Seventeen mind-blowing wines of 2017

No, wines do not have to be old to blow your mind but there is just something so mysterious, magical and hypnotizing about the experience of age in preservation. When we use the cliché “tasting history” it distracts from what is most poignant about tasting older wines. It’s the humbling and how wisdom, acumen and meteorological circumstance conspire to take us away from our troubles, to forget about life for a while and to realize that forces greater than us are truly in charge.

There are also young wines so precocious and wise beyond their years that they somehow intuit the future. These too can blow our minds, addle us as if lovestruck and disoriented so that only this confluence of smell, taste, texture and structure are what we know. It takes all kinds to populate a list that separates greatness from the rest, but that does not means only 17 wines were tasted to be extraordinary in 2017.  It means that some struck a vein while others grazed on the skin. Most important is that all were experienced because someone chose to share them. Thank you to the producers and the benefactors for bringing these bottles to light.

Related – 16 mind-blowing wines of 2016

Honourable Mentions

Château Haut-Brion 1986, Saffredi 2004, Brokenwood Sémillon 2007, Domaine Gros Frères Clos Voguent Musigni 2013, M. Lapierre Morgon 2010, Domaine G. Roumier Bonnes-Mares Grand Cru 1996, Domaine Jamet Côte-Rôtie 2006, Coppo Barbera d’Asti Nizza Riserva della Famiglia 2009, Le Fraghe Bardolino 2015, Sordo Barolo Riserva Gabutti 2006, Carobbio Chianti Classico 1990, J & J Eger Kékfrankos 2006, Château Léoville Las Cases 2001, François Cotat Chavignol Sancerre Rosé 2009, Domaine La Vieux Télégraphe Châteauneuf du Pâpe La Crau 2005, D’Arie Syrah 2012, Julia Bertram Handwerk Spätburgunder 2015, Planeta Carricante Eruzione 1614 2015, Dominus 1994, Château Lafite Rothschild 1998 and Esmonin Gevrey-Chambertin Clos Saint-Jacques 1993.

Several times a years I gather with groups of like-minded, wine-spirited folks, to break bread and to pop established icons, singular archetypes, varietal rarities and supernumerary misfits. Many of the wines on this 2017 list are a result of having been fortunate enough to be included in repeated repasts with pirates on picnics and doctors at dinner.  Most of the rest are travel related, in fact this year alone I tasted approximately 700 sangiovese, 200 barbera, 200 corvina and 100 nebbiolo. So many more of those praiseworthy reds and rosés deserved spots on this docket but alas, the list is short. I do not fulminate them, nor you neither. Here are Godello’s 17 mind-blowing wines of 2017.

It began like this and I got 15 dollars hid above the stove.

Möet & Chandon Dom Pérignon Vintage Brut Champagne 1990, Champagne, France (280461, AgentWineAlign)

Tasted blind the hue immediately leads the mind in one of two directions; hot vintage or decades of age. I’m tempted to consider a combination of the two, so the decision is warm vintage and a minimum of twenty years age. Further introspection takes me back to 1990 and when the reveal confirms this and in the abide of Dom Pérignon it means one thing. Start the process of thinking again. This wine has done its work, having accumulated a diverse set of developmental traits and processed them so that the language it now speaks is clear and pure. At 27 years of age it’s delicate, smooth, soft-spoken and settled. The finest golden toast (again in hue and more importantly in aroma) glows into the creamy texture, like preserved lemon transformed into gelid curd. The mouthfeel is exceptional with baking bread rising, puffy and satiny glazed across the palate. The seamlessness of this Champagne seeks, solicits and makes rendezvous with no peer or challenger its equivalent, not should any comparison be made. Kudos to a wine that stands on its own and makes you feel this good. It will continue to do so up to and perhaps beyond its 40th birthday. Drink 2017-2030.  Tasted March 2017  moetchandon  @chartonhobbs  @MoetUSA  @ChartonHobbs  @Champagne  Moët & Chandon  Charton Hobbs Canada  Champagne

Famille Picard Saint Aubin Premier Cru Le Charmois 2014, AOC Bourgogne (522078, $57.95, WineAlign)

This is a chardonnay to place the village of Saint Aubin in a remarkable light if only because it’s the most stony, flinty and tightly wound example just about ever. The Charmois is the elevator that carries the appellation into a purity of climat for Bourgogne Premier Cru. In this case terroir delivers the idea of Climat but it is the interaction of the maker that defines the notion simply because there is no mess and no fuss. It just feels like drinking straight from a bleed of the calcareous land, as might happen in a limestone goblet filled with Montrachet. You have no idea how good a deal this is from the most excellent 2014 vintage. Drink 2019-2028.  Tasted October 2017  domainesfamillepicard  profilewinegroup  #bourgognewines #FamillePicard  @ProfileWineGrp  @BourgogneWines  Domaines Famille Picard  Profile Wine Group  Bourgogne Wines

Domaine Bouchard Père & Fils Chevalier Montrachet Grand Cru 2015, AOC Bourgogne (Agent, $480.00 WineAlign)

Chevalier-Montrachet is a matter of aromatics, of the finest of the finest, preserved, reserved, impressionable and of quietly powerful impression. The deistic and the parrhesiastic are reached in this Grand Cru, “one who speaks the truth to power.” Elysium in chardonnay is captured for the perfectly ripe orchard and crushed stones. The young palate is almost severe but takes its first steps down the most ethereal path, with the finest drawn lines and rendered streaks of energy lit, sparked and smouldering. This is Bourgogne of intrinsic value, slowly rising to a crescendo where a flame flickers but within the sheltered lamp of a hurricane. How is such harnessed power even possible? Only like this, in Chevalier-Montrachet . Drink 2021-2037.  Tasted April 2017  bouchardpereetfils  woodmanws  vinsdebourgogne  @BouchardPere  @WoodmanWS  @VinsdeBourgogne  Bouchard Père & Fils  Woodman Wines & Spirits  Vins de Bourgogne / Burgundy wines

Domaine Sigalas Kavalieros 2015, Santorini, Greece (SAQ 11814421WineAlign)

I’ve not yet tasted the Kavalieros 2014, so this single-vineyard, 18 months on lees done in stainless steel Kavalieros 2015 made by “Mr. George” is the benchmark for Santorini, assrytiko and salty white wines everywhere. The first release was 2009. Straight up and turning the world on its head, like the old man on the label and upside down against Apollo’s Aegean Cyclades. This ’15 richer still, more than the seven villages wines and a hyperbole as compared to the entry-level assyrtiko, of deeper mineral, compressed, layered and fantastic. Crushed rocks permeate in aggregate, it’s quixotically saline and textured, of intense presence and finally, structured. For 15 years at least. A late shot of natural Santorini tonic swirls in centrifuge with assyrtiko so wound up. This will need 10 years to unwind and allow for cracks to form in the mineral shell, followed by the birth of its fruit. It should never be forgotten that assyrtiko can and will show fruit but with Kavalieros you’ll have to be patient. Drink 2020-2031.  Tasted March 2017  @DomaineSigalas  @MajesticWineInc  winesofgreece  domainesigalas  @MajesticWineInc  @DrinkGreekWine  @DomaineSigalas  Panayiota Kalogeropoulou  Wines of Greece

Penfolds Grange 2011, South Australia (356121, $750.00, WineAlign)

There is just something about cool, rainy and irreconcilably regarded vintages that brings out the best in wines made by winemakers of elite acumen. Deliver your best from the greatest of harvests but also “give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free. The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.” Leave the middle of the road to someone else. This Grange faced adversity and won. The yields and output may only be 50 per cent of normal but what gives is the silky texture of Grand Cru Bourgogne. This chosen one of singular vision to represent the multi-tiered and faceted Penfolds Estate tells us about the world inhabited by the instinctual and the ethereal. It combines tannin, structure and aesthetic deeply engrossed in the shadow of its own looming destruction, but is designed from the first with an eye to its later existence as a ruin, forever preserved. If a perfect plum and a magical olive were crossed they would welcome this collective spice of no equal. The quality of bite and chew lead to rumination and the savour rests on a chart clearly defined but in high contrast and only to itself. An analgeisc meets hypnotic cooling is mentholated though if not specific in origin it is only and highly natural. Legendary vintage? Why not. This calm, cool and collected 2011 may just outlast some of the more recently considered top vintages of ’06, ’08 and ’10. Drink 2019-2035.  Tasted May 2017  penfolds  markanthonyon  wineaustralia  @penfolds  @MarkAnthonyWine  @Wine_Australia  Penfolds  @MarkAnthonyWine  Wine Australia

A deep #eredichiappone vertical delve with Daniele for perspective and a release of endorphins @ilNizza possibilities #progrettovini #collisionimonferrato

Erede Di Chiappone Armando Barbera D’asti Superiore Nizza DOC RU 2006, Piedmont, Italy (WineAlign)

RU by Daniele Chiappone is this, at first something altogether inexplicable but when tasted alongside his 2005, 2010 and 2011 it makes such perfect sense. Sense in where this fits in his evolution and to speak on behalf of the age-worthy ability of Nizza barbera. In a world where barbera perfume so often performs with perfunctory brevity this goes on and on. It is a unique combination of fennel frond, incense, hibiscus and violet to create an intoxicant and an anaesthetic. Yet another exceptional vintage is revealed, traditional and so alive, spun from earth crusting over cherry and then this smooth leather. The portal backwards 10 years allows for looks forward 10 more, especially into what’s coming from 2015 and 2016. To say the match with a prodigiously spiced in aromatic ragu over linguine was agreeable would be the understatement of the Monferrato century. Perfectly timed acidity seals the deal. This is barbera folks, of wit, age and history. Drink 2017-2021.  Tasted July 2017  erededi  ilnizza  @erededi  @ilNizza  Erede Di Chiappone Armando  IlNizza

Robert Mondavi Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon To Kalon Vineyard 1999, Napa Valley, California (WineAlign)

This from a time when Mondavi labeled the reserve cabernet sauvignon as “To Kalon Vineyard,” a moniker of essential meaning that would return 14 years later on the 2013 bottle. If this were what Mark de Vere referred to as “a confusing moment in history” I could not say but “this strange bottling” provided an unequivocal and seminal turning point in this wine’s storied past, present and future. It was in fact a small, special cuvée, a little bit different than the ’99 Reserve. “The coolest vintage on record, until it wasn’t,” because of a warm period at the end of summer and early fall that ushered forth a certain, singular sort of ripeness. Regardless of memories, characterizations and twists of fate, this single-vineyard cabernet is as finessed, focused and precise as any Mondavi Reserve. It persists chalky, fine and gritty in tannin running amok, dragging the acidity forward and around. The workout is something to behold, a dispatch of late Napa fashion and never more successful than right here. The dépêche mode of To Kalon is by now famous but culminated with this ’99 for everything to follow, with consistency and a guarantee of modern quality. Listen to it croon “try walking in my shoes.” Many have and many continue to pay homage to this Napa Valley originator and pioneer. It’s a cabernet sauvignon of faith and devotion. Drink 2017-2029.  Tasted May 2017  robertmondavi  @RobertMondavi  Robert Mondavi Winery

Quilceda Creek Cabernet Sauvignon 2003, Columbia Valley, Washington (Agent, WineAlign)

A truly remarkable nose, notably violets and peregrine species of spices. There is so much perfume and beauty, an Aishwarya Rai Bachchan nose and then there is the fruit. Blackberry, Cassis then into vanilla, scented happiness like ruby red grapefruit and bergamot. If it should have aged I can’t say but it’s still a voluminous and voluptuous thing to sip. It blinds like first Growth Bordeaux with its perfect extraction. Thoughts keep at it, to blueberries, cigar box and Kirsch. The tannins are sweet and gritty, not fully resolved and imagine Margaux. You could consider taking out a mortgage on yours and your neighbour’s house for this one. It was one of many great reds tonight but I’ve just tasted this. And I wept. Drink 2017-2024.  Tasted March 2017  @QuilCreekWinery  @thevineagency  winesofwashington  wa_state_wine  @QuilCreekWinery  @TheVine_RobGroh  Quilceda Creek Vintners  @WINESofWA  The Vine – Robert Groh Agency  Washington State Wine

A great honour to taste this 1995 #carobbio #leone and in memory of #carlonovarese Thank you Dario and Silvia. Would like the chance to do it again in 22 years #toscana #sangiovese

Tenuta Carobbio Leone 1995, IGT Toscana, Italy (WineAlign)

Leone 1995 was made under the auspices of the Vittorio Fiore-Gabriella Tani oenology stylistic for Carlo Novarese. To say that this single-vineyard sangiovese is youthful would be the biggest IGT understatement of the century. From vines that at the time were 25 years-old, Leone is not just a survivor of a universally-declared incredible vintage, it is a singular expression from 1990’s Tuscany, in Chianti Classico and for Panzano. The violets, dried espresso and plum-amaretti semifreddo (savoury, not sweet) mixes with fennel frond, fresh rosemary and the 20-plus years lingering Carobbio tobacco. The acidity is fully intact, still travelling up and down the sides of the tongue, repeatedly and soliciting so much savour, sapidity, a desire for a mouthful of hematic, rare sear of Claudia’s beef filet and then more and more sipping. After 20 minutes the aromatics deliver a raspberry purée and even a black olive and mineral-saline, short of briny caper into the fray by stroke of some aromatic brush and bush in the light afternoon wind. That’s enough. I’m not sure my heart can take any more. Time for Vin Santo. Drink 2017-2029.  Tasted February 2017  carobbio_wine  chianticlassico  @Tenuta_Carobbio  @chianticlassico  Tenuta Carobbio  Chianti Classico

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

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

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

Cortonesi La Mannella Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva 2010, Docg Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $202.95, WineAlign)

There are few Brunello vintages afforded more attention in the last 10-plus, certainly ’04 and ’06, increasingly better even from ’08 and looking forward towards what greatness will come in 2015. Yes but not solely magnified through the lens of patience and bottle time, from 2010 La Mannella has coupled upon and layered over itself like compressed fruit and puff pastry. Though it begs for drink now attention, another seven years will be needed before it can safely be labeled as uncoiled and to reveal all that is wrapped so tight. Rich is not the operative but unmistakeable as Cortonesi it is; that natural clay soil funk of resolution and fully hydrated chalk. This is to sangiovese as Les Preuses Grand Cru Chablis or Rangen Grand Cru Alsace are to Riesling. It carries in its pocket the absolute meaning and genetic responsibility of where it comes from, with a curative and restorative ability to get you lost. Drink 2019-2031.  Tasted February 2017  marcora85  nicholaspearcewines  brunellodimontalcino  @LaMannella  @Nicholaspearce_  @ConsBrunello  Tommaso Cortonesi  Nicholas Pearce  Consorzio del Vino Brunello di Montalcino

Maison Roche De Bellene “Collection Bellenum” Grand Cru Clos De La Roche 1998, AOC Bourgogne, France (Agent, $364.95, WineAlign)

Clos de La Roche 1998 may be 19 years old but you have to swirl the britches out of this Grand Cru because reduction persists in its make-up. Once you work your way over the wall a field of wildflowers and a roses bouquet lays out as far as the nose can mind’s eye. This is pure candy in its most arid, blessed and gout de terroir way. It is as charming as Burgundy can be and yet so fine of tannin, tight and duplicitously-grained in clone upon itself. One of those wines so difficult to put to words because it teaches and you can do nothing but listen. I’d still want to wait two more years, maybe more, before knowing I’ve waited long enough. Close de la Roche speaks to me but to answer with any real credibility and respect I will need to think some more. Drink 2019-2035.  Tasted February 2017  domaine_de_bellene  nicholaspearcewines  vinsdebourgogne  @RochedeBellene  @Nicholaspearce_  @VinsdeBourgogne  Bellene  Nicholas Pearce  Vins de Bourgogne / Burgundy wines

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

Meerlust Rubicon 1984, Wo Stellenbosch, South Africa (WineAlign)

Meerlust dates back to 1693, the house that is “love or pleasure of the sea.” Less than five kms south from the Atlantic Ocean, the property was purchased in 1756 and to this day remains family owned, now in its eighth generation with 260 years of continuity. Rubicon 1984 is poured (with brilliant decision making) from magnum and is therefore fresher than the 1996 with an incredibly controlled level of fineness in tannin, from acidity and at the threshold of understood volatility. “Perhaps one did not want to be loved so much as to be understood,” like this early Rubicon. The future of Meerlust is foretold with Orwellian transparency, bold honesty and expert ability. “Who controls the past controls the future.” Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted September 2017  meerlustwine  wosa_za  wosa_ca  liffordgram  @MeerlustWine  @LiffordON  @WOSA_ZA  @WOSACanada  MEERLUST ESTATE  Lifford Wine and Spirits  Wines of South Africa

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

The Boscarelli acts like a much younger Nobile, from an exceptional vintage and a producer way ahead of its time. The key is to decide which side of the evolutionary fence we’re on, closer to that 1967 from Contucci or to what is happening today. This may actually be the turning point for Vino Nobile because it really has one foot entrenched in each world. Very much in the mushroom and truffle aromatic atmosphere, where sangiovese should feel free and comfortable to travel in the twilight of its golden years. This is beautiful, with some dark fruit persisting and acidity still in charge. You can imagine the old tannins but they no longer make any demands. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted at Anteprima del Vino Nobile di Montepulciano 2017, February 2017  #PoderiBoscarelli  lucadeferrarildf  artisanal_wine_imports  consorzionobile  #poderiboscarelli  Nicolò De Ferrari   Luca De Ferrari  @artisanalwineimports

Antichi Poderi Dei Marchesi Di Barolo Gia’ Opera Pia Barolo 1958, Piedmont, Italy (WineAlign)

Poured by Ernesto Abbona on his wife Anna’s birthday, a ’58 at the ripe old age of 58 (though it will turn 59 later this year). Simply, in the words of the Abbona family, “a special evening, special friends, special vintage,” with a cork that looks as good as new, though Ernesto takes great time and care in its extraction. The aromas are blessed of a collective umami but would better be served by a new descriptor because they are antediluvian and impossibly preserved. Forget mushrooms and truffles. These scents are brand new, with no truly identifiable frame of reference, as if plucked from some guise of Eden where never before tasted dark berries fall effortlessly into the hand off of gariga savoury-scented bushes, brambly and crawling intertwined with nasturtium on a composting forest floor. The 1958 was and still is a nebbiolo of struttura, of a fibra morale that tells a story of consistency and longevity. With air it became more complex if deeper and turbido. That this magical nebbiolo from another era hovered in the lasting air of a 30 minute long ethereal says that you could open a few more but perhaps not much beyond its 60th birthday. Drink 2017-2018.  Tasted July 2017  marchesibarolo  majesticwinesinc  @MarchesiBarolo  @MajesticWineInc  @marchesibarolo  Majestic Wine Cellars

The mythology of #thorle #riesling in Beerenauslese and Trockenbetenauslese #weingutthörle #gabsheim #rheinhessen #holle

Thörle Riesling Trockenbeerenauslese Hölle 2011, Rheinhessen, Germany (WineAlign)

The Hölle TBA 2011 is a minuscule 180 bottle single-vineyard production and the vintage was simply perfect for the effort. The process involved the collection of a few berries at a time over the course of three weeks, started in the fridge and was then pressed when the amount of approximately 100L could be obtained. “This is the king’s discipline for creating such a riesling” explains Christoph Thörle. Thick like honey, full of unctuousness and viscosity. It is expressly noticed how the colour and the development have not advanced considering the six year mean. The exoticism is what separates this, with fruits far east, creamy and perfectly easy to assimilate, in flavour, consistency and understanding. Sweet herbology, of thai basil and thyme and candied mandarin rind. Here, a piece of history and legacy from Christoph and Johannes. Drink 2021-2041.  Tasted March 2017  thorle_c  thorleestatewinery  univinscanada  @thoerle  @UNIVINS  @germanwineca  @gen_riesling

Will be a top ’17 from 2017 #louisguntrum #1976 @weininstitut #rieslingauslese #niersteiner #heiligen #nierstein #niersteinamrhein #roterhang

Weingut Louis Guntrum Riesling Auslese Niersteiner Heilibengaum 1976, Rheinhessen, Germany (WineAlign)

“Roter Hang is a geological statement” says Louis Konstantin Guntrum. If you want to hang around and try to understand its red soils and friable limestone fettle it requires a focused state of mind. Guntrum introduces this 1976 by saying “it’s a young guy, 40 years old,” the same thing he could have said years ago about a 1917 Roter Hang Riesling. The comparative studies is a matter of perspective, a theory of relativity, in reduction, colour, drama, florality and fabulousness. While certain vintages and specific wines will blow you away more than others there is something to be said about older just being more interesting, whether 1917, 1976 or whatever back vintage you want to try your luck with. It’s simply remarkable and crazy how sugar and acidity can preserve riesling like this, especially and/or truly withstanding the Roter Hang. The honey and candied orange blossom are so prevalent but it almost seems dry (relatively speaking) even though 100 grams or more of sugar have driven this wine. Beauty from bitter phenols blend with lanolin, paraffin, ginger and ginseng. Keep returning for 15 more years. Drink 2017-2031.  Tasted March 2017  #louisguntrum  @weininstitut  wines_of_germany  @LouisGuntrum  @WinesofGermany  Weingut Louis Guntrum  German Wine Institute i.e. Wines of Germany


Good to go!


Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello



Barbera d’Asti Del Monferrato E Nizza Monferrato

This report first appeared on WineAlign. Here it is expanded to include all the wines reviewed in July of 2017; 27 Barbera d’Asti and 44 Barbera d’Asti Nizza from 29 producers.

  • Consorzio Barbera d’Asti E Vini Del Monferrato
  • Cascina Gilli Di Vergnano Giovanni
  • Cascina Galarin
  • Bersano
  • Pico Maccario
  • Azienda Agricola Ivaldi Dario
  • Az. Agr. Garrone Evasio & Figlio
  • Michele Chiarlo
  • Castello Di Gabiano Marchesi Cattaneo Adorno Giustiniani Srl
  • Rovero
  • Coppo
  • Tenuta Il Falchetto
  • Az. Agr. Franco Roero
  • Viticoltori Associati Vinchio e Vaglio Serra
  • Marchesi Incisa Della Rocchetta
  • Marco Bonfante
  • Erede Di Chiappone
  • Gozzelino
  • Moretti Adimari
  • Berta Paolo
  • Borgo Isolabella Delle Croce
  • Il Botolo
  • Cascina Garitina
  • Villa Giada
  • Bava
  • La Gironda
  • Tenuta Olim Bauda
  • Cantina Tre Secoli
  • L’Armangia

Back in July of 2017 I hopped aboard the Collisioni Progetto Vino train in advance of four seminar-saturated days in Barolo, to immerse myself in everything the great red hope known as barbera holds in the territory of Monferrato. Here in Ontario we possess a pretty good idea about the nature and the competency of Barbera d’Alba, mainly because of its association with the Piemontese region’s more famous grape variety nebbiolo in production of the noble and regal Barolo and Barbaresco wines. The successes enjoyed by Barbera d’Alba are ensured, not solely because of but certainly by its proximate association. But what about Barbera d’Asti?

Collisioni Festival’s Ian D’Agata recently stated “it is undoubtedly in Piedmont where the grape performs best. To put barbera’s popularity in perspective, consider that 33 per cent of Piedmont’s 45,000 hectares under vine are planted to barbera.” Try throwing this statistic in the face of Monferrato, Nizza Monferrato and so many other Asti barbera growers. So the question begs as to why so many DOC’s exist is such a close proximate place? The answer is quite simple. I am “insert commune name here” and I am this DOC, around my village, with my own very special terroir. Yours may only be five kilometres away from me but I am special and my land and grapes are not like yours. It must be noted that in Piemonte there are as many native grapes then there are in all of France. This is the second and more important reason nearly 50, or almost 10 per cent of all registered Italian grapes are found in Piemonte.

The Barbera DOCGs via

The consortium for Barbera d’Asti and Monferrato wines was founded in 1946 with distinctive labelling and while only seven members were originally on board, today more than 200 band together for the good of the grape and especially the agricultural practices of the territory. I will touch on other Piemontese denominations such as Ruchè di Castagnole Monferrato, Freisa d’Asti and Grignolino d’Asti in a follow-up report but now is the time to discuss, analyze and celebrate all things Barbera d’Asti E Vini Monferrato.

Barbera d’Asti is a DOCG with upwards of 3,900 hectares under vine with nearly 2,500 producers, 30 of which are cooperatives. The wines can be fresh reds made in stainless steel or receive some oak aging while the bigger Barbera d’Asti Superiore, made from selected grapes are required by DOCG law to be aged for at least six months in wood. Both the Barbera d’asti Superiore and Barbera del Monferrato Superiore DOCGs were awarded in 2008, both have maximum yield allowances of nine tonnes per hectare but Monferrato’s minimum alcohol requirement is a half a point higher at 13 per cent by volume. The Vigna (single-vineyard) Monferrato yields are lower, at eight tonnes per hectare. Aging for both is 14 months from November 1st the year after harvest. In Monferrato 85 per cent must be barbera with the remainder allowing dolcetto, grigolino and freisa while Barbera d’Asti Superiore requires 90 per cent barbera.

Barbera vineyards in Costigiole d’Asti

The rich limestone, clay and calcium hills of the Nizza wine zone is one of three Barbera d’Asti sub-zones (that also include Tinella and Colli Astigiani). Nizza’s terroir is a result of marine sediment and with proof supplied by a walk-around tasting and dinner during which wines dating back to 2001 were poured, it is indeed the zone where the most ageworthy and arguably the best barbera d’Asti is made. In 2014 the DOCG was created and the artist formerly known as “Barbera d’Asti Superiore Nizza” has now been abbreviated to simply, Nizza. Like Prince. Power and balance are married in Nizza and many perform well past the 10 year mark after vintage. Wines from Nizza must be 100 per cent barbera, the yields are capped at seven tonnes per hectare and the age requirement is 18 months (six in oak) from January 1st the year after harvest. Reserva is 30 months (12 in oak) and Vigna (single-vineyard) releases must have yields no higher than 6.3 with a minimum of 13.5 per cent alcohol.  The first Nizza DOCG wines were released in July of 2016.

Still today the barbera wines of Monferrato and Nizza are virtually ignored worldwide. Many consumers simply think of the name Asti and sweet sparkling wines come to mind. Many others know not of Asti and still countless more associate the grape with Alba. The Consorzio Barbera d’Asti e Vini del Monferrato is working tirelessly to change public perception, first with its proud public speaking president Filippo Mobrici, by enlisting the association with the Collisioni Festival and through the work of ambassadors like Michele Longo. The Collisioni Progetto Vino brings groups of journalists and sommeliers from around the globe to taste, educate and indulge in the multiplicity of barbera.

A compassionate barbera d’asti sky in the dimmet of a piemonte evening.

The following tasting notes of Barbera d’Asti and Nizza wines were executed in the consorzio headquarters in Costigiole and at the Enoteca Regionale di Nizza in July of 2017. The first tasting focused on Barbera d’Asti and Barbera d’Asti Superiore from the 2014, 2015 and 2016 vintages with the emphasis placed on four sub-zones and their differing soils. The second (walk-around) tasting allowed producers to pour at their whimsy so this included portfolios with varietal wines such as grignolino and freisa. The gathering of the Associazione Produttori del Nizza focused beautifully on a comparison of only wines from the 2014 vintage, by way of introduction, followed by two brilliant tastings in which verticals of their wines were offered, first at a (way too fast) high-speed walkabout and then later during a (beautifully slow) dinner at Locanda Del Boscogrande. My full report covers more than 75 reviews of Monferrato barbera from both the Asti and Nizza categories.

Barbera d’Asti DOCG

Consorzio Barbera d’Asti E Vini Del Monferrato Barbera d’Asti DOCG 2015, Piedmont, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

Every year one wine is chosen through a series of blind tastings from a selection of producers, to be bottled and labeled under the “taken as a while” entity Consorzio Barbera D’asti E Vini Del Monferrato Barbera D’asti. Only the producer and the President (Filippo Mobrici) know who’s wine is chosen, along with wink, wink, everyone else. This 2015 is quite the firm and brambly barbera, as it should be, with an omnipresent blanketing European vintage depth of character, from warmth, quality, quantity and length. This is typically barbera pressed, full on for fruit, specific to a Monferrato territorial claim and nary a moment of intrusive tannin. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted July 2017  barberadasti  @barberadasti  @barberadasti

Cascina Gilli Di Vergnano Giovanni Barbera d’Asti DOCG Le More 2016, Piedmont, Italy (Agent, WineAlign)

From the silty marl of Monferrato in Castelnuovo Don Bosco, here the traditionally rustic is acquiesced. Of dark berry, dusty, mulberry, a rich mid-palate, leathery, textured, solid if not profound structure. Only stainless steel and possessive of appropriate length. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted July 2017  cascinagilli  @cascinagilli  @cascinagilli

Cascina Galarin Barbera d’Asti DOCG Le Querce 2016, Piedmont, Italy (Agent, WineAlign)

Out of the silty marl comes this stainless raised barbera, of such a similar profile to Le More, less floral and also less obvious fruity berry. Made with five per cent freisa, here there is more caramel and dried plum, also more VA and a bit of residual CO2. The bitter finish blend into acidity so very tart. Drink 2017-2018.  Tasted July 2017  #cascinagalarin  Cascina Galarin

Bersano Barbera d’Asti DOCG Costalunga 2015, Piedmont, Italy (Agent, 348680, $13.75, WineAlign)

Bersano’s, like so many of its peers making barbera in and around Monferrato comes from a terroir of silty marl. It spends one year in (large) botti and is a most most floral and perfumed barbera, notably of violets, even a touch of liquorice or fennel. Fills in with more mid-palate and structure than many at this “posto che si chiama” entry level, with bitters as tonics well integrated into the mix. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted July 2017  bersano1907  profilewinegroup  @BERSANO1907  @ProfileWineGrp  @Bersanowine  Profile Wine Group

Pico Maccario Barbera d’Asti DOCG Lavignone 2016, Piedmont, Italy (Agent, WineAlign)

Quite the deep, dark and handsome barbera with a current of black currant and a pure stainless steel raising. Plums and chocolate mark the second half profile for the rich red, no oak lover in you. This pervasive barbera represents just about half of the house’s total (400,000 bottle) production. It’s truly a matter of fresh fruit and the already conscious awareness of its sharp, tart, fugacious youth. Solicits a knowing nod of the head when tasted at the source not long after a moment with the ’14 less than a year before. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted July 2017  picomaccario  @PicoMaccario  @PicoMaccario

Pico Maccario Barbera d’Asti Superiore DOCG Epico 2014, Piedmont, Italy (Agent, WineAlign)

Epico is the top selection from the oldest (60 year-old) vines developed 14 months in barrel. In its current state the oak is alpha dominant and the volatility quite pronounced. There is something of a jammy quality, not so much a viscous or pejorative, pectin-laced presence on the palate but more like a reduction as barbera syrup or liqueur. The epitome of modern and produced. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted July 2017

Pico Maccario Barbera d’Asti DOCG Tre Rovere 2015, Piedmont, Italy (Winery WineAlign)

The “three oaks” saw to six months in barrel and along with an expressly coffee aroma there too is this sugary scent. Candied plums bring fruit depth and richness and the wine sings the high notes of volatility. It’s quite a tart treat, from liquid clay to blackberry in a combined and distilled affair. A moment of cotton candy is fleeting because the heavy clays and ferric accent take over, stirring up some bitters to mix with the sugars. A deferential and adjustable barbera that condones the ups and downs of the oeuvre. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted July 2017

Azienda Agricola Ivaldi Dario Barbera d’Asti DOC 2015, Piedmont, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

In the pantheon of red wine made from the barbera grape in Asti lands it is Andrea Ivaldi’s that stands out, like a beacon or a lighthouse, lit up to help mariners find the shore. In this case a summoning light set in a white limestone vineyard and it is the youngest member of the Ivaldi family who resides as the current superintendent of this special barbera. At a locally low 14 per cent alcohol and a hue so Monthelie transparent this is classic, innate, intense liquid stone, bled from the pietra bianca at 300 masl. The blessedly honest red fruit raised in cement tanks for one year is hypo-reductive and only 4,000-5,000 bottles are produced. So balanced, melting, oozing and brisk, structured even. Drink 2017-2021.  Tasted July 2017

Az. Agr. Garrone Evasio & Figlio Barbera d’Asti DOCG 2015, Piedmont, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

Garrone’s barbera climbs out of the silty marl and exhibits more VA than the others but in a good way. If perhaps it acts a bit acetic, it thus so hides its florals, though there is more texture and integration, gliding silky across the palate and finishing long. More complexity and interest here. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted July 2017  @vinigarrone

Michele Chiarlo Barbera d’Asti DOCG Le Orme 2015, Piedmont, Italy (265413, $13.95, WineAlign)

Le Orme or “the footsteps” spent 16 months in stainless steel, taken from variegated terroir; sandy, marly and coarser soils. It sheds developed florals and high yet stretched and creeping acidity and in turn length. The acumen and experience comes through, leading to more refinement and almost a creamy (though unwooded) texture on bright, juicy fruit. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted July 2017  michelechiarlo  univinscanada  @michelechiarlo  @UNIVINS  Michele Chiarlo  @UnivinsCanada

Castello Di Gabiano Marchesi Cattaneo Adorno Giustiniani Srl Barbera d’Asti DOCG La Braja 2015, Piedmont, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

Gabiano’s stands apart in a barbera tasting of 13 wines because of its naturally wild personality. Run free off sandy soils it saw 16 months in a combination of botti and barriques. Beyond barbera it also contains some grignolino and freisa, more tannin, certainly reductive (which easily blows off) and I’d even call it righteously and properly stinky. More developed and even wise, this has that acidity that travels up and down the sides of the mouth. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted July 2017  castellodigabiano  @CastelloGabiano  Gazzola Katia (Castello di Gabiano)

#risotto #ristorantelabarbera #costiglioledasti @costiglioleat

Rovero Barbera d’Asti DOCG Superiore Rouvé (Bio) 2014, Piedmont, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

Rovero’s wafts with the most perfume by a long shot, by a soaking up and in from 24 months in barrique. The waves of vanilla infiltrate the purple berries, much like Rioja and its wood perfume but in barbera it comes with so much acidity. Like chewing on a stick of wood dynamite overcompensating for fruit that didn’t stack up, though it would have been honest and pure to allow the fruit to talk anyway, in whatever voice it may have chosen. Drink 2018-2020.  Tasted July 2017

Luigi Coppo

Coppo Barbera d’Asti DOCG Pomorosso 2014, Piedmont, Italy (Agent, $74.95, WineAlign)

From the house that Piero Coppo built, now in the forward thinking acumen-saturated hands, heart and mind of Luigi Coppo, comes a barbera most ambitious and in 2014, likely to be misunderstood in the throes of its youth. Pomorosso carries the baggage and the experience of 125 years of history in pocket, is only produced in the best vintages and spends 14 months in French oak. A fair to challenging vintage makes cause and pause to consider it a case of over-oak usage because it still overwhelms the terroir while simultaneously in disavow and disallow for the vintage to speak. The big but factor is spoken with a simple term. Balance. Even while the wood is very much in charge the craft behind the scene fills the screen, like a sepia toned vintage movie reel, in which hard at work agriculturalists, agronomists and oenologists move in fast frame motion, tending to their barbera. Beautiful fruit defends itself, because and for the land, reeks through the wood, integrates acidity and lingers, long after the wood perfume has dissipated. Fast forward to the end of the film and enjoy in retrospective view, somewhere mid next decade, while the credits roll. Drink 2020-2028.  Tasted July 2017  coppo1892  maitredechai_ca  @COPPO1892  @maitredechai  @COPPO1892  Le Maître de Chai

Tenuta Il Falchetto Barbera d’Asti DOCG Pian Scorrone 2016, Piedmont, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

Sees some stainless steel and six months in acacia wood. From a mix of soils in the Piemontese tertiary basin, characterized by sedimentary rocks known as “Marnoso Arenacea,” deposited from a marine environment 30-35 million years ago. A lovely barbera in purity of fruit, perfume and balance. Varietal honesty and bright personality bring dark plum, great acidity and ultimately just a pleasure to drink. 2017-2019.  Tasted July 2017  tenutailfalchetto  @ilfalchettovini  @tenutailfalchetto

Az. Agr. Franco Roero Barbera d’Asti DOCG Carbune 2016, Piedmont, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

Roero’s is another stainless specimen but this time off of mixed soils cut across two sub-zones. The fruit here is rich, darker, spicy and the acidity less pronounced, rendered, melted in. It too is a pleasure to drink but not as bright as some, to be sure. Just a bit pressed, quite solid and hefty at 15.4 per cent alcohol. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted July 2017  franco_roero_winery  @FrancoRoeroVini  @franco.roero

Az. Agr. Franco Roero Barbera d’Asti Superiore Docg Mappale 213 2015, Piedmont, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

From Montegrosso d’Asti Roero’s Mappale takes a heat index step back from Carbuné and from 2016. In 2015 the single vineyard, single (213) block is vinified separately from the others (including Siché and Cellarino) and spends 18 months in large barrels. Still it’s a dark, hematic bruiser with Cassis and dark chocolate, plus the omnipresent energy of acidity. Also ropey, tart and glazed, almost to the point of deep caramel. Then again it always comes back to how young it is. Drink 2018-2023.  Tasted July 2017

Viticoltori Associati Vinchio e Vaglio Serra Barbera d’Asti DOCG Vigne Vecchie 2011, Piedmont, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

The use of generous oak on these old vines rings and scents into secondary notes, of creosote, graphite, vanilla, clove and dried fruit from strawberry to prune. This will soon be turning to figs, chocolate and balsamic when in a year or two the fruit is no longer willing to sing and the acidity will step back into a phase otherwise quiet. From vineyards in Montegrosso, with caramel, more vanilla, creaminess and Amarone like character in alcohol and a perception of sweetness. Drake 2017-2019.  Tasted July 2017  vinchiovaglioserra  @vinchiovaglio  @VinchioVaglioSerra

Marchesi Incisa Della Rocchetta Barbera d’Asti Superiore DOCG Sant’Emiliano 2015, Piedmont, Italy (SAQ, 12278202, $29.45, WineAlign)

Marchesi Incisa Della Rocchetta is from Sassiccaia fame and also a family with a long Piemontese tradition. Their barbera is aged 18 months in French barrels and hails from near (southeast) of Asti. It’s certainly posied and appointed though I can’t help but notice the five-spice, caramel and balsamic aspect. A highly refined if tart style, seriously structured and wholesome though balanced within that formidable framework. As it fleshes and expands it reveals more charm, with some grace and elegance, kept warm and safe from the elements with an expensive scarf to be sure. Drink 2018-2023.  Tasted July 2017  #marchesiincisadellarocchetta  vins.balthazard  #marchesiincisadellarocchetta  @vinsbalthazard  #marchesiincisadellarocchetta  @VinsBalthazard

Marco Bonfante Barbera d’Asti Superiore DOCG Menego 2011, Piedmont, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

Marco Bonfante’s barbera d’asti made from fruit all over the hill is called Menego, the nickname and in honour of his and Micaela’s father Domenico who passed away in 2000. At the top of Domenico’s hill is Il Bricco and it is this one and a half hectares of south-exposed fruit that separates this barbera from the broad expression that is Menego. The calcareous terroir defines this wine and though the journey here is a high octane, jammy developing one through 14 months in barriques, this is the (relatively speaking) elegant vintage. It stills clocks in at a minimum 15 per cent alcohol and delivers a firm, confident and authoritative message but its elasticity and length allow it to breathe. Still it does not merely wave but punches and is more of a shout than a whisper. At six years the window of pleasure is open, if only just the first crack. Drink 2017-2023.  Tasted July 2017  marcobonfantewinery  @MarcoBonfante70  @MarcoBonfanteWinery

Marco Bonfante Barbera d’Asti Superiore DOCG Menego 2012, Piedmont, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

What a difference a vintage makes, here in 2012 out of warmth and into the highest of alcohol level with intensely ripe fruit. Marco Bonfante does not mess around, stretching the elevations of brix and alcohol while maintaining the natural acidity of barbera and waiting it out so the phenolic ripeness can fall, or rather climb to the high line. That he finds a way to work some magic so that balance is achieved is nothing short of remarkable. The most grip, power and brooding comes out of the 2012, like Madiran tannat, Cahors malbec, Napa Valley Petit Sirah and northern Rhône syrah all rolled into one. But this is the genesis of the new barbera d’asti and only Bonfante pushes such limits and scores in the end. This 2012 is the striker every great football club somehow finds, at most times blending in but always the silent assassin. This Menego is coursing with chocolate, Cassis, espresso and black cherry. It’s just a huge wine, easily at the 16 per cent mark and structured to go a decade before any withering or wuthering. Tension builds all the way until the end. Wot Gorilla. Drink 2019-2027.  Tasted July 2017

Marco Bonfante Barbera d’Asti Superiore DOCG Menego 2009, Piedmont, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

In 2009 the hill supplied fruit ready to kill so at eight years Menego has entered its secondary phase. It will not be expected that either 2011 or 2012 will travel this far, this fast though the (more elegant) former will certainly get there quicker then (the massive) latter. A new complexity has emerged with the developing 2009, from out of and with a nod to the southwest facing calcareous vineyard. Cinnamon, orange and subtler spices now grace the aromatics, things the young and powerful Menego do not release. The accents make the eyebrows rise and when noted integrating into the chocolate coated palate there is a tickling sensation. Yet another immensely impressive moment with a Marco Bonfante bruiser is had but with some age the time spent is relenting and ultimately offering some relief. Drink 2017-2021.  Tasted July 2017

Erede Di Chiappone Barbera d’Asti DOCG Brentura 2013, Piedmont, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

From Daniele Chiappone and a 100 per cent stainless steel upbringing at four years old the Chiappone retains remarkable freshness, with not a moment of reduction or careless redirection. Some dried fruit on the nose is curious so changes are in the air but the Brentura’s structure outside of the wood realm is more solid than most. So too is the warmer, rounder and more breathable acidity, now so integrated. Marvellous example of what barbera d’sati can be. Drink 2017-2019. Tasted July 2017  erededi  @erededi  Erede Di Chiappone Armando

Gozzelino Barbera d’Asti Superiore DOCG Ciabot d’la Mandorla 2012, Piedmont, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

The underworld of gariga and earthy fox holes are accessed through Gozzelino’s well-aged 2012, a barbera that saw its biased share of barrel by way of a 24 months full soaking in (3000L) Grande Botti. It has emerged vinous and boxy, foxy and full of heavy set moxy, like dried fruit and jerky absorbing like sponges in a pool of campari and aperol. The rusticity is palpable, the figs and the chocolate baking with spice. The alcohol persists while the wine acts fading but it’s certainly persistent. Old-school, traditional, out there in the antediluvian void. Drink 2017-2018.  Tasted July 2017  Azienda Agricola Gozzelino Sergio

Moretti Adimari Barbera d’Asti Superiore DOCG 2015, Piedmont, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

Moretti’s Superiore takes barbera further, out of a stainless steel world and into barriques for eight months. Perfume and acidity are barbera hallmarks, here now merged nicely together, but it is texture that elevates the game. The chalkiness gained from sandy, Franco (white) limestone soils make for a rover of a barbera, through liquid mineral and made creamy by barrel. Moretti as a producer experiments with riesling, chardonnay and sauvignon blanc so there is no surprise this barbera travels hither and thither. And it works. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted July 2017  morettiadimariwines    @morettiadimariwines

Montalbera Barbera d’Asti Superiore DOCG Nuda 2013, Piedmont, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

Montalbera’s calcareous soils are the catalyst to keeping this barbera scaled back, with teeth still shining white after 20 months in barriques. The unfiltered, oak driven wine is astonishingly divine and elegantly integrated with so much dripping, oozing and glazing chocolate. It’s rich and fine if for certain a mess in a mouthful. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted July 2017  montalbera  @Montalbera  @montalbera

Berta Paolo Barbera d’Asti DOCG 2015, Piedmont, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

From vineyards located between the areas of Monferrato and Langa, Berta Paolo’s barbera is a ceremoniously traditional one, possessive of a walk the line beauty specific to the area, at once sonsy in pure red fruit and then volatile to just the right degree. Here is the sort of barbera that exemplifies the natural while unbeknownst to just how raw an affair it really is. Honesty oozes from one that succeeds in being real without even trying. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted July 2017 vinifamigliaberta  @wineBerta  @viniberta

Borgo Isolabella Delle Croce Barbera d’Asti DOCG 2015, Piedmont, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

Were that is were so simple for all barbera to take one road or the other, as does Isolabella’s on the darker, full-tempered side. This is so perfectly solid, structured, architecturally sound barbera, with classically styled columns and porticos, tart and with a wealth of 2015 fruit. It’s dark but health-tempered, ever so slightly tannic and streaming with fine natural acidity. So well made. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted July 2017  isolabelladellacroce2001  @ISOLABELLA_D_C_  @isolabelladellecroce

The history of @ilNizza began long ago. Prepare for its storied future. Exceptional tasting, stellar wines #barberadasti #100percent #100percentapproval #piemonte #progettovino #collision

Nizza DOCG and DOC

Bersano Barbera d’Asti Riserva Nizza DOCG Generala 2014, Piedmont, Italy (Agent, WineAlign)

Suave, refined, silky smooth barbera, of a warmth to express and make accessible the sense of its strength, power and alcohol. It is the exceptionality of texture that really shines. Bersano’s Nizza (Riserva) has already done its 30 months of aging time so it can be released 12 days from now. A true case of catching a wine at its potential best. As they say, timing is everything. Like on the stage so on a lighter, theatrical note this is perhaps an ode to 20th century Italian drama, to Signora Ignazia. “Dear, dear Signora! Hail to our great Generala! To our patron saint!” And yet we could do without the theatre, as long as we have barbera. Drink 2018-2024.  Tasted July 2017  bersano1907  profilewinegroup  @BERSANO1907  @ProfileWineGrp  @Bersanowine  Profile Wine Group

Bersano Barbera d’Asti Nizza DOC Generala 2013, Piedmont, Italy (Agent, WineAlign)

Something about the 2013 vintage speaks with such great clarity as it does here in Roberto Morosinotto’s barbera from Nizza fruit that spent six months in tonneaux. The chocolate swirl has palpably settled on the palate but it’s just so silky smooth, tempered and demonstrative. Acidity surely runs high, it is barbera after all, but it also drifts into and with the waves of plum, wood spice and just spice in generala. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted July 2017

Bersano Barbera d’Asti Nizza DOC Generala 2010, Piedmont, Italy (Agent, WineAlign)

The summer of extreme heat (though perhaps holding no candle compared to 2017) has delivered a warm to warmest Bersano barbera with a calming effect achieved by cooling time spent in big barrels that date back to 1970. This ’10 is possessive of that sort of delicious perception of sweetness that puts it up there with the richest of the Nizza barbera. The élevage is half and half tonneaux/barriques and texture is full of this Mediterranean liquorice/black olive/gariga/briny tang. Nicely structured to last in this state for another three years. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted July 2017

Bersano Barbera d’Asti Nizza DOC Generala 2008, Piedmont, Italy (Agent, WineAlign)

Another excellent vintage for the Generala is found to be sound and generous at the nine year mark though the fully developed secondary character is duly noted. Helps to prepare and deduce a clear impression of where 2010 will go over the next two to three years. This ’08 has not quite reached the denouement stage though it has peaked, reeking resinous of fruit and wood clasped in a lover’s humid embrace, with notes of dried orange, apricot, fig jam, tar and roses. The acidity still rages quite assiduously while the briny and ecoregion earthy brush have now faded and disappeared from the fragrance trail. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted July 2017

Il Botolo Barbera d’Asti Nizza DOCG 2014, Piedmont, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

From soils with quite a bit of sediment, in the northeast part of Nizza. Quite the silky feel following on the heels of refinement and freshness. A liquid liqueur that is close to syrup but more of a natural feel, without tonic or medicine, but just pure limestone liquid fruit. The sort of tart that is elongated, elastic and stretched with ease. Drink early because it’s quite a glassful of immediate pleasure. Grows on you too. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted July 2017

Cascina Garitina Barbera d’Asti Superiore “900” Neuvsent CEC Nizza DOCG 2014, Piedmont, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

Why 900? Because Giancarlo Morino’s momma began working here in the 1900s but the local dialect was spoken so quickly so it was just, “900.” The vineyard “CEC” is pronounced “check,” or short for Francesca, who used to own the vineyard. From the (Castel Boglione) southern part of Nizza with higher acidity and alcohol, here at 15 per cent. Aged 12 months in barrel, there is some deep organic clay and (three) old vineyard (1924, 1949 and 1954) induced layering, astringency and brooding, of a seriousness about it that makes it dense and a bit tempered, finishing with dark chocolate. A minty, savoury and sapid streak runs through, likely with thanks to the cooling Mediterranean “Marin” winds that blow through the vineyards from spring to autumn. Well done but needs as much as five to seven years to show as silky and refined as some of the others. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted July 2017  cascinagaritina  @gianlucamorino  Gianluca Morino (Vignaiolo indipendente)

I’ve got 900 reasons to drink these @gianlucamorino #cascinagaritina #nizza but need only one #nizzamonferrato #progettovino #collisionimonferrato #cec #neuvsent #barberadasti

Cascina Garitina Barbera d’Asti Superiore “900” Neuvsent Nizza DOC 2010, Piedmont, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

Having tasted Gianluca Morino’s 2014 earlier in the day it makes this follow up, retrospective look at his 2010 such a satisfying confirmation of his work. That ’14 was way too young to make lifelong friends with but this ’10, well this is something other. While still a seriously brooding, hematic, ganache spread of fine chocolate barbera, the components have filled the kettle to overflowing, but time has worked to now emit a floral and spice perfume. The richness of oak has also rendered a touch of complexity, of caramel and baking spice but even further, into secondary beginnings. The tones are aromatic, musical and textural, of sweet, salty and faintly sour by a fineness of acidity. One more year will bring it all together. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted July 2017

Michele Chiarlo Barbera d’Asti Superiore Nizza DOCG Cipressi 2014, Piedmont, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

From a loamy locale, aged in large oak barrels, there is a rusticity about it along with its really dark cherry fruit. Some Bretty volatility too, complexity, character, oomph and reason for living. Quite high in acidity and structure is provided by that ideal with addendum by the gentle touch afforded by the higher oxygen exchange, large format wood. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted July 2017  michelechiarlo  univinscanada  @michelechiarlo  @UNIVINS  Michele Chiarlo  @UnivinsCanada

Michele Chiarlo Barbera d’Asti Superiore Nizza DOCG La Court 2013, Piedmont, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

Chiarlo’s La Court is actually one of the only Nizza barbera with a hard to get, slightly reserved character. It’s aromas are a bit muted though you get the sense that it’s quite floral behind the veil. Patience and air reveal dark fruits, of plum and black raspberry, then dusty earth and liquorice, with a silky patterning on the palate. Would love to get some wood spice but that too is currently in limbo so time is required to reveal such charm. The acidity is less than barbera raging, something that falls into line with the sneaky structure. Quite singular Nizza cru work right here. Drink 2018-2023.  Tasted July 2017

Viticoltori Associati Vinchio Vaglio Serra Barbera d’Asti Superiore Nizza DOCG Laudana 2014, Piedmont, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

From the hill known as “Bricco Laudana” this is one of two barberas produced from its clay and sandy marls, a barbera d’asti DOC and this extraordinary Nizza DOCG. The Nizza is aged one year in large oak barrels, thus mixing grace, elegance and full on liqueur with high, nearing acetic acidity. Very long but with angular bits and spikes in and out of the morello cherry fruit. Needs a year to settle in and amongst its sharp, moving parts. The cru is farmed by five or six producers and certainly one to watch, explore and anticipate the subsequent glory that near-future vintages will bring. Drink 2018-2024.  Tasted July 2017  vinchiovaglioserra  @vinchiovaglio  @VinchioVaglioSerra

Viticoltori Associati Vinchio Vaglio Serra Barbera d’Asti Superiore Nizza DOC Laudana 2012, Piedmont, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

Laudana is a warm and inviting barbera, dark with an ambling, rusty variegate, almost traditionally rustic but with a silky texture. Its notes play sweet and sour red fruits, namely raspberry and its constitution is right proper Nizza with the sort of traditional feel to demand not just attention but a raison d’être that says,”grant us our own DOCG.” It’s a dusty and vinous affair, like fully realized merlot with elevated alcohol, acidity and good phenolic ripeness. A solid, unafraid and unabashed barbera to represent the denomination with confidence and poise. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted July 2017

Azienda Agricola Ivaldi Dario Barbera d’Asti Superiore Nizza DOCG “1613” 2014, Piedmont, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

Ivaldi Dario’s barbera captures the honesty, clarity and purity of Nizza Monferrato, from grapes grown on clay-limestone soils and from vines 50 years of age. This perfectly suited barbera was aged in large Slavonian oak barrels and in 2014 turned out lithe and beautiful at 13.5 per cent. It’s tart as it should be, recounting a brief bit of tradition, earthiness and volatility. This is the most decent and convivial barbera of the lot, from longer, slower maceration with less pump overs and no unnecessary barriques aging. The lighter hue is vintage related but also house-curated, not to (re) mention classic styling. Picked early? Perhaps. Most important is that it is progressively hands-off, proper and most appreciated winemaking to celebrate a white limestone terroir. Drink 2018-2023.  Tasted July 2017  andrea.ivaldi  @ivaldidario  @vinidelmonferrato

Azienda Agricola Ivaldi Dario Barbera d’Asti Superiore Nizza DOC “1613” 2012, Piedmont, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

Few persuasions in the schemes of wine assessments are more fascinating to study than vintage variation, always great signs and portents from the fringe growing regions of the world. Monferrato is one such place, affected by swings in climatic conditions from year to year, raised here in magnification through the lens of Andrea Ivaldi’s multi-faceted barbera. The depth and structure in this ’12 is so contrary to the bright eyed ’14, now richer and almost brooding, even for Nizza. Ivaldi is a house with a self-predicated idiosyncrasy but here it speaks with Nizza style, perhaps antithetically reflexive but still with fruit that echoes from its manifest gaze into a mirror. Andrea makes exactly what the vintage gives, with blacker than red fruit bruised with a variegated hematoma and yet layered with a mineral underlap from that white limestone hill. As an arrangement it’s bigger than even he would likely have wanted to fashion but he’s a pragmatic winemaker who had to pick his fruit by September 20th. Do the math and see the forest for the trees. Drink 2017-2022.  Tasted July 2017

Berta Paolo Barbera d’Asti Superiore Nizza DOCG La Berta 2014, Piedmont, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

The Berta family wine estate dates back to 1842 with vineyards located between the areas of Monferrato and Langa. Their Nizza barbera d’asti is aged in large 500L oak barrels, lending a perfume that lingers long after this textured wine has stretched into the long aftertaste. Berta’s is quite a warm, rich, welling and dense example, fine liquid grainy, weighty and youthfully cumbersome. Having been afforded the opportunity to taste some older examples later the same day really put this one into perspective and provided a deeper understanding of Nizza structure. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted July 2017  vinifamigliaberta  @wineBerta  @viniberta

Berta Paolo Barbera d’Asti Superiore Nizza DOC La Berta 2011, Piedmont, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

The Nizza DOCG was added to Asti’s barbera portfolio in 2014 so this predates the appellative status, though for real intents and purposes this ’11 serves the same purpose. From a hotter than hot summer though the aromatics hide the thought and so you would never know just how warm it was. The palate speaks a different story with a deep-seated liqueur distilled from the top of the Berta Paolo terroir, a 40-70 year old set of plantings at Il Bricco, “The kettle” vineyard, 270 meters above sea level. The veins of this plot stretched over the hill of San Michele at Nizza Monferrato are the reason for Berta Paola’s distinct barbera texture. In 2011 this translates to a creamy, dreamy, suave and fine leathery parochial wine. Another example to set up one’s mind to realize what later vintages will turn out to be. Drink 2017-2022.  Tasted July 2017

If 2014 is anything like 2008 the future will shine on #famigliaberta #barberadasti @ilnizza Riserva #progettovino #collisionimonferrato

Berta Paolo Barbera d’Asti Superiore Nizza DOC La Berta 2008, Piedmont, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

More traditional than ever, partly and certainly because of age but also in an era that predates the level of current Nizza Monferrato understanding. This travels into a secondary, present state savour with the still flowing liqueur of the San Michele terroir. Speaks an older school, barrel-influenced vernacular, of a chocolate and vanilla vocabulary with an edge of Brett and volatility. Character from another time and quite persistent in voice. Drink 2017-2018.  Tasted July 2017

Villa Giada Barbera d’Asti Superiore Nizza DOCG Bricco Dani 2014, Piedmont, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

Here from Andrea Faccio struts with great confidence the dark, hematic, ferric and brooding barbera. A very serious Nizza, mercury rising, full on chocolate, espresso and an oily tar, imagining a nebbiolo-like modernity that places this in a stylistic and über-specific category. High acidity, some grainy tannin and sharp finishings so this needs some time. More than any other thus far in the Nizza DOCG flights. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted July 2017  villagiadawine  Andrea Faccio

Bava Barbera d’Asti Superiore Nizza DOCG Pianoalto 2014, Piedmont, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

A large (500L) barrel aging, this is highly, beautifully perfumed, restrained and deliciously tart. Savoury, herbal and tomato leaf herbal, from a hill with a crest, “the high plain,” or plateau. A current of currants, bell pepper and really ripe acidity. This is the most proper use of barrels, generous but exceptional. The most energy of all, modern and yet somehow classic, even traditional. Drink 2018-2025.  Tasted July 2017  bavawinery  @bavawinery  @bava.winery

Bava Barbera d’Asti Superiore Nizza DOC Pianoalto 2007, Piedmont, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

Barbera’s secondary moments are upon the 10 year-old Pianoalto though the wine still slides across the palate with creamy barrel texture. Notes of fig and prune are a case of a hot and dry vintage with very low yields. The nose has matured into a perfume only lifted now by the persistence of barbera’s elevated acidity so this continues to fly at a decent altitude. It’s quite perfect at the ripe old age. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted July 2017

Bava Barbera d’Asti Superiore Nizza DOC Pianoalto 2001, Piedmont, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

Certainly showing its age at 16 and perhaps not as long-lasting due to what was at the time a middle of the road sort of vintage. It was a low and slow, no real heat to speak of, natural and organically rendered season so the wine has in turn done the same in kind. Now into the tertiary it has little to no bite or reason to put up a fight. What does persist is a chocolate, espresso and spice sprinkling, then down towards a slightly sharp, tart and done with it finish. Tannins are now only woody but all in all it’s a curious and worthy look back at turn of the century Nizza. Drink 2017-2018.  Tasted July 2017

La Gironda Barbera d’Asti Nizza DOCG Le Nicchie 2014, Piedmont, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

A barbera return to dark fruit, glycerin into texture across a silky smooth palate. From old vines, many exceeding 50 years. Real concentration and developed fruit with an underlay of stone and clay. It’s rich and intense but not dense, warm but not searing. Everything rising but cresting, on a plateau where it can be handled. Structure is clear and obvious. Take this one deep into the cellar. Drink 2018-2025.  Tasted July 2017  la_gironda  @LaGironda  Susanna Galandrino

La Gironda Barbera d’Asti Nizza DOC Le Nicchie 2011, Piedmont, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

The vintage for Le Nicchie is deep, dark and handsome, with fruit woven into texture rich and thick, with lots of wood and lit-scented herbs. Smells like rosemary and thyme stalks thrown on an open flame. It’s also almost impossibly silky and smooth while in management of quite refined acidity and tannin. Very polished Nizza barbera. Drink 2019-2023.  Tasted July 2017

La Gironda Barbera d’Asti Nizza DOC Le Nicchie 2007, Piedmont, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

La Gironda’s is yet another 2007 that exhibits very high acidity. It was in fact a hot vintage that concentrated fruit but also that omniscient barbera acidity. Seems very young, almost impulsively so. The flavours are of an extreme Nizza variety, like a slice of Cru cake (in this case Le Nicchie) swimming in a syrupy pool of its own deeply reduced demi-glacé. For fans of barbera density with haute couture style and this is how this house does what they do best. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted July 2017

La Gironda Barbera d’Asti Nizza DOC Le Nicchie 2003, Piedmont, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

As hot as a vintage like 2007 might have been it held no fingertip burning candle to the likes of the scorcher of 2003. In the case of La Gironda and its Le Nicchie Cru the heat played right into the hands of the house style. This is quite a remarkable specimen because despite the warmth and the time elapsed this barbera is just in the early throes of secondary life, so the level of structure is quite astounding. The heavy wood aspect fully renders in chocolate tones piqued with spice. The combinative use of barriques and tonneaux has struck an accord and this still clings to viable life even if it’s quite the molten chocolate bomb. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted July 2017

Tenuta Olim Bauda Barbera d’Asti Superiore Nizza DOCG 2014, Piedmont, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

Few barbera from Nizza’s recently appointed DOCG are as polished as Gianni Bertolino’s ’14, a long developed piemontese that spent two years in large barrels. The fruit is really ripe, pushed to the limit of the vintage but just cresting at the edge of dried fruit and the tawny, figgy spectrum. Wild strawberry keeps it fruity and earthy, acidity is round and still in charge, thankfully, for the building and beguiling effect of great structure. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted July 2017  tenuta_olimbauda hobbsandcompany  @tenutaolimbauda  @hobbsandco  hobbsandcompany

Tenuta Olim Bauda Barbera d’Asti Superiore Nizza Doc 2011, Piedmont, Italy (SAQ 11383570, $37.50, WineAlign)

From a hot vintage, especially in summer but the warmth was managed by enough cool nights. Gianni Bertolino tells me about picking on acidity, not sugar, in mid-September. Here is the generous, extremely fresh, tart and silky barbera. A seriously classy, chic, racy and almost perfectly modern wine, very much an acumen-acquiesced and benchmark leader for the Nizza appellation. Drink 2017-2023.  Tasted July 2017

Tenuta Olim Bauda Barbera d’Asti Superiore Nizza Doc 2010, Piedmont, Italy (SAQ 11383570, $37.50, WineAlign)

Earlier in the day it was Gianni Bertolino who commented on barbera from Nizza being a six-year wine. His 2010 must have hit its stride at just about exactly the six year mark because here in its seventh just the beginnings of secondary character are showing their tell tale signs. It’s in cantilever mode, stretching out over the barbera abyss, unfurling its wings and truly opening to reveal its charms. Though the acidity still burns, churns and plays devil’s advocate to the depth of fruit and territory, the wood has melted enough to reign in that sapidity and balance is coming into order. It may come as a surprise to find the acidity warm but no longer sharpening its stone but where chocolate, dried fruit (namely plum) and spice are concerned this will be the result. Yet so much life persists in this ubiquitously defined cru of a Nizza. Drink 2017-2022.  Tasted July 2017

Cantina Tre Secoli Barbera d’Asti Superiore Nizza DOCG 2014, Piedmont, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

Cooperative rendered barbera, aged for one year in small barrels. Soil is equally spread across several vineyards, from a rock, sand and loam accrue. Amenable, approachable, warm and vibrant acidity, dark fruit and negligible tannin. Some sweetness, black cherry, berry and fig. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted July 2017  #cantinatresecoli  @TRESECOLI  @tresecoli1887

Cantina Tre Secoli Barbera d’Asti Superiore Nizza DOCG 2011, Piedmont, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

It takes but a sip of the Tre Secoli 2011 to gain an understanding in comparison as to where the afore-tasted 2014 is heading. Few Nizza barbera swim with such full on chocolate and dried fruit depth and while the kinship resemblance between the two wines is uncanny, the heat of this ’11 vintage has brought on some fully realized evolution. The richness is all in, drying out and truffles are just around the next bend. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted July 2017

A quadrato of big, bold and balanced @MarcoBonfante70 #barberadasti @ilNizza Bricco Bonfante #progettovino #collisionimonferrato

Marco Bonfante Barbera d’Asti Superiore Riserva Nizza DOCG Bricco Bonfante 2014, Piedmont, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

In the hills of Nizza and Val di Sacca, Bonfante takes a deferential approach with some drying of the grapes for a handful of days, but unlike the three to four months as in Amarone. His fruit is aged in a combination of small and large oak barrels for 20 months. The extra concentration leads to higher sugar content and therefore elevated (15-16 per cent) alcohol but the wine is vinified dry. Sourced from the Bricco, top of the hill on calcareous clay marl. In the end this is a thick, viscous, shaken but certainly refined and balanced barbera in its large format, unabashed and even braggart style. Drink 2019-2026. Tasted July 2017  marcobonfantewinery  @MarcoBonfante70  @MarcoBonfanteWinery

Marco Bonfante Barbera d’Asti Superiore Riserva Nizza DOC Bricco Bonfante 2012, Piedmont, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

Bricco Bonfante is the one and a half hectare family vineyard though it’s not necessary to label the wine “vigna.” Bricco works just fine. Now the comparison (to the barbera d’asti Superiore) becomes clear because the silk and elegance is noted in clean and pure Nizza. The 5,500 density of vines producing 4,000 bottles works out mathematically to 800 grams of fruit per plant, a number nothing short of ridiculous economics. With necessity the mother of invention the quality must run high and so 24 months in new barriques is bequeathed the precious fruit. The bricco exalted is the origin of the barbera that delivers prescience, presence and a preciseness of being. The hill is the thing, the vineyard its totem, the hot vintage adding heat early and on repeat, at 15.5 degrees alcohol (declared) so ripe, so big and with structure so in control. Drink 2019-2027.  Tasted July 2017

Marco Bonfante Barbera d’Asti Superiore Riserva Nizza DOC Bricco Bonfante 2011, Piedmont, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

The vintage is in fact not so completely unlike the 2012 if perhaps a step taken back, away from power, terribilita and the heat. The palate has already begun to relent into a Nizza meets Bricco Bonfante sweetness and the tannins have resolved one notch down to a point closer to understanding. As a result there is more polish to Marco’s 2011 and a finer layer of silk. Here for the first time there is this purity of dark cherries mixed into the finest chocolate and a touch of secondary character development in balsamic. Should be good to go this time next year. Drink 2018-2024.  Tasted July 2017

Marco Bonfante Barbera d’Asti Superiore Riserva Nizza DOC Bricco Bonfante 2010, Piedmont, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

Travelling in reverse down along a Marco Bonfante vertical is a most interesting exercise and makes so much sense. The 2010 is so similar to 2011, even more than how that ’11 compares with 2012. The fruit in ’10 is less pitchy, in delivery of red to black berries (or black raspberry to be precise) and yet the silky thread runs through the red. The same 24 months in new barriques sends this reeling into the plum chocolate pudding as a veritable bomb of a Nizza barbera. There are some who might find the stylistic overbearing, weighty and dense. They would not be wrong but they would be missing the Bricco point, of a matter that comes from the top of the hill with lowest of the low yields out of a rarity of rarities vineyard. There is no denying the acumen and the ambition but also, mostly the necessity. Drink 2017-2021.  Tasted July 2017

Marco Bonfante Barbera d’Asti Superiore Riserva Nizza DOC Bricco Bonfante 2009, Piedmont, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

It was beginning to look like no matter how far back you travel in a Bricco Bonfante Nizza vertical there would be no signs of evolution, that is until you hit this 2009. Here the first to begin an inkling into secondary notes, if only the etchings of spice symbols and wood derived pericopes. There is also a faint, around the corner idea of tar and candied roses, or perhaps they’ve already begun to join the scented party. I find this 2009 quite cru Barolo-like and it’s interesting to note that this was Marco’s first Nizza Bricco. It also happens to be the one with the most apparent fruit, or perhaps time is the factor needed for such a reveal. It travels from red to black and back. Really quite amazing. Drink 2017-2021.  Tasted July 2017

Godello, Michele Longo, Michaela Morris and Dr. Michael Apstein

L’Armangia Barbera d’Asti Superiore Nizza DOC Titon 2013, Piedmont, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

Titon is a blend of three estate vineyards planted between 1934 and 1990. The plots are also a mix of exposures; southeast, east and west, with warm temperatures abundant throughout. This barbera runs a fever of acidity, doles out plenty of chocolate, has yet to fully integrate its wood and is truly well made Nizza. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted July 2017  armangia.giuly  @LARMANGIA

L’Armangia Barbera d’Asti Superiore Nizza DOC Vignali 2011, Piedmont, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

Vignali is the single-vineyard barbera from the estate vineyard planted in 1934. An approximate 24 months of barrel aging is performed before it then ages in bottle for a further 24 months. At first there are the new 300L oak casks, then small 130L barrels for 12 months and finally large casks for 10-12 months more. Well, all this to say that Vignali is fully involved in its secondary stage of life. It is a most mature barbera, with the three holy trinity tenets of chocolate, balsamic and high level acidity all working as one. The soil and barbera tang is fully felt. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted July 2017

L’Armangia Barbera d’Asti Superiore Nizza DOC Vignali 2010, Piedmont, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

A later harvest developed riper fruit with higher phenolics and with seven years under its belt that fruit is drying nicely. Chocolate as always with figs, raisins, apricots and as expected balsamic, though here with a shot of dark espresso. All of the above on repeat and that big barbera acidity. Drink 2017-2018.  Tasted July 2017

Going back to @ilNizza for a lesson in what tomorrow will bring @Coppo1892 Grazie Luigi #barbera #barberadasti #riservadellafamiglia

Coppo Barbera d’Asti Nizza Superiore DOC Riserva di Famiglia 2009, Piedmont, Italy (Agent, $74.95, WineAlign)

From a small cru located in Castelnuovo Calcea, born in 1998, “a project, not only a wine,” explains Luigi Coppo. Only produced in the best vintages, the previous being 2007 and the next will be 2010, though this ’09 is undoubtedly the finest. “It’s not a wine of economics,” continues Coppo, but a single-vineyard expression for people to think outside the barbera box. It shares less history than Pomorosso and thus the reason why it is only selected from very specific vintages, “to work on the craft.” Few if any Barbera d’Asti carry such precision and presence. It’s adult candy, wise and layered, the key to making great barbera right here, in this texture. Expertly woven are fruit, wood and acidity so that all are blended, with no ego, nothing taken for granted, all in balance. Drink 2017-2027.  Tasted July 2017  coppo1892  maitredechai_ca  @COPPO1892  @maitredechai  @COPPO1892  Le Maître de Chai

Coppo Barbera d’Asti Nizza Superiore DOC Riserva di Famiglia 2007, Piedmont, Italy (AgentWineAlign)

Higher acidity in 2007 and alcohol pushing at 15.3 per cent (as opposed to 14.7 in 2009) don’t mean the world has come to end but it does make for an electric Nizza barbera. Even then Coppo could be pragmatic when it was called for so the wood use in this barbera was increased, to soak up some of that fantasy and see if the components could strike a balance in accord. You can really sense the fineness of silk on the palate. Still so beautifully managed, or rather you can intuit looking ahead 10 years from signsin this 2007 how in future vintages the winemaker will know how to manage the realities of vintage variable acidities, through the adjustments in wood and how that will determine the levels of tannin. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted July 2017.

Borgo Isolabella Delle Croce Barbera d’Asti Superiore Nizza Doc Augusta 2009, Piedmont, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

All the Isolabella wines receive a girl’s name, in this instance Augusta, a vineyard selection from a couple of sites on each side of the village limits and named after the proprietor’s sister. The estate produces only 90,000 bottles, each highly specialized and this barbera comes out of the highly prized vintage. In retrospect and with the fortune to taste several 2009s in one walkabout it is now obvious that the season bequeathed the gift of age on its wines. Great because of an extra fineness of acidity from a grape that always gives this way but in Isolabella’s 2009 there is this cool, savoury, reserved character, not unusual but balanced in equal opposition to the strength of perfume and body. A delicato is expressed in what may be referred to as an ultra-über special 2009. Drink 2017-2025.  Tasted July 2017  isolabelladellacroce2001  @ISOLABELLA_D_C_  @isolabelladellecroce

A deep #eredichiappone vertical delve with Daniele for perspective and a release of endorphins @ilNizza possibilities #progrettovini #collisionimonferrato

Erede Di Chiappone Barbera d’Asti Superiore Nizza DOC RU 2011, Piedmont, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

Daniele Chiappone’s 2011 is his richest, warmest, most wood affected barbera replete with an armament of spice. While still in the care of its 16 per cent alcohol frame it is a most underdeveloped specimen but because it’s so big and burly it can’t help but reek, ooze and sweat out the aching masala of aromatics. In talking with Daniele he fully admits this to be the vintage of great demand and pressure so he simply made the wine it asked for. I liken this to Amarone from vintages like 2010 and 2011, unavoidable and so a great winemaker will simply do what must be done and try to seek out balance in a bold and crazy world. With fine acidity void of spikes, peaks and valleys Chappione puts this barbera in a state of equilibrium however high the plain may be. Give this two years minimum to integrate and match it with some lean venison over a bed of tangy polenta. Drink 2019-2027.  Tasted July 2017

Erede Di Chiappone Barbera d’Asti Superiore Nizza DOC RU 2010, Piedmont, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

Chappione’s 2010 is barbera of a powerful maturation and its polyphenolics are quite different than those from 2011. The hard skins, noted by Daniele as pelli durissime might lead to a personality ostinata impermeabilità but a longer maceration broke them down, turned the opposite around to make them flexible and permeable. Though still tightly wound and not yet pliant this precise and very present 2010 of intrinsic structural value will make use of another year in bottle to soften its pertinacious fibres. When it opens up it will bloom, but ever so slowly, over a 15-20 year plan. Its crazy legs, choice acidities and quality tannins will all conspire towards longevity of the indiction degree. Drink 2019-2027.  Tasted July 2017

Erede Di Chiappone Barbera d’Asti Superiore Nizza DOC RU 2006, Piedmont, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

RU by Daniele Chiappone is this, at first something altogether inexplicable but when tasted alongside his 2005, 2010 and 2011 it makes such perfect sense. Sense in where this fits in his evolution and to speak on behalf of the age-worthy ability of Nizza barbera. In a world where barbera perfume so often performs with perfunctory brevity this goes on and on. It is a unique combination of fennel frond, incense, hibiscus and violet to create an intoxicant and an anaesthetic. Yet another exceptional vintage is revealed, traditional and so alive, spun from earth crusting over cherry and then this smooth leather. The portal backwards 10 years allows for looks forward 10 more, especially into what’s coming from 2015 and 2016. To say the match with a prodigiously spiced in aromatic ragu over linguine was agreeable would be the understatement of the Monferrato century. Perfectly timed acidity seals the deal. This is barbera folks, of wit, age and history. Drink 2017-2021.  Tasted July 2017

Erede Di Chiappone Barbera d’Asti Superiore Nizza DOC RU 2005, Piedmont, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

The vintage was a tough one with some hail and difficult to get the grapes into a state of full maturity. It’s amazing how winemakers remember every painful moment of a vintage like 2005 and Daniele Chiappone recalls picking in the first week of October. While that may not be wholly unusual for the RU cru it is quite a late Piemonte harvest. This RU carries deep, dark depth in currant fruit, in a realm where cabernet franc hooks up with nebbiolo and sires a love child. Side by side with 2010 it is really just the quality of tannins that truly sets the two apart and here the chemical reactions in the natural world bring about spice; cinnamon, star anise and then this eminence of Chiappone acidity. In Nizza it is this speciality that is both singular and distinct that creates such a structured feeling of éclat, or in the case of Chiappone, fulgore. Drink 2017-2022.  Tasted July 2017

Il contingente canadese @Collisioni #nizza #barberalovers #represent #progettovino #piemonte

Thanks for reading up on the wines of Barbera d’Asti and Nizza Monferrato. Let’s all hope we begin to see more options in both categories made available here in Ontario. A special thanks to Ian D’Agata, Michele Longo, Michaela Morris, Giulia Corino and the entire Collisioni crew.

Good to go!


Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello


Seventeen in VINTAGES February 4th, 2017


as seen on WineAlign

Familiar and not so familiar Europe, always cool chardonnay, seeing South African red (and a white)

These past two weeks have been difficult, bizarre and disturbing to say the least. No one is immune to thinking about the twists, turns and horrors of recent world events. With no disrespect to activism, especially on a personal level, at WineAlign our job as critics is to find ways to keep the machine running, in other words, to focus on wine. In 1975 Saturday Night Live did a skit in which Paul Simon played one-on-one basketball against one-time Harlem Globetrotter and NBA legend Connie Hawkins. Just before the game sports reporter Marv Albert asks Simon about his strategy in going up against The Hawk. “Uh, but I’ll just have to play my game, as I usually play it,” says Simon. “I mean, I’m not gonna change anything, I’ve gotta stay with my strengths… basically, singing and songwriting.” At WineAlign we’ll simply do the same.

Wines across the Mediterranean are a primary focus of the VINTAGES February 4th release. A great number of them will coax a feeling of familiarity and there are others that may not ring a bell. In any particular wine purchasing scheme it is always best to strike a balance between the poles of available options so best approached by looking to one and then the other. While France, Spain and Italy will always deliver the tried and true, a gem of a geeky or otherwise deferential varietal can be unearthed if your mind and your heart are open. Get into the corners and alleys of habituated Europe but also a place like Greece. You will marvel at how it can change your outlook to usher in the most interesting of times, in life and in wine.

Related – Only one in VINTAGES January 21st, a writer’s defence and nine more

A view through Vouraikos Canyon from Mega Spileo Vineyard

A view through Vouraikos Canyon from Mega Spileo Vineyard

Don’t worry. I’m not going to run off and wax rhapsodic about wines found “off the beaten path,” argue on the semantics of what exactly that means or how it should be defined. But I will tell you a little story. In July of 2016 I visited one of Europe’s most extraordinary vineyards, found in Achaia, located in the northern Peloponnese. At the top of this incredible canyon you stand at the foot of another even more imposing and massive rock face that is home to the 11th century Mega Spileo monastery. Gazing north through the cracks in the mountain cragges you can see the azure blue waters of the Gulf of Corinth. Looking straight down you see the greenery of the healthy Mega Spileo vineyard. The entire footage leaves an indelible mark. What’s the point? The point is to get out there and make discoveries. This also applies to what can be found in the VINTAGES catalogue.

Related – Seventeen for January 7, 2017


Chardonnay is always in the spotlight so why should February 4th be any different? This past summer at Niagara’s Cool Chardonnay conference I found out that we have to look at organoleptics and ask a very important question. Is your expectation of a Chablis going to be the same as chardonnay made from anywhere else? More important, who are we putting this wine in front of? Ian D’agata’s take struck a Canadian chord. He talked of “a welcome astringency characterized by piercing flavours. These are cool-climate wines. Cool climate chardonnay is not about a long litany of fruit descriptors. If you have a cool-climate viticultural area it behooves you to give the people what they are looking for.” More cool chardonnay examples available on this release are worthy of your time and your dollars.

Bush vines, Groot Drakenstein Mountains @AnthonijRupert Wyne @WOSACanada #lormarins #franschhoek #southafrica #winesofsouthafrica #mesmerizing

Bush vines, Groot Drakenstein Mountains @AnthonijRupert Wyne @WOSACanada #lormarins #franschhoek #southafrica #winesofsouthafrica #mesmerizing

South Africa is a geographical and geological land of wonder, of ancient soils and picturesque intrusions. Extreme examples include the shale and schist of Swartland that turns into dust and the granite domes of Paarl, which are 30 million years old. We are talking about beginning of time stuff, but how does it impart into wine? Taste more than just a few South African reds and you will get a sense.

I’ve said it before and will repeat myself. South African wine is not what we thought it was. This mantra can’t be repeated often enough. Ventures into the Cape wine lands, tastings and zealous immersion into Stellenbosch, Paarl, Franschhoek, Swartland and Hemel-En-Aarde see to that. If you’ve not visited you can’t possibly know what revelations lurk but you can get a glimpse by drinking South African wines here in Ontario.

Familiar Europe


Sierra Cantabria Selección 2014, Doca Rioja, Spain (Agent190520$14.95, WineAlign)
@RiojaWine  @azureau


Château d’Or et de Gueules Les Cimels 2013, AC Costières de Nîmes, France (Agent480301, $15.95, WineAlign)
  @RhoneWine  @VINSRHONE  @NaturalVines

Grand Cru Riesling, Alsace

Grand Cru Riesling, Alsace

Jean Biecher & Fils Schoenenbourg Riesling 2014, AC Alsace Grand Cru, France (Agent, 469767, $23.95, WineAlign)
  @AlsaceWines  @drinkAlsace  @VinsAlsace


Five terroirs of Ricasoli

Barone Ricasoli Castello di Brolio Gran Selezione Chianti Classico 2013, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (Agent, 942607, $59.95, WineAlign)
@barone_ricasoli  @chianticlassico  @imbibersreport

Not-so familiar Europe

There's a new obsession in town- #campania @vinalois #falanghina #greco #fiano #aglianico #pallagrello #pallagrellonero #palagrellobianco #cassavecchia #pontepellegrino #therealcampania #massimoalois #vinialois #brandnewdaywines #bndwines

There’s a new obsession in town- #campania @vinalois #falanghina #greco #fiano #aglianico #pallagrello #pallagrellonero #palagrellobianco #cassavecchia #pontepellegrino #therealcampania #massimoalois #vinialois #brandnewdaywines #bndwines

Ponte Pellegrino Greco di Tufo 2015, IGT Campania, Italy (Agent477760, $13.95, WineAlign)


Prunotto Mompertone 2015, DOC Monferrato, Piedmont, Italy (Agent, 388587, $18.95, WineAlign)


Tommasi Poggio Al Tufo Alicante 2013, IGT Toscana, Italy (Agent, 70797, $22.95, WineAlign)
@UNIVINS  @Tommasiwine

Mega Spileo Monastery

Mega Spileo Monastery

Domain Mega Spileo Red 2010, Peloponnese, Greece (Agent, 466110, $29.95, WineAlign)


Domaine F L Savennières Chenin 2012, AC Loire, France (Agent470971, $33.95, WineAlign)
@DomaineFL  @vinsdeloire


Maximin Grünhäuser Abtsberg Riesling Spätlese 2014, Pradikätswein, Germany (Agent, 481374, $39.95, WineAlign)
  @germanwineca  @WinesofGermany

More cool chardonnay


Simonnet Febvre Bourgogne Chitry 2014, AC Bourgogne, France (Agent, 479667, $19.95, WineAlign)
@SimonnetFebvre  @LouisLatour1797  @ImportWineMAFWM  @BourgogneWines  @vinsdebourgogne

Blue Mountain Vineyards Phoo: (c)

Blue Mountain Vineyards
Phoo: (c)

Blue Mountain Gold Label Brut Sparkling, Traditional Method, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia (Agent, 206326, $28.95, WineAlign)
@BlueMtnWinery @rogcowines  @winebcdotcom

Time to taste at Domaine Queylus

Time to taste at Domaine Queylus

Domaine Queylus Tradition Chardonnay 2014, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (Agent, 489591, $24.95, WineAlign)
@QueylusVin  @Dandurandwines


Beringer Luminus Chardonnay 2014, Oak Knoll District, Napa Valley (Agent, 395699, $39.95, WineAlign)
@beringervyds    @NapaVintners

South African reds (and a white)

Rustenberg R.M. Nicholson 2013

Rustenberg RM Nicholson 2014, Wo Stellenbosch, South Africa (Agent, 278390, $19.95, WineAlign)
@RustenbergWines  @WoodmanWS  @WOSACanada  @WOSA_ZA


The Mentors Shiraz 2012, Wo Paarl, South Africa (Agent, 403618, $29.95, WineAlign)
@KWVwines  @Dandurandwines  @WOSACanada  @WOSA_ZA


Avondale Jonty’s Ducks Pekin White 2015, Wo Paarl, South Africa (Agent, 439554, $15.95, WineAlign)
@Avondalewine  @RareEarth_Wines  @WOSACanada  @WOSA_ZA


I would like to wish you all great February release wine hunting and gathering. The WineAlign team is in travel mode these days but rest assured the reviews from upcoming VINTAGES releases will be dutifully covered. I’m off to Antiprime Toscane next week and will be back in time for everything March. The February 18th release will find a focus on Australia and March 4th, well, it’s anyone’s guess!

Good to go!


Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello


Shades of South Africa

From left to right: Vinum Africa Chenin Blanc 2012, Ken Forrester Reserve Chenin Blanc 2013, De Morgenzon Reserve Chenin Blanc 2011, Boschendal 1685 Shiraz/Mourvèdre 2013, Graham Beck The Game Reserve Shiraz 2012 and Kanonkop Pinotage 2012

From left to right: Vinum Africa Chenin Blanc 2012, Ken Forrester Reserve Chenin Blanc 2013, De Morgenzon Reserve Chenin Blanc 2011, Boschendal 1685 Shiraz/Mourvèdre 2013, Graham Beck The Game Reserve Shiraz 2012 and Kanonkop Pinotage 2012

A sit down at Montecito Restaurant last month engaged three flights of South African wines, introduced by master of presentation ceremonies Will Predhomme, who declared a federal truth politic. “This is meant for sommeliers but you journalists will get what you need out of it.” Mr. affable’s public service announcement held great meaning. Pour 15 wines from South Africa to a group of somms, journos and consumers to discover there will be something for everyone.

When execution and style is so varied from within one very large wine region, things can turn into dramaturgy verging on the absurd. At any sort of political theatre tasting comprising a range of disparate wines, three things need to go right. First the presenter must have a keen sense of the rug that ties it all together. Second, the support needs to be in place from the larger powers that be and third, the wines must be good. Three for three, first in the care of Jimson Bienenstock and the kitchen at Montecito, then with thanks to Wines of South Africa Canada and finally by way of succinct explanation via Mr. Predhomme.

Lunch at Montecito

Lunch at Montecito

A tasting like this, explained Predhomme, “is about expressing what South Africa is but with wines that are available in our market.” South Africa’s wine history, or at least how it exists in relation to the modern world, is quite young yet has advanced with incredible speed. Imagine that Chardonnay did not arrive until 1983 and had to be smuggled in. Some of the world’s finest Chardonnay is now made on South African soils.

Nelson Mandela’s release from prison and the country’s strive for democracy had a profound effect on the revolution, evolution and expedient rush to embrace modernity. Twenty one years later “South Africa as a whole is really starting to see where it fits,” says Predhomme, “though it will still take at least another generation to really figure it out.”

Home to 600 producers, the country exported 22 million litres in 1992 and 417 million in 2012. The U.K. is the number one buyer, followed by Holland and then Canada, who ranks number seven. “You can’t maintain this type of growth,” notes Predhomme, “but you can shape it.” This is why WOSA has set up shop in nearly a dozen countries.

Winegrowing regions of South Africa

Winegrowing regions of South Africa

South Africa is a geographical and geological land of wonder, of ancient soils and picturesque intrusions. Extreme examples include the shale and schist of Swartland that turns into dust and the granite domes of Paarl, which are 30 million years old. “Beginning of time stuff, but how does it impart into wine?” Taste fifteen wines and you will get a sense.

South Africa is barely older than Ontario in terms of the modern era of winemaking and yet it produces some 18,000 hectares of Chenin Blanc, double the amount in the Loire Valley. In Swartland the betide is nothing short of a Rhône revolution, with producers doing “whatever they want.” There are hot climate wines from dry-farmed table lands with bush vines similar to Mendoza, minus the Andes. A huge diurnal shift is taking place. Wines are coming from high elevations, where it’s hot but the nights are cool. New upcoming areas in cool, coastal areas, in places like Elgin, Bot River and Walker Bay’s Hemel-en-Aarde Valley have Sonoma like conditions, with maritime influences and fog. All of this adds to the diversity of the South African palette.



Whites Flight

Villiera Sauvignon Blanc 2014, Stellenbosch-Elgin, Western Cape, South Africa (Agent, $17.95, WineAlign)

Western Cape in the hands of winemaker Jeff Grier is all about varietal fruit, here Stellenbosch helped into blending-like ambition by young, spritely Elgin berries. A kitchen sink varietal nose gathers gooseberry and fig fruit, incorporates earthly elements (3.46 pH), medicines, sugars and tonics. The Sauvignon Blanc aspect is riper than most. Where the discombabulation comes is from atmospheric pressures, rescued in part by a candied (3.7 g/L RS) Granny Smith apple, pyrazine palate. The MOR alcohol (12.9 per cent) and final act of tart (6.3 g/L) acidity is the calling card to remember, acting as the twist, the tie and the rock. Drink 2015-2017.  Tasted April 2015  @villiera  @AbconWine

Vinum Africa Chenin Blanc 2012, Wo Stellenbosch, South Africa (739995, $15.95, WineAlign)

Robust, high-strung, wrapped tight Chenin Blanc that acutely pushes the limits of excitable fruit. The aromatic tonality causes salivation and the eyes to water, as the nose drifts upwards, like the feeling of looking straight into the sun set high against a perfect blue sky. Then the palate lifts to off-dry, sending tingling sensations rippling through, with a cool-climate Chardonnay like prickling. Some oak and crunchy mineral add a smack of Stellenbosch in this rangy white from Alex Dale from the Winery of Good Hope. Drink 2015-2018.  Tasted April 2015  @WineryGoodHope  @Noble_Estates

Ken Forrester Reserve Chenin Blanc 2013, Stellenbosch, South Africa (231282, $17.95, WineAlign)

The 2013 Forrester OV Chenin has less early, obvious and striking appeal but that does not take away from its persistent and indubitable quality. This is a most fine and elegant vintage, with a faint yet obvious quiver of honey. Yellow fruit and their flowers mingle with the fleeting sweetness, in the name of balance and purity. A slide from one moment effortlessly into another, through a waft, from a swirl. Though the fruit is harder to find, it’s a cause of placing the origin; something south Asian but not quite tropical sweet. Like Salak or Kumquat or Jack. So much mineral, tightly wound on a spindle, wound to unwind, unwinding to rewind. Drink 2016-2022.  Tasted April 2015  @KFwines  @Noble_Estates

De Morgenzon Reserve Chenin Blanc 2011, Stellenbosch, South Africa (339762, $29.95, WineAlign)

Even at four years of age, the wood aspect of this Chenin Blanc exaggerates rather then amalgamates. At the time, winemaker Carl van der Merwe held nothing back to fashion a white with considerable heft and weight. Alcohol (14.1 per cent) persists in linking with the barrel for a humid, toasty and sultry affair, cosigned by matching (7.7 g/L) sugar and acid tones. This is a prime example of a love/hate Chenin Blanc relationship. If you are on the varietal fence then the magnifications will drive you away. If Chenin Blanc and barrel fermentation are your splintered cup of tea then this will woo you with passion. The hyperbole of rocks, medicines, tonics, peats, elements (including iodine and heterocyclic aromatic organic compounds) are all here. It’s a veritable CB feast. Drink 2016-2020.  Tasted April 2015  @DeMorgenzonWine  @TandemSelection

Glenelly Cellars Grand Vin Chardonnay 2012, Wo Coastal Region, Stellenbosch, South Africa (382200, $19.95, WineAlign)

From out of Stellenbosch in the Idas Valley, on the southern slopes of the Simonsberg Mountain, opened in 2010 by May de Lencquesaing. State-of-the-art facilities give range and class to this whole cluster pressed Chardonnay, aged for 10 months in new and second fill 500L barrels and left for nine months on the lees. The intensity of chalk, remedy, tang and tart fruit volleys and assails in many ways. It hangs on the edge and teases. You can take the Chardonnay out of the Coastal Region but you can’t remove the ancient geology granite and schist, reinforced iodine aroma from the Chardonnay. Drink 2015-2018.  Tasted April 2015  @GlenellyWines  @HHDImports_Wine

Chenin Blanc

Chenin Blanc

Bordeaux Cultivars

Raats Family Cabernet Franc 2010, Stellenbosch, South Africa (Agent, $39.95, WineAlign)

From decomposed Dolomite granite soils and vines in that vigorous young adulthood range of 18 to 25 years. A Cabernet Franc of ripeness, extraction, warmth, picked at fully realized sugar potential and vinified nearly bone dry. No stranger to wood, it spent 18 months in French Vicard and Mercury oak barrels (25% new, 25% second, 25% third fill and 25% fourth fill). Was neither fined nor filtered. All tolled it is quite steroidal, highly ferric and plugged in. Transmits currants by frenetic current, by bush smoulder and melts with macerated cherries. What minor holes in the oak blanket that show through are patched with a thin veneer of pungent compound, decomposed stone and the effects of dry farming. The lack of irrigation trumps the iron gait and grit, limiting the solvent to minute drips and drops. This is a big, arid red with few tears and many years ahead. Drink 2017-2024.  Tasted April 2015  @RaatsWines  @TandemSelection

Kanonkop Cabernet Sauvignon 2010, Wo Simonsberg-Stellenbosch, South Africa (403964, $48.00, WineAlign)

A mouthful to be sure, this Simonsberg is a cup runneth over “red wine bowl” of a Cabernet. Such a ripe, rich, rapturous and varietally obvious wine, overflowing with red fruit (berries and plums) and gilded enough to beat the ferrous inference into submission. Just a dusty rub of greenery, a sage and charcoal aggregate residue that dissolves into the sappy juice and the rush of late acidity. Quite a clout of sauvage and garrigue in this modern red with a loyal, rustic swell. Drink 2016-2022.  Tasted April 2015  @KanonkopEstate  @Noble_Estates

Constantia Glen Three Cape Peninsula 2010, Constantia Valley, South Africa (Agent, $21.95, WineAlign)

A stone’s throw from of Cape Town comes this maritime red as close to cool-climate as you are likely to find in those environs. Two Cabs and a Merlot legato conjoin to continue the bent to modernist winemaking, with a twist of old world funk and soul. Smoky jazz beats darken the room filled with bright, ripe, con brio waves of concentrated fruit. Though this has the gauze and the grippy, firm, gritty B key blow of tenor sax, the cool middle tinkling keyboard bars temper the tension and the nerves. Bordeaux blend with a wall of sound and value to boot. Drink 2015-2020.  Tasted April 2015   @ConstantiaGlen  @TandemSelection  @constantia1685

Hartenberg Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2011, Stellenbosch, South Africa (Agent, $35.00, WineAlign)

A healthy swath of oak (18 months in 60 per cent new and 40 in second fill French) buoys and blankets this deep, cimmerian Cabernet. The nose is quite candied and while floral too, those edibles are dipped in a frosty coating. There are separations between the lines of intention, at once all forest floor, truffle and mushroom and again sugary, sappy and like a stew. Lustrous and silky of texture, with a grain running on tension and a drying out on the finish. Big, brawny, toothsome and hot. Drink 2015-2019.  Tasted April 2015  @HartenbergWine  @hobbsandco

Villiera Cabernet Sauvignon 2012, Stellenbosch, South Africa (Agent, $18.95, WineAlign)

The nose is quite unusually pretty and floral. So much strawberry, of fruit and leaves. A cool and polished red with a late push of varietal ferrous on the back of the tongue. This has layer upon layer, wave over wave, a veritable cake and vegetable garden, a terrace of nightshades and beets. May not be everyone’s cup of multi-varietal Napolean but it is complex. Drink 2015-2020.  Tasted April 2015


Boschendal 1685 S & M Shiraz/Mourvèdre 2013, Wo Coastal Region, South Africa (403667, $19.95, WineAlign)

From the hands of winemaker Bertho van der Westhuizen, this puts 70 per cent Shiraz from vineyards in the Faure area of Stellenbosch, Helderberg and Bottelary hills sites together with 30 per cent Mourvèdre from the Paardeberg area. Goes directly to a happy place so not quite the S & M you might have expected. The playful reverse psychology and complex fermentation regimen spins the world right around (80 per cent of the wine went into 300L oak barrels, a quarter each in 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th fill, while the remainder was left unoaked). The S & M spits out with a remarkable impression of weightlessness, of hovering inches above the ground. Like the gentle, almost awkward and swerving of a bouncing rubber ball, playful and innocent, into comfortable Rhône territory. Smoked berries, fine cherry and very persistent, in memory, forward and onwards. Drink 2015-2019.  Tasted April 2015  @BoschendalWines  @LiffordON

Boekenhoutskloof Syrah 2011, Wellington, South Africa (Agent, $69.95, WineAlign)

A ripe, plush, super annotated, developed and slowly developed aromatic layering that defies even South African logic. A smoky, slow-roasted Syrah seemingly only winemaker Marc Kent could procure, like a combined 24-hour brisket and an entire porcine roast in a pit of sand on Brendan Beach. And yet tell me this does not somehow smell like Curry? Like a full-on, whole spice ground, stratified Masala, of cardamom, dalchini, jaiphal and kalonji. This is Syrah of intense concentration, ripe hauteur, serious breadth and a sense to be Rhône without the bacon cure. Won’t be going anywhere, anytime soon. Drink 2018-2025.  Tasted April 2015  @TheWolftrapWine  @TandemSelection  @PorcupineWines

Graham Beck The Game Reserve Shiraz 2012, Wo Stellenbosch, South Africa (383570, $18.95, WineAlign)

The game is in The Game with musky scents from just charred roast venison and wild boar hide. Also modern, reminiscent of internationally-styled blends from Terra Alta or Montsant. The game works in smothering partnership with heavy, fully ripe and extracted fruit. This is a strong, big willed and boned $18 South African red that should help to alleviate old prejudices and is really quite seamless at the price. Almost tastes volcanic. Wood is used and used well, without pretence or obnoxious behaviour. Drink 2015-2020.  Tasted April 2015  @GrahamBeckWines  @VinexxCanada

Kanonkop Pinotage 2012, Wo Simonsberg-Stellenbosch, South Africa (Agent, $44.95, WineAlign)

Estate, pedigree and price raise all the bars of expectation for the grape with a modern crush on and for espresso and mochaccino. OK Pinotage, what have you got at $45? A deep red wine in demand to draw plenty of attention, to pluck strings with pizzicato and reverberation? The answer is yes and my attention is indeed captured. Light on chocolate, mocha, creme and nary a lissom or bouncing tone, but instead this Pinotage sings straight lines of red fruit. A stone temple of Pinotage, a pilot of its own fruitful flight. The Pinotage flavour, of tar in summer comes late, is more obvious, notable and grounded as the wine dries to its finish. This is one of the better, even great renditions to date. Bravo. Drink 2017-2022.  Tasted April 2015  @KanonkopEstate  @Noble_Estates

Bouchard Finlayson Hannibal 2012, Hemel-En-Aarde, Walker Bay, South Africa (Agent, $47.99, WineAlign)

The varietal potpourri is an Italian-French polygamous matrimony, a cross-section of colour, aroma and flavour that somehow comes righteously together. Call it a lavandino della cucina or évier de cuisine but either way you translate this mix is one of gastronomy and oenology, crafted, blended, sautéed and vinified. Hanibal is barrel matured for sixteen months after fermenting the different grapes separately, comprised of Sangiovese, Pinot Noir, Shiraz and Mouvedre, with Nebbiolo and Barbera. The culmination revolves on an axis bold as love, of Brett, funk and circumstance. A wildly natural wine, very 1960’s, smoky and with wafts so thick you need a fork to eat and goggles to see through the haze. A wicked blend of heaven and earth. Meaty, cured, sanguine and charred. Super-charged and running hot. Drink 2016-2022.  Tasted April 2015  @BouchFinlayson  @LiffordON

Good to go!

It’s Black Friday but wine gifts come at a price

<em>Photograph by volff,</em>

Photograph by volff,

as seen on

It’s an American thing. Black Friday shopping deals will attract major crowds south of the border but in Canada, not so much. Studies show that only one in 10 Canadians will get off the couch and leave their basements for this day of discount shopping. The reverse will apply to Boxing Day.

Related – More from the VINTAGES November 24th, 2012 Release

Ontarians are just as likely to hit their local LCBO in search of wine gems for the coming holiday season. The current VINTAGES release is front loaded with lavish, iconic, red and “black” wines. The spotlight is on the big boys, especially Cabernet Sauvignon nearing and often breaching the centurial dollar mark. Behold eight more wine gems for your gift list.

The grapes: Corvina e Corvinone, Rondinella and Barbera

The history: From north-east of Verona, on the hill that separates Montorio from Valle d’Illasi

The lowdown: More substantial, almost unwieldy than most other Valpolicella in the price range

The food match: Coffee Brined Chicken

Musella Vigne Nuove Valpolicella Superiore 2009 (205757, $15.95) races forward pell-mell, spewing tar, ash and black tea exhaust. The fruit component is dark, black plum seeping in its own reductive juices. Chewy, persistent and gathering speed. Top quality normale Valpo.  89

The grape: Cabernet Sauvignon

The history: Amounts to 88% Cab primarily sourced from vineyards located in the Alexander, Dry Creek, and Sonoma Valleys

The lowdown: Pseudo-supermarket brand gets it right in ’09. $20 Cab south of the 49th

The food match: Smoked Chorizo Sausage, brisket quinoa fritters

Kenwood Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 (990440, $22.95) is a solid deal, nothing overly serious, just the sum of all it should be from California and parts thereof. Currants, berries, mint, Cassis, roast beef and oak-driven milk chocolate fill this bottle. Packs enough stuffing for smoking.  88

The grape: Shiraz

The history: Oz outfit from the Great Dividing Range in the Grampians region of Victoria

The lowdown: Winemaker Dan Buckle fashions “cool climate” Shiraz from eastern granite slopes of Mount Langi Ghiran

The food match: Roast Duck, potato, orange, fennel, watercress salad

Mount Langi Cliff Edge Shiraz 2006 (287235, $28.95) rips off a ringing riff that teeters but never quite goes over the edge. Perhaps it still has not found what it’s looking for but it’s got Victoria’s ’06 funk. Spicy wood gets right into your nose then coffee, sodium, charcoal game and black currant all add notes. A very good price for a complex wine.  91

The grape: Cabernet Sauvignon

The history: A legendary bottling returns to top form after a decade long falling out

The lowdown: Hyperbole like “epic,” “classic” and “best ever” surround this Napa Valley Cab

The food match: English Cut Braised Short Ribs, red wine reduction, red pearl onions

Dunn Vineyards Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 (193763, $99.95) is a flat out brilliant composition by the voice of one who once “traded love for glory.” This Cab reverts back to its singer-songwriter, Napa Valley pioneering form. The ’08 is a crooning balladeer intent to hold out its best in a graceful lucubration of layered, dark fruit, restrained restlessness and a vision of long life. Put the Dunn away and look to be rewarded 15+ years on with as good a California Cabernet as you will ever taste.  96

The grapes: Grenache, Mourvedre, Syrah and Counoise

The history: The house that Jacques Perrin built is the most famous in Châteauneuf-du-Pape

The lowdown: Can’t say I’ve ever been this blown away by such a young Beaucastel

The food match: Braised Veal Brisket, smashed parisienne potato, brussels sprouts, truffle oil

Château de Beaucastel Châteauneuf-du-Pape 2010 (711317, $89.95) enters no confected, over-extracted or OTT danger zones. The most floral Beaucastel, a doffing of Stoechas Avignon and the omnipresent Rhône garrigue. Persimmon and lavender share time imparting the wine with fumes from les galets roulés of the argilo-calcaireous vineyard beds. Basic hedonism here from such an extraordinary, complex and balanced blend.  95

The grapes: Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc

The history: Arguably the most iconic Cab-based Super Tuscan from “the place of many stones”

The lowdown: Down $7 in price from vintages going back to ’05, this ’09 has scored as high as 98 (James Suckling)

The food match: Grilled Bisteca Fiorentine (Tuscan-style Porterhouse Steak)

Sassicaia 2009 (480533, $179.95) the raven brunette is anything but sappy or syrupy yet is impossibly viscous. Hints at ripe berries growing in the crags of maritime gravel and the most expected hits of sanguine, animal musk. A huge wine in the making, the adolescent hunter Sassicaia off-roads up a steep incline to go tell it on the mountain of tannin. Disappears into parts unknown and will only reappear as a mature adult. Look to 2025 and it may say “the perspective to say the very least, changes only with the journey.”  96

The grapes: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot

The history: Tenuta dell’Ornellaia was founded in Bolgheri (1981) and only Massetto, “wink-wink, say no more,” is a more famous Super Tuscan

The food match: Grilled Bisteca Panzanese (Bolgheria-style Porterhouse Steak)

Ornellaia 2009 (722470, $189.95) is more approachable than the unparalleled 1998. A silky smooth and velvety texture puts super-ripe fruit at the forefront. While that ’98 rocked my world, this vintage offers immediate gratification, less dominating hard lines and edges. The balance is impeccable but the acidity is tempered, like the finest chocolate. The window is open now, though it may soon close, to drink beautifully for the next five years.  94

The grape: Cabernet Sauvignon

The history: In a class of two (along with Shafer’s Hillside Select) of Napa Cabernet neither garagiste nor Barnett, Harlan Estate or Screaming Eagle

The lowdown: Certainly not an act in search of a circus, the ’08 Insignia demands a star’s salary

The food match: Bison Rib-Eye, king mushroom, juniper and thyme demi-glace

Joseph Phelps Insignia 2008 (710400, $224.95) teases with immediate gratification then turns inward upon itself to hide from a volcano bursting of hot lava. The stoic resistance keeps the Insignia safe from the fiendish, dark mark mountain of UFO tannin. “A real rock and roll molest.” Checking out the wine’s black hue in the raised glass is a sight to behold. The pitch conceals a deep well of pure raspberry distillation, roasted meat, yew and rosemary. The wine’s lines are like architectural strokes of genius, currently too hot to handle.  94

Good to go!

Wine is the new coffee

Photographs by peshkova (left) and Igor Klimov,

Photographs by peshkova (left) and Igor Klimov,

as seen on

Coffee, the object of reverential and religious affection. Prayed to by the addict, the aficionado, the connoisseur. They sniff, they swirl and they savour their brews like First Growth Bordeaux or 50-year old Auslese.

If  Starbucks acted as harbinger to the North American phenomenon and found itself relegated to chain status then the torch has been passed. Proof lies in the extreme world that is the specialty coffee industry. Ezra Braves, owner of two Toronto boutique coffee destinations called Ezra’s Pound, recently commented , “we’re not re-inventing the wheel, but we just really embrace the cafe culture here.” Today your cup of Joe will likely be organic, fair-trade, responsibly grown, bio dynamic, Eco-friendly, a bag of ethical beans, bird-friendly, shade-grown and even triple-certified. It’s no wonder your red wine smells and tastes like coffee. It’s hip, it’s trending and it sells.

Wine geeks and critics have spent the last 10-15 years coming to terms with so much of their wine smelling and tasting of coffee, or variations thereof. The consumer can’t get enough of the stuff, even if they’re not sure why. The question is increasingly becoming one of secret consternation for the masses. Are wine makers infusing red wines with essence of, or actual brewed coffee?

The answer is no but more red wines than not these days will whiff or indicate a flavour profile that might include black coffee, espresso, cappuccino or mocha java. The use of new French oak and sometimes barrels that have been deliberately charred will impart coffee characteristics into red wine.

Bio dynamics and sustainable practices are now mainstream in the world of wine but in contrast to the coffee universe, many vineyards don’t necessarily feel the need to shout it out. The subliminal or vainglorious addition of coffee notes is far more effective for a ka-ching effect at the cash register. Modern vintners have so many progressive and manipulative techniques at their disposal so making “coffee wine” has become commonplace.

Iconic red wines from Bordeaux, the Rhône Valley, Napa Valley and Burgundy are heavily influenced by the barrels that house megalitres of famous juice, but for the most part, the premier or grand cru grape ferment is up to the splintered task. Value wine faces a much greater challenge.  Still, there are terrific examples out there that find the correct balance of fruit, oak and acidity. Here are five arriving VINTAGES releases that gracefully walk that fine line.

VINTAGES November 10th, 2012 Release

The grape: Malbec

The history: Blender of Bordeaux and ‘black” knight of Cahors in southern France

The lowdown: Mom and pop Mendoza outfit sells to big corporation but maintains parochial integrity

The food match: Pot Roast, roasted root vegetables

La Posta Angel Paulucci Vineyard Malbec 2010 (75515, $15.95) faintly hits at a mocha milkshake mentality. Smoking cedar boughs inside and blossoming purple Jacaranda outside. Volcanic and pitchy like Cahors or Etna. Mocha flavour finish brings it all full circle.  88

The grape: Montepulciano D’Abruzzo

The history: Not to be confused with Tuscany’s Vino Nobile Di Montepulciano, this one comes from Abruzzo

The lowdown: MD’A’s are making use of new oak like never before. Crowds of new wine lovers are embracing the sweet and concentrated elixirs as go to value drinkers

The food match: Spaghetti with Veal Ragu, reggiano parmesan

Talamonti Tre Saggi Montepulciano D’Abruzzo 2008  (204016, $15.95) is representative of the new age in Italian wine. A crooning Tommy that resides “here in my deep purple dreams.” Rich, lush, deep violet berry, oak-inspired MD’A. So much wine for $16 if a bit scary to a fruit dinosaur.  88

The grapes: Grenache and Syrah

The history: Typical southern Rhône blend, 80% G and 20% S

The lowdown: The Amadieu family has a storied history in the region dating back to the 1920’s, and are the owners of this incredible Cru vineyard

The food match: Hand Made Ravioli, mushroom filling, white truffles

Pierre Amadieu La Grangelière Vacqueyras 2010 (76398, $19.95) first seeps as a black and red fruit Texas tisane but before long the toasted oak turns the tea to coffee with a hint of balsamic wood. Complex from AA to ZZ but not over the top. Some astringent, chalky tannin and talcy acidity is conquerable because the fruit is so lush. “Have mercy, a haw, haw, haw, haw, a haw.”  89

The grape: Barbera

The history: One of Barolo’s historic houses, this Barbera represents an avante-garde shift for the house style

The lowdown: Modern but nothing revolutionary about it. Nothing but a little bit of oak

The food match: Osso Bucco, gremolata, polenta

Giacomo Borgogno Barbera D’Alba Superiore 2010 (285486, $19.95, SAQ 10388088, $19.40) screams simply wow, this is not what I expected from the ancient winery. When I think of Borgogno I envision Barolo circa 1985, red rose rusty and opaque like weak tea. This one is purple pretty, black cherry pie yet retains a dry Piemontese attitude in search of braised shanks. Best Barbera.  90

The Splurge

The grape: Tempranillo

The history: Alejandro Fernandez has convinced the world that entry-level can mean $27

The lowdown: This could be Ribera Del Duero’s finest Crianza

The food match: Braised Lamb Shank, shiitake mushrooms

Alejandro Fernandez Tinto Pesquera Crianza 2009 (341461, $26.95, SAQ 10273109, $26.35) is the shocking blue Venus of Ribera Del Duero, round, voluptuous, smooth and let me tell you, “she’s got it.” Licorice liqueur, blue plum, citrus and laser acidity for a red wine. Always spot on.  90

Good to go!