Because the night in Gaiole

Badia a Coltibuono

Badia a Coltibuono is not your average, been there, seen that Tuscan edifice. The castello is an awesome display of architecture meets hortus conclusus and a walk through its hallowed halls will lead a mind to wander. You can hear its creaks, sense the weight of its history and feel its ghosts. It was night by the time we arrived, already peering down the descent of a palate’s waning slope, nearing the end of a capacity cultivated day. It was a surreal and perfect time to experience the awe of Badia a Coltibuono.

Related – Castellina in golden light

The monastery was founded in 1051 by the Vallumbrosan order of Benedictine monks and many important manuscripts and deeds were housed here for hundreds of years. It was here where some of the earliest mention of towns, castles and villas of the Chianti area could be found. In the 15th century the Buon Raccolto (good harvest) Abbey, (Abbazia or Badia in Italian) was extensively developed under the patronage of Lorenzo dei Medici. The current owners are the Stucchi-Prinetti family and as I would ironically find out quite soon enough, they are the successful purveyors of the publications of Lorenza de Medici, wife of Piero Stucchi-Prinetti, on Tuscan cookery.

Related – Get Radda for Chianti Classico

John Szabo M.S., Brad Royale, Steven Robinson and Godello came to taste through 35 wines provided by 20 producers from the Chianti Classico commune of Gaiole in Chianti. We arrived tired but our strength was quickly and magically restored by the curative powers of Gaiole sangiovese. Located in Siena province Gaiole is one of two sub-zones with exactly two neighbours, in this case Castelnuovo Berardenga to the south and Radda to the west/northwest. It is one of the more complicated, diverse and checkered Chianti Classico zones, with many switchbacks, elevation changes and soil types. That said a thread certainly runs through, of wines that carry their own confident and specific structure. This tasting confirmed that the sangiovese of Gaiole have great aging potential, albeit often wrapped up in robes of rusticity, shacked up with the finest of Chianti Classico.

Click here to watch a quick video of the Gaiole in Chianti wines

To gain a deeper understanding of Gaiole it would be prudent to pry open the packaging and peel away further layers of sub-zone identity with a look at the sangiovese produced specifically on Monti in Chianti lands. Such a visit and tasting would unearth at least one of the more essential facets of Gaiole’s variegation and then the climb back up and into the greater commune could be acquiesced with a new level of experience.

John Szabo attempting to communicate by necromantic means with the revenants of the numinous Badia a Coltibuono world

Meanwhile, back to Badia a Coltibuono and because the night in Gaiole. After we finished tasting it was past the 10pm hour and so our auspicious and unpavid hosts Roberto Stucchi Prinetti and Emanuela Stucchi Prunetti wondered if we should eschew trying to convince a restaurant to serve us and instead make dinner in the abbey’s kitchen. I volunteered. I spent the better part of 1987-2013 cooking in restaurants and running my catering company and here I was making the decision to offer my culinary services to Tuscans of lineage dating back to who knows when. To custodians of Lorenza de Medici’s manifestos of Tuscan cookery while the family ghosts roam the castle halls. A moment of panic and a “what have I done” internal dialogue ensued. Then I set to work.

We kept it simple, local, traditional and went about using up product that recent cooking classes had left for the next arbitrary and unhinged cook who happened to find his way into this culinary vestibule sbalorditivo that has seen so much and lived to tell many a tale. The scene and hasty whip up of two platters of different but complimentary pastas could not have happened so quick without John’s fiduciary charges, the ambient distraction of Brad’s intense discourse with Roberto, Steve’s stoic, harmonic and sommelier savvy stature and Emanuela’s sous-support. An hour later we were seated at Badia’s dining room table. I’m quite certain I heard someone say “please bring me my wine” and then the voice of the captain saying “we haven’t had that spirit here since thirteen sixty-nine.” At some point I went for air and a stroll through the castello halls, feeling not exactly alone and yet quite positively at peace.

It had been 22 years since I last made pasta in Italy. This time for @coltibuono and alas, it was eaten #sigh

As with the rest of the territory, the 2017 vintage presented one of the greater challenges in recent Chianti Classico times. After the intense heat of the driest of summers it was essential that growers waited out the early September rains, followed by the beautiful and phenolic ripeness ensuring warmth of the next three weeks. “I noticed that most producers had already, inconceivably, finished harvesting by the 15th of September!!! A haste that can’t be positive.” These are the wisest of words from Rocca di Castagnoli ‘s Marco Ricasoli. It remains to be seen but Marco’s prophecy will ring true and be confirmed at Anteprime’s Chianti Classico Collection in February 2019.

Though we had a very hurried tasting session in the early night hours of September 25th, 2017, I did taste every wine presented to us by the association of Gaiole winemakers and distilled them down into the production of these 20 notes. I expect some of you will be familiar with this group of producers and I pledge to investigate the depths of their collective soul when I attend CCC ’18 in Firenze next month.

Brad Royale surveys the sangiovese of Gaiole in Chianti

Badia A Coltibuono Chianti Classico 2015, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $27.99, WineAlign)

Badia a Coltibuono’s Chianti Classico is truly representative of 2015, or as proprietor Roberto Stucchi Prinetti notes “a microcosm of CC, a very diverse area.” This Gaiole in Chianti sings in the three-part harmony of the Gallo Nero territory, of Gaiole, through the voice of sangiovese and as close in honour to the territory as it will ever get. This take is rusty, rustic, red citrus sweet-scented, of cinnamon and strawberry meets ripe sour cherry red fruit. The medium to high acids and fine, unobtrusive chain of tannins take it where it just needs to go. Easy and proper. As I said before, classic. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted twice, September and October 2017     halpernwine   @coltibuono  @HalpernWine  Badia a Coltibuono  Halpern Wine

Badia A Coltibuono Chianti Classico Riserva 2012, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (3962, $23.95, WineAlign)

It was a big year and the fruit was certainly ripe so the house style of putting fruit first and oak second means that Badia a Coltibuono’s CC Riserva ’12 is now heading into secondary character. Not raisined mind you but drying a touch and developing some spice cupboard baking scents. Tart and firm, developed, evolved and quite liquid chalky in its tannic grain and established structure. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted September 2017

Barone Ricasoli Brolio Chianti Classico 2015, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (3962, $23.95, WineAlign)

Really classic and traditionally annotated Chianti Classico tastes just like this and is especially worthy when the clean and transparent adjunct of technology brings tradition well into the 21st century. A fine and amenable vintage and 1000 years of Ricasoli expertise combine to fashion a Chianti Classico of high commercial esteem. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted September and November 2017  francescoricasoli  churchillcellars  @barone_ricasoli  @imbibersreport  Barone Ricasoli  Churchill Cellars Ltd.

Casa al Vento Chianti Classico Aria 2015, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

Aria 2015 carries a profile like many young and ripe Chianti Classico, a sweet-scented spoon of red cherry fruit and fine, liquid gelid acidity. Chalky to a degree which will settle after a year more in bottle. Aria is simply a fine expressive, unaccompanied, unadorned and unadulterated melody sung by sangiovese for Gaiole in Chianti. “At ease with the thought that this nova won’t burn out.” Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted September 2017  @casaalvento  borgocasaalvento  @AgriturismoChiantiCasaAlVento

La Casa Di Bricciano Chianti Classico 2014, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

La Casa di Bricciano is is nothing if not delicious Chianti Classico and also not wholly representative of the sangiovese ideal. Listed at 80 per cent varietal with the other 20 per cent likely merlot and cabernet sauvignon it’s an IGT drama played out with style. It’s beautifully clean and effective stuff. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted September 2017  lacasadibricciano  La Casa di Bricciano

La Casa Di Bricciano Chianti Classico Riserva 2013, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

La Casa di Bricciano’s Riserva ’13 carries a stylistic that is eerily similar to the Annata ’14 but takes to welling, oozing and leading to a syrupy liqueur. Swirling in this pool of viscous plummy fruit there is this sense of confidence, finesse and stylish polish. A bit sweet perhaps but seriously good. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted September 2017

Podere Ciona Chianti Classico Proprieta Gatteschi 2014, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

The lower altitude vineyards of Podere Ciona were replanted in 1999, 2003, the rest in the winter of 2011-2012. Their annata 2014 is primarily sangiovese with nine per cent merlot and a pinch of alicante bouschet. Lorenzo & Franco Gatteschi’s Chianti Classico is a true exception to the term normale, especially in consideration of the challenges presented by 2014. Though it is quite reductive it’s also also intensely floral and bursting with aromatic spice. There is bite at twice the effectiveness of the typical, middle of the road CC and plenty of life in this bottle. It will release its charms slowly, for seven years, easy. Drink 2018-2026.  Tasted September 2017  podereciona  @PodereCiona  Podere Ciona Estate and Vineyards

Podere Ciona Chianti Classico Riserva Proprieta Gatteschi 2013, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

The Gatteschi family’s 2013 is a special sort of Riserva with that understood sangiovese character of wisdom gained so early in life, long before it should know what classica it can and will become. The late-picked sangiovese comes off estate vines as late as the first two weeks of October and is supported by merlot, picked two weeks earlier and alicante bouschet sometime in between the two. Élevage happens in large format French oak. It’s an extremely complex weave of fine acidity overtop red ropey fruit with accents in spice and citrus. Quite remarkable really. Drink 2018-2024.  Tasted September 2017

Fietri Chianti Classico 2015, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (AgentWineAlign)

Ripe and sultry fruit, perhaps just a bit into the ultra ripe which may lead to some dried fruit sooner rather than later. The high acidity indicates early picking so the conundrum does spell a quandary. The package is a deep well that includes oak driven chocolate. It’s big for ’15 Chianti Classico and not exceptionally fresh. Drink 2017-2018.  Tasted September 2017  Azienda Agricola di Fietri

I Sodo Chianti Classico Riserva 2013, Docg Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $29.95, WineAlign)

I Sodi’s Gaiole in Chianti Riserva is on the volatile and over the top youthful side but you can really get a grip upon the terrific red berry and herbal-savoury accents. Certainly led by raspberry but red currants are quite prevalent. Must admit the palate leaves a fuller and more demanding impression which is always important as opposed to the other way around. The change of gears from accelerated vitesse to grip on the road around turns and into pits is a sign of great Italian design. The finish carries dried fruit and compressed acidity with not overly aggressive tannin. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted February and September 2017  Agriturismo Le Trappoline – Azienda Agricola I Sodi

Dinner at Badia e Coltibuono

Podere Il Palazzino Chianti Classico Riserva Grosso Sanese 2011, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

Il Palazzino is owned by Alessandro and Andrea Sderci and is located in Monti in Chianti, in Gaiole in Chianti, 20 km northeast of Siena. Their flagship wine is this Grosso Sanese, a sangiovese of gorgeous aromatic waft with complexities provided by fresh cut roses, deeply mined minerality and fresh sliced morning summer fruit. Great tension, so much more variegation from the earth and a natural, let it be who it is and from laissez-faire from Monti village emotion. This is CCR with true soul and it truly is a really clean and natural wine. Really fine tannin, sweetness from round acidity and architectural design set in the past with innovation for the future. Amazing CCR. Drink 2019-2029. Tasted February 2017    Agriturismo Il Palazzino  #ilpalazzino

Matteoli Chianti Classico 2015, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

Matteoli is a young, primary, seemingly natural meets organic and playfully funky sour cherry sangiovese, distinctly Gaiole but striding away from the norm and the middle of the road. Some tart, tight and bracing acidity plays to a sweetish finish. Should develop some curiously cool secondary character. Drink 2018-2020.  Tasted September 2017  @agricolamatteoli

Castello Di Meleto Chianti Classico 2015, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (332114, $18.95, WineAlign)

Castello di Meleto’s is really refined sangiovese, taking a deeper step into the calcaire, welling with some hematic and even ferric notes, developing towards secondary functionality. Here alights the cerebral induction sangiovese with even a slight scant drop of syrupy liqueur. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted September 2017  castellodimeleto  @castellomeleto  Castello Di Meleto

Castello Di Meleto Chianti Classico Riserva Vigna Casi 2013, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

Vigna Casi 2013 falls very much in line with the vintage for Chianti Classico but with an added and deeper delve into a Gaiole soil variegate. With each passing taste of ’13 Riserva the most excellent vintage continues to show off its gifting capabilities. The liqueur is not only borne of what this Annata sangiovese brings but the continuum is persistent, insistent and will carry the fruit well into adolescence. It’s bright, juicy and just plain exceptional. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted September 2017

Rocca Di Castagnoli Chianti Classico 2015, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (222810 $19.95, WineAlign)

Rocca di Castagnoli’s is perhaps one of the prettiest Chianti Classico 2015s, certainly out of Gaiole and even anywhere in the greater territory for this vintage. The virtues of ripeness, properly timed picking, acidity and just enough structure comes through in union, focus and finesse. All this while always in control of its classic style, with colorino and canaiolo tucked in behind and in support of sangiovese. Such a properly executed CC ’15. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted September 2017  roccadicastagnoli  profilewinegroup  @Roccacastagnoli  @ProfileWineGrp  Rocca di Castagnoli  Profile Wine Group

Rocca Di Castagnoli Chianti Classico Gran Selezione Stielle 2013, Docg Tuscany, Italy (459529, $45.95, WineAlign)

Le Stielle in 2013 and its just faint hint of high acidity mixed and boxed with volatility is just on the most correct side of ripe meets structured life. When Gran Selzione gains such a cherry and fine salty mineral meeting of the structured minds it’s a special thing indeed. This is a fine GS with precision and understated, refined and capable power. Really fine, even just firm enough to deliver 10-15 years of slow developed 100 per cent sangiovese expression. Drink 2019-2028.  Tasted September 2017

Rocca Di Montegrossi Chianti Classico 2015, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (Agent $29.99, WineAlign)

It shouldn’t come as such a big surprise that Rocca di Montegrossi’s 2015 Chianti Classico is riper, richer and more immediately accessible than its previous annata, a wine I noted as “the most subtle and slightest dusty ride through a decidedly old-school Chianti Classico.” With a minor distraction and sacrifice to structure this step up to the modernity plate and organically configured (Gaiole) Monti in Chianti sangiovese boasts darker, intensely tart plum fruit and pinpoint accurate Rocca acidity. That said it’s just so fresh-squeezed, red citrus, thematically hematic delicious early. Hard to resist means less thought afforded patience and longevity but such is sangiovese life. It’s neither a better wine not is it a more or less important Chianti Classico to what has come before. It’s simply 2015, from a place where vintage really matters. Drink 2017-2021.  Tasted twice, September 2017   #roccadimontegrossi  @RoccadiMontegrossi  #roccadimontegrossi

Rocca Di Montegrossi Chianti Classico Gran Selezione Vigneto San Marcellino 2013, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (B.C. $63.49, WineAlign)

Marco Ricasoli-Firidolfi’s Gran Selezione boasts more than its share of Chianti Classico history and epochal location in its DNA. Legend dates back to 1039 for Azzi di Geremia Ricasoli and just as far back for the 1000 year-old Pieve San Marcellino. The vineyard gains more archetypal status with each turn of the calendar and the use of just a little bit of endemic pugnitello is awarded the singular varietal assist for Gaiole. With the 2013 vintage well tucked into the back pocket of this iconic Gran Selezione there is this sense of calm and refined, controlled intensity that just begs to get out, but the tannin and rigid structure have it well sealed in. This is what happens when the best fruit and a near perfect vintage come together. It’s fineness of tannin takes on great responsibility and it can do nothing but be a match to the task. Rocca di Montegrossi’s single entity Vigneto San Marcellino is sangiovese of density, intensity and power. It is assuredly one of the finest examples of the vintage. Drink 2020-2030.  Tasted September 2017

San Giusto A Rentennano Chianti Classico 2015, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

San Giusto a Rentennano is a name of Etruscan origin, an estate that overlooks the upper course of the Arbia river in the farthest southern reaches of the Chianti Classico zone. The estate began life as a medieval monastery of Cistercian nuns and was called San Giusto alle Monache, “of the Nuns.” San Giusto A Rentennano Chianti Classico 2015 is a stunner. Virtuous, scrupulous and composed, it was surely picked on the perfected vortex point of acidity and ripeness. That it sports refined tannin to lead into structure speaks volumes on how it is more than a serious CC. It is in fact destined for greatness. The chain is long and woven for sustained pressure and sytemic viability. Drink 2018-2024.  Tasted September 2017  #sangiustoarentennano    #sangiustoarentennano

San Giusto A Rentennano Chianti Classico Riserva Le Baròncole 2014, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

In 1957 San Giusto A Rentennano was inherited by Enrico Martini di Cigala and in 1992, by his nine children. Today Anna, Lucia, Elisabetta, Francesco, Alessandro and Luca are partners in the estate company. Riserva le Baròncole 2014 is composed from 97 per cent sangiovese plus canaiolo, the 14th Baròncole of a Riserva that was first bottled in 1975. The rains of summer did not deter this determined Chianti Classico, thanks to great farming practices, favourable weather conditions at harvest and under the circumstances, the strictest grapes selection possible. A beautiful liqueur wells in this rich and aromatic, spiced and spicy CC, quite exceptional for 2014. The top of the quality pyramid is reached with its rich constitution and age conscious ability. Chalky in fine grain and sweet tannins, no green notes, good acidity and properly rendered (20 per cent new) barriques and big (5 hl) barrels. Get with the baron. It’s a prime “esempio” for Gaiole in Chianti. Drink 2018-2024.  Tasted September 2017

Badia e Coltibuono

Good to go!

Godello

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

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Castellina in golden light

Gallo Nero of Rocca delle Macie in Castellina in Chianti

Each time I travel to Chianti Classico the conversation regarding sub-zones rises closer to the surface. The deep and profound understanding of sangiovese as contributing to the greater good and power of Chianti Classico will not soon be superseded but producers are increasingly adamant about presenting their wines in the context of località and cru classificata. An annata is coming soon from which the names of both commune and village will proudly by worn on the bottle. With time comes change, however slowly, as necessity draws nearer and clearer into focus.

Granted there are some exceptions in Chianti Classico where fruit from neighbouring communes get together to make a Chianti Classico blend, so to speak, but these examples are few and far between. The Gallo Nero producers own, farm and harvest grapes from estate vineyards surrounding or in very close proximity to their production facilities. Chianti Classico is a highly territorial place, protected to the ultimate end of and by a family’s (or a custodian’s thereof) genealogy, history and legacy. As the region continues its march into the most modern of golden age there is a palpable and emotional push to celebrate the places within the place.

Related – Get Radda for Chianti Classico

The thinking or imagining about the landscape of Chianti Classico is more often than not acquiesced by a general feeling of winding roads through hilly landscapes, verdant vineyards and lines upon lines of cypress trees leading up drives to Etruscan estates. Generally speaking there is plenty of truth in such a conjuring but the distinct vistas, angles, geologies and visually speaking, the casts of light are so very different from one collateral enclave to the next. In Castellina there is a sense of wide open space and undulation you just don’t find in neighbouring lands. Borders are shared with Castelnuovo Berardenga to the southeast, Radda to the east, Greve to the north and Barberino Val d’Elsa to the northwest.  There can’t help but be some venn diagram drawn circles to adduce commonalities with neighbouring communes but Castellina is unique to itself and to its 66 producers associated with the Consorzio Vino Chianti Classico. In many respects and though it may be a generalization to say so, the sangiovese of Castellina are of the most lush, full-bodied and modern wines in the region. There is a thread that runs through, deep, mature and wise, an echelon of tangibility, from umbrage through illumination to loop a Castellina character from beginning to end and back again. The circle always returns to a point where Castellina is bathed in golden light.

This past September an ambassadorial group of Canadians paid visits to three historical properties in Castellina in Chianti. John Szabo M.S., Brad Royale, Steven Robinson and Godello took another step into the world of understanding, unearthing and disseminating the particular characteristics of communes and in the case of Castellina the epiphany was found in the consistency of the wines. It may be abstract to say but the Chianti Classico found here offer the greatest probability of correctness, high quality and regional guarantee. Read these 21 notes from Bibbiano, Castello di Fonterutoli and Rocca delle Macie, then judge for yourself.

Bibbiano

Related – Chilling with the bad boy of Chianti Classico

My second visit in as many years with Tommaso Marrocchesi Marzi reinforced the duality of landscape and sangiovese personality that the highly cerebral and zealous winemaker accepts, cherishes and celebrates through his wines. Bibbiano’s extraordinarily unique plateau position is a place of great dichotomy. The vines of Montornello slides gracefully down on the northwestern side and on the southwestern, Vigna del Capannino. “With glaring clarity is the determinate or indeterminate Bibbiano slope each wine draws their fruit from. In some cases one or the other and in others, a combination of the two. Montornello and Vigna del Capannino. The descending vineyards on either side of the Bibbiano plateau offer up an incredible study in contrasting Chianti Classico geology.”

We tasted eight wines with Tommaso, some of which were revisits for me. He also shared three new vintage samples, first a 2016 barrel pull from fruit drawn off the northern side. From tonneaux it gave beautiful, sexy fruit, spicy, tart, of great acidity and fine, spicy tannins. Structurally speaking this can only be from Montornello, albeit from wood, unblended with concrete sangiovese, so tannic, and very much in spice. The 2016 southern side is sangiovese grosso, from 25hL Slavonian oak botti and again, could only be the Capannino side with its big, thick and cakey fruit, massive, spicy and long. A 2016 blend or “taglio” may or may not have had some malvasia nera in there, from French tonneaux. Such perfume, alarmed, unparalleled, velvety, mouth coating and intense. With spice again and tight, taut, tannic (tight grain) structure. Really cakey and the thought again is just wow.  Here are the notes on the eight finished wines.

Bibbiano Listrice 2016, IGT Toscana, Italy (WineAlign)

Listrice is a blend of trebbiano and malvasia, pretty much 50/50, a fantasy name says Tommaso Marrocchesi Marzi. Il Istrice is a simple, fresh, straightforward white representative of the area. It’s salty, directly tart and made from fruit pulled only off the northern site/side of the Bibbiano estate. Is this so named because the northern vineyard’s fault dip is steeper near the surface then shallower with increased depth? Perhaps one day Tommaso will concur. There were approximately 2000 bottles produced. Drink 2017-2018.  Tasted September 2017  bibbianowines  lesommelierwine  @bibbianowines  @LeSommelierWine  Bibbiano Chianti Classico  Le Sommelier, Wine Agency

Bibbiano Rosato Scappalepre 2016, IGT Toscana, Italy (WineAlign)

Scappalepre, as in “the run away hare,” another whimsical name for a Bibbiano wine. This follows the growing number of specifically designed Tuscan rosés, especially for the Chianti Classico territory, to join the trendy ranks but with great sangiovese purpose. Scappalepre is from 100 per cent sangiovese fruit picked off of north and south vineyards and harvested purposely for Rosato. It is picked early, at least a few days before for Chianti Classico. Not quite saignée method but with a wealth of Rosé possibility, fresh and structured, confusingly phenolic and up there in the 14-plus per cent alcohol realm. A wine of sugars, acids and alcohol. It’s in a league of its own. Approx. 2000 bottles produced. Drink 2017-2019. Tasted  September 2017

Bibbiano Chianti Classico 2015, Tuscany, Italy (168286, $23.95, WineAlign)

“It’s a very genuine grape. It will never try to have fun with you,” explains Tommaso Marrochezi Marzi. This could easily have been said about the 2014 sangiovese though we know by now that the grape’s resilience has and will continue to bring itself about, and around. This 2015 shows its colours early, often and in great fruit strength. It’s beautiful and expressive, a spoken varietal message that is clear and understood. It should be enjoyed while it talks in fruit this way. Silky smooth, textured like fine satin, caressing and even sexy, sulty and lush. No colorino now and perhaps its inclusion with be more likely when the new vineyard grows up but for now the indigenous grapes are used in the Bibbianaccio IGT. Here again raised in all concrete for the élévage lending freshness, properly oxidative, anti-reductive character. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted September 2017

John Szabo M.S., Steven Robinson, Brad Royale, Silvia Fiorentini and Tommaso Marrocchesi Marzi

Bibbiano Chianti Classico Riserva 2014, Tuscany, Italy (AgentWineAlign)

The first vintage not called Montornello is now a Chianti Classico Riserva on its own with that (northern slope) vineyard separated as a Gran Selezione. The smooth depth of sangiovese fruit character here is entirely Riserva though without edges or toughness. No grit, some minor grip, fineness and silkiness of tannin. The perfect summer of September allowed picking to happen at the end of the month, in delivery of enough quantity and quality for both Riserva and Vigne di Montornello Gran Selezione. A Riserva as polished, modern, clean and drinkable as they come and a terrific effort for the challenging vintage. Drink 2017-2022.  Tasted September 2017

Bibbiano Chianti Classico Gran Selezione Vigne di Montornello 2014, Tuscany, Italy (AgentWineAlign)

The artist formerly known as Chianti Classico Riserva is now Vigne di Montornello beginning in 2014, from the northern side so not a single-vineyard so to speak but a collection of very specific vineyards. Spent 18 months in a mix of wood, the thread carried forward from the Riserva but with a more focused, intense and layered approach. Having already needed a reset of the compass to wrap my head around the Riserva now taking in some Capannino side fruit, the recalibration also involves moving upwards in pyramid quality. The plan is for the best of Montornello fruit to work with precocious acumen so that it may immediately transport this GS to a new plenary place for Bibbiano. It’s offer of gratification is fleeting in comparison because it’s a conceptual baby as compared to the Capannino, in this or any near future vintage really. Drink 2018-2024.  Tasted September 2017

Bibbiano Chianti Classico Gran Selezione Vigna Del Capannino 2013, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (AgentWineAlign)

The Chianti Classico Gran Selezione Vigna Del Capannino 2013 is monstrous, from ’58 and ’62 sangiovese grosso vines put in by Giulio Gambelli, then grafts from that material for masale propogation in 1999 and the 2000s. The departure from Brunello is here, a huge, muscular, dare it be said Bibbianaccio of the sangiovese Bibbiano family, in GS form, thick, tannic, brooding, exceptionally structured, robust and 15 years away from announcing its true plans. This bottle is subdued however slightly from a spot of TCA but not enough to warrant skipping on past. Wow. Drink 2021-2032.  Tasted September 2017

Bibbiano Chianti Classico Gran Selezione Vigna Del Capannino 2011, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (AgentWineAlign)

The vineyard “Del Capannino” was planted in the 1950’s by the late great Giulio Gambelli, assistant to Tancredi Biondi-Santi. Not surprisingly and in connection to Brunello di Montalcino it is a clonal planting of sangiovese grosso, with further propagation done in the 1990s. The rich Albarese soil of Del Capannino enjoys the finest exposure and microclimate on the estate and is considered the best expression of Bibbiano’s “genius loci,” the spirit of the place. The first single vineyard vintage was 1998 and the Riserva designation switched to Gran Selezione in 2014, retroactive to the 2010 vintage. Today Bibbiano uses Botti (di rovere) Grande and Tonneaux (beginning in 2008) after barriques had been used for years. Still and always has been 100 per cent grosso, the only producer to do so in Chianti Classico. And so theirs is a liqueur that of course takes your mind to Brunello but this is purely Castellina and Chianti Classico so don’t be confused or tempted to settle for idyll comparisons. This has freshness, purity and that enticing meets teasing acidity, certainly consistent with and of no divergence to Bibbiano style. Ties to CC and CCR are blatant, necessary and so very pleasing. There is great structure but you can think about drinking this in its youth. It wont let out all its secrets but it will begin to tell its story. A story of territory. Drink 2019-2028.  Tasted February and September 2017

Bibbiano Bibbianaccio 2011, Igt Toscana, Italy (AgentWineAlign)

Bibbianaccio comes to light in its inaugural vintage, “the bad boy of Bibbiano.” Who is this bad boy, wine or man, referring to Tomasso Marrocchesi Marzi perhaps, or is it something other? The 50 per cent sangiovese, (40) colorino and mixed varietal (including malvasia bianca) blend is an ode to a time before, when Chianti Classico regional wines were blends filled with whatever grew in the fields and men were men. This (mere production of 2,000 bottles) one is forged with extended battonage, malolactic is done in tonneaux and then the blend is assembled and sent to Slavonian oak. The bad more likely refers to a departure, a break from the stylistic and the the territorial approach. His purpose is “to show that we are capable of anything,” insists Tomasso. His rebel is floral and it reminds me of a northern Rhône syrah-viognier, in a sangiovese-colorino with white grape addendum body. Colorino brings the colour, but texture is also ushered in. The punch downs, the stalks mined in, the wood and the compression all give this a vivid, fleshy reality. It’s also much more tannic than the straight-shooting sangiovese. Bibbiannacio is yet another wine tasted in Chianti Classico with no frame of reference, or certainly not one that I have ever tasted before. It is drawn fruit on down from both sides of the Bibbiano plateau but I really taste the calcaire, liquid chalky and mixed with that tannin showing that some further bottle time is needed. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted February and September 2017

Castello di Fonterutoli

The Mazzei family lays claim to Chianti Classico’s origins in a document authored by Ser Lapo Mazzei in 1398. In correspondence from the 16th of December between “the keen notary” and Francesco Datini, “the merchant from Prato “Ser Lapo Mazzei made reference to “Chianti” as a production region and denomination. In 1435, when his granddaughter Madonna Smeralda Mazzei married Piero di Agnolo da Fonterutoli, the holding became part of the family’s estate. Since then, for 24 generations, the Mazzei family have produced wine at Castello di Fonterutoli.

Filippo Mazzei led us through a tasting of seven wines, including the experimental and visionary “Mix 36,” an IGT composed of 36 clones of Fonterutoli planted sangiovese. We then followed Filippo across the road from the estate and village to Osteria di Fonterutoli for lunch and some spirited discourse on sangiovese and the future of Chianti Classico.

Mazzei Badiola 2015, IGT Toscana, Italy (662197, $19.95, WineAlign)

Badiola is a sangiovese-merlot, 70-30 mix and its name comes from the tiny Roman times (circa 998) church set in one of the estate vineyard at 650m. This so happens to be the highest elevation in the area. Badiola sees 10 months in mainly used barriques for the intent to fashion a fruity, round, “everyday” Super Tuscan. It’s actually a bit lactic, dark berry dusty and with some solid grip. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted September 2017  marchesimazzei  profilewinegroup  @MarchesiMazzei  @ProfileWineGrp  Marchesi Mazzei – Castello di Fonterutoli  Profile Wine Group

Castello di Fonterutoli No. 10 2014, IGT Toscana, Italy (AgentWineAlign)

No. 10 is something akin to a lottery pick, chosen from a group of samples and this specific sample was number 10 in the testing. It’s a dusty, properly volatile, minor bretty young sangiovese (with some other varieties mixed in) and led by dark currant to black cherry fruit. It’s neither avant-garde nor a legend but it is very particular in style. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted September 2017

A week’s worth of sustenance in Toscana #5- Pici con ragu di cinghiale at Osteria Di Fonterutoli

Mazzei Chianti Classico Riserva Ser Lapo 2014, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (288530, $22.95, WineAlign)

Fonterutoli’s Chianti Classico Riserva Ser Lapo is named for Filippo Mazzei’s ancestor “Mr. or Signore Lapo,” the first to use the word “Chianti Classico” on a wine label, in December of 1398. This Riserva is 90 per cent sangiovese with 10 merlot and while it no longer fetches three florins, 26 soldi and 8 dinari for 6 barrels, it consistently represents one of the finest values for Riserva level on the CC pyramid. This 2014 spent 14-15 months in barriques and its classic, old time, rustica red tart fruit sangiovese with fine tannins wastes no time into the sidetracked distraction of unwanted meanderings. Walks the Chianti Classico line with classic distinction. Drink 2018-2022. Tasted September 2017

Mazzei Castello Di Fonterutoli Chianti Classico Gran Selezione 2013, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $75.00, WineAlign)

Some malvasia nera and colorino are blended in with the 92 per cent sangiovese, raised in 60 per cent new barriques plus tonneaux. The Mazzei GS is selected from the best parcels and finest quality grapes within those parcels. This is the fourth vintage, 2010 being the first and from a lineage for the wine known as Castello that began in 1995. Was not a Riserva before but just the Castello (IGT). It’s 2013 to be sure but with a deeper, nearly hematic and brooding character. Still the Fonterutoli dusty red fruit but with some iron fisted tannic management. It does carry this sexy feel and yet it’s so serious, so ’13. Drink 2018-2023.  Tasted September 2017

Filippo Mazzei in discussion with Brad Royale and Steven Robinson

Castello di Fonterutoli Mix 36 2013, Igt Toscana, Italy (AgentWineAlign)

Castello Fonterutoli’s Mix 36 IGT Toscana is a brilliant stroke of insular blending genius, from a plot with the 36 sangiovese biotypes planted together but all from the same rootstock, planted in 2003 and 2004. It’s from a very clay vineyard at 300m. An experimental wine to be sure, the commotion variegates layer upon strata, of multi-sangiovese personality interwoven with 35 more variations of its own distinct character self. The becoming may be muddled but it’s simply delicious, fruit juicy, high in acidity though the tannins seem tamed and rendered. Filippo Mazzei insists this to be considered at the top of the pyramid, on a Gran Selezione level. He’s more correct that even he might realize. Just bloody delicious multiplicity of sangiovese. Drink 2018-2024.  Tasted September 2017

Castello di Fonterutoli Concerto Di Fonterutoli 2015, IGT Toscana, Italy (AgentWineAlign)

Concerto di Fonterutoli is the Super Tuscan that started in 2001, originally with 20 per cent cabernet sauvignon. In the nineties there was only half a hectare, and so ’94 was then the last vintage. Over the last 20 years there has been a gradual migration to sangiovese and a restoration of this historical vineyard, but now there is a return or at least a mimic of what was done 20 years ago. So it’s a return to the 80-20 split, not a wine from Concerto Vineyard but a fantasy name, bringing two together, now sangiovese from Fonterutoli and cabernet sauvignon from Siepi. It’s deeply cakey, rich, tannic, very wooden sheathed, with almost a sweetness as a result, more like Napa than almost any wine from lands in Chianti Classico. It wells with big, sweet, grainy and chalky tannins. Huge monster of a wine. Drink 2019-2026.  Tasted September 2017

Castello di Fonterutoli Siepi 2015, IGT Toscana, Italy (AgentWineAlign)

Siepi is the 200m vineyard, west of Fonerutoli, a historical place that already had vineyards planted when the family arrived in the 1400s. This is the only exception to what is being done at the estate. Sangiovese (1995-2000) and merlot (1985) grown, picked and vinified separately. It’s essentially a single-vineyard blend, though on two sides of a road. A 50-50 split, separated and then brought together. It carries more tartness, high acidity and fine tannic structure. Very fine, less cake then Concerto and more of a seamless affair. Merlot in certain parts of Chianti Classico just seems to have this affinity, alone and in partnership with sangiovese, in ways that cabernet sauvignon just does not. Drink 2019-2027.  Tasted September 2017

Rocca delle Macie Estate, Castellina

Rocca delle Macie

Sometimes it just feels like Rocca delle Macie sits at the epicentre of not only Castellina in Chianti but the greater territory that is Chianti Classico. Consorzio President and estate proprietor Sergio Zingarelli is certainly a principal reason for the sentiment but it’s more than that. No other three-tiered pyramid set of examples for Chianti Classico, Chianti Classico Riserva and Chianti Classico Gran Selezione speak to the perseverance of presence and consistency of quality in the Ontario market (plus 40 other countries) and yet it feels as though Rocca delle Macie is just beginning to reinvent its oeuvre. Zingarelli’s late father Italo, a former boxer and producer of spaghetti westerns, bought Rocca delle Macìe in 1973 and today the company produces wines off of six estates, including Macie, Fizzano and Sant’Alphonso. Sergio and his wife Daniela, daughter Giulia, son Andrea and Marketing and Communication Manager Thomas Francioni welcomed us into the Zingarelli home for a comprehensive tasting and the most exceptional home cooking. Not to mention the finest gelato in Toscana and Andrea’s very special craft gin. I made notes on the following six wines.

ry  And in #castellinainchianti we taste @chianticlassico @roccadellemacie with The Presidential #sergiozingarelli

Rocca Delle Macìe Moonlite 2016, IGT Toscana, Italy (400879, $17.95, WineAlign)

Moonlite 2016 gathers vermentino, chardonnay and pinot grigio (40/40/20) from vineyards in southwest Toscana, not far from Grossetto. The lands are really, ostensibly, technically in the Morellino area. A white Super Tuscan so to speak, it’s fresh but also rich and funny in that it’s almost as wet stone smelling as it is pear fruity. There is this ubiquitous Italianate feel about it, not necessarily Tuscan but as a regional white (not sangiovese) it’s harder to define. The vermentino lends a saltiness and the nearby seaside a secondary note as such. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted September 2017  roccadellemacie  profilewinegroup  @roccadellemacie  @ProfileWineGrp  @roccadellemacie  Profile Wine Group

Rocca Delle Macìe Chianti Classico 2015, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (741769, $18.95, WineAlign)

This VINTAGES Essential in Ontario delivers a contiguous style continued since the brand switched to fresher, less brooding gears over the past five or six years. Sees 10-12 months in large Slavonian casks (5000L), from many estates and a selection of vineyards. Freshness is a virtue and depth of fruit as important as anything, in a consistent, well-mannered and fleshy experience, top to bottom. Carries a small amount or Bordeaux varieties.  Last tasted September 2017

Rocca delle Macie’s Chianti Classico 2015 makes the adjustment and will be perfect for the current market, now changing in style again, away from dark colour, with less cabernet sauvignon, to be so very sangiovese and to celebrate the vintage. The classic fresh, bright and righteously dusty red cherry is just so very subtle and refined for what sangiovese can be. You will be hard pressed to find a more amenable, reachable and commercially getable Chianti Classico from a vintage ready to roll. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted February 2017

A week’s worth of sustenance in Toscana #4- Ribollita da Daniela Zingarelli

Rocca Delle Macìe Chianti Classico Tenuta Sant’Alphonso 2015, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $22.95, WineAlign)

Tenuta Sant’Alphonso is the single vineyard Chianti Classico, from one of five estates, mostly clay and dictated by 100 per cent sangiovese. French oak of smaller size (25 hL mostly, up to 30) is employed because of the clay. The robust flesh and tannins need it and are coupled by it, but also refined by it. Aggressiveness only goes so far in sangiovese and then it hits you over the head so accepting the depth in espresso, dark chocolate and the eventuality of balsamic needs to be understood. The use of cement tanks (and less time in Inox tanks) helps to stave off reduction. This is one of the more Riserva like CCs on the market, carrying many characteristics that happen with more and smaller barrique aging. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted September 2017

Rocca Delle Macìe Chianti Classico Riserva 2013, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (930966, $23.95, WineAlign)

Rocca delle Macìe’s is a selection of the best grapes pulled from all four estates, but in different (separate) vinifications and vivifications, aged in French barrels, half new and half 2-plus year old. The methodology looks for consistency in every vintage, because it’s the gathering of best fruit, (including half the fruit from the Sergio Zingarelli Vineyard). Very round, fleshy, composed, integrated, a high acidity (more than many) vintage, dry and intense.  Last tasted September 2017

The vintage is not so much one for Gran Selezione but that category’s loss is the Riserva’s gain. This is a very balanced and structured Riserva with a healthy dose of oak and an even greater sense of the Zingarelli family style. It’s crucial and obvious, correct and loyal, so very modern. Why shouldn’t it be? Let is settle for one year. Drink 2017-2021.  Tasted September 2016

Rocca Delle Macìe Chianti Classico Fran Selezione Riserva Di Fizzano Single Vineyard 2013, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (699454, $33.95, WineAlign)

Fizzano is the historical single vineyard that Sergio’s father Italo purchased from The Bertoli family (who did not have any vines) in 1984. From 1985 to 2010 it was CC Riserva and moved to the category of Gran Selezione for the 2010 vintage, keeping the Fizzano name. Mostly (95 per cent) sangiovese with five merlot, only French oak (20 per cent barriques), from calcareous (with quite a mix of sandy) soil. iIt’s a silky affair, ripe in tannin and from fruit so much so. One of the oldest vineyards (planted in 1985 to 1990) but needing replanting, to a higher (5,000+ plants per hectare) density. Not so much exceptional length but now having evolved into a really round, balanced and amenable CC. More than almost any GS.  Last tasted September 2017

Certainly the most affordable Gran Selezione on the market, Rocca Delle Macie’s From Castellina in Chianti is remarkably defined and tannic. The (32nd) vintage prepares for another profitable possibility, with ripe fruit, solid structure and those formidable edges. The re-branded single-Fizaano vineyard Riserva to Grand Selezione is again worth every bit of that advantage. Big, balanced and in the end, still brooding, let this rest for another two years. Drink 2019-2026.  Tasted January 2017

Rocca Delle Macìe Roccato 2010, IGT Toscana, Italy (Agent, $51.95, WineAlign)

Roccato is the second Super Tuscan of the estate (along with Ser Gioveto), this beginning with the 1988 vintage. It’s a 50 per cent sangiovese and 50 cabernet sauvignon split and the reasons for pouring a not so current vintage will become clear. Aged only in barriques Roccato is rich beyond the pale and with the first (very apparent) volatility and bretty culpability, though remarkably not as tannic as expected. It’s quite a smooth, silky, velvet cupboard but filled with acidity. This seven year point of age is certainly part of the mystique and secondary character is beginning (or has well begun to take this next step). Most supple and round and then the finish goes into chocolate ganache, dark toffee and a feigned note of sweetness. Will likely carry more cabernet sauvignon in the future and conversely Ser Gioveto (not tasted) will likely become a Chianti Classico Riserva. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted September 2017

Gallo Nero of Rocca delle Macie in Castellina in Chianti

Good to go!

Godello

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

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Get Radda for Chianti Classico

Gallo Nero Sangiovese Vendemmia 2017

Most likely you’ve arrived at this page because you know that the story of Radda in Chianti will make for a terrific read. If you’ve landed here and do not yet know the blood of Radda’s sangiovese or are not yet excited about the commune’s 2017 harvest then I urge you to press on. In Radda they are farming higher, further and edgier. Their time in the sun as the cool kid on the fringe of selvage sangiovese viticulture in Chianti Classico has begun.

We’ve talked ad nauseam of late about the marginalia of climate change, about cool climates and growing regions finding ways to ripen grapes at the edge of what is possible. As a greater entity Chianti Classico is not one of them per se but Radda may just be entitled to boast about being cool, relatively speaking. Everywhere vines are grown there has to be a coolest spot, where the altitude is highest, the temperatures are lowest and the vines are slower to manage phenolic ripeness. Radda is the coolest sector and the rest of Chianti Classico should be paying careful attention. Like all wines subjected and connected to global climate change, in Chianti Classico the future of sangiovese will be inextricably tied to those from Radda. Until now it has been generally understood that above 550m (or so) of altitude it is more than difficult to ripen sangiovese in Chianti Classico. That too is changing and the 2017 vintage will offer great proof.

In #raddainchianti we find ourselves immersed in a recurring if revelatory theme #sangiovese #chianticlassico

Related – All in with Chianti Classico

Radda is one of four sub-zones in the province of Siena and shares its borders with four other Chianti Classico communes; Gaiole to the southeast, Greve to the north, Castellina to the west and Castelnuovo Berardenga to the south. There is something about the Radda sangiovese that stands alone, a thread that runs through, with traces and shadows of the territory omnipresent in the collective psyche of these wines. While other communes like Gaiole have begun to gather and band together, it is the group from Radda that is most keen and desperate to share their collective heartbeat from the eastern corner of Chianti Classico.

In Radda the shift to one for all and all for one has brought 30 producers together. The recently formed group share a commonality defined by soil types and estate vineyards set at an average elevation of 450m. This is one of the oldest areas of Chianti Classico, a commune of castles and vineyards that date back to the 12th century. Elevation, the soils and the expositions make for some of the most elegant sangiovese in Chianti Classico. The results are a cause and effect summation due to less sun, more finesse and a most prominent mineral influence. Radda’s destiny is defined by deeper root delving and more extraction of trace minerals from well below the soil surface. “The territory has always has been considered a cold terroir with more difficulties to grow sangiovese, especially as compared to other communes that are lower, hotter and with fewer difficulties,” claims Roberto Bianchi of Val delle Corti. Climate change has opened the door for this fringe commune to take center stage.  Says Bianchi, “other communes have tremendous problems of overheating. We don’t have that problem in Radda.”

Radda is a story built upon a multiplicity of limestone, in all its Chianti Classico permutations, from grey calcaire to Galestro and everything in between. Terraces are all used, irrespective of the orientation. Two rivers, Pesa and Arbia mark the lowest points at approximately 300m and the slopes rise up from the rivers, up to 600-650 at the top where the Galestro and Alberese change to Macigno, friable limestone and sandstone, less calcareous, harder to work and therefore, places of lower yields.

“A subzone system for a definitive denomination as big as Chianti Classico should exist.” These are the words of Volpaia’s Giovanella Stianti. Signora Stianti’s vision may not be a singular one but not everyone is bold enough to speak aloud about an idea that most likely will soon become a reality. Until now the Chianti Classico discussion has been limited to varietal and the insistence that the main concern be about the multiplicity of sangiovese. September tastings centred on Radda, Gaiole and even more specific still to Montefioralle and Lamole speak to the idea of breaking down a territory into smaller parts. Defining sub-zones and then sub-sub zones is potentially discriminatory and ultimately controversial but the communes and villages are ready and stating their case for individual due. The murmurings ask the question. Has the time not come to proudly wear Radda in Chianti on your wine label? This piece of prominent information would help the consumer understand where this wine is from. The impressive number of producers and wide-ranging diversity suggests there are more than enough reasons to get behind the plan. Chianti Classico will always come first but in all of Toscana only it is possessive of such distinct communes. So why not tell the world? Borders can’t be drawn underground but the lines can be demarcated above ground, by commune, village, river or road. Naturally the geologies will have to fall into line. In the case of Radda, that won’t be a problem.

Brad Royale, Steven Robinson and Federica Mascheroni

Related – The most important red wine from Italy

In September of 2017 I made my second visit to Casa Chianti Classico, located in the former Convento di Santa Maria al Prato in Radda in Chianti. It is here that the Consorzio Vino Chianti Classico has set up its new education and events centre to promote the wines of the Gallo Nero. Casa Chianti Classico has been converted from the old Franciscan monastery and is now home to meetings, conferences, events, a wine shop and a museum. Four intrepid Chianti Classico inquirers, John Szabo M.S., Brad Royale, Steven Robinson and Godello were hosted by three valorous representatives for the municipality. Federica Mascheroni of Castello di Volpaia, Roberto Bianchi of Val delle Corti and Oscar Geyer of Borgo La Stella. I have reviewed 23 examples from the tasting in Radda.

Sangiovese of Radda in Chianti

Borgo La Stella Chianti Classico 2014, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

The proposition indicts 2014 with a tight Chianti Classico, of fruit either berry or plum it’s hard to be sure, but either way it’s found wrapped and dragged through a stone-earthy ride. There is this deep into the soil liqueur that carries a mushroom funkiness, all within reason and finely integrated. Not a fruity CC by any stretch but carries plenty of character and might even be considered ripe for the vintage. From young vines, planted in 2006. That says something about its prescient present and the possibilities for the future. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted September 2017  borgolastella

Borgo La Stella Chianti Classico Riserva 2014, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

Made with oenologist Maurizio Alongi, Oscar and Christian-Oscar Geyer’s Borgo La Stella Chianti Classico Riserva 2014 was bottled at Mazzei in Castellina. The vintage is all over this sangiovese (with 10 per cent merlot) planted to heavy, heavy density. The vines are but a mere six years old but already the Alberese is felt in this impressively layered, deeply hematic and starchy tart CCR. The mineral sensation is something that it quite striking at the Riserva level. It’s a big and tannic arena in which the wealthy deposits of mineral salts are pulsating with Radda terroir. Drink 2018-2024.  Tasted September 2017

Brancaia Chianti Classico 2015, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (519173, $24.95, WineAlign)

Classic 2015 Chianti Classico of dark raspberry fruit and maximum ripeness with a side show of top notch acidity, bright enough to stay grounded in loyal and traditional footing. The tannins do cause a minor drying finish which only accentuates the correct and justifiable humility of sangiovese. An example to live and abide by. Drink 2017-2020. Tasted August and September 2017  brancaia_com  noble_estates  @CasaBrancaia  @Noble_Estates  @Brancaia  @NobleEstates

Brancaia Chianti Classico Riserva 2013, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (260802, $36.95, WineAlign)

Brancaia goes all in to exploit sangiovese and the for broke style solicits some patience to wait out in extra time. The dusty, musty and leathery notes are up front, closed and somewhat suffocating for the fruit. Though 16 months in barrel is nothing to call nothing it is not the wood that dominates these gregarious 2013 grapes. With time this swirls into a grosso sangiovese like liqueur with plums, cherries and spice. Really Riserva in style but not of the recent past, more like the older ways but translated to modern times. Needs three more years to perform due diligence, gain some traction and find its guaranteed due elegance. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted March and September 2017

Castello d’Albola Chianti Classico 2014, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (339937, $18.95, WineAlign)

Castello d’Albola Chianti Classico is really quite ripe for 2014, even perched on the next edge but short of the dangerous ledge. The acids are a bit hard and the compression somewhat intense in a sangiovese that reeks of personality spoken loud and clear. Both fruit and tannins are set out to drying on the savoury finish. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted September 2017 castellodialbola  zoninwines  @CastellodAlbola  @zonin1821  @castellodialbola  @ZoninProsecco

Castello d’Albola Chianti Classico Riserva 2014, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (315150, $24.95, WineAlign)

Castello d’Albola 2013 is a gamey Riserva, with aromas of roasted meat and salumi, expressly extracted and pressed. This goes for broke and makes the most impression it can, with big fruit, tart edges and big tannins. It’s a formidable mouthful to be sure though lacks some balance, at least while it’s quite young. Time might help to shape the finesse and sharpen the clarity. Drink Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted September 2017

Castello di Radda Chianti Classico 2015, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

Here the exchange between fruit and acidity is seamless if simple, easy going and with no risk taken. Hard not to understand what’s going on here with its simple plan, fine execution and classic tart, red fruit and salty stone bent. On the sour side for Radda in Chianti Classico, particularly when discussing 2015. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted September 2017  #castellodiradda  @CastellodiRadda  @castelloradda

Castello di Radda Chianti Classico Gran Selezione 2013, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

This 100 per cent sangiovese is from Il Corno, a single vineyard meaning “The Horn” upwards of 400 m above sea level. The soil is a calcareous clay and the vines were planted in the early 1990s. The ’13 Gran Selezione is rich and expressly ripe, simply linear for the category with very high acidity. Over the top high acidity. Let’s hope the twain is met before the end of this decade. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted September 2017

Castello di Volpaia Chianti Classico 2015, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (953828, $27.95, WineAlign)

Volpaia’s 2015 strikes me as a Chianti Classico with ancient wisdom and perfect vintage fruit quality in its calculated, curative concentration, a wine that modestly takes every advantage it can, which are few and far between. This is a rich and earthy red, of frutti di bosco, ropey and wild, yet generating power in its wonderful restraint. Take in and regard the gentile, non facile, wondrous mystery of Radda in Chianti Classico. Drink 2018-2023.  Tasted September 2017  castellodivolpaia  rogersandcompanywines  @volpaia  @rogcowines  @volpaia

Castello di Volpaia Chianti Classico Riserva 2014, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (705335, $41.95, WineAlign)

Volpaia Chianti Classico Riserva 2014 is expressly reductive with layers of beautiful fruit laid comfortable and resting below. The glycerin texture and fine, fine tannins tell us the life of this CCR will be long, slow developed and over time will become more beautiful than imagined. Benvenuto to the blessed nature of Macigno terroir exorcized properly, in allowance of place to hold court and fruit to slowly dance upon its stage, rhythmically and harmoniously together. This takes every advantage of a vintage that will build structure if you let it. Wait for Volpaia’s ’14 because two plus years from now the florality will floor you. So pretty. Drink 2019-2026.  Tasted September 2017

Before #bistecafiorentina #enotecanuvolari

Castelvecchi Chianti Classico Capotondo 2014, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

I had tasted both Capotondo ’14 and ’15 earlier in the week at Enoteca Nuvolari (Pietrafitta) though took no formal notes at the time. It was clear by way of perspective that ’15 was certainly drinking well but this ’14 holds more impressive and precise structure, at least by way of intensity. This is highly distinctive, chewy, somewhat chunky sangiovese, but the firm constitution and decidedly ferric edginess brings Radda soil into play. The “round head” tells us that it can be nothing but Chianti Classico in all its history and its glory. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted September 2017  cantinacastelvecchi    @chianticastelvecchi.it

Castelvecchi Chianti Classico Riserva Lodolaio 2014, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

Riserva Lodolaio 2014 is not only scented by a curious perfume but a bit of a nutty one, connected to sweetness by oak in an immediate gratification, prompt to the consumer kind of way. This old castle, heritage vines sangiovese from high territory altitude is a veritable legume and spice spider, with legs of clove, cinnamon, nutmeg, anise, vanilla, coffee, dried herbs and dark chocolate. Here in the short term is an example of Chianti Classico Riserva ready for many a believer and quick to act appreciative imbibers. Lodolaio, the Riserva awarded, in a frame. Drink 2017-2020. Tasted September 2017

After #bistecafiorentina #enotecanuvolari

Colle Bereto Chianti Classico 2015, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $31.95, WineAlign)

From Radda in Chianti and one of Chianti Classico’s great young, forward thinking winemakers Bernardo Bianchi the wisdom is easily noted, deduced, accepted, considered and abided. Red fruit with an earth’s dusty, cracked crust allows for smells like fresh tiles and the just mixed mortar but that fruit is aching to burst forth. Very seamless for a young Chianti Classico, so this building will stand strong and last through the centuries, which in wine years equates to seven, maybe ten. Terrific sweet acidity, life-affriming sapidity and vitality. As good as young CC gets with the longest, pitch perfect tang in elongation, drift and persistence. Drink 2018-2025.  Tasted February and September 2017   @NokhrinWines  Azienda Agricola Colle Bereto  Azienda Agricola Colle Bereto

Colle Bereto Chianti Classico Gran Selezione 2013, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $67.50, WineAlign)

The current incarnation of the single-vineyard Gran Selezione from “la vigna del Convento” is a wildly rich and structured, intuitive and interpretive expression. The vineyard resides in a great Radda amphitheatre, situated on the slope beneath Il Convento di Radda in Chianti. Winemaker Bernardo Bianchi does nothing to veer away from the house-composed, let the vineyard speak style, from a sun-worshipping, ambitious yet wise, 22 year-old Galestro soil block at a high Chianti Classico 500m peak. All together making for the new super Riserva of restrained power and elegance. If the aromatics in 2011 were of a wow factor they are somehow, magically and inexplicably improved upon in 2013. The field of flowering greens, the deep way you inhale the fruit and above all else, the mineral of this Galestro. It pervades and attacks, especially on the palate but when you taste sangiovese like this you understand the disconnected exaggerations, over-stressed acidity and the (comparative) imbalance in some of the GS peers. Bereto’s is one of the finest Gran Selezione and worthy of every charged sip. Drink 2020-2035.  Tasted February and September 2017

Istine Chianti Classico 2015, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

Istine Chianti Classico is made by Angela Fronti out of vineyards set quite high between 480 and 550m, on the road that runs from Radda to Castellina in Chianti. From a great variegation of soils; Alberese, marly limestone, Galestro and some light presence of quartz. A rich red limestone ruby sangiovese is the result, collecting to a mild but notable unctuous liqueur, manageable acidity and tannin. This sharp and correct CC is lovely, well made, so proper. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted September 2017  istine_raddainchianti    @istineraddainchianti

Istine Chianti Classico Riserva Levigne 2013, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

Levigne is considered the top wine of the estate and it is one of two assemblage-forged sangiovese. Angela Fronti produces three single-vineyard Chianti Classico, a CC that combines all three vineyards and this Riserva. Since the 2012 harvest Fronti has opted for separate vinifications of sangiovese according to each vineyard of origin. Through different wines the characteristics of each specific vineyard, as in exposure, soil and altitude, are exploited. Fronti notes “we tell our reality through the best sangiovese harvested in the Vigna Istine (between Radda and Castellina), the one collected in the Vigna Casanova dell’Aia (near Radda) and the one in the Vigna Cavarchione (in Vertine, Gaiole). Riserva is a story of assemblage and it seems to me, not the wine of Angela’s greatest passion. This CCR is chosen from her best fruit and spent 18 months in large botti. The fruit is raisin chewy and a bit stewed to be sure but with good acidity and tart, tight tannins to keep the faith. It’s disjointed and I would bet the single-vineyard CCs are more precise and focused. Should SV Riservas be the wave of Istine’s future? Only Fronti can answer that question, if adding more diversity to the portfolio is even a possibility. All that said this high quality blend will turn and morph for a more than interesting secondary CCR display of personality. Drink 2017-2022.  Tasted September 2017

Podere Terreno Chianti Classico 2015, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

In 2015 Podere Terreno Chianti Classico makes a bit of a funky entry, not reductive but seemingly drawn from a lower slope, deep and earthy. In this vintage it wells deep as an inhalant of cherries, macerated and yet it’s entirely Radda, cool and wet, stony and such a calcari expression. You can enjoy this beginning in six months simultaneously alongside the tougher ’14, but their worlds will parallel one another for the rest of the journey. In both cases Radda represents. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted September 2017  agriturismo_podereterreno  @podereterrenoallaviadellavolpaia

Poggerino Chianti Classico 2014, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (SAQ 878777, $25.95, WineAlign)

The vines date back to 2004 and 1994 for Poggerino’s Chianti Classico, a 100 per cent sangiovese that sits at a zenith where the most red limestone earth and sour intensity is noted above all 14s almost anywhere, not just from Radda but for all of the territory. Almost over the top in this regard but stand up and counted is what this amounts to. Then it grooves forward and rebounds with warmth and depth before returning to that earthy calacari bonding. Gathers itself, the moving parts and glides along with solid length. Very interesting, honest, organic and naturally curated work from Piero Lanza. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted September 2017  fattoriapoggerino  vins.balthazard    @vinsbalthazard  @poggerino  @VinsBalthazard

Poggerino Chianti Classico Riserva Bugialla 2014, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $45.00, WineAlign)

Here the ’13 vintage is really expressed for Chianti Classico in Radda with deep red cherry fruit, earth and real saline intensity. The tannins are a bit rough and tumbling but even in their coarseness there is charm and even beauty. In such a state of youth at this the deceitful Poggerino Riserva talks some trash, almost as if to lie (alla bugia) about what it’s worth, so let it settle, integrate, develop and expand. The chew and the grip will be replaced by something other. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted September 2017

Pruneto Chianti Classico 2013, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

Pruneto is the sole ’13 in the group tasting and the only one with Radda celebrated in larger font on the label. This is the outlier, from the singular winemaker (Riccardo Lanza) and was just recently bottled. The organics and organoleptic, earthy intensity are something to behold. It’s a stripped down ’13, Radda stye, needing time to unfurl and even bloom. This is hard to figure Chianti Classico 2013 but I suspect it will blossom after a few years time. Nothing else in Radda tastes like this. From the tiny, 3.5 hectare estate divided into just two vineyards, surrounded by forest. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted September 2017  #Pruneto

Val Delle Corti Chianti Classico 2015, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

Roberto Bianchi’s 2015 is a reserved and restrained aromatic Chianti Classico but there is a subliminal Galestro or Macigno message being delivered here and it would seem to be a grey to darker calcareous rock expression. The fruit is quiet but felt plummy and tart on the palate. This is a bit older schooled but surely carries great presence and length. A rich thorough finish concludes that ride through the mineral life. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted September 2017  valdellecorti  @ValdelleCorti  @valdellecorti

Val Delle Corti Chianti Classico Riserva 2014, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

From Roberto Bianchi, the Val delle Corti Chianti Classico Riserva 2014 comes from not just a challenging but also a complicated vintage. Despite the rains and the unusually cool temperatures the aromatics here are not just a pure distinction for CCR but also for Radda. This is because it eschews concentration, alcoholic heat and unnecessary intensity for purity, honesty and delicasse. Here sangiovese acts in a wine that stands on its own as the finest expression of fruit from this estate. It’s both pretty and earthy, peppery and really deep, really deep. This has layers and layers of trace mineral drawn up into the red cherry mixed with some dried fruit bright and vibrant of the bones of the Riserva level wine. It can’t be thought of as anything but most excellent. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted September 2017

Vignavecchia Riserva Chianti Classico Odoardo Beccari 2011, Docg Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $33.95, WineAlign)

A consistent and terrific follow-up to 2010 from old vines in Radda in Chianti, this is warm and creeping north (or south depending on your explanatory orientation) from deep, religious aromatics. Fresh slices of fennel bulb and wet concrete are rich, wet, juicy and vaporous. Sweet acidity and tannin join spicy red fruit from what is ostensibly the most unctuous and deeply tangy sangiovese you are likely to ever taste. This is quite something else, both hedonistically indulgent and propitiously wild and engaging. You had better like it hot and bothered, fleshy, gregarious and sexy. This really has it all. Drink 2017-2024.  Tasted February and September 2017  #vignavecchia    @VignaVecchia

Gallo Nero Sangiovese Vendemmia 2017

Good to go!

Godello

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

WineAlign

Fontodi’s one hundred per cent sangiovese

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

I have spent quite a bit of time in Chianti Classico over the past two years, most recently during the last week of September. The occupation of study and discovery and the investigation into the intricacies and multiplicities of the region’s sangiovese prepossess a lifelong infatuation. If the cumulative is a factor of compulsive obsession so be it and while decades of learning are left to attack, an essential visit can now be crossed off the bucket list. With Giovanni Manetti at Fontodi.

Fontodi is a certified organic estate which extends over 130 hectares of which approximately 70 are planted to vines. When you break down the name into two parts, first fonte or “source” and odi, “hate” you paint an image in etymology that couldn’t be further from the truth. Take a walk through the estate’s vineyards set in Panzano’s Conca d’Oro and the exact opposite unfolds. Fontodi’s estate vines are as described (and for the effects on health and happiness) prescribed as a place of “high altitude, calcaire-clay-schist soil, lots of light, and a fantastic micro-climate – warm and dry with a marked difference in day and night-time temperatures.” Lots of light is really key, “un sacco di luce,” or as it could be construed, “a source of love.” Spend three hours with Fontodi’s proprietor Giovanni Manetti and you’ll get the picture. Fontodi as Fonte di amore.

Related – All in with Chianti Classico

Giovanni Manneti showing the sangiovese of the 2017 harvest

Today is September the 23rd. First we take a drive down into the Conca d’Oro and walk in the vines. The sangiovese blocks with the finest exposure and the most sun have just recently been picked. Others are coming in as we speak. The rest will be harvested by the end of the week. It has been a most unusual vintage in Chianti Classico. One of the warmest and driest winters on record is interrupted by a near-devastating spring frost then followed by scorching summer temperatures and no rain. The grapes dry up and desiccate to nearly nothing with the danger of an empty harvest looming. Then a miracle happens and the rains fall during one crazy week in early September.

There are producers who make a fateful mistake. They pick their sangiovese ahead of the rains. Sugar and alcohol are high in the shrivelled berries but phenolic ripeness lags well behind. The stems and seeds in these preemptively harvested sangiovese are green, underdeveloped and bitter. The tannins will follow suit. Though these wines will be jammy and flavourful in the first year or two, the hollow feeling on their mid-palate and the astringency on their finish will expose their weakness. Giovanni Manetti makes no such mistake. He allows the grapes to swell with the much-needed watering and then watches them develop their phenolics over the following weeks of warm weather. His sangiovese are beautiful, lower in yield, with many of the bunches and their berries smaller in size, but ripe nonetheless. It may not turn out to be a great year for Chianti Classico and Flaccianello economics but the 2017 wines will shine.

Have not seen a prettier cow than the #chianina raised for @dariocecchinimacellaio on the @fontodi organic farm in Panzano

We move on down to visit the Chianina. The Chianina are an ancient and very large Italian breed of cattle raised mainly for beef. The beautiful, regal and majestic cows are famous for producing the meat for Toscana’s bistecca alla fiorentina. Giovanni’s herd are nurtured for one specific purpose, to supply the most famous butcher in Italy Dario Cecchini with his meat. Says Cecchini, “The Officina della Bistecca is our convivial way of answering the difficult question of the perfect way of cooking Her Majesty the Bistecca alla Fiorentina and Her Sisters the Costata and the Panzanese steak.” The farm to table relationship between Fontodi and Antica Macelleria Cecchini is witnessed right here, first hand.

Pinot Nero in Amphora at Fontodi

Back in the winery Manetti is fully cognizant of a group of seasoned journalists and sommeliers having visited more than their share of estates so we skip past the stainless steel tanks, barrel cellars and bottling lines to get down to what is really right. Along with John Szabo M.S. (WineAlign partner and author of Volcanic Wines), Brad Royale (WineAlign judge, Wine Director of Rocky Mountain Resorts and most interesting man in Canada) and Steven Robinson (First Ontario Ambassador of Chianti Classico and Sommelier at Atelier Restaurant in Ottawa) we talk amphora with Giovanni. Much experimentation is taking place at Fontodi even while much of the world may not associate their iconic sangiovese with this sort of side work. Along with decades of producing tiles, the hand-made wine Amphoras manufactured by Manetti Gusmano & Figli are the result of eight generations of experience in the production of Cotto and high quality handmade terracotta.

What makes the Manetti Amphorae special is the uniqueness of the clay; the abundant presence of Galestro in the terroir of  Chianti Classico, the salts and the calcium carbonates confer the right microporosity, enabling the wine to breathe correctly. This feature, the antioxidant and antibacterial action and the high thermal insulation capacity make the terracotta Amphora  an ideal tool for the production of great natural wines. Fontodi and natural wines. Another partnership so worth exploring.

Fontodi vineyards in the Conco d’oro, Panzano

After the amphora we sit down to taste through the wines of Fontodi. There are good solid sessions and then there is the kind of catechetical research afforded with a proud and humble man of Giovanni Manetti’s stature. First the presentation and sangiovese appetite whetting pour of Meriggio, a sauvignon blanc from the Colli Toscana Centrale, a rest in the shade, “and as for compensation, there’s little he would ask.” Then the Chianti Classico from Fontodi and neighbouring Lamole in Greve in Chianti, for perspective and contrast. Manetti gets down to the greatest of Chianti Classico/Toscana IGT contrastive verticals with eight vintages of Vigna del Sorbo (now labeled as Gran Selezione) and Flaccianello della Pieve. When asked what he thinks of the Chianti Classico Gran Selezione category moving to 100 per cent sangiovese he laughs. “What do I think of the idea? It’s my idea!” The notes will explain the rest.

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

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

Sangiovese of Fontodi

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#nebuchadnezzar @fontodi #flaccianello

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Good to Go!

Godello

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

WineAlign

Rocking out with the 2014 WineAlign World Wine Awards of Canada

WineAlign World Wine Awards of Canada 2014

WineAlign World Wine Awards of Canada 2014

The results are in. Closure has come. Category champions and Judge’s picks are now live.

The highly regarded WineAlign World Wine Awards of Canada is categorized and justified as a “must enter” for winemakers and vintners who want to be a part of a genuine, above-board wine competition. For consumers in Canada it is a place to discover the best value wines available on the market today. Say what you will about the concours concept. The straightforward WineAlign offer implements an expertly designed bracket to ultimately crown a covey of thoroughly deserving champions. Wines are carefully scrutinized, judged with fair play and at times, brutal honesty. Each wine must impress the judges more than once. “Up to the task” is never in question. At “The Worlds,” the best minds are on the job.

Related – He spits, he scores: 2013 World Wine Awards of Canada results

Panorama of judging and wines at WWAC14 Photo: Jason Dziver (www.jasondziver.com)

Panorama of judging and wines at WWAC14
Photo: Jason Dziver (www.jasondziver.com)

It was the week of August 18 to 22. Eighteen critics, two czars, a tech guy, a database custodian, a logistics steward, “her bitch” (sic) and a dedicated team of volunteers gathered to administer vinous justice for 1000 (give or take) hopeful wines. The tasting road was long yet filled with much success. Never have so many wines with the intention of offering value and simple pleasure shown so well and with so much grace.

Head judge Anthony Gismondi talks with Rhys Pender MW, Steve Thurlow, DJ Kearney and Godello Photo: Jason Dziver (www.jasondziver.com)

Head judge Anthony Gismondi talks with Rhys Pender MW, Steve Thurlow, DJ Kearney and Godello
Photo: Jason Dziver (www.jasondziver.com)

In today’s WineAlign WWAC14 results dissertation, Anthony Gismondi tells us that “nothing has value unless you give it some.” The awards are about assessing daily drinkers, wines that the repeat consumer look for often, especially the bargains. They are for consumers first, of and for the common people. For the wineries, agents and writers, the competition is effectuated without bias. “The tastings are computerized from start to finish allowing wineries, agents or retailers to enter, pay, and eventually track their results online.” 

In 2014 my position is this. Oak and cheap tricks are on the way out, at least when it comes to wines submitted to the WineAlign World Wine Awards of Canada. Sugar, wood chips, agar agar, artificial colour, manipulated flavour, reverse osmosis and added acidity are trade practices reserved for wines out there in the fast food stratosphere. The judges at the WWAC14 were fortunate to be granted immunity from having to taste and assess such a most unnatural lot. These awards represent and foster an altruistic commonality between vigneron and critic. Make an honest wine and it will be judged with honourable intent.

WWAC14 Judging Panel

WWAC14 Judging Panel

The writers and judges that make up the panels evaluate wines under $50 that are sold somewhere in Canada in the year of the competition. Entries are judged in flights along with similar varietal wines in three price categories; under $15, $15 to $25 and over $25. Starting with the 2014 awards all wines entered will not only be posted on WineAlign with bottle images, but reviews will be included as well (many in both French and English). Again in 2014, orchestration was overseen by one of North America’s most respected wine critics, Vancouver Sun columnist and WineAlign Partner Anthony Gismondi, aka The Spitter.

Panel of judges DJ Kearney, Godello and Rhys Pender MW Photo: Jason Dziver (www.jasondziver.com)

Panel of judges DJ Kearney, Godello and Rhys Pender MW
Photo: Jason Dziver (www.jasondziver.com)

Some startling results came out of this year’s tastings. Who would have ever put money on Carménère under $15 not only showing well, but blowing the collective minds of no less than five critics? Should Malbec in the $15-25 range, half of which are made by large and recognizable houses, have impressed with so much structure and restraint? A group of eight red blends under $15 were all good, five of them garnering very good scores. That same concept group of $15-25 were nearly all exceptional. Southern Italy fared with top value results in the under $15 category. Syrah/Shiraz $15-25 really surprised, as did Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay in the same range. Not to mention a flight of five fruit wines, four of which scored between 85 and 88. Not bad. All this can be attributed to one basic premise. WineAlign does not attract more producers than other concours. It attracts better ones.

WWAC14 judges Photo: Jason Dziver (www.jasondziver.com)

WWAC14 judges
Photo: Jason Dziver (www.jasondziver.com)

As in 2013, this year I was invited to join the other 17 judges in Mississauga, Ontario. Fortune is measured by the company one keeps. The 2014 judges were David LawrasonSteve Thurlow, Sara d’Amato, Bill Zacharkiw, Dr. Janet Dorozynski, Rémy Charest, Craig Pinhey, Rhys Pender, MWDJ Kearney, Treve Ring, Brad RoyaleJulian Hitner, Evan SaviolidisBruce Wallner, MSMichelle Bouffard, Emily Maclean, Adam Hijazi and Jake Lewis.

Released today, here are the results from #WWAC14, presented by WineAlign. Wines were awarded for the categories of Top Value WinesBest of CountryCategory Champions and Judges’ Choice. In addition to the work of the judges, the Worlds were really made possible by Head Wineaux Bryan McCaw, along with Earl Paxton, Jason Dziver (Photography), Carol Ann Jessiman, Sarah GoddardMiho Yamomoto and the volunteers.

2014 World Wine Awards of Canada Results

WWAC14

WWAC14

Each judge was asked to write reviews on a specific cross-section of wines they were a part of assessing during the competition. Here are my notes on 30 wines tasted blind, across a wide range of categories, in August of 2014 at #WWAC14 and the songs they inspired.

Category champion wines from left to right: Villa Wolf Riesling 2013, Castillo De Molina Reserva Carmenère 2012, Church & State Coyote Bowl Series Chardonnay 2012, Cono Sur Single Vineyard Block No. 21 Viento Mar Pinot Noir 2012, Wolf Blass Grey Label Shiraz 2012, Buena Vista Pinot Noir 2011

Category champion wines from left to right: Villa Wolf Riesling 2013, Castillo De Molina Reserva Carmenère 2012, Church & State Coyote Bowl Series Chardonnay 2012, Cono Sur Single Vineyard Block No. 21 Viento Mar Pinot Noir 2012, Wolf Blass Grey Label Shiraz 2012, Buena Vista Pinot Noir 2011

Cabernet Sauvignon $15-25

Wolf Blass Gold Label Cabernet Sauvignon 2012, Coonawarra, South Australia, Australia (606939, $24.95, WineAlign)

Funny thing about Cabernet Sauvignon, “sometimes they rock and roll, sometimes they stay at home and it’s just fine,” Wolf Blass makes all kinds. This Coonawarra GL seems to do both. It’s ripe and presumptuous, rocks in the glass but also has good, homebody, varietal tendency. It has a heart that’s on fire, a wolf parade of iron, sanguine tension and tannin, but also hung walls of home woven tapestry texture. The core of fruit, earth and tar cries out for prey. The finish is long and returns, back to base Blass.

Icewine – Riesling-Gewurz-Apple

La Face Cachée de la Pomme 2011 Neige Première Ice Pink Cider, Quebec (39305, 375ml, $22.95, WineAlign)

“Breathe, breathe in the air” of intensity, in apples. One hundred squared apples on top of one another. Never mind the few bruised and oxidative ones because the fresh and concentrated mass smothers those minor notes. Pink and ambient, the major sweetness and top-notch acidity speak to me in waves of demonstrative, Floydian verse. Here you will find a Québécois response to “there is no dark side in the moon, really. As a matter of fact it’s all dark.” There is Icewine on the bright side and then there is Iced Cider on la face cachée, “balanced on the biggest wave.”

Mission Hill Family Estate Reserve Riesling Icewine 2013, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia (winery, 375ml, $59.95, WineAlign)

A vanimated astral week’s of emotion is met by an animal musk, both hard to define. There is a high quotient of lemon, in curd, zest and pith. The sweetness is tempered by nudging acidity though it lingers long. All Riesling Icewine has to do “is ring a bell and step right up” so despite the electric Kool-Aid sugar syrup moments, this one spins and twirls, as Riesling does, just like a ballerina.

Inniskillin Niagara Estate Riesling Icewine 2012, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (601021, 375ml, $69.95, WineAlign)

Here sweetness, acerbity and a slightly advanced character are brought into balance by high grape sugar intensity and real linear acidity. Long and elastic, medicinally pretty and sacrosanct with seasoned complexity. Tasted this one and “felt a spark.” Tasted it twice and it tingled to the bone. What begun as a bob between evaluations ended with a simple twist of fate.  WWAC 2014 Category Champion

Pinot Noir $15-25

Villa Maria Private Bin Pinot Noir 2011, Marlborough, South Island, New Zealand (146548, $21.95, WineAlign)

Deep earth and black cherry combine for the most extraction in the $15-25 Pinot Noir flight. There’s dust in them hills as the wine acts as if it were borne of the mountains. Has attitude in altitude. All things considered, the fruit is clean and crisp, perhaps a hair over the overripe line. The cool temperament and temperature in the cold room aid in giving it some love. From my earlier, January 2014 note: “That Villa Maria can make 80,000 cases of Pinot Noir this proper is nothing short of remarkable. Aged in French oak for 8-10 months. As Pinot like as could be hoped for considering the case amount. Every drop must go through Malolactic fermentation. Winemaker Josh Hammond and crew insist upon it, though it’s nothing but painstaking cellar/lab work. The Pinot character initially shines, with loads of plum and black cherry, but there is a momentary lapse. But, “if you’re standing in the middle, ain’t no way you’re gonna stop.” So, the definitive Marlborough ectodermal line painted through the in door speaks quickly and leaves by the out door. From a smoking gun, rising like a Zeppelin. Large volume, big production, drinkable in the evening Pinot Noir.”  Last tasted August 2014  WWAC 2014 Judges’ Choice

Unsworth Vineyards Pinot Noir 2012, Vancouver Island, British Columbia (winery, $$23.90, WineAlign)

Now here we’re talking about a Pinot Noir from a another mother. It heads generously into fragrances not yet nosed in this flight of $15-25 Pinot Noir. Exotic byrne of a perfume on high alert; jasmine, violets, roses and Summer ‘David’ Phlox. Exquisite, fresh and bright. There is tang and tannin. Vibrancy to raise eyebrows. Also wild sage, wild fruit, an animal on a walk in a virgin forest. So much Pinot Noir is hairy, this one is “living on nuts and berries.”  WWAC 2014 Judges’ Choice

Malbec $15-25

Trivento Golden Reserve Malbec 2012, Mendoza, Argentina (agent, $19.95, WineAlign)

This Golden Reserve Malbec by Trivento is a juicy, dusty, fruit tree addition to the #WWAC14 flight and arrives just in the nick of time. Despite the dark fruit, it has no Drake spoken word conceit. It sings in classic Drake lullaby, with beefy meet pine forest aromas and so “you find that darkness can give the brightest light.” Tender refrains soften chalky, stalky wood and corresponding bitter chocolate. Big tannins on this balladeer. Has impressive stuffing.  WWAC 2014 Judges’ Choice

Red Blends over $25

Tinhorn Creek Oldfield Series 2 Bench Red 2011, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia (winery, $29.95, WineAlign)

Wonderful, tangy red fruits define this well-structured Bordeaux blend. Cool and concise, it plays a tight riff and bangs a drum slowly. Comfortable on a big stage, it charges into a funky break and whips a crowd into a frenzy. So much energy from a band of five varietal friends, complimenting each other’s playing with mutual respect. Does the two Bench two-step and steals the show. “Celebrate we will because life is short but sweet for certain. We’re climbing two by two, to be sure these days continue.”

Vin Parfait Red 2012, Adelaide Hills, South Australia, Australia (350512, $29.95, WineAlign)

Circuitous mounds of round, stone ground aromas in coffee, Goji berry, red licorice and red ochre. A Jackson Pollock Expressionist splatter of notion and motion, flirtations and tension. Tempranillo, Shiraz and Grenache in does it, or will it come together beyond the abstract? Number 8 did. This one s’got to too.

Number 8, 1949 by Jackson Pollock www.jackson-pollock.org

Number 8, 1949 by Jackson Pollock
http://www.jackson-pollock.org

Grenache $10-20

Castillo de Monseran Garnacha 2013, Cariñena, Aragon, Spain (73395, $9.95, WineAlign)

A slightly cooked character is evident but within reason. Despite the heat it’s a bit of an arctic monkey, with tomato and cherry sprinkled over by Queso Fresco and followed up with a slice of blueberry pie. Simple yet effective, pleasant palate. There is some heat and tension from the tannins and “I’d like to poke them in their prying eyes,” but they do relent. The length is more than appropriate, given the tag. Only question is, “will the teasing of the fire be followed by the thud?” At $10, who really cares. Represents excellent value.

Artadi Artazuri Garnacha 2013, Navarra and Basque Country, Spain ($19.50, WineAlign)

Garnacha from the old world west with incredible citrus bursts, like orange blossoms and the spirit of the zest. A spritz from a lemon too. A smoulder of burning charcoal with a spit-roasting goat adds to the roadside attraction. Palm branches help to create the smoke. This is exotic and creative stuff. Finishes with a dessert note of bitter plum. Velada, “you got yourself a 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 star reaction.” Really unique red.  WWAC 2014 Judges’ Choice

http://grooveshark.com/#!/s/Roadside+Attraction/33YBUM?src=5

Sauvignon Blanc Under $15

Caliterra Tributo Single Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc 2013, Leyda Valley, Region de Aconcagua, Chile (283648, $14.95, WineAlign)

A step up from multi-site, southern hemisphere Sauvignon Blanc with direct intentions, all the right moves and in all the right places. So much going on in both its aromatic and textural world. Wax, lanolin and Bordeaux-like temperance and consistent with the growing SB trend, “the grass is getting greener each day.” Decent one republic attack on the palate though nothing fantastic. Has heart and Sauvignon Blanc soul.  WWAC 2014 Judges’ Choice

Southern Italy Under $15

Grandi Muri Primitivo Promovi Salento 2013, Puglia, Italy (agent, $13.50, WineAlign)

A red-veined Primitivo, with the savoury blood of Swiss Chard and hoisin and red bean paste coarsing through it. Smells like spicy and sweet Hunan dishes, sweet sweat and sour, but it is not a matter of oxidation. It’s a caramelized soy sensation but written in reverse. Spoon this over cereal, ice cream, charred beef, anything. It’s got Chinese five-spice powder and coriander. Like a bowl of most excellent Pho. Fantastic exotics. “We’re gettin’ you raw and it feels real good.” Rocking Primitivo.  WWAC 2014 Judges’ Choice

Shiraz/Syrah $15-25

Layer Cake Shiraz 2012, South Australia, Australia ($24.99, WineAlign)

Unquestionably warm but with restraint. That may be perceived as a bad, obvious and reprehensible dichotomous comment but in transparency it speaks truths. Shows good savour and sapidity. It’s an aurulent burnt orange and smoked pineapple offering, blanketed in dusty chocolate and syrupy to a certain extreme. It’s long, creamy, silken and covered further in darker chocolate. “True colors fly in blue and black, bruised silken sky and burning flag.” Warm but you too will indubitably see the pleasures in its layer cake.  WWAC 2014 Judges’ Choice

White Blends Under $15

Pelee Gewurztraminer Riesling 2012, Lake Erie North Shore, Ontario (109991, $10.95, WineAlign)

A ray of golden sunshine. The glade and the classic Gewurz attributes are here and highly floral. Rose petals soaking in good medicine. This could be my beloved monster. Such a dry example. She wears “a raincoat that has four sleeves, gets us through all kinds of weather.” Match with BBQ’s eels. Not for everyone but it works.  WWAC 2014 Judges’ Choice

Shiraz/Syrah Over $25

Wolf Blass Grey Label Shiraz 2012, McLaren Vale, South Australia, Australia (390872, $29.95, WineAlign)

This is the most accomplished and wise drop of Shiraz tasted at the WineAlign #WWAC14. A hit of snowy sulphur shows just how much growing up it needs. Such a precocious and heady example. A thick, gluey mess of fruit, unsettled and in rapture within its tannic walls. The voilets and the rest of the garden rules really tie the room together. Shiraz entrenched, grown and raised, “where the nettle met the rose.” For five years later and on patrol for ten more after that. Wow.  WWAC 2014 Category Champion  WWAC 2014 Best of Country

Jackson-Triggs Niagara Estate Delaine Syrah 2011, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (86553, $32.95, WineAlign)

Here blows a fine, exuberant and expresive muzzle with ambrosial flavours. A garrigue and olive dirty martini with sweet drops pf berry syrup. Juniper and conifer verdure meet inklings of berries. There is a sense of mushroom and truffle which can go either way, but here it brings paradigmatic character. Like words added to an intense Billy Preston instrumental. This may “take your brain to another dimension. Pay close attention.” Dark, brooding and out of space. A prodigy and a real deal in cool climate Syrah.  WWAC 2014 Judges’ Choice  WWAC 2014 Best of Country

Cabernet Sauvignon $15-25

Kaiken Ultra Cabernet Sauvignon 2012, Mendoza, Argentina (135202, $19.95, WineAlign)

A genesis in clean fruit of high extract order is linear, direct, forceful and in Cab conceit. A narcissistic brooder with ripples of underbrush and underworld scents. Thinks highly of itself, demands attention, seeks followers, stares into a pool. “The face in the water looks up and she shakes her head as if to say, that it’s the last time you’ll look like today.” With a few more reflecting and reflective refrains this Cabernet will realize a softness, turn away from the mirror and settle into its skin.  WWAC 2014 Judges’ Choice

Lake Sonoma Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2012, Napa – Sonoma – Mendocino, California, United States (Agent, $26.99, WineAlign)

From the outset this engages the imbiber simple because it acts as though its one time tension has been massaged and released. The flat feeling is there, though not detracting, because of an inherent notion that there was and still can be beautiful fruit. It just needs “that spark to get psyched back up.” A rapping modern facade is the cover page for earth savoury meets candied M & M flavour, docile, downy glycerin Cabernet texture, with acidity and tannin waning. Was serious, now friendly and will be late leaving the party.  WWAC 2014 Judges’ Choice

Chardonnay $15-25

Kendall Jackson Avant Chardonnay 2013, Mendocino County, California, United States ($19.00, WineAlign)

This may be a winner. I love the immediacy of its fruit, the antebellum tension and just a kiss from the barrel. You know its there but in subtlety, class and as background noise. The aromas of citrus, beeswax and honey and all accents to clean orchard fruit. This has the most balance in a flight of eleven verry tidy Chardonnay in a consumer-driven $15-25 price bracket. Lady spirited and at times a bit anxious, or perhaps not yet entirely comfortable in its skin, this is nonetheless best in show.  WWAC 2014 Judges’ Choice

Carmenère Under $15

Castillo De Molina Reserva Carmenère 2012, Valle del Maule, Region del Valle Central, Chile (Agent, $14.95, WineAlign)

The first thought on this Carmenère is the scaling back of new oak, lifting it above the crowd in an under $15 flight. The freshness factor makes for a whole new animal, or botanical rather. This has candied jasmine, pansy, bergamot and nasturtium. It’s a veritable salad of candied edibles. The middle palate is marked by Mentholatum and the finale is persistent in acidulated action. What a warm, mazzy gift of a Carmenère, a star of a Chilean red that would be welcome, just like flowers in December. “Send me a flower of your December. Save me a drink of your candy wine.”  WWAC 2014 Category Champion

Chardonnay Over $25

Church & State Coyote Bowl Series Chardonnay 2012, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia (winery, $26.90, WineAlign)

Quiet, muted, beautiful and reserved. This is the “iconoclastic and restlessly innovative” style of a wine that bravely explores other territories of pop Chardonnay. Anything but fashioned in an in your face style, this one is in it for the Hejira, the journey and the time. Ripe yellow apples and pears and then come the lees. Could pass for unoaked Chablis. The appreciation and gathering are a style that should be used more.  “No regrets coyote,” you just come “from such different sets of circumstance.”  WWAC 2014 Judges’ Choice  WWAC 2014 Top Value Wines

Stags’ Leap Winery Chardonnay 2012, Napa Valley, California, United States (655381, $34.95, WineAlign)

Has hallmarks of essential fruit from a top notch vintage, the most complexity and schooling. The reduction is pure essence of grape must, with no fault to either the vine or the maker. Every wine’s “screwed up in their own special way.” A rmineral tannin gets on top early like a Ramones riff, stays for dinner and repeats in refrain. The crisp and mister punchy orchard fruit is kissed by wood. Sucks face. The texture is seamless and verve excellent, by acidity and forward to pronounced length.  WWAC 2014 Judges’ Choice

Sparkling

Delouvin Bagnost N/V Brut, Champagne, France (agent, $42.75, WineAlign)

Tends to a trend in sweet aromatic beginnings which is nothing but endearing. A leesy pear and ris de veau nose split by a bowie and filled with pearls of sugary syrup. To taste there is the metallic gaminess of uncooked other white meat. Sweet meat, sweet thing. The gathering sensation is an elemental display of ethereal, aerified climatic conditions. Though made in an oxidized style, the complexity of character is not to be denied.  “Runs to the center of things where the knowing one says, boys, boys, its a sweet thing.” In the end the burst of energy is invigorating and heart piercing.  WWAC 2014 Judges’ Choice

Pinot Noir Over $25

Cono Sur Single Vineyard Block No. 21 Viento Mar Pinot Noir 2012, Valle de San Antonio, Region de Aconcagua, Chile (agent, $19.99, WineAlign)

You can always pick out the wines made from unique, little feat sites, wherever in the world they may have been raised. Even when they stink up the joint, smell like a 16 year-old hockey change room or like candied paint poured over fresh cedar planks, they stand out like beacons of Pinot amon din. Lord of the Pinot rings here that’s “been kicked by the wind, robbed by the sleet…baked by the sun,” fire lit, rosemary branches and oxtail smoldering and simmering over fresh cut ash from a deciduous forest. Cool mint and pine. The most savoury things of fantasy imagined. Wild ride in and most willin’ Pinot Noir.  WWAC 2014 Category Champion

Buena Vista Pinot Noir, Carneros 2011, Napa Valley, California, United States (304105, $24.95, WineAlign)

This is really quite impressive Pinot Noir. Fastidiously judged if bullish fruit having way too much fun, causing varietal envy amongst other price category peers. Clearly fashioned from stocks of quality fruit, providing an environment for the coming together of many red berries and the earth of contigious vines. All roads lead to a grand palate marked by exotic, spicy and righteous fleet of wood tones. I wonder if I’m in over my head and tell it “your mood is like a circus wheel, you’re changing all the time.” Quite something this MacPinot specimen and though I wonder if it’s a bit too much, it always seems to have an answer and it sure feels fine.  WWAC 2013 Category Champion  WWAC 2013 Best of Variety $15 – $25  WWAC 2014 Category Champion  WWAC 2014 Top Value Wines

Tinhorn Creek Oldfield Series Pinot Noir 2010, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia (winery, $29.99, WineAlign)

The grace of time has ladled felicity upon this left coast Pinot Noir. What once were harsh and mephitic stuck in a cola can kind of smells have been released and are just a faint memory of their once formidable, terrible teeth gnashing remains. Twas root beer that fouled the air but now the saline sea and verdure of hills speaks in clear vernacular. The sailor has “sailed across weeks and through a year,” met with wild things, to now return home and offer up her Pinot Noir, to be enjoyed with supper that is still warm.  WWAC 2014 Judges’ Choice

Riesling Under $15

Villa Wolf Riesling 2013, Pfalz, Germany (agent, $14.95, WineAlign)

This has a lovely, head of its class, nearly value-driven exquisite nature and aromatic richness. In consideration of the price bracket, the sulphur is trumped by that radio dialed in richesse. Exotic Riesling specific fruit. A crisp apple meets a ripe pineapple. A wolf at the door, “out pops the cracker, smacks you in the head.” Decent acidity, better length, good bitters.  WWAC 2014 Category Champion

Red Blends Under $15

Miguel Torres Sangre de Toro 2012, Cataluña, Spain (6585, $12.95, WineAlign)

This Garnacha and Carignan blend works a stoned immaculate contrivance as well as any red blend under $15 you are ever likely to upend. “Soft driven slow and mad, like some new language.” The action is effective, properly conceived and opens the doors to value-based perception. Perhaps a bit thin but the lack of wood and sweetener is a breath of fresh air. What it lacks in girth it makes up for with complexity, in notes of graphite, fennel and sea air. Lovely little Mediterranean red.  WWAC 2014 Judges’ Choice

Good to go!

https://twitter.com/mgodello

He spits, he scores: World Wine Awards of Canada results

Fresh off the presses, here are the results from World Wine Awards of Canada 2013, presented by WineAlign
Photo: kotoyamagami/Fotolia.com

as seen on canada.com

Drinking, by definition, includes consuming and that would obviously be counterproductive to the wine evaluation process. So, wine writers and critics spit for their living. Why would anyone buy a wine on the recommendation from someone who spit it into a bucket? Good question.

Consider another question. How many wine critics does it take to change a light bulb? If the answer were 10, that would be because it would take one to hold the bulb and nine to spin the room. Or the answer might be three. One to decant, taste and spit, and two to take him to the hospital before he bleeds to death. Is the joke and are these responses indicative of how the general public feels about wine criticism? If yes, then the wine consumer’s attitude towards the relevance of wine competitions and the doling out of awards may not exactly be positive and indiscriminate.

A bit of insight for you into the modus vivendi of those who judge wine. Chew over this. A wine is submitted to a concours, tasted several times by a minimum of three critics, all of whom are kept blind as to the clues regarding producer, appellation, region and country. These wine professionals are chosen by and with their peers to judge, sniff, sip, spit and repeat. They consider, contemplate and formulate on the spot tasting notes and then discuss the attributes with a panel before passing final judgement. Seems like a perfectly and indisputably sound and reasonable approach, don’t you think? But what about the spitting part?

Whatever you might think about the use of such an exercise to determine the merit of a bottle of wine, competitions, when run and operated with unbiased integrity, do in fact empower justice to the entrants. Poke fun at the wine critic if you must, felicity knows they can take it, but know their modus operandi is just the same as yours. To seek out the most worthy and best value wines available in their market. The wine critic is self-taught, to internalize the intricacies and idiosyncrasies of a wine without swallowing it. It takes focus and years of practice to figure it out.

WineAlign World Wine Awards of Canada 2013

PHOTO: WineAlign.com
WineAlign World Wine Awards of Canada 2013

The WineAlign World Wine Awards of Canada (WWAC) held in September featured a week-long evaluation process for nearly 1,000 wines (996 to be exact) from around the world. Assembled and organized by an army of volunteers, the Herculean task was orchestrated by one of North America’s most respected wine critics and WineAlign Partner Anthony Gismondi, aka The Spitter. The Vancouver Sun columnist was also responsible for the immeasurable and exacting task of overseeing the pouring and the critical timing of delivery to the judges. Not to mention piles upon piles of tasting notes and scores.

WineAlign WWAC13 Wine Room

WineAlign WWAC13 Wine Room

The WWAC is open to both imported and domestic wines for sale in Canada, provided the wine sells for less than $50 somewhere in the country.  This affords an unparalleled opportunity for all wines sold in Canada to show that they can compete in quality and value with wines from anywhere in the world.  Wines are tasted in three price categories based on the lowest selling price in Canada. Less than $15, from $15 to $25 and from $25 to $50. As a consequence WWAC is really three competitions in one with wines being tasted alongside their peers by price and with awards given by price category.

I was invited to join the other 17 judges for the preliminary rounds. If I were to measure my prosperity by the company I keep, I would indeed be a pecunious wine scribe. I was joined in Mississauga, Ontario by David Lawrason, John Szabo, MS, Steve Thurlow, Sara d’Amato, Bill Zacharkiw, Janet Dorozynski, Rémy Charest, Marc Chapleau, Rhys Pender, MW, Ben Macphee-Sigurdson, DJ Kearney, Treve Ring, Brad RoyaleJulian Hitner, Evan Saviolidis, Anne Martin and Zinta Steprans.

WineAlign WWAC13 judges John Szabo, Julian Hitner and Sara d'Amato

WineAlign WWAC13 judges John Szabo, Julian Hitner and Sara d’Amato

Judges sit three or four together at a table, taste solo through flights of like varieties, procure notes and assign individual scores. Each flight of (three to 12) wines is then discussed, argued, debated and an ultimate meeting of the vinous minds either pushes a wine through to the next round or relegates it to the discard heap. This method of awarding by committee ensures that good wines receive their due blessings and flawed specimens are put in their rightful place.Here’s the kicker. Aside from knowing the price range and specific variety or varieties in a blend, the judges taste all the wines blind. Continent, country, region, appellation and vineyard are not part of the equation. This ensures the most equitable results.

So, fresh off today’s presses, here are the results from WWAC13, presented by WineAlign. Special thanks go out to Head Wineaux, Bryan McCaw, along with Steve Thurlow, Carol Ann Jessiman and Sarah Goddard.

2013 World Wine Awards of Canada Results

Each judge was asked to write reviews on a specific cross-section of wines they were a part of assessing during the competition. Here are my notes on my 28 of them, across a wide range of categories.

From left: Gustave Lorentz Cuvee Amethyste Riesling 2011, Caliterra Sauvignon Blanc Reserva 2013, Yealands Sauvignon Blanc 2012, and De Vine Vineyards Vrm 2011

Riesling $0-15

Gustave Lorentz Cuvee Amethyste Riesling 2011, Alsace, France $14.95

WWAC 2013 Judges’ Choice WWAC 2013 Best of Variety Under $15

Peppery, perspiring, basal, nasal fruit. Propellant driven with a bite of crisp golden delicious apple and green goddess acidity. At under $15 this achieves Trocken success. Unshakable, abecedarian if not the most formidable Riesling.  88  @AmethystWineInc  @drinkAlsace

Loosen Bros. Dr. L Riesling 2012, Qualitätswein Mosel, Germany $13.95

Pressed and packed with tropical fruit, as if a roll-up, in liquid form. Thoughts head east and south but the textural, angular and vertical intensity peels back that inclination. The extended play and fruit replay is a study in delineated Riesling depth. There must be some history behind the bottle.  87  @drloosenwines  @Select_Wines

Jackson Triggs Reserve Riesling 2012, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada, $13.99

Drawn to the off-dry resonance which is both tropical and florid in citrus maxima. That pomello repeats to taste but it falls under a balmy and herbal spell, in a relaxed way. A valley’s elongated attitude, at the foot of a mountain and architecturally sound. Re-mastered, utilitarian Riesling.  85  @Jackson_Triggs

Chardonnay Oaked $15-25

Robert Mondavi Private Selection Chardonnay 2012, California, USA $16.95

Deft, lissome touch of oak. Subtle, determined orchard fruit, namely pear, barely kissed by a rose and the barrel. Exiguous yet meaningful and pragmatic aromatics. Bright Chardonnay so “a light hits the gloom on the grey.” Seals the deal astir with tang on the snappy finish.  88

PHOTO: Michael Godel White wine flight at the WineAlign WWAC13

Sauvignon Blanc $15-25

Caliterra Sauvignon Blanc Reserva 2013, Casablanca Valley, Chile $9.95

WWAC 2013 Judges’ Choice

Great show savvy, really great show. Outright fast flint, white pepper, citrus and fresh herbs. Luscious texture, convincing up the middle and goes deeper than many. Grapey and succulent. Clean, concise winemaking.  90  @Caliterra  @imbibersreport

Yealands Sauvignon Blanc 2012, Marlborough, South Island, New Zealand $15.95

WWAC 2013 Judges’ Choice

Equatorial and profuse but not over the top. Quick, painless slice of jalapeno, a sweet heat capsicum moment. Sauvignon Blanc with a drop of Sriracha, spritz of lime and pinch of salt on ripe tree fruit, like papaya and mango. Add in golden pineapple and kumquat for good salad measure. Nearly great value, if only it were graced with a bit more finesse.  88  @yealands  @TrialtoON

The Ned Sauvignon Blanc 2013, Marlborough, New Zealand $15.99

Stoic initially, with acute notes of gooseberry, grass and blanched legume. Turns tropical and balmy with a sense of orange marmalade. Confounding in that it could be South Island or Sancerre, but being subjected to such toe tipping is this Sauvignon Blanc’s calling card.  88  @MariscoWine

Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc 2013, Marlborough, South Island, New Zealand $18.95

Commodious Sauvignon Blanc, candid, candied and calcified. Tropical from what must be an intense vintage, whiffing dewy teak gold plum and prickly pear. Full-bodied and blessed with a long aftertaste. A slice of southern hemisphere confiture on toast.  88  @kimcrawfordwine

White Blends $15-25

De Vine Vineyards Vrm 2011, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia, Canada, $23.00

WWAC 2013 Judges’ Choice WWAC 2013 Best of Variety $15 – $25

A Rhône-ish boy with a tithe of Marsanne in support of equal 45′s of Roussane and Viognier. Mutters in rhyme, beating the drum slowly, in a subtle white flower, pretty print dress. Nothing muddy about the waters this graceful swimmer treads. Sidled by just enough rigor to replay in refrain, “I’m a natural born lovers” wine. Egalitarian revolutions per minute.  90  @deVineVineyards

Road 13 Honest John’s White 2012, BC VQA Okanagan Valley, British Columbia, Canada $25.95

A group of seven grapes, riding on a carousel. A who’s who of white varieties going “round and round and round and round with you. Up, down, up, down, up, down, too.” Elegant and in control, like the stationary horses, this endearing and human blend. Nectarine and longan make appearances in the by committee, ensemble performance.  88  @Road13Vineyards

Pfaffenheim Tete A Tete Pinot Gris Riesling 2012, Alsace, France $15.49

A 50/50 split of Riesling and Pinot Gris, please do not adjust your set, go head to head, mano a mano to duke it out, agree to disagree and ultimately settle to blend and accept the results. Together they procure Époisses and worn socks. On the bright side there is orange zest and fresh squeezed grapefruit. “So they’ve got that going for them, which is nice.” Tangy and pithy finish. Abbreviated and horizontal.  85  @AlsaceWines

From left: Jackson Triggs Merlot Gold Series 2008, Road 13 Syrah Malbec 2011, Creation Syrah Grenache 2011, and Cassiano Amarone Della Valpolicella 2008

Syrah $0-15

Fifth Leg Old Dog New Tricks Shiraz 2011, Western Australia, Australia, $15.95

Less calamitous fruit compression in relation to the rest of the flight. Blueberry pie and a concord of baking spices predominate, along with unsettling though bracketing elevated levels of tannin and acidity. Wild and whacking lack of overall integration but possessive of many positive moving parts.  87

Mission Hill Reserve Shiraz 2011, VQA Okanagan Valley, British Columbia, Canada, $19.60

A convection of raspberry jam and forest floor verdant wildness. Notable in not being nearly as wood-driven in relation to peers in adjacent stemware. An inelasticity and diaphanous texture suggests Syrah. Simpatico Shiraz.  87  @MissionHillWine

Red Blends $0-15

Hardys Stamp Series Shiraz/Cabernet 2012, South Eastern Australia, Australia $10.05

Initial thoughts lean towards flattery, in finesse and generosity. Rhône-like rocks and stones trot out the red fruit, spiked by citrus (ripe orange, juiced and reduced). Structured in oxymoronic astringent elegance. Decent to medium length.  87

Sumac Ridge Cabernet Merlot Private Reserve 2011, BC VQA Okanagan Valley, British Columbia, Canada, $14.99

Stands apart from the under $15 Red Blend flight as an axiomatic, soft conifer in a forest of hardwoods. I was admittedly fooled into thinking Niagara when it really calls the Okanagan Valley home. Semi-hemi-ripe, red stone fruit soused in halogen, spiced by Ween’s seventh album and Korean red pepper. “Even If you don’t” like the alternative character you will be charmed by its friendly production and likable wine/musicianship.  87  @SumacRidgeWine

Louis Bernard Côtes Du Rhône Rouge 2012, Rhone, France $13.00

A copacetic Grenache and Syrah Côtes du Rhône blend that just seems to exist in an Iberian state of mind. It’s the modernity speaking, in deep mauve, lilaceous essence and a palate clotted with poached tomato. Stops adroitly short of cooked or stewed fruit character. Juicy fruit from presumably young vines. Quick yet resplendent.  87  @LouisBernard84  @AuthenticWine

Masi Tupungato Passo Doble Malbec Corvina 2011, Mendoza, Argentina $13.95

Malbec and Venetian Corvina in Ripasso’s Argentinian hands. Raising, hair-triggering, eye-opening aromas in acerbic Daikon intensity. Black bean paste and cedar, earth and char. The flavours echo and further Ripasso’s absorptive ability. Tack on a  snippet of sour mix and an elevated, grizzly bear, altitudinous attitude. This one leaves me “frozen in my tracks.” Certainly not gun-shy85 

Merlot $15-25

Jackson Triggs Merlot Gold Series 2008, BC VQA Okanagan Valley, British Columbia, Canada, $23.99 WWAC 2013 Judges’ Choice

Like a wine lover’s dessert, this JT Merlot spoons gobs of sun-dried fruit, anise and dried raisin over a compressed and chalky cake of balmy green tea. Youth purloined by developed character, marked by the sauce, not unlike some manic red advance cassettes from Italy’s Mezzogiorno. Now long in the tooth, “how you wound me so tight,” with your unique style, so “don’t say that I’ve lost you.” Its heft will carry it through.  88  @JacksonTriggsBC

Michael Godel, Zinta Steprans and David Lawrason at the WineAlign WWAC13

Red Blends $15-25

Musella Valpolicella Superiore Ripasso 2009, Verona, Veneto, Italy, $15.95

Soaked and sappy, with braised tree fruit flavours, concentrated and passed over upon itself. Certainly trying very hard to entice and invite hedonistic pleasure. Like an upside down plum and fig cake, dripping in macerated syrup but with enough mineral tension to prorogue another day. Good rehydrated example.  88  @3050Imports

La Fiole Cotes Du Rhone 2010, Rhone, France $15.05

Simultaneously juicy and brooding. Tension from the get go. A depth of dried, fruit leathery plum, soaking in spiked Kefir grain. Bound tight but aching to race free. In Rhône ranger territory, or a Rhône acting on a Hollywood set. Tannic, oaky, manly yes, but I like it too. Admirable length.  88

California Square Paso Robles Red Bland 2012, California, USA $18.95

Downy soft, delicate, cheerful red blend. Pastel watercolour, flower-patterned print as perfume. Warm climate red licorice, plum permeate and cherry saturate, well-integrated acidity and some iron astriction. Would gain weight alongside rich foods.  86  @TrialtoBC

Vignoble Rancourt Meritage 2007, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada $19.80

Chalk dust followed by quality, perceptive, frank and just red fruit. Understated, not overly expressive and walking softly down the road.  85

The Cloof Cellar Blend 2009, Wo Darling, South Africa $20.00

Leaps from the glass with earth expanding aromas. Strapping Pinotage java component shows accommodating restraint in advance of a Turkish viscidity. Red fruit is bright, adhesive and enervetic. Overall a bouncy, tannic and splintered affair.  85  @Cloofwines_ZA

Red Blends $25-50

Road 13 Syrah Malbec 2011, BC VQA Okanagan Valley, British Columbia, Canada, $25.00

A count five psychedelic strawberry and savoury rhubarb aromatic behemoth. Crazy cherries too. Then, a mind-altering, animal hide moment, not exactly gamey, but something other, enough to cause a psychotic reaction. “(Shouted) And it feels like this!”  90  @Road13Vineyards

Creation Syrah Grenache 2011, Walker Bay, South Africa $32.50

A requiem for an exaggerated swirl, or at least the respect of a decant. Quite a head-smacking whack of mineral-iron-metal, with the tempering lift of a citrus-scented candle. Kirsch, vanillin oak “and my time is a piece of wax fallin’ on a termite, who’s chokin’ on the splinters.” I am the loser, the wine is the winner. Very berry, big and beautiful.  90  @gradwellwines

Cassiano Amarone Della Valpolicella 2008, DocVeneto, Italy $35.25

Quite the animal, this plum juicy and high-octane alcohol, cloying acetone and chocolate-dipped red licorice Venetian red blend. Sounds ridiculously Ripasso and near-Amarone delicious and were it endowed with the balance and structure to walk with the giants I’d sing its praises. Even so, I really believe it’s a “soul who’s intentions are good” so please don’t let it be misunderstood.  87

Masi Costasera Amarone 2008, Veneto, Italy $39.95

A stew of red fruit, prune and fig. Cauterized, steroidal, excessive, welling sensory overload. Leaking car fluids. Certainly a problematic, off-bottle from a reliable, age worthy brand.  80

Pinot Noir $25-50

Leyda Lot 21 Pinot Noir 2012, Leyda Valley, Chile $45.00

Beaucoup de terre, or more likely, mucho suelo. An extreme example of Pinot Noir, a flamboyant king, ostentatious, peacockish and wired by a constriction of spices. There is perhaps too much earthly, saftig body. Though my first impression was admittedly old world, there is no way that theory will hold. A glass in and the thrill is gone, “And now that it’s over, all I can do is wish you well.”  87  @BadDogWine  @WinesofChile

Good to go!