Here is a house also in understanding of what needed to be done and accomplished in the treacherous and lecherous vintage. The fruit here is almost sweet, certainly crushable and blessed with negligible tannin. If it’s priced to sell it should populate restaurant lists for three years while waiting for the much anticipated 15s to come. Drink 2020-2023.  Tasted February 2019  terrenere   @terrenere  @terreneremontalcino

Piccini Villa Al Cortile Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2014

A wild and exotic perfume pervades the ’14 Cortile and one that is the first of its ilk after 23 others showing nothing of the sort. It’s admittedly mixed with a good level of volatility but the promise is great. Returns again and agin to that perfume, where strawberry and liquorice live. A bit overripe perhaps as noted on the palate. Acids are tart, tight and supportive while tannins do the yeoman thing. Drink 2020-2025.  Tasted February 2019  picciniwines  picciniwine  wineloversca  @PicciniWinesUK  @WineLoversCA  PICCINI WINES  Piccini Wines UK  Wine Lovers Canada

Villa Poggio Salvi Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2014

A hint of zafferina marks and marls the sweet fruit entry into Salvi’s ’14, from which a combination of that sweetness and sour edging express the vintage. There is a kindness on the nose that invites while the palate tries hard to offer a similar level of amiability. Restaurant ready, perfectly fine and amenable, good to go on a commercial level. Drink 2020-2024.  Tasted February 2019  poggio_salvi  halpernwine     @HalpernWine  Winery/Vineyard  @halpernwine

Podere Bonacchi Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Molino Della Suga 2014

Molino della Suga is a new cru label for me from Bonacchi and this particular sangiovese is a concentrated and grippy number. Intensely tannic and somehow not overly astringent but certainly drying and demanding. More fruit would make this a formidable Brunello. Drink 2020-2025.  Tasted February 2019  cantinebonacchi    @bonacchicantine

Caparzo Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2014

Caparzo’s is blessed with a sweet aromatic perfume, at once exotic but also different. At first it’s almost as if it strikes like riesling with botrytis-affected fruit notes but no, it’s more about flowers and fruit on the ripe side of life. The fruit is drawn from a few Montalcino poles but the southern blocks are what try hardest to keep it balanced. In the end it’s highly consumable, commercial and drinkable. Drink 2020-2024.  Tasted February 2019  caparzo_winery  @CaparzoWines   @TheCaseForWine  Caparzo

Castiglion Del Bosco Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2014

Bosco’s in certainly one of the riper 2014 Brunelli, with orange, lemon and peach notes that stray very far away from the classic cherry sangiovese spectrum. It’s acids are tart but not overly demanding and the tannins relatively calm for the vintage. Drink 2020-2023.  Tasted February 2019  castigliondelbosco     @LiffordON  liffordgram  @castigliondelbosco  @liffordwineandspirits

Quercecchio Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2014

Ripeness was achieved with extra hang time and while the fullness and power are duly noted there is a lag of tannin, even while acidity pops and powers its way around. An able-bodied sangiovese to be sure and one to talk out loud with plenty of support for a few years run. Length is pretty good in the face of sour edging. Drink 2020-2024.  Tasted February 2019  #quercecchio  @MQuercecchio  @quercecchio

Lazzeretti Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2014

Guarded and reductive, this is a stand alone Brunello with no hurry to allow judgment to be passed. More a case of self-preservation than hard to get there are tannins here as fierce as any. The sour notes are minor and the drying fruit makes it difficult to find any great pleasure. Will improve though not forever. Drink 2021-2024.  Tasted February 2019  @ViniLazzeretti  @ViniLazzeretti

San Felice Campogiovanni Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2014

A notable amount of Brett on the quick nose and then some fleshier stone fruit. All sorts of fruit in here, variegated in ripeness and creating a wine of personality if not one of early cohesion. Lingers long so structure wants to be its friend. Give it time to of reconcile the awkwardness youth. Drink 2021-2026.  Tasted February 2019  borgosanfelice  @AgricolaSFelice  @ChartonHobbs   Borgo San Felice

Tenuta Corte Pavone Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2014

From Rainer, Hayo and Franz Loacker in Casanuova to the west of the village. The clay soils pack at upwards of 450-500m on slopes at one of the higher elevations in Montalcino. Here is a big wine from Corte Pavone and one that could only have been difficult to manage in a vintage that tested the communal mettle. Dark fruit, wood spice and finishing chocolate. Drink 2020-2023.  Tasted February 2019  loackerwineestates  @LoackerWineEstates

#tommaso @cortonesi_wine @brunellodimontalcino

Brunello di Montalcino DOCG 2013

Casanova Di Neri Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Tenuta Nuova 2013

The first vintage was 1993, from two newer estates, of Cetine and Pietradonice. The idea was to extend from the White Label with more richness and a potential of five further years of aging. The picking was prudent and it shows in the consistency of both the ripeness and the tannins. The acids accumulate, circulate and then travel up the side insides to a place of near nirvana. They go where they should, leaving the liquorice fruit gaining with spice to linger while the solicitation is for another sip. Chewy and ropey sangiovese, in balance and well-structured for a decade and a half easy. Drink 2022-2031.  Tasted February 2019  giacomonericasanovadineri  halpernwine   @HalpernWine @CasanovadiNeri  Giacomo Neri  @halpernwine

Brunello di Montalcino Riserva DOCG 2013

Fanti Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG Le Macchiarelle 2013

Fanti’s comes from a very intense climate and soil structure so no surprise this ’13 is a humid, exceptionally warming and high glycerin Riserva. The source is two point five hectares of old vines (averaging 35-40 years) at 250m. Le Macchiarelle, a.k.a “the little thicket” doles wood spice, which only adds to the layering and increases the density quotient. This needs salty protein in a way so many may not, for the past and to look two decades forward into the future. Vigna Le Macchiarelle is truly the sort of high-end Brunello Riserva to put away and forget about in the cellar before emerging at dinner, at home, yours or theirs, with the best of friends. Trust me, please. It will be a grand moment. Drink 2024-2038.  Tasted February 2019  tenuta_fanti  lesommelierwine  @tenutafanti  @LeSommelierWine  Elisa Fanti  @LeSommelierWine

Talenti Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG Pian Di Conte 2013

Pian di Conte is only made in the worthiest of years from a select curation of grapes off of 20-plus year-old vines out of two highly specific blocks on 20 hectares in Castelnuovo dell’Abate. At 400m of altitude it is the special vineyard Paretaio, planted to a sangiovese clone selected by Pierluigi Talenti. The ’13 Riserva exhibits that combination of wise and stylish, a well-dressed and seasoned veteran Brunello with expertise born of talent and ethic. The acids are some of the most succulent for 2013 Riserva, surrounding, lifting and extolling the virtues of a well-executed harvest. The texture meets the architecture in a seamless transition though not without that notable crossroads of tension-welling acidity and tannin. Impressive wine. Drink 2023-2036.  Tasted February 2019  talentiriccardo  brixandmortarwineco    @brixandmortar  Talenti Montalcino  @brixandmortarwineco

Lisini Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG 2013

Lisini’s Riserva is another sangiovese matter all together. The nose oozes of the most intense liqueur, warm and bleeding with hematic and even ferric notes. The palate is massively layered though stretched, elegantly structured, meandering around, along roads and through woods. High intensity of fruit, equalled by acidity and then these caressing tannins. Perhaps too big for some but what’s to complain about in the potential of a 25-30 year wine. Drink 2024-2037. Tasted February 2019  aziendalisini  @AziendaLisini  Ludovica Lisini  @AziendaAgrariaLisini

Fattoria Dei Barbi Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG 2013

There are Barbi Riservas and there are Barbi Riservas. Many are the toughest nuts to crack and then along comes a fruit beauty like 2013. Not sure I’ve ever tasted this sort of gregarious nature from a Barbi, normale, Riserva, or Vigna del Fiore. There is no compromise to tradition but there too is no holding back in delivery of ripe, fattened red fruit, sweet acidity and even sweeter tannins. The picking, selecting, vinifying and aging of the components that made up this wine were spot on. A gift to the consumer. Start your Brunello Riserva journey right here. Drink 2019-2027.  Tasted February 2019  fattoriadeibarbi  noble_estates @FattoriaBarbi  @Noble_Estates  @FattoriadeiBarbi  @NobleEstates

La Lecciaia Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG 2013

Hard to get, place and open this Riserva from Leccaiaia. A chic and stylish robe of fruit bedevilled with charm and bedecked with jewels hangs adorned behind a veil of silk and lace. Then you taste this sangiovese and you feel the weight it’s capable of exhorting. It chortles with sanguinity and a toasty, almost charred red flesh, both vegetable and protein. Such an interesting, curious and graceful Brunello. Drink 2021-2030.  Tasted February 2019  lecciaia  @TheWineCoaches  Fattoria La Lecciaia

Caparzo Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG 2013 

Caraprzo gives off night scents of a northern Montalcino climate with florals and cool wet Galestro. It adds up to a lovely herbal potpourri in a very stylish Riserva with expertly judged grip, primarily through the conduit of acidity. In and around the Montosoli hill there are these vineyards that slide their way into these wines with savoury pulchritude. Does Riserva get more stylish than this? Drink 2022-2029.  Tasted February 2019  caparzo_winery  @CaparzoWines   @TheCaseForWine  Caparzo

Donatella Cinelli Colombini Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG 2013

Welcome to the Brunello Riserva you may just want to drink right now. From estate vineyards at Casato Prime Donne. The fruit is luscious and as full as ’13 can be, ripe to the max and this from the northern zone. Herbal in an Amaro way, some desiccation to create this red, black and blue sangiovese liqueur. Rich and chewy with a silky mouthfeel and even chewier tannins. Not particularly grippy or tannic by demand, it flows and apportions full circle, ode to the earth, all in and blood orange bright. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted February 2019  donatellacinellicolombini  lesommelierwine @news_donatella  @LeSommelierWine  Donatella Cinelli Colombini  @LeSommelierWine

Tommasi Casisano Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG Colombaiolo 2013

From Tommasi this is only the third Riserva after the family purchased the estate in 2011, though a wine has been made from Colombaiolo fruit since 1996. The vineyard was planted in 1991 on a hectare and a half on the Sant’Angelo in Colle Casisano estate. The fruit is quite variegated, full and ripe. The acids are supportive, on the high-toned side and the tannins are really fine. A nice balance and a tri-symbiotic relationship exists between the three friends and in the end a structure of fine accord is managed. Drink 2021-2027.  Tasted February 2019  tommasiwine  univinscanada  @Tommasiwine  @UNIVINS  @tommasiwines  Univins et Spiritueux / Univins & Spirits

Piccini Villa Al Cortile Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG 2013

The ways in which Piccini’s Riserva come flying from the glass are a sign of excitement and haste because this sangiovese really wants to gain your respect and your love. Fruit sits on the top of the ripe spectrum and is by now resolved and ready to deliver the pleasures of the flesh. If ever there was a 2013 Riserva to pop, pour and enjoy while the others and certainly the ‘12s continue to develop, this Villa al Cortile must certainly be the one. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted February 2019  picciniwines  picciniwine  wineloversca  @PicciniWinesUK  @WineLoversCA  PICCINI WINES  Piccini Wines UK  Wine Lovers Canada

Brunello di Montalcino Riserva DOCG 2012

Col d’Orcia Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG Poggio Al Vento 2012

Not so surprising I suppose that Poggio al Vento 2012 is still reductive, closed and locked tight. There is a massive Poggio (al Vento) of fruit piled high inside the shell from the windy hill above the river. Fine tannins are even more impressive is the fine-styled acidity. When the shell cracks the riches will spill out, across and over. Over everything. Drink 2023-2036.  Tasted February 2019  @Coldorcia  @DionysusWines  coldorcia  dionysuswines  @coldorcia.brunello  Dionysus Wines & Spirits Ltd

Sassetti Livio – Pertimali Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG 2012

Finally a nose of something not just recognizable but exacting and necessary for Brunello di Montalcino from this frazioni just to the northeast of the village. Dark cherries, rich and luxurious dark cherries. That and a cool minty savour plus a creamy gelato that silkens the palate. The grip and force are 2012 but the refinement is all 2012 and Sassetti. A very stylish Brunello and not even yet entered the zone. Drink 2021-2035.  Tasted February 2019  pertimalisassetti  profilewinegroup    @ProfileWineGrp  Livio Sassetti- Pertimali  @ProfileWineGroup

Grazie e bravissimi to the hardest working sommelier cru in the wine business ~ @consbrunello #benvenutobrunello #benvenutobrunello2019 #duamiladiciannove

Not in market Brunello di Montalcino

These are the wines from producers without importation agency representation in Ontario but also wines represented in Ontario that are not currently available. They may either be brought in periodically through Private Order or have not yet been imported at all.

Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2015

Conti Costanti Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Colle Al Matrichese 2015

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

Rosso Di Montalcino DOC Vermiglio 2014

From the vintage where no Brunello was produced this Rosso is essentially a Super-Rosso made from the de-classified sangiovese. Very few producers followed suit but Andrea Costanti looks for or rather has a high-level of expectation in terms of concentration. If you wish or will, this is ostensibly Brunello when you consider the maker and the fact that hundreds of others bottled under the DOCG Brunello. And yet the price here is not a Brunello one. The argument could be made that with two years of aging in barrel it’s a Brunello, but it’s not a Costanti Brunello, which ages for three. It’s also not Rosso that ages for one year. That said Andrea’s suggestion is to drink it before the Brunello and after the other Rosso. Still, we should have all stocked up. I suggest that the acidity is brilliant and the concentration is very good. It does not blow the mind but the finesse and the attention to respect in the details are there. Drink this (if you have them) now and for five more years. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted February 2019    #conticostanti  woodmanws  @WoodmanWS @WoodmanWS

Brunello di Montalcino DOCG 2014

Baricci Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2014

Baricci’s is extenuated 2014 circumstances Brunello with intense firm grip and fine, fine acids. Those acids are equipped with succulence to support some fleshy, really clean and ripe fruit. The barrel addendum is just about spot on and the length is exceptional. Beautifully structured sangiovese in 2014. Finishes with a great little juicing of blood orange. Drink 2023-2031.  Tasted February 2019  #baricci  @BaricciWine  @baricciwine

Cupano Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2014

Cupano’s fruit concentration is so impressive in 2014 that the minor amount of Breettanomyces is but a smudge on the glass of sangiovese life. Here is Brunello that found a way in 2014, to grow quality fruit, pick it at just the right moment and deliver it straight to glass. The barrel work et al along the way is but a messenger’s or a shepherd’s conduit. Really well done. Drink 2023-2033.  Tasted February 2019  cupanomontalcino  @Cupano_Brunello  @CupanoMontalcino

Tenuta Buon Tempo Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2014

Lovely little stylish sangiovese of proper red fruit in a vintage that required this effort of exactitude of output. This house takes it easy, stays calm and allows the weakness to become a great positive. No overdubbing or make up here, just simplicity and pulchritude. Not the most structured one but lovely to drink. Drink 2020-2025.  Tasted February 2019  tenutabuontempo    @TenutaBuonTempo  Carpe Vinum

Tenuta Buon Tempo Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Oliveto P.56 2014

P. 56 is a specifically identified, consciously farmed and carefully curated Brunello. It’s aromatic intensity defines the new wave of Montalcino sangiovese and if in “easier” years it may act a bit reserved, from a vintage like ’14 it screams with intensity. The hyperbole of mineral lining will not be denied, not this time, though as before, this sangiovese is very refined. Savoury cool with more acidity elevating red fruit and it would seem more guaranteed structure for that aforementioned 15-20 year run. Drink 2022-2037.  Tasted February 2019  tenutabuontempo    @TenutaBuonTempo  Carpe Vinum

Ventolaio Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2014

Ventolaio, the gypsy king Brunello of 2014, wild and feral, ferric and alive. It’s a jumpy sangiovese, hitting all the hight notes and correct vintage buttons. Pulses with energy and delivers some quality tannins. What it lacks in grippy structure last seen in 2013 it makes up for with great fruit. Much love for this exceptional house. Drink 2022-2028.  Tasted February 2019    #ventolaio  @Ventolaio

Le Chiuse Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2014

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

Tenuta Le Potazzine Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2014

Darkness of fruit it beautifully lit by a candle of sangiovese transparency in Pottazine’s impressive effort in 2014. It’s a bit past ripe but not in cohorts with angry tannins so treat this explicitly as a drink early Brunello, perfect for restaurant lists in the affordable category. Bravo for the estate’s understanding of the cards dealt and for laying them on the table. Drink 2020-2025.  Tasted February 2019  lepotazzine   @LePotazzine  @LePotazzine

Cerbaia Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2014

Cerbaia is neighbour to Sassetti on the way up the Montalcino hill. Lorenzo is now making their wines though just for the past year or so. This is a cured and weighty ’14, of salumi aromatics, roasted meat bones and the brushy herbs of a hillside. It’s quite a warm and humid sangiovese of dark fruit but also formidable acids. Quite robust, vigorous and serious. Will have many fans and rightfully so. Drink 2021-2027.  Tasted February 2019  fattoriacerbaia  @cerbaia.chollet

Tenuta Di Sesta Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2014

Some lovely rich fruit notes orate the opening remarks and that speaks volumes in the vintage. It’s a fleshy Brunello with sweet acids and corporeal substance albeit a minor verdancy streak running through the tannins. Hard to avoid and not so distracting considering the other fine qualities of this generous sangiovese. Drink 2021-2026.  Tasted February 2019  tenutadisesta     @tenutadisesta

Podere Brizio Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2014

A minty-savoury sangiovese with moderate to good fruit concentration and some high notes early on. In fact these are notes that will likely continue for quite some time if not longer and longer than that. Tart and angular, working through the difficulties with admirability, focus and what we call “gutting it out.” Drink 2020-2024.  Tasted February 2019  @PodereBrizio  poderebrizio  @poderebrizio

Podere Canapaccia Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2014

From the northern part of Montalcino, between Caparzo and Torrenieri. Lovely red fruit with high aromatic and perfumed tones bring charm to this 2014 in the face of that vintage’s green tannins. The palate offers more fruit in the cranberry-pomegranate-currant spectrum and a lean and linear stride. Drink 2020-2024.  Tasted February 2019  @PodereCanapacciaMontalcino

Uccelliera Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2014

A combination of sweet fruit and volatility gather in this tart yet reductive Brunello. The fruit is quite gregarious and almost generous. Hard to figure though because the tannins are also somewhat soft. Will drink well for a few years. Drink 2020-2023.  Tasted February 2019  uccelliera  @info_uccelliera Uccelliera – Montalcino

Podere Le Ripi Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2014

A change of pace here with quite tart cran-apple and cranberry sour fruit with more glycerin and substance. Tannins are not exactly green but they are not what could be called caressing. Quick to the point with sweetness coming in the form of an herbal pesto. Drink 2021-2025.  Tasted February 2019  podereleripi  @PodereLeRIpi   Podere Le Ripi

Agostina Pieri Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2014

Pieri delivers some pretty solid fruit mixed with a briny, salty, almost pickled acidity and also some botrytis like points. Works in some ways and then goes too far in others. Disjointed and yet the possibilities are there. Remains to be seen where this will go. A bit hot on the finish. Drink 2021-2025.  Tasted February 2019  Agostina Pieri

Sesta Di Sopra Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2014

Hard and malic, tart and angular, dark fruit but lean and light. Looks are deceiving here in a Brunello apparently light and transparent but actually rather powerful and dank. Drink 2020-2023.  Tasted February 2019

Tenuta Crocedimezzo Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2014

Quite thin, lean and sour red fruit, unfortunately part in parcel very typical of the vintage. Keep wishing for some flesh and some meat on the bone, even a dried salumi but it’s not forthcoming. A good Rosso perhaps, but not even a great one. Drink 2020-2022.  Tasted February 2019  tenutacrocedimezzo  @crocedimezzo  Tenuta Crocedimezzo

La Palazzetta Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2014

La Palazzetta’s is an awkward sangiovese with aromatic intrusions somewhat inexplicable. The augmented feeling comes across with notes of saffron and apricot, in addition to the vintage notes replete with blood orange and cranberry. This is almost cran-apple, with more than enough citrus to acidulate onions. Sour-edged and light but dark-skinned at the same time. Drink 2022-2023.  Tasted February 2019

Capanne Ricci Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2014

A mouth-watering and also, if not so much more so a puckering sangiovese with tart acids, slightly hard and pretty demanding tannins. Nothing out of the ordinary in a vintage that is anything but ordinary. Drink 2021-2024.  Tasted February 2019

Brunello di Montalcino DOCG 2013

Castello Tricerchi Brunello di Montalcino DOCG 2013

Tricerchi, or “three circles” is a house with Sienese nobility in lineage going back to the 13th century. Located on the northern side of Montalcino the estate is extensive, covering 400 hectares, of which only thirteen are cultivated as vineyards. The altitude is up there for the appellation at 300m with coarse sandy-clay soils. The vintage begins the begin for the new generation of attitude and passion. This translates to a precocious and extricably excitable sangiovese to set a table for great things to come. You can’t deny the wild aromatic florailty, of violets and macerating blueberries. You inuit the desire and the dreams of greatness though you know things are running a bit hot and fast. The texture is silky smooth and the finish a bit astringent because the confidence went a bit too far. Let’s look to 2015 and 2016 for greater understanding and great potential for that Montalcino ability to coax elegance from the local sangiovese. Drink 2020-2025.  Tasted February 2019  castellotricerchi  @castellotricerchi

Brunello di Montalcino DOCG 2013

Casanova Di Neri Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Cerretalto 2013

The Cerretalto is kept in the cellar for six years, not as a labelled Riserva but that is really what it is. It’s colder here than in the closer to Montalcino vineyards and the harvest is two weeks later. The first vintage was 1982 for a cru that delivers more savour, redder fruit, sanguinity and firm grip. That it does from 2013, with blood orange acidity and a seamlessness that connects all the dots, dots the I’s and crosses the T’s. The layers here come from development naturally occurring in nature, packed tight, interwoven like vegetable tapestry, with slow-developing help from tonneaux and botti, mostly 50hL or bigger. Fineness of tannin will take this long into the 30s. Drink 2024-2036.  Tasted February 2019  giacomonericasanovadineri  halpernwine   @HalpernWine @CasanovadiNeri  Giacomo Neri  @halpernwine

Torrecampanaria, Montalcino

Brunello di Montalcino Riserva DOCG 2013

Ciacci Piccolomini d’Aragona Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Pianrosso 2013

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

Poggio Di Sotto Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG 2013

Poggio di Sotto’s Riserva persists in a void occupied by reduction and grip, in full protection of fruit not yet needing to really be set free. A few years lay ahead before it will open, bloom and reach towards the the blue light of a Montalcino day. This Riserva is not shy but it sees no reason to open up. The fruit beneath is chewy and crunchy, fresh as the day it was born from the barrel. Very stylish, traditional, culpable in clarity and five years away from laying out the hand it was dealt. Drink 2023-2035.  Tasted February 2019   #poggiodisotto  elixirsvinsspiritueux    Poggio di Sotto  @ElixirsVinsSpiritueux

Gianni Brunelli Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG Le Chiuse Di Sotto 2013

Gianni Brunelli’s ’13 Riserva is cool, stylish, a touch linear and lean but so very transparent, honest and clear. Few Riserva walk such a fine line and it’s a true breath of fresh air to catch such a wine at a moment like this, so comfortable, so cool and so fine. Drink 2020-2028.  Tasted February 2019  giannibrunelli  @GianniBrunelliWines

Mastrojanni Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Vigna Schiena d’Asino 2013

Here comes Riserva with a furthered concentration, one that is expected but regardless, truly lauded. Still a youthful proposition, the fruit-acid-tannin structure is tightly and intensely wound but also layered with more than notable barrel induction. Quite a mouthful this one and on the road to living a true-blue secondary umami life. Drink 2021-2028.  Tasted February 2019  @MastrojanniWine  @MajesticWineInc  #mastrojanni  radalinke  majesticwinesinc  @MastrojanniWine  @majesticwinecellars

Podere Brizio Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG 2013

Such a charmer this Brizio, immediately with perfume and fields of colour in a modernist’s dreams. Silky and dreamy, full-bodied and while acids are a touch sour, they melt into the berry-chocolate ooze of this highly stylish Brunello Riserva. Fine tannins will help this age for five plus more years. Drink 2021-2027.  Tasted February 2019  @PodereBrizio  poderebrizio  @poderebrizio

Canalicchio Di Sopra Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG 2013

The aromatics on the ’13 Riserva are pretty, floral, high-toned, like acidulated violets. The palate is deep and brooding, full and marked by barrel notes that bring chocolate and vanilla. The wood is very prevalent and yet the structure is not one of force or grip. The best years are in the present. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted February 2019

Brunello di Montalcino Riserva DOCG 2012

Cerbaia Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG 2012

A rich and luxurious Riserva from a single plot from Cerbaia, up the Montalcino hill from Sassetti-Pertimali. Quite a bit more advanced and developed than the sister Sassetti making it so very serviceable while we wait two more years for the warmer and grippier one to come into its window and place. Balsamic and soy are here with porcini and tartufo. Smoky and charred as well with real caramelized, burnt brisket meaty character and plioenty of riveting acidity. Might surprise and live 10 more luxurious years. The jury is out. Drink 2019-2026.  Tasted February 2019  Fattoriacerbaia  @cerbaia.chollet

Rosso di Montalcino DOC 2017

Baricci Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2017

Not all Rosso di Montalcino are created equal and if you want to taste the real deal than Baricci is the place. It all goes back to patriarch and grandfather Nello Baricci, founding member of the Brunello di Montalcino Consortium in 1967. It is a privilege to taste this ’17 with Francesco Buffi, a generational winemaker and current custodian of Colombaio di Montosoli sangiovese. Tradition matters but so does purity and beauty. The precision, focus and pure notes played are ones that only the finest gifts and moments of acidity are able to provide. If I were to close my eyes and imagine Montalcino, but especially this northern part of Montalcino fruit, Baricci’s transparency is the conjuring. And it’s so very real. Drink 2019-2027.  Tasted February 2019

Salvioni – La Cerbaiolo Rosso di Montalcino DOC 2017

Quite reductive this intensely youthful ’17 Rosso from Salvioni, locked up, in chains. A Rosso as a war on the established style but also a drug, a sangiovese tincture that stymies and yet really flows. Doesn’t cause any pain but you need to work through the structure to come out on the other side. There are so many Brunello 2014s that don’t hold a candle to this Rosso ’17. “Ain’t no wind that I feel, flyin’ with no way to lose.” Drink 2021-2029.  Tasted February 2019  Salvioni

Talenti Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2017

Talenti’s is quite big, rich and ambitious for Rosso and why not? When you own a vintage and a vineyard embarrassment of riches you may as well go whole cinghiale. The meatiness and sumptuous unction are two aspects that make this a phenomenal food Rosso and also one that will age into great secondary character four or five years down the road. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted February 2019  talentiriccardo  brixandmortarwineco    @brixandmortar  Talenti Montalcino  @brixandmortarwineco

San Polino Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2017

San Polino’s is an exciting combination of old and young, structured and drinkable. The fruit has been coaxed to tell a short story but if you are so inclined the longer novel can and will be told. The promise of Brunelo 2017 is told inside this story, with rich red fruit, a touch of traditional sour and succulent acids. Tannins know their place here and lend spice with several years of unfolding that lay ahead. Drink 2021-2028.  Tasted February 2019  #sanpolino  thelivingvine @SanPolinoVino  @TheLivingVine  #SanPolinoBrunello  The Living Vine inc.

Tenuta La Potazzine Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2017

Very pretty pulchritude in the Potazzine Rosso ’17 with spice, charm and a great pulse of energy. This is so very Rosso and so very what Rosso wants, needs and can be. All pulse and vitality, with striking acids and sneaky formidable tannin. Delicious Rosso di Montalcino and a great harbinger for the vintage. Drink 2020-2026.  Tasted February 2019  lepotazzine  @LePotazzine  @LePotazzine

Collemattoni Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2017

A highly specialized terroir-driven Rosso with intensely structured tannins shaped over solid and strong bones. Really intense Rosso with leathery cherries and lots of dried herbs. Very good length. Drink 2021-2027.  Tasted February 2019 @collemattoni  @StemWineGroup  collemattoni  stemwinegroup  Collemattoni Brunello  @stemwine

Cortonesi La Mannella Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2017

Lovely aromatics, sexy and spicy, plenty of spice cupboard, herbs and flowers. Smell the argileux and the small rocks littering the vineyards. Tells a story of place so succinctly and what’s coming over the next few years. Sweet acids balance and foil drying tannins for classically trained and executed Rosso. Drink 2020-2024.  Tasted February 2019 @LaMannella  @Nicholaspearce_  marcora85  nicholaspearcewines  Tommaso Cortonesi  Nicholas Pearce

Poggio Antico Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2017

A rich and satisfying Rosso, with plenty of sun-worshipped fruit and some spice from that guaranteed one year in barrel. Cool and full, a low tannic style meant for the early drinking years. Hard to believe sangiovese can turn out like this. Drink 2019-2021.  Tasted February 2019 tenutadelpoggioantico  halpernwine  @poggioantico  @HalpernWine  @tenutadelpoggioantico  @halpernwine

Argiano Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2017

A firm and grippy Rosso 2017 with big dark fruit and relatively soft acids. Proper Rosso on the argileux side and then marked by proper tannins. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted February 2019 @Argianowinery  @Noble_Estates  cantina_argiano  noble_estates  @argiano  @NobleEstates

Castello Romitorio Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2017

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

Quercecchio Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2017

The simple gait of a Rosso di Montalcino is found in such an example. Tart red fruit in the pomegranate-cranberry spectrum, sharp acids and negligible tannin. Easy and spirited for red sauces and a quick char on salty red meat protein. Pork chops too. Drink 2019-2020.  Tasted February 2019 #quercecchio  @MQuercecchio  @quercecchio

Fanti Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2016

Fanti’s Rosso is one of those expressly meant as is, as opposed to it intending to act as a “second wine” to Brunello. Younger vines (15-20 years of age) are the providers and a careful selection is performed to achieve that all important Rosso goal; freshness and early drinkability. The raising here is 12 months in barrel, 60 per cent in barriques of 225L and (40) in 30 hL grandi botti. And so the mix of red cherry freshness and old-school fruit leathery structure means this Rosso goes both ways. In that sense it does it all. Solid as it gets and tells you what you need to know. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted February 2019    tenuta_fanti  lesommelierwine  @tenutafanti  @LeSommelierWine  Elisa Fanti  @LeSommelierWine

Podere San Giacomo Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2016

From Claudio Nardi, Graziella Pieri and daughter Elena in Montalcino’s northeast sector, Rosso is a smooth, darkening sangiovese that spent 12 Months in French 500L tonneaux. It’s a classic and proper upbringing, with a purpose to tide us over with fresh Montalcino juice while the Brunelli take their time. That said it’s quite rendered and developed for Rosso with some dried fruit character merging with extra structure. Quality Rosso with plenty of upside. Drink 2019-2021.  Tasted February 2019  poderesangiacomo     Podere Sangiacomo Nardi

Tenuta Buon Tempo Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2016

Tenuta Buon Tempo offers up just a lovely aromatic profile in delivery of what 2016 should and could, with exotic florals, red citrus starlight and a sense of airy breaths. The best of 2016 acidity is brought out, alongside and of hands intertwined and interlaced with the fruit. The slightly firm finish indicates a few years of low and slow development. Drink 2020-2027.  Tasted February 2018 and 2019   tenutabuontempo    @TenutaBuonTempo  Carpe Vinum

Good to go!

godello

Last order of business in Montalcino #illeccio

 

Twitter: @mgodello

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WineAlign

Chianti Classico is the future

Panzano Sunset

Tasting notes and reviews on 125 sangiovese at the 2019 Chianti Classico Collection

by Michael Godel

Related – As seen on WineAlign

Sangiovese and the Black Rooster. The grape and the symbolic trademark are the inseparable and inextricable nexus of Chianti Classico. The Gallo Nero brands each bottle of sangiovese with a seal to guarantee the exacting territorial source of the contents inside, on the neck or the back label, for a conceit of quality. If the rooster is not there, it can’t be Chianti Classico. All three levels of DOCG classification are rubber stamped; Chianti Classico, Chianti Classico Riserva and Chianti Classico Gran Selezione. Deconstructed deeper there are San Casciano in Val di Pesa, Radda in Chianti, Poggibonsi, Greve in Chianti, Gaiole in Chianti, Castellina in Chianti, Castelnuovo Berardenga and the freshly renamed commune of Barberino Tavernelle. Deeper still there are frazioni; Panzano, Lamole and Montefioralle (Greve), Monti (Gaiole), San Donato in Poggio and Mercatale in Val di Pesa (San Casciano) and many more. These names grace some examples and you can expect more and more to join the menzione geografica wave.

#lacappella

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In Ontario Market Chianti Classico

Chianti Classico DOCG 2017
Chianti Classico DOCG 2016
Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2016
Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG 2016
Chianti Classico DOCG 2015
Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2015
Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG 2015

Not currently in Ontario market Chianti Classico

Chianti Classico DOCG 2017
Chianti Classico DOCG 2016
Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2016
Chianti Classico DOCG 2015
Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2015
Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG 2015

putting my money on @beck to pair @johnszabo with #chianticlassico

Related – John Szabo’s Anteprime di Toscana report

The preview or anteprima tasting of current vintage releases known as the Chianti Classico Collection took place on February 11th and 12th at Stazione Leopolda in Firenze. Upwards of 200 producers were on hand to introduce their most recent (or imminent to be released) Annata, Riserva and Gran Selezione. Journalists from all over the world were present, including myself and WineAlign’s John Szabo M.S. Those who are commensurate with the Tuscan territory’s landscape, people, food and wines fondly remember the essential and tireless work lent to Chianti Classico matters by long-time friend and Consorzio past President Sergio Zingarelli of Rocca delle Macìe. In 2019 the focus is on where the territory will go, with the future squarely, capably and thankfully in the hands of the incumbent President, Fontodi’s Giovanni Manetti. It would be provocation and a challenge to express the sentiment any clearer. For Chianti Classico the future looks bright and so very sangiovese.

When I met with Manetti in both September and November of 2018 he had that look, the one of serious concentration mixed with great hope. Manetti told me that Chianti Classico is home to “one of the best red wines from all over the world, deserving of space in place with the best. I find great harmony in the wines.” His words and the things I myself have seen, nosed, tasted, felt and experienced over seven trips and 76 estate visits spread across 34 latter months have led to some serious genuflection. The important question is contemplated again and with great sincerity. Is Chianti Classico the most important red wine from Italy?

Which way with the Gallo Nero?

The sangiovese raised in Chianti Classico must and should not be assessed without considering what lays beneath the ground in conjunction with the people who work the vineyards. It was a discussion with Principe Corsini/Le Corti’s Duccio Corisini in which he mentioned the term genius loci that led me to regard the Chianti Classico Climat concept equivalence called acclimazione sottosuolo. Both are a matter of agriculturalists interacting with the stratified Chianti Classico layers beneath the vines. Four major types of mineral soils are present, prevalent and essential to how, why and where sangiovese acts and thrives in the territory.

Alberese (calcareous limestone), Galestro (schisty marl), Pietraforte (purple-brown shale) and Macigno (sandstone) fix and demonstrate the sub-soils but they are not the only significant rocks that contribute to regional character. River stones and marine fossil shells are also found in various vineyards and yet it is simply impossible to draw geological and geographical lines that explain exactly which soils exist and where. The master mapmaker himself Alessandro Masnaghetti has tried and while his rendering is the most accurate and complete for Chianti Classico even he has conceded that it is the most complex weave in all of Italy. Here is the rub and the essence of Chianti Classico’s set of exemptions and eccentricities. The complexity of soils results in the multiplicity of its sangiovese.

There’s 32 kilometres to Lamole, we’ve got a full tank of gas, a six pack of Chianti Classico, it’s dark out, and we’re wearing sunglasses.

In advance of February’s #CCC2019 I published tasting notes and reviews for all the wines I assessed at Chianti Classico estates in the Autumn of 2018.

Related – Chianti Classico Fall 2018: September and November, 25 estates, 150 wines reviewed in 18,000 words

Those September and November 2018 visits to 25 properties were my pre-anteprima to the February 2019 anteprima at the Chianti Classico Collection. In addition to the reviews I also dropped two posts, one that appeared on the Chianti Classico website so succinctly translated into Italian by the Consorzio del Vino Chianti Classico’s Silvia Fiorentini and Caterina Mori. This was no simple or easy exercise for them as any of you who know the meandering style of my prose. The second was in English, as I had originally composed.

Related – as seen in Chianti Classico Magazine, translated into Italian – Il sogno Canadese del Chianti Classico abbraccia il più nobile dei Sangiovese Italiani

Related – Chianti Classico’s Canadian dream

Chianti Classico

What did we learn from this most recent Chianti Classico Collection? For one thing we remarked upon the unprecedented level of attendance. The Collection is divided into two rooms, each a football pitch in length, one with the producer stands and the other with tables set for journalists to taste at the hands of a service dutifully provided by the hardest working Sommeliers in the business. There was this non-stop buzz and producers pouring to throngs lined up three or four deep. The Collection also marked the moment when the newest Chianti Classico ambassador award was honoured to none other than Decanter’s long-standing consultant editor and author of Wine – A Way of Life, Steven Spurrier. Spurrier joins the 2018 list and inaugural first five CC ambasciatori; Jeffrey Porter, Michaela Morris, Massimo Castellani, Isao Miyajima and…Godello.

In spite of the very hot growing season yet another successful vintage was noted from the small number of 2017 sangiovese poured, in particular those showing great freshness with help from communes and vineyards blessed of higher altitudes. The real focus at #CCC2019 was on the 2016 Annata, a vintage at once normal and then exceptionally generous to show the exponential, across the board increase in quality and ever-evolving multiplicity of the territory’s sangiovese.

Lamole, Greve in Chianti

So what will 2019 bring? Will it usher in a new era of Chianti Classico bottles noted by villages and crus on the labels? Will sangiovese long designated IGT come back to the appellation? Will Gran Selezione gain further ground and find itself endeared by the hearts of more women and men? Will the category seek 100 per cent sangiovese status? One thing is certain and that is Canada’s connection and bond to the territory will only grow stronger. When we convene at the end of 2019 the sales figures will prove that the process is moving in the right direction.

As you will note from the following tasting notes/wine reviews the number of Chianti Classico I rated 90 points or higher are the most I’ve ever awarded above that arbitrary threshold. Not that I take much stock in the 100-point system, or any numerical substantiation for that matter, but in the context of what consumers want and how they make purchasing decisions, these scores show just how many Chianti Classico are worth buying, drinking and adding to the cellar.

Ontario in market Chianti Classico DOCG

These are the wines from producers with importation agency representation in Ontario available for purchase either through LCBO channels (LCBO General List, VINTAGES, Classics Catalogue, VINTAGES Shop-Online or Destination Store) or through case purchases in the LCBO-Agent Consignment program. The list does not include producers’ wines represented in Ontario that are either brought in periodically through Private Order or have not yet been imported at all.


Chianti Classico DOCG 2017

I Fabbri Chianti Classico DOCG Lamole Olinto Grassie E Figlio 2017

“A true expression of this terroir,” says Susanna Grassi, from the organic vineyards, and the tiniest (3,000) bottles of production. At altitudes as high as any in Chianti Classico and from the warmest of vintages, the fresh factor is as high as there will be. The fruit goes beyond cherry, into what careens like raspberry and the savoury aspect is almost sweet, but not. Aged in concrete and just so pleasurable meets territorial. Exactitude for Lamole. Drink 2019-2024. Tasted February 2019  ifabbriclassico  roberto_codispoti  @ifabbrichianticlassico  Susanna Grassi

With Volpaia’s Federica Mascheroni

Volpaia Chianti Classico DOCG 2017

Pretty taut for Volpaia though truth be told this Radda sangiovese always requires some time. Fullness of fruit and equally supportive acidity meets the texture of altitude and the advantage of acumen. There are layers here that many ‘17s will just not have, exhibit or develop. A tour de vintage force really. Drink 2021-2028. Tasted February 2019  castellodivolpaia  rogersandcompanywines  @volpaia  @rogcowines  @volpaia

Castello Di Ama Chianti Classico DOCG Ama 2017

Aromatic freshness never had it this way and the flowers are in full bloom. It’s both violet and rose but more than that, an installation as a late summer/early fall garden having been respectfully groomed. The palate does nothing to change your mind because the texture and quelling constitution are almost hypnotic, capturing, spellbinding even. Acids are fine and timing even better. Drink 2020-2027. Tasted February 2019  castellodiama  halpernwine  @CastellodiAma  @HalpernWine  @castellodiama  @halpernwine

Rocca Di Montegrossi Chianti Classico DOCG 2017

Monti in Chianti is a special tour de force location for grooming sangiovese and the vintage takes this terroir for a real spin. The Galestro rocks heated up in a way they had not recently been accustomed to doing, having received so much intense sun and you can feel the accumulation in this 2017 Annata. The fruit is particularly sweet-scented and richly developed. It needs little settling time and with acids not overly demanding I would suggest early enjoyment. Drink 2020-2023. Tasted February 2019  #roccadimontegrossi  #roccadimontegrossi  @RoccadiMontegrossi

Bibbiano Chianti Classico DOCG 2017

Scintillant this ’17 fresh-maker from i Marrochezi Marzi at Bibbiano, lightning red fruit of clarity, transparency and pulse. High-toned early, out of the gate and surprisingly without foible despite the ripeness and while concentrated, not excitedly so. Well done Tommaso, really well done. Drink 2019-2023. Tasted February 2019  bibbianowines  lesommelierwine  @bibbianowines  @LeSommelierWine  Bibbiano Chianti Classico  Le Sommelier, Wine Agency

Filippo Mazzei in discussion with Brad Royale and Steven Robinson

Castello Di Fonterutoli Chianti Classico DOCG Fonterutoli 2017

A poster child for 2017, ripeness developed without trepidation, berries small and bursting with tart fruit, cherries on high and acidity wound so very tight. Some quality tannins, sweet and savoury, liquid chalky and always intense. All that said, try and find a better Tuscan cuisine matching early drinking Annata. It’s exactly that, to be sure. Drink 2019-2021. Tasted February 2019

Carpineto Chianti Classico DOCG 2017

Tough reductive nut to crack though a swirl, some agitation and air releases some classic Greve in Chianti Carpineto aromatics. Chewy sangiovese, after that initial rock solid wall broken through and full of rendered fruit, some leathery, very cherry and quick to speak. Such a mouthful with bones and a verdant streak run right through. Drink 2019-2022. Tasted February 2019  carpinetowines  univinscanada  @CarpinetoWines  @UNIVINS  Carpineto Wines  @agence.UNIVINS  


Chianti Classico DOCG 2016

Villa Di Geggiano Chianti Classico DOCG 2016

Sometimes there’s a sangiovese that’s really quite perfect for its place and time. In Geggiano’s case their land is a highly specific micro-climate in as far as the crow flies close to Siena at the western edge of Castelnuovo Berardenga. With terrific 2016 in pocket it adds up to immediate gratification giving way in credence to structural organization. This is the 2019 find from Annata so many of you will have been looking and waiting for. Precise and focused are certainties though it is the way its silky texture slides down and its fine tannins only limelight the layers the pleasure along that ride. Great work from field to table from the brothers Boscu Bandinelli Bianchi. Drink 2022-2033. Tasted February 2019  illadigeggiano  andreaboscu  barrelselect  @VilladiGeggiano  @BarrelSelect  @villadigeggianowinery  @barrelselect

Consorzio Vino Chianti Classico President Giovanni Manetti, Fontodi, Panzano in Chianti

Fontodi Chianti Classico DOCG 2016

There are so many attributable aspects at play upon arrival at 2016 for Fontodi. Tasting three times in 2018 with Giovanni Manneti lent much discussion to the anticipation of this vintage even though it hot not yet been poured. The newer vineyards have entered a new period of maturity, coupled with the older Conca d’Oro vines and in the breathing of 2016 all adds up to a pinnacle of sorts. This is an uncompromising Annata of fruit, acidity, oh acidity and all around structure. It’s actually a bit chalky at this stage and the finest tannins still dominate the scene. Will be one for the ages. Drink 2021-2028. Tasted February 2019  #Fontodi  rogersandcompanywines    @rogcowines  Az. Agr. Fontodi

Fontodi Chianti Classico DOCG Filetta Di Lamole 2016

Once again Lamole both astonishes and confounds. It’s make-up, constitution and display are unlike any other in Chianti Classico. It’s both liquid lava flowing and petrified, salumi cured and fresh as just picked red fruit. It’s quite a scene this Fontodi from land occupied by cousins to Giovanni Manetti, sangiovese that is chewy but linear, chalky while viscous, savoury but far from herbal. It’s the umami of Chianti Classico sangiovese I suppose. It’s so singular and needs to be investigated, nosed and tasted, again and again. Drink 2022-2029. Tasted February 2019

Paolo de Marchi, Isole e Olena

Isole E Olena Chianti Classico DOCG 2016

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

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

Il Molino Di Grace Chianti Classico DOCG Solosangiovese 2016

”I think it’s a very good vintage,” announces Iacopo Morganti and that is all you really need to know, though take the time to glide along and feel the in synch moving parts. This is essential and partisan to gain an understanding ingrained of deepest knowing. There is something about this house style, this estate gathering and this layering of no-proviso, 100 per cent sangiovese. It walks you down all the way to Rimocine, down to the bottom of the Grace vinyards, looking up at San Francesco and the vines all around. This transports you to a place. Isn’t that what you want? That and great fruit, acids and fine tannin. Southeast Panzano sangiovese incarnate. Drink 2021-2028. Tasted February 2019

Colle Bereto Chianti Classico DOCG 2016

So accomplished, respectful and purposed. Knowable, knowledgeable and guaranteed to educate on the merits of growing, picking and sorting perfect fruit. The furthest from rustic that you will find or know. Dark fruit, succulent acids and some of Radda in Chianti’s finest tannins. Drink 2020-2027. Tasted February 2019  olleberetowinery   @NokhrinWines  Azienda Agricola Colle Bereto  Azienda Agricola Colle Bereto

Le Fonti Di Panzano Chianti Classico DOCG 2016

Officially still a tank sample but it is a finished wine, just awaiting DOCG approval. Very firm and juicy, replete with the classic Le Fonti aromatic profile, of salumi, fennel, herbs and salty savour. Fruit, acidity, structure all there in fineness and Panzano culpability. Needs a year to come together, at least, for sure. Essentially 90 per cent sangiovese give or take a point or two with merlot and cabernet sauvignon. Drink 2020-2027. Tasted February 2019  poderelefonti  thevineagency  @LeFontiPanzano  @TheVine_RobGroh  Fattoria Le Fonti – Panzano   @thevineto

I Fabbri Chianti Classico DOCG Lamole Olinto Grassie E Figlio 2016

From a normal vintage really, warm in Spring, hot in summer and back down to pleasant in the fall. A phenolic journey just right for Lamole, More savour, in fennel and gariga than ‘7, surely not as juicy sweet. Still so mouth watering in a way that most sangiovese doesn’t normally accede. This really sparks the taste buds and livens up the energy required to come back again and again. Succulence through acidity assured. Really proper. Drink 2019-2024. Tasted February 2019

Barone Ricasoli Chianti Classico DOCG Brolio Bettino 2016

There is no other name in Chianti Classico that speaks to tradition, formula and success like Bettino. Bettino ’16 is a clarity that is Ricasoli. Sits up at the peak of generosity at a vortex where the fine history of a terroirist’s prayers of intercession come together. As one voice they speak of acidity and structure, brought in to meet, engage and commune at a masterly rendered vanishing point. It’s a rich one Mr. Ricasoli, but one that can be shared and enjoyed by many in the congregation. Drink 2021-2026. Tasted February 2019

Querciabella Chianti Classico DOCG 2016

On the ripest side of 2016 life, Querciabella’s Annata is all in, developed, deep and pure. The fruit already there, unencumbered by holds barred and of a picking that pushes the envelop to gratify at the highest level. There’s nothing stopping the early enjoyment and while the tannins are anything but astringent they are there, albeit sweet and fine. Drink 2020-2023. Tasted February 2019   querciabella  grape_brands  @Querciabella  @querciabella

Luiano Chianti Classico DOCG 2016

Quite the extracted and pressed Annata of sangiovese florals and liquor so dark cherry and even a note of Cassis. A bit of cabernet methinks, along with warmth, a big San Casciano bear hug and all you could want from a wine meant to offer up some love. XOXO for sure. Last tasted February 2019  luianowine ale_luiano  tre.amici.imports  @LuiLuiano  @treamiciwines  Luiano®  Alessandro Palombo  Tre Amici Wines

While 2014 showed a winemaker’s ability to survive and ultimately thrive in spite of a great challenge and 2015 proved a different sort of sangiovese mettle, 2016 is more accented and accentuated. The tobacco mid-point on a crunchy mid-palate moves away from gelée and into gravelly pronouncements. Though only in bottle a few days you can’t help but feel the power, grit and structure from this youthful 2016. It’s so very primary and needs to be heard but I’ve asked for a rain-check, looking forward to a re-visit in late ’18 or early ’19. Drink 2019-2023. Tasted February 2018

Casa Al Vento Chianti Classico DOCG 2016

‘Tis a savoury and yet also rich Chianti Classico, pretty much what you’d want and expect from Gaiole in Chianti. At present it’s found somewhat in a shell with inherent structure from what seems like a pretty solid variegate of soil. You can sense Alberese, Galestro and clayey-marl in the layers of fruit and the blocks that stack one upon the other. An unmistakeable sangiovese albeit well-extracted and very modern. Drink 2021-2025. Tasted February 2019

Ruffino Chianti Classico DOCG Santedame 2016

Santedame is quite traditional Chianti Classico, straight ahead with tart red fruit, a tad sour-edged and one of the keepers of the words. Classico, as in what came before and needs to continue, plus Chianti, place in a territory where things are always what they are. Don’t expect much change from this wine. It is loyal to its lineage and proper. It’s also really well made in a very good vintage. Drink 2020-2024. Tasted February 2019

Villa Trasqua

Villa Trasqua Chianti Classico DOCG 2016

Trasqua’s Annata comes from a special sway of land, from a valley floor sweeping over gentle hills to create sangiovese of ease and drink ability. You can basically back up the truck for this one without needing to wait or expect later miracles. That said the acidity and tannin are fine, present and accounted for, so all the boxes are checked. Drink 2019-2023. Tasted February 2019     @tenutavillatrasqua  @HULSI_II  Frontier Wine Merchants  villatrasqua

John Matta and John Szabo at Vicchiomaggio, Greve in Chianti

Vicchiomaggio Chianti Classico DOCG San Jacopo 2016

A varietal sangiovese with full fruit freshness intentions though there is some sweet herbal aspects to go along. Quite fresh and youthful with minor tannic structure. Don’t lose these in the cellar. They are ready whenever you are. Last tasted February 2019

A syrup quells and wells on the nose in Vicchiomaggio’s Greve drawn San Jacopo, like an anaesthetic offering temporary numbing before the scents of fennel and baking spices shake you clear. Here the vintage is spoken early and with weight, density and deep impression. Everything fires on quick cylinders; fruit, wood spice, smoulder and verdant savour. It’s all in and immediate. Drink 2018-2021. Tasted February 2018

Cantalici Baruffo Chianti Classico DOCG 2016

Quite a barrel affected Annata with a richness of fruit that can handle the toasty wood and carry forward with expressive character, along with quite alimentary tannin. It’s not so much an older schooled Chianti Classico as much as it’s one of swagger, ambition and going hard for the vintage. Drink 2020-2025. Tasted February 2019  cantalici_winery__  @wineCantalici  Cantalici  Carlo Cantalici  Angela Butini  

Borgo Scopeto Chianti Classico DOCG 2016

Very getable 2016 sangiovese straight shooter with a glass full of cherries and quick to the point acids. Zero tannin means drink this as young as is humanly possible and let everyone enjoy the wholly ubiquitous, international and easy to appreciate style. Drink 2019-2020. Tasted February 2019  borgoscopetorelais  @BorgoScopeto  @rubenelmer  Borgo Scopeto  Ruben Elmer


Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2016

Villa Le Corti Principe Corsini Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG Cortevecchia 2016

A river of stones up on the Corsini hill provide the elemental fodder to generate vine health in a territory where altitude and exposure are everything. At least in the case of Cortevecchia. The richness of savoury edged cherries meets very fine tannin and a princely cohort of conscious movement. The old court is the wine for the decade at this very particular vantage place and place, in Riserva form. Drink 2021-2027. Tasted February 2019  principecorsini  artisanal_wine_imports  @PrincipeCorsini  @ArtWineGuru  Principe Corsini  Artisanal Wine Imports

Who does Il Molino di Grace’s Iacopo Morganti remind you of?

Il Molino Di Grace Riserva Chianti Classico DOCG 2016

Welcome to the new world Il Molino di Grace order. Here along, after and in addition to the Annata that changes everything is a crunchy and chewy Riserva of pure, laser focus. An extension of Annata with deeper fruit and confidently brighter than most Riserva. The selection is not merely impressive, it’s necessary. The opening farewell is just the beginning of the end. The fruit sits way up on high, on a hill where acidity and tannin live intertwined, transparent and monumental. Sangiovese on its own in Riserva might need help, a little bit of support to elevate and celebrate a little bit of everything. Not this IMG. Solo suffices with ease. It’s already got a little bit of everything. Marks the first of more steps to come for an estate ready to climb into a highest Chianti Classico echelon where it wants, needs and deserves to be. Drink 2021-2029. Tasted February 2019

Bibbiano Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2016

Bibbiano’s ’16 wears a robe of wood and wears it well. There are notes expected in lavender, vanilla, graphite and syrupy berries but all swim together in the same and forthright direction. As with the pervasive Bibbiano oeuvre there’s time ahead before learning will push forward to allow this great vintage fruit to poke through as sunlight through the trees. Please, I implore you to wait for that glorious moment. Drink 2022-2027. Tasted February 2019

Dievole Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG Novecento 2016

A highly focused, geographically compassed, navigationally composed and just plain oozing sangiovese in Riserva form. Many facets are at play and to thank; Vagliagli, Castelnuovo Berardenga and concrete eggs are just a few though truth be told, in Dievole’s case, are all larger than life. They all contribute for presence, texture and ultimately, dreaminess. Drink 2022-2028. Tasted February 2019  @dievole  profilewinegroup  @Dievole  @ProfileWineGrp  dievole  Profile Wine Group

Barone Ricasoli Brolio Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2016

Riserva is but a bambino, locked tight, with great acidity, fruit agglomerated as one from a selection of all the vineyards. It’s the Ricasoli signature sangiovese dish, a true estate combinative Riserva. This is like taking a tour through all of the plots scattered around 270 hectares, to gain an understanding of what goes into making this Gaiole in Chianti body of work. The insight and grasp is yet unfulfilled because in this case it will take some time for all the moving parts to come together. Solid work in Riserva regardless, really really solid. Drink 2021-2026. Tasted February 2019  ricasoli1141  francescoricasoli  churchillcellars  @ricasoli_1141  @imbibersreport  @ricasoli1141  @imbibersreport

Mazzei Ser Lapo Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2016

Big 2016 fruit from the Mazzei family, with a massive amount of concentration to meet a grip no honest man can pay. Clearly a wine of maceration, concentration and fine liquid tannic focus. Long and true in the context of the tradition of Ser Lapo. Drink 2021-2025. Tasted February 2019

Rocca Delle Macìe Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG Famiglia Zingarelli 2016

Classic firm and over delivering entry for a Zingarelli Riserva built to last. Succulent of red fruit rolling round beneath a hard savoury candy fruit shell. Such a rich edition with lights flared and motor running. I’d wait a couple of years for the richness of 2016 fruit, the warmth and the bones to get together. Drink 2021-2027. Tasted February 2019  @roccadellemacie  @roccadellemacie  @ProfileWineGrp  Profile Wine Group  roccadellemacie

@castellovicchiomaggio

Vicchiomaggio Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG Agostino Petri 2015

Riserva Petri is the largest of the Vicchiomaggio cru, in production of 500 hL so 60,000 bottles. Aged in used barriques and large barrels. A deeper and darker sangiovese so silky and smooth. There is now a balsamic and truffle aspect to the aromas, with some chocolate on the palate. Last tasted February 2019

Agostino Peri is an expressly and explicitly written Riserva from Vicchiomaggio, dusty, high in acidity and ultimately, ostensibly wholly, traditional. Sits on a perch above Greve in Chianti lands to tell the world. Drink 2019-2024. Tasted February 2018


Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG 2016

Conti Capponi/Villa Calcinaia Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG Vigna Contessa Luisa 2016

Now for something completely different. The Contessa’s vineyard is a lifelong dream and confounding sangiovese from which to grab attention. She’s immediately elegant and charming and then so closed. She is predicated on darkening red cherry fruit but her acidity is formidable and so the connection is severe to establish. She lingers with you for so long that you don’t know what to do because she was never really accessible to begin with. Teasing Gran Selezione, an incubus for now, but eventually you will realized the dream. FYI, the oldest estate 1959 planted Contessa Luisa vineyard was dedicated to matriarch Luisa Vonwiller. Drink 2023-2033. Tasted February 2019  @villacalcinaia  @Nicholaspearce_  villacalcinaia  nicholaspearcewines  @calcinaia  Nicholas Pearce

Castello Di Ama Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG Vigneto Bellavista 2016

It’s worth noting that Bellavista is the Gran Selezione passed over in 2014 because it is only deemed worthy of being made in the most concentrated of vintages. Bellavista may be a brother to San Lorenzo but they really couldn’t be any different. Deeper, richer, more tannic and structured, with a chalkiness that speaks to white limestone. But it’s a not a lightning, bright red fruit sangiovese, no rather it’s strong, deep, grippy, brooding and built for the longest of of hauls. This fulfills the wishes of a very specific type of Chianti Classico, of an emperor’s structure in sangiovese clothes. Drink 2022-2030. Tasted February 2019

Conte Capponi/Villa Calcinaia Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG Vigna Bastignano 2016

Capponi’s Bastignano is a Gran Selezione consistent and repetitively persistent to speak its singular truth. It is truly hematic, a sumptuous, oozing full-fruit sangiovese with above the left bank of the river Greve coursing through its blood. Very smooth, seamless, finely tannic and beautifully high in ripe acida. If all GS carried such acid then the category would float even higher. Drink 2021-2029. Tasted February 2019

Castello Di Ama Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG San Lorenzo 2016

San Lorenzo will gift all that Ama has to offer with respect to sangiovese for the 2016 vintage. The fruit is quite dark cherry, perhaps exceeding acquainted expectation though truth be told expectation is easy to handle when vineyards, fruit and seminal acidity do what they do. Far from a tumult of tannin sacrifices nothing to pleasure. A great San Lorenzo many will simply want to drink. Drink 2020-2027. Tasted February 2019

Conti Capponi/Villa Calcinaia Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG La Fornace 2016

Vigna Fornace, “The Furnace” is indeed the warmest of the Capponi Gran Selezione, full of gathered 2016 sunshine, ready to melt in the mouth acidity, tannins and in this case, chocolate. The acidity is very different to Bastigano, here cured, developed and dare it be said in such a young wine, assimilated. Drink this younger while ye wait for the bigger structure and high tonal Bastigano. Drink 2019-2024. Tasted February 2019

Rocca Delle Macìe Gran Selezione Chianti Classico DOCG Riserva Di Fizzano Single Vineyard 2016

In 2016 the cards all align for this ubiquitous and all pervasive get to market Gran Selezione, with a sweet fruit core and satiny viscosity to tell the tale of an estate and a category. This is so very stylish, cultured and rendered sangiovese with round edging, good quality acidity and a voice to last a generation. Drink 2021-2029. Tasted February 2019


Chianti Classico DOCG 2015

Tenuta Perano Chianti Classico DOCG 2015

The second harvest (though the first to enter the market) for Frescobaldi’s Tenuta Perano in Gaiole is a fortuitous one and you have to see these steep vineyards for yourself to believe what possibilities there can be. The unusual situation of a simultaneous release alongside the same vintage Riserva is necessary and understood because the ’14 fruit was de-classified and sold off. Chianti Classico Annata is proper when this much freshness abounds, with high acidity and Gaiole savour. So very and bloody Gaiole and I say this with blood orange in mind. There is also a forested nod and a wink in affinity over the hills to Radda but this remains secure in its Gaiole clothing. The angles, slopes and aspects of Perano’s steepness are echoed in the way this sangiovese ambles across the palate, expanding and contracting as sangiovese likes to and will often do. Temperature fluctuations will also impart this sense of breaths taken in and out. Great intrigue here and with no surprise why Frescobaldi coveted this impressive property. Drink 2018-2022. Tasted September 2018 and February 2019

Losi Querciavalle Chianti Classico DOCG 2015

Let’s talk about sangiovese needing time. Even this generous and rapturous 2015 from the Losi family is not ready to tell its Castelnuovo Berardenga, on the road to Pontignano truth. Not yet. Annata yes I know but structured like the chapels that take a decade or more to restore after many centuries of formidable architecture refusing to yield. Like this Alberese fed sangiovese. Always a firm one of honest and fair play. Drink 2021-2028. Tasted February 2019

Le Cinciole Chianti Classico DOCG 2015

Quite the tangy and chewy number this ’15, let bleed from Panzano Galestro, at once torn and frayed and then fully engaged in its business. This has got you by the cherries that much it’s true and while it’s a bit out of its musical element there’s a charm about it’s country twang. Drink 2020-2024. Tasted February 2019

Stefano Farina Le Bocce Chianti Classico DOCG 2015

Fleshy, somewhat morbido, dark red to black fruit sangiovese with some complications, notably acidity that stands apart. Fruit so savoury and tangy tart leaning into a raisin direction. There’s an intensity, a high tonality and also a depth of dried fruit. Drink 2020-2023. Tasted February 2019


Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2015

Le Fonti Di Panzano Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2015

Two years in the barrel (400 and 500L, one is Hungarian Kader), again approximately 90 per cent sangiovese and the new wood in ’15 was in the 20 per cent range. Here comes that Le Fonti aromatic profile again, as distinct as any sangiovese you will ever nose. Would like to think they could be picked out of a line-up anywhere. Savoury, salty, cured, elegant and pure pleasure available. The quietest 15 per cent alcohol anywhere and from the coolest part of Panzano, to the east. Drink 2021-2028. Tasted February 2019

Rocca Di Castagnoli Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG Poggio A Frati 2015

Poggio A Frati 2015 is primarily sangiovese though usually contains a few percentage points of canaiolo, for tradition. The vines grow on 12 hectares of schisty Alberese soil at Poggio Frati, “the hills of the friars.” The generous season is blessed of beautifully defined tannins, fine and sweet, with that vintage’s glycerin fruit and really intense acidity. This is such a baby but with tannins so accomplished there will be a really fine future, sooner and later. Drink 2021-2029. Tasted February 2019  roccadicastagnoli  profilewinegroup  @Roccacastagnoli  @ProfileWineGrp  Rocca di Castagnoli  Profile Wine Group

Castello Di Querceto Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2015

Classically styled 2015, honest, pure and welling with extracted sangiovese depth. Acidity, grip and then tension all consistently woven from and beyond Annata, but it too is silky smooth,with a liquid liquorice ooze. Smooth bitter balsamic finish. Drink 2020-2024. Tasted September 2018 and February 2019   castellodiquerceto  profilewinegroup  @CastQuerceto  @ProfileWineGrp  Castello di Querceto  Profile Wine Group

Tenuta Perano Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2015

In Riserva the essence of this Gaiole location is continued to be captured, along with a strong Frescobaldi identity instituted for an early defined Perano style. It’s a severe set of vineyard landscapes here and appropriating the place is necessary to making quality sangiovese. The sanguinity and orange citrus aspects speak of the white limestone and chalkiness in the soils, here accompanied by a Riserva glaze, slightly caramelized and charred al forno. The fruit multiplied by earth richness is properly rendered and texturally you can imagine this to feel like elastic pizza dough. Acidity is everything, the key to success and the director of the project. As it should be with sangiovese, Chianti Classico and this place. The focus begins right away with vintage number one and so the future of Gaiole is ensured inclusive with the talents of Frescobaldi. Truly. Drink 2019-2023. Tasted September 2018 and February 2019  frescobaldivini  philippedandurandwines  @FrescobaldiVini  @Dandurandwines  @FrescobaldiVini  @VinsPhilippeDandurand


Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG 2015:

Volpaia Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG Il Puro 2015

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

Susanna Grassi of I Fabbri

I Fabbri Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG 2015

A choice selection of sangiovese only from the oldest vineyards (1969 and 1984, planted by Susanna Grassi’s father Guiliano). The fine, fine lines, streaks and sets are all a matter of taking the best of the best. The two wines made before this were 2011 Gran Selezione and 2007 (special) Riserva. Texture is drawn from altitude, climate and states of grace. Susanna believes that a special bottle should be made in only the most special vintages. A pretty good argument for commerce in terms of the category, if not everyone were to make it every year. A serious argument. No make-up, no overblowing of extraction, wood or horns. Know this wine. It’s from Lamole. Drink 2021-2034. Tasted February 2019

Colle Bereto Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG 2015

Here is a rich, rendered and Radda rocking Gran Selezione with dark fruit, high acidity and really sweet tannins. So very stylish with a keen sense of itself and who it aims to please. Colle Bereto’s bring the cleanest fruit and Bernardo Bianchi’s are very confident Chianti Classico, sempre e per sempre. Drink 2022-2031. Tasted February 2019

Il Molino Di Grace Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG Il Margone 2015

Molino di Grace’s Margone 2015 perpetuates the previous and original epoch for the estate, healthy, ambitious, full-bodied and of a wealth by fruit multiplied through wood. While it has always been a celebration of its land, it has also always been a wine made big, bold, spicy and tannic through the ushering along of real men’s barrels. That said Margone ’15 is the most calm and layered one to date, full of textures, tapestry and chewy rapport. It marks a turning point, not a complete one, but surely the one where both feet are securely and confidently striding forward into the new dimension of re-invention. Drink 2022-2029. Tasted February 2019

Rocca Delle Macìe Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG Sergio Zingarelli 2015

The 2015 Zingarelli Gran Selezione is a taut, youthful, fresh and also very tannic sangiovese. The toasty wood notes and chocolate are much in play with the fruit still tied up in youth. It’s one that takes all that ’15 wants to give, big, dense and and weighty. Will take five plus years to unfold and reveal, then five more to establish its territory. Castellina in Chianti. Drink 2023-2031. Tasted February 2019

Marchesi Antinori Badia A Passignano Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG 2015

Instantly recognizable archetype of the continuum in Chianti Classico excellence and one of the original seven Gran Selezione. Badia a Passignano comes to life in 2015 with the generosity of fruit that not all in the top of the pyramid category will exhibit as best in show. The classically styled tenets of structure, acidities and tannins are qualified fine as fine can be. Purposefully produced to be this way, to dot every I, T and traditional Italian restaurant wine list. Very fine. Drink 2019-2025. Tasted November 2018 and February 2019  marchesiantinori  halpernwine  markanthonyqc  @AntinoriFamily  @HalpernWin e  @MarchesiAntinori  @halpernwine

Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2013

Villa Di Geggiano Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2013

Geggiano’s ’13 is certainly a sangiovese explicit of expression within a sub-category that falls inside the category of multiplicity that is Riserva. That it took five years to come to a place of accessibility is no shocker and shares yet another detail of this nook in the western edges of Castelnuovo Berardenga. The perfume is beginning to emerge with truly succulent red liqueur. Very prominent (and promising) which is funny to say for a wine now heading into middle age, but not for Geggiano where sangiovese needs as much time as any. Tannins are fine but still in charge. Clarity and purity are surely defined. Wait another year for the next level of perfume and presence, though to be fair the structure is just a shade below the ’12. Drink 2020-2028. Tasted February 2019

San Francesco in the vineyards of Il Molino di Grace

Not currently in Ontario market Chianti Classico

These are the wines from producers without importation agency representation in Ontario but also wines represented in Ontario that are not currently available. They may either be brought in periodically through Private Order or have not yet been imported at all.


Chianti Classico DOCG 2017

Riecine Chianti Classico DOCG 2017

Riecine’s is the true limestone sangiovese, of pure and striking, fast as lightning red fruit. This is without any equivocal wavering a Chianti Classico for purists, for those who look to tradition and who seek the truth, with the most clarity and modernist’s approach. The acids are perfectly succulent, defined and refined. An Annata that will live in infamy, fifteen to twenty years or more I should think. Drink 2021-2035. Tasted February 2019

Podere La Cappella Chianti Classico DOCG 2017

Sangiovese with merlot in two and three year old botti and barriques, to be bottled in two weeks. Smells like Colombino stone, licked by rain with the fruit at its highest La Cappella promise. It’s never been this rich or full but sapidity will always streak through these wines. It reminds me of really high quality mencìa, in a way, piqued by toasty spice, juicy and ready for great meats and roasted vegetables. Drink 2020-2028. Tasted February 2019  natnito  #poderelacappella  Natascia Rossini

Podere Poggio Scalette Chianti Classico DOCG 2017

Quite forward and viscous for a Jurji Fiore Annata at so young a moment which tells us that in the heat of 2017 the highest altitudes were able to not only get to maximum phenolics but also do it with an accumulation of next level texture. For those who love Scalette’s lighting sangiovese and for those who like it real and those also those who want crushable this hits every collective note. Drink 2020-2025. Tasted February 2019  PoderePoggioScalette  profilewinegroup     @ProfileWineGrp  Podere Poggio Scalette  Profile Wine Group

Castello Di Monsanto Chianti Classico DOCG 2017

Once again here is the Castello di Monsanto perfume, distinct, proper, self-effacing correct and then into a purity of taste and texture to carry the name. Sangiovese and the meaning of what is now known collectively as Barberino Tavarnelle. A bit crunchy this early, indeed it is very young and will officially go to bottle in two weeks, though the wine is clearly a finished one. Another gem from Laura Bianchi. Drink 2020-2027. Tasted February 2019   castellomonsanto  @castelmonsanto  @castello.dimonsanto

Fattoria Montecchio Chianti Classico DOCG ‘Primum Line’ 2017

Spring frost has resulted in minuscule quantities from a very young vineyard (though 22 years of age). Pretty impressive for Annata, with enough freshness to balance the weight and the sheer presence of this wine. This is the Premium (Primum) alternative to the original and much larger production Chianti Classico DOCG. Drink 2020-2025. Tasted February 2019

Fattoria Di Montecchio Chianti Classico DOCG 2017

The original, historical label, having been 140,000 bottles production. A year in grandi botti plus four months in bottle before release. Classic, savoury, San Donato bigger, silky and smooth style. Not hard to understand and easy to drink. Find some of this ’17, drink it while waiting for the more structured 16s and stay loyal to a fine, honest and hard working house. Drink 2019-2021. Tasted February 2019

Alessandra Casini Bindi Sergardi and Giulia Bernini


Chianti Classico DOCG 2016

Podere Cianfanelli Chianti Classico DOCG Cianfanello 2016

From David Cianfanelli in the most northeasterly corner of the territory in Greve. Tight and also reductive, or hand in hand in a way and über promising. Reminds me of the sangiovese styling by Luca Martini di Cigala at San Giusto e Rentennano, serious, in control and perfectly reasonable for what the vineyard wants to give. Lithe airiness in here, with clay and Galestro in the vineyard. From a warm location butted up against a cooling hill. Goes both ways, AC/DC, with savour and rich fruit but so in balance. Acids are prepared, round and supportive while tannins take charge in the long winded end. Drink 2021-2028. Tasted February 2019

Istine Chianti Classico DOCG Vigna Istine 2016

Eponymous winery vineyard facing northwest, surrounded by forest at 550m, rocky, steep, full of both Galestro and Alberese, bottled in May 2018 and will be sent to market in January 2019. The dusty, savoury and structured one, from the steep slope and if there is a vineyard that delivers more black olive tapenade and wild earthy complexity, please let me know. This needs time, loads of precious time to get into a charming place. It’s a matter of layers waiting to peel back, air and breath. It’s also a thing of powerful beauty, linear, direct and vines that breathe in the forest and bathe in the morning sun. Harvested third week of October, a month before 2017 and two weeks before what will be in 2018. Submits a new voice into the modern lexicon of Chianti Classico. Drink 2021-2028. Tasted September 2018 and February 2019  istine_raddainchianti  angela_fronti    @istineraddainchianti

Fattoria Pomona Chianti Classico DOCG 2016

Essentially 100 per cent sangiovese, from the better and higher part of the vineyards planted in 2004 and 1998. From hot days, cold nights and eight months in barrel. Beautiful. Fruit, fruit and more fruit. Calcareous marl and Alberese stone interchangeable for the make up the vineyard and the house, with pietraforte, quartz, everything all in, together in conglomerate. In the end, combined with organic farming and low pH, there is a salty vein running through the deeply rendered red fruit. Sapidity unique to this vineyard. Perfect with caponata, carpione and pecorino. This Annata needs to be drawn from every part of the estate because it’s terroir is one of the most variegated in all of the territory. Drink 2018-2022. Tasted September 2018 and February 2019  fattoria_pomona    @fattoriapomona

A result of our manic research on the quintessential search for #sangiovese in Radda and @valdellecorti. Roberto Bianchi’s sangiovese, now with even more consciousness.

Val Delle Corti Chianti Classico DOCG 2016

Just bottled and I mean just bottled, a sangiovese of bright red to purple fruit with a 30-40 per cent assistance by what Roberto Bianchi employs through fermentation called “piemontazino,” or macherazione carbonica a capello son merso.” Leaving 30-40 per cent of the fruit in stainless steel tank on skins for three to four months. Tames the Raddesse acidity for the Annata and makes it more than drinkable. In 2016 it’s crushable, back up the truck gulpable. Beauty in sangiovese, questa, è radda. This, is Radda. Drink 2019-2023. Tasted September 2018 and February 2019  valdellecorti  @ValdelleCorti  @valdellecorti

L’erta Di Radda Chianti Classico DOCG 2016

A tightly wound, sharp as a tack, robust, fascinating, lightning quick sangiovese with Galestro and altitude in its blood. Really forceful through the brightest red fruit in the book. Intensely red liqueur wowing with no loss of pulse, tempo or fast paced drum kit animale. Radda Sangiovese strike straight to the heart. Drink 2020-2027. Tasted February 2019

Poggerino Chianti Classico DOCG 2016

You must walk these Radda vineyards to understand what’s in this glass. Regard the way the rows of vines change colour in September and give up a variability of timing. It is these stops along the way where winemaker Piero Lanza makes his picks then crushes, macerates and collectively ferments. It results in the most seamless, albeit high alcohol, glycerin and textured sangiovese. It is Chianti Classico made precisely the way it needs to be made from this very specific place. Drink 2021-2028. Tasted February 2019 fattoriapoggerino  vins.balthazard   @vinsbalthazard  @poggerino  @VinsBalthazard

Poggiopiano Chianti Classico DOCG La Tradizione 2016

One of the new standard bearers and setters for San Casciano sangiovese. A massively structured Annata that will need rest and will eventually emerge in time. While more traditional than the sister ’16, this comes as no surprise considering the name. Tart and intense, Alberese demanding and purposed, asking for and being granted the request for a return engagement at a much later date. Drink 2022-2029. Tasted February 2019

Fattoria Montecchio Chianti Classico DOCG ‘Primum Line’ 2016

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

Fattoria Dell’aiola Chianti Classico DOCG Aiola 2016

High glycerin, chewy, textured, tangy and ropey red fruit Annata with great purity though certainly up there in ripeness, alcohol and ambition. Reminds of the dark and intense sangiovese from Galestro marl west of the Arbia River though it’s not as deeply rendered and the tonality is a bit higher. Surely seems like Castelnuovo (and turns out it is) but in the northeast, off of slopes abutted up against Radda. If you’ve not heard of Aiola you and I need to know this estate and their vineyards, which certainly present sangiovese right up there with some of Chianti Classico’s finest. Drink 2020-2027. Tasted February 2019

Ormanni Chianti Classico DOCG 2016

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

Monte Bernardi Chianti Classico DOCG Retromarcia 2016

Retromarcia represents 75 per cent of the production from vines under 50 years old, averaging 13 years of age, from all four points on the estate. “The workhorse,” says Michael Schmelzer, giving perfume, tannin and a great chew. La matematica è bella; 75 per cent of 75,000 bottles on 75 hectares, of Galestro (70 per cent), purple-brown shale/pietraforte-sandstone (20) and Alberese (10). Made by adding stems back, but not before in the carbonic maceration way. “because that’s winemaking. I feel that I’m adding tannins and de-acidifying naturally, increased in cold years and decreased in the hot ones.” It’s a matter of potassium bonding with tartaric acid dropping out. Longer macerations occur in high acid (i.e. cooler) years and vice versa. Last tasted February 2019  michaelschmelzer  #montebernardi  @montebernardi  @Michael_MonteB  @montebernardi  Michael Schmelzer 

Retromarcia is like the Swahili “pole, pole,” a reminder to us all to slow down, gear down, chill out, take it easy. This Annata has been a 100 per cent, Panzano in Chianti estate grown sangiovese since 2010. The fruit is some of the sweetest and purest sangiovese out there, with a scent of anise, a whiff of tobacco. It’s unequivocally “molto frutto,” with glycerin texture, especially for the frazione and also nosing spiced floral notes. Fresh, light in the tannic department, light in weight and also in alcohol (13.5). Just a joy to drink. As a match to an Italian racer it’s a sprinter, Gino Bartali, Cavaliere di Gran Croce, Gino the Pious, 1950 winner in San Remo. Drink 2018-2021. Tasted September 2018

Vicchiomaggio Chianti Classico DOCG Guado Alto 2016

Guado Alto is the first, La Prima of four Vicchiomaggio cru, so small in fact that it delivers only 50 hL (6,000 bottles). In Annata it is so bloody fresh and perfectly tangy, modernist with really fine acidity. Matured only in large barrels it’s a stylish, chicca of a sangiovese with the kind of length needed to sooth and keep you coming back for more. Clarity and focus in Annata incarnate. Drink 2019-2023. Tasted February 2019  castellovicchiomaggio  @vicchiomaggio  @SignatureWS1  Castello Vicchiomaggio

Montefioralle Chianti Classico DOCG 2016

Harvested at the end of September from the warmest and most gracious gifting vintage. Stock in colour may be unnecessary but oh so beautiful this one, deeply hued, rendered of a purple that’s really just perfect. Grace in acidity meets depth of fruit and such polish. There is nothing rustic about this and yet the perfumed meets spice profile is exacting and pure for this Montefioralle terroir, which incidentally is three hectares of planted vineyards. Silk in sangiovese, honest and pure. Drink 2019-2025. Tasted September 2018 and February 2019  montefioralle  @MontefioralleWi  @montefioralle  Lorenzo Sieni

Vallone Di Cecione Chianti Classico DOCG 2016

Old school, volatile, earthy, funky and very, very real. From Panzano, organic, natural and all you want in sangiovese of this particular ilk. Dreamy. Long and immediately gratifying due to being battle ready. Drink 2019-2021. Tasted February 2019

Stomennano Chianti Classico DOCG 2016

The Grassi family borgo is in close proximity to the medieval town of Monteriggioni just outside of the Chianti Classico zone. Their vineyards are Castellina in Chianti, of sangiovese and colorino grown on loose and not very deep soils where beneath there is grey clay and tufaceous rock. Their’s is lovely rich and delicate sangiovese of ripeness and verdancy intermingling. Great presence, length, high acidity and texture fills the mouth. Cool, minty, savoury. Drink 2020-2026. Tasted February 2019

Renzo Marinai Chianti Classico DOCG 2016

One step closer to a deep, deep understanding is where Marinai has arrived with this welling, oozing and fully rendered Greve sangiovese. There’s some true depth and fullness to this fruit and this constitution, not to mention architecture. Certainly filled with warmth and spice for the lovers here. Drink 2020-2024. Tasted February 2019

Poggiopiano Chianti Classico DOCG 2016

Nothing hidden here about the level of texture, aromatic layering and tannic amenability, wholly consistent if much improved impression from San Casciano in Val di Pesa. It’s a big, nearly boozy and welling to oozing sangiovese of deep cherry and next level modernity. Will please many camps, especially Italian wine lists that must have this avant garde producer on board. Drink 2021-2028. Tasted February 2019  poggiopiano.galardi  @PoggiopianoFI  @FattoriadiPoggiopiano

Bindi Sergardi Chianti Classico DOCG La Ghirlanda 2016

Full sweet natural fruit, a reductive shell and real savoury Mocenni character add up to an Annata from the generous vintage without a tenebrous bone in its body. Chewy mouthful, collected acids and finely grained tannins. A step up again for the Castelnuovo house. Drink 2020-2025. Tasted February 2019

I Fabbri Chianti Classico DOCG Terra di Lamole 2016

Take the Lamole terroir and taste it again and again. Though it may be confounding the first 10 or 12 tries it continues to educate and with time you are unable to avoid the understanding and the temptation. There is a layer beneath the Greve level, of altitude and aspect but also a variability that deems sangiovese impermeable within a context of repeatable. Hard to explain, really. Sweet as original fruit, a genesis of Chianti Classico and a fineness that slides and grooves effortless and with succulence. Drink 2021-2027. Last tasted February 2019

Lamole in Greve is the source for this high toned, stone-tined and savoury aromatic young Annata, traditional, mildly volatile in its wise rusticity and surprisingly tannic. This is the sort of pressed sangiovese you’d find over the decades, from information and technique passed down and upheld by the current generation. Continues the thread with more microbes and real live tart notes to taste. Builds and builds upon its old-school foundation. Drink 2018-2021. Tasted February 2018

San Fabiano Calcinaia Chianti Classico DOCG 2016

Rich and earthy, full dark liqueur, lots of barrel and needing time. This is brawny but needs time. It will settle, eventually and offer great pleasure. The biggest Annata from Poggibonsi, deep in clay and consistently structured this way. Drink 2022-2026. Tasted February 2019  sanfabianocalcinaiasrl  @SanFabiano  Società Agricola “San Fabiano Calcinaia”  Soleil Fine Wines

La Querce Seconda Chianti Classico DOCG 2016

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

Borgo La Stella Chianti Classico DOCG 2016

Cool climate Chianti Classico on full display here with a vintage advantage though you can’t take the hill or the place out of the sangiovese. Seriously savoury, gariga style and a cherry liqueur that’s as much liquor and very much singular of its La Stella own. Quite fine. Drink 2020-2024. Tasted February 2019  borgolastella  #BorgoLaStella  Borgo la Stella

Podere Terreno Chianti Classico DOCG 2016

Terreno’s lights are flashing with sangiovese of bright fruit and ultra high tones. That said there is a macerated and extracted depth to this, with layered acidity and grippy tannins. It’s very youthful and not showing its best, at least not yet. Might allow the shell to be cracked in a year or more likely two. Drink 2021-2027. Tasted February 2019

Vecchie Terre Di Montefili Chianti Classico DOCG 2016

Talk about exotics. The aromatics are all perfume and spice; cinnamon, clove, liquorice, star anise and Szechuan pepper. It’s a veritable Pho broth in Greve in Chianti, sangiovese clothing. The barrel is an obvious influence but the fruit remains lightning quick and culpable for place. I find it a bit thin and lean for 2016 so it’s a bit of a disparate accumulation. Drink 2021-2025. Tasted February 2019

Castellinuzza E Piuca Chianti Classico DOCG 2016

From Greve in Chianti, the sangiovese di Lamole here is strong, youthful, firm and pure. Bright red fruit so typical of the frazione indicates limestone for cherries. Also a salumi of Mortadella and yes, that sort of connection is imaginable and possible. Very fresh with big acidity from the cool night air at 550m above sea level. The inclusion of 10 per cent canaiolo only accentuates the sapidity and the terraced sense of place. If it were a rider it would be Felice Gimondi, precocious and gregarious, a rookie who was a 1965 Tour de France winner in his first try. Drink 2018-2022. Tasted September 2018 and February 2019  castellinuzza.chianti.classico    @poderecastellinuzza

Terre Di Perseto Chianti Classico DOCG Albòre 2016

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

Montecalvi Chianti Classico DOCG 2016

A highly recognizable style of Annata, tangy, soil chalky and textured of sour cherries, ripe and a bit feral. Well on its way to celebrate a Greve in Chianti terroir with this sandy clay (and some Galestro) soil. Drink 2020-2023. Tasted February 2019

La Sala Chianti Classico DOCG 2016

Quite the traditional sangiovese offering up a seriously parochial San Casciano sense of place. Grounded in pace from that place in peace out to the Galestro and Argilla Rosa. Drink 2020-2024. Tasted February 2019

Le Masse Di Lamole Chianti Classico DOCG 2016

From Annamaria, great-granddaughter to founder Emilio Soccio, who with her husband Giuliano tend to some of Lamole’s highest vineyards at upwards of 650m. Their’s is a highly traditional, high acidity and sapid sangiovese at the rooftop of the territory, “il tetto del Chianti.” From the generous vintage and showing well early. Some canaiolo and colorino field blended in only accentuate the loyalty and the adherence to place. Authenticity incarnate right here. Drink 2019-2023. Tasted February 2019

Fattoria Rodáno Chianti Classico DOCG 2016

Dirty, peppery reductive and dark fruit, black earth, sharp, woody, old school and spicy. Storm clouds looming, threats on the horizon. Take shelter. Return in two years when the dust has settled. From Castellina in Chianti. Drink 2021-2025. Tasted February 2019

San Giorgio A Lapi Chianti Classico DOCG 2016

San Giorgio a Lapi is an unusually floral and aromatic sangiovese, much more so than many. It veers and teeters to the edge of geranium but manages the balance to hang on the right side of 2016. It’s a bit brittle on the palate but there is no oxidative or raisining tendency. Perhaps just a bit out of sorts at this time. Drink 2021-2025. Tasted February 2019


Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2016

Poggerino Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG Bugialla 2016

Piero Lanza’s selection is so smart, protracted and tidy within the framework of what a Poggerino Riserva just happens to be. It’s almost as you find yourself scanning the vineyards and your mind’s eye settles on a few perfect plants. You taste the berries from those vines and imagine them bound together in wine. This is the sangiovese mimic of those isolated points of a very special vineyard and also a perfectly constructed stone house in Gaiole, variegated, tightly intertwined and just beautiful to behold. Perfectly streamlined, built to last a few hundred years, but I would suggest to drink it 280 years before that. Drink 2022-2032. Tasted February 2019

Fattoria Pomona Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG Bandini 2016

Purity of handsome fruit lingers left, right and centre within a commission of structural components designed by nature on the road past Villa Pomona up through Castellina in Chianti. The vintage is a rich and elastic one for Monica Raspi and one she must have just delighted in simply being a part of. Elegance as the opposite of vice. Reaches all the essential peaks, plateaus and precipices where supple fruit settles and rests. Drink 2021-2028. Tasted February 2019

Tenuta Cinciano Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2016

Cinciano ’16 Riserva bleeds straight from the Annata in style though because of the berry concentration and extra aging it misses out on the transparency and the basic purity, at least at this so very early stage. Tannins are grippy while fluid and the vineyard waits in anything but vein. Drink 2022-2027. Tasted February 2019  fattoriacinciano  @fattoriadicinciano

Cigliano Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2016

A sleeper this vineyard, on a peninsula out into a great wide void of San Casciano set beneath fairy tales and vistas to set you straight. This is Riserva made to do the same, to ground you in a garden, on a perch, with nothing but tranquil surroundings. Succulent acids support ripe fruit egged on by the variegate of the soil. Drink 2022-2028. Tasted February 2019  Villa del Cigliano  dbwineandspirits    @VilladelCigliano  @dbwineandspirits

La Sala Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2016

What an absolutely lovely Riserva from La Sala in San Casciano, with purity, transparency and clarity. The acidity is perfectly uplifting and the fruit a loyal follower. The tannins are sweet, supple, supportive and once again the fruit tows the tannic line. Structured for a slow, soft and delicate incline, followed by a graceful decline. Drink 2020-2027. Tasted February 2019  cantinalasala  @LaSalaVini  @toohotrightnow  La Sala  Stefano Pirondi

Riecine Chianti Classic Riserva DOCG 2016

Older schooled, tart, tangy, intense, welling and oozing Riserva. Very, truly, obviously Riserva. Like ’13 in a way but the vintage is almost a polar opposite so it’s clearly an estate style in as much as there ever could be. Built to age for a long time. Drink 2022-2029. Tasted February 2019

Vicchiomaggio Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG Vegan 2016

This is note merely John Matta being whimsical or polite but a wine born of an idea to bring something to market that many people demand, want and need. A vegan wine from a specific vineyard area where no animal products are used. The whole process is certified, including the cork. There is a peppery reductive meets soil movement, here with a “natural wine” feel though it’s all red to black fruit with a stop at purple flowers. Very smooth, lightly tannic, not a rare beef pairing Riserva. Not just vegan friendly. Truly vegan. Good on you John Matta. Drink 2019-2020. Tasted February 2019


Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG 2016

Vicchiomaggio

Vicchiomaggio Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG Le Bolle 2016

Named for the small group of houses to which the vineyard abuts, a vineyard where the large gathering of stones resembles Les Galets of Châteauneuf-de-Pâpe. The total prodcution is 50 hL (6,000 bottles). Just going into bottle as we speak, there is a structural architecture to this Gran Selezione that stands apart. La Prima is the wine for everyman while Le Bolle will appeal to ye who wants edgy, artistic and deferential. The blood orange, cranberry, pomegranate and sapid-herbal attributes are all part of the extenuating mix. Terrifc single-block within a single-vineyard expression of solo sangiovese Gran Selezione. Drink 2022-2031. Tasted February 2019


Chianti Classico DOCG 2015

I Fabbri Chianti Classico DOCG Terra Di Lamole 2015

A blend of sangiovese and canaiolo, circa 10 per cent, including the vines planted in 1964 (by Susanna’s father Guiliano), plus 1989 and 2002. This is a whole ‘nother matter of fruit sumptuousness and exquisite tannin. There’s a fine bitters note and fruit that enters into an area where it’s almost a middle-aged, mature version of the Lamole sangiovese. The tannic structure is so very different than the “Lamole” surely because of the altitude 200m lower down the slope. There’s a bass note here apposite to the higher Lamole horns, but also something umami and salty. Wow did this need a year to open up. Last tasted February 2019

Into the Lamole lair we delve from I Fabbri with 90 per cent sangiovese (grosso) plus canaiolo nero of great potential and it should also be said, probability, if not right now then soon, very soon. This terroir is different and if we are not quite sure exactly how or why then perhaps the producers are not quite sure either. The fruit is 98 per cent ripe but I can’t help but wonder how greatness could have been were the number perfect. That may be asking too much but something is amiss, even while the dusty excesses and fine acidity support of wild red fruit is there to see, sense, feel and enjoy. That is the end game after all. Drink 2018-2022. Tasted February 2018

I Fabbri Chianti Classico DOCG Olinto 2015

From sangiovese (80 per cent) plus merlot, named after great-grandfather Olinto Grassi, nonno, patriarch and pioneer in Lamole. From vineyards at 500m and aged part in concrete plus part in barrels. A very different wine because of the merlot, more of a big hug, with sweeter and less tart acids, not the same caress in the mouth, but surely silky and easy. Get into the glass and note the orange, blood or just simply orange. Fresh and spirited regardless of merlot or not. Pair with Pino Daniele, the Italian Van Morrison. Drink 2019-2023. Tasted February 2019

Poggio Borgoni Chianti Classico DOCG Curva Del Vescovo 2015

From San Casciano, “Curve Of The Bishop” is a rich and nearly voluptuous sangiovese with more than enough fruit to withstand the triad of wood, acidity and tannin in great, systemic but manageable concentration. Yes, a truly concentrated CC to be clear and surely so, with extensions in many directions but mostly length. Drink 2020-2027. Tasted February 2019

Fattoria Montecchio Chianti Classico DOCG ‘Primum Line’ 2015

A sangiovese with five per cent Alicante Bouschet and the first of its kind in terms of Annata. Diverts 10 per cent fruit by way of selection from the original and traditional Chianti Classico and it’s quite a beautiful wine in 2015 though not as structured as 2016. It’s like a compromise between that ’16 and the coming ’17. Drink 2019-2024. Tasted February 2019

Villa Montepaldi Chianti Classico DOCG Tagliafune 2015

Very syrupy, sweet raspberry fruit, bled from San Casciano clay and some grey stone. A tannic wine too, older schooled though there is a clarity in that world it lives. Correct, proper and successful. Drink 2021-2025. Tasted February 2019

La Casa Di Bricciano Chianti Classico DOCG 2015

Pretty floral syrup that’s neither too viscous nor tart, not exactly right but certainly finding some balance. A bit resolved with melted barrel notes in vanilla and lavender. Smooth, silky, satiny, easy drinking sangiovese. There was more verve from the adversarial ’14. Drink 2020-2022. Tasted February 2019


Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2015

I Fabbri Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG I Fabbri 2015

From the first passage through the vineyard, when all the fruit is ripe and ready to go. Now Riserva gets serious, or not really at all, but the table is set anew with an entirely new look at the category. Chew on this fresh and leathery wine for awhile. Take your time, feel the heights and the aspects. The acidity is incredibly fine and the effect like a blood red sunset to the west of the Lamole valley. There may be five per cent canaiolo in here, hard to say because of the way and the timing of the picking. Sapidity and salinity are perfect streaks through the sunken, drunken, oxygenated red fruit. Length all the way up to Terrata and La Sala at 100m and back. Drink 2020-2029.  Tasted February 2019

Monte Bernardi Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG Sa’Etta 2015

From the sandstone (Pietraforte) soils, this is sangiovese (100 per cent) with canaiolo and malvasia nowhere to be found. The vines are also 50 years old and sure as the sun sets over the towers of San Gimignano the force of soil stone nature here is rigid, forceful and grippy. Still ripe in every which way; fruit, acids and those added back in stems that lift, strike and place. Two years in botti grandi and then another year in bottle. The perfume is blue and purple flower, i.e. violets and lavender but it almost matters very little because of the perfectly polished tannins. Straight as an arrow, chewy and sapid as the vein of that rock runs long. It’s all about instinct, long macerations and adding back those stems, because that’s the way Michael rolls. I get it because that’s the way I cook. Drink 2021-2027. Tasted February 2019

Monte Bernardi Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2015

It was 16 years ago that Michael Schmelzer came to Panzano with the idea to make pure and elegant wines that represent the territory. Monte Bernardi’s vineyards are in the “belly-button” at the heart of Chianti Classico, with vineyards spread out beneath the winery from 300-410m. Tannins from the Torchiatta are what Schmelzer calls “the best that you can get.” What you get from the pressings and then the ripe stems brings sapidity and longevity. The Riserva is a vineyard selection from only Galestro soils, across the road, 95 per cent sangiovese, with canaiolo and malvasia. Stems are added back in and the wine is aged in botti grandi plus tonneaux, if there is more than the botti can hold. The idea here is the soft constitution from rocks that absorb more solar radiation and yet the acidity is wound remarkably tight so imagine what’s coming next from the Pietraforte in the Sa’Etta. Sapidity is exceptional, in fact in spite of fruit right on the button it’s really quite everything. Drink 2019-2024. Tasted February 2019

Podere Campriano Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG Le Balze Di Montefioralle 2015

Exactly Campriano, distinct and luxurious in its own perfect way. it’s so very Riserva, unctuous with red fruit that seems almost completely absent of wood. because of the land, a vineyard set in the forest “and still so very present.” That also means it’s in the wine. recognizable every year. Always. The vineyard is west facing above the Greve River, on old terraces, with old stones. You can drink this now even if it’s so young. Last tasted February 2019  poderecampriano  @ElenaCampriano  Elena Podere Campriano Lapini(Podere Campriano )  Elena Lapini

Just put to market, the vintage will surely have so much to say and that it in fact already does, with a combination of perfume and spice. Still dusty, with fennel and endemic herbs, teas and brushy plants. There’s a raspberry to dried currant fruitiness that ’14 doesn’t have, also more mid-palate flesh and overall juiciness. A different sort of structure, still with long capabilities but will likely go into a drier fruit profile after the seven year mark. Elena Lapini is a very busy agriturismo and viticoltore proprietor these days and if these most recent 100 per cent sangiovese from two sides of the Greve river tracks are any indication, she’ll be busier than ever before. Drink 2019-2025. Tasted September 2018

La Cappella

Podere La Cappella Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG Querciolo Unfiltered 2015

Querciolo sees one year in barriques, of which 20 per cent is new. Takes off straight away from where the ’15 Annata wants it to, from a generosity and a perfume that stands apart because the vintage says so. There’s still a minor peppery reductive note and that will serve this wine so well going two decades further. One sip lingers so long on the back of the tongue, right in the middle, lingering like a bite of something marbled, a protein of layered flavour. Here you really get a sense of marine sediment and rocks one over the other, in perpetuity out of the soil. Drink 2021-2030. Tasted February 2019

Val Delle Corti Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2015

The 45 year old vines are responsible for this single cru, 100 per cent sangiovese that while older is yet bolder than the barrel sample tasted of 2016. Here you feel the hottest weeks of the summer, less elasticity, fluidity and fluency than that 2016. And yet it is so intuitively elastic, fluid and fluent in mineral rich, marly limestone soil. Here from the Corti Valley on the east facing slope above the river below. Richness, weight and red fruit so specific to this place meets the Radda acidity head on but can’t help but be submissive and respectful. Pure expression of estate, valley and commune. Truly. Drink 2020-2029. Tasted September 2018 and February 2019

Montecchio Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG Premium Line 2015

The Riserva is 95 per cent sangiovese with cabernet sauvignon and alicante bouschet. It ages for 26 months in grandi botti. Quite rich, even reductive, with its upside not yet available. As for Riserva it’s ripe, ripping, big, high in acidity and so necessary to wait at least two more years for it to settle down. Pulsates, quivers and sends shock waves around the mouth, with heavy-hitting sapidity and structural shudders. Quite amaro herbal and very, very long. There is some serious structure available for the log haul here. Impressive and demanding. Drink 2022-2028. Tasted February 2019

Podere Castellinuzza Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2015

Podere Castellinuzza’s Riserva is one of Lamole’s most generous (100 per cent) sangiovese though not without the very particular salty-mineral-sapid streak the hill always delivers. Only 1,500 bottles were produced of this highly traditional Greve-Lamole ’15 and it’s most certainly a perfect foil for fresh pasta with pumpkin, roast chicken, pork and rabbit. Drink 2020-2027. Tasted February 2019

Montefioralle Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2015

So very young and powerful, just a few months in bottle. Primary and beautifully perfumed with the liquified deep fruit chalk of the frazioni and a hit of exotic spice. An intensity that ’14 just did not show and the polish we know to be the kind mastered out of Montefioralle by this passion project house. The liqueur is again one of textured silk, a viscosity to nearing the vanishing point of glück and in the end, total domination. Drink 2019-2024. Tasted September 2018 and February 2019


Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG 2015

Bindi Sergardi Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG Mocenni ’89 2015

There’s pure unbridled surprise in the delicasse and the gentility of this Gran Selezione, one of the more and even most charming of them all. The Mocenni texture is very present, very full, no holes, no peaks or valleys, just a calm and easy nature that finds no reason for stress. Pure fruit, Galestro and Alberese interwoven freshness. Proper, sweet and forward thinking tannins with a future ahead indeed. Drink 2020-2029. Tasted February 2019

Tenuta Cinciano Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG 2015

Cinciano’s is a true effort and tour de acidity force in 2015, with fruit drawn from the oldest blocks of great rock filled soils in Poggibonsi. It’s perfectly perfumed with exotica and the brushy herbs that grown on hillsides and in between rows. A wise and cultured GS that stands apart for its beauty and its power. Forged with great passion and insights to be clear and sure. Drink 2023-2033. Tasted February 2019

Le Fonti Di Panzano Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG 2015

Thirty months in wood and a year in bottle later, this top estate wine is the pinnacle of the Le Fonti aromatic certainty. A big vintage to be sure and one that extrapolates in every which way but loose. Taut, tight, firm, grippy and every other subset of structure you can imagine. The 100 per cent sangiovese ideal is acquiesced and believe it or not it failed DOCG designation on the first try. Who might see this as light, atypical or not ready for international prime time is surely missing the point. Drink 2021-2028. Tasted February 2019

Fattoria Montecchio Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG 2015

The vintage 2015 is the one for Montecchio ready and purposed for the category, done up two-thirds in barrel and one-third in amphora. You can feel it both in cured aromatics but also the texture, part salve and part hard savoury candy. Really takes on the Selezione category with charm and power, with ultra fine tannins and a balancing number of personality in acidity. Does what it must, by the reigns and drives a point. Here the terracotta amphora designed and built by the family business is employed to raise the character and the wonder of the sangiovese. The one third amphora adds great interest, something many other in the category could certainly use. The Riserva does not taste like this, nor does it carry this level of spice. Quite a thrill, long and rich. Drink 2022-2030. Tasted February 2019

Vallepicciola Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG 2015

Chianti Classico and Gran Selezione get neither more modern nor more forward than this. The 2015 is a brooding boozy and stylish sangiovese. Dressed up of a flashy liqueur and a massive attack. Dark fruit, lots of wood, with notes of creosote, graphite and vanilla. Just wow. Drink 2022-2029. Tasted February 2019

Vicchiomaggio Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG La Prima 2015

Made with a few percentage points of merlot, this is the a small-ish production Gran Selezione, a 100 hL output so the number is approximately 15,000 bottles produced. Really high-toned aromatically for Gran Selezione and then a palate of great richness and layering. Truly a selection created sangiovese, with drinkability and steak house amenability. Suits the style and the intent so perfectly. Drink 2020-2027. Tasted February 2019

Chianti Classico DOCG 2014

Castell’in Villa Chianti Classico DOCG 2014

Immediate amore for the aromatics and the lack of supposition, for how this 100 per cent sangiovese is naturally careful, subtly handsome and respectfully direct. Lean but without angles or sharp, pointed edges, nor overtly weighted down in tang. Floral notes are stated in grace and like all of the Principessa’s wines from these Castelnuovo Berardenga vineyards, the singularity of restraint for power and and purity is duly recognized. Drink 2018-2024. Tasted November 2018 and February 2019   Castell In Villa  Les Importations Olea inc.  marino_castellinvillarestauran

Chianti Classico DOCG 2013

Castello Di Lamole Chianti Classico DOCG Le Stinche 2013

From the Lamole producer connected to one of Tuscany’s oldest castle properties, going back one thousand years and a high altitude vineyard restored 16 years ago. This is the sangiovese of the Macigno (sandstone) soil terraces of Lamole, richer than many of the frazione and deeper in textures and transitions. Raised in cement and tonneaux there are floral as well as smoky notes, almost tobacco but more like wild herbs and wood smoulder. You’ve not likely ever whiffed (or tasted) anything quite like Le Stinche, also known as “carcere delle Stinche,” the prison on Via Ghibellina in Florence. Drink 2020-2024. Tasted February 2019

Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2013-2010

Castell’in Villa Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2013

A blend of parcels ”though we know more or less the fields from where they come,” says Principessa Coralia Pignatelli della Leonessa. Here we are introduced to the clarity and functionality of what Castell’in Villa has always purported to be, traditional while always moving in a forward direction of evolutionary necessity. There is no guessing game being played and the aromas are expressive of the property, in everything that grows, plus all that sits beneath and slowly rises to the surface of the fields. Flowers and rocks, together with grapes. It’s that simple really. Finesse and reality. Drink 2019-2028. Tasted February 2019

Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG Poggio Delle Rose 2010

From the hill parcel planted in 1990 to the old selezoine massale clones, from the original property, not the current “Chianti Classico” clones. “And there is a difference,” insists Principessa Coralia. Three or four years in grandi botti and older tonneaux so no, it’s not even close to ready. Yet the fcat that you don’t explicitly notice the tonneaux is its magic. A big and complex vintage with variability in temperature and precipitation but at the crucial moments it gave what was needed. There is a special presence about this sangiovese, because of the source but also how alive, bright-eyed and expressive it is. This pulses, vibrates and reverberates with ancient seabed salinity. No loss to finesse but more time will be required, to turn back time and back pages, for the true clarity and calm disposition to settle in. Extraordinary wine of restrained power and exceptional sangiovese. Has always been Riserva and “will never be Gran Selezione.” Drink 2021-2035. Tasted February 2019

Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG 2013

Capannelle Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG 2013

This first edition of Gran Selezione for Capannelle is an amzing combination of authenticity and polish, with Gaiole’s infamous acidity and herbology combining to deliver a promise of today and for the future. The estate produces no Annata because winemaker Simone has always felt that the acidity here would be over the top in the freshest wines of the year. This Gran Selezione confirms the ideology but the near future may change the plan. Meanwhile kudos for waiting before making Gran Selezione and matched to Tagliatelle con Funghi Porcini. Drink 2020-2026. Tasted September 2018 and February 2019  capannelle  @Capannellewines

Fattoria Di Lamole Gran Selezione Chianti Classico DOCG Vigna Grospoli Antico Lamole 2013

From Paolo Socci in Lamole who also produces the alternating Annata/Riserva “Le Stinche” and who just may be Chianti Classico’s greatest and long-winded storyteller. Socci’s high altitude Greve-Lamole Grospoli vineyard is filled with Macigno stone and while Le Stinche adheres to history and tradition (both in style and the ode to the Florentine Prison’s connection to Lamole), this Gran Selezione hyperbolizes and accentuates both sides of the equation. Very smoky, high dense texture and big acids with this underbelly of sandy, gritty and grippy tannin. Once again, a most singular expression of sangiovese and Chianti Classico. Drink 2021-2029. Tasted February 2019

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It was just last week when Mark Davidson and Wines of Australia rolled back into town, replete with the greatest glass entourage this side of Corning, as they are want to do at least twice a year. The winter trade tasting titled “Australian wine, made our way” came barreling in on the heels of a comprehensively designed education program “Australian wine discovered,” a FREE online set of tools, materials, resources and detailed guides you really need to use. Download the FREE program at www.australianwinediscovered.com.

#aussiewine time with @vintagemarkdavo and esteemed panel for @wineaustralia

Many of you know Mark Davidson, the man, the myth, the omnipresent legend who for more than 10 years has served as Education Manager/Market Development Manager, North America at Wine Australia. Two weeks ago I had the pleasure of judging with Mark at TexSom in Dallas, along with Laura Jewell MW, Wine Australia’s Head of Market EMEA/Regional Director, Europe. We were all invited to preside over 3,500 wine entries at this most exceptional competition at the invite of James Tidwell M.S. At the judging awards and Sommelier retreat Texsom unveiled the education program with this introduction. “Creating educational materials for the trade is an integral part of marketing for the beverage business. Oftentimes it is a labor intensive process to compile all the necessary information. It is almost unheard of for a region the likes of Wine Australia to create this for you, but they have.”

#beforeandafter #aussiewine @wineaustralia

Davidson, Jewell and Wine Australia sponsored lunch during the awards with another informative presentation by Mark plus an opportunity to taste some of that country’s most curious and erudite bottles. Some of the options on hand were Paxton Graciano 2017, Deliquente Screaming Betty 2018, Pewsey Vale Eden Valley Dry Riesling 2017, Mosswood Sauvignon Blanc/Sémillon Ribbon Vale Vineyard 2017, McW Pinot Noir Reserve 2017 and Leeuwin Estate Cabernet Sauvignon Prelude Vineyards 2014. Later that night we hit Pappa’s BBQ in Irving, Texas where Mark generously shared an old Tyrrells Vat 1 Sémillon and a 2015 Clonakilla Shiraz. Two archetypal and exceptional Australian wines.

Meanwhile back in Canada, Davidson led an esteemed panel (of three) through 12 Aussie wine stars chosen by the four of them with inspiration provided by way of a November 2018 journey down under. Christopher Sealy (Alo + Aloette), Joshua Corea (Archive Wine Bar) and Toni Weber (Giulietta) joined Mark for some of the best discourse any masterclass has provided in a very long time. Australia got into these sommeliers’ hearts and minds, as did the energy, structure and grace of this set of Aussie wine on display make their way into mine. The white choices alone lit up riesling, chenin blanc and chardonnay, invoking Gregory Alan Isakov, “to keep me clear and calm and straight.” More than 100 wines were then available to taste at the walk-around portion of the event. Here are my notes on the 12 seminar wines poured.

About yesterday. The energy, structure and grace of #aussiewine on display lights up riesling, chenin blanc and chardonnay, to keep me clear and calm and straight.

Shaw + Smith Riesling 2018, Adelaide Hills, South Australia, Australia (Agent, $45.00, WineAlign)

From cousins Martin Shaw and Michael Hill-Smith at higher altitude for Adelaide Hills. Cool, nearly minty and compelling. Impulsively tart in the most controlled environment and implosive, safely protected within its own hermetic bubble. Outwardly unaggressive and even gentle, like waves lapping up on a shore. Drink 2019-2022. Tasted February 2019  shawandsmith  liffordgram  @shawandsmith  @LiffordON  Shaw + Smith  Lifford Wine and Spirits

Pewsey Vale The Contours Old Vine Riesling 2004, Eden Valley, South Australia, Australia (Agent, WineAlign)

From 550m in a cold, exposed, almost harsh vineyard site. Originally planted in 1847 then re-planted in 1961. From the way ahead of the curve winery which began bottling under screwcap in the 70s, abandoned and resumed again, still ahead of the curve. Lemon waxy and paraffin lit but just now beginning the true centre of its secondary life. Honey is just a foreword entry beginning to gain momentum. Not the acidity of some other vintages in this vicinity and yet wise beyond its years. The interweb is of that acidity and tannin, together having grip and holding you tight. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted February 2019  pewseyvalevineyard  breakthrubevcanada  @PewseyVale  @BreakthruBev Pewsey Vale Vineyard  Breakthru Beverage Canada

Brash Higgins Chenin Blanc CHN 2017, McLaren Vale, South Australia (Agent, $42.95, WineAlign)

The chenin blanc launched into the atmosphere by Brad Hickey is one fed by the critical mass of diurnal temperature fluctuations and a sandy site once a bank in a body of ancient water. Say hello to modern prankster guilt, ironic, maverick, waxy and skin-contacted tannic, of suffocating lemon and molecular pear. From Blewitt Springs and uniquely chenin blanc without any true heritage but rather creating a mythology about one from here on out. Trips easily, feels familiar and yet solicits a bout of narcotic psychedelia. Changes with every movement or whisper of air, agitation and successive sips. It’s not what you first thought think it might be. First impressions could very well ruin your experience, especially if you choose not to continue on. If you do, reward comes later, on repeat and in refrain. “Modern guilt won’t get me to bed. Say what you will,” but this chenin blanc gets inside my head. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted February 2019  brashhiggins  thelivingvine   @BrashHiggins  @TheLivingVine  Brad Hickey  The Living Vine inc.  Mark Cuff

Giant Steps Chardonnay Wombat Creek Vineyard 2017, Yarra Valley, Victoria, Australia, (Agent, $42.95, WineAlign)

One giant step for aromatics, one giant step for flavour. Composed and collected chardonnay of calm demeanour and great confidence. Cool, clear, fresh and airy, like a perfectly blue sky. Crunchy from Redstone volcanic-ferrous loam soils and in a way it is the terroir that stops fruit and barrel from talking too loud. Gentle chardonnay in the slow, smoky Coltrane way. Whole bunch, eight months of lees and 20 per cent new oak are all but an asterisk on the most graceful chardonnay of exceptional class. Drink 2020-20727.  Tasted February 2019  giantstepswine  rogersandcompanywines   @giantstepswine @rogcowines  Giant Steps  Rogers & Company

Ten Minutes By Tractor Chardonnay Wallis 2016, Mornington Peninsula, Victoria, South Australia (Agent, $79.95, WineAlign)

Notably reductive chardonnay, toasty as any, yet to relent or to allow the shell to form cracks for access. Serious lemon opening, dead serious, from a low sea level site planted in 1992. Native grass chardonnay with a mild yeasty note and full creamy textured compliment. Really refined acidity to elevate the yellow flower/citrus nature. Gently churned with great control of energy. A return 30 minutes later realizes a particularly toasty finish. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted February 2019  10xtractor  grape_brands  Ten Minutes by Tractor

Vasse Felix Chardonnay Heytesbury 2017, Margaret River, Western Australia (674648, $100.00, WineAlign)

The wine that receives Virginia Willcocks’ best fruit, by way of selection, first in the vineyards and then, out of the barrels. The soils are gravelly loam and the clone be told just because, is 100 per cent Gin Gin. Site is everything because it’s a place that tames ripeness and hedonism. There is an old soul character and a capturing, in reduction holding sulphides in the ways of the ancestors far away. Gemstone brilliance as a personality trait and singularly Vasse Felix. Weight matches the stick and texture supports the ripeness of fruit. Vintage and history conspire to churn and develop greatness. Around the corner that is, which happens to be around the bend. Another Heytesbury, unlike the last and also those that came before. Drink 2021-2029.  Tasted February 2019  vassefelixwines breakthrubevcanada  @vassefelix  @BreakthruBev  Vasse Felix  Breakthru Beverage Canada

Mac Forbes Pinot Noir Coldstream 2017, Yarra Valley, Australia (Agent, $61.95, WineAlign)

Acid may dominate the first moments but if you are not immediately struck by the confounding posit tug between early-picked yet wild-dry red berry fruit, you may not be paying very close attention. No cola, no Lola, no beets and plenty of beats. Eighteen year-old vines on grey loam over clay deliver adult maturity yet still naive enough and ready for anything. Good vintage, 12.5 per cent and from Forbes’ warmest site. It’s what he’s about. And the MV6 clone. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted February 2019  mac_forbes_wines  gsoleil123  @MacForbesWines  @GroupeSoleilTO  Mac Forbes Wines  Groupe Soleil Fine Wines

Tolpuddle Vineyard Pinot Noir 2016, Tasmania, Australia (Agent, $75.00, WineAlign)

Here’s a whole other pinot noir exploration, burning two ends, lightning red fruit and beetroot earthiness. It’s a 50 acre site of light silica over sandstone planted in 1988. Refreshing and deeply welling. Priced “reassuringly expensive” and worth the paper on which the money is printed. A touch whole bunch chewy and ropey, tart and tannic. Incidentally the story goes that the Tolpuddle martyrs were exiled to Tasmania for having created an agrarian union back in the U.K. This ’16 needs a year or two for further, i.e. better integration. Very structured wine. Drink 2020-2026.  Tasted February 2019  tolpuddlevineyard  liffordgram  @TolpuddleVyd  @LiffordON  Tolpuddle Vineyard  Lifford Wine and Spirits

Henschke Giles Lenswood Pinot Noir 2016, Adelaide Hills, South Australia (Agent, $80.00, WineAlign)

Comparatively speaking this is the graceful and demure pinot noir in a flight of three. Also warmer, more curative and salumi led in terms of aromatics. Conversely riper and bigger of bones for structure. Lenswood at 550m is the site, of well-drained sandy loam over clay with shale. Others may flash acidity or tease singular fruit, perhaps even structure built on a quick-developed body politic. Then there is a wine from Stephen and Prue Henschke that builds it all, seamlessly in bond and perfectly all-knowing. It adds up to delicious. Drink 2019-2027.  Tasted February 2019  henschke  breakthrubevcanada @henschkewine  @BreakthruBev  @HenschkeWine  Breakthru Beverage Canada

Ochota Barrels Grenache Syrah The Green Room 2017, McLaren Vale, Australia (Agent, $46.95, WineAlign)

Few grenache-syrah joints begin like this, hover, linger, settle and then ask that you wait, re-visit and come back around again. Or just drink the shit out of it. Whatever floats your boat. Truth be told it’s 92 per cent grenache and marillion fruit will always win, in its many incarnations found in such a short time. Such a chewy, neo-progressive rock Rhôneish blend, alt-savoury, sneaky tannic and caught up in this wave of sweepingly seeping acidity. Very blood orange and the film negative version of it’s structured self. Three sites of red loamy clay with ironstone over deep limestone ask for whole bunch working and somewhere between six and 88 days on skins. PH at the top and under 12 per cent alcohol. “Unleash a stranger from a kiss, my friend. No incantations of remorse, my friend.” Assassing. Fugazi right? Drink 2021-2027.  Tasted February 2019  ochotabarrels  thelivingvine    @TheLivingVine  The Living Vine inc.  Mark Cuff

Yangarra Grenache High Sands 2015, McLaren Vale, South Australia (Agent, $155.00, WineAlign)

Full-bodied to say the least and there is no grenache of or in its ilk. There are also no tannins like these and the chewiness does its own singular thing. Really old and challenging vineyard with large bush vines that may as well be growing on a beach. At 200m on ancient sands with vines planted in 1946. This has it all and more, with fossilized bones rising up to the surface and length for days. Drink 2021-2032.  Tasted February 2019  yangarraestate  breakthrubevcanada  @Yangarra  @BreakthruBev  Yangarra Estate Vineyard  Breakthru Beverage Canada

Jamsheed Syrah Seville 2015, Yarra Valley, South Australia (Agent, $70.00, WineAlign)

From winemaker Gary Mills and vines set in grey loam over red volcanic soils. A syrah with an old soul personality, peppery without resorting to spice and a volatile-ness light on the sprinkling and plenty of macerated character. Picked on acid, led through some carbonic and then a long extension. Tasted blind it might tease Hermitage but at the end of the day not. It’s as umami-mineral-savoury laden as it is fruity and the interest level is curiosity-seeking high. Remarkable tannins. Drink 2021-2029.  Tasted February 2019  jamsheedwines  thelivingvine  @jamsheedwines  @TheLivingVine  The Living Vine inc.  Mark Cuff

Good to go!

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Searching for great heart in South Africa

A view of the Simosnberg from Amazink Live in Kalmandi Township

Heritage and diversity in South Africa

as seen on WineAlign

Takeaways from Cape Wine 2018: Bot Rivier, new generation pinotage, regional spotlight on Robertson, Méthode Cap Classique, heritage vines, post revolution Swartland, wot varietal? and kuier

The last time I travelled across the Atlantic and down to the southern tip of Africa was in the warm days of September when I took in the three days of Cape Wine 2015. Beyond the Cape Town commotion of the triennial wine fair there was the added bonus of an expansive, wayfaring wine-lands itinerary. A deep understanding of the Western Cape’s wine landscape came to light, though at the time it seemed like being caught up in some kind of cultural and constitutional revolution. A return engagement with South Africa this past September changes but also cements the notions considered and the lessons learned. South Africa’s scene has now found itself comfortably cast in a post-revolution, full on republic state of wine. Allow me to expand.

I’m searching for the spirit of the great heart
Under African sky

A deeper understanding

After my return three years ago I suggested that “what separates South African vignerons from the rest of the world is a playground mentality and their confident executions in consummation of those ideals. The soils and the weather are nothing short of perfect…the place is a veritable garden of viticulture eden…a certain kind of comparison presents South Africa as the wine equivalent of the wild west. In the Western Cape, anything goes. The landscape of South African wine is demarcated by ancient geology and by the geographical diversity of its regions, sub-regions and micro-plots. Varietal placement is the key to success. As I mentioned, South African winemakers can grow anything they want, to both their discretion and their whimsy. The choice of what grows best and where will determine the successes of the future.”

It’s satisfying to note that three years later the adages, analytics and perspectives remain constant with that initial intuition and yet the changes in mentality meeting execution are far greater than such a short passage of time could normally afford. Winemakers in South Africa are learning everything there is to know about making wine and from every corner of the world. Some are travelling to the sources for the knowledge while others are simply experimenting at home every day to get there. There is no style of wine that isn’t being attempted. I’ll say it again. “Natural fermentation, skin contact and carbonic maceration have infiltrated the winemaker’s psyche. Fresh, natural, orange, amber, caliginous and tenebrous have established Cape footholds with enzymatic force.”

The year 2018 will be remembered for many things but at the top of that list are resilience and tradition. After months and months on end of near catastrophic drought the country and in turn the wine producers have found a way to survive and to thrive. Thanks must be afforded the pioneers and those with the most experience, in other words, the people who have been through and seen it all. As a result it is the icons and archetypes of South African wine that stole much of this year’s spotlight. Though they are the antithesis of the young and free-spirited, the lines have begun to blur, or at least overlap in terms of who is who in the winemaking mise en scene. Three years ago these pirates with pirate eyes and pirate smiles made some good wines but a good deal of them were dirty, funky and flawed. Wine geeks gushed because of the cool, natural and revolutionary factor. It was a time of protest and free spirit. Once upon a time in the wild Western Cape. As the boomers have grown older their winemaking has matured and become wiser. There is no abandoning the call for uprising, subversion and experimentation but there is a concerted effort to fashion wines that are a pleasure to drink. Isn’t that the point? In 2018 it seems that everyone has it figured out. South African wines are cleaner by ‘n landmyl, with more purity, transparency and honesty than ever before. Their epiphany is now ours as together we synchronically enter this new world of deeper understanding.

No one does a media package like @wosa_za for @wosacanada peeps. thank you for getting me very ready to tackle @capewine2018

So much to think about

It began at the Spier Hotel in Stellenbosch, home to Spier Wine Farm and Vineyards. It was unseasonably cold with the kind of crisp night air that just makes you think about acidity. The vines were infants at this time in the southern hemisphere vineyards but I could not help but imagine the 2019 harvest possibilities as having forged their beginnings with these early spring conditions. Next stop was Bot Rivier, first with a farm to table experience at Wildekrans Wine Estate. A quick stop to hang with the baboons at Sir Lowry’s Pass and a move to Kalmandi Township.

Performers at Amazink Live

This was a truly South African experience of ‘Ubunti’ at Amazink Live‘s township braai with the local entertainment troupe and a big bottle format of Smiley, Silvervis and Terracura with Ryan Mostert and Samantha Suddons. The fifth season of performance took place in what is called “a place of unity,” a safe space for all guests and groups. Amazink’s manager Zinthle explained that this club offers “a change in the perception of townships, the name alone means “it’s a nice home.” Kunandi Umalaba indeed. “It’s nice to be here.”

On to Roberston for three quick visits with Graham Beck Wines, Springfield Estate and De Wetshof Estate Wines. Then a night under the African sky, a 24-hour out-of-body experience at Sanbona Game Reserve and over to L’Avenir Farm for Pino Pistols – the next generation of pinotage young guns. The next morning at the Cape Town International Convention Centre for the start of three jam-packed days of Cape Wine 2018. An evening that can never be forgotten covered the classics – a regional four-decade vertical tasting with eight iconic producers. The trip culminated with lawn bowls in Malmesbury with the Swartland Swingers, artists formerly known as The Swartland Revolution.

Sundowners, Sanbona Game Reserve

Three years after that 2015 Cape Wine experience it’s duly noted how both flow and focus mean that the game is changing. The notion of planting whatever you feel like wherever you feel it just because it will ripen is evolving. Specialization, especially with respect to varietals like chenin blanc, cinsault, grenache and pinotage is the wave of the future and with this furthered isolation of micro-plots and terroir for these very specific grape varieties. Narrowing the focus, figuring out what works best and why. It’s the Burgundian way and indeed the way all great wine regions make their mark. The heritage seekers and protectors know what’s what. Old vines, especially dry, bush-farmed vineyards are the backbone of South Africa’s diversity and possibility.

Were South Africa not so far away from the rest of the wine-consuming world I truly believe it would blow every other wine region out of the proverbial water of supply and demand. South Africa’s wines represent the finest quality to price ratios in the world and there is plenty of product to go around. Lying a continent (and an ocean) away from both Europe and North America is an obstacle that will always be too distant to overcome but the global economy’s ability to coalesce and encourage trading of goods from the furthest of poles is only going to increase. If this upwards and positive trend is to continue the current wave of nationalist political tendencies must be curtailed, if only so that we as consumers can continue to enjoy the wealth of extraordinary wines that need to be exported out of South Africa.

Chef Gregory Henderson, Wildekrans Wilde Forage, Bot Rivier

New age of diversity: Bot Rivier

Bot Rivier is south-east from Cape Town, sandwiched from south to north between Hermanus and Stellenbosch. “From the top of the Houw Hoek Pass, one gets the first glimpse of the vast, rolling hills and big sky of the Bot River area, where real people make real wine.” This is the credo of the family of wineries that farm and produce in the area. There are 12 members of the wine-growing association, all within a 10km radius of one another. At Wildekrans we participated in a ground foraging experience alongside Chef Gregory Henderson. Beaumont Wines, Gabriëlskloof, Paardenkloof, Villion and Luddite Wines led us through a blending process to make a wine from samples supplied by all six. Four groups attempted the exercise to mixed reviews. Said Luddite’s Niels Verburg. “We gave you six beautiful wines and you gave us four bad ones back.” Their wines were significantly better.

Beaumont Family Wines Hope Marguerite 2017, WO Bot Rivier-Walker Bay, South Africa (Agent, $35.00, WineAlign)

The vintage clarity speaks to an unbelievable old vines imperative and in this case a stage presence imperative to scrape, zest and juice all the lemons, tangerines and peaches in the world. The fruit quality and integrity conjures a continuum where distant memory fast forwards to present day reality. ‘Tis an extraordinary time to taste chenin blanc in its modern vernacular, of so many styles with Sebastian Beaumont’s so high on the pyramid. The The 2017 accomplishment includes further complex compliments, dried pineapple, lemon peel and an herbal wonder powder. This is the sauce. “This is the day, your life will surely change. This is the day, when things fall into place.” Soul mining for chenin blanc. Drink 2019-2026.  Tasted September 2018

Villion Family Wines Syrah 2017, WO Western Cape, South Africa (WineryWineAlign)

A moment’s pause to consider the aromatics is unavoidable because the mid-palate complex notions swirl dramatically out of glass, through the mouth and straight into the mind. This with thanks in kind to more than half of the juice having matured for eight months in (36 per cent new) 300 and 400L French barrels. The fruit was not lost in fact it’s uncanny how mandarin orange it is, plus this old vine (30 years and older) mineral-flint strike to round out the third and most expected aspect of the total oeuvre. Rich, unctuous and structured is a great way for chenin blanc to go through life. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted September 2018  villionwines  @VillionWines  @VillionWines

Wildekrans Wine Estate Chenin Blanc Barrel Select Reserve 2017, WO Bot Rivier, South Africa (WineryWineAlign)

From winemaker Braam Gerricke his chenin blanc layers and variegates richness and spice. There is nothing simple about the designation or the result, very much in the vein of old vines and barrel licked chenin with great expectation. The ceiling climbs high for this type of execution and with some age for this, followed by some adjustments for the rest the future looks very bright. These are wines poised to climb into another Cape echelon. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted September 2018  wildekrans  @WildekransWines  @Wildekrans

Gabriëlskloof Syrah The Landscape Series on Shale 2016, WO Bot Rivier, South Africa (WineryWineAlign)

On Shale is forged of a single-vineyard, Bokkeveld site on the Gabriëlskloof property that makes for a stand apart syrah without comparison. A wild ferment encourages idiosyncratic, ferric and hematic tendencies of what can happen on this section of Western Cape geology. The theoretical possibilities from such shale do for syrah what Cape granite and Malmesbury shale won’t, making abstract connections liquid chalk bled through mudstone in the form of herbal amaro syrup. You notice it in the consistency too, so pure, so sappy oozing and in its very intuitive way, extroverted fine. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted September 2018  gabrielskloof_  @Gabrielskloof  @donniewine  @Gabrielskloof

Luddite Shiraz 2014, WO Bot Rivier, South Africa (WineryWineAlign)

Just a few years offers up so many more clues as to what is going on in Niels Verburg’s shiraz world. First of all the 24 months in barrel and the 24 months in bottle are structure building and basically tell us to stay away for an equally further amount of time. Not that you wouldn’t want to taste one or two along the way but time is the necessity. This is shiraz held back to “gain a balanced potential.” Meanwhile, no other Cape shiraz smells like this. Niels talks about the mattress of curry the khoi bushmen used to lie upon to raise them up above the ground and away from the insects. The plants known as “kerrie” have a very particular herbal-savoury scent, certainly present in Luddite’s shiraz and even more pronounced with a few years of time gone by. It’s exotic, an herbal-spice line trod with floral undertone and in part certainly a cause to that vineyard presence of the curry bush. Texture is fine spun silk, integrated and then comes exquisite acidity to complete the picture. Drink 2019-2027.  Tasted September 2018  luddite_wines  @LudditeWines  @ludditewines

Paardenkloof Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2017, WO Bot Rivier, South Africa (WineryWineAlign)

Planted in 2002, it was 2006 that proprietor Mohseen Moosa first produced this cabernet sauvignon on the mountain that separates Bot Rivier from the Hemel-en-Aarde, three to four kms from the sea, as the crow flies. The cooling breezes help to coax, coddle and accentuate the varietal tendencies, “to promote the primary fruit of the vineyard,” tells Moosa. Beneficial balance and restrained intensity define this wine, from pockets of spice through ultra-violet floral rays. Pleasing fruit meets designate structure for the most solid of South African cabernets. Fine chalky tannins and all in all, really accomplished. Drink 2020-2027.  Tasted September 2018  paardenkloof  @PaardenKloof  @PaardenKloofEstate

Chardonnay vineyard in Robertson

Regional spotlight: Robertson

The Robertson Valley is a singular and vast South African landscape, a place of wide open spaces and skies. It’s the ideal location for many things, including growing chardonnay and pinot noir for Méthode Cap Classique sparkling wines. It’s also possessive of the finest limestone soils in the Capelands which means chardonnay thrives and the ceiling for pinot noir can only raise higher. Pockets of sand and clay are also ideal for Bordeaux varietals; cabernet sauvignon and sauvignon blanc. The history, meticulousness and confidence of Robertson’s winemakers is more than evident. Springfield’s Abrie Bruwer was quick to remind us all “we’ve revolutionized (winemaking) three times over already and nobody’s noticed.” Robertson remains under the radar but know this. Old world defines the collective oeuvre.

Springfield Estate Sauvignon Blanc Life From Stone 2018, WO Robertson, South Africa (Winery, WineAlign)

What a jolt in how there’s a quick flash of Sancerre and then bam, straight back into a Robertson reality from the rockiest of parcels. The juice is kept at negative three degrees celsius to preserve the sheer freshness of the fruit. It’s not so radical but it’s also not done. What is does is prevent the flavours from disappearing into the enzymatic wind. They’ve been at this process for 11-12 years, seven of them with the entire crop. It’s about keeping the entirety of the lees suspended to buoy and ready the fruit for fermentation, at 13-16 degrees. The fruit is so variegated, at first mostly stone and the towards tropical tendencies, on the back of acidity wise and mature.  Drink 2018-2023. Tasted September 2018  springfieldestate  @springfieldwine  @springfieldestate

De Wetshof Estate Unwooded Chardonnay Bon Vallon 2018, WO Robertson, South Africa (403675, $22.95, WineAlign)

The unwooded chardonnay from de Wetshof is a fascinating wine because it’s one of the very few in the style that needs some time to settle down and in. From the good valley at the lowest point between slopes there is more searing orchard and citrus fruit meeting pure, unaffected by wood nuttiness than a list that includes all of Robertson and perhaps the entire Western Cape. What is pulled from this limestone terroir and without any barrel time is almost impossible but wholly remarkable. It’s also consistently constructed vintage after vintage by the commitment to craft by the family de Wet. Drink 20189-2022.  Tasted September 2018  dewetshofwines  @DeWetshofWines  @dewetshofwines

Graham Beck Prestige Collection Cuvée Clive 2012, Méthode Cap Classique, Robertson, South Africa (Agent, WineAlign)

Clive is Graham Beck’s most prestigious and important cuvée, what méthode cap classique cellarmaster Pieter Ferreira calls “a respect to Champagne. While previous incarnations were wines of “best selection” the 2012 chardonnay and pinot noir are drawn from a single-vineyard for the first time. Stand in the tasting room and there it spreads out below, on soil riddled with limestone to equip this crisp and arid sparkling wine with all the necessary attributes. Bronze-parched apple and dried quince are noted. Sentiment and data from a 10 year study project of varietal, lees and aging are collected and come to this; a toast demure, a love divine, a wild control. Brilliant sparkling wine and undoubtedly a South African gem. Drink 20189-2027.  Tasted September 2018  grahambeckbubbly  vinexxperts  @GrahamBeckSA  @Vinexxpert  @grahambeckmcc  @Vinexx

L’Avenir Wine Estate and Country Lodge

Pino Pistols – The next generation of Pinotage young guns

Heritage in South Africa is not just reserved for chenin blanc. “You know what old vines can give you,” says L’Avenir’s winemaker Dirk Coetzee. “We’re here to discuss a pinotage revolution. We’re here to discuss the next generation of pinotage.” Stellenbosch is host to the greatest concentration of Western Cape plantings and over the last ten years it has grown by 52 per cent. “Once we start making authentic product people will start thinking and the product will speak for itself.” In fact it has moved from being the sixth to the third most planted grape varieties. Beyerskloof winemaker Ani Truter adds, “what I tasted in the 80s was not pinotage, it was sabotage. It took 2,000 years for Burgundy to be successful. Don’t worry, it won’t take that long in South Africa.” Only a Châteauneuf-du-Pâpe winemaker could pay a compliment with such direct proposition.

David Sadie continued the analysis with his take on soil and cellar as being the reasons for making good and bad pinotage. “If you look at a bad pinotage today you can look at the cellar and not at the cultivar.” This in explanation for how pinotage has improved and is moving on from rubbery, toasted and burnt flavour profiles. “It’s about site selection, planting in the right areas.” It’s also about pH levels. “Your attention to hygiene is really important, it’s pH driven.” And finally, Jacques de Klerk of Radford Dale.” They used to be made at high alcohol levels and the margin for error was very precarious. It comes down to over extraction and over use of oak.” The times they are a-changin’.

Beaumont Family Wines Pinotage Sixty Barrels 2015, WO Bot Rivier, South Africa (Agent, WineAlign)

So interesting to taste this seminal pinotage by Sebastian Beaumont side by each with his 2009 “normale.” The same 1970s planted vineyard is employed, here from two blocks, one 44 years of age and the other being a spritely 21. The salty note on the aromatic top is faint, hidden beneath massive fruit ability, but it depends (of course it depends), on vintage. This one is full of wealthy possibilities and stealth opportunity, especially when the salt rises to the surface in thew clay. That clay effect is a fulsome one, really notable from 2015 to claim fruit, stash it away in reserve and wait for structure to build, crest and relent. Many years will pass as a result of this pinotage process. This is how you build varietal wealth and worth. One of South Africa’s finest. Drink 2019-2027.  Tasted September 2018  beaumontwines  @Beauwine  @Smallwinemakers  @beaumontfamilywine  @smallwinemakerscollection

L’Avenir Pinotage 2016, WO Stellenbosch, South Africa (Agent, $14.95, WineAlign)

When it comes to pinotage there are few producers capable of delivering the triumvirate of quality, honesty and ignoring of sickly trends. There is no mocha in L’Avenir’s take on the mistaken identity grape. In this case it’s like you’d expect pinotage to be but also completely unexpected because it takes classic relief, alters the perspective and turns the architectural rendering on its head. Pinotage needs to keep you on your toes, confuse with trompe l’oeuil drawn trickery and offer up great surprise. That’s what makes it special. Here richness is met head on by tannin, dusty fruit by bold acidity and spice mix at the gate of intensity. Just imagine the possibilities in the estate’s single block. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted September 2018  lavenir_wine_estate  selectwinemoments  @LAvenirWines  @SelectWinesTO  @LAvenirEstate  @SelectWinesCanada

Beyerskloof Pinotage Diesel 2015, WO Stellenbosch, South Africa (Winery, WineAlign)

The bush vines are in the 20 year range on gravelly Oakleaf and Klapmuts soil for this highly credible example of what is possible with pinotage, especially in Stellenbosch. This is nothing but a structured red, housed in 100 per cent new French oak barrels for 20 months. After maturation, only 20 barrels were selected out of a possible 300. The fruit is richer, the texture denser and the extraction at the top end of the ideal. There is more of everything here, including savour and it’s anything but reductive or ball bouncy. Big, roasting, boasting and blasting with an exceptional level of quality. Drink 2019-2023.  Tasted September 2018  beyerskloof  churchillcellars  @Beyerskloof_  @imbibersreport  @Beyerskloof  @imbibersreport

B. Vintners Pinotage Liberté 2017, WO Stellenbosch, South Africa (Agent, $41.99, WineAlign)

Two oceans facing granitic soils at 250m are the impetus to raise this Cape dialectical, Atlantic meets Indian pinotage. It’s also a whole bunch matter, something that in increasingly important in the varietal lexicon. The plantings are east-west in orientation to avoid overbearing sun exposure, which is really a thing in pinotage and often the culprit for its unwanted “thickening.” Baking spice is all over the notes and fruit purity is duly counted. A very characterful red, spicy, smoky and just plain pleasurable, if on the confident side of all things being equal. Nice work between cousins Gavin Bruwer and Bruwer Raats. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted September 2018  raatsfamilywines  liffordgram  @RaatsWines  @LiffordON  Raats Family Wines  @liffordwineandspirits

Radford Dale Pinotage Frankenstein 2015, WO Stellenbosch, South Africa (AgentWineAlign)

It took a few decades for someone to give Shelleyan props to Dr. Abraham Penold of Stellenbosch University,1925 grafter of cinsault and pinot noir to create pinotage. It’s a literary sidestep of a stretch to compare the science to Mary Shelley’s creature created by mismatched donors, but more than that it’s a cheeky shout out for a varietal often mistaken for a monster. Winemaker Jacques de Klerk grabs fruit from the white marl at the foot of the Helderberg Mountain for a pinotage troika of intention, ability and expectation. Three properties born of terroir, house and winemaker. All are on the same page written by an unspoken agreement to not abuse or confuse this grape. Frankenstein is smoky, curative, red raspberry ripe, right proper and built to last. Drink 2019-2026.  Tasted September 2018  radford_dale  reveriechenin  noble_estates  @Radforddale  @deklerkjacques  @Noble_Estates  @RadfordDaleWine  @NobleEstates

Pinotage winemakers at L’Avenir

Kanonkop Pinotage 2015, WO Simonsberg-Stellenbosch, South Africa (Agent, $44.95, WineAlign)

Vines are between 30 and 60 years of age for this prototypical ode to how things were and going forward can almost certainly be in the world of pinotage. Wrinkled, gnarled, grizzled old veteran vines, the Gordie Howe of the genre, Mr. pinotage if you will. Trees of a vinous sort, able to shake of draughts and new wave mochafied drafts, with a hat trick of checks, balances and grit. These vines are the past but more importantly are the future, typified and exemplified in this kind of pinotage, a modern classic made from a place by a maker who knows what’s what. Smoky red fruit with this uncanny variegation of hue, cloudy transparency and complexity of character. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted September 2018  kanonkopwineestate  noble_estates  @KanonkopEstate  @Noble_Estates  @Kanonkop  @NobleEstates

David And Nadia Pinotage 2017, WO Swartland, South Africa (Winery, WineAlign)

David and Nadia Sadie’s pinotage is quite possibly and purposefully the lightest there is, clocking in at an impossibly low 12 per cent. It is both the next and other tier for the varietal reconnaissance with vanguard clarity and an honesty to speak of wine made under serious drought conditions. Bright red fruit and that low alcohol make it at once crushable but then sneaky structured. A maturity of vine, maker and grape conspire for such a dichotomy of bemusement though to be fair you could blindly be convinced that you were tasting lithe and ethereal northern Rhône syrah. The mixed magical condition certainly makes you take a step back and a seat to think. It’s a good conundrum and an excellent way to be drinking pinotage. Drink 2019-2027.  Tasted September 2018  davidandnadia  @DavidandNadia  @DavidandNadia

Wildekrans Wine Estate

Wildekrans Wine Estate Pinotage 2017, WO Bot Rivier, South Africa (WineryWineAlign)

A cooler, herbal and uniquely floral pinotage from Braam Gerricke. Bush vines grow on a shady site of small acreage and at altitude for the valley. Pinotage of chalky liquidity from you which you feel the oak and a real sour-sorrel tang. Was in barrel for 15 months and it will need a year or two to fully integrate, than drink well for four or five more years after that. Terrific persistence and length.  Drink 2019-2023. Tasted September 2018  wildekrans  @WildekransWines  @Wildekrans

Graham Beck Winery, Robertson

Méthode Cap Classique

Plain and simple, Méthode Cap Classique (MCC) is a South African term indicating a sparkling wine made in the traditional method (the same way Champagne is made), by which a secondary fermentation takes place inside the bottle. That said, there is nothing simple about MCC and who would argue that as a category it produces some of the finest, most complex and diverse sparkling wines in the world. It’s also very much a wine about terroir. As it stands, MCC has to age on the lees for a minimum nine months to be labelled as such. “We’re making wines that develop too quickly,” insists Paul Gerber of Le Lude. Gerber believes the minimum should be raised to 15. “Sparkling wine is not a terroir wine? Please. This is completely untrue.” As for sugar dosage he’s like a cook in the kitchen. “Dosage is like seasoning. If you do it properly you don’t taste it.” It is Graham Beck’s Pieter Ferreira that has put in the time and the research over 20-plus years to really understand the category but more importantly the potential. “You are always looking to express terroir,” he says. “For Brut we have to extend (the less aging time) to 60 months. So there is no lipstick or eye shadow.”

Le Lude Vintage Cuvée Méthode Cap Classique 2012, WO Franschhoek, South Africa (Winery, WineAlign)

Le Lude’s winemaker Paul Gerber assembles two non-vintage Bruts, blended each vintage for a house style. The fruit is primarily Robertson with some addendum out of Franschhoek. The first vintage was indeed 2012 and this chardonnay (80 per cent) plus pinot noir comes sweet herbal straight out of the riddle with a sultry, piqued spiciness. Already showing a hint of secondary notation by way of a honeyed nougat melted into the soft and delicate mousse. Still plenty of intensity and drive with citrus in whole represent by lime, fresh and juicy. Less red fruit (much, much less) and more white flower with the idea of yellow and green fruit. Stylish, persevering and precise. At 2.6 g/L it’s perfectly albeit sparsely seasoned and mature with Champagne confidence. Drink 2019-2027.  Tasted September 2018  leludemcc  @LeLudeMCC  @LeLudeMCC

L’Avenir Brut Méthode Cap Classique 2017, WO Stellenbosch, South Africa (Winery, WineAlign)

L’Avenir Estate’s Méthode Cap Classique is mainly pinotage with some chardonnay and arrives in the glass as a light and nearly delicate bubble. It’s a succulent, sweet rusty, lively enzymatic sparkling wine with an opinion and a plan of action. Pleasurable to sip from a definite MCC teachable moment. Drink 2018-2020.  Tasted September 2018  lavenir_wine_estate  selectwinemoments  @LAvenirWines  @SelectWinesTO  @LAvenirEstate  @SelectWinesCanada 

Genevieve Brut Blanc De Blancs Méthode Cap Classique 2014, WO Bot Rivier, South Africa (WineryWineAlign)

Genevieve is Cap Classique made by Melissa Nelsen and was first made in 2008, released in 2010. Now with 2014 the lees aging time is 48 months with total output in the 12,00-13,000 bottle range, up from the 5,000 of that first vintage. The goal is 20,000 in the very near future. It’s essentially blanc de blancs, 100 per cent chardonnay as a wise, calm, mature and elegant traditional method sparkling. Just lovely. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted September 2018  #melissagenevievenelsen  @Genevieve_mcc  

Graham Beck Brut Zero 2012, Méthode Cap Classique,Robertson, South Africa (435453, $23.95, WineAlign)

Slanghoek pinot noir (77 per cent) meets limestone-Robertson chardonnay for a driest of the dry sparkling wine that spent 60 months on the lees. Beck’s attack for the Brut Zero “is based on the philosophy of grower’s Champagne,” notes Pieter Ferreira and as such it surely ranks as one of the more mineral-toasty bubbles in the entire Cap Classique category. No sugar added during dosage allows the land to speak. There is a deeper intuition beyond flint-struck, something categorically chalky while delicate and flavour wise it’s simply limon-delicieux. The fineness is noted and the vintage too, from which the team saw enough to make use of the highest quality juice for a tête de cuvée wine. High ceiling for aging here. Drink 2018-2024.  Tasted September 2018

Wildehurst Méthode Cap Classique NV, WO Swartland, South Africa (Winery, WineAlign)

Sheree Nothangel’s sparkling Cap Classique is composed of chenin blanc and chardonnay (56/44), at 4 g/L dosage after 24 months on the lees. This is the third year of the program and the first stage speaks to a style that acts in delicasse incarnate. Just lovely and creamy in which lemon billows with elastic solids as curd and there is a real feel of fine lees. Though downy it too is lifted but not explosive by acidity. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted September 2018  wildehurst  @WildehurstW  @wildehurst

Avondale Wines Armilla Blanc De Blanc 2011, Méthode Cap Classique, WO Paarl, South Africa (451930, $34.95, WineAlign)

The first vintage was 2003 for the Armilla blanc de blanc, now out of 2011 and having spent six years lees post whole bunch pressing. It’s a naturally fermented chardonnay of which two per cent saw some older barrel. After two years of coarse lees aging there began this formidable bringing of citrus and sharp apple bite. The following four on fine lees delivered the integration of acidity ahead of the gainful accumulation of toasted brioche. Richness at its best for this Méthode Cap Classique, of preserved lemon, fine aridity (under 5 g/L RS) and high acidulation (over 9 TA). Terrific MCC. Drink 2018-2024.  Tasted September 2018   avondalewinesa  @Avondalewine  @RareEarth_Wines  @AvondaleWines  Rare Earth Wines & Spirits

Godello with André “The Giant” Morgenthal, Old Vines Project and Scott Zebarth in Stellenbosch

Heritage vines

It may be argued that South Africa’s most important work is being done through the Old Vines Project. “Old vines make wines with a unique character. Wines that reflect the vastness of our South African landscape – our harsh climate, our old and sometimes fragile soils, and our complex culture. They reflect the decades of growing in one place, in the unyielding sun, the cold winter rain, the storms and winds, on a mountain, on a plain somewhere and then producing these delicate but powerful wines.

The Old Vine Project wants to preserve vines older than 35 years by creating an awareness of the heritage of old vines. Winemakers can certify their wines as ‘Old Vine’ and the public will knowingly buy wines that are made from the many ancient and sometimes forgotten patches of vineyards. Through membership the wine drinker will be able to follow the history of these wines and see where they come from – the exact slope or site, the winemaker, the soils and the stories of each.”

It begins with Rosa Kruger, viticulturalist and long time champion of the Cape’s oldest plantings. Using funding from businessman and winery proprietor Johann Rupert, Kruger founded the project in 2016, cementing formal something that had been in the works since 2002. In 2018, the OVP launched its plaques, held tastings and developed certification seals. Kruger has tirelessly promoted the qualities of the Cape’s 2618 hA of old vines. Today the larger than life André Morgenthal instructs, educates and directs on behalf of the Old Vines Project.

Chris Alheit makes an archetypal wine from the poster child vineyard for this intense old block by block pre-occupation, called La Colline in Franschhoek. So what do heritage vines mean to the makers of wines that carry this luggage? “For a clear South African identity you must use old vineyards to call it Cape heritage wine,” insists Alheit. He and more than 40 producers are making wines from a dozen regions housing further dozens of heritage blocks. These are the history and lifeline of South African varietals. It’s not just about keeping old things alive. The Western (and Northern) Cape is one of the few places in the world where old vines continue to produce extraordinary fruit to make beautiful wines. It’s not just about where you come from, it’s also about where you are going. These are just a few of these examples.

Alheit Vineyards Sémillon La Colline Vineyard 2017, Franschhoek, Western Cape, South Africa (WineryWineAlign)

“Qu’est-ce que c’est?” From a vineyard housing both light and dark-skinned sémillon and if there are others in this world I am not privy to the information. The resulting wine is 85-90 per cent blanc and 10-15 gris. La Colline was planted in 1936 on the southern slope of Dassenberg and is now farmed by grandson Anton Roux, a direct descendant of the Huguenot refugee Paul Roux who arrived in Franschhoek in 1688. The vines stretch up the hill from 310-350m and it is the fruit from the middle slope that is best to leave for picking long after the chenin blanc. This is the indispensable fruit used in Alheit’s Cartology. Thick skins elevate the natural talking tendencies, from a super healthy pH for drupe of apposite attack and confusing like great whites you would not or should not compare it to. Chris Alheit’s invades your head’s consciousness with this amazing depth for sémillon, with no definable context, pretence or precedent. The impossibility is totally unique in the world and yet utterly South African. It’s both tense and nervous but somehow I can still relax. Psycho Killer sémillon.  Drink 2020-2028. Tasted September 2018  chrisalheit  gsoleil123  @ChrisAlheit  @GroupeSoleilTO  Chris Alheit  Groupe Soleil Fine Wines

Chris and Suzaan Alheit

gentle humans, givers, terroiristes, magical wine purveyors ~ suzaan and @chrisalheit ~ thank you for the enlightenment ~ #capewine2018 #zoocrew

Alheit Vineyards Chenin Blanc Magnetic North 2017, WO Citrusdal Mountains, South Africa (WineryWineAlign)

Also from the Citrusdal Mountains SAVA, a.k.a the viticultural area also known as the Skurfberg, a 10 minute drive away at 550m, again red sand and clay. The vines are ungrafted chenin blanc on its own roots but the soil here is an even deeper red, more so than Huilkrans and so now that white hematic thing is happening. Like red blood cells carrying elements, nutrients, ferrous unction and a pulse of power as opposed to the calm in the white of Huilkrans. This is the tenor to the baritone, rich in its crazy depth of fruit and always seared, marked and injected with trace elements. Does it all on its own. There is no winemaking going on here, only a moving target, of intensity and mystery. The vineyard lies a few degrees off true north from the Alheit cellar, poetically licensed as their “Magnetic North.” Drink 2019-2028.  Tasted September 2018

 

Mullineux Old Vines White 2017, Unfiltered & Unfined, WO Swartland, South Africa (556597, $37.95, WineAlign)

Predominately chenin blanc with grenache blanc, sémillon gris, clairette and viognier, ushered by natural yeasts and encouraged through malolactic fermentation. The new age textured acidity is accessed without a stir and a highly textured affair it is. The composure rests in seamless mille-feuille layering while vested in slow-developed, all you could dream about in a cape effect white wine. Welcome to the cumulative in Andrea Mullineux’s Old Vines bottling. While Granite and Quartz make pinpointed investigations this is the one to educate us all on what Western Cape and more specifically Swartland chenin blanc blends are capable of discerning. The weight is powerful and weightless, the effort strong and effortless. Amazing really. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted September 2018 and January 2019  mullineuxwines  nicholaspearcewines  @MullineuxWines  @Nicholaspearce_  @MullineuxWines  Andrea Mullineux  Chris Mullineux  Nicholas Pearce

Huis Van Chevallerie Filia Brut Nature Kap Klaissque NV, WO Swartland, South Africa (Winery, WineAlign)

Filia is the daughter of the Paardeberg, a self-described and cheeky Swartland Kap Klassique chenin blanc made by Christa Von La Chevallerie, dogter to Juergen and the Nuwedam Farm just off the R45 outside Malmesbury. Not just any sparkling wine mind you. Although the early stages of this old vines project from the (mainly) 2015 vintage only gives 18 months on the lees it also provides 1974 planted chenin blanc, for shits, giggles and shut the front door attitude. For Christa it’s a matter of “how far I can go with (the combination of) chenin and lees.” Clearly just the entry point here, with an announced mix of richness and tension, not yet knowing what can and will happen. The coast is clear, the chenin blanc is ready, willing, able and the winemaker will stop at nothing to make this bubble in her own image and way. Look out sparkling world. Drink 2018-2022. Tasted September 2018  christalachevallerie  @HuisChevallerie  @ChevallerieZA  Christa Von La Chevallerie

Natte Valleij Cinsault 2017, WO Darling, South Africa (Winery, WineAlign)

Malmesbury formation is the ground beneath the feet of these 1978ish planted bush vines. Milner calls them “the most isolated block in our collective…on a lonely hill surrounded by wheat fields and too many gates to remember.” The élevage is back into concrete egg here because the Darling fruit asks or even demands it. Alex is wanting the florality of violets to be celebrated and “put into a time capsule,” from one amazing environment to another. The egg is asked to capture that. It also brings texture and salve in the form of orange pastille, warmed and lingering. Of the four single investigative cinsault this is the most accomplished, with tannin and structure. Die koppie. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted September 2018  nattevalleij  @nattevalleij  @nattevalleij

Savage Wines Red 2015, WO Western Cape, South Africa (Agent, $54.99, WineAlign)

The kitchen sink is nearly full with syrah, grenache, cinsault and touriga nacional in a back to the farthing future beginning that was the first and now reminds of the regional ideal. While all of Duncan Savage’s other wines will already have evolved, in ’17 this will become a 100 per cent varietal syrah, in the name of fine tuning and a furthering of regional identity. The Red is the most perfumed, also elegant and delicate with a sneaky beauty in its phantom power. Really clocks in and knocks you upside like powerful. Like modern nebbiolo though you’d never really know it unless you were unafraid to ask. Who are you? Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted September 2018  #savagewines    #savagewines

The Heldeberg from Stellenbosch

Post revolution Swartland

They are no longer the Swartland Revolution but now the Swartland Swingers, a free and easy collective of South African winemakers who have this winemaking thing figured out. There is a swagger about these women and men who make wine from dry-farmed bush vines set into some of this planet’s craziest antediluvian soils. Their wines collectively have a very purposed focus but what they have more than anything else is flow.

Badenhorst Secateurs Chenin Blanc 2018, WO Swartland, South Africa (Agent, $23.00, WineAlign)

While Adi Badenhorst also produces some über fascinating and ultra-expensive chenin blanc (Klip Klop, Golden Slopes and Piet Bok se) the Secateurs, also known as pruning shears or “snoeiskêr” is the glue and the rock in his entire portfolio. It’s one of the original upscale chenin blanc to crack the North American market and open the portal to the rest of South Africa’s bush vine world. Some great old vines help usher this into its echelon and while it strikes with leaner and more direct lines than (especially) the textured Golden Slopes, it still exhibits its own palate wealth. A little bit of this, a little bit of vat, skin-contact, stainless and concrete ushers along the variegation so that feeling balances the fresh spirit of this steen. Salty rock and sweet basil come through at the finish. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted September 2018  aabadenhorst  hannekebotha  wynbefok  noble_estates  @AABadenhorst  @Noble_Estates  Adi Badenhorst  @aabadenhorst  @NobleEstates

David And Nadia Grenache 2017, WO Swartland, South Africa (Winery, WineAlign)

For grenache the focus David and Nadia exert is on the red-brown schistous soils of the Kasteelberg, masculine terroir if you like (or will) as a brother to the Paardeberg where they make chenin blanc the order. About half the ferment is whole bunch, plenty enough for grenache and also six amazing weeks on skins. I can only imagine what the room began to smell like with this triumvirate of soil, varietal and execution happening. No other grenache anywhere in the world shows this type of terroir purity, or at least with such unequivocal and parochial relevance. The raspberry notes are uncanny and the transparency of transference is both light and in total control. Who knew so much character and structure could be coaxed from something desperately delicate. It’s like a spider’s web with bonds unbroken, capable of snaring the physical and the emotional while always remaining inherently meta. Aragon nor Rhône this is not, ethereal it is. Drink 2018-2027.  Tasted September 2018  davidandnadia  @DavidandNadia  @DavidandNadia

Porseleinberg Syrah 2012, WO Swartland, South Africa (Winery, WineAlign)

If you would like to explore the pinnacle of richest restraint where South African syrah goes out to concrete then look to this off of Porcelain Mountain made by the phantom himself Callie Louw. A Riebeek Kasteel phenomenon was born out of a Boekenhoutskloof drive and it is the magical glycerin texture that behooves us to think, feel and linger with this top quality example. It’s also reticent, of great humility, needing no attention or introduction. It may be syrah of a certain aloof quality and yet the intensity unparalleled deserves all the accolades it may and will receive. Remembered, remarkable, stoic, unchanged and unchained. Drink 2019-2033.  Tasted September 2018  #porseleinberg #callielouw  #porseleinberg

Terracura Wines Red 2016, WO Swartland, South Africa (Winery, WineAlign)

Contributions are solicited, paid for and received from five different vineyards on three different terroirs in the Swartland; two on Riebeek schist, two on Paardeberg granite and one on Malmesbury ferrous clay. What does is all mean or add least add up to? It’s not Jamet dammit though it may be the most Cornas like because of the deep liqueur in this fruit. Also due in part to the Rhônish funk which gets into the mind of assessment in ahead of Western Cape terroir. It’s a combination of absolute perfection and downright absurdity. The olive brine and meaty cure are there, as is the tannin, like deep, dark sunken eyes. Ryan and Samantha don gothic costumes and zombie make-up, “with white lipstick and one thing on their minds.” Full moon syrah fever. Make a wine like this and you are no longer innocent winemakers. Nothing petty about that. Drink 2019-2023.  Tasted September 2018  terracura  ryanthewinegeek  vinevenom  @RyanTheWineGeek  @Sammelier  Samantha Suddons  Ryan Mostert  @terracurawines

Mullineux Syrah Granite 2016, WO Swartland, South Africa (Agent, $152.95, WineAlign)

Moving in a muy from the seven vineyard syrah and into a Swartland side site committed to granite this is one of three Mullineux syrah specificities, the other being Schist and Iron. Granite is drawn of a single parcel of 19 year-old dry land, bush vines grown in the decomposed granite of the Paardeberg. Andrea Mullineux makes use of a 100 per cent whole cluster ferment and moves into larger (500L) barrels, all aimed at freshness and aromatics. Granite provides a flavour profile that is juicier, fuller, spicier and more provocative than the others but oh to be smitten by tannins so exceptional. There is a taste of blackberry incarnate, a fluidity of seamless transitions and length for Paardeberg days. Brilliant vintage for one of South Africa’s most important red wines. Drink 2021-2033.  Tasted September 2018  mullineuxwines  nicholaspearcewines  wosa_ca  @MullineuxWines  @Nicholaspearce_  @MullineuxWines  @WOSACanada  Andrea Mullineux  Chris Mullineux  Nicholas Pearce  @WOSACA

Donovan Rall

Rall Wines AVA 2017, Swartland, South Africa (WineryWineAlign)

The red blend carrying his daughter’s name is Donovan Rall’s 2.5 hectares sourcing from the schistose section of 18 year-old planted vines. This is consistent with many of the vineyards he works with, from dry land conditions, cause he’s the Schist Man. It’s varietal syrah of 1000 bottles, a true cimmerian beast, from struggling vines, between 50-60 whole bunch (as opposed to 100 in the RED). Pure ferric initiative, real hematic following. The glycerin, candied flower and aged balsamico is almost IGT, of Cortona but really more so in a mind’s eye memory of Cornas. Freshness is preserved and structure is infinite. Great, great acidity. One of the Cape’s greatest achievements in syrah. Drink 2020-2032.  Tasted September 2018

Verticals

Anyone who chose not to attend Cape Wine’s eight wineries, four decades retrospective missed out on a tasting of a lifetime. Time was tight and so the ability to taste all eight and take proper notes in a walk-around format was challenging so here are five of the eight represented. Regrets to Vilafonté, Kanonkop and Warwick for the miss and here’s to hoping another opportunity will be afforded again someday.

How to have an epiphany. Taste 25-30 year-old #southafrican white wines. Case in point @kleinconstantia sauvignon blanc

Klein Constantia Blanc De Blanc 1987, Constantia, Western Cape, South Africa (Winery, WineAlign)

Poured by Managing Director Hans Astrom in Cape Town alongside 1994 and 2009. Planted in 1979, the inaugural vintage and the first South African sauvignon blanc was 1986. The 1987 was not labelled as sauvignon blanc but rather as B de B because of the botrytis-affected vintage. Honeyed but not in the way you might expect, not pushed by a petrol-fuelled sweetness but instead as the action of an old world inspired mash-up. Like Loire Jolivet Sancerre meeting Huet Demi-Sec chenin blanc head on. The collision explodes into a smoky smoulder with textural consequences. It’s a bees-waxy ethereal treading of chaotic spaces between worlds. The astral travel must have twisted through three decades of nether to arrive at this place, with the low pH vineyard soils to thank. And the magic, despite or perhaps in ode to the ’87 botrytis. In the end aridity wins and the wine drinks so proper, perfect and fine. Drink 2018-2020.  Tasted September 2018  kleinconstantia  halpernwine  wosa_za  @KleinConstantia  @HalpernWine  @hansverbier  @WOSA_ZA  @KleinConstantia  @halpernwine

Hamilton Russell Vineyard Pinot Noir 1986, WO Walker Bay, South Africa (999516, AgentWineAlign)

Anthony and Olive Hamilton Russell went above and beyond in their interpretation of what is means to pour at a varietal tasting by including not only this first HR vintage but also sharing one of only three remaining bottles left in this world. Were the 1997 and 2000 perhaps better structured wines? Likely and even probably yes, but there’s something magical about a first effort. The innocence, hopes and dreams are all in there, along with the honesty and the sincerity. Believe it or not the acidity is still in full flight even if the fruit has vacated the premises and turned to duff. If you’ve ever reached your hands into the Hermanus earth, inhaled in the sense of place and perhaps a lick of stone then you might imagine what this ’86 is like. A combination of plant oils, geosmin and petrichor preserved just long enough before it’s too late. Anthony and Olive timed the opening of the bottles produced to last just long enough. Drink 2018.  Tasted September 2018  olive_hamilton_russell  noble_estates  @OliveHR  @Noble_Estates  Olive Hamilton Russell  @NobleEstates

Paul Cluver Pinot Noir Seven Flags 2008, WO Elgin, South Africa (AgentWineAlign)

In a word meraviglioso, or as they say in Afrikaans, wonderlike. Paul Cluver’s 10 year-old Elgin whispering pinot noir is one to prove something very important. The get together of place, varietal and producer reaches a tri-point of agreement, all vintages being equal, at the 10 year mark. Here from this 2008 we intuit the apex, of tessellate beat and three points where two lines meet. We’ll allow for a give or take of one to two years, duly noted in this vertical that includes 2009, 2013 and 2015 but for 2008 the number 10 finds itself at a pinnacle of evolution. If you appreciate aged reds, developed pinot noir and wise South African wine than here you are. A glass of plum pudding elastic, textured and exemplary in entanglement; notable fruit, fine acidity and tannin of “streel.” An earthy intensity sprinkles over the finale. Drink 2018-2022. Tasted September 2018  paulcluver  paulcluverwines  @paulcluver  @paulcluverwines  Paul Cluver

Meerlust Rubicon 1991, WO Stellenbosch, South Africa (Agent, 64329, WineAlign)

Some vintage are surely more special than others and while Meerlust has blessed many of them with a speciality of Bordeaux inspired wine dissertation it is this 1991 that stands erect in a critical test of time. This was tasted during the second of two estate verticals afforded in one calendar year, the first having being drawn from 2010-2003, 1996 and 1984, with this second string consisting of 2015, 2009, 2001, 1991 and 1984. The fruit is both in original form and yet also dehydrated; rusty raspberry, bokser and orange peel. Still a tightness and a faint ramification of tannin but plenty of staying power. A top quality vintage no doubt. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted September 2018  meerlustwine  liffordgram    @LiffordON  MEERLUST ESTATE  @liffordwineandspirits

Sadie Family Palladius 2011, WO Swartland, South Africa (SAQ 13098449, $88.00, WineAlign)

Though the upstart 2016 may well go on to become the best of the lot in a vertical that includes 2005, 2009 and 2014 there is no denying the way this 2011 draws you into its lair of fineness. “An incredible year,” says Eben Sadie and one during which the move was made to aging in foudres. Made for an instant alteration into the new texture and what Sadie notes as “starting to dial in.” This is by now one of the Western Cape’s most accomplished and paradigmatic appellative white blends and while certainly dogmatic it has earned the right to be so. A blend of 33 per cent chenin blanc, (16) roussanne, (11 each) grenache blanc and sémillon blanc plus sémillion gris and palomino, (6 each) viognier, clairette blanche and verdellho. What’s it all add up to? Layers and layers of stratified South African geology, history and potential. The ’05 and the ’09 show what was possible and this 2011 shows what is. Drink 2018-2027.  Tasted September 2018  sadiefamilywines  @SadieFamilyWine  The Sadie Family Wines

The 1980s called. They want their culture back.

Wot varietal?

“We’re no longer trying to make chenin taste like sauvignon blanc or chardonnay, or Huet for that matter,” noted Chris Mullineux. “The grape variety has been in the country for more the 350 years, since the 1650s and it can withstand warm and dry conditions and perform really well.” No discourse on new versus old in South Africa can be addressed without first looking at the modish dialectal of chenin blanc. The combination of bush and old vines, coupled with indigenous ferments and skin contact addresses has elevated the stalwart, signature grape to its current reality. That said the wines now being made in South Africa do not solely rely on the current chenin fashion and instead offers up a diverse lot of varietal, region and style.

Alheit Vineyards Cartology Bush Vines 2017, WO Western Cape, South Africa (Agent, $49.95, WineAlign)

Cartology exists in a vacuum without peers, in part because it charted and mapped a course ahead of the curve. The 2017 refuses to rest on laurels and pushes the destination even further away so that the journey still remains the thing. Chris and Suzaan Alheit employ 11 dryland bush (30-80) year-old parcels and the whole addition proposes an adage of place and not idea. This is Cartology, a snapshot of time and place. The smaller amount of eighty year-old sémillon is from La Colline in Franschhoek, while the 30+ year old chenin blanc is grown in Skurfberg, Perdeberg, Bottelary Hills and Kasteelberg. If Cartology was this rich before I cannot say and only Chris, Suzaan and the Cape can make this wine. Only them and in these places. Best to date. Drink 2019-2027.  Tasted September 2018  chrisalheit  gsoleil123  @ChrisAlheit  @GroupeSoleilTO  Chris Alheit  Groupe Soleil Fine Wines

Rall Wines Cinsault Blanc 2017, Wellington, Western Cape, South Africa (WineryWineAlign)

The fruit comes from a 32 year-old, tiny 0.2 hectares of certified vines and the only remaining vineyard planted to the varietal. Like red cinsault this thing drops acid as fast as anything else. What you will taste is only the grape, on the skins three days for phenolic pulling and then straight into the clay. Seven months only, not too far and so freshness is preserved. Not just spirit but mouthfeel with the lightest frame and 10.5 per cent alcohol, with nice dry tannins. It’s like a shout out louds very loud matter of “nothing is hard cause something always comes out.” Lemon like you’ve never experienced before, leaning lime, like clairette and grenache blanc, but then again no. It’s just this. Donovan Rall managed 1005 bottles. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted September 2018  #Rallwines    @RallWines

Smiley Chenin Blanc NV, WO Swartland, South Africa (Winery, WineAlign)

Poured from magnum as one does with a non-vintage, Swartland chenin blanc inspired by the white Rioja of Tondonia and the idiosyncratic whites of the Jura. Although these originals are most obvious as Ryan Mostert’s first loves of oxidative sensitivity and specificity his Smiley stylistic has surely changed him so that the point in space is in constant flux. And so his is now the precedent because the revolutionary pioneering (along with several of his peers) has established South Africa, which includes Smiley at the forefront as the new reference point. We qualify this by saying that its own way Smiley is a fixed point that stays still and does not move. Drawing on four or five vintages the chenin blanc is blended on the flor, of skin-contact and it’s really all about layers of texture, not to mention “no holds barred.” It’s not nearly as far out there as you’d expect in fact it used to be and is now so much closer to centre. Some might argue against such a compromise but it’s not one at all. It’s made clean, with focus and determination to vinify something bloody great to drink. It’s a Champagne supernova cuvée. Drink 2018-2023.  Tasted September 2018  ryanthewinegeek  vinevenom  @Silwervis  @RyanTheWineGeek  @Sammelier  Samantha Suddons  Ryan Mostert

Blackwater Wines Palomino Pleasure Garden 2017, WO Swartland, South Africa (Winery, WineAlign)

Francois Haasbroek goes retro with his first try at varietal palomino, turning it out ambient and atmospheric, tasted here like listening to the Big Thing exactly thirty years on. The Duran Duran of chenin blanc for Swartland is also known as fransdruif or vaalblaar, meaning “White French.” Haasbroek sources his fruit by way of vines grown on shale with Table Mountain sandstone. Clocks in at a light radio’s just over 12 per cent alcohol and there was no fining. It’s a micro-terroir 0.85 hectare block and this 2016 as mentioned is the first kick at the can. Textured, natural, talc silky, with notes of orange zest, kelp, algae and sea spray. Gets creamy with lovely lemon preserve. Palomino is not chenin blanc but it can be coaxed into charm and “if there’s secrets, she has to be party, to every one of them.” We too are listening in. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted September 2018  shot_of_time  @Blackwaterwine   @BlackwaterWine

Lowerland Colombard Vaalkameel 2017, WO Prieska Noord Kaap, South Africa (Winery, WineAlign)

Lowerland is the small northern exposure from Alette de Beer and Bertie Coetzee. Forget just about everything you think you know about wines from South Africa and settle in for something completely other. Drive 1000 kms north to a place 1000m above sea level, where the summers are hot and winters see temperatures of -10 celsius. Vaalkameel, the “pale camel” is not a reference to the wine’s hue but a note to mimic the local flora. Comes through in the most unique herbal way and so the thickets of horny bushes must have their garrigue say. Some natural grasses (no cover crops) line the rows of this arid and wild viticultural frontier where late summer rainfall and the Orange River supply all that is required. Lime citrus and moments of pith are coaxed into the cool, almost gelid but certainly textured fruit by whole bunch master winemaker Lukas van Loggerenberg. Only 1,000 bottles were made of this trés cool white. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted September 2018  bioboertie  vanloggerenbergwines  alette.waterboer  lowerland_wines  @CoetzeeBertie  @AletteWaterboer  Bertie Coetzee  @LowerlandFarm  Alette De Beer

Avondale Wines Cyclus 2014, WO Paarl, South Africa (295220, $29.95, WineAlign)

The blend is one-third roussanne with smaller parts of chenin blanc, chardonnay, viognier and sémillon. Barrel fermented in bigger barrels plus 20 per cent in amphora with the whole bunch component. Toasty, first from the roussanne and then what the sémillon brings. Texture is quite silky and the acidity primps, prompts then lifts the richness of fruit. Such a smart mastering of the South African art of Cape assemblage. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted September 2018  avondalewinesa  @Avondalewine  @RareEarth_Wines  @AvondaleWines  Rare Earth Wines & Spirits

De Wetshof Estate Pinot Noir Nature in Concert 2017, WO Robertson, South Africa (Winery, WineAlign)

For a chardonnay focused estate the question posed to Johannes de Wet is why pinot noir? “Because my father loves pinot,” is the straight answer. The brothers grow it on the rockiest soils up the slope seven kms from the winery above and beyond the limestone blocks where the whites thrive. It’s truly uncharted territory, away from the clay and into the hard Robertson granite. “Quite ideal for a variety that is so hard to get right,” muses de Wet. This is beautiful purity of fruit taken from vines that really only see the morning sun. A direct wind and afternoon shadows supply the acidity from what may be the coolest spot and also the steepest. “It’s one of the best/worst decisions we’ve ever made,” continues de Wet. “We don’t make any money but we love doing it.” Clean, linear, striking and in the end, just because. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted September 2018  dewetshofwines  @DeWetshofWines  @dewetshofwines

Momento Wines Tinta Barocca 2017, WO Western Cape, South Africa (Winery, WineAlign)

In 2017 there are three equal sources for Momento’s tinto barocca; one-third each Swartland, Stellenbosch and Bot Rivier, all old, dry-farmed bush vineyards. The vintage saw 26 barrels made with 20 per cent whole bunch in the mix. “A tribute to old vines in South Africa explains Marelise Niemann.” Surely not the only one, but certainly the unique gatherer of the grape variety off of three distinct soils. Like making an estate Brunello or highest quality Bourgogne AOC, drawing from three apposite yet complimentary micro-terroirs to provide fruit, acidity and structure. The tannin accumulation submits to the possibilities of that structure and in turn, age ability. Brilliant. Drink 2020-2028.  Tasted September 2018  momento_wines  @momentowines  Marelise Niemann

Savage Wines Cinsault Follow The Line 2017, WO Western Cape, South Africa (Agent, $50.99, WineAlign)

Follow the Line investigates, celebrates and extrapolates the unbridled intensity of cinsualt defined, vital, incarnate. A small, seven points of Darling syrah is blended in for pure, spicy and red ropey fruit forward freedom. The full on fruit front is a pulsing current of currants and dried herbs but it’s also sneaky tannic. A creeping, seemingly idle ne’er-do-well this one but do not be fooled. Picked early and ready to explode. Wait for it, follow the line to the blood red shoes, “dancing with the lights on.” Wait for the fire like this cinsault of total excitement. Drink 2019-2026.  Tasted September 2018  #savagewines    #savagewines

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

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

Lismore Syrah Estate Reserve 2017, WO Greyton, South Africa (Winery, WineAlign)

Samatha O’Keefe’s excellent work with sauvignon blanc, chardonnay, viognier and pinot noir using Elgin, Walker Bay and 2003 planted estate fruit is one thing but this first go it alone syrah from the home vineyard takes a breath, blows a mind and melts a heart away. The Cape’s south coast at Greyton is the new frontier and as O’Keefe admits, “I drove down a dusty road and the rest is history.” While the ’16 syrah made use of half Elgin fruit it is this next wonder of cool-climate South Africa where you need to simply open your eyes and do the math. Steep slopes, prevalent shale and diurnal temperature fluctuations egress to varietal necessity and bring the proverbial Hermitage house down. A wine where together winemaker and taster share a moment of epiphany, for her one of many, for me my first. “All I did was learned to let the terroir speak for itself and to stop making South African shiraz.” Purity, transparency, honesty and paradigm shift all wrapped into one enigmatic yet emblematic syrah. Pay great attention to Greyton. This is South African syrah. Drink 2019-2029.  Tasted September 2018  lismorewine  greytontourism  @lismorewine  @LoveGreyton  @LismoreWine  Samantha O’Keefe  @GreytonTourism

Van Loggerenberg Wines Graft 2017, WO Stellenbosch, South Africa (Winery, WineAlign)

Lukas van Loggerenberg remembers his oupa with this tongue in cheek reference for a red blend of cinsault and syrah (55/45) sourced from granitic soils on in the Polkadraai Hills. Grafting, whether it be vines or winemakers is what keeps tradition, hard work ethic and biological diversity alive. Lukas is a larger than life pragmatist methinks and he’s all about putting things together, in place, with the best fit possible. Not so much a master of assemblage as much as one of oversized zen. The two varietal vineyards are 800m apart and separated by 200m of elevation. They are Lenny and George, two parcels joined at the whole bunch hip and for 11 months in French oak. They only add up to 660 bottles. The Mediterranean styling is evident, in black olive, garrigue (or fynbos), pepperoncino and cimmerian darkness. Richness is met by an earthbound ropiness though it’s ripeness is belied by pique, punch and peppery klip. A big and wow tannic finish, but it’s a sweet one. Drink 2019-2027. Tasted September 2018  vanloggerenbergwines  @LukasvLogg  Lukas van Loggerenberg  

Ken Forrester Grenache-Syrah 1999, WO Stellelenbosch, South Africa (Winery, WineAlign)

There ain’t a whole helluva lot of precedence from which to go on in deciding what’s going on here save for sitting next to Ken himself and taking in that devilish smile. What an honour to have him pour a spot of this 19 year-old tea into your glass. I suppose it could be considered the older sibling to the Gypsy and elder to Renegade but really it’s just a Rhône blend from another era and mother. Smoke, pepper, spice and mild meanderings remind us of innocent but also difficult times for making wine in the Western Cape. This just feels like sundown in Stellenbosch, of a demurred and soft glowing light, a breeze that picks up and falls away, a stillness in the air. No man made light, at night very bright. A good feeling this wine doth give. Drink 2018-2019.  Tasted September 2018  kenforrestervineyards  fmcwine noble_estates  @KFwines  @Noble_Estates  @KFwines  @NobleEstates

Kuier

Good to go!

godello

A view of the Simosnberg from Amazink in

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

WineAlign

High altitude heliophiles in Argentina

Bodega DiamAndes, Uco Valley, Mendoza, Argentina

As seen on WineAlign – A masterclass across Argentina

For the malbec, cabernet sauvignon, syrah, cabernet franc, criolla, torrontés and chardonnay of Argentina the present day vernacular promoted by the party line tells us “altitude defines a singular type of wine.” Most of the country’s wine lands are located on soils perched at impressive heights, at least with respect to sea level. To the naked eye the vineyards of Mendoza are of a perfect design to act as a collective poster child for a flat earth society manifesto, but looks are deceiving. The gentle climb from that province’s eponymous city centre at 750 meters above sea level to the rain shadow wall of the Andes Mountains is a subtle gradation that transfers vineyard elevations up to and exceeding well over 1,000 further metres. Say what you will about Mendoza’s absence of switchback ridges tracking rolling or angled foothills. Solar radiation is very real here and the effect of elevation on grape growing is a highly critical component of viticultural matters.

Joaquin Superman @hidalgojoaquin offers #CndsInArg a dissertation on high altitude terroir @winesofarg ~ @aldosvinoteca

It was only weeks ago that I had the favourable and fortuitous opportunity to travel around with the team at Wines of Argentina. Ontario’s WOFA representative Liz Luzza introduced me to her Quebec counterpart Marilyne Demandre. Together we were joined by Mark Bradbury, Bar Manager at The Bicycle Thief, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Yann Janvier, Le Sommelier Moderne in Montreal, Michael Mizzi, Co-Owner and Alexander Raphael, Bar Manager AMA Always, Toronto and Paul Madden, Director of Purchasing, Crowfoot Wines & Spirits, Calgary, Alberta for a group traverse across the South American country. We were led with the guidance of WOFA’s exceptional on the ground team; Soledad Juncosa, Sofia Brazzolotto, Paula Valle, Analia Lucero and Romina Ruiz. We did not make Lionel Messi’s acquaintance but we did experience first hand in Caminito and at the Buenos Aires Aeroparque Jorge Newbery the first leg of the Copa Libertadores final. I can only begin to explain the cacophony of roars when goals were scored during the intense rivalry between Boca Juniors and River Plate. The November trip took in Buenos Aires (including Recoleta Cemetery), Mendoza City, Luján de Cuyo (Agrelo), the Uco Valley (Gualtallary and Tupungato) and Salta Province (Cafayate and Calchaqui Valley). The journey will always be considered as a masterclass across Argentina because that is precisely what it was.

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires

It began at a Buenos Aires institution, Aldos Restorán & Vinoteca for a dissertation on high altitude terroir through the savant Argentine eyes of Joaquin “Superman” Hidalgo. Joaquin did more than merely explain the effect of altitude and solar radiation, he also poured an extraordinary cross-section of the country’s malbec from Jujuy to Patagonia, Tucuman-Catamarca to Gualtallary-Tupungato, Uco Valley.  In the Palermo neighbourhood of Buenos Aires we convened at that city’s most coveted mecca for beef consumption, the exulted Don Julio Parilla, where we were schooled on the wines of Familia Schroeder and Patagonia. Later that night it was a wholly unexpected, antithetical and epiphanic tasting of white, pink and orange in Mendoza at Azafrán Resto with principals from Chakana Wines, Alpamanta and Ernesto Catena’s Domaine Alma Negra.

#tastingroom writing #tastingnotes @bodegadiamandes ~ #valledeuco #cdnsinarg @winesofarg

A visit to Finca Decero opened the window to the Agrelo advantage along with the wines tasted belonging to Alta Vista, Altos Los HormigasArgento, Susana Balbo and Trapiche. This was followed by a stop at Vicentin/Sottano. At Bodega Luigi Bosca it was head winemaker Pablo Cúneo who unlocked some secrets hidden inside the soils of Luján de Cuyo, with help from pours by Bodega CasarenaBodegas Navarro CorreasFinca Las MorasMascota Vineyards, Pascual Toso and Vina Cobos. Then we entered the Tupungato, Uco Valley portal at Domaine Bousquet along with the wines of Bodega Andeluna, Bodega Atamisque, Bodegas Bianchi, Familia Zuccardi and Finca Sophenia. The incomprehensible wall of beauty provided by the snow-covered Andes acted as the backdrop to the al fresco tasting room at Bodega Diam Andes. It was here that we gained a deeper understanding of the mountain connection to Clos de los Siete and Vista Flores-Valle de Uco wines. The wines of Bodega Piedra NegraCasa de Uco, Masi Tupungato and Bodega Salentein helped usher these sub-appellative Mendoza wines into the light.

Salads in Argentina are exceptional

Before heading north we were met at our Mendoza hotel by Viña Cobos winemkaer Andres Vignoni for a seminar and tasting of cabernet franc and cabernet sauvignon. As a general rule cabernet franc is planted in dry Argentine climates, in Winkler Zones 11 and 111. It has nicely adapted to high altitudes (900m+) and its prominence began spreading after 1990, especially in Luján de Cuyo where 34 per cent of the country’s vines are grown. The varietal boom has really swelled in the last 18 years. Studies show that its best maturity is at 1000-1200m, with hot spots being at Los Arboles, San Pablo, Gualtallary, Agrelo, La Consulta and Paraje Altamira. The country’s third most planted red grape variety is cabernet sauvignon, historically raised in a “Bordeaux meets Rioja school,” with long barrel aging and traditionally grown in Maipu and Luján de Cuyo. The varietal has migrated to cooler spots, where greater freshness is being chosen ahead of over maturation, not to mention less/smaller use of new barrels. Sub-zone favourites are Las Compuertas, Perdriel, Agrelo, Cruz de Piedra, Gualtallary, La Consulta, Paraje Altamira, Cafayate and Santa Maria.

Godello post masterclass on cabernet sauvignon and franc with Viña Cobos winemkaer Andres Vignoni

From Ciudad de Mendoza Airpark we shuffled off to Salta, destination Cafayate. The drive took us though the desert monuments of Quebrada de las Conchas. The next day there was a fast, furious and fascinating look at Cafayate and Valle Calchaqui high altitude terroirs through the Donald Hess Bodega Colome and Bodega Amalaya lens. At Bodega El Esteco was walked beneath the 70 year-old criolla and torrontés vines. In the afternoon heat of Cafayate’s 30-plus degree early Spring sun we walked the limestone rocky desert moonscape of Piattelli Vineyards with proprietor John Malinski. A visit to Cafayate and the Valles Calchaquies would have been incomplete without a Bad Brothers Wine Experience. My understanding of Argentina’s fringe, edgy and extreme high altitude wines was confused until I met Agustín Linús and his Sunal malbec. Terruños de extrema indeed.

Snowy Andes backdrop makes Godello happy ~ snap (c) @marylinedemandre

One of the highest vineyards in Argentina is in Salta Province, 1,200 kms north of Mendoza. It is called Altura Máxima and it sits perched at 3,100 meters above sea level. Whaaat? It is one of the most extreme vineyards in the country, but not the only one. There are 20 or more, carved out of desert sand and rock where terroir is made up of climate, soil and in these extreme locations, the machinations of man. Climate is highly variable so rainfall and heliophany (the energy of the sun reaching the soil) and temperature are the most important factors. So when we speak of climate in Argentina we have to attach the altitude to the problem. The equation is always modified by the effects of altitude. Not to mention atmospheric pressure. Altitude in relation to temperature. For every 155m of linear rise, in temperate zones the average temperature of a point on the map drops by one degree. This effect is called vertical thermal gradient and the cause is due to atmospheric pressure. And then, with every 1,000m of linear rise, solar radiation increases by 15 per cent. In order to be more resistant to light, the plants produce more polyphenols. There is a proven relationship between UVB and a higher concentration of polyphenols and abdisic acid. In the end it’s a matter of cool climates with a great intensity of sun. Stress conditions at 1,500m or higher results in lower yields, high polyphenols, higher acidity and ultimately a marked variance of character. Explains Joaquin Hidalgo, “mastering the terroir is a challenge that involves another way of managing the vineyard.”

New Piattelli Vineyards planting in the high altitude desert of the Calchaqui Valley

The production and consumption of wine in Argentina dates back to over four hundred years ago when the first specimens of Vitis Vinifera were brought to the Americas by the Spanish colonizers in the early 16th century. Early in the 1900’s, the vineyard area had reached 519,800 acres but between 1982 and 1992 extensive uprooting of vineyards was undertaken and 36 per cent of the existing vineyards were removed. In the early 1990s a new era began for the Argentine wine industry. The arrival of Neoliberalism in the national economy led to the implementation of a model of adjustment and the incorporation of Argentina into the global market. With a population of 42 million inhabitants and a territory that is four times larger than France, Argentina is one of the world’s nature reserves. Privileged with outstanding natural richness and extraordinarily diverse landscapes, Argentina boasts high mountains and plains, lush vegetation and extreme deserts, forests and steppes, glaciers and waterfalls.

Stunning #cafayate morning in the 60-70 year-old #criolla and #torrontes vines @bodegaelesteco in Salta

This wealth of natural ecosystems includes vast, highly productive grape growing regions stretching at the foot of the Andean strip, to the West of the country, from latitude 22° south to latitude 42° south. The cultivated area covers more than 538,071 acres. The vineyard area of Argentina covers 545.737,99 acres (2017). From the total area just 502.895,78 acres are able to vinify. The breakdown is 56 per cent red, 19 white and 25 Rosé. The leading red varieties are malbec (36), bonarda (16), cabernet sauvignon (13) and syrah (10). For whites it is torrontés (25), chardonnay (16), sauvignon blanc and chenin blanc each (5).

Canadians in Argentina at the Devil’s Throat in Salta Province ~ #quebradadelasconchas

Today, despite a skyrocketing national inflation rate, the wine industry continues to thrive. While certainly not immune to the economic crisis, exports are growing and the wines from Argentina are evolving to meet global demands. I tasted upwards of 150 wines in my week spent in Argentina. This report covers 37 wines from 37 producers. These are 37 that struck me as being exceptional, ahead of the curve or simply the perfect sort of examples to speak about climate, soil and of course, altitude.

Mendoza shuffle with some fine examples and cross section of terroirs to represent #winesofargentina ~

Malbec

Bodega Amanecer Andino Malbec Reserva Quebrada De Humahuaca 2017, Tumbaya, Jujuy, Argentina (Winery, WineAlign)

From a new location for growing grapes, at 2,200 metres of altitude, very close to Bolivia. Even if malbec is not necessarily the most interesting varietal to grow at this altitude, it is the most elastic variety and will always work. The pH (3.77), the acidity (6.6 g/L) and the alcohol are all set to high but it does not come across like any other malbec any of us have ever tasted. Full bodied and very fresh, really salty, a malbec so affected by altitude. So bloody interesting. Drink 2018-2022. Tasted November 2018  amanecer.andino  @BodegaAmanecer 

Agustín Lanús Wines Malbec Sunal Ilógico 2017, Tucuman Catamarca, Calchaqui Valley, Salta, Argentina (Winery, WineAlign)

The wine is drawn from vineyards in Pucará Salta, Lucaratao Salta, Amaicha del Valle Tucumán and Hualfin Catamarca. Real body and richness, savour and verdancy. The touch is delicately salty, with medium acidity and a constrained power. Really fine balance. The length is forever, a fact proven by an opened bottle showing exemplary freshness a full eight days later. Everything in Argentina might claim to be drawn away from high altitude but this from Agustín Lanús at 2,800m plus is the real deal. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted twice, November and December 2018  agustinlanuswines  @agustin_lanus  Agustín Lanús  

Tinto Negro Vineyard 1955 Malbec 2013, La Consulta, San Carlos, Uco Valley, Mendoza, Argentina (Agent, B.C. $81.99, WineAlign)

The most important factor in Altamira is not the altitude but the soil. It’s at 1000m but from the cooler, southern part of the Uco Valley. Very high pH (3.8) and well-managing acidity. This wine has it all; great fruit, savour, sweet viscosity, freshness, acidity and structure. Not to mention fine tannins and polyphenolic textural beauty. A high altitude and a place that keeps its cold air. Forget about how much oak and what the alcohol may be. The clay and the cool factor keep it all real. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted November 2018  bodegatintonegro  thewinesyndicate    @winesyndicate  @thewinesyndicate

Catena Zapata Malbec Adrianna Vineyard River Stones 2015, Gualtallary, Tupungato, Uco Valley, Mendoza, Argentina (132340, $95.59, WineAlign)

In a line up that includes malbec from all walks of Mendoza life as well as some extreme altitude northern examples this is the first wine with a somewhat reductive quality, locked in freshness and very high acidity. It’s a wine of exceptional qualities. There is a highly intellectual and sensory balance executed through perfectly ripe fruit, that fine acidity and even more fineness in tannins. A beautifully linear wine that can come full circle if need be. This is a malbec that creates moisture in your mouth, never drying or taking anything away. A wine that is changing the way we are dealing with the idea of different terroirs in Argentina. Drink 2020-2027.  Tasted November 2018  catenawines  lauracatenamd  noble_estates  @CatenaMalbec  @LauraCatena  @Noble_Estates  @bodegacatenazapata  @NobleEstates

Luigi Bosca Terroir Los Miradores Malbec 2016, Uco Valley, Mendoza, Argentina (132340, $32.95, WineAlign)

From 70 year-old vines in Valle de Uco with lowest of low yields so that one vine does not even function to produce a whole bottle. From the same genetic cutting materials, massal selection of the DOC malbec, but with obvious concentration and specificity. So much more floral, of a baking spice and a fruit intensity that truly is the bomb. An implosive wine with modesty, purity and a 40 per cent oak housing. Big and balanced with great structure and tannins that invoke seven senses. Put some aside and we’ll have some further discussions in 10 years. Drink 2021-2029.  Tasted November 2018  bodegaluigibosca  fwmcan  @LuigiBoscaBodeg  @FWMCan  @BodegaLuigiBosca  @FWMCan

Domaine Bousquet Malbec 2018, Tupungato Valley, Mendoza, Argentina (160952, $13.95, WineAlign)

Draws fruit from Paraje Altamira and Gualtallary, no oak, simply in stainless. Fresh and equally savoury, relative concentration and simple in effusive red fruit. Really negligible tannins and a sweet as opposed to astringent finish. Perhaps the best vintage ever for this entry-level malbec. Drink 2018-2020.  Tasted November 2018   domainebousquet  @domaineBousquet  @DomaineBousquetUSA

Trapiche Malbec Terroir Series Finca Orellana de Escobar Single Vineyard 2012, La Consulta, San Carlos, Mendoza, Argentina (178145, $39.95, WineAlign)

One of several malbecs in the Trapiche portfolio here the collaboration with the grower is exulted in this the 10th years of the Terroir Series. Every year the best three combinations of fruit and grower are chosen to represent the range. Sixty-one year old vineyards deliver minty herbal savour and a chalky liquidity in surround of spicy cherry fruit. Plummy too with ferric purity and big, big structure. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted November 2018  trapichearg  trapichewines  philippedandurandwines  @TrapicheWines  @Dandurandwines   @TrapicheArgentinaInt  @VinsPhilippeDandurand

Rocio Campoy Morist with Alta Vista’s Alazarine

Alta Vista Malbec Single Vineyard Alizarine 2013, La Compuertas, Luján de Cuyo, Mendoza, Argentina (Winery, WineAlign)

Of three Alta Vista single-vineyard wines this is 100 per cent malbec and one of the richest, deeply textured and chocolate driven examples. From a warm vintage it’s not quite mature, even drying a bit though the fruit seems to just get more dense, intense and leathery. Justified elevation extrapolation makes for a classic malbec with some idiosyncratic Compuertas moments. Smooth, fully rendered and giving everything at this very stage. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted November 2018  bodegaaltavista  hhdwines  @bodegaaltavista  @HHDImports_Wine  @BodegaAltaVista  @HHDImportsInc

Argento Malbec Single Vineyard 2016, Paraje Altamira, Mendoza, Argentina (Agent, $24.00, WineAlign)

Argento terroir exploration is from Finca Las Cerezas, “the cherries” and lo and behold, it’s really that fruit incarnate. A reductive malbec to be sure and so very fresh, from a soil rich in limestone which tells us something about the speciality of this nook in Paraje Altamira. The red fruit receives a lightning strike from the cool stone touch and there is a salty vein that lifts the cherry up and into a whole other realm. Really quite beautiful this charming little number. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted November 2018  bodegaargento  profilewinegroup  @BodegaArgento  @ProfileWineGrp  @bodegaargento  @ProfileWineGroup

Altos Las Hormigas Malbec Terroir 2016, Uco Valley, Mendoza, Argentina (366005, $22.95, WineAlign)

Three quarters of the terroir malbec is aged in concrete with the fourth in 3000L French foudres. The total aging time is 24 months, the last six of which were in bottle before release. Here is the smooth malbec with balancing and defining sour acids on edge and uplifting. The fruit is nicely integrated into this structure with a fine set of tannins to grant some pretty good potential. Wait a year and let the magic happen. Drink 2019-2023.  Tasted November 2018  altoslashormigas  @ALHmalbec  @ALTOSLASHORMIGASWINERY

Casa De Uco Malbec Vineyard Selection 2015, Los Chacayes, Tunuyán, Uco Valley, Mendoza, Argentina (WineryWineAlign)

Considered their top expression from calcareous rocky soils this is the third incarnation of a malbec with some differences, turns and twists. Winemaking choices of 20-30 per cent whole bunch and partial carbonic macerations are extended to most of the chosen lots. You can feel the firm grip of the layered tannins on fresh, reductive and candy shell fruit. Concrete initiates the balance, there is no new oak to distract and enough acidity to keep it vibrant. There is a combination of energy and finesse on this malbec standing up to be noticed and counted. It’s both solid and expressive, real, emotive and truly curious. Drink 2018-2020.  Tasted November 2018  casadeuco  @CasadeUco  @CasadeUco

Extreme altitude malbec of Bodega Colomé

Bodega Colomé Malbec Lote Especial Colomé 2016, Calchaquí Valley, Salta, Argentina (Agent, $29.95, WineAlign)

Takes what is established by brother La Brava (and then El Arenal) and amplifies ideal. Now up to an altitude of 2,300m the dichotomous relationship between thermal amplitude and diurnal variegation is magnified, which can only mean more hyperbole. More concentration of fruit in equal extraction but with the extra 600 meters of altitude the tones are higher, the fruit more variegated and with a dried component out of the idea of some desiccation at harvest. It also seems saltier and the structure different, tighter and strung like a racket with ready to fray tension. One of the wildest malbec rides on the planet. Drink 2020-2028.  Tasted November 2018  bodegacolome  liffordgram  @BodegaColome  @LiffordON  @bodegacolome  @liffordwineandspirits

A flock of producers gather to educate on the multiplicity of munificent Mendoza ~

Syrah and Red Blends

Bodega Finca las Moras Gran Syrah 2015, San Juan, Argentina (Winery, WineAlign)

From the three main valleys of San Juan; Tulum, Zonda and Pedernal at altitudes of 650, 800 and 1300 meters above sea level. Ripeness from the lower valleys meets peppery spice and herbology of the highest, with freshness lying somewhere in between. The effects of diurnal temperature swings and thermal radiation pile one on top of another for a highly variegated yet mostly seamless syrah. The queen mother of San Juan syrahs with plenty of swagger. It shouts floral rose then switches into bohemian rhapsodies of musky, ferrous and hematic waves. Really meaty and intense with major chord, mood and tempo swings. “Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy?” Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted November 2018  fincalasmoras  @FincaLasMoras  @fincalasmoraswineryCA

Finca Decero The Owl & The Dust Devil Remolinos Vineyard 2015, Agrelo, Luján De Cuyo, Mendoza, Argentina (Agent, $36.95, WineAlign)

The multi-level, purposed and floral flight of fancy red blend. A mix of real facts and a story; near equal parts malbec and cabernet sauvignon, with petit verdot and tannat. Must contain at least 30 per cent of the last two outlier varietals and in the end this completes the estate style, of big, smooth, polished reds that are completed through micro-vinifications of many single-vineyard blocks. More tannin and grip here. Drink 2019-2023.  Tasted November 2018

DiamAndes Gran Reserve Malbec/Cabernet Sauvignon 2013, Uco Valley, Mendoza, Argentina (295063, $32.95, WineAlign)

The signature red of the estate this is three quarters malbec to one quarter cabernet sauvignon set for 18 months in 100 per cent French oak, 50 per cent new. To say this is lush and ambitious would be an understatement but there is no questioning the quality of the agriculture, the fruit and the use of deep pockets technology. There is also humility within this classic modernism though not yet a true indication of soul. The fineness and the precision are so apparent which leads to believe that the human element noted will mean the epiphanies are coming soon. So much potential to become one of Argentina’s great red blends. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted November 2018  bodegadiamandes