16 mind-blowing wines of 2016

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This may or may not have happened #raveneau #memory #monteedetonnerre

It has never been this difficult to narrow it down. This frenetic, fast and forward moving blur of a year has blistered the patterns of thought so much so that I seriously considered throwing the whole 16 in 16 down the drain and laying it all out there. “Here are the 42 mind-blowing wines of 2016…” and then this wave of clarity came over me like a cloudless afternoon in Chablis. I mean I tasted 50-plus Grand Cru Chablis this year. They could all be on this list.

I meant this just the way I wrote it. The simplicity of wine is a beautiful thing. A vine grows and produces grapes. That fruit is picked and ferments itself with help from yeast it just happens to carry in its luggage. Time passes and wine is made. No one had to invent it. The most basic example of shit happens.

Related – 15 Mind blowing wines of 2015

As if to presumptuously bookend 2016 before it even began, that first post was apropos. New year, 16 new VINTAGES releases were not mind-blowing by any stretch of the waxing rhapsodic imagination but white space was filled. Like growing grapes in warm climates where just about anything can complete a phenolic journey, the possibilities are endless. So that I may feel comfortable quoting Godello again and again, multeity is the name of the game.

Related – Around the Cape in 50 wines

South Africa continued to occupy Godello for the early part of 2016 and that will never cease and desist. Hosting Andrea Mullineux at Barque Butcher Bar was one of the true highlights of the year. 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 in previous articles, 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.

A new riesling on my radar was released in February. Creekside Estate Riesling Marianne Hill Vineyard 2014, Beamsville Bench, Ontario (443572, $19.95, WineAlign) and it paired beautifully with more foreshadowing than I’d like to admit.

Such a showing of 12 from Langton's does @Wine_Australia proud. Formidable, exemplary #AussieWine #vintagewineconservatory

Such a showing of 12 from Langton’s does @Wine_Australia proud. Formidable, exemplary #AussieWine #vintagewineconservatory

The Langton’s Classification: Excellent, outstanding, exceptional could have, would have placed 16 wines on this best of list were the rest of the planet not so adept at making wine. Like Wynns Coonawarra Estate John Riddoch Cabernet Sauvignon Limited Release 2010, Coonawarra, South Australia (466748, $99.95, WineAlign). Such a gathering of Australian wine delivers the preponderance of form, with the incantatory capacity of narrative to bring truth to light and fulness out of pleasure. The mantra repeated with Savouring the new Australia.

The #napavalley mustard is something else @CalifWines_CA #napa #califwine

The #napavalley mustard is something else @CalifWines_CA #napa #califwine

California stars showed up in droves and like any high quality engrossing preoccupation, the trip to Napa and Sonoma this year changed everything. Whatever I thought I knew or felt about the California wine industry now needs to be rewritten. First, Napa Valley: Where ripeness happens, then Napa Valley two: A question of ageNapa Valley: The next generationChardonnay in the Napa luxurySonoma gaps and single vineyardsSeven Grothic tales and Old vines for the Zin.

Vintage to vintage nuance and the common thread of %22grothiness,%22 or, @GrothWines in essence @TheVine_RobGroh #suzannegroth #napavalley #oakville #cabernetsauvignon

Vintage to vintage nuance and the common thread of grothiness, or, @GrothWines in essence @TheVine_RobGroh #suzannegroth #napavalley #oakville #cabernetsauvignon

The most pertinent question now in my mind is this. Can European wine keep up with the fictionality of North American reality? Even these wines could not make this list, however great and exceptional they are. Anakota Helena Montana Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2013, California (181131, $158.95, WineAlign), Forman Cabernet Sauvignon 2012, Napa Valley, California (143925, $160.00, WineAlign) and Groth Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 1997, Oakville, Napa Valley, California (Agent, $179.95, WineAlign). Sometimes the answer still persists. All in the Primum Familiae Vini. And by the way, The LCBO keeps Kosher.

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Much of what I taste is in a lab with no windows. That is because VINTAGES is a mimetic project, which is a few projects too many. We wine trackers and writers are akin to Cricetinae, perpetually running in a wheel or like Sisyphus, forced to roll an immense boulder up a hill, only to watch it roll back down. We read the bi-weekly catalogue, pre-taste the newest offerings, make our lists and check them twice. In every batch there are 10-15 wines that stand out, as much about bell curve positioning as absence of singularity. That is why attending varietal-centric events like The dawning of the age of Austrian wine and travelling the world is so important. Not too mention in my dining room In the Campania of Vini Alois.

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To name a few excursions, I visited California in February, Vinho Verde in March, Chianti Classico in May, Chablis in July and Valpolicella in September. November in Paris I re-connected with Earth and sky. The take aways were extraordinary and flush with the relish of new discoveries and brand new days. Who can forget Ca’ La Bionda Vigneti Di Ravazzol Amarone Della Valpolicella Classico 1997? Italy in the fall reminded me that Franciacorta is the best kept sparkling secret on the planet. November is a sublime time to visit the province of Brescia and the cellars of Franciacorta. Meraviglioso! Meanwhile, Champagne has to be on the list, right? Lallier Cuvée Millésime Grand Cru Brut Champagne 2008, Champagne, France (Agent, $95.00, WineAlign) should be but again, space restrictions and there was this old bubble from the New World. Decisions, decisions.

Related – March of the Canadians

Which brings me back to Canadian and more parochioally, Ontario wine. The Canadian wine renaissance is attributed to high-end, artisan winemakers like Norman Hardie and Thomas Bachelder. That’s the cool factor. The truth of the matter is that Canadian winemakers have realized and capitalized on the significance and exceptionality of their terroirs in regions such as Niagara, Prince Edward County and the Okanagan Valley. Journalists and buyers from around the globe know it and have begun to spread the Canadian gospel.

And now #cuvee2016 @CCOVIBrockU #vqa @winecountryont #scotiabankconventioncentre

And now #cuvee2016 @CCOVIBrockU #vqa @winecountryont #scotiabankconventioncentre

And so I asked Where does the taste of Ontario go from here? At Cuvée, where was the Cabernet Franc? Where was the rest of Ontario’s Go Gamay Go arsenal? Varietal lampoonery I tell ya. Over the highway and across the hills, No County for old wines and then, “a celebrated indictment of suburban surrender,” Too late for May Two-Four.

Related – 16 Canadian wines that rocked in 2016

This 16-strong list has much to do with the beg, Drink now or save it for later? I have spent the last 30 years considering wine in some respect. The last 15 much more so. The tries, trials, errors, tricks, and tribulations have taught me one thing. I prefer and receive much more instant gratification from drinking wines young but nothing compares to the insight and the exhilaration of partaking in older wines.

You never forget your first hunk of #kimmeridgian love @BIVBChablis @vinsdebourgogne #chablis #cotedelechet

You never forget your first hunk of #kimmeridgian love @BIVBChablis @vinsdebourgogne #chablis #cotedelechet

The year’s greatest distraction came at the hands of Chablis and fair warning, twenty thousand words are coming soon. In 2016 I published three times, Chablis from Dauvissat to VocoretLooking for Chablis in Ontario?Enlightened Chablis of Château De Béru and Paradox in Chablis. Chablis as a varietal concept, as opposed to and unlike anywhere else in the world, seemingly unrelated to chardonnay. How could these extraordinary Chablis not make the list? Domaine Laroche Chablis Grand Cru Les Blanchots Réserve De L’obédience 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (AgentWineAlign) and Domaine William Fèvre Chablis Grand Cru Bougros Côte Bouguerots 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (AgentWineAlign). Perhaps because I will soon publish Grand Cru hyperbole next month? That must be it.

Mirror to classicism, history and tradition. Purity from @valerialosi #querciavalle @chianticlassico #agricolalosi #sangiovese #granselezione #pontiganello

Mirror to classicism, history and tradition. Purity from @valerialosi #querciavalle @chianticlassico #agricolalosi #sangiovese #granselezione #pontiganello

For the first time, I think ever, I gave some love to Rosé in the Days of wine and Rosés. I also fell for new dessert wines and these two tried hard but came up just a wee bit short for the list. Domaine Cauhapé Jurançon Symphonie De Novembre 2012, Southwest, France (470344, $38.95, WineAlign), Losi Querciavalle Vin Santo Del Chianti Classico 2000, Docg Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $95.00, WineAlign).

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@grahams_port insanity via @abnermallity #onceinalifetime #piratesonapicnic #piratesv4point0 #sharingiscaring #1948 #finestreserve

Graham’s Vintage Port Finest Reserve 1948 (with thanks to Peter Boyd) granted the year’s moment of providable history. Love in droves. Holiday season for the VINTAGES releases were split and categorized, from December 10th in VINTAGES: Canada through December 10th in VINTAGES: Old World and into December 10th in VINTAGES: New World.

Singolarità, qualità, diversità. Grazie di tutto @chianticlassico

Singolarità, qualità, diversità. Grazie di tutto @chianticlassico

In 2016, two words. Chianti Classico. The wines have embarked upon an ascension into their contemporary golden age. Image, perception and finalmente, reality, these are the truths all who feel the soul of Chianti Classico are in search of today. Today and moving forward, explaining to the world that Chianti Classico is not what you thought or think it to be. Colle Bereto Chianti Classico Gran Selezione 2011, Docg Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $67.50, WineAlign) was a side-revelation, as were so many others in Three days, eight estates, Chianti Classico and Gran Selezione, The most important red wine from Italy. And in a year when CC is all that seems to matter, Tenuta dell’Ornellaia Ornellaia 2012, Doc Bolgheri Superiore, Tuscany, Italy (722470, $195.50, WineAlign) and Fattoria Dei Barbi Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva 2004, Tuscany, Italy (Agent$100.00WineAlign) are but mere mentions in addendum.

DavidPpelletier, 'Le Sommelier Fou' and friends in Vinho Verde

David Pelletier, ‘Le Sommelier Fou’ and friends in Vinho Verde

It may seem irrelevant now but Changes to VINTAGES release recommendations and notes on Godello will translate to a revolution at WineAlign in 2017. Wait for it. Most of all, 2016 will remind me that I will always raise my glass of Vinho Verde to Le Sommelier Fou. Here are Godello’s 16 mind-blowing wines of 2016.

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200 yr old vines. 1300m above sea level @vignerietna @somesmartsomm #rosato #vinudilice 2008 #tastethelava #volcanic

I Vigneri Di Salvo Foti Vinudilice 2008, Igt Sicilia Rosè, Sicily, Italy (WineAlign)

So much about this introduction to volcanic Rosato falls under the category and melts into the realm of the impossible. Begin with Vigna Bosco planted to 10,000, (up to) 200 year-old bush-trained (Etnean alberello) vines per hectare in Bronte, Northern Etna. Consider the party goers, endemic alicante, grecanico, minnella and other minor if wholly obscure native varietals. Locate the vineyard at 1,300m above sea level. Tell me it’s not the highest in all of Europe. Go on, tell me. Tended by hand with the help of Ciccio the mule. No refrigeration, yeasts or filtration. Decanting and bottling follow the phases of the moon. Blush has never acted like this, suspended as if put into bottle yesterday, beautifully minutia funky, every detail in laser calm focus. There really is no reference point, not in the south of France or anywhere in Italy to prepare for such an intellection. Vinudilice is nestled in a wood filled with holly oak (quercus ilex or in Sicily, ilice) but in respect for its singularity I would hesitate to categorize or compartmentalize. In fact I would not use the term Rosé, or Orange or natural to realize a need for reason. I would simply taste the lava. Thank you SomeSmartSomm. Drink 2016-2018.  Tasted April 2016  @ivigneri  @somesmartsomm  @WinesOfSicily

not-members-of-blasted-mechanism-with-magnuspim-and-vasco-croft-aphroswines-vinhoverde

Not members Blasted Mechanism. With Chris Wilton and Vasco Croft, Aphros Wines, Vinho Verde

Aphros Phanus Pet-Nat 2015, Sub-Região Lima, Doc Vinho Verde, Portugal (Agent, $34.95, WineAlign)

Loureiro of a fashion so rare for Portugal and this region, from a concrete pétillant-naturel style, vinified in stainless steel with wild yeasts and initially no additional sugar, then bottled with 20 grams of natural residual sugar, to alight the single fermentation conclusion. An 11 per cent contrariety of méthode ancestrale dialectic, like a lime-grapefruit cordial housing a dissolving lemon tablet. A bowie cut, boning and dressing of loureiro. This here the whole new way to take the grape, to send it sky-high and bring it down to the rustic roots of glam, sparkling funk. “Like to take a cement fix, be a standing cinema. Dress my friends up just for show, see them as they really are.” Vasco (Andy) Croft walking and his hunky dory pet-nat spinning an original tale of a time and a place, or perhaps a myth, like the rustic deity of the forest riding shotgun to Dionysus and his native war. Drink 2016-2018.  Tasted March 2016    @LeSommelierWine

Oldest vines #barossavalley textures in #semillon and #grenache @cirillo1850wine @Wine_Australia #southaustralia #marcocirillo

Oldest vines #barossavalley textures in #semillon and #grenache @cirillo1850wine @Wine_Australia #southaustralia #marcocirillo

Cirillo 1850 Ancestor Sémillon 2011, Barossa Valley, South Australia (Agent, $36.00, WineAlign)

A sémillon revelation is found in this Barossa Valley ancient, a wine procured from vines dating back more than 150 years. To discount that prodigious bit of calculated fortuity would be wrong on so many levels. The Cirillo family are guardians of what may be the oldest continuously producing grenache and sémillon vineyards in Australia and by logical extension, the world. Here the combination of dry extract, mineral depth and straight-lined (unsalted) salinity is beyond special. While the Hunter Valley garners the most attention for aging immortal sémillon, this Barossan will likewise escape, somehow, to live another more complicated and mysterious life. I would wait three years for some extract meets tannic sweetness to begin its development and then take it slow for another six to 10. Incredible find here in Ontario from Marco Cirillo. Drink 2019-2029.  Tasted May 2016  @Cirillo1850wine  @bokkewines  @BarossaDirt

Brash Higgins Nero D’avola Amphorae Project 2015, McLaren Vale, South Australia (Winery, $55.00, WineAlign)

The renegade triumvirate of coagulation denotes the shock and awe of this outlier; McLaren Vale, Nero d’Avola and Amphora. Winemaker Brad Hickey and his nickname have taken the troika and created a beautiful monster. A non-oxidative, crunchy, spicy, toasty, chewy and tannic NdA in versicolour, mottled and florid in flavour. There is black and white pepper, cinnamon, zesty orange spritz and a clay influence (plus amphora) to waft one for the ages. The palate flaunts a tapenade of painfully brilliant chalky black olive. The swirl is chocolate and vanilla, mediterranean and meganesian. There should be zero attention paid to the unusual in its concept. This is both a pleasure to taste now and will evolve into something wholly other given enough time. At least 10 years to be sure. Drink 2016-2025.  Tasted May 2016  @BrashHiggins  @mclaren_vale  @TheLivingVine

what-is-rockpile-time-in-and-time-out-the-fun-stuff-keith-moon-of-zinfandel-mauritsonwinery-sonomacounty-jameswood

Rockpile Zinfandel Cemetery Vineyard 2013, Rockpile AVA, Sonoma County, California (Winery, US $47, WineAlign)

Look towards the other arm of Lake Sonoma and let your mind’s eye rest 250 feet higher than Jack’s Cabin Vineyard. The Cemetery plantation is a jagged, craggy outcropping with “a face uneven as a river jag and asperous as the mullein’s flannel.”  The Mauritsons are Los Campesinos of Cemetery Vineyard in Rockpile. The rocks below resemble giant headstones along the Rogers Creek fault and you just have to believe all this immensity of geology impacts the vines. It does but don’t ask how or why, just settle into the cimmerian depth of zinfandel touched by black fruit, spice and the akimbo savour of glutamate and amino acid. Three further months in barrel (85 French plus 15 American) accentuates the spice, smoulder and espresso con crema texture. Ripeness of fruit, tannin and acidity are simply stellar out of this dramatic place. “You know us by the way we crawl and you know us by our cemetery gaits.” Drink 2017-2025.  Tasted February 2016  @mauritsonwinery  @sonomavintners

weinbach

Domaine Weinbach Gewürztraminer Cuvée Laurence 2013, Alsace, France (581975, $64.00, WineAlign)

Though it may long ago have been considered the quintessential one, there may be no other Alsatian gewürztraminer more important than Weinbach’s Cuvée Laurence. The reasons are manyfold but begin and end with memory and legacy. This was daughter and sister Laurence Faller’s prized wine, the wine she put her name to, that defined her gracious winemaking in echo of the estate she worked. Her family has carried the torch and yet her touch is all over this wine. Calm, composed, balanced and ethereal. Laurence is a clear expression of the marly limestone soil beneath the lieu-dit of Altenbourg, located at the base of the great Grand Cru Furstentum vineyard. Where else do you find gewürztraminer of such delicasse, from which classic aromas (rose petal, creamy to boozy-syrupy tropical fruit) and impossible unction combine without ukase? Nowhere. The acidity does not act with impulse. No, it rings, supports and lingers. The extract is intense but out of mind. Exceptional vintage. Drink 2018-2033.  Tasted October 2016    @AlsaceWines  @drinkAlsace  @ACT_Alsace  @VinsAlsace

alessandro-your-grandfather-was-a-very-good-winemaker-luiluiano-chianticlassico-fattoriadiluiano-chianticlassicoriserva-1979-sangiovese-alessandropalombo-antoniopalombo-luiano

Luiano Chianti Classico 1979, Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

Alessandro Palombo is skeptical at first, one eyebrow raised but with the look of possibility on his face. Takes me very little time to acknowledge that this ’79 is very much alive, fruit not predominant (and surely some prune) but neither cooked nor bruised. The brown nose (earth and spice) purports a full concentration of anthocyanins, acidity still full in, dried fraises de bois, black liquorice, dirty leather and worth repeating, still very good acidity. Truffle, forest floor and then black olive tapenade on the palate. This is 70-80 per cent sangiovese with colorino and canaiolo and for 1979 it’s quite incredible. It should not have lasted this long.  Antonio says that up to 10 per cent could have been malvasia blanca and trebbiano because at the time it was a field blend, co-planted with the sangiovese, which could explain some of the variegation in the colour. This is a Chianti Classico to lend credence to the idea of using multiple fruit, vegetal and animale descriptors when assessing an old wine. It’s also the reason why you put them away and open them with friends who’s eyes are wide open. Thank you Alessandro for the opportunity and for the connection to your grandfather Alberto. He was a very good winemaker. Drink 2016.  Tasted May 2016  @LuiLuiano  @chianticlassico

thoroughly-enamoured-with-the-purechablis-made-by-athenais-at-chateau-de-beru-chablis-monopoleleclosberu

Château De Béru Chablis Clos Béru Monopole 2012, Ac Burgundy, France (Agent, $87.95, WineAlign)

In 2012, less density and iodine matchstick is on display in performance for the historic, south facing vineyard beyond the Château’s walls. From this her eighth vintage in the resurrection of the family’s estate wines, Athénaïs de Béru has assembled fruit from Kimmeridgian limestone in rapport with a vintage of portent and intent towards elegance. The acidity is much more linear (than 2013) and the limestone sensations less metallic. Here the feeling is more of a liquid chalk and the balance is much improved. Also less evolved, bright and a much more amenable of a bitter pith, more citrus (lemon and lime) and not as earthy. Longer finish too. What 2013 lacks this ’12 gains and vice versa. The comparative literature and parenthetical study is duly noted as apples to oranges so the wines are exempt of one another. Neither answer all the questions asked and both express their terroir from their time spent on it. This ’12 story will become clearer in another year or two. Drink 2017-2023.  Tasted July 2016       

remelluri

Granja Remelluri Rioja Gran Reserva 2009, Rioja, Spain (Agent, $89.99, WineAlign)

“What is Rioja?” asks Telmo Rodríguez. He notes that Lopez-Heredia still manages small vineyards, Grand Cru and Premier Cru plots, but most Rioja houses are industrial. Their wines age in barrels in 100-150 year old wineries but have no sense of place, of origins, of an amazing vineyard. “I want to be radical. I believe it (Rioja) can be one of the most beautiful places in the world but I told my brothers it needed to go in a very particular direction. My brothers agreed.” So costs went up 35 per cent. They bought no grapes. “If you want to work properly in Spain, you have to be a hero.” You have to work the most difficult vineyards, where production costs are five times that of Grand Vin Bordeaux but the price sells for 10 times less. And so Telmo Rodríguez produces this Gran Reserva, a wine that adheres to a Rioja systematic but does so from a blind-eye turned, high density field-blend planting of tempranillo, garnacha, graciano, muscatel, viura and malvasia. A field blend, unlike Bordeaux but a local village farmed gathering of the best fruit. The 2009 is showing no age but the difference between 2010 Reserva and 2009 Gran Reserva is night and day. This makes the ’10 seem fresh, alive, open, almost simple. Here the variegation is distilled down to laser focus, as if the varieties all become one and most people would simply say tempranillo, but who has ever tasted and been dealt such a tempranillo? This is oozing of a liqueur like no other, rich, viscous, natural and dry-extract sweet. An expression of the best microclimates and their vineyard kin. Wait another five years to allow it to remember and tell its tale. Drink 2022-2034.  Tasted September 2016    @TelmoRodriguez_  @Noble_Estates

dominus

Dominus 1998, Napa Valley, California (212381, $176.95, WineAlign)

When I tasted the 1990 in 2012, hanging on to every thread of oscillation from death to life and back again was exhausting. The 2008 tasted that same year could not have been more life affirming. This ’98 is such a zoetic Dominus beast with an embarrassment of resplendent riches. It is everything 1990 wished it could have been and yet the light-hearted George Hrab geological funk reminds me of that wine. The 1998 trips on a trebuchet and I weep at its aromatic reverie. It is hypnopompic, a state immediately preceding waking up, whiffing the most beautiful Brett there ever was or could ever imagined to be. Volatility in a bubble, circumstantial, lost in a dream. Get lost in the butcher shop, the natural cure here, there, everywhere, curative and comforting. Porcine and rapturous, fruit perfect and entitled, structure supprting every note. If 1998 was both a curious and concerning vintage this wine lays those worries to rest. The fretting may have swayed feelings and been difficult to glide fingers across but the harmonics extend with ease. Finishes with staccato calm, a palpable exhale of breath and silence. Five more years will be like this and five more without threat. Drink 2016-2026.  Tasted October 2016     @rogcowines  

its-ok-it-was-a-half-bottle-ridgevineyards-montebello-noguilt-rogcowines-2010-draperperfume-balance-structure-beautiful

Ridge Vineyards Monte Bello 2013, Santa Cruz Mountains, California (405332, $191.95, WineAlign)

From a serious drought vintage, dry, warm and demanding, the 2013 Montebello’s Draper perfume is as heady as ever, to such effect that after one whiff this is where daydreaming takes over consciousness. Montebello gets inside the head, with allegory, radio frequency waves and platonic thought, as if inside a cave. An 80 per cent Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot (8), Cabernet Franc (7) and Merlot (5) classic, lithe and restrained blend of sheer, utter exceptionality. The balance in 2013 is impeccable but dont be fooled into thinking this is not a big wine. The acidity is dramatic, the tannins fine and demanding and the amount of pure extract whorled and revelling. All in dark red fruit and a coolness through the mid-palate that threads like silk through fine stainless steel fibre. “This goes beyond me, beyond you.” Drink 2018-2030.  Tasted May 2016  @RidgeVineyards  @rogcowines  @CalifWines_CA

Fino, Don P.X. '86 and '62 w: @sorgatoBTA @toroalbala @LeSommelierWine Magical, impossible, unchanging. Bucket list to revisit in 150 years #pedroximenez #bodegastoroalbala #montillamoriles #spain

Fino, Don P.X. ’86 and ’62 w: @sorgatoBTA @toroalbala @LeSommelierWine Magical, impossible, unchanging. Bucket list to revisit in 150 years #pedroximenez #bodegastoroalbala #montillamoriles #spain

Bodegas Toro Albalá Don P.X. Selección 1967, Do Montilla Moriles, Spain (491647, $199.95, WineAlign)

You know it’s a good month when you are afforded the opportunity to taste two Montilla-Moriles Pedro Ximenez oldies, first the Alvear Solera 1927 in Paris and now this Selección 1967 bottled in November of 2016. The vintage-dated PX are produced from sun-dried grapes fermented for two months to eight or nine per cent alcohol, at which point a distillate made from the same PX pressings is added to bring the wine up to 17 per cent. First in concrete vats and then a transfer into 50-150 year old American oak barrels. Only 630 bottles were filled in a PX of awakening and hope that finished at an indiscernible 17 per cent alcohol. Some dessert wines can be cloying Popskull but Bodegas Toro Albalá delivers yet another impossible and crazy dessert wine of heavy fuel, impeccable balance in the face of Lugduname breaching sweetness and aromas sin fronteras. The gamut glides through roasted nuts and dried fruits, from almonds and Van Gogh Museum memories of their abundant flowers plus pomegranate, apricot, peach, nectarine, damson plum and pistachio. So much pistachio!! In between there is orange marmalade, quince jelly and prune preserve. Plenty of acidity extends and narrows into a sharp, pointed tang. No matter how many times you try to empty the glass there is always more wine. Always another sip. Is it viscosity, a truco del ojo or trampantojo? Is there some kind of wizardry at play? Then finally, well, actually never, a finish with no end, or a pause in a never-ending 49 year-old (and counting) story. So where is the beginning? 1967. Drink 2016-2040.  Tasted November 2016  @toroalbala  @sorgatoBTA  @MontillaMoriles  @LeSommelierWine

schram

Schramsberg Sparkling J. Schram 50th Anniversary Late disgorged 1999, Napa Valley, California (Winery $175 US, WineAlign)

In celebration of Schramsberg’s golden anniversary, 50 years after Jack and Jamie Davies revived the historic Schramsberg estate for the purpose of making the nation’s first chardonnay and pinot noir based, bottle-fermented sparkling wines. A North Coast (57 per cent Napa, 25 Mendocino, 15 Monterey and 13 Sonoma) blend of 74 per cent chardonnay and 26 pinot noir. Seventeen years have come to ginger, cumin, coriander and galangal in laminous, oxidative ingenuity, wholly arid in kicking up the aromatic dust. Flavours of pressed lemon, bitter brioche and then tannin, yes tannin. From a protracted year, picked as late as October 19th, disgorged in August of 2014 at a dosage of (very necessary) 11.5 g/L RS. Blessed with high natural acidity of 9.8 tA. How can I not concur with Hugh Davies. “What we’re really showing here is Napa Valley Chardonnay.” Drink 2016-2031.  Tasted February 2016  @Schramsberg  @TheVine_RobGroh

Down by the river with #raveneau #grandcru #blanchot #chablis @lafolieauxerre #2009 #francoisraveneau #thankful

Down by the river with #raveneau #grandcru #blanchot #chablis @lafolieauxerre #2009 #francoisraveneau #thankful

Domaine François Raveneau Chablis Grand Cru Blanchot 2009, Burgundy, France (WineAlign)

It would be misleading to address Raveneau’s Blanchot as chardonnay even as we know it as such because Raveneau produces wines as unique as door keys. They are so inimitable and each will only open the gate to its own unique perception. Blanchot is the southernmost of the seven Chablis Grand Cru climats and blankets the southeastern side of Les Clos. The Raveneau narration does not convey the notion of manifest feeling but instead splits the axiomatic atom of the climat. A sip and you are inside the Blanchot, gliding and passing through rock as if you are the ethereal and the wine is the solid foundation of thought, pathos and avowal. There are aromas that combine citrus and umami with a sweetness that can’t be denied or defined. The wine is just a child, complex, shy and yet unable to express both its meaning and power. But you try to get inside its head, stumbling over kimmeridgian rock replete with the smithereen-crushed shells of ancient fossils. This is a calm young Blanchot and you melt away while under its spell. Three more years should render its hidden meaning. Drink 2019-2034.  Tasted July 2016

A great pleasure and exercize in humility to taste with #vincentdauvissat in his cellar @BIVBChablis #humanity #chablis

A great pleasure and exercize in humility to taste with #vincentdauvissat in his cellar @BIVBChablis #humanity #chablis

Domaine René et Vincent Dauvissat Chablis Grand Cru Les Clos 2001, Burgundy, France (WineAlign)

Tasted from a bottle opened five days prior which is nothing really for a wine that can age easily for 30 years. It resides in a perfect state. Vincent concedes “over 20 there is nothing to be gained” and yet the still terrifically raging acidity would suggest this 15 year-old specimen is only halfway there. The texture is nothing if not persuasive. In 1931 Vincent’s father began this journey. Here 70 years later is a wine so perfectly intact, the lemon-waxy aspect almost on the edge of the hive. But not quite because of the taut bracing and tight embracing. There is a chew to this and Dauvissat shrugs. “What’s to say?” Nothing but a great piece of his history and his father’s legacy. If this wine is a sentimental tribute to a childhood village, it is never uncomplicated. Drink 2016-2031.  Tasted July 2016

2016-12-28_19-42-19

Catena Adrianna Vineyard Mundus Bacillus Terrae Malbec 2011, Mendoza, Argentina (Agent, $325.00, WineAlign)

In this extremely specific malbec from a diagnosed block of the Adrianna Vineyard we are graced with the micro-science of wine. And if you feel that using the name of an aerobic bacteria in the nomenclature is an odd choice, consider the mind of Dr. Laura Catena and her biological approach to viticulture. If we can understand and differentiate the microbes in the soil we can make better wine. It’s as simple as that. When wine is broken down to the biological level it becomes something entirely different and this is the road travelled by the Mundus Bacillus. Catena’s usage of 70 parcel pits per hectare has unearthed this single parcel within the vineyard, again completely different and the pinpointed microbial discussion initiates right here. The soil stakes a claim for this malbec only, certainly not in any way that tends to funk but surely as an impresario of soil. Talk about eugenics in the MBT because that science is compelling and can be related to in this wine. It can offer keys towards improving genetic quality of the vinous population. Here we are faced with rich and dusty, a mean streak of malbec intensity made elegant by earthly microbes. This section draws parallels to the (chardonnay) White Bones soil from which there transfers an excess of dry extract and tannin. Patience please for a malbec that will be long lived. Drink 2019-2027.  Tasted November 2016

Good to go!

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

WineAlign

The most important red wine from Italy

Singolarità, qualità, diversità. Grazie di tutto @chianticlassico

Singolarità, qualità, diversità. Chianti Classico

As seen on WineAlign

For three weeks in May my professional life focused entirely on the brave new world of Chianti Classico Gran Selezione. It began with a four day gambol through the heart of Toscana between two of the world’s great cities, Siena and Florence. It culminated with a Masterclass on Gran Selezione I guided for the Consorzio of Chianti Classico at Toronto’s Four Season’s Hotel.

The time in Italy brought me to eight estates plus a tasting of Gran Selezione at the former Convento di Santa Maria al Prato located in Radda in Chianti. It is here that the Consorzio has set up its new education and events centre to promote the wines of Chianti Classico. In Radda I tasted 12 selections with Consorzio president Sergio Zingarelli. The Masterclass in Toronto was organized as part of the region’s 300th anniversary celebration and the producers walked a crowd of 75 guests through eight Gran Selezione.

mondays-presentation-of-chianticlassico-granselezione-fstoronto-c-su-su-han

Monday’s presentation of @chianticlassico #granselezione @FSToronto (c) su su han

Related – Three days, eight estates, Chianti Classico

Critics comment and often complain that all Chianti Classico, Riserva and now Gran Selezione adhere to one style. They will say that because of minimum aging requirements that all wines are produced in the same way and towards the same end. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Today #toronto went to masterclass school on @chianticlassico #granselezione No going back now #chianticlassico #300years #300anni #gallonero #blackrooster

Today #toronto went to masterclass school on @chianticlassico #granselezione No going back now #chianticlassico #300years #300anni #gallonero #blackrooster

What Makes it Gran(d)

Gran Selezione must be composed of 80 to 100 per cent sangiovese and may contain up to 20 per cent red grapes (indigenous or international). It is produced from a single-vineyard or from a selection of the estate’s best grapes. The minimum aging requirement is 30 months, including three months in bottle before release. The manifesto portents a wine of new typology “at the summit of a denomination’s quality pyramid.”

“The use of the name ‘Chianti Classico Gran Selezione’ depends on issue of a suitability certificate based on chemical-physical tests conducted by authorized laboratories and approval of the wine’s organoleptic characteristics by special tasting committees as per Italian Ministerial Decree 16/12/2010 concerning batches of wine destined for bottling.” Some applications were granted retroactively for the 2009 vintage.

So, what is Gran Selezione? In the simplest terms, which means everything and yet nothing at all,  it represents a Chianti Classico producer’s finest Riserva expression at the top of the quality pyramid. Yes, it is aged longer, for an additional six months beyond Chianti Classico Riserva. But Gran Selezione is not simply one thing; it comes as a matter of interpretation. Some producers, like Nicolò Pozzoli and Silvio Campatelli of Lornano see others releasing the same wine already made, from the same vintage, with a new label and of course, a new price. Yet others see it as an opportunity to make a Selezione as a vineyard-designate Riserva, or as cru or climat based. For some it means opportunity, freedom, revelation or, like Pietro and Valeria Losi of Querciavalle, the realization of a dream.

Some quotes from producers:

“It’s a matter of compromise between what is needed for the small producers and the need to express through crus for the larger ones.” – Stefano Capurso, Barone Ricasoli

“It is not a military position.” – Bernardo Bianchi, Colle Bereto

“It is the best block of the estate.”  – Federico Cerelli, Castello di Gabbiano

“It is made in the vineyard,  from the best vines and the best grapes.” – Massimiliano Biagi, Barone Ricasoli

“It is from a mico-territory within a territory, a micro climate and geology, a climat, combined by exposure and soil, together with the work of a man.” – Alessandro Palombo, Luiano

“It is the best selection of barrels. We taste the wine in the cellar and decide the wine that will be, to the end.”– Iacopo Morganti, Il Molino di Grace

“Gran Selezione begins in the vineyard, in the barrels is too late.” – Pietro Losi, Querciavalle

“I already make my top wine so I simply now call it Gran Selezione.” – Sergio Zingarelli, Rocca delle Macie

Perhaps you remain skeptical. You may be unclear as to the clarity of the category and perhaps you do not find whole or justifiable insight. I can say this. In Chianti Classico I asked all 10 producers I met with this question. “What is Gran Selezione.” All ten responded immediately, emphatically and with unequivocal determination. All 10 answers were intuitive and no two were exactly the same.

Chianti Classico is not a small wine region by any means. It is home to upwards of 70,000 hectares (177,500 acres), of which a mere 10 per cent are planted to vines. Remarkably, impossibly even, no matter where you are, you can always travel from one estate to another in what seems like 30 minutes or less, using one of multiple routes. On my last day the Consorzio’s Silvia Fiorentini and I left Il Molino di Grace in Panzano and drove southeast to Radda in Chianti. We then travelled from Radda northwest to the Consorzio’s offices in Tavernelle Val di Pesa. Then Christine Lechner drove me north to Castello di Gabbiano in Mercatale Val di Pesa but I swear we passed by Panzano and Greve on route. Chianti Classico has more exposures and angles than any wine region I have been to. It would take many years to understand where you are in relation to where you’ve been and where you are going. The wines share an identical set of diverse parameters. Singularite, diversite, qualite.

A Look to the Past

More time has been spent making dry red wine in Chianti Classico than in Piemonte’s Barolo or Barbaresco, where it was essentially Recioto until the mid 18th century. Thus, more time has been spent understanding the hills and differing terrains of the region than Piedmonte for this purpose. Antinori and Brolio are families that have lived and gained an understanding in the region for centuries. Brunello has figured it out. It can certainly be done in Chianti Classico.

She may be hiding behind the scenes but you all need to know who Christine Lechner is. Christine is events coordinator for the Consorzio and along with Silvia Fiorentini is responsible for bringing Chianti Classico to the world. Silvia’s work with the Consorzio is threaded everywhere throughout the world. It is Giuseppe Liberatore, director of the Chianti Classico Consorzio who directs the troops to showcase the excellence of the region’s wines.

Critics will say that Chianti Classico is living in the past. With three hundred years of beautiful and profound history, from Grand Duke Cosimo Tre de’ Medici to incumbent Consorzio President Sergio Zingarelli, you are damn right they are living in the past. Gran Selezione wines exists in a realm far beyond just a shared fleeting moment with 21 carefully selected Chianti Classico Riservas. If I could name a wine region anywhere in the world with a commensurate kinship of family, lineage, conoscenza, storia and the contiguous passing forward of tradizione I would. But I can’t.

A Look To the Future

Gran Selezione can be interpreted in a number of ways, depending on producer. I do not stand alone in my need to ask many questions. Where does one truly understand the region and not just the producer? What ways can the consortium pursue to cherish their name, by not sharing it with many different versions of similar products. Can one of the producers explain the decision to raise the alcohol level requirement of the Gran Selezione? Or is it just a matter of fact, something that happens as part of the winemaking process.

How important is 100 per cent sangiovese to the GS discussion and when other varieties are blended in, does it matter if endemic ones are used, like colorinio and canaiolo, or international ones, like merlot and cabernet sauvignon? What about the decision to grandfather in some approved applications for older vintages to be labeled as Gran Selezione? How has the category progressed from the first vintage to the present one. And has the approach or the style already changed?

Is there any consideration to add subzones to the Gran Selezione label? Either in its simplest form, Siena or Florence, or more parochially, Radda, Gaiole, Castellina, Castelnuovo Berardenga, Poggibonsi, Greve, Barbaerino or San Casciano.

Sleep walking not advised #panzano #ChiantiClassico

Sleep walking not advised #panzano #ChiantiClassico

The Unione Viticoltori di Panzano is a recent development in the Chianti Classico region. Like Chianti Classico, they have their own logo that can be printed on labels that indicate the origin of place. The producers under one village have one common idea. To produce organic and/or biodynamic wine in and around the village just south of Greve. All of the vineyards are from 300-500 meters above sea level and represent the microclimate within the area. Whatever you think about organic, the common goal is something to appreciate.

These are all valid and important discussions going forward but the truth and the fact of the matter is simple. Barolo received DOC status in 1966, and Brunello in 1980. Brunello in 1980. Gran Selezione is a very recent development and growing pains will be a necessary part of its development. Patience and perseverance will see to reward. I would be shocked if Gran Selezione is not the most sought after red wine to come out of Italy by the year 2025. You heard me. Not just sangiovese. The most important red wine from Italy.

I tasted 21 Gran Selezione in Chianti Classico between May 11 and May 15. Here are my notes.

Complex by name, nature and nurture @chianticlassico #granselezione @luiluiano #ottantuno #fattoriadiluiano #alessandropalombo #sangiovese #antoniopalombo #luiano

Complex by name, nature and nurture @chianticlassico #granselezione @luiluiano #ottantuno #fattoriadiluiano #alessandropalombo #sangiovese #antoniopalombo #luiano

Luiano Chianti Classico Gran Selezone Ottontuna 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $72.50, WineAlign)

From Luiano’s premier cru vineyard on white stones from an ancient natural spring that tumbled into a lake. The 85 per cent sangiovese plus (15) merlot are kept separate form the rest of the production. Here berries fold into mineral with wood-delineated spice (truffle, tumeric, saffron, etc.). An amazingly silky wine with that cartology of spice all over its map. The cru is one hectare that executes into 3000-4000 bottles per year. The nomenclature here is not a serious one, the “A” and and the “P” in representation of a signature by Alessandro and his father Antonio that also looks like an “8” and a “1.” It was Alessandro’s grandfather who built Luiano in 1959 and Antonio began working with him 1981. When you dream to make wine, you remember 1981 and when Alessandro was three years old in 1981, he said to his grandfather at lunch, “Ottontuna!” This is an extraordinary Gran Selezione, from a micro-territory within a territory, of a micro-climate and geology, a climat within Luiano. A terroir that combines exposure and soil, together with the work of a man, Antonio, planted in 1999. The merlot was added in 2001. The wine needed to be open for quite some time, to envisage the mineral florals and gain consciousness under the auspices of the spices. Drink 2018-2026. Tasted May 2016

Lornano Chianti Classico Gran Selezione 2011, Docg, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $42.95, WineAlign)

Gran Selezione for Chianti Classico is a matter of interpretation, in this case a selection of the finest few barriques of both sangiovese and merlot. Lornano’s spent 30 months in all new barrels, resulting in the smooth operator that is this Gran Selezione, seductive and inviting within the context of its truth behind a veil of terribilita. This infancy is merely a window into 15 years of what may be, only a split second screen shot of the grand picture. To believe in anything but time would be short-sighted and disrespectful to what this sangiovese is capable of developing towards. Truth from vineyards built on stratified sands, shales, stony alluvials and limestone. History dating back to 1904. Drink 2017-2025.  Tasted May 2016

Structured and getable @chianticlassico via @LornanoChiantiC Il piacere è stato mio #NicolòPozzoli #SilvioCampatelli #montereggioni

Structured and getable @chianticlassico via @LornanoChiantiC Il piacere è stato mio #NicolòPozzoli #SilvioCampatelli #montereggioni

Lornano Chianti Classico Gran Selezione 2012, Docg, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $42.95, WineAlign)

Lornano’s interpretation of Gran Selezione for Chianti Classico is a selection of the finest few barriques of both sangiovese and merlot. Thirty months in new barrels takes sangiovese through a fluid and rippleless ride, from the same élevage of 2011, though here showing its tannic teeth with more than just one less year by age. The cherries and the leather are both more extreme but this is a fleeting moment of assessment, from a sangiovese of acute youth, but the tannins are sweet. It is this crux that shows there is genetic lineage to scroll back through Chianti Classico and CC Riserva. More perfume in 2012, of violets and roses, even in the presence of human aromatic intervention. Drink 2018-2028.  Tasted May 2016

È vero, a special vineyard #VillaTrasqua @chianticlassico #castellinainchianti #montereggioni #granselezione

È vero, a special vineyard #VillaTrasqua @chianticlassico #castellinainchianti #montereggioni #granselezione

Villa Trasqua Chianti Classico Gran Selezione Nerento 2010, Docg Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $39.95, WineAlign)

Single-varietal, single-vineyard, sangiovese-vigna nerento Gran Selezione. From the vantage point of Villa Trasqua’s terrace you can look out and see the demarcation of this special plot, a cru that seems to throw a special light even at dusk and this Gran Selezione offers a changing luminescence as it warms and evolves in the glass. Nerento is a success from the early category days and not all producers were able to find commitment and distinction this early. At six years of age post vintage it drinks as it should, idiomatically fresh and precise in the unequivocal Castellina in Chianti way. Here is post modern Chianti Classico’s preferred exit because Nerento is an example that puts full trust in the grand theory and the ideology of the Selezione. Keep this in the glass for hours and contemplate; the vineyard, the perfectly cooked filet of beef and the quiet Chianti Classico night. Drink 2016-2022.  Tasted May 2016

The #alberese of #querciavalle #pontiganello @valerialosi #agricolalosi #sangiovese #granselezione

The #alberese of #querciavalle #pontiganello @valerialosi #agricolalosi #sangiovese #granselezione

Losi Querciavalle Chianti Classico Gran Selezione Losi Millenium 2010, Docg Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $39.95, WineAlign)

Every great wine dissolves a genre or creates a new one and in the context of Gran Selezione, Pietro Losi and Giorgio Baldi’s Millenium 2010 concludes the latter. In a category where so much changes and yet nothing at all, the choice to pick individual plants, specific vines and particular bunches of grapes as destined for a vision of greatness defines the ideal that wine is indeed made in the vineyard. This Chianti Classico Riserva sees 36 months in 10hL barrels and it is a wine that has essentially been made since since 1997. It went to market again in 1999 and then it was 2000 that prescribed the Millenium, followed by 2001, 2003, 2005, 2007 and 2009. Subsequent top quality vintages are 2011, 2012 and 2015. The selected vines and particular bunches produce on average and approximately 4800 bottles. Take note of the most perfume and yet not the most savour, forest or truffle but there are hints, with some fennochio and the most grip to lead a sangiovese (with five per cent each canaiolo and malvasia nera) structure. The finest tannic grain runs through, lifted by tang meets sour over tart so round and specific to Gran Selezione. This wine is a highly accomplished specimen and a portal in ode to a great grandfather who started his day with wine and cheese, for energy. He imbibed for everyday consumption, just as water would nourish as it should be with this wine for food and contemplation. A wine with a finish minutes long. Drink 2018-2028.  Tasted May 2016

Barone Ricasoli Castello Di Brolio Chianti Classico Gran Selezione 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (942607, $59.95, WineAlign)

A Chianti Classcio first borne in 1997 with the plan to create a maximum quality blend as an expression of the estate’s diverse terroir. A meticulous selection is combed from the estate’s vineyards, spread over 230 hectares of land. Though early on the fruit may have emerged out of good but not yet exceptional vineyards, nearly 20 years later the sangiovese (90 per cent) with cabernet Sauvignon and merlot (or perhaps petit verdot) adheres to grand vin excellence. The wood regimen is 18 months in tonneau followed by 18 in bottle. Perhaps you will not find a more accomplished, perfectly judged, matter of factly expressed Gran Selezione. Sangiovese in equality of spicing with fruit, acidity and tannin, perfectly integrated toast, wood impact and textural drive. Stefano Capurso admits this about the transition from Chianti Classico to Gran Selezione.”It’s a matter of compromise between what is needed for the small producers and the need to express through crus for the large ones.” Drink 2018-2025.  Tasted May 2016

Delivering purity with deep respect to exceptional vineyards @barone_ricasoli @chianticlassico #sangiovese #granselezione #merlot

Delivering purity with deep respect to exceptional vineyards @barone_ricasoli @chianticlassico #sangiovese #granselezione #merlot

Barone Ricasoli Castello Di Brolio Chianti Classico Gran Selezione Colledilà 2013, Docg Tuscany, Italy (AgentWineAlign)

Colledilà is the Ricasoli Chianti Classico “other side of the hill” cru developed and realized from 15 years of estate terroir sangiovese research. This vintage was cropped at less than six tonnes per hectare so no need for green harvest, out of limestone vineyards with southeast and southwest aspects on seven blocks. Only 15,000 bottles were produced from only the best grapes selected (the rest go into the Brolio GS). This 100 per cent sangiovese is the soil king agronomist Massimiliano Biagi’s favourite and it sees 18-20 months in 2nd fill tonneaux. Biagi is the custodian of the fractured mineral, the white rock, catalyst to this off-roading sangiovese of built in natural, shock absorbing structure. Notes of balsamic, baking spice, vanilla and lavender are antithetical to the Brolio GS. The Colledilà’s first vintage was 2007 and the seventh breadth is here remarkable, the acumen inherent, the result timeless. You should never give up on sangiovese and when I tasted this again upon return after the Casalferro I then came to realize and respect its power. But it is never overpowering. It whiffs the most perfume, in the end, in reverse. Drink 2018-2025.  Tasted May 2016

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

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

At the intersection of @chianticlassico and #singlevineyard there is #granselezione #collebereto

At the intersection of @chianticlassico and #singlevineyard there is #granselezione #collebereto

Colle Bereto Chianti Classico Gran Selezione 2011, Docg Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $67.50, WineAlign)

A single-vineyard Gran Selezione, as per the house interpretation of the category, from “la vigna del Convento” situated on the slope beneath il convento di Radda in Chianti. So very concentrated, modern, plush but unshaken, of no compression. Noses all the flowers and herbs of Radda in this glass; lavender, rosemary and many varieties of sage. “This is not a military position,” notes Bernardo Bianchi. The block is always in the sun over fully-occupied Galestro soil, 490m above sea level. All together making for a new Riserva of restrained power and elegance. Wow. Such mouthfeel and structure many Gran Selezione would kill for. The single monastery vineyard is very special at 20 years-old and has just entered its prime. Finishes with more mineral in what seems like Amaro bitters, but it’s mineral, all mineral and nothing but mineral. And it’s just a baby, at this time in bottle five months.  This is a very, very grown up wine. It solicits the requiem to be stashed away for future re-connection. Drink 2020-2031.  Tasted May 2016

Ambassadors of @chianticlassico to the world. 2013 #castellodigabbiano #granselezione (not pictured) will blow your mind #treasurywineestates #sancascianovaldipesa #ilbellezza #chianticlassicoriserva

Ambassadors of @chianticlassico to the world. 2013 #castellodigabbiano #granselezione (not pictured) will blow your mind #treasurywineestates #sancascianovaldipesa #ilbellezza #chianticlassicoriserva

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

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

Selection of #granselezione @chianticlassico at the Convento di Santa Maria al Prato #raddainchianti

Selection of #granselezione @chianticlassico at the Convento di Santa Maria al Prato #raddainchianti

Castelli Del Grevepesa Panzano Chianti Classico Gran Selezione 2011, Docg Tuscany, Italy (SAQ 12626764, $38.00, WineAlign)

Fom San Casciano in Val di Pesa, a cooperative-produced Gran Selezione from vineyards all around the area. Quite barrel-influenced adding extracted layers around steroidal cherries, with aromas recalling shoe leather and polish. A rich and broad mouthfeel of elasticity like a stick of chewing gum with alkalescent flavours of lavender and vanilla. A highly oaked, cakey, middle of the road GS. Dusty as if surely some merlot would be the filler in here but it’s 100 per cent sangiovese. Well made coop Chianti Classico. Drink 2016-2020.  Tasted May 2016  @Grevepesa  @SelectFrechette

Mangiacane Z District Chianti Classico Gran Selezione 2011, Docg Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $49.95, WineAlign)

The big, heavy bottle, echoed in the wine’s tones, from wood and with extract. Very Igt in temper, with international varieties in here for sure, seemingly designed with cabernet sauvignon but perhaps also merlot (it’s actually the opposite). The intent here is a full expression of fruit, wood, acidity and tannin. A beast that requires years to integrate and settle. There is liquorice and fennel pollen in the later stages. It’s very chewy and certainly all in. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted May 2016  @VillaMangiacane  @loyalimportsltd

Fontodi Vigna Del Sorbo Chianti Classico Gran Selezione 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $95.00, WineAlign)

The plot specific, 100 per cent sangiovese Vigna del Sorbo is from organic vineyards in Panzano, now in its third year for re-branding the single-vineyard Riserva. Remarkably aromatic and in hyper reality of its unique and very own red fruit, high-toned, full bodied and certainly elevated of alcohol. A sangiovese of massive tannins and acidity but the fruit is equal to the task. This leans more to the modern wave of extraction and sun-drenching than any other Gran Selezione I have tasted recently, like 100 per cent grenache of say Chateau Rayas. A Chianti Classico tall, big, muscular and strong, of ample tannins, proportionate acidity, body, structure, all in and all together. A bit more elegance than Châteauneuf-du-Pape but along very similar lines. Also a product of the 2012 vintage. Drink 2018-2036.  Tasted May 2016  @rogcowines  #fontodi

Casaloste Chianti Classico Gran Selezione Don Vincenzo 2010, Docg Tuscany, Italy

From Gionanni Battista D’orsi, also from Panzano so organic. The vintner hails from Naples (note the tiny Vesuvius on the label), this is the first to show real acetone but it’s beneath the threshold. There is also wood in droves, woods and thickets with dark blackberry fruit to extreme ripe red plum. This needs years to settle down and play nice. It’s a very formidable GS, not so surprising considering the vintage as it is imagined. A bit less grit, girth and astringency will travel though future vintages although with Casaloste it’s certainly a stylistic choice. Drink 2018-2028.  Tasted May 2016  @Casaloste

Castello D’Albola Chianti Classico Gran Selezione Il Solatio 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (Agent)

From Radda in Chianti and owned by Zonin, this is typically lighter in body for the area. Composed of 100 per cent sangiovese, very much in red fruit and old-school Brunello-ish liqueur. Cherries macerating and gaining acidity in its pool, flavour is a ringer for Japanese omeboshi plum, and then fruit leather/roll-up made with strawberry. Liquid chalky and lactic. Great intensity. Drink 2017-2024.  Tasted May 2016

Premiata Fattoria di Castelvecchi Chianti Classico Gran Selezione “Madonnino della Pieve” 2010, Docg Tuscany, Italy

From Radda in Chianti, rich red to darkening fruit and some acetic dealings,. There is more than just a simple breadth of likeability in the layering and variegation of the red fruits in here.  Plenty of herbiage and more tonality on the second half of the ride. Somewhat old school and very taut, tight, vigorous and vital. Classic, traditional, ripe and attentive sangiovese. This will live quite long,  somewhere in the vicinity of 15-20 years. Drink 2018-2028.  Tasted May 2016    @BarrelSelect

Rocca Delle Macìe Gran Selezione Chianti Classico Riserva Di Fizzano Single Vineyard 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (699454, $32.95, WineAlign)

From Castellina in Chianti, another singular, unique and specifically to itself Gran Selezione, with dark red fruit and tones set above though there is nothing remotely acetic about the play. Purity from the Fizzano vineyard is apparent with much mineral (seems to be albarese) throughout. The mid-palate here is full and this strikes as both elegant and traditional. Great length, longer than many or even most. A very accomplished yet classico Classico. Re-branded and worth every bit of that advantage. Perfect transfer from single-vineyard Sangiovese (95 per cent) plus (5) merlot, to SV-GS. Even if you notice the wood in the mid-palate and through the structure, you do not finish with it. There are 26,000 bottles made for a wine first produced in 1986. Drink 2018-2024.  Tasted May 2016  @roccadellemacie  @ProfileWineGrp

Mazzei Castello Di Fonterutoli Chianti Classico Gran Selezione 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $75.00, WineAlign)

From Castellina in Chianti by the Mazzei family, fashioned from 92 per cent sangiovese. There is so much wisdom in here, out of grace and for elegance with wood rounding out all the angles. Very much a particular and painstakingly precise selective Gran Selezione, from wide and far. Though curious to note that within the pantheon of the genre the Fonterutoli is almost middle of the road in style. This comes as a result of where is lies in the range occupied by the multifarious interpretations. This 2012 is demonstratively integrated with a high level of acidity spurring and embracing generational connectivity. Drink 2018-2030.  Tasted May 2016  @MarchesiMazzei  @TrialtoON

Castello di Cacchiano Chianti Classico Gran Selezione Millenium 2009, Docg Tuscany, Italy

From Gaiole in Chianti and one of the first to jump headfirst into the new category. Showing a bit of age, from a very warm vintage, this has the humid funk (and is consistent with the 2007 tasted earlier in the week). Rich, a bit caky, chalky and yet the acidity winds its way around with room-tying, rug-hooking ability. Older in schooling and traditionally-styled to be sure. Drink 2016-2019  Tasted May 2016

Rocca Di Castagnoli Stielle Chianti Classico Gran Selezione 2011, Docg Tuscany, Italy (SAQ 12489114, $47.00, WineAlign)

From Gaiole, with 20 per cent cabernet sauvignon, this is modish-modern, high-toned, rich and spicy, very wood apparent Gran Selezione. A bit splintered and flinty this early in toddler years but the mineral and high altitude vineyard impart is and will become gainfully employed as a major plus. Long finish. Strikes like a very modern Brunello in style and increasingly international with time in the glass. In some respects it may as well be Igt. Drink 2018-2024.  Tasted May 2016  @Roccacastagnoli  @ProfileWineGrp

Rocca di Montegrossi Chianti Classico Gran Selezione Vigneto San Marcellino 2011, Docg Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $59.00, WineAlign)

Supported by nine per cent pugnitello to accentuate hue, aroma and structure, this is organic sangiovese from Gaiole. Produced using the finest grapes from the San Marcellino vineyard that surrounds the namesake Church in Monti in Chianti. Saw 27 months in medium-toast Allier forest French barriques and tonneaux plus an additional 18 months in bottle before release. Yet another rich and high-toned example (pushing 15 per cent alcohol), with lots of liquorice and corporeal feel on the nose. A child of modern and rich styling with good animale tension, as well as ferric and hematic accents to the dark fruit. Very Tuscan Igt mixed with Classico ideals to speak for Gran Selezione through the voice of traditional varieties. Only 7,400 (plus 300 magnum) bottles were produced. Drink 2018-2028.  Tasted May 2016  

Good to go!

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