Riding red blends from Canadian frontiers

Ancient PEC red care of Geoff Heinricks

Ancient PEC red care of Geoff Heinricks

as seen on WineAlignRed Blends, White Blends and Sauvignon Blanc – Medal Winners from NWAC 2019

Some producers may be riding red blends all the way to the bank while others, including many winemakers simply love making them. Hearing about or looking at the broad term “red blends” causes many of us to think about wines that are big in every respect. Broad shouldered, big-bodied, long-legged, tannic and age-worthy.  As for how these wines are made we imagine a barrel room of oak casks filled with deep, rich and dark liquids made by winemakers and their science flasks layered by endless combinations of samples in varying percentages. This is in fact how most red blends are made. Barrel and tank samples of different grape varieties are pulled and with a conditional maximum amount of each kept in mind, the constituent samples are mixed and matched until the blend just feels to come out right. Add in a bit of chemistry for scientific balance and Red’s your uncle.

Red blends is employed as that highly scientific wine-speak term used to define one of the largest, broadest and most undefined categories in wine. There are blends established in the Old World emulated and mimicked from Argentina to South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and everywhere vinifera is grown. Bordeaux’s Left and Right Bank are most commonly copied but so too is the Southern Rhône. The triumvirate of cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc and merlot lead the way while grenache, syrah and mourvèdre are the source of much imitation. Blending does not stop at such multi-varietal exactitude because the Australians (namely) decided that syrah/shiraz goes with everything and why not. The concept of admixture or fusion is becoming increasingly relevant and the norm for red blends made in Canada, especially in British Columbia and to a lesser extent in Ontario too.

Chef Albert Ponzo’s Gnocchi with Morels

Basically anything made with two or more grape varieties qualifies and in some cases a kitchen sink is amalgamated from literally dozens of locally planted options. To be honest the methodology categorically removes said wines from every other varietal class or division, in competition or otherwise. So the question begs. How do judges at the National Wine Awards of Canada assess, rate and ultimately dole out medals when the comparisons are all apples to oranges? How do we as a team decide which blends are most deserving in a sea of peers comprised of wholly different, antithetical and multifarious combinations?

The answer is complex but in the end not exactly rocket science. Truth be told the necessity of knowing the percentages in the blend is the mother of invention. This is because each wine is a sum of its combinative parts while success is predicated on the communal effort and seamlessness of the gathering. But more than anything and it’s certainly cliché to say, wines as blends must achieve balance and those that do will reap the most reward. News flash to corroborate that theory. Most varietal wines are blends too, made up of vineyard slash vessel percentages picked, mixed and matched by the winemaker. What really is the great difference?

Is there any wonder why Canadian winemakers love the category of Red Blends? At this year’s Nationals there are 105 medals awarded to a group of wines that in their collective make-up include just about every red (plus a white or two) grape varieties grown in Canada. Read that number again: 105! Three out of four Platinum winners are from British Columbia and 12 of 14 Silvers as well. As for Bronze, 60 are from B.C., 24 from Ontario and three are from Nova Scotia.

While it would be a joyous exercise to break down all the medal winning wines it would also be one that just might put you to sleep. So for the purposes of analytical brevity and for the fact that we have an unprecedented four Platinum winners in 2019, let’s stick to these exceptional wines. The Hatch Dynasty Red 2016 is syrah and malbec from the Hans Estate Vineyard in Osoyoos raised in all new French oak for 18 months. Yes, ALL new French oak. Noble Ridge Reserve Meritage 2016 from Okanagan Falls is essentially classic Left Bank Bordeaux led by merlot with cabernet sauvignon with minor amounts of cabernet franc plus malbec. Hester Creek Syrah Viognier 2017 from the Okanagan Valley is a stunner and steal for the price though truth be told could have very easily been awarded a similar accolade in the straight varietal category. Niagara’s Tawse Meritage 2015 is a three-pronged Bordeaux varietal mix of merlot, cabernet sauvignon and cabernet franc “with so much going on you might not understand what it’s trying to say.” It’s like Glossolalia but will surely live on through epochs of Canadian Meritage notability and infamy.

OK I lied. Some mentions and some love for the Golds as well. Out of Niagara the judges jumped for the merlot, cabernet franc and cabernet sauvignon in Marynissen Heritage Collection Red 2015 and the kitchen sink blend only Stratus Red 2016 can gift; cabernet franc, merlot, cabernet sauvignon, syrah, malbec, tannat and petit verdot. The hits keep on coming from B.C., especially strong in this category demarcated by grip, grit and strength. The following 12 began their journeys with a plethora of varietal combinations, spoke with great ability to reach the judges palates and all ended up Gold.

Note the seemingly infinite combinations is this diverse group. Maverick 2016 Rubeus, syrah, merlot, cabernet sauvignon and cabernet franc; Bench 1775 2016 Cabernet Franc MalbecCorcelettes 2016 Meritage Estate Vineyard, merlot, cabernet franc, cabernet sauvignon, malbec and petit verdot; Corcelettes 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon Syrah Menhir Estate Vineyard; Black Hills 2017 Addendum, merlot, cabernet franc, cabernet sauvignon; TIME Winery 2016 Meritage, merlot, cabernet franc, cabernet sauvignon; Mission Hill 2016 Quatrain, merlot, syrah, cabernet franc and cabernet sauvignon; Sandhill 2016 Single Vineyard One Small Lots Program Vanessa Vineyard, cabernet franc, cabernet sauvignon merlot and syrah; Moon Curser 2017 Dead of Night, syrah and tannat; Sun Rock Vineyards 2016 Red Meritage, merlot, cabernet sauvignon and cabernet franc; Red Rooster 2016 Golden Egg, mourvèdre, syrah and grenache; Nk’Mip Cellars 2016 Winemakers Talon, syrah, cabernet sauvignon, malbec, merlot, cabernet franc and pinot noir.

If you don’t see a clear and obvious pattern in these Red Blends be neither confused nor discouraged because this is how things function and in turn offer up so much possibility in fresher frontiers. In today’s garden of climate change affected vineyards it is Canadian winemakers who are the beneficiaries of a wild west, anything goes environment where mates can be made across varietal lines both renewed and re-invented. Embrace the diversity and let it ride.

We finish we a special red blend tasted with Maggie Granger in Prince Edward County.

Grange Of Prince Edward Bunny Wine 2016, VQA Prince Edward County ($65.00, 1500ml, WineAlign)

Bunny Wine is nothing if not playful, a field blend that tugs on conceptual heartstrings and has been doing so for 18 months. It has come into kairos, whether unexpectedly, by chance or by the intuition of the moment, it matters little. Bunny is an extension of three plus years of furry flirtations, in cuvées that have come before, of gamay and pinot noir, of passe-tout-grains. I’ve tasted barrel samples and now here we are at the real thing, “the milk of the gamay bunny, drinkers of spillage by tipsy monks. Even if you know little or care less about bunnies and monks it’s the truth even if it didn’t happen, based on memories and perception, just as a look back at that taste and this note will be. Seamless weaving here, between Bourgogne cousins, north and south, grippy and supple. Hard to tell one from the other and isn’t that the point? From the Victoria Block, four rows of pinot next to four of gamay, picked, fermented and crushed together. All thanks to fruit of exemplary patience. Drink 2019-2023.  Tasted June 2019

Good to go!

godello

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Don’t you, forget about IGT

San Francesco, Il Molino di Grace

Multiple visits to Tuscany over the past 36 months and more specifically to Chianti Classico have meant that nearly a thousand sangiovese have been opened for tasting opportunities. The tours have also acted to allow for benefactor moments, to present table wines made in part or in whole that either do not or have been chosen to not qualify for DOCG appellative status. These cases are purely opportunistic, in the name of IGT Toscana (and other typical geographical notations) for the purpose of impressing the merits from well-maturing vines of cabernet sauvignon, merlot, blends with sangiovese and other solo sangiovese wines of Chianti Classico producers.

The Galestro of Isole e Olena, Barberino Val d’Elsa

The idea of the IGT practice goes back four-plus decades, to a time when Bordeaux grape varieties began to infiltrate and populate Chianti Classico soils. So much of what was planted through the 90s remains and because only 20 per cent of a Chianti Classico can be filled by grapes other than sangiovese, in many cases it is the “international” varieties that fill in and those grapes still need to go somewhere. It is also a consideration that Chianti Classico aged in new oak barrels is a scarcity these days and so those vessels need to be used for something so ecco, it is IGT, big, small, super or baby that gets the nod.

Fontodi vineyards in the Conco d’oro, Panzano

In the mid to late 1970s Tuscany there developed a quick ascent of the Super-Tuscan, wines that eventually came to be called “IGT” as a by-product of a perfect bureaucratic storm. The micro-nationalistic wave of Denominazione di Origine Controllata (e Garantita) served Italy’s elite producers both a blessing and a curse because on one hand it afforded wines the highest level of (Italian) classification while on the other it added unbending restrictions on how those wines could be made. The rule breaking table reds thus became symbols of resistance, wines that told governments and consortiums where to go and in effect led to an eventuality of response, of a sweeping, money-grabbing movement across that region’s wine-producing territories.

Paolo de Marchi and Cepparello 1995

It was nigh twenty years later that authorities got wise to the situation and so Goria’s 1992 Law 164 was created, thus giving birth to the IGT designation. New monies began to line the government’s pockets. So much for rebellion though twenty years was plenty of time to establish and set up a group of famous wines for life.

The main reason for moving away from the appellation was the restrictive law that said you couldn’t make wine labeled as Chianti Classico if it contained 100 per cent sangiovese grapes. Later examples included Monteraponi when Michele Braganti changed from DOCG to IGT in 2012 because at 12.5 per cent alcohol it did not qualify for Chianti Classico and so it had to be Toscana Rosso. The great first wave began as Chianti Classico producers began to dismiss appellative laws by de-classifying their 100 per cent sangiovese. Fontodi’s Flaccianello delle Pieve and Isole e Olena’s Cepparello are two of the more famous examples. Outside the Classico territory and in other Tuscan lands there were others many consider to be the most rogue and famous of them all. Tenuta San Guido’s 1968 Sassicaia, Antinori’s 1971 Tignanello, 1986 Masseto and Ornellaia, first produced in 1985. But in 2019 the push for Chianti Classico’s Gran Selezione category to become a 100 per cent sangiovese appellative wine has sparked not only new debate but also great speculation. Will those once rebellious producers return their top wines and in many cases, single-vineyard sangiovese back to the appellation? Along with Flaccianello delle Pieve and Cepparello, the list of possible returnees might also include the following:

  • Badia a Coltibuono – Sangioveto
  • Carobbio – Leone
  • Castello di Querceto – Le Corte
  • Castello di Rampola – Sangiovese di S. Lucia
  • Fattoria Montecchio – Priscus
  • Il Molino Di Grace Gratius
  • Monteraponi – Baron’Ugo
  • Montevertine – Le Pergola Torte
  • Podere Campriano – 80 (Ottonta)
  • Podere La Cappella – Corbezzolo
  • Principe Corsini Le Corti – ZAC
  • Valdellecorti – Extra
  • Vignavecchia – Raddese

San Marcellino Vineyard, Monti in Chianti

In February of 2019 I tasted 21 assorted IGT wines, from Rosato to Bianco to Rosso. I’ve also added three others tasted a year ago that had not yet made it to print. These are my notes on that 24 strong, eclectic and impressive lot.

Rocca Di Montegrossi Rosato 2018, Toscana IGT, Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

Rosato from sangiovese raised from Chianti Classico galestro soils found in Monti in Chianti and only 30 minutes time through press. A 100 per cent sangiovese stunner with absolutely no excess, no onion skin, no oxidation, from all estate vineyards, including San Marcellino’s grapes that once would have been green harvested. Texture, sapidity and character are written down and expressed as a scientific problem out of which complexity sets all to high. One of Tuscany’s great Rosatos, made with great purpose, structure and food friendly to say the least. So good. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted twice, February and April 2019

Lunch at Le Fonti

Le Fonti Di Panzano La Lepre Delle Fonti 2017, Toscana IGT, Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

Antipasti wine, house wine, smells like good salumi. The Lepre tank is all the juice from the vineyard blocks where the ripening isn’t perfect and also some pressed juice not used in Chianti Classico. Theoretically from “de-classifed” grapes but in good vintages it could very well be Chianti Classico from a quality standpoint, though wouldn’t qualify because it’s made with 30 per cent merlot. A top notch vintage for Le Lepre, juicy, somewhat tannic and finishing with seed-noted beneficial bitters. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted February 2019

Le Fonti Di Panzano La Lepre Delle Fonti 2014, Toscana IGT, Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

Three years forward and the (70 per cent) sangiovese aromatics are eerily similar to the fresher and very forward 2017. Perhaps more salumi and certainly finnochio pronounced. Holding well with tannins resolved and this from the challenging 2014 vintage though truth be told it was the right one, of structure to carry a “second wine” like this forward. Drink 2019-2020.  Tasted February 2019

Vicky Scmitt-Vitali and Guido Vitali, Le Fonti in Panzano

Le Fonti Di Panzano Merlot 2016, Toscana IGT, Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

From vineyards planted in 1998 and 2000, this is the second vintage of the varietal hugger, with Le Fonti aromatics stronger than grape. It’s one year in barrel so in the baby Super Tuscan mold, fruity, juicy, lower in acidity and pretty much crushable. Easy and very proper. Drink 2019-2021.  Tasted February 2019

Le Fonti Di Panzano Fontissimo 2015, Toscana IGT, Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

Certainly crafted from an easier, less stressful vintage and the blend is about 55-60 per cent cabernet sauvignon, 35 merlot and 10-15 sangiovese. Still those Le Fonti aromatics, of salumi and fennel, but here also pepper, graphite, Cassis and chocolate. Very Tuscan so makes sense in such a vintage for the reference to be Toscana as opposed to the frazione within frazioni called Alta Valle della Greve. Very grippy meeting the expected liqueur elixir and black cherry meeting black currant. Acidity is quite fine, purposed and integrated. Impressed by the length. Drink 2020-2023.  Tasted February 2019

Le Fonti Di Panzano Fontissimo 2014, IGT Alta Valle Della Greve, Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

Fontissimo is a blend of merlot, cabernet sauvignon and sangiovese. A wine made in Chianti Classico to break in new barrels and to express territory through the ulterior processes of grape blending and winemaking. Here is where Guido Vitali and Vicky-Schmitt Vitali can work on their chops and hone their craft. Hello 2014, vintage of stars and bars, vintage of ages and for those who are paying close attention. Also, welcome to the highly specific Alta Valle della Greve. There’s a commonality for sure that is found in this valley but there is also a simplicity and a sense of place within a place within a place. Easy drinking actually. Drink 2019-2021.  Tasted February 2019

Iacopo Morganti, Il Molino di Grace

Il Molino Di Grace Gratius 2015, Toscana IGT, Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

Gratius is the Molino di Grace 100 per cent sangiovese table wine that resides with a dozen other territorial greats in that existentialist realm outside of the appellation. If and when it will become Chianti Classico DOCG remains to be seen but this 2015 sits on the side of tangy, tart and so bloody structured side and yes, the dominant notes are distinctly blood orange. Elongated and elastic it’s offers up a free and equitable look in the varietal mirror, productive in perfectly perpetual inertia, firm, grippy and motivated. Will come together in a few years time and drift ever so slowly for seven more. Drink 2022-2029.  Tasted February 2019

Podere La Cappella Oriana 2015, Toscana IGT, Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

“In my opinion it is young to drink,” shrugs Natascia Rosini. In fact it’s oft considered unusual to hold back white wines to drink, not just here but in Italy as a whole. Then again, who else makes vermentino from estate grapes in Chianti Classico. Salinity and sapidity reign in a shockingly good vermentino. Pear and herbal notes with richness that just put this over the top. Picked late at full maturity and kept in the cellar for two weeks (at four degrees) before pressing. Never failing San Donato vermentino. Drink 2019-2023.  Tasted February 2019

Podere La Cappella Oriana 1997, Toscana IGT, Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

The last time I was able to taste such a comparison was 2014 versus 1998, two under-appreciated cool and wet vintages. Now we look at warm years, 2015 and 1997, the latter at the time considered the greatest. Many sangiovese have failed and fallen but this vermentino, well, even if the colour and the nose are far evolved, the palate has plenty of life. Salinity and sapidity still rock and stone their way, with that marine wind from the sea rushing through, into the air and the soil of San Donato in Poggio. Hard to decide between this and ’98 because there is more flesh here (bringing a honeyed apricot), but sometimes lean is so nice. Such a special moment. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted February 2019

Podere La Cappella Corbezzolo 2013, Toscana IGT, Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

From sangiovese planted in 1981 and 1982, a vineyard not certified as Chianti Classico so this wine can’t be called Gran Selezione. To say this is young and perhaps even being unaware of what it can be would be an understatement. It’s calm and powerful, elegant and ready to strike with force. Such identifiable, formidable, indestructible and yet malleable tannins. A mimic of the singular Colombino rock found only here in the territory, calcareous white stone both strong to build houses (and cellars) and schisty to break apart between your hands. Imagine how this will drink when it allows itself to break down in just the right way and at just the right time.  Last tasted February 2019

The Corbezzolo from vine and into bottle is 100 per cent sangiovese and in name “the fruit tree that produces a very tart berry for making jam.” This comes straight from the heart of the Rossini matter, out of the oldest vineyard planted in 1990-1991. It would be hard not too think on Podere La Cappella’s sangiovese as untethered to family, to meals and the kitchen’s hearth. The demi-glacé in Corbezzolo is deeper, richer, slower developing, of graceful, elegant and ethereal aromatics, even a bit exotic verging on quixotic. There is this far eastern temperament because the fruit seems to simmer with cool, jasmine-floral savour in a galestro clay pot. The acumen is variegated in the singular Corbezzolo concentration but this is not a factor of extract or density. Depth is sangiovese light, dancing from 2013, a gorgeous vintage that everyone will want a piece of. Drink 2020-2035.  Tasted February 2017

Podere La Cappella Cantico 2012, Toscana IGT, Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

As always 100 per cent merlot with a grafting connection to chardonnay and American rootstock. The vintage is a savoury one for the thirty-plus year-old IGT. It’s a very Mediterranean sensation, of black olive and balsamico, hematic ooze and woodsy floor. It’s actually still quite closed or perhaps it’s entered a dumb or quiet phase but don’t be fooled; there is powerful restraint and it may pounce anytime. Drink 2021-2029.  Tasted February 2019

Podere La Cappella Cantico 1999, Toscana IGT, Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

A beautifully advanced merlot from vines that would have been 17 and 18 years-old at picking time. If you’ve got a truffle dog, take this wine and go truffling because this merlot is at the head of that aromatic game for the territory. Such a creamy merlot, with plenty of necessary acidity and the freshness of truffle. Merlot as tartufo incarnate. Truly. Delicious. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted February 2019

John Matta and John Szabo Vicchiomaggio

Castello Vicchiomaggio Ripa Delle Mandorle 2016, Toscana IGT, Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

Sangiovese (80 per cent) with cabernet sauvignon, all fruit and nothing but the fruit, plummy and with a nutty smokiness, but also manageable with simplicity from and for fruit. What works and gives from the basic and forthright IGT ideal. Drink 2019-2020.  Tasted February 2019

Castello Vicchiomaggio Ripa Delle More 2016, Toscana IGT, Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

Sangiovese (50 per cent), cabernet sauvignon (30) and merlot (20), from “the hill of the blackberry.” A rich, purple flower aromatic, liquid chalky, deeply rendered red. Done up in a combination of new and pre-used barriques. There’s a salumi feel, a musky pancetta and a silky smooth mouthfeel. Nearing glycerin but staying its clay-mineral coarse. Drink 2020-2024.  Tasted February 2019

Castello Vicchiomaggio Villa Vallemaggiore Poggio Re 2016, Maremma Toscana DOC Rosso, Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

From cabernet sauvignon grown on sandy soils in the warmer maritime area near Grossetto. The grapes comes from “the hill of the king,” and the attributes are so bloody varietal obvious. Cassis, ribena, blackberry, savour and spice. Chocolate and rosemary, tarragon and cinnamon. Very expressive and with good elevated acidity. Quite the tannic beast. Drink 2020-2025.  Tasted February 2019

Castello Vicchiomaggio FSM 2015, Toscana IGT, Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

From a project that began in 1995, this is 100 per cent merlot of a small, 3,000 bottle lot. It’s hard to decide if it’s more varietal or more Toscana so let’s just say it straddles the two with perfect ease. Youthful, big and warm, very Mediterranean with gariga, black olive, rosemary and dusty notes. Silky smooth however and finishes in balsamic, viscous and reduced. High quality merlot to be sure, with fine tannic structure. Drink 2021-2026.  Tasted February 2019

Amphora, Fattoria Montecchio

Fattoria Montecchio Priscus 2015, Toscana Rosso IGT, Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

The IGT is 100 per cent sangiovese of 1,200 bottles aged in 100 per cent terracotta amphora formed, forged and cured on the Montecchio property. Same must/juice as the Gran Selezione so the side by side comparison is the show. Winemaker Riccardo Nuti is interested in this investigation for family tradition, commercial continuity and passion project affirmation. Quick time on skins, fermented in terracotta tanks and racked into “amphora,” in this case elongated egg-shaped clay vessels for the next two plus years. The texture and the spice are higher, as is the volatility but the threshold is not in any danger of being breached. The tannins are more present, demanding and vivid. And I prefer them because they are just that more interesting. This is in fact a remarkable look at the relationship between grape, vessel, material, approach and place. Drink 2024-2033.  Tasted February 2019

Fattoria Montecchio Pietracupa 2016, Toscana Rosso IGT, Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

An IGT blend of sangiovese (60 per cent) and cabernet sauvignon with a percentage coming from San Donato in Poggio vineyards close by. Much deeper, bigger, broader and brooding as a blend with smooth silky consistency and fine silky tannins. Very oaky, completely mature and filled with the flavours that lie on the balsamic-chocolate-blackberry spectrum. Though the sangiovese character is lost it’s a real high-end charmer. Drink 2020-2027.  Tasted February 2019

Fattoria Montecchio La Papesa 2015, Toscana IGT, Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

A varietal merlot of high level ripeness and while it’s a bit overripe and certainly extracted the acidity is supportive, balancing and results in something charming. The tannins are soft and comforting with zero astringency so yes, think of this as a great big San Donato hug. Figs in reduced balsamico are the prevailing flavours, with lots of dark but not bitter chocolate coming through with the finishing next level morbido feelings. As big as it may seem to some palates it’s actually quite easy to drink. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted February 2019

Monte Bernardi Tzingarella 2017, IGT Toscana Centrale, Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

A Bordeaux blend from young vines in frost spots and high humidity places not really suitable for sangiovese. The blend is merlot, cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc and canaiolo. So what is it? Well for one thing it’s the “daughter of the gypsy,” and then it’s a high acid, taste of place before anything else red blend. High tonality, ripe purple fruit and and a boatload of currants. No pyrazine, well perhaps just a bit. Low alcohol for such an animal, remarkably so and once again it’s a great matter of sapidity. Just a hit of chocolate late, as per the grapes which needed to have a say. Drink 2019-2023.  Tasted February 2019

Monte Bernardi Tzingana 2015, IGT Toscana Centrale, Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

The “Gypsy,” from the old Greek, or in Italian, gitano or tzigane. This gypsy is the old vine version, of 50 years, top grafted on a sangiovese/malvasia/canaiolo/trebbiano vineyard planted by the previous owner in the late 80s. It’s made from merlot, cabernet sauvignon, cabernet sauvignon and petit verdot (but no canaiolo) and also no sangiovese because tells Michael Schmelzer, there is no cannibalizing the Chianti Classico. This is deeper, richer, lower in acidity, still sapid but not as pronounced and higher in finishing chocolate. The wood needs a year more of integration. Drink 2020-2027.  Tasted February 2019

Luca Martini di Cigala, San Giustro a Rentennano

San Giusto A Rentennano Percarlo 2013, IGT Toscana, Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

Percarlo IGT Toscana 2013 is the current vintage of the 100 per cent sangiovese that began in the 1980s when it was forbidden to label such a beast as Chianti Classico. “Percarlo is his identity so he will not come back,” insists Luca Martini di Cigala. Made from the smallest bunches and a selection of the best fruit, yet still from the same vineyards albeit blessed of more from tufo soil. Percarlo carries the same San Giusto richness and acidity working in silky tandem and the tannins are the most plush, which they’d have to be to match the high level of glycerin. Formidable and exceptionally refined sangiovese. Drink 2019-2028.  Tasted February 2018

San Giusto A Rentennano Percarlo 2005, IGT Toscana, Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

Once again you would have no idea that any time may have passed, not just because the hue has yet to morph but because the aromatics and fresh gelée are one in the same, together as they have always been. The purity and exquisite texture also conspire for a sublime intertwine and then out of this comes the acidity, trailing like a comet. The tannins are still so strong and so the smoky spirit and intensity of variegated flavour persists, gets reprimanded and is held out for all to taste. Here the maximum coaxed from the grape is acceded above and exceeded beyond. Drink 2019-2035.  Tasted February 2018

Poggio Scalette Il Carbonaione 2015, IGT Alta Valle Della Greve, Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

Il Carbonaione is from the finest sangiovese on the Ruffoli property, a Chianti Classico vineyard declassified, with vines as old as 90 years but in reality, not exactly 100 per cent sangiovese. Some post-phylloxera ungrafted vines and many co-planted with no record of origin perhaps or likely place mammolo, colorino, canaiolo, malvasia, trebbiano and even occhiorosso in five to ten per cent amongst clones of sangiovese. The nose is like the Chianti Classico magnified, reduced, compressed and elevated. The florals rival the Lamole but they are more into potpourri and the acidity is super, super fine. The only comparison might be in acidity like Luca’s San Giusto a Rentennano, with the sandy soil base and the saltiness but the tannins here are set upon broader shoulders. With much less stone worked in the soil you lose the chalky grain streak but gain this broader complexity. With such beckoning and burgeoning acidity the vinatge is put on a great pedestal and the possibility seriously exists for two decades of aging. Ruffoli’s 400-600m elevation, with a long growing season (sometimes seeing pick times up the second week of October) means the full and complete phenolic ripeness is wholly realized. Not to put too much stock in here but 13.5 per cent alcohol. Just sayin’. Drink 2020-2034.  Tasted February 2018

Good to go!

godello

San Francesco, Il Molino di Grace

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Making tracks in Argentina

Where there’s smoke there’s Godello

Deeper varietal discussion about Argentina’s terroir diversity, 128 images and 118 more wines reviewed

As first seen on WineAlign

Old torrontés vineyards at El Esteco, Cafayate Valley, Salta

A November 2018 journey to Argentina did so much more than simply introduce me to that great country’s wines. That trip was a bold reminder that travelling to the source is precisely how we leave our preconceptions behind and allow for new education to change and alter our thoughts. The people behind the product are the real story and meeting so many of Argentina’s amazing people has transubstantiated my personal Wines of Argentina psyche. I hope for your wine sake you all will find the opportunity to experience what I have, but failing that many have taken part in a short term solution. 

The author in Cafayate, Salta, Argentina

Related – High altitude heliophiles in Argentina

Not too long ago I published that article about a trip that was indeed exactly what the title says. A Masterclass across Argentina. Visits to Mendoza and Salta helped me to gain a deeper understanding of solar radiation and high altitude wines. WineAlign has now finalized the WineAlign Exchange Argentine Wine Masterclass 12-pack. Those who have not made immediate plans to travel to Argentina they have instead signed up to have that country’s remarkable wines come to them instead.

Baby pork, apple, pineapple, Azafrán, Mendoza

In November I had the favourable and fortuitous opportunity to travel around with the team at Wines of Argentina and now WineAlign has teamed up with WOFA to bring 12 carefully curated wines to the Ontario consumer. The box holds 12 archetypal examples (malbec and much more), selected in unanimous accord by the WineAlign crü of critics, through tastings in Argentina and at our offices. Quality in all regions of Argentina has never been higher so the pool from which to pick was deep and wide. This is the invitation to taste the diversity of high-altitude vineyards.

El Esteco, Cafayate Valley, Salta Province

For those who see Argentina as a unilateral place of malbec, malbec and more malbec, think again. New plantations from 1200m to 2200m have characterized the need to qualify the variegate and highly diverse terroirs of Mendoza. There are now more than 1,000 hectares of cabernet franc and 18,000-plus of cabernet sauvignon. Yes there are 42,000 of malbec but that’s two-thirds and not necessarily increasing. Wouldn’t you have thought that number to be much greater? I certainly did. WOFA Educator Joaquin Hidalgo calls it “big noise from some nuts,” which loosely translates to “don’t believe everything you read or hear.” In fact 85 per cent of malbec is grown in Mendoza and there are great ulterior terroirs out there. The key is to seek and create new styles of malbec. Notes Hidalgo, “if we use the variety to create terroir diversity it will be a great benefit.”

Canadians, Tupungato and the Andes

Only 2,249 of 21,000 plantable hectares in Guatallary are full with vines. Huge potential is still out there but water/irrigation is a limiting factor.  As are ants (again, who knew?) and the foxes who chew through irrigation lines. So farmers put out water to satiate them. They must also deal with the Zonda, hot and dry winds that often come off of the eastern slopes of the Andes. Through all these challenges there is more and more talk about moving to an elegant way of producing wines. “Argentina can produce better wine. The more you talk about oak not being the thing to notice the more its shows how oaky the wines really are. The idea is to offer fruity, not so oaky wines.”

Beef tartar, egg yolk, pickles, soy, Azafrán, Mendoza

Conversations with winemakers, agriculturalists, estate directors and export managers bred a consistency of attitude and expectation across the country. And yet each encounter meant and led to something different. Dinner with Winemaker Gabriel Bloise of Chakana, Josefina Alessio of Ernesto Catena and Andrej Razumovsky of Alpamanta focused on alternative varietals, new, innovative and alternative winemaking styles. Razumovsky talked about the rains of 2016 and how harvest was three full weeks late. “Everyone was nervous,” tells Andrej, “with so much rot but the yields were so low and yet the grapes we picked were so healthy.” Strike another notch for organic and biodynamic grape growing.

Enjoying a Salta in Salta

In Agrelo Finca Decero has predicated it’s success on a massive single vineyard called Remolinos but smaller production projects are the new norm. It has lead to growing cabernet franc (plus tannat and syrah) and the recent addition of larger barrels is leading to wines of more florals ands overall complexities. “We’re trying to separate what we perceive is different,” explains CEO Juan Marcó. “This means increased micro-vinifications of specific blocks and plots as part of the larger single-vineyard.” Decero “from nothing” also has 15 hectares of planted petit verdot, which accounts for at least five if not close to 10 per cent of the total in Argentina.

Ani Lucero and Marilyn Demandre, WOFA

In Cafayate, Salta Province it is the Amalaya/Colomé agriculturalists, winemakers and oenologists, (including Jorge Noguera. Thibaut Delmotte, Rafael Racedo and Javier Grané) who know about the “expectation of a miracle,” especially with respect to finding water, but for here, the miracle is to be able to grow grapes and make wine. The prized vineyard El Adrenal literally means “sunny place.” and its altitude brings the sun direct to the vines. El Esteco’s Agriculturalist Rosario and Winemaker Alejandro Pepa showed us sun-kissed criolla and torrontés vines vines of 70 years or more. The moonscape of Piattelli Vineyards is where John and Arlene Malinski’s team produces exceptionally concentrated wines out of the desert; Agriculturalist Santiago Acosta, Winemakers Valeria Antolín and Javier Saldaño, Consulting Oenologist Roberto de la Mota.

With the Women of WOFA in Mendoza

I tasted upwards of 150 wines in my week spent in Argentina. That first report covered 37 wines from 37 producers. They were the 37 that struck me as being exceptional, ahead of the curve or simply the perfect sort of examples to speak about climate, soil and of course, altitude. The following 118 tasting notes expand on so much of what Argentina does best. Crafting quality wines at high altitudes, from Patagonia to Mendoza and Salta.

Melon soup, prawns, cucumber, Azafrán, Mendoza

Sparkling Wines

Chakana Vino Espumante Nuna Vineyard NV, Luján De Cuyo, Mendoza, Argentina (Agent, WineAlign)

This biodynamic Brut is a chardonnay-sauvignon, 60-40 split of ambient yeasts and natural acidities. A dry Brut at 4 g/L dosage made in the Charmat Method. Full and I mean full mousse effect, light on the sweet sweats and a nectarine, peach and pear profile. Creamy character and so good alongside melon soup with cucumber and prawns. It seems so perfectly arid and right in balance. Drink 2018-2019.  Tasted November 2018  chakanawines  oeno2   @chakanawines  @oenophilia1  @bodegachakana  @ConnexionOenophilia

Josefina Alessio, Alma Negra and Ernesto Catena Wines

Domaine Alma Negra Brut Nature NV, Mendoza, Argentina (Agent, WineAlign)

A traditional method Rosé and while Josefina Alessio insists “we don’t confess on grape varieties,” this is in fact a pinot noir and malbec sparkler of eight to as much as 16 months on lees. The grapes comes from uncertified biodynamic vineyards in the production zones of Vistaflores, Tunuyán, Mendoza (3,608 feet) and Gualtallary, Tupungato, Mendoza (4,265 feet). An implosive bubble, all about energy and a side-step, two-step into texture. Raspberry is everywhere, as if it could be nerello mascalese sidling up to malbec. Low pH and just about dry adds up to red fruit, lime and overall zest. Drink 2018-2020.  Tasted November 2018  domainealmanegra   Alma Negra  Ernesto Catena Vineyards

Quebrada de las Conchas

Amalaya Brut Nature, Valle De Cafayate, Salta, Argentina (Winery, WineAlign)

A charmat method sparkling wine made from riesling (80 per cent) plus torrontés. A fizz of cloudy demure and a leesy funk directed by the warm climate at 1,750m in sand near La Mercedes. Also smells of lime doused guava and orange blossoms from the torrontés. Simple with notable sweetness, creamy and just tart enough to offer balanced fun. Drink 2018-2019.  Tasted November 2018  bodegaamalaya  hesscollection  liffordgram  @AmalayaBodega  @HessCollection  @LiffordON  @bodegaamalaya @hesscollection  @liffordwineandspirits

Canadians in Tupungato

Whites

Familia Schroeder Alpataco Chardonnay 2018, Patagonia, Argentina (629428, $16.95, WineAlign)

No oak, only stainless steel and all cool, southern Argentina climate in this Paul Hobbs Patagonia outpost chardonnay. Fresh and green apple delicious, simple and crisp. Really crisp. Like a bite into an edgy tart nectarine with slight green note. Beautifully salty and grippy, like Petit Chablis. Would be just perfect to kick back with a half dozen oysters. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted November 2018  schroederwines   @SchroederWines  Familia Schroeder

Andrej Razumovsky, Alpamanta

Alpamanta Breva Estate Chardonnay 2016, Luján De Cuyo, Mendoza, Argentina (Agent, WineAlign)

This is biodynamic produced chardonnay that saw 13 months in oak foudres after a slow fermentation, no malo and then, no filtration. “Typical of the  area,” says Austrian born Andrej Razumovsky and yet his run is a mere 2,000 bottles. From a vintage where “it rained like Europe,” 1200mm, six times the norm. High acidity is the result, very dramatic but all the while propping up and celebrating fruit. Rich, viscous and forward, full of pulse and energy. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted November 2018  alpamanta  rogersandcompanywines  @Alpamanta  @rogcowines  @alpamanta  @rogcowines

Carla Castorina, Trapiche

Trapiche Chardonnay Costa & Pampa 2016, Chapadmal, Buenos Aires, Argentina (Agent, WineAlign)

Costa & Pampa is Trapiche’s south Atlantic foray into a new appellation down on the coast southeast of Buenos Aires. Their chardonnay is a rich, youthful, precocious and grippy one, crisp and guaranteed to sell you on quality and possibility. Terrific first look. Drink 2018-2020.  Tasted November 2018  trapichearg  trapichewines  philippedandurandwines  @TrapicheWines  @Dandurandwines   @TrapicheArgentinaInt  @VinsPhilippeDandurand

Fish at Luigi Bosca

Casarena Chardonnay Owen’s Vineyard 2015, Agrelo, Mendoza, Argentina (Agent, WineAlign)

From Agrelo down south of Luján de Cuyo and next to Casarena’s other single vineyards, Lauren and Naoki. Owen’s is named after a grandchild, one of four. Nice and properly reductive, the work her from winemaker Leandro Azin shows a learned ambition, a nod to Bourgogne and a grounding in greater Mendoza chardonnay need. It’s a tart, angular and yet fleshy chardonnay, urgent and delicious, welling in grape tannin, extract and acidity. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted November 2018

Federico Landrone, Andeluna and Damian Rubin, Bodega Bianchi

Andeluna 1300 Chardonnay 2018, Tupungato, Mendoza, Argentina (Agent, $16.99, WineAlign)

Represents and sets the imagination free to accept the Andean rain shadow, masl manifesto “vines touching the sky.” An fresh, crisp, clean and cool unoaked chardonnay of exceptional clarity and superb value. Apple bite with a similar note by pear from a soil-climate-altitude driven white with purity and finally, acidity. Drink 2018-2020.  Tasted November 2018

Snacks at Domaine Bousquet

Familia Zuccardi Q Chardonnay 2017, Mendoza, Argentina (232702, $18.95, WineAlign)

Zuccardi’s Tupungato chardonnay is a best of both worlds effort, from Gualtallary and El Peral, one giving the sun and the other layering over with freshness. Ferments done up all in concrete then the usage of some older (third and fourth use) barrels. Feel the fruit and the acidity as interchangeable parts plus a true sense of varietal purity. Very orchard apple, taut and pretty, polished and petit, as in Chablis. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted November 2018

Snacks

Famiglia Bianchi Chardonnay 2017, San Rafael, Mendoza, Argentina (1461, $18.95, WineAlign)

A 50-50 stainless steel-barrel raised chardonnay with as much bite as any. Reductive and creamy with bitters and crackling acidity. The oak is very present, not so much in texture but certainly in palate character. Tart and finishing with further bitters. Drink 2018-2019.  Tasted November 2018

Boys at Finca Decero

Susana Balbo Signature Barrel Fermented Torrontés 2016, Uco Valley, Mendoza, Argentina (384339, $19.95, WineAlign)

Sees four to six months of barrel and plenty of lees stirring. Tells the truth to say it’s all about texture so that it separates itself from a sea full of achromatic torrontés. The idea is to tame and temper both the terpenes and the florals. It succeeds in this regard and is in delivery of a very viscous wine. Still floral but very textural. Drink 2018-2019.  Tasted November 2018

Restaurante El Rancho, Cafayate

Colomé Estate Torrontés 2018, Calchaquí Valley, Salta, Argentina (357913, $15.95, WineAlign)

There is no substitution for altitude and temperature fluctuations to manage the balance in torrontés. Yes it’s floral but also driven by tonic, white fruit and acidity. It’s also fleshy and creamy from fruit like guava and peach but the aridity and altitude dry this into a fierce creature home from a hot climate. Better than ever, with more concentration from the vintage. Drink 2018-2020.  Tasted November 2018  bodegacolome  hesscollection  liffordgram  @BodegaColome  @HessCollection  @LiffordON @bodegacolome  @hesscollection  @liffordwineandspirits

Winemaker Ramiro Balliro, Bodega DiamAndes

Bodega DiamAndes de Uco Viognier 2017, Uco Valley, Mendoza, Argentina (SAQ 11963806, $23.35, WineAlign)

Thirty percent of the French oak used is new on fruit from the foothills of the Andes at 1100m. Warm alcohol on the nose and the intensity of a white flower distillate. Very vanilla, a minor heed of oak spice and more dry extract than many, viognier or otherwise. “Blue girls come in every size, some are wise and some otherwise, they got pretty blue eyes.” The genesis of Uco Valley viognier in solar radiated ripples and minor bitters rippling effect. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted November 2018  bodegadiamandes  maitredechai_ca    @maitredechai  @diamandes  Francis Dubé

Domaine Bousquet

Atamisque Serbal Viognier 2018, Tupungato, Valle Du Uco, Mendoza, Argentina (Agent, WineAlign)

A viognier high on citrus and notable for tangerine though curiously more about flavour than aromatics. Sharp, tangy and calcareously salty with proper sour edging and plenty of energy at the entry level. Drink 2018-2020.  Tasted November 2018

Crudo, Domaine Bousquet

Domaine Bousquet Sauvignon Blanc 2017, Tupungato, Mendoza, Argentina (Agent, WineAlign)

Particularly fresh and vibrant expression with some energy created by residual CO2 still pulsing in the bottle. Quality acidity encapsulates a wealth of fruit from apples through peaches. Mild pungency and ultimately a right proper way of expressing sauvignon blanc. Drink 2018-2020.  Tasted November 2018  domainebousquet  @domaineBousquet  @DomaineBousquetUSA

Bousquet, Tupungato

Salentein Sauvignon Blanc Portillo 2018, Valle De Uco, Mendoza, Argentina (Agent, WineAlign)

Described as fashioned through the matter of “nieve carbonica,” carbonic snow, to prevent oxidation, like using dry ice on garganega to protect and preserve freshness. Quite fresh in fact right here, pure and precise. Somewhat stoic even for a wine that believe it or not was first produced in 2009. Where is this in our market? Drink 2018-2019.  Tasted November 2018  salenteinbodega  azureau  @BodegaSalentein  @azureau  @BodegasSalentein  @BodegasSalentein

Empanadas at Luigi Bosca

Luigi Bosca Del Alma White Blend 2018, Wine of Argentina (WineryWineAlign)

“From the soul,” which is a base of chardonnay (30 per cent) blended with sauvignon blanc (30) viognier (20) and riesling (20). Some carbonic pulse to this metallic and simple blend of extreme freshness. Really good acids, melon flavours and a true tang at the finish. Citrus tablet and pears too. Drink 2018-2019.  Tasted November 2018  bodegaluigibosca  fwmcan  @LuigiBoscaBodeg  @FWMCan  @BodegaLuigiBosca  @FWMCan

Empanada, Restaurante El Rancho, Cafayate

Amalaya Blanco De Corte 2013, Valle De Cafayate, Salta, Argentina (Winery, WineAlign)

The signature, entry-level white blend is torrontés (85 per cent) with riesling. When you think about torrontés as being one of the most floral white grapes this is exactly what you expect. The riesling manages the potpourri with a splash of stone, acidity and ultimately freshness. Drink 2018-2019.  Tasted November 2018

Caminito, Buenos Aires

Fincas Las Moras Sea Creatures Lady Blanc (De Blancs) 2018, San Juan, Argentina (Agent, WineAlign)

A curious concoction of trebbiano, chenin blanc and viognier from Tulum in the lower valley of San Juan. White flowers and white fruit fill the air while citrus and grape spirit flavour bring high favour to the fresh and crunchy spirit. Also some verdancy and in the end really likeable. Drink 2018-2019.  Tasted November 2018

A toast in Cafayate

Casa De Uco El Salvaje Blend De Blancs 2017, Valle De Uco, Mendoza, Argentina (Winery, WineAlign)

A three-pronged blend and élévage from sauvignon blanc, chardonnay and torrontés raised with concrete, oak and steel ferments. Sweet fruit in layers, quite floral and triply aromatic, easy, balanced and with resdiual sugar mitigated by near equal acidity. The new appellative Uco Valley blend. Peak effect. Drink 2018-2019.  Tasted November 2018  casadeuco  @CasadeUco  @CasadeUco

Snacks at Bodega DiamAndes

Masi Tupungato Passo Blanco 2017, Mendoza, Argentina (Agent, WineAlign)

The connective tissue is altitude at 1,100m to tie pinot gris (60 per cent) with torrontés done up with some dried grape appassimento styling. High ion dry extract, creeping up there in glycerin and though low in acidity it’s quite rich, stylish and persistent. Drink 2018-2019. Tasted November 2018  masitupungato  masicanada  @MrAmaroneMasi  @MasiWineExperience  

Jamon at Bosca

Luigi Bosca A Rosé Is A Rosé Is A Rosé 2018, Wine of Argentina (553032, $19.95, WineAlign)

Drawn from Maipu, 60 per cent pinot noir with (40) pinot gris. Lithe, rusty, low in alcohol, tangy and fresh. Very citrus, very vin gris, very serviceable and lovely in its saltiness. Solid. Drink 2018-2019.  Tasted November 2018

BBQ at El Esteco

El Esteco Blanc de Noirs 2015, Valle De Calchaquí, Salta, Argentina (Agent, WineAlign)

A table wine raised 50-50 in concrete eggs and stainless steel, Rosé by nature, freshness wholly preserved and tannins very much apart of the mix. Ever bearing for strawberries and with a real lemon citrus bend. The dry extract-tannic effort is more than notable. Drink 2019-2023.  Tasted November 2018

Malbec

Familia Schroeder Saurus Select Malbec 2017, Patagonia, Argentina (379313, $34.95, WineAlign)

A malbec from which only the highly concentrated dry-skin maceration is sent straight to 225L barrels for fermentation. The time was a precise one, eight months plus one week and taken out on November 22nd. The Hobbsian obsession of full out expression is on full display, with fruit bombing the senses in hyper-real layers of bright intensity. Locked in, big, bountiful and moving. Gets in and attacks the olfactory nerves with purpose, like smelling salts, as only Patagonian malbec can do. A truly polished wine. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted November 2018

With Rocío Campoy Morist, Alta Vista and Carla Castorina, Trapiche

Trapiche Medalla Malbec 2016, Uco Valley, Mendoza, Argentina (547869, $17.00, WineAlign)

This grippy middle tier Uco malbec is rich in chocolate and spice supplied by generous oak and 40-plus year-old vines. Earth is the catalyst for character a bit scorched and also lending a particular brand of Mendoza funk. Certainly malbec of a combined wisdom and personality to separate itself from other high-volume lots. Drink 2018-2020.  Tasted November 2018

Fuego Blanco Malbec Flintstone 2016, Do Valle Del Pedernal, San Juan, Argentina (Winery, WineAlign)

More or less at 1,500m and 800 kms south of Salta from the extreme climate of San Juan, here’s a brooding, able-bodied and highly hematic malbec. The glass is a bit reductive-effluent so work with it but it’s really quite stubborn and an earthy-worthy malbec with a bit of green meets paratrophic funk. Lower alcohol, pH and acidity, higher learning and curiosity.Then again it’s 70 per cent fermented in concrete egg so that explains quite a bit. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted November 2018  fuegoblancowines  Fuego Blanco

Don Julio, Buenos Aires

Bodega Del Fin Del Mundo Reserva Malbec 2017, San Patricio Del Chañar, Neuquen, Patagonia, Argentina (Winery, WineAlign)

A warm location, even in Patagonia, low in altitude. At 350m and a wine that explains why malbec is planted everywhere, because it’s one that matches latitude and altitude to climate. Moderate alcohol and acidity comes explosively out of high pH and the overall feeling of sweet fruit, more fruit and all fruit. A very familiar and comforting red. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted November 2018  findelmundowines  @BodFinDelMundo  Bodega Del Fin del Mundo

Caminito, Buenos Aires

Lamadrid Single Vineyard Gran Reserva Malbec 2015, Agrelo, Luján De Cuyo, Mendoza, Argentina (375485, $25.95, WineAlign)

Middle of the numbers road in every way, alcohol, acidity and pH. MOR in so many stylistic and emotional response respects. It’s sweetly fruity, somewhat salty, full, rich, thick and perched comfortably in balance right on the median line. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted November 2018  lamadridwines  @LamadridEstate  Lamadrid Estate Wines

Beef tartar, egg yolk, pickles, soy, Azafrán, Mendoza

Hector Durigutti HD Reserva Malbec 2016, Paraje Altamira, San Carlos, Uco Valley, Mendoza, Argentina (322735, $34.95, WineAlign)

From a 1955 planted vineyard at 1,150m. Rich but also salty, really giving you the feeling of ripeness and elasticity. It’s made in just a minor reductive way that supports the fruit and then in terms of tannin goes through this chalky texture influx for structure. So very interesting. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted November 2018  hectordurigutti  duriguttiwinemakers  @HectorDurigutti  @DuriguttiWines  Hector Durigutti  DURIGUTTI Winemakers 

The boys of Ama Always, Michael Mizzi and Alexander Raphael

Finca Decero Malbec Remolinos Vineyard 2015, Agrelo, Luján De Cuyo, Mendoza, Argentina (195677, $25.99, WineAlign)

From the vineyard of mini whirlwinds that twirl on a site where many of these little gusts of air stir up the bare earth into dancing spiral forms. More floral than both the syrah and the cabernet sauvignon. Violets certainly come to mind. Smooth and the flavour is almost candied rose petal with oak integration providing a finishing spice. Very smooth wine. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted November 2018

Bodegas Sottano Malbec Classico 2017, Mendoza, Argentina (WineryWineAlign)

“The idea of this line of varietal wines is drinkability, to maintain freshness and fruitiness,” explains Christian Magnenat. Sottano’s is simple, correct malbec, of dark red fruit, balanced, drawn from many disparate, moving and amalgamated vineyard parts. From here, Agrelo, Uco Valey and others. Slightly astringent finish. Drink 2018-2019.  Tasted November 2018  bodegasottano  @bodegasottano  @bodega.sottano

Roasted rabbit, bacon, black radish, Azafrán, Mendoza

Vicentin Blend de Malbecs 2016, Mendoza, Argentina (299735, $19.95, WineAlign)

The core wine of Vicentin, it’s dark, hematic and so very sheathed in many barrels of all shapes, sizes and origins. Full and completely structured malbec constructed out of 60 per cent (on average) new barrels. Again the palate takes it to a better place, namely because of texture and then the concentration takes over with some bitters on the finish. Yes it surely is a power pumped wine. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted November 2018

Mark Bradbury

Vicentin Colosso V 2015, Mendoza, Argentina (WineryWineAlign)

This 100 per cent malbec is all resinous oak, soupy umami aromas and syrupy flavours. Cedar, rosemary, tobacco and really high toned acidity. It’s kind of akin to a Chuck Wagner meets Rioja with plenty of residual sugar. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted November 2018

Bodegas Sottano Malbec Judas 2015, Mendoza, Argentina (WineryWineAlign)

A blend of malbecs that was a single-vineyard wine. Quite resinous and sinewy, of great depth, some violet florality and much ado about high-toned acidity meeting deep woody notes. Once again more astringency but balanced by the smooth consistency. Clearly a step up in ambition and quality. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted November 2018

Beef at Bosca

Luigi Bosca La Linda Private Selection Old Vines Malbec 2016, Luján De Cuyo, Mendoza, Argentina (WineryWineAlign)

The PS or Private Selection puts a focus on young wines of fresh fruit character. From the oldest vines (35 years-old) in La Linda, the highest area of Luján de Cuyo. A smoky, charred, grilled herbs and garriga multiplicity in character. It’s true Criolla plant garrique, bushy and fragrant with dark raspberry fruit, juicy acidity and spicy bite. All in balance. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted November 2018

Bosca Empanadas

Luigi Bosca Malbec DOC 2016, Luján De Cuyo, Mendoza, Argentina (452672, $18.95, WineAlign)

The DOC was established in 1989 and this icon of a malbec was first produced in 1991. From Luján de Cuyo fruit, remarkably rich and emblematic for the whole of Mendoza Province. Just what you expect, need and could ever want without an ounce of pretence or ambition. Drink 2019-2023.  Tasted November 2018

Tortilla at Bosca

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

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

Yann Janvier – snap (c) @marylinedemandre

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

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

Flank Steak, Domaine Bousquet

Domaine Bousquet Malbec Grande Reserve Vino Orgánico 2015, Tupungato Valley, Mendoza, Argentina (WineryWineAlign)

The top tier malbec is a full barrel seasoned one though no new oak, with five per cent each cabernet sauvignon, merlot and syrah blended in. Reduction and spice are dominant but true blue black fruit layers, lingers and lurks. High-toned overview above and beyond the cimmerian aspect so it’s just a matter of time before the slope adjusts and the fruit takes control. Violets meet deep savour with mid-term age probability a real opportunity. Quite taut and spicy, a true testament to mixing fruit from Tupungato and Guatallary. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted November 2018

Julianne Pons, Bodega DiamAndes

Bodega DiamAndes de Uco Malbec 2013, Uco Valley, Mendoza, Argentina (404145, $23.25, WineAlign)

Harvested between March 18th and April 16th, this style of malbec is certainly gone for broke in 30 per cent new French oak for 12 months. There is less savour and more sweetness in both the fruit and the tannins and while it’s certainly the typical and the archetypal for the Uco Valley, it’s not quite as complex as the cabernet. It’s splitting hairs to say so but to be honest this is the wine to drink now and for three to five years while the cabernet and its great structure will go longer. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted November 2018

Beef, Restaurante El Rancho, Cafayate

Amalaya Malbec 2017, Valle De Calchaquí, Salta, Argentina (Agent, $19.99, WineAlign)

The flagship red in the Amalaya/Donald Hess property in Salta from high altitude in the northern Calchaquí Valley is a rich and concentrated wine heading towards these eastern foothills of the Andes mountain range. Dominated by malbec with cabernet sauvignon (10 per cent) and (5) petit verdot. Rich, succinct and driven by solar radiated concentration. Drink 2018-2019.  Tasted November 2018

With Marilyne Demandre, WOFA Canada in Salta Province

Colomé Malbec Lote Especial La Brava 2016, Valle De Calchaquí, Salta, Argentina (Agent, $29.99, WineAlign)

From a mainly sandy soil with small gravel pebbles at 1,700m and one of three site specific Colomé malbec investigations. The combination of flavour concentration and saltiness is exceptional in a wine fully equipped with solar radiation, acidity preserving temperature fluctuations and altitude enlivening libido. The combination of fruit layering and tannic structure is nothing short of remarkable. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted November 2018

Smelling the Garrigue at Amalaya

Colomé Malbec Lote Especial El Arenal 2016, Valle De Calchaquí, Salta, Argentina (575290, $29.95, WineAlign)

The vineyard here is at 2,600m and the first vineyard purchased by Donald Hess, in a place and at an altitude that did not yet exist in Argentina. So the question is what does an added 300m (and 900 as compared to La Brava) bring to malbec? The answer is simply more of everything but especially concentration. This is smoother and more silk-textured, with less high-tonality and more Napa like consistency. It’s certainly the richest and most consumer friendly. Drink 2019-2024.  Last tasted November 2018

El Arenal is the pinpointed location for Colomé’s deep, dark and delicious malbec, especially for the Calchaquí-Salta locale. A warmth by vintage and richness by extraction has matched the saltiness of the air and the aridity of the place. The lengthy finish is notable and fruit persevering. Drink 2019-2023.  Tasted September 2018

Quebrada de las Conchas

Colomé Estate Malbec 2016, Calchaquí Valley, Salta, Argentina (477315, $24.95, WineAlign)

The Estate gathering draws from all three Lote Especial vineyards (La Brava, Colomé and El Arenal) plus fruit from Altura Maxima at 3,100. Bring them all together and the broadest expression with the middle ground concentration and the fullest texture is realized. It’s a cooler, more savoury malbec with a balance of richness and high tonality. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted November 2018

Canadians at Tres Cruces

Bodega Colomé Malbec Autentico 2017, Calchaqui Valley, Salta, Argentina (Agent, WineAlign)

This malbec is drawn from 2,300m of altitude and the vineyard of oldest vineyards raised with no oak, only stainless steel. The idea is “the typical malbec from the Valle de Calchaquí.” The vineyards are pre-phylloxera and the wine is naked to the world, fresh and floral, salty, tangy, tart and quite intense. It’s even more rugged and rustic than expected but rich and full of possibilities. Peppery too in a reductive meets carbonic way. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted November 2018

Steaks at Don Julio

Colomé Malbec Altura Maxima 2015, Calchaqui Valley, Salta, Argentina (Agent, WineAlign)

From the Donald Hess farm purchased in 2005, with plantings between 3,000 and 3,200m of altitude. The extreme nature of this (and some of Argentina’s) highest of estate vineyards means frost and hail are very much apart of the challenge. And when you taste it side by each with the three Lote Especial malbecs you see that it is something very different indeed. The floral aspect is dramatic and the flavours the most intense. The saltiness and high tonality are off the charts. This will age for two decades without pause. Drink 2021-2033.  Tasted November 2018

El Esteco

El Esteco Malbec 2016, Valle De Calchaquí, Salta, Argentina (Agent, WineAlign)

From two terroirs, Punco and Cafayate, aged in second and third passage oak barrels. Like blackberries and Yerba Seca, a native savoury brushy herb that grows in this cactus populated desert. So reminds of sage pointed reds from the Okanagan Valley, albeit with more brine. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted November 2018  bodegaelesteco  philippedandurandwines  @ElEstecoWines  @Dandurandwines  @elestecowines  @VinsPhilippeDandurand  

With John Malinski, Piattelli Vineyards

Piattelli Vineyards Reserve Malbec 2017, Cafayate Valley, Salta, Argentina (Agent, WineAlign)

Malbec at 6,000 feet on a gentle rising slope in Cafayate is aged for nine months in only American barrels. Few malbec are clothed with as much barrel class in a Rioja way as this and no French is used, namely because of cost in a much larger production wine. The oak is done to bury the pyrazines and it works like a charm. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted November 2018

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

Piattelli Vineyards Gran Reserve Malbec 2016, Cafayate Valley, Salta, Argentina (Agent, WineAlign)

In this version of Piatelli’s high altitude malbec the components are all bigger, stringer, faster and of specs where pH, alcohol, glycerin and also acidity are all elevated. The Grand Reserve sees both American and French oak and for 13 months time. The Spanish connection, whether it be Ribera del Duero or Montsant is evident in polish, silky texture, vanilla and liquid graphite. Very sweet black cherry, pencil shavings and even a note of cigar. Chalky, earthy finish. Drink 2019-2023.  Tasted November 2018

Altos Las Hormigas Malbec Clásico 2017, Mendoza, Argentina (Agent, WineAlign)

Approximately 20 per cent of the fruit comes from the Uco Valley with the yeoman’s work provided by vines grown in Luján de Cuyo. What the house considers as a good vintage with a great 2018 looming on the horizon. At present a bit peppery-rubber stamped reductive so truly a baby with grip and concentrated liqueur. Strange in how it reminds of Western Cape syrah and ultimately solicits an expression of wow. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted November 2018  altoslashormigas  @ALHmalbec  @ALTOSLASHORMIGASWINERY

At Luigi Bosca

Navarro Correas Reserva Malbec Selección Del Parcelas 2017, Mendoza, Argentina (Agent, WineAlign)

The reserve malbec story is a three-fold one, from three blocks each no bigger than two hectares; La Consulta (San Carlos, Uco Valley), Los Árboles (Tunuyán, Uco Valley) and Agrelo (Luján de Cuyo). Each adds their own piece into the puzzle, from florals through red fruit to cool savour. Adds up to a layered malbec big in fruit, acidity and bones. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted November 2018

An excited Yann Janvier eyeing dinner at Luigi Bosca

Pascual Toso Malbec 2016, Mendoza, Argentina (35170, $14.25, WineAlign)

If you are looking for a malbec on the spectrum that is brighter and lighter with properly and wisely integrated wood into that effulgent fruit, here is your $14 best bet. The Mendoza malbec tenets of smoky and spicy are quite subtle and fruit stands out, ushered along by a calming and supportive energy. Drink 2018-2019.  Tasted March and November 2018

Fritters at Bosca

Viña Cobos Felino Malbec 2017, Mendoza, Argentina (118067, $19.95, WineAlign)

A blend of several properties’ fruit though 70-80 per cent comes from vines growing in 40 vineyards situated in Luján de Cuyo. A big sweet fruit and high acidity bomb meeting at the intersection of grip and freshness. The blend of sites amalgamates and mediates to spread great malbec love for all to share. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted November 2018

Salad at Luigi Bosca

Viña Cobos Bramare Malbec 2016, Uco Valley, Mendoza (123729, $39.95, WineAlign)

Not the easiest vintage to deal with but the low quantity of fruit availability surely means quality of the highest order and a malbec here that could never be accused of flat, peppery or fat. The Luján de Cuyo fruit from four farmed estate vineyards is 100 per cent all in for a true to terroir malbec that even Paul Hobbs can’t override, no matter how hard he and his team might try. The accessibility playing field is levelled by an intensity built by alternating stratifying layers of acidity and structure. Smoke, smoulder, spice and then patience move from availability through need. Drink 2020-2027.  Tasted November 2018

Mark Bradbury and Marilyne Demandre, Buenos Aires

Bodegas Bianchi Finca Los Primos Malbec 2018, Mendoza, Argentina (572123, $12.40, WineAlign)

Made from 100 per cent San Raphael fruit on alluvial soils with clay. Leads to great malbec depth plus surely hematic pulse and strength. It’s red fruit albeit highly concentrated, extracted, intense, spicy, smoky and full. Drink 2018-2020.  Tasted November 2018

Andeluna Malbec Altitud 2016, Gualtallary, Tupungato, Uco Valley, Mendoza, Argentina (Agent, $25.99, WineAlign)

Fruit is 100 per cent Gualtallary and yes Altitud is a factor of a rise towards the Andean wall. More than altitude this malbec carries attitude, in good solid grip and firm intensity. A very meaty malbec, pitchy and sure of itself in every respect. These Tupungato soils give way top some pretty heady and deeply satisfying red fruit, especially malbec. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted November 2018

Bodega Atamisque Serbal Malbec 2018, Tupungato, Mendoza, Argentina (444737, $15.95, WineAlign)

Simply stated pinot noir of strawberry red fruit, a fluff of spice and ultimately easy to comprehend. Highly drinkable stuff that speaks a varietal language with obviousness and without complication. Nothing more needs top be said. Drink 2018-2019.  Tasted November 2018

Zuccardi Polígonos 2016, San Pablo, Uco Valley, Mendoza, Argentina (568915 $29.95, WineAlign)

The Vinos de Montaña line from Zuccardi employs the name Poigomnos to refer to the many sides of a vineyard, also mimicked by Seb Zuccardi in his drive to celebrate micro-vinifications and the new diversity of Mendoza terroirs. The soils are alluvial and very stony, an elemental-mineral transference fact that needs to be contemplated and copnsidered within the context of a malbec effect and from this place in San Pablo, Uco Valley. This is in fact a different sort, from pyrazine to pepperoncino, dry, tannic and unique in its new spark of dark fruit. Quite remarkable for its ulterior motive and unique way of speaking for both the specific place and the estate. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted November 2018   zuccardivalledeuco  szuccardi  dionysuswines  @ZuccardiWines  @FamiliaZuccardi  @SebaZuccardi  @ZuccardiValleDeUco  @DionysusWinesTO

Cecilia Carrasco, Zuccardi and Julia Halupczok, Finca Sophenia

Zuccardi Concreto Malbec 2017, Paraje Altamira, Uco Valley, Mendoza, Argentina (455774 $39.95, WineAlign)

Concreto as noted and understood is a malbec raised only in concrete and not a barrel, stave or chip to be found anywhere near the purity of this fruit. Paraje Altamira is the pinpointed location and one of the Uco Valleys great new frontiers at 1,100masl. The spot is a spectacular alluvial fan laid out beneath the Andes and a certain depth meets richness of red fruit abounds, accented or rather accentuated by Zuccardi’s use of concrete vats. A very fine liqueur is the result and if the ’16 was thought to be luxe, this next step (and warmer, more nurturing vintage) brings malbec into luxury, bordering on hedonism. But it’s pure, exacting and transparent. Drink 2019-2023.  Tasted November 2018

Finca Sophenia Estate Wine Malbec 2017, Tupungato, Mendoza, Argentina (Agent, WineAlign)

All estate fruit from vineyards at 1,200masl surrounding the winery in Gualtallary. Winemaker Julia Halupczok brings out the sweetest red fruit of simple purity and pleasure, augmented with mild oak spice. Gracious, generous and in the end, grateful for such a malbec. Drink 2018-2020.  Tasted November 2018

Salentein Reserve Malbec 2017, Uco Valley, Mendoza, Argentina (640854, $17.95, WineAlign)

Located at one of Mendoza’s highest altitude terroirs at upwards of 1,300m in the Uco Valley. Mostly older (third use) barrels bring a combination of peppery reduction and oak accented spice. Actually a bit quiet to begin and then the fits, jolts and sparks begin to announce the presence of pent up energy and near aggression. This will take a couple of years to settle, unfold and allow the protected fruit to speak up. That it will, with good grip and even better structure. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted November 2018

Cabernet Franc

Zuccardi Cabernet Franc Polígonos 2017, San Pablo, Uco Valley, Mendoza, Argentina (Agent, $29.95, WineAlign)

The Polígonos exploration is a many vineyard sided affair and the altitude is significant at 1,300m from San Pablo in Valle de Uco, Mendoza. A relatively early pick preserves nigh high acidity and the alcohol is beautifully restrained. Just a hint of dusty, pyrazine edgy fruitiness drives the machine and keeps this pulsing with terrific energy. Both food amenability and aging potential here are excellent. If it’s verdant that’s a compliment to local character. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted November 2018  zuccardivalledeuco  szuccardi  dionysuswines  @ZuccardiWines  @FamiliaZuccardi  @SebaZuccardi  @ZuccardiValleDeUco  @DionysusWinesTO

Rocío Campoy Morist, Alta Vista

Alta Vista Premium Cabernet Franc 2016, Mendoza, Argentina (609081 $17.95, WineAlign)

The estate’s highest vineyards are the source for this beautifully pungent cabernet franc and strike another notch on the varietal card for growing this is in the right spots in Mendoza. It’s a dark fruit expression with high and mighty acidity to find equitable footing. The tangy, tart and intense acidulated liquidity really drives the point even if the woody aspects are just a bit up and above what would make this nearly complete. So drinkable and offering up great interest nonetheless and completely understandable for its style. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted October and November 2018  bodegaaltavista  hhdwines  @bodegaaltavista  @HHDImports_Wine  @BodegaAltaVista  @HHDImportsInc

Trivento Cabernet Franc Golden Reserve Black Edition 2017, Altamira, Uco Valley, Mendoza, Argentina (AgentWineAlign)

Made by winemaker Germán Di Césare there is a respect for land (alluvial, sand and some lime) but also for varietal. It’s well-endowed, juicy, plummy and full flavoured though it’s oaky tendencies are quietly respectful as well. The tone of the wine hums and resonates with ambience in complete control. It’s really quite fine and just about to enter its perfectly integrated, resolved and balanced window. High acidity example and wouldn’t hurt to settle for just a few more months. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted November 2018  triventoarg  triventoarg  #escaladewines  @Trivento   @TriventoArg  @TriventoCanada

Bodega Andeluna Cabernet Franc Pasionado 2015, Gualtallary, Tupungato, Uco Valley, Mendoza, Argentina (Agent, $54.99, WineAlign)

Classic Uco terroir at high altitude (1,300m) that mixes alluvial soils with sand, limestone and here loam make for a pretty subtle rendition in terms of cabernet franc. That’s especially true when you consider the small vessels used (225L barrels) and much of it new. You feel the wood in vanilla and berry coulis, a bit of spice and liquified graphite. Quite a molten flow this cabernet franc and with demanding quality in its tannins. Drink 2018-2023.  Tasted November 2018 bodegaandeluna  stemwinegroup  @BodegaAndeluna  @StemWineGroup  @BodegaAndeluna  @stemwine

snap (c) @marylinedemandre

Escorihuela Gascón Pequeñas Producciones Cabernet Franc 2016, San José De Tupungato, Mendoza, Argentina (Winery, WineAlign)

At just under 1,100m this from Matias Ciciani is Mendoza tradition in a varietal glass. There is a later picked, well-extracted feel to the fruit, with a dried component, though plenty of freshness is maintained. It feels like oxygen was introduced to this at the correct time and so it’s developed, ready but also protected from advancing too quickly. Lovely wine with some firm grip and tension inits structure. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted November 2018  escorihuelag  @Escorihuelag  Escorihuela Gascón

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

Viña Cobos Bramare Cabernet Franc Chañares Estate 2016, Los árboles, Tunuyán, Valle De Uco, Mendoza, Argentina (Winery, WineAlign)

At just under 1,200m, off of well-drained alluvial soils with a good presence of larger stones and pebbles. From an El Niño season of extra rainfall, this is still certainly polished and endowed with a fully rendered liqueur. The varietal character is there though early on it’s behind the veil of wood. Big structure, concrete architecture and timeless really. The Chañares Estate in Los Árboles is clearly capable of delivering one of Argentina’s great cabernet franc terroirs. While this is surely an impressive Uco Valley red the story of varietal and place is yet to truly be told. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted November 2018  vina.cobos  awsmwest  @VinaCobos  @AuthenticWineON  @vinacobos  @awsmon

Filet Mignon, pumpkin and white chocolate purée, criolla sauce with black olives, pan-seared potato and sea asparagus, Finca Decero

Finca Decero Cabernet Franc Mini Ediciones Remolinos Vineyard 2017, Agrelo, Luján De Cuyo, Mendoza, Argentina (AgentWineAlign)

The simple and emotional response to this special effort is more cabernet franc, in Remolinos, Agrelo, Luján de Cuyo please. Varietal notability for sure with more than ample barrel smoothing and gentle spice character. Tannins are bigger and more grippy than you might think. Plenty of age potential here. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted November 2018

Vicentin Dorado Cabernet Franc 2016, Mendoza, Argentina (WineryWineAlign)

Labeled the “Tiger of the Rivers” it reeks of American oak, welling with vanilla, lavender and graphite. Couldn’t pick this out as a cabernet franc blind because all varietal notes, Loire, Mendoza or anywhere are hidden behind the Silver Oak meets Rioja sheathing. The palate is an improvement with good savoury flavours, even a squeeze of fresh pomegranate but the acidity is a conundrum. Where are the realities of place? Drink 2018-2020.  Tasted November 2018  vicentinfw  @carotizio ‏ Vicentin Wines

Vicentin Banda de Los Tres Sucios Se Busca Vino/Sin Tomar El Tramposo Cabernet Franc Peligroso E Imparable 2016, Mendoza, Argentina (WineryWineAlign)

Now 18 months in barrel, the name is the Cheater and the band of three; cheater, smuggler and renegade. It’s all oak and more oak with almost no cabernet franc character. It’s red fruit with green, tobacco and concentrated variabilities. Mostly French and some (20 per cent) American oak. Not much linger or staying power in terms of the finish. Whimsy without equitable substance. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted November 2018

Carrot at Decero

Argento Reserva Cabernet Franc 2016, Mendoza, Argentina (Agent, $18.99, WineAlign)

A beautiful freshness here without too much barrel sheathing, in and out of second and third passage wood. A gainfully employed and effective franc, true to varietal, crunchy and quite serious for value. Incidentally Argento is from the owners of Uruguay’s Bodega Garzón, Chianti Classico’s Dievole and Montalcino’s Podere Brizio. Drink 2018-2020.  Tasted November 2018  bodegaargento  profilewinegroup  @BodegaArgento  @ProfileWineGrp  @bodegaargento  @ProfileWineGroup

Cabernet Sauvignon

Familia Schroeder Saurus Cabernet Sauvignon 2016, Patagonia, Argentina (Agent, $21.95, WineAlign)

After tasting a few examples of the Paul Hobbs influence on these Patagonian wines it is quite clear just how evident there is this smooth consistency of style. Big time ripe fruit, darkening as per varietal and here a sense of cured salumi, all in, no holds barred and also fully developed and rendered texture. That factor times purity allows this to lean linear almost into elegant. Warm, comforting and then with rendered spice. Drink 2019-2023.  Tasted November 2018

Pascual Toso Cabernet Sauvignon Alta Barrancas Vineyards 2016, Mendoza, Argentina (261958, $33.95, WineAlign)

How deep is the impact from the altitude out of this part of Mendoza? Deep as it is wide, from every corner abutting and always facing the wall of the Andes. Even at a low steppe like Maipú. Plenty of barrel style here, mixed with a cool vintage and so the pH is low in such a tricky year. Acidity is high and it’s pretty darn fresh considering the oak. From 700-800m, very floral and so all the parts are somewhat confounding yet also remind of Rioja tempranillo. This needs a few years to settle down. Drink 2020-2026. Tasted November 2018  pascualtoso  eurovintage  @PascualToso  @Eurovintage  @pascualtosowinesargentina  @Eurovintage

Aldo’s, Buenos Aires

Familia Schroeder Cabernet Sauvignon Saurus 2017, Patagonia, Argentina (Agent, $21.95, WineAlign)

Schroeder is a Paul Hobbs Patagonia outpost and across the board they are truly smooth, cool and polished wines. Tasted after the pinot noir and malbec we see by now the consistency of style and with great evidence. Big time ripe and dark varietal fruit, salumi accents, all in, no holds barred and a cool factor with texture times purity. It finds its way through the ooze to act linear and come out quite elegant. In the end it warms and brings much comfort, finishing with a rendering and lingering spice. Drink 2019-2023.  Tasted November 2018  schroederwines  @SchroederWines  @stemaren  @BodegaFamiliaSchroeder

Tasting at Sottano

Sottano Reserva De Familia Cabernet Sauvignon 2016, Mendoza, Argentina (324707, $24.95, WineAlign)

Sottano’s cabernet sauvignon exhibits less of an oak influence or exaggeration, especially not a hinderance or a matter of make up. Smells like cabernet sauvignon with loads of ribena and black currant on top of each other and then the oak really takes over. Half of the grapes are estate and the other half Altamira in Uco Valley. Not so much a terroir investigation as it is a thing of Mendozan assemblage. It’s far from elegant but it is creamy smooth and velvety, if not the best wine thus far in the portfolio. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted November 2018  bodegasottano  @bodegasottano  @bodega.sottano

Dessert at Decero

Susana Balbo Cabernet Sauvignon Signature 2016, Uco Valley, Mendoza, Argentina (260919, $19.95, WineAlign)

From a wet year but locales with good exposure and drainage fared quite well. Regardless here is a rich, grippy and powerful cabernet sauvignon (with five per cent franc), of high natural acidity and cumulative depth. The parcels are Uco Valley and Los Arboles just below Gaultallary. Chocolate is cut by a rocky streak from fruit grown over a dry river bed with stones, quite the opposite from Agrelo. It’s a veritable expression of a unique set of alluvial and stony soils. Excellent work to bring out a sense of place. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted November 2018  susanabalbowines  profilewinegroup  @sbalbowines  @ProfileWineGrp  @SusanaBalboWines  Susana Balbo  @ProfileWineGroup

With Soledad Juncosa, WOFA

Sophenia Cabernet Sauvignon Synthesis 2014, Gualtallary, Tupungato, Uco Valley, Mendoza, Argentina (AgentWineAlign)

A wine made by Julia Hulupczok and Matiás Michelini. From a wild vineyard upwards of 1,300m where ripening is a challenge and tannins can be formidable. There’s a greenness to be sure and yet also a subtle grace about it. A different structure, impossibly dichotic and surely one you would not have found in Argentina just 10 years ago. Drink 2018-2024.  Tasted November 2018  fincasophenia  @FincaSophenia  @Juliahilux  @FincaSopheniaWines  Julia Halupczok

Viña Cobos Bramare Cabernet Sauvignon Marchiori Estate 2015Perdriel, Luján de Cuyo, Valle de Uco, Mendoza, Argentina (Agent, $119.00, WineAlign)

At 1,000m few other cabernet wines out of Valle de Uco will deliver such concentration and polish. It’s also huge in acidity, grippy tannin and overall structure. Almost two-thirds new oak is used and the fortunate thing is really the highest quality fruit able to withstand this woody onslaught. Deep soils work hard for vines less than 25 years old, the upper strata built of clay-loam to sandy-loam and the substrata of river-washed cobbles and round stones. It was an early ripening vintage with harvest temperatures above the historical record. Not surprising to receive such a massive, not so much brooding but more like a swagger of attitude in a cabernet that can go the distance. Drink 2020-2027.  Tasted November 2018  vina.cobos  awsmwest  @VinaCobos  @AuthenticWineON  @vinacobos  @awsmon

Lunch, El Esteco

Bodega El Esteco Finca Notables Cabernet Sauvignon 2015, Calchaquí Valley, Salta, Argentina (WineryWineAlign)

In addition to a more “generalized” cabernet sauvignon, which is so odd to say when you consider the extreme altitude as its source, nevertheless this is the other one from El Esteco and Peñaflor. A single-vineyard draw from an “Alturas” block at 1,700m in the Valles Calchaquíes from winemaker Alejandro Pepa, the lowest of yields, off of deep loamy and sandy soil. Very tart, tight, taut, almost reductive, peppery and really herbal cabernet sauvignon. A true mildly sweet liqueur bitters red, of dark fruit and iodine. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted November 2018  bodegaelesteco  #mondiaalliance  @ElEstecoWines  @Mondia_Alliance  @elestecowines  @mondiaalliance

Finca El Origen Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon 2015, Uco Valley, Mendoza, Argentina (128991, $15.95, WineAlign)

Grapes are taken from La Esperanza in Vista Flores at 1,200m. Very spicy cabernet sauvignon, with some verdant pyrazine and also high toned, smoky bites and lots of chocolate. Very different winemaking style and from notable pH into edgy, volatile acidity with some dried fruit, raisin character. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted November 2018  fincaelorigen  chartonhobbs  @Fincaelorigen  @ChartonHobbs  @fincaelorigen  Charton Hobbs Canada

snap (c) @marylinedemandre

Trapiche Cabernet Sauvignon Terroir Series Editíon Limitada Finca Laborde 2013, La Consulta, San Carlos, Mendoza, Argentina (Winery, WineAlign)

At nearly 1,000m and a very high-toned cabernet with grippy acidity and still raging tannins. The 18 months in barrel will take at least three times that amount to integrate, settle and slip into a balanced state of grace. So I’d look to 2020 or so before imagining that transformation to have really begun. Chocolate is all over the finish, in fact it begins deep in the recesses of the mid palate. Drink 2020-2027.   Tasted November 2018  trapichewines  trapichearg  philippedandurandwines  @TrapicheWines  @Dandurandwines  @TrapicheArgentinaInt  @VinsPhilippeDandurand  

Juan E. Marcó CEO, Finca Decero

Finca Decero Cabernet Sauvignon Remolinos Vineyard 2015, Agrelo, Luján De Cuyo, Mendoza, Argentina (195677, $23.99, WineAlign)

Deep fruit meets savour and takes the time to enjoy a cup of coffee. In cabernet sauvignon you get a sense of the barrel but also the shrubs that grew here before the vineyard was planted. It’s a very transparent varietal wine that acts like a window to the terroir. A bit chewy and yet also soft for a very pleasant mouthfeel. Perfectly lengthy in the grown at altitude varietal way. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted November 2018

Marilyn Demandre, DiamAndes

Bodega DiamAndes de Uco Cabernet Sauvignon 2015, Uco Valley, Mendoza, Argentina (WineryWineAlign)

Harvested on April 22nd. A gone for it style of cabernet sauvignon in 30 per cent new French oak for 12 months, fully purposed alcohol and ripeness at the threshold of the Andes’ foothills. Big wine, full malo, extracted and concentrated. This is cabernet sauvignon for real, in the big league, time and place. It could only be Valle de Uco. Truly. Drink 2020-2027.  Tasted November 2018

With Yann Janvier, El Esteco

Bodega El Esteco Finca Notables Cabernet Sauvignon 2015, Calchaquí Valley, Salta, Argentina (WineryWineAlign)

The pyrazine factor runs high though in red bell pepper as opposed to green and the sweet fruit is very cherry, tangy, tart and in hard candy form. The closest comparison would be Australian, namely Langhorne Creek or Adelaide Hills, with a bit of Coonawarra in its rosa feel. Deeply savoury. Drink 2018-2023.  Tasted November 2018

Piattelli Vineyards

Piattelli Vineyards Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2017, Cafayate Valley, Salta, Argentina (Agent, WineAlign)

From the high altitude vineyards in Cafayate aged in both French and American barrels. It’s a polished and highly correct cabernet from the most arid of world climates, where at up to 2,000m solar radiation is the real deal. Ripe, savoury and adjustable in every way. The savoury verdancy is the complexity that raises the bar for this particular varietal wine. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted November 2018

Argento Cabernet Sauvignon Reserva 2016, Mendoza, Argentina (164764, $18.95, WineAlign)

Like the cabernet franc the treatment is a stainless ferment followed by a three-quarter aging in older (two and three year-old barrels) plus one-quarter kept in steel. Luján de Cuyo and Ugarteche are the sources for this reductive, hematic and highly savoury cabernet sauvignon. There’s a depth in its character and an ability of mildly if notably structured tannins. Trades the sister franc’s freshness for grip. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted November 2018

Paul Madden

Navarro Correas Alegoría Cabernet Sauvignon Gran Reserva 2015, Agrelo, Mendoza, Argentina (AgentWineAlign)

From Agrelo’s rising flats in the 900m range and a true varietal wine of Cassis and Ribena with plenty of brushy savour. Plenty of spice, tobacco smoulder and freshly ground peppery jolts from a winemaker who really likes wood and knows how to use it. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted November 2018

La Mascota Cabernet Sauvignon 2017, Cruz De Piedra, Mendoza, Argentina (292110, $15.50, WineAlign)

From Maipú a cabernet notched into stainless steel followed by 50-50 French and American wood of second and third passage. Delicate red fruit is treated to a shift towards reduction, of graphite and vanilla, spice and red liquorice. Sweetly fruity and silky smooth. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted November 2018

Finca Sophenia Estate Wine Cabernet Sauvignon 2017, Tupungato, Mendoza, Argentina (Agent, WineAlign)

Transparently varietal wine and yet just like the malbec; 100 per cent estate vines in Gualtallary, sweet red fruit, gerenous and gracious. The conclusion quickly ascertained is of a winemaker asking for the terroir to be given its due. This 1,200m place talks the talk and walks the walk. It’s lightning struck red fruit, tart, with currants and a liquid chalky feel. Drink 2018-2020.  Tasted November 2018

Other Reds and Blends

Familia Schroeder Saurus Select Pinot Noir 2017, Patagonia, Argentina (55442, $23.95, WineAlign)

Sauras makes reference to fossilized dinosaur bones found at the winery right at the surface of the Patagonian terroir. Schroeder’s is effusive pinot noir with a cured salumi character, from a dry and windy place where rainfall is curiously scarce. It has that lack of watering, needing to struggle personality. There is a lovely bit of dusty volatility and an acidity-tension pull. Sweet red fruit, indicative of strawberry and a maritime moment of ripeness make for a perfect entry into the regional ideal. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted November 2018

Bodega Atamisque Serbal Pinot Noir 2018, Tupungato, Mendoza, Argentina (AgentWineAlign)

Simply stated pinot noir of strawberry red fruit, a fluff of spice and ultimately easy to comprehend. Highly drinkable stuff that speaks a varietal language with obviousness and without complication. Nothing more needs top be said. Drink 2018-2019.  Tasted November 2018  bodegaatamisque  #MCOwines    Bodega Atamisque

Finca Decero Syrah Remolinos Vineyard 2015, Agrelo, Luján De Cuyo, Mendoza, Argentina (AgentWineAlign)

Remolinos Vineyard is the place of the “tiny whirlwinds,” grown on bare land where only wild shrubs grew. At 3,500 feet (1,050 meters) it is Agrelo’s highest plateau and its syrah is round, full and welling with some iodine and a hematoma of dark fruit. Soft actually with a proper balance in acidity and unaggressive tannins. An absence of meaty, charred or cured character is noted. Quite a pure expression of the vineyard, in a Hobbsian style, at least in terms of syrah. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted November 2018  fincadecero  liffordgram  @FincaDecero  @LiffordON  Finca Decero  Lifford Wine and Spirits

Yann Janvier

Finca Decero Petit Verdot Mini Ediciones Remolinos Vineyard 2014, Agrelo, Luján De Cuyo, Mendoza, Argentina (Agent, $44.99, WineAlign)

The fruit is different here, almost tropical and certainly developed. Plum, pomegranate, apricot and quince, even persimmon, hung to dry and allowed to turn intensely fruity-tangy-leathery with time. Great acidity, big time grip and lots of forward thinking purpose. Drink 2020-2025.  Tasted November 2018

Tourists in BA, with Paul Madden and Marilyn Demandre

Colonia Las Liebres Bonarda Clasica 2018, Mendoza, Argentina (Agent, WineAlign)

Vines are grown in the Pergola method to protect the vulnerable bonarda from direct sunlight. Organic (though label certification will begin on the 2019 label). Early ripening and in fact was picked on February 23rd for a deeply rendered and pitchy red with briny acidity and subtle, if fine and supple tannin. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted November 2018

Finca Decero Amano Remolinos Vineyard 2014, Agrelo, Luján De Cuyo, Mendoza, Argentina (270975, $79.99, WineAlign)

The top wine of the estate, the great blend driven by malbec (approx. 66 per cent), with (25) cabernet savignon and smaller percentages of petit verdot and tannat. Lots of clonal material from B1 and B2 malbec blocks in one of the biggest, broadest and most hematic wines around. Smooth, polished and clearly the hedonistic one of the line-up. For the owner, the owner’s cronies and every restaurant list that sells iconic, big bottles. Big, bold flavours as king of the hill at the top of the heap. Drink 2020-2027.  Tasted November 2018

Bodegas Sottano Reserva Blend 2016, Mendoza, Argentina (WineryWineAlign)

“The influence of oak is meritorious,” it is said at the tasting table, in this case 12 months in new and second use barrels, plus several months more in bottle before release. All three oaks are employed; 60-70 per cent French plus American and Hungarian. Includes up to 20 per cent cabernet sauvignon and franc. Also contains malbec from Vista Flores. The aromas are violets, all berries, bitters and simple syrup. Polished and built as a liqueur of a red blend that solves the business equation of supply and demand, in fads and through trends, for what the average consumer is out to buy. A go large red for big box upscale restos, i.e. Milestones and Keg. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted November 2018

Pablo Cúneo, Head Winemaker, Luigi Bosca

Luigi Bosca La Linda Private Selection Smart Blend Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah & Tannat 2016, Luján De Cuyo, Mendoza, Argentina (WineryWineAlign)

This Private Selection blend is deeply rendered, hematic with unaggressive pyrazine and pepper purée, so much pepper in every shade and crunchiness. Black fruit everywhere with capsicum bite. Smoky again and the tannat shrinks away in no way at all. Grippy tannins and in the end, a variegated amaro meets roasted bell pepper liqueur. Drink 2019-2023.  Tasted November 2018

With Gabriela Millan, Luigi Bosca

Luigi Bosca Gala 2 DOC, Luján De Cuyo, Mendoza, Argentina (542647, $36.95, WineAlign)

A Bordeaux blend of two cabernets and merlot, a wine that was first made in 2001. From Vistalba Carodilla y Las Compuertas in Luján de Cuyo. There is a wild berry and peppery aspect, as Bosca wines are always want to be and do. Bountiful and hedonistic but in a very different way than the old vines malbec, now more liqueur and satin texture, with caressing tannins at the iron hand wearing a velvet glove. Drink 2020-2027.  Tasted November 2018

Luigi Bosca

Luigi Bosca Finca Los Nobles Cabernet-Bouschet “Field Blend” 2013Las Compuertas, Luján de Cuyo, Mendoza, Argentina (WineryWineAlign)

A field blend that combines cabernet sauvignon with bouschet which is considered an ancient clone of cabernet franc. The smokiness and spice are now joined by a Dry Creek Valley like dried fruit and bramble character. It’s so rich and the oak is really felt. Needs time though it will go umami-oxidative before these fine but demanding tannins fully settle in. It remains to be seen if that perfect optimum balancing point is really possible but it would be so much fun to wait one out and try. Drink 2021-2028.  Tasted November 2018

Beef Tenderloin at Luigi Bosca

Luigi Bosca Icono 2011, Las Compuertas, Luján de Cuyo, Mendoza, Argentina (WineryWineAlign)

The blend is malbec (57 per cent) and cabernet sauvignon, in push-pull, touch and go, ying and yang, fraternal twin relationship struggle. The most liqueur, fructose-pectin personality is how this rolls with texture and viscosity. Once again here is the Bosca peppery character and with more structure meets age probability than any wine in the portfolio. With two years further (than the Field Blend) it is beginning to show its settling but there are at least three more to go before the window will really be open. Will travel in to balsamic and other savoury-umami notes when it does. Drink 2021-2028.  Tasted November 2018

Flank Steak, Domaine Bousquet

Domaine Bousquet Gaia Red Blend Vino Orgánico 2017, Tupungato Valley, Mendoza, Argentina (WineryWineAlign)

The earth is a malbec (50 per cent), syrah (45) and cabernet sauvignon blend. The syrah brings pepper, clove and further edgy baking spice to the red-black fruit malbec. Quite concentrated and while the wood is not over the top it is tipping a bit ahead of all else in a wine trying hard in striving for balance. Juicy and hot at the same time, with high pH and just enough acidity to make it work well with anything pulled from the grill. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted November 2018  

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

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

Quebrada de las Conchas

Amalaya Gran Corte 2016, Valle De Calchaquí, Salta, Argentina (Agent, WineAlign)

Malbec is blended with cabernet franc for a most concentrated red of high solar intersection and arid climate where latitude brings ripeness and altitude brings balance. This is the more raisin and dried fruit red in the portfolio. Drink 2018-2019.  Tasted November 2018

Pork Steak, Restaurante El Rancho, Cafayate

Colomé Lote Especial Tannat 2016, Calchaqui Valley, Salta, Argentina (575308, $28.95, WineAlign)

As noted in the last vintage tannat is the Calchaquí Valley unicorn. What Colomé seeks is something different and on its own tannat acts with deeper rock salt intent. It’s such a concentrated and severely tannic wine, even more so than in 2015. And that is its trump card and speciality. Needs five years to play nice. Drink 2022-2027.  Tasted November 2018

El Esteco

El Esteco Merlot Fincas Notables 2015, Valle De Calchaquí, Salta, Argentina (Agent, WineAlign)

Also from the same 1,700m of altitude in the Calchaquí Valley here merlot takes on the land and arid climate with tomato leaf and red pepper purée. Also quite briny in a southern French, overlooking the Mediterranean way. Quite evolved and a bit oxidative though with high acidity. Unique and ulterior look at merlot. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted November 2018

Lunch at El Esteco

El Esteco Tannat Fincas Notables 2015, Valle De Calchaquí, Salta, Argentina (Agent, WineAlign)

Then there is the tannat effect, tannic effect and the way in which this winery has figured it out. High temperatures, sunshine and altitude can lead this varietal to great heights provided the farming is done right. The freshness is miraculously preserved and though the spice and the tannins are off the charts there is some early noted blackberry and white chocolate grace to its character. These parts will help it stay palatable through its evolutionary processes. Drink 2021-2027.  Tasted November 2018

Under the Criolla, El Esteco, Cafayate

El Esteco Altimus Icon Wine 2015, Valle De Calchaquí, Salta, Argentina (Agent, WineAlign)

Altimus “the highest” is a matter of both altitude and the best selection of a harvest’s grapes. Malbec always leads with cabernet sauvignon in support though the other constituents may come from a myriad of other varieties, including and in no particular order cabernet franc, petit verdot, merlot, syrah, tannat and bonarda. Meticulous is the operative word for Altimus, the rolled into one icon, flagship and signature wine of the estate, a Salta blend that speaks to heights, solar radiated intensity and the hand to voice experience of winemaker Alejandro Pepa. Ripe, polished and ultimately no expense spared. Argentina’s other hedonism expressed, apposite to Mendoza in every respect, untamed, without reins and unlimited in potential. The pace may need to change but the power here will simply not be denied, like love lying bleeding in hand. Drink 2020-2026.  Tasted November 2018

Bad Brothers Wine Experience, Cafayate

Piattelli Vineyards Reserve Malbec/Tannat 2017, Cafayate Valley, Salta, Argentina (Agent, WineAlign)

Equal parts malbec and tannat from the high altitude vineyards in Cafayate aged for six months in both French and American barrels. The oak takes no time to announce its presence and the fruit is bold, firm, strong and solid as the granite rock beneath its vines. Big bones and components, of pH, in alcohol, some glycerin and all the necessary adjustments. Strong but fine-grain tannins make for a long finish. Drink 2019-2021.  Tasted November 2018

Piattelli Vineyards

Piattelli Vineyards Arlene Series Blend 2016, Cafayate Valley, Salta, Argentina (Agent, WineAlign)

The flagship wine of the estate and named in honour or proprietor John Malinski’s wife, the blend is dominated by malbec (70 per cent), accentuated by (20) cabernet franc and (10) cabernet sauvignon. It’s both ambitious and scarce, spending 18 months in French and American oaks after some concrete egg fermentation. It’s the best of the best, hand picked berry by berry, painstakingly so by a team of daybreak to dusk workers. Again the dials are set on high, with generous pectic-glycerin and generous acidity. Napa Valley in a Chuck Wagner vein is the ideal but the profile couldn’t be further from that proprietor’s blend  truth. Only 560 cases were produced of this flashy malbec blend with its skin pulled taut and mid-section laced tighter than an impenetrable corset. Plastic surgery in a bottle. Drink 2020-2025.  Tasted November 2018

Tupungato

Susana Balbo Brioso 2016, Agrelo, Mendoza, Argentina (Agent, WineAlign)

Brioso might mean enérgico or spirited and this ideal is magnified by “what you can do in a difficult vintage.” Estate single vineyards bring cabernet sauvignon (53 per cent), cabernet franc (24), malbec (16) and petit verdot (13) together for a serious blend. It’s not the round and velvety vintage but rather one so linear, vertical, direct and grippy. Big and structured though quite in balance. Drink 2019-2026. Tasted November 2018

Caminito

Navarro Correas Juan De Dios Gran Vino De Corte 2013, Agrelo, Mendoza, Argentina (Agent, WineAlign)

An ode to a pioneer whose work dates back to the year 1798, when Juan de Dios Correas planted the first vines in the land of Mendoza. This is the estate’s icon/flaghship wine, blending cabernet sauvignon (82 per cent) with malbec and lending a woodworker’s hand for 18 months in barrel. Spice runs linear and long, flavours stretch elastic and acidity points the fruit towards a far away horizon. With low pH and moderately generous alcohol this is a wine from which the winemaker (Gaspar Roby) needs to have paid great attention ion the vineyard. And he does, that much is clear, as witnessed by pitch perfect ripeness. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted November 2018

Mark Bradbury – snap (c) @marylinedemandre

Viña Cobos Cocodrilo Corte 2016Mendoza, Argentina (Agent, WineAlign)

This Paul Hobbs Mendoza foray began in 1999 and the crocodile is a cabernet sauvignon based blend (76 per cent) from estates and vineyards in Luján de Cuyo and Valle de Uco. The former terroir is fed by the snow-melt of the Andes through the Mendoza River at altitudes ranging from 945-1,100m. The latter’s soils are alluvial, with a subsoil of clay, sand, silt and rock. The supporting varieties are malbec (10 per cent), merlot (nine) plus bits of petit verdot and cabernet franc. Cocodrilo is all Cassis, rich and concentrated, meant to showcase place, grape and the great possibility/potential of the relationship. As the kingpin in a proprietary blend the cabernet brings blunt smoky and spicy accents, with black currants running through. Meet the new big boss blend, same as the old boss, won’t get fooled again. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted November 2018

Bad Brothers, Cafayate

Fincas Las Moras Paz Malbec 2016, San Juan, Argentina (520486, $18.95, WineAlign)

Paz is a 50-50 two cabernets joint from Tulum in San Juan at 650m. A multitude of peppers abounds, red fresh and dried mixed with red berry fruit. Savoury, rich and cool, nearly interchangeable with a similar style on the other side of the Andes. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted November 2018 and March 2019  fincalasmoras  univinsetspiritueux  @FincaLasMoras  @UNIVINS  @fincalasmoraswineryCA  

Alexander Raphael in Tupungato

Unanime Gran Vino Tinto 2014, Uco Valley, Mendoza, Argentina (466938, $29.95, WineAlign)

The unanimous winemaking decisions about beguiling fruit drawn off Uco Valley sites makes this malbec (60 per cent), cabernet sauvignon (25) and cabernet franc (15) blend a big and generous proposition. That and the heavy times spent in oak for twenty months add up to some serious girth, grip and density. I can’t see this thick and lush concoction moving even an inch in the next few years and it may need seven or more to begin its earliest settling period. Dramatic foreshadowing at its best makes us think there will be interesting times ahead. Drink 2021-2027. Tasted October and November 2018

Outdoor Tasting, Domaine Bousquet

Famiglia Bianchi Nebbiolo Malbec 2015, San Raphael, Mendoza, Argentina (Agent, WineAlign)

In San Raphael (and including Las Paredes) off of soils of sandy loam and a 50-50 varietal split. Hematic and ferric at the same time, of tar and ripe cherries. Again the extractive factor is not shy, nor is the resulting concentration. Finishes full and downy, with weight and warmth. Drink 2018-2019.  Tasted November 2018

Yann Janvier and Godello – snap (c) @marylinedemandre

Andeluna Pasionado Quatro Cepas 2015, Gualtallary, Tupungato, Uco Valley, Mendoza, Argentina (Agent, $59.99, WineAlign)

The four-poster blend from Gualtallary is led by malbec with support by cabernet sauvignon, merlot and cabernet franc. It’s a big wine filled with extractive liqueur, generously oaked in both French and American wood. Acidity keeps it humming even while it smokes in its cooking ways. Polished and elevated by altitude-driven freshness to mitigate the concentrated fruit and spice welling away in syrupy constitution. While formidable now it will soften and turn into something velvety smooth and rich in chocolate. As for now you’d better locate some salty protein and a decanter. Drink 2020-2026.  Tasted November 2018

Andes, DiamAndes

Masi Tupungato Passo Doble Malbec Corvina 2016, Mendoza, Argentina (620880, $14.95, WineAlign)

Malbec (85 per cent) plus appassimento augmented corvina spent nine months in French oak. So the question begs, why the methodology and Tupungato? The first answer is easy. Masi. The second is about mountains and weather, the Andes and dry heat. The best substitute for Veronese hills are here in the Uco Valley and the result in 2016 (a cool and wet year) means more savour than raisin and more freshness than aridity. If warmer vintages were carefully crafted to mimic 2016 it would all be smooth sailing. Drink 2018-2020.  Tasted November 2018

Clos de Los Siete

Clos De Los Siete 2013, Uco Valley, Mendoza, Argentina (622571, $23.95, WineAlign)

Three years further and the skies have now opened to retrospectively reveal a fresher vintage. There is a transference now into some dried fruit with sour edging but spoken with that renewed sense of freshness. The ’13 blend is 53/23/12/8/4 for malbec, merlot, syrah, cabernet sauvignon and petit verdot. Th elevation of vineyards with their Andean backdrop is noted bow, if not before and so proof that the Clos is a wine of structure and needed patience. Five years is now the harbinger, 10 the ultimate goal.  Last tasted November 2018  closdelossiete  philippedandurandwines  @closdelossiete  @Dandurandwines   @closdelossiete  @VinsPhilippeDandurand

Big and bigger, as always, wholly ripe, rich and raging with acidity. Yet somehow the Clos de los Siete finds a way to charm its way through the dark forest and into hearts. Flavour abounds, firmness rules and the finish lasts. Drink 2016-2019.  Tasted October 2016

Good to go!

godello

Where there’s smoke there’s Godello

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

WineAlign

Single estate ethos of Grandes Pagos de España

April 10th, 2019

Grandes Pagos de España Masterclass

The Chef’s House, George Brown Community College

Moderator: Sara d’Amato, WineAlign

When the excess of large wine production volumes leaves territorial and personal value systems behind there arises a need for a new ethos. The task of defending terroir and diversity then falls into the hands and expressions of small, like-minded producers. In the case of Spanish wine regions like Jerez and other iconic locations this progressive fight against big box and collective commercialism becomes a matter of great necessity.

Which brings us to the early 21st century story of Grandes Pagos de España. The Spanish supergroup gathers to collectivize their specialized, idiosyncratic and cathartic efforts and voices of some thirty-plus wine producers, all working together to “defend the personality and distinctiveness of their unique wine estates, in order to promote and expand this culture around Spain.” Grandes Pagos de España is borne of a growing concern towards the monoculture of wine production and for a wave of cultural emotion to protect the excellence of wines made as Vino de Pago.

Pago, from the Latin pagus speaks to a physical location, as in a hamlet (like the Italian borgo), or a rural estate (as in the Spanish finca), yet it also refers to a specific category within Spanish wine law. Vino de Pago is therefore an entity for wines produced from highly specialized, single estates. “Grandes Pagos de España is an association of Spanish wine producers dedicated to upholding and promoting the ethos of producing high-quality, single-estate wines and maintaining all that is entailed in their production.”

This tasting brought together 17 wines from 15 appellations; DO Jerez, DO Cava, DO Montilla Moriles, DO Txakoli de Álava, Vino de España, DOP Rueda, DO Pago de Arinzano, DO Navarra, Vino De La Tierra De Extremadura, DO Alicante, DOC Rioja, Vino De La Tierra de Castilla Y León, DOQ Priorat, DO Ribera del Duero and DO Toro. Here are my notes on the 17 seminar wines, along with further examples from Valdespino (Grupo José Estévez) and Pago de Vallegarcía Family Estate

White Wines

Valdespino Single Vineyard Fino Dry Sherry Inocente, DO Jerez, Spain (Agent, $25.95, WineAlign)

The terroir is Albariza white sandy soil, very high in calcium carbonate off of 800 hectares divided into 18 vineyards. The palomino base wine starts at 12 degrees alcohol and after aging increases to 15. Oak aging develops the character. This is Fino that slides over to the really arid line, surely still very salty and briny but it’s the drying character that is just extraordinary. The complexity for the price is almost unbeatable and it is fully accountable for enzymatic activations borne out of necessary and dominant personality traits. Stands for what it believes in and owns it. Just wow. Drink 2019-2028.  Tasted April 2019  valdespinosherry  azureau  @valdespinojerez   @azureau  @valdespinosherry  Azureau Wines & Spirits

Gramona Ill Lustros Gran Reserva Brut Nature Cava 2008, DO Cava, Spain (Agent, $60.00, WineAlign)

In Gramona, very close to Barcelona, from a six generation family. The interest here is the ageing, to keep the personality of endemic varieties like xarel-lo and to see how lees aging develops character, but still keeping the nature it was afforded by terroir. Cork aged (not crown cap), riddled and disgorged by hand. Can see up to 60 months of lees aging and is a Brut Nature, no dosage added Cava. Made from macabeo, xarel-lo, chardonnay and pinot noir. Dry and cognitively speaking a child of slow rearing, development and maturation. Fruit very much alive, exotically normal, passionately exemplary and purposefully forward. An absolute benchmark for vintage Cava of age and for years more development. Drink 2019-2027.  Tasted April 2019  gramona1881  brixandmortarwineco   @Gramona1881 @brixandmortar  @GRAMONA  @brixandmortarwineco

Alvear Pedro Ximenez 3 Miradas Vino De Pueblo 2017, DO Montilla Moriles, Spain (Agent, $22.95, WineAlign)

From the south of Spain, going back to 1729 and the second oldest wine in the area. A wine based in the vineyard, as opposed to the cellar, unusual for the place. A blend of the best parcels at high altitudes (500 to 620m), on Albariza white chalky soils. The 3 Miradas project is sourced from three plots, La Viña de Antoñín, El Garrotal and Cerro Macho. This acumulation of pedro ximenez is really toasty, nearly flinty, always striking, like lightning. Palate fruity, in white peach and yellow plum, dry, mildly tart and very friendly. As much a still wine as it is a Fino, with help from skin-contract and a very important entry into the category, for the uninitiated and those who look to pair it with nibbles, bites and first courses. Drink 2019-2021.  Tasted April 2019  bodegas_alvear  fwmcan   @Bodegas_Alvear   @FWMCan  @BodegasAlvear  @FWMCan

Astobiza 2017, DO Txakoli de Álava, Spain (Agent, $21.95, WineAlign)

From northwestern Spain, in Basque country, from ondarrabi zuri and tzkriota. A verdant and herbal txakoli, lively and fresh. Classic lemon and lime, tight, taut and intense. Exactly what it’s meant to be. Drink 2019-2020.  Tasted April 2019  astobizawine  azureau  @Astobizawine  @azureau  @Astobizawine  Azureau Wines & Spirits

Mustiguillo Finca Calvestra Merseguera 2017, Vino De España, Spain (Winery, WineAlign)

High altitude at 800m on dolomitic limestone is the home of this merseguera raised in Acacia barrels. Quite fresh and lively with high floral aromas and definite texture added by the choice of wood. Obscures the focus of the land at times but stays true to endemic character in conjunction with that honeyed raising. Will likely develop further complexities along that vein. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted April 2019  bodegamustiguillo  @Mustiguillo  @Bodega.Mustiguillo

Belondrade Y Lurton Belondrade 2017, Do Rueda, Spain (Winery, WineAlign)

Pebbles over clay and limestone at 750m of altitude is the spot for this 100 per cent verdejo with generous addendum from oak aging. Very creamy, with vanilla and caramel notes, definite spice and yet somehow delicate and recognizable. The wood comes around and around, again and again. Nutty, buttery and soft. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted April 2019  belondrade.vinos  @Belondradevino  @BelondradeBodega

Propriedad De Arínzano Gran Vino 2014, DO Pago De Arínzano, Spain (Agent, $69.00, WineAlign)

The first Pago from Navarra, in the Cantabrian Mountains in the north of Spain. Arínzano is unique as an estate for having the terroir recognized as the first to gain such status in the north of Spain. The Gran Vino is varietal chardonnay, in 50 per cent new French oak for one year. Nothing is spared to equip this rich, lush and ambitious chardonnay with all the necessary tools for international infiltration. Combines nutty spice with freshness in less than subtle layering and shows very good length.  Drink 2020-2024. Tasted April 2019  pagodearinzano  markanthonyon  @pagodearinzano  @MarkAnthonyWine  @pagodearinzano  @MarkAnthonyWine

Julian Chivite Colección 125 Blanco 2016, DO Navarra, (Agent, $70.00, WineAlign)

Chivite’s 372 years of Spanish winemaking history accounts for the company’s ability to combine tradition and forward thinking, something this ambitious chardonnay certainly draws upon. The Legardeta Estate is found in Villatuerta with great influence from the continental-Atlantic climate. This is varietal chardonnay with real bite and nuttiness, green apple, tart peach, green mango and shots of tonic. Eleven months in French barrels though not overtly new and over-exacting. Well made chardonnay with true blue cool-climate tones. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted April 2019  chiviteestates  churchillcellars  @ChiviteEstates  @imbibersreport  @ChiviteEstates  @imbibersreport

Red Wines

Palacio Quemado La Zarcita 2016, Vino De La Tierra De Extremadura, Spain (Agent, WineAlign)

A wine that straddles the Mediterranean and the Atlantic, with influence by both. Duelling weather patterns, clay, limestone and rocks all work for tempranillo, garnacha and in this case, touriga nacional, trincadeira, and alicante bouschet. The varietal kaleidoscope is accented by really toasty oak influence as much as terroir and those two salty ocean breezes. That salt mitigates the char and the roasted character of the fruit. So much here for $23 and time will soften the blow. Drink 2021-2025.  Tasted April 2019  @PalacioQuemado  fwmcan  @FWMCan   @PalacioQuemado  @PalacioQuemado  @FWMCan

Enrique Mendoza Estrecho 2015, DO Alicante, Spain (Winery, $46.00, WineAlign)

A one hundred per cent varietal monastrell from unirrigated old-vines grown on beach-sandy soil with some clay and limestone about. Dealt with gently in winemaking, no pumpovers and all hand work. Really fresh and though so grippy and firm it’s all about fruit. While it saw 15 months in French oak the fruit is well-preserved and full of spirit. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted April 2019  bodegasemendoza @BodegasEMendoza  @BodegasEnriqueMendoza

Finca Valpiedra Reserva 2012, DOCa Rioja, Spain (Agent, $46.99, WineAlign)

Mainly tempranillo (90 per cent), with graciano and maturana tinta on terraces in the Cantabrian Mountains with stones by the river. The aging is 22 months in new French barrels, with at least 22 more needed even now to settle into its skin. Really tangy and direct, grippy and graphite rich. A wild ride in Rioja, broad, rangy, ropey, impressive and long. Drink 2021-2029.  Tasted April 2019  fincavalpiedr stemwinegroup  @FincaValpiedra  @StemWineGroup  @FincaValpiedra  @stemwine

Pago de Vallegarcía Family Estate Hipperia 2016, Vino De La Tierra De Castilla y León, Spain (Agent, $59.95, WineAlign)

This may be one of the most interesting Bordeaux blends you have never tried, in Right Bank style, aromatically led by cabernet franc. The fruit layers are compressed, variegated, finessed and fine. Only new French oak gathers these Bordeaux grape varieties and wraps them up in scorch and toast, early earthy and savoury. The wood is well-heeded and omnipresent but the red fruit never relents. Graphite and pencil lead dominate but altitude (900m) keeps things minty cool and somehow, some way remarkably fresh. Spice and florals again. Highly floral wines despite the strength and grip. Certainly dirt-earthy but this should settle and pass, leaving fruit to cross over into anew era. Big wine, big bones and big hopes and dreams. Drink 2021-2028.  Tasted April 2019  pagovallegarcia  azureau  @P_Vallegarcia  @azureau  @PVallegarcia  Azureau Wines & Spirits

Mas Doix Salanques 2016, DO Priorat, Spain (Agent, $74.95, WineAlign)

The stark reality of near-impossible, non-irrigated growing conditions makes perfect sense for producing this old-vine garnacha (80 per cent) with carignan and syrah. One taste and you would be sleeping to miss this as one of the world’s great old-vine garnacha expressions. Wound around a finger of freshness, with the sort of grip that will take two decades to release. Multiply the 14 months of oak aging by 20 at the very least. Drink 2020-2035.  Tasted April 2019  masdoixwinery rogersandcompanywines  @masdoix  @rogcowines  @masdoix  @rogcowines

Abadia Retuerta Pago Negralada 2016, Vino De La Tierra De Castilla Y León, Spain (Agent, $130.00, WineAlign)

From the winery in Sardón de Duero, close to Valladolid. A varietal tempranillo make in small quantities and in French barrel for 17 months. Pure, elevated, floral, regaling and über-responsive by expression back inwards through impression for tempranillo. Some of the sweetest varietal fruit found anywhere in Spain. Ethereal in its own special way by Ángel Anocibar and Pascal Delbeck fromn this very special project. Drink 2022-2032.  Tasted April 2019  abadiaretuertaledomaine  halpernwine  @arledomaine @HalpernWine  @AbadiaRetuertaLeDomaine  @halpernwine

Bodegas Mauro Cosecha 2016, Vino De La Tierra De Castilla Y León, Spain (Agent, $54.95, WineAlign)

Less than five per cent syrah adds to great quality tempranillo, with increased freshness over 2015. This is the flagship of the winery, at altitudes in the 800m range, off of sand and clay. Though 16 months of French and American oak (only 20 per cent new) brings plenty of sheathing, swagger and texture there is some really great freshness to this wine. Altitude and agriculture are to thank, plus the magic of place. It results in great acidity and one of those tempranillo that absolutely needs to be made this way. It’s correct, excellent and long. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted April 2019  bodegas_mauro rogersandcompanywines  @rogcowines  @bodegasmauroysanromanygarmoncontinental  @rogcowines

Aalto 2016, DO Ribera Del Duero, Spain (Agent, $47.95, WineAlign)

A wine of remarkably expressive florals, violets and roses, plus bougainvillea and more. High Ribera altitude and calcareous clay are the conduit but also the 50 per cent new French and American wood. Compound the effect with berry to graphite on the palate and a textured presence that is unrelenting and in the end you have a formidable if magical connection. Sometimes it’s hard to believe there is so much going on like here, from Ribera del Duero. Drink 2021-2028.  Tasted April 2019  aaltowinery  noble_estates

Bodegas y Viñedos San Román 2015, DO Toro, Spain (Agent, $64.95, WineAlign)

The local tinta de toro and garnacha grow on acidic soils, low in calcium and blessed with magnesium. The style is far from shy and if 24 months was needed to bring such magnanimous fruit to fruition, 10 times that will be needed to see it settle. I wouldn’t consider drinking this massive 100 per cent tinta de toro (tempranillo) without hours of decanting air or 10 years of bottle time. Black fruit, balsamic syrup and structure are all in. This is not the rustic ancient or even recent times Saint Román. It’s modern, beautiful and bigger than can be imagined. Drink 2022-2035.  Tasted April 2019  bodegas_sanroman rogersandcompanywines  @rogcowines  @rogcowines

More from Pago de Vallegarcía Family Estate

Pago de Vallegarcía Family Estate Petit Hipperia 2015, Vino De La Tierra De Castilla y León, Spain (Agent, $34.95, WineAlign)

From the expression “land of horses,” with merlot and petit verdot, plus cabernet franc and sauvignon. Roasted, cured, in salumi and earthy crust. A bit reductive but just a curtain drawn ahead of high-toned and enthusiastic aromatics. Spice and florals again. Highly floral wines despite the strength and grip. Drink 2020-2023.  Tasted April 2019  pagovallegarcia  azureau  @P_Vallegarcia  @azureau  @PVallegarcia  Azureau Wines & Spirits

Pago de Vallegarcía Family Estate Syrah Montes De Toledo 2016, Vino De La Tierra De Castilla y León, Spain (Agent, $47.95, WineAlign)

This syrah is just one striking example in the international varietal portfolio of Spanish oil and gas entrepreneur Alfonso Cortina. His choices are largely because the DO is not one of the very knowable ones for indigenous varietals. Sourced from low nutrient soils in the Toledo hills in which calcium carbonate needs to be added and acting as catalyst to this formidable syrah, originally planted in 1999. In warm years such as this ’16 it’s co-fermented with viognier, essentially because the proximity of harvest times allow for the get together. Floral and formidable, with liquid chalky character, full on berry aromas and flavours, plus a spicy finish. Class, culture and structure are all here, to be sure. Drink 2020-2035.  Tasted April 2019

Pago de Vallegarcía Family Estate Viognier 2017, Vino De La Tierra De Castilla y León, Spain (Agent, $44.95, WineAlign)

A 100 per cent varietal, 30 per cent in oak fermented viognier. Quite viscous, boozy and metallic. Big viognier, obviously connected in style to Condrieu, Bold, classy and structured, high glycerin and tannin. Needs settling time. Drink 2020-2027.  Tasted April 2019

More from Pago de Valdespino

Valdespino Uva Palomino Fino Ojo De Gallo 2016, Vino De La Tierra Cadiz, Spain (Agent, $24.95, WineAlign)

The “eye of the rooster” is a still wine from Fino territory, 100 per cent drawn from Macharnudo Alto, at 140m the highest spot in the area. As 100 per cent palomino it is not a common wine to be sure, noses like Fino but markedly arid in that regard, white chalky, direct, lime to ginger, a better to best tonic and in its highly idiosyncratic way, pretty amazing. A benchmark for dry palomino without a doubt. A throwback to the ancients, when still wine was king and to show how the grape tastes, naked, unadulterated, nutty, nearly yeasty and fine. Consumer warning: It’s a very specific cup of palomino tea. Drink 2019-2022. Tasted April 2019  valdespinosherry  azureau  @valdespinojerez   @azureau  @valdespinosherry  Azureau Wines & Spirits

Leyenda Pedro Ximenez Sherry, Jerez De La Frontera, Spain (Agent, $15.95, WineAlign)

Entry-level Fino, fermented under the (yeast) flor, finished at 15 per cent alcohol. Typical simple, basic and forward Jerez de la Frontera Fino, classic in every way and so proper. Almonds, green olive and spice, with still some fruit notes, like orange and dried lemon. What you need with salty snacks. Drink 2019-2023.  Tasted April 2019

Valdespino Manzanilla Deliciosa, Sanlúcar De Barrameda, Jerez, Spain (Agent, $25.95, WineAlign)

Deliciosa is made from palomimo grown at the Pago Miraflores in Sanlúcar de Barrameda. The enologist is Maribel Estévez (daughter of owner José Estévez) and her Manzanilla is produced by a Solera system consisting of seven scales (six plus a Solera row). Here is a true step up in serious salinity and age accumulated character, from six years of sapidity gaining accountability. The brine here is on the saline side but without searing, iodized or ionized happenstance. It’s just linear and so perfectly orchestrated. You need to taste this. Drink 2020-2029.  Tasted April 2019

Good to go!

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

Sangiovese is the future – Montefioralle, Greve in Chianti

The Chianti Classico Collection preview takes place this coming Monday at Stazione Leopolda in Firenze. There will be upwards of 200 producers on hand pouring their new Annata, Riserva and Gran Selezione in reserve. That means it must be time for me to publish all the wines I tasted in Chianti Classico in advance of this coming Anteprima.

In September and November of 2018 I paid visits to 25 Chianti Classico estates, tasted, assessed and reviewed 150 wines. I’ve published five articles on some of those visits, for the most part and in particular with respect to properties I had not previously visited. I also dropped two posts, one on the Chianti Classico website so succinctly translated into Italian by the Consorzio del Vino Chianti Classico’s Silvia Fiorentini. This was no simple or easy exercise for Silvia as any of you who know the meandering style of my prose. The second was in English, as I had originally composed, set up on Godello.

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

Related – Chianti Classico’s Canadian dream

Castelnuovo Berardenga

Here are the 150 wines tasted and assessed in Chianti Classico September and November 2018, listed in alphabetical order.

Antinori

The many mind-bending architectural splendors of @marchesiantinori in @chianticlassico

Marchesi Antinori Villa Antinori 2017, IGT Toscana, Tuscany, Italy (SAQ, 12392574, $17.80, WineAlign)

All fruit and aromatics. Mostly trebbiano with malvasia. Simple, functional, direct and traditional. Emblematic of the family and the name Antinori. Drink 2018-2020.  Tasted November 2018  marchesiantinori  halpernwine  markanthonyqc  @AntinoriFamily  @HalpernWin e  @MarchesiAntinori  @halpernwine

Antinori Pèppoli Chianti Classico DOCG 2016, Tuscany, Italy (606541, $19.95, WineAlign)

Not unlike the Villa Antinori in concept and white it is the red Peppoli Annata from the 1985-1987 purchased eponymous estate, it similarly acts as spokesperson, or export manager if you will. Roses and dried flower floral, light, fresh, from a vintage gifting more fruit than many. It’s a Mercatale Val di Pesa specificity albeit on the largest possible stage and size while straddling both the communes of San Casciano and Greve in Chianti. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted November 2018

Villa Antinori Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2015, Tuscany, Italy (512384, $29.95, WineAlign)

Not so much a vineyard/estate wine as an Antinori wine, based on selection. It’s sangiovese with a small percentage (10 per cent) of merlot. The majority of the grapes comes from the recently acquired Tenuta di Sansano estate. The Riserva is the artist simply known as “Villa” and is fruitier, juicier and less liqueur concentrated than many Riserva. It’s approachability is immediate with thanks to its freshness. Sweet and mild tannins are persistent. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted November 2018

Marchese Antinori Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2015, Tuscany, Italy (512384, $42.95, WineAlign)

Produced only from grapes that come from the Tignanello Estate. Here sangiovese with 10 per cent cabernet sauvignon, From second and third used barrels that came from Solaia and Tignanello IGT. A much bigger, broader further structured Riserva as compared to “Villa,” now with some ferric intensity and grip. Drink 2018-2021.  Last tasted November 2018.

Antinori’s is a deep and satisfying Riserva with dark fruit taken from Mercatale Val di Pesa vineyards at the estate’s Tenuta Tignanello. It’s very juicy and forthright, readier than many though the acidity is quite strong. This is heavily influenced by wood spice and there is no turning away from its spikes and charms. Quite dark and intense, no doubt due to the vineyard location between the Greve and Pesa river valleys and between the two villages of Montefiridolfi and Santa Maria a Macerata. Drink 2019-2023.  Tasted February 2018

Badia A Passignano Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG 2015, Tuscany, Italy (384552, $49.95, WineAlign)

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

Barone Ricaosli, Gaiole in Chianti

Barone Ricasoli Torricella 2016, IGT Toscana, Tuscany, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

Comprised of 80 per cent chardonnay with sauvignon blanc. In the past it was a blend that included malvasia, going back as far as 1927. Some oak aging, no malolactic, the sauvignon blanc enters just at the final stage of the final blend, after the chardonnay has rested for 10 months in tonneaux. Direct, lean, mineral, composed and in no way strict as a Gaiole chardonnay. And yet here it is. Reduction comes back to bring it full circle. Drink 2018-2024.  Tasted September 2018  ricasoli1141  francescoricasoli  churchillcellars  @ricasoli_1141  @imbibersreport  @ricasoli1141  @imbibersreport

Barone Ricasoli Chianti Classico DOCG 2016, Tuscany, Italy (3962, $23.95, WineAlign)

Barone Ricasoli Roncicone 2015, IGT Toscana, Tuscany, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

This is the next single-vineyard focused sangiovese in the Brolio portfolio and part of the new era, project and study intensification. Years of analysis, of soils and diversity of vineyards prepares us to look at various interpretations so that we may try to follow along and understand. This site is the marine deposit soil type with more presence of clay, richness of the organic earth and a big oak tree. And yet it’s a leaner expression, earthier, tannic and savoury. Not quite Alberese but the structure is chalkier, yet not in a purely calcareous way. Sharp, lifted and nearly explosive. Really needs time. Drink 2022-2030.  Tasted September 201

Barone Ricasoli Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG 2015, Tuscany, Italy (942607, $59.95, WineAlign)

This is the flagship Chianti Classico established in 1997, always the man, the most important and expensive wine of the estate. It’s also the first to shun the Super Tuscan commodities, eschewed to establish a Chianti Classico at the top of the game. Pioneer for a place that was once and can forever be great, now travelling retroactively back to the future of fame. In this context it surely makes sense that it then moved forward into the Gran Selezione category going back to 2007, always priced near the top. This generous and mostly easy vintage brings together classic Brolio cherries and acidity with powerful, linear and soliciting 2015 tannins. Draws you in, ties you up and keeps you around for the long run. Drink 2021-2029.  Tasted September 2018

Two soils of Bibbiano

Bibbiano Chianti Classico Gran Selezione Vigna Del Capannino 2013, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $43.95, WineAlign)

Today Vigna Del Capannino 2013 is a powerful rider, a.k.a. the racer Gianni Bugno, 1990 overall winner ]and of nine stages at the Giro d’Italia plus four for the Tour de France. The interaction is forceful and the wine is deeply herbal, minty and with an amaro finish. Averna leads to tobacco with naturally curated and gifted elegance.  Last tasted September 2018  bibbianowines  lesommelierwine  @bibbianowines  @LeSommelierWine  Bibbiano Chianti Classico  Le Sommelier, Wine Agency

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 propagation 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

Buondonno, Castellina in Chianti

 

Buondonno Rosato Podere Casavecchia Alla Piazza 2017, IGT Toscana, Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

Early picked, high acidity and surprisingly good phenolic Rosato with the highest level of tang albeit within balance. Full of red citrus, lime and grapefruit. Crazy good to drink. Drink 2018-2020.  Tasted September 2018  #buondonno    #casavecchiaallapiazza

Buondonno Lèmme Lèmme, da Vecchie Viti Maritate 2016, Podere Casavecchia Alla Piazza, IGT Toscana, Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

From an old bush vine vineyard planted in 1936 to many varieties; sangiovese, canaiolo, colorino, malvasia, trebbiano and many others forgotten, misplaced and unknown. Even the older folks are not entirely sure, if they ever were, and who today still refer to them asuva di rignano. Approximately 1000 bottles are made from this place in a wine that is tart, tight, tannic and high in ancient wisdom. A true blue field blend of acidity that wraps up exceptionally wise and naturally resonant black fruit and olive tapenade. It’s the Tuscan equivalent of old field blends, especially Californians like Ridge Vineyards but like an Etruscan version of such an idea. Goes into a ceramic tank, with porosity like oak but to preserve the fruit and not hinder it with spice. Just the grapes and nothing but the grapes. Piano, piano, lèmme, lèmme. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted September 2018

Buondonno Chianti Classico DOCG 2016Podere Casavecchia Alla Piazza, Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

Virtually sangiovese, perhaps a few points of canaiolo, maybe not. From what Gabriele considers a strange vintage because it’s 6.7 per cent acidity is something that hasn’t been seen in 25 years. But it’s also 15 per cent alcohol and so for this day and climate warming age, it emerges beautifully balanced. You’d never know it, the fruit standing firm upright and supremely confident. Sees time in a mix of botti, tonneaux and barriques, none of the vessels new. Brightest of cherries, linear direction, dry but sweet tannins. Purity of fruit is in the elite company of the territory, within the style. This will age for 20 years and become something calm, demurred and extraordinary. Drink 2020-2032.  Last tasted September 2018

Gabriele Buondonno and Valeria Sodano bought the Castellina in Chianti farm known as Casavecchia alla Piazza in 1988, a plot that clearly appeared on the maps of the “Capitani di Parte Guelfa” in 1549 and is marked as the “place of Lionardo Buonarroti,” nephew to Michelangelo. Their Chianti Classico is 90 per cent sangiovese, plus merlot and syrah from a place Michelangelo once wrote to his uncle “I would rather have two barrels of Trebbiano than eight shirts.” Clearly pulled of of a special terroir, Buondonno’s organic Annata is pretty and purposed, with fresh tart strawberry and an intensity of acidity. It’s very long, unrelenting, showing some focus above and beyond. Drink 2019-2023. Tasted  February 2018  #buondonno  #buondonno

cabernet franc comparative where you’d least expect it ~ Toscana vs Niagara ~ #buondonno vs #interloper ~ #castellina vs #niagaraonthelake ~ @ravinevineyard

Buondonno Cabernet Franc Casavecchia Alla Piazza 2016, IGT Toscana, Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

Planted in 1999 in the Vigna di Sotto, the lower vineyard, from Guillaume, because merlot was ordered and they also sent 400 plants of cabernet franc. First vintage was 2015, here now in number two it’s beginning to express itself, however small the batch. It really is cabernet franc, a bit verdant, spicy, more spiced really, completely unlike sangiovese but clearly from this property, in Castellina but on the far western side of the Panzano Conca d’Oro. It’s chewy, chalky (in liquid form) and tannic. Needs a few years to come together. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted September 2018

Buondonno Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2015Podere Casavecchia Alla Piazza, Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

Sangiovese with a small amount of canaiolo, 25 days outdoors fermentation and then into a mix of botti, tonneaux and barriques, 10 per cent new. From the estate vineyards of Casavecchia, Sicelle and Sicellino. The latter planted in the 1970s with exposure to the North-East. This fruit from a cooler site will be essential to the assemblage going forward. Such an accomplished Riserva out of 2015, clearly designed to tell the Castellina-Panzano straddling story, with rich, structured fruit and a intention to travel far. Full, wise, stratified, variegated and weighty, in at 15.5 per cent. Drink 2020-2028.  Tasted September 2018

Buondonno Bianco Alla Marta Podere Casavecchia Alla Piazza 2016, IGT Toscana, Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

Marta is Gabriele’s daughter and hers is essentially a skin-contact white, orange or amber wine if you prefer the nomenclature. The concept stems from Podere Casavecchia Alla Piazza’s goat cheese and the Buondonno goat cheese making master. Hers is clean as a whistle, with more trebbiano than malvasia, 10 days on the skins, qualifying as skin-contact so let’s keep it there and resist the temptation to call it orange. It’s beautifully and mildly tannic, full of acidity and dry as the desert. Light on the oxidation and volatile acidity. From vines planted in 1974, then 42 and now almost 45 years old. So proper and just right, really, truly, honestly, humbly and born of a person’s tremendous work ethic. Drink 2018-2024.  Tasted September 2018

Podere Campriano, Greve in Chianti

Podere Campriano Chianti Classico DOCG 2015, Tuscany, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

From the sandy soils with great Galestro prevalence on the steep, east bank of the Greve River. Same soil profile as Montefioralle across on the west bank but the weather is so different; less humidity, more diurnal temperature fluctuations but also extreme conditions. Never easy to farm here and the wines are proficiently perfumed. Simple and never boring, of purity and nuance by land that can’t help but speak to all that it has to say. The texture is one of softness, caressing and really just pure speciality in delight. Finesse and delicasse. Drink 2018-2023.  Tasted September 2018   poderecampriano  @ElenaCampriano  Elena Podere Campriano Lapini(Podere Campriano )  Elena Lapini

Podere Campriano Chianti Classico Riserva DOC Le Balze Di Montefioralle 2014Tuscany, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

Varietal is the populist notion once again, as only a solo act, out of a purity by one hundred per cent sangiovese. From land once covered in forest, of a magically, or eerily a same soil profile as the other Greve in Chianti bank, sandy and rich in Galestro. The Riserva profile gives this more depth and even a certain next level of extraction, but it’s more about fruit-earth-rock layering and variegation. What comes from this side of the tracks is spice interwoven through dusty and bushy aromatics and then, the liquid palate texture derived from the rendering of that spice. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted September 2018

Podere Campriano Chianti Classico Riserva DOC Le Balze Di Montefioralle 2015, Tuscany, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

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

It is said let @chianticlassico be elegant and @poderecampriano obliged ~ #greveinchianti #montefioralle #altavalledellagreve #sangiovese #chianticlassicoriserva

Podere Campriano 80 (Ottonta) IGT Alta Valle delle Greve 2013, Tuscany, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

From Elena Lapini’s grandfather’s 1980 planted vines, a “table wine” that is 100 per cent sangiovese from those 35 year-old vines. It’s on the fruity spectrum while coming from roots burrowed deep into the Galestro. A serious, intense, wise and composed sangiovese, with more mid-palate liqueur and viscosity. This could technically be classified as Gran Selezione, like Carobbio’s Leone (as an example), but that just might confuse. And so by 2015 it may be labeled Riserva, a second Riserva. Or perhaps further down the road with a dozen archetypal others and come back to the appellation with a mention of Alta Greve in tow. Who’s to say? Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted September 2018

Capannelle, Gaiole in Chianti

Capannelle Chardonnay Oro Bianco 2015, IGT Di Toscana, Tuscany, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

Only made in stainless and only bottled in magnum format. Clean, stony, high acid and really classy from a house that has been making chardonnay since 1988 and this unoaked rendition since 1988. Extremely linear but what is most accomplished about it is texture and the lack of medicinal florality. I would never confuse this for Chablis but only because it’s so unlike anything else. Drink 2019-2026. Tasted September 2018  capannelle  @Capannellewines

Capannelle Chardonnay 2015, IGT Di Toscana, Tuscany, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

The “traditional” chardonnay, aged for six months in 20 per cent new oak. Now thirty years into this white wine movement there is a concern and a professionalism so perfectly understood, that much is obvious. Someone back in the 1980s understood the rocks, the acidity and the potential for chardonnay in Gaiole. Not Bourgogne but Gaiole. Galestro raised chardonnay with a real elemental push, stretched phenols and acidities. Drink 2019-2026.  Tasted September 2018

Capannelle Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2014, Tuscany, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

The aromatics on the ’14 Riserva are expressly Gaiole, of the Galestro, the dusty, stony vineyard, the altitude and the forest. It’s more than savoury but into frutta di bosco, wild herbs and evergreen. It really is a Gaiole scent, in the air, fresh and spirited. It will turn to balsamico and porcini, of that I am convinced. Texture is also zonazione specific, to these heavily wooded hills surrounding and protecting these vines. Texture is smooth, not silk but glycerin, light and nearly ethereal. Drink 2019-2026.  Tasted September 2018

Capannelle Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG 2013, Tuscany, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

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

Capannelle Solare 2011, IGT Di Toscana, Tuscany, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

Sangiovese (80 per cent) is blended with malvasia nera, bringing Gaiole’s altitude, acidity and dried herb scents along by the conduit of malvasia’s body and weight. Very Cappanelle, very Gaiole and very savoury in accent to really fine, evolved and ready to enjoy. A traditional blend of grapes that attempts to bridge the gap between regional Chianti Classico and Drink 2018-2022.   Tasted September 2018

Cappanelle Solare 50 & 50 2015, IGT Di Toscana, Tuscany, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

The project goes back a few decades with Avignonesi in Montepulciano, blending their Cortona (La Selva) merlot (also used for Desiderio) with the sangiovese of Capennelle. It’s the softest wine of this estate, seemingly or at least perceptively set at 50 per cent acidity. It’s a joint venture between wineries that goes back 30 years and that’s not nothing. Drink 2018-2020. Tasted September 2018

Carpineta Fontalpino

Montaperti, Carpineta Fontalpino, Castelnuovo Berardenga

Fontalpino Chianti Classico DOCG 2015, Tuscany, Italy (275859, $24.95, WineAlign)

From Castelnuovo Berardenga in the hands of Filippo and Gioia Cresti. Their new direction is moving towards a cru project, truly and entirely. The Fontalpino Annata is sangiovese of the broadest expression and it’s a very fully rendered red fruit. So much promised, especially from 2015 and so much delivered. The wisdom and the understanding are wholly realized, recognized and welcomed. Sets us up for the cru 15s and 16s to come. Drink 2018-2020. Tasted November 2018  carpinetafontalpino  gioiacresti  filippocresti  grape_brands    @CarpinetaFontalpino  Gioia Cresti  Filippo Cresti  

Fontalpino Chianti Classico DOCG 2016, Tuscany, Italy (275859, $24.95, WineAlign)

This Fontalpino is the best of both worlds Chianti Classico for the estate and here it comes smiling along with the biggest vintage breath of sigh, calm and release. It’s a bigger wine than ’15, felt in part that way because of its youth. Still the generosity and the confidence but certainly the wisdom. This broad estate expression is meant to be consumed early and as far as looking for early drinking Annata pleasure is concerned, Gioia and Filippo Cresti’s 2016 is one to make as much use of as is humanly possible. Drink 2019-2021.  Tasted November 2018

Fontalpino Chianti Classico DOCG Montaperto 2015, Tuscany, Italy (AgentWineAlign)

The cru that is Montaperto is higher in elevation and marked by a fit of pure Galestro on the edgy limestone side of soil. And so it’s a lightning red fruit red, of a style that is both place and grace. There is a certain way of it being so effusive and in its own way elegant. The finessed one of the three cru in an obvious display of itself. Pure, pretty and delicate. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted November 2018

Fontalpino Chianti Classico DOCG Montaperto 2016, Tuscany, Italy (AgentWineAlign)

In Montaperto the finessed one you will note with great immediacy that 2016 is a perfectly ripened vintage, both for sweet fruit and more so from specialized cru-heady phenolics. All might be for naught were it not accompanied by the finest up reach in acidity. Here sangiovese is preached with utmost structure and ability. The accomplishment attains a level of clarity and transparency despite or perhaps in spite of the tactile habituation and architectural conditioning in its bones. Conclusion? Just gorgeous sangiovese juice of pure limestone expression. Drink 2020-2029.  Tasted November 2018

Fontalpino Chianti Classico DOCG Dofana 2015, Tuscany, Italy (AgentWineAlign)

Comes from a combination of many soils; limestone, clay and tufo. There is a prevalence of all the Chianti Classico stones; Galestro and Alberese but it’s just the greatest confluence that makes for their grippiest sangiovese. And that said it’s magically delicate. The red berries darken but only because the framework of organized Castelnuovo design insists on taking the fruit deeper, into the fabric of the earth and it speaks to one word; cru. Such a structured sangiovese. Drink 2019-2026.  Tasted November 2018

Fontalpino Chianti Classico DOCG Dofana 2016, Tuscany, Italy (AgentWineAlign)

The variegation of soils; sand, clay, stone and tuff will have great effect on any sangiovese but see what delivers when you pull grapes from the Dofana cru and out of 2016. It’s a confluence of everything that matters, for tradition, land and the people who make the wine. The fruit is here right from the start and although the tannins are strong and sharp they are so refined and come equipped with fruit made available from the very beginning. Really direct sangiovese. Drink 2021-2028.  Tasted November 2018

Filippo e Gioia Cresti

Fattoria Carpineta Fontalpino Do Ut Des 2013, IGT Toscana, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $39.95, WineAlign)

What “do they give” from this one-third each combination of sangiovese, cabernet sauvignon and merlot? As compared to the DOCG sangiovese there is more height, aerified nature and just plain attitude to the IGT. Sources are various vineyards around the estate which sit on the border between Chianti Classico and the Chianti Colli Senesi. In subsequent vintages the sangiovese will be dropped and replaced by petit verdot. Partly because it’s too important to take it away from the cru CCs but also because this IGT is and needs to be separated. It’s just different, darker, more of a liqueur, with less finesse and more ferric depth. The answer? “”I give and give.” Drink 2018-2020.  Tasted November 2018

Castellinuzza E Piuca Chianti Classico DOCG 2016, Tuscany, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

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

Castello Di Monsanto, Barberino Val d’Elsa

Castello Di Monsanto Chardonnay Collezione Dai Vigneti Di Monsanto 2016, IGT Toscana, Tuscany, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

Planted first in 1976, one third of the fruit sees tonneaux and is then blended after seven months with the stainless portion. Quite rich, vaporous and viscous, intensely mineral. Very lemon, vehemently tangy, gold liquid chalky. Subversively Tuscan chardonnay. Drink 2018-2020.  Tasted September 2018   castellomonsanto  @castelmonsanto  @castello.dimonsanto

Castello Di Monsanto Chianti Classico DOCG 2016, Tuscany, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

Annata of 90 per cent sangiovese with both canaiolo and colorino, traditional, loyal and streaked by the Galestro qualified off this ridge extended out of San Donato in Poggio. Juicy, fresh and forward, expressive of the vintage, not so muscular. Sangiovese like going home and crawling into the bed you slept in as a child. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted September 2018

Castello Di Monsanto Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2015, Tuscany, Italy (719864, $34.95, WineAlign)

The blend is the same as the Annata (sangiovese with 10 per cent canaiolo and colorino combined) but the execution different. It begins in January, where lots are tasted blind and the process begins to decide which barrels will be destined into Riserva. Barriques are also used though like the Annata’s tonneaux, none are new. What separates this is more than fruit, it’s the exceptional and specific acidity. In here Galestro talks with effluent and affluent ability. No matter the modern glow there is always a timeless beauty so you can still place this in the oldest of sangiovese worlds, with the finer tannic talents showing through. Drink 2019-2023.  Tasted September 2018

Castello Di Monsanto Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG Il Poggio 2013, Tuscany, Italy (719864, $85.00, WineAlign)

The cooler, cloudy vintage has been taking its time to emerge and 2018 is now live, in the present and in the flesh, ready for its time. This is confirmed by the grand artist known as Riserva from perhaps the most iconic hill in all of Chianti Classico. Still bright, effusive and not fully ready to let its tannin melt away. The sangiovese component is in the 90-95 per cent range, again with canaiolo and colorino coming around to complete the whole. The tension persists and the tannic structure in this “Selezione” is much tighter than the Annata or the first, non terroir specified Riserva. Still hard to believe how grippy this is. A soon to come epiphany with the 1968 helps to explain Il Poggio’s phenomenon. As a racer Monsanto’s Riserva 2013 is Marco Pantani, greatest climber of a generation, with so much grandiosity, potential and possibility, straight to the top of Il Poggio. Drink 2020-2030.  Tasted September 2018

Castello Di Monsanto Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG Il Poggio 2001, Tuscany, Italy (719864, $85.00, WineAlign)

Fascinating 17 year look back into where sangiovese from this Barberino Val d’Elsa Galestro began and to where it has travelled. The acidity still rages and the sweetness of this fruit continues to burst and pop, one berry at a time. What a structured wine this was and persists to be, with a mid-palate coating to speak of time and place. Age has brought even more grip, certainly variegation, in hue and temper. Though these next seven years will be the very best, there will be at least 10 more after that out of which curiosity, interest and pleasure are all a guarantee. Drink 2018-2025.  Tasted September 2018

50 years ago this #chianticlassico entered the world. Suffices to say 1968 was a pretty good year ~ @castellomonsanto

Castello Di Monsanto Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG Il Poggio 1968, Tuscany, Italy (719864, $85.00, WineAlign)

“A good, not an outstanding vintage, with some vines affected by botrytis,” explains Laura Bianchi, though truth be told she’s relating the information from stories and legends. You can taste it, in a sweetness that reminds of quince and apricot. Plums are dusted with white pepper, sherry drizzles over sugar plums and in the end, acidity continues to shine. It’s still a dramatic drop of sangiovese, with longevity preservation going back to the era (1962-1969) when the wines were aged in chestnut barrels. This at 50 years of age is so alive, time encapsulated, dew sweetened, ethereal. Drink 2018.  Tasted September 2018

Castello di Querceto, Greve in Chianti

Gallo Nero, Castello di Querceto, Greve in Chianti

Castello Di Querceto Chianti Classico DOCG 2016Tuscany, Italy (680496, $24.95, WineAlign)

Essentially sangiovese with a few percentage points of canaiolo and colorino. Aged in grandi botti, 1500L and 2000L. This is the epitome of the black raspberry-currant, dusty, high acid sangiovese. A traditional poster child for Chianti Classico Annata and for the generosity of the 2016 vintage. In the end it’s firm and grippy stuff.  Last tasted September 2018  castellodiquerceto  @CastQuerceto  Castello di Querceto

Castello di Querceto’s Greve in Chianti 2016 is perfumed by just a lovely fresh fruit nose, a mixed bowl of berries, juices yet running, plump, swelling, dusty and sanguine. Certainly on the riper end of the spectrum and with a finishing moment of bitters. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted February 2018

Castello Di Querceto Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2015Tuscany, Italy (650754, $35.95, WineAlign)

Classically styled 2015, honest, pure and welling with extracted sangiovese depth. Acidity, grip and then tension all consistently woven from and beyond Annata, but it too is silky smooth,with a liquid liquorice ooze. Smooth bitter balsamic finish. Drink 2020-2024.  Tasted September 2018

Castello Di Querceto Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG 2014Tuscany, Italy (938738, $47.95, WineAlign)

Il Pichio makes reference to the old name of the land housing the vineyard. It’s the same sourcing and winemaking for what was Riserva reinvented now as Gran Selezione. Big extraction, concentration and rendering, from low yields (700-900g per vine). Amazing consistency, old school, deeply hued, so very structured, conservative. The thread running through is as obvious as any, as sangiovese for Chianti Classico. Drink 2021-2027.  Tasted September 2018

Castello Di Querceto Le Corte IGT Colli Delle Toscana Centrale 2012Tuscany, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

From the 120 year-old vineyard planted by Alessandro Francois’ grandfather, this too is 100 per cent sangiovese with Querceto’s ultimate level of silky smooth consistency and deep purity. It’s a very perfumed sangiovese with tannins matching the texture though they are not shy to assert their power and grip. “Because the soil on this side of the valley is special,” he notes, but tough on the wines when they are still young. The seven or eight year mark is really the place to start. Drink 2021-2029.  Tasted September 2018

Cecchi, Castellina in Chianti

Cecchi Chianti Classico DOCG Storia Di Famiglia 2015, Tuscany, Italy (540922, $17.95, WineAlign)

Fresh cherry and also dusty, plus savoury and accented with acidity. Variegated fruit, ripe, riper and approaching the maximum ripe, managed by adjustments necessary to find the balance. A developed tang unique to this accumulation. Keep the pasta pairing simple.  Last tasted September 2018  famigliacecchi  

It’s an amazing story in a glass this Storia di Famiglia. It’s a long family history with Chianti Classico roots as long as any and it shows. This ’15 is quite classico for the vintage with exceptional fruit and it takes every if full advantage of the year’s generosity. So much so the fruit is darkened to black, perhaps of raspberry but surely at optimum phenolics. There is a corresponding minor Bretty meets acetico notation but also the richness of reduced balsamic, tar and candied roses. It’s almost truffled and figgy, not quite, but it will go there in a year or two. Lots of interest and character for $18. Drink 2018-2020.  Tasted April 2018

Cecchi Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG Di Famiglia 2015, Tuscany, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

Profile very consistent to the Annata if ostensibly fortified by the extra time in large barrel. The similarity of varied ripenesses makes for a layering, like red cherry trifle with alacrity and high acidity. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted September 2018

Cecchi Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG Valore Di Famiglia 2015, Tuscany, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

The consistency continues for the Famiglia story, from Storia Annata through Riserva and into Valore Gran Selezione. The fruit for all three Castellina in Chianti 2015s shows many layers of ripe stylistics and it it this Gran Selezione that shows the most evolution, leaning into a world where balsamico, fig, raisin and lifted aromatics live. The classicism here is noted, the tradition occupied and the conservatism understood. Drink 2019-2023.  Tasted September 2018

Cecchi Villa Cerna Chianti Classico DOCG Primocolle 2015, Tuscany, Italy (573501, $19.95, WineAlign)

The aromatics dole out sweet sangiovese candy and also a rose petal potpourri with fruit not only bled from a uniform ripeness but also a soil-gifted freshness that can’t be denied. This is red fruit, marl lifted sangiovese, bright, lightning tart and extracted, though just rightly so. The palate brings an extra level of fresh, like biting into a peach or a red plum with ideal acidity. Lovely example of traditional Annata set in a modern world. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted September 2018

Cecchi Villa Cerna Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG Primocolle 2015, Tuscany, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

Riserva from Villa Cerna is wildly lifted and edgy sangiovese climbing skyward with unresolved volatility. This high level of freshness and pulse is the conduit for red, red fruit not yet ready to be first to speak. This follows the trail blazed by the Annata but with the highest of acidities. It’s not typical for Riserva (if there is such a thing) but it is an example of one that needs a few years to settle into its tight, tart and energetic skin. Long finish confirms the plan. Drink 2020-2025.  Tasted September 2018

Cecchi Villa Rosa Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG 2015, Tuscany, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

These are not the richest and most extracted Chianti Classico and they are truly driven by acidity, a Castellina acidity to be sure, edgy, expected or not. The red fruit is direct and linear lightning, not overly complex and certainly true to consistent form. It’s actually quite amazing to note this form of sangiovese structure as being very specific to commune, very close to the Valore Gran Selezione and recognizable for place as much as any in the entire territory. This will evolve slower than the Valore, in fact I can’t see it changing all that much in the next five years. Drink 2019-2026.  Tasted September 2018

Tenuta Cinciano, Poggibonsi

Tenuta Cinciano Chianti Classico DOCG 2016, Tuscany, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

The Annata is 100 per cent sangiovese from 8-12 months in the largest of the estate’s Slavonian oak barrels. An estate who’s oenologist (Stefano Porcinai) who knows clonal selection as well as any in the territory having worked as lead on the Consorzio’s 2000 project. Not to mention training systems and rootstocks. Each vineyard is planted to the right clone matched to the soil and Cinciano has it all; sand, clay, marl, Galestro, marine fossil and sediment, Alberese. Rich red fruit so lifted, edged by blood orange, so red citrus, pomegranate and though wood is in play it’s really about florals and spice. So sharp and tight with plenty of fruit to match the introductory and important tannins.  Last tasted September and October 2018  fattoriacinciano  @fattoriadicinciano

Cinciano is 100 sangiovese from chalky Poggibonsi vineyards at 250-350m of elevation. Youthfully speaking this ’16 sits en retard, reductive and only seems to want to breathe as a deep inhalant of argilo sangiovese. This CC is an even bigger than the average, broader and scope encompassing expression to taste with an impressive ferric intensity. The potential is great. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted February 2018

Tenuta Cinciano Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2015, Tuscany, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

Riserva comes from the oldest vineyard, averaging 45 years old on soils of more Alberese stone than any other on the property, right in the middle belt, middle slope on a southern exposure. Structure and tannin support intense rich purple fruit but fruit with the great lightning streak and searing acidity of Alberese and what it means. It’s harvested later and with great confidence, made with completely different intention. This goes into smaller Slavonian barrels for longer but it is expressly a matter of expression on behalf of the vineyard. Drink 2021-2028.  Tasted September 2018

Tenuta Cinciano Chianti Classico Selezione DOCG 2014, Tuscany, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

Only in 2014 the decision was made to use the oldest vineyard’s fruit to blend in with the best grapes to make this 100 per cent sangiovese Gran Selezione because there was not enough quantity to make the Riserva. Floral, mineral, a taste of grapes, sangiovese purity. It’s rich as Gran Selezione should be, with heavy fruit and fine tannin but the oak is merely a spice agent. The clonal selection meeting the later harvest brings a breadth, depth and broad shouldered set of tannin, aggressive but in control. Another unique wine with a connection to the sister and the brother. Same father and mother to be sure. Juicier, with morbido fruit and serious tannin. Drink 2022-2030.  Tasted September 2018

Absolutely lovely, lively and pure sangiovese from Stefano and Andrea @fattoriacinciano ~ coming home with these beautiful @chianticlassico for sure!

Tenuta Cinciano Pietraforte 2012 IGT Toscana, Tuscany, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

A blend of 40 per cent each merlot and cabernet sauvignon with sangiovese. Aged in French oak barriques and tonneaux, all new. Massive fruit accumulation, ripe and generous, wood all around but very much part of the package, some earthy Brettiness and huge acidity. Enormous wine that may need as much as five more years to settle. Drink 2021-2029.  Tasted September 2018

Colle Bereto, Radda in Chianti

Colle Bereto Brut Rosé Vino Spumante di Qualita Metodo Classico, Tuscany, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

First disgorgement was November 2008, now 10 years later, this particular bottle was disgorged just two months ago. Skin is maintained with juice for only one night, from 100 per cent pinot noir. Having spent three years on lees this is rich, toasty, biscuit-riveting, red citrus, currant and fine aridity sparkling wine. Beautifully dry, direct and purposed. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted September 2018  colleberetowinery   @NokhrinWines  Azienda Agricola Colle Bereto  Azienda Agricola Colle Bereto

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

From the vintage for which the “Dream Machine” is first used, where stems are kept intact and the tramoja (corkscrew) is no longer employed and stems are not disrupted, broken, or led to bitterness. So polished, full, extracted, silky and classy.  Last tasted September 2018

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 at Anteprime Chianti Classico Collection, February 2017

Colle Bereto Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2014, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, WineAlign)

The highest quality of polished tannin receives sangiovese’s and more specifically Radda’s raddese acidity, from this shared amphitheatre of a valley for a Riserva silky smooth, integrated and blessed of a Colle Bereto liqueur. Forget Brunello di Montalcino for a while and concentrate on this haut level of sangiovese. Textbook fashion, Vuitton level quality. Drink 2020-2028.  Tasted September 2018

Bernardo Bianchi @collebereto in #raddainchianti @chianticlassico

Colle Bereto Chianti Classico DOCG Gran Selezione 2014, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $67.50, WineAlign)

The level of richness and further climb up the polished ladder eases onto a cloud with whispering tannin. The Dream Machine is the source of the tannin whisperer and we all listen with the greatest intent. Bernardo Bianchi is the messenger, interpreter and storyteller for this vineyard in the theatre’s warmest spot. The tannins stop here and take a rest. The most accomplished, polished and commercially, fashionable to accountable Chianti Classico. Drink 2020-2028.  Last tasted September 2018

Colle Bereto’s is a Radda in Chianti single-vineyard expression from La Vigna del Convento which lies at the foot of the former Il Convento di Radda, now Casa Chianti Classico. The Galestro soil is surely the catalyst for this 23 year-old block. There is no substitute for the acumen and the hard work that develops such a wise and mature Gran Selezione. Firm, no shortage of virility, fine acidity, finer tannin and exceptional length. Drink 2020-2030.  Tasted February 2018

Colle Bereto Pinot Noir Il Cénno 2015, Tuscany, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

Interesting how pinot noir translates from these Radda soils, as much parochial and territorial as it may try to be varietal. There is a wild berry meets feral posit tug that confirms the equality and the symbiosis. Generous and delicate, more so than the sangiovese from this estate, which may or not be a sign. Il Cénno. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted September 2018

Colle Bereto Merlot Il Tócco 2015IGT Toscana Rosso, Tuscany, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

The first vintage was 2000, after making sangiovese from the vineyard, exclusively for Pinchiori in Firenze, then moving forward to celebrate a varietal other, a merlot. Now merlot is a different animal, softer, fruit sweeter and quite beautifully tender, finessed and lifted. Only the acidity of Radda separates it from itself, “such a mass of motion, do not know where it goes.” Here the most polished and effete merlot in the territory, perhaps or just because, cries Il Tócco, “I have the touch.” Drink 2018-2023.  Tasted September 2018

Dievole, Castelnuovo Berardenga 

Dievole Chianti Classico DOCG 2016, Tuscany, Italy (283101, $23.95, WineAlign)

This third vintage of fermenting in concrete egg tank presents fruit pulled off of vines nestled into a heavily forested property housing five singular sets of vineyards. Though officially part of the Castelnuovo Berardenga commune, Dievole has much in common with Radda because of the effect of those woods on the growing environment. Generosity is not in mimic of wide open space but due to atmospheric depth and breadth. This ’16 marks not just a return but a proclamation of prominence.  Last Tasted September 2018  @dievole  profilewinegroup  @Dievole  @ProfileWineGrp  dievole  Profile Wine Group

The Dievole Annata stands out for 2016 with the sweetest noted fruit, bright, ripe and pulsating. Wow and oh my has this got a bounce in its step. While certainly tart and intense it’s possessive of more pure joy than many, easily avoiding the trappings of over-extraction and over-pressing. Some may find this too electric but what reason could there be not to get excited by such an abundance of sangiovese energy? Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted February 2018

Dievole Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG Novocento 2015, Tuscany, Italy (213926, $37.95, WineAlign)

The generosity of sangiovese’s philanthropy is always inherent but not always respected. So, when a Riserva like this from Dievole is given its sun, all is good in Vagliagli, Castelnuovo Berardenga and Chianti Classico. This vintage and this wine celebrate time, timing, place and commune with style. It’s rich, almost opulently so and balanced, credibly so. It’s deep, elastically elongated so. Notice real fruit boasting of an ideologue’s honesty and traditional results in as much as you’d hope for and even expect. Exemplary is one thing but the steps towards new pioneering make Dievole an estate from which to use words like leader and benchmark. Hard not to see this as a top estate example for Annata. Drink 2020-2026.  Tasted September 2018

Dievole Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG Vigna Disessina 2015, Tuscany, Italy (AgentWineAlign)

Dievole’s Castelnuovo Berardenga Gran Selezione takes the single-vineyard route to express the category. Disessina is the highest vineyard block where the soil turns to a Macigno (sandstone) base littered with soft rocks that lends the originality of a sensory perfume expressly written in a Dievole vernacular. Here the liquid rose petal aroma is rendered through the fine silty earth so that it’s both berry fruity and duff ethereal where delicious lives. The delicate world is an occupation somewhere between dream and reality. The most approachable meeting place is a Gran Selezione middle ground that more examples might want to explore so that greater understanding might exist on the market today. Drink 2020-2027.  Tasted September 2018

Fèlsina

Bella mattina @felsinawines

Fèlsina Vino Spumante Di Qualità Brut Metodo Classico, IGT Toscana, Tuscany, Italy (AgentWineAlign)

This was reviewed before here although from a bottle disgorged a year earlier and from fruit primarily sourced out of 2014.

The sparkling program is taking flight, here from 60 per cent sangiovese, (20) chardonnay and (20) pinot noir. There is really no commercial reason to make this wine (only 9,000-12,000 bottles are produced) so it’s done just for fun, experimentation and learning. It’s a gingery and toasty sparkling wine, remarkably rich with thanks to a 2015 vintage that provided some pretty solid early ripening. The first vintage was essentially 2009, or mainly fruit from that initial attempt. This is 28 months on lees, disgorged in May 2018 and no dosage. Lemon squeeze over baked apples and toasted hazelnuts. Lovely of a certain style. Drink 2018-2020.  Tasted November 2018  felsina_wines  liffordgram  @felsinawines  @LiffordON  @felsina  @liffordwineandspirits

Fèlsina Vino Spumante Di Qualità Brut Metodo Classico 2012, IGT Toscana, Tuscany, Italy (AgentWineAlign)

The vintage was a forceful one although as an early harvested sparkling wine (the chardonnay especially, but even the sangiovese) it carries some ripeness and certainly acidity. The gingered notes are met with plenty of far eastern spice and a mild citrus bitterness. Again the toastiness is a major factor to bring energy and vigour into an arid sparkling wine’s environment of impression and tastiness. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted November 2018

Fèlsina Chardonnay I Sistri 2016, IGT Toscana, Italy (Agent, $41.99, WineAlign)

The first vintage was 1987, from chardonnay grafted onto Bolgheri trebbiano. “The sisters” refers to the ancient Egyptian instrument known as “sistro” which was agitated by a sound in echo of agriculture. There are 20,000 bottles produced, of and for sunshine, by history, with high level 2016 ripeness and a mellow acidity. Takes a step back from ’15 with more cellulose, unction and conjunctive character. Drink 2018-2020.  Tasted November 2018

 

Chiara Leonini, Fèlsina

Fèlsina Berardenga Chianti Classico DOCG 2016, Tuscany, Italy (730788, $39.99, WineAlign)

The ’16 continues to be a young and viscous sangiovese, rich in liquorice liqueur and 240,000 to 250,000 bottles are produced from all aspects of the estate. It’s a transparent remark on the Castelnuovo Berardenga varietal vernacular. Tasted November 2018

From the great wide Berardenga open Fèlsina’s is just the Annata to tell us how these snowflakes are all just a bit different from one another, each with a new vintage, redefined temper, starting from singular points of soil interest. The greatest purity and unbridled joy in Chianti Classico sangiovese is found in the young Annata and it is Fèlsina’s that tells a full story. The curative wisdom and variegated stratum as told by thick as thieves though stretched and elastic fruit is just amazing. Drink 2019-2026.  Tasted February 2018

Fèlsina Berardenga Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2016, Tuscany, Italy (230722, $38.95, WineAlign)

In 2016 the Riserva is a layered affair with plenty of salumi variegation, of fat and protein well integrated and as a meaty wine it truly expresses the musculature of the terroir. Sangiovese from Castelnuovo Beradenga is many things but it is never copied or emulated like this. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted November 2018

Fèlsina Berardenga Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2015, Tuscany, Italy (230722, $38.95, WineAlign)

Once again I find Fèlsina’s 2015 sangiovese fresher than their ’16, or rather I should say that the ‘16s are possessive of so much structure that they will need more time in bottle than the transparent ‘15s. And yet here you will find the proof that 100 per cent sangiovese from Fèlsina’s Castelnuovo Berardenga soils need time and in fact solicit more patience than most. This combination of generous and gregarious fruit meeting formidable structure is a product of the commune, the micro-terroir and certainly the house style. The ’15 Riserva is recommended with the caveat to insist that a buyer be warned to exercise great restraint. Drink 2019-2027.  Tasted November 2018

Fèlsina Fontalloro 2016, IGT Toscana, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $101.99, WineAlign)

Fontalloro is a two-headed Toscana red grape creature that comes from vineyards straddling the border between both the Chianti Classico and the Chianti Colli Senesi denominations. It combines sand, silty loam and river pebbles with the limestone and marl of Alberese and Galestro. Here 2016 is accessed with righteousness, purity and high tonality. The acidity is elevating and bright, making for red fruit that shines. Spicy tannins speak to its structure. Drink 2020-2029.  Tasted November 2018

Fèlsina Fontalloro 2015, IGT Toscana, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $101.99, WineAlign)

The thematic is nearly complete, first for the argument that Fèlsina wines need more time in bottle than most in the territory but also how stylistically they are brighter in 2015. The red fruit from this Chianti Classico/Chianti Colli Senesi mash-up sings from and on behalf of the vintage. It’s a complete wine, from fruit and through acidity into its formidable structure. As for its place in the Super Tuscan-Gran Selezione discussion it’s really an apples to oranges subversion because of not being 100 per cent Classico fruit. Fontalloro stands firm, grippy, alone and should always be given its privacy and space. Drink 2019-2027.  Tasted November 2018

Fèlsina Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG Colonia 2013, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $208.99, WineAlign)

How Colonia can not be looked upon and discussed as a pioneer would be beyond comprehension. The artist formerly known as IGT or Super Tuscan changed gears and re-joined the band back in 2009. This is the most Riserva of vintages and therefore a perfect sidle up to the Gran Selezione stage. It sings and plays its no wasted notes with confidence, clarity and sangiovese noise. It’s a huge wine with swagger and confidence, not to mention huge amounts of spicy beats. Not an easy wine to appreciate this young. As a rider it equates to Fausto Coppi, Campionissimo, L’Airone (The Heron), patient, calm, tranquil and able to climb uphill. State of grace. Drink 2021-2032.  Tasted November 2018

Fattoria Di Fèlsina Chianti Classico DOCG Pagliarese 2016, Tuscany, Italy (AgentWineAlign)

Pagliarese is an older “brand,” from a time gone by, in an area close to Castel’inVilla. The land is 21 hectares (of Fèlsina’s 90) and was once under the consulting auspices of Giulio Gambelli. It was purchased by the Poggialli family in 1995 with the idea to bring the brand back to Chianti Classico prominence. This is the second vintage of the Chianti Classico, of 90 per cent sangiovese with canaiolo and mammolo. The soils are sandier so expect a simpler structure and fruit. It’s a beautiful example of straightforward CC with transparent red fruit. Approximately 20,000 bottles are made. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted November 2018

Fattoria Di Fèlsina Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG Pagliarese 2016, Tuscany, Italy (AgentWineAlign)

Pagliarese is an older “brand,” from a time gone by, in an area close to Castel’inVilla. The land is 21 hecatares (of Fèlsina’s 90) and was once under the consulting auspices of Giulio Gambelli. It was purchased by the Poggialli family in 1995 with the idea to bring the brand back to Chianti Classico prominence. This is the first vintage of the new revival and in Riserva form takes the red fruit and magnifies its intensity. It’s classic 2015 from Fèlsina with brightness and intensity. Approximately 20,000 bottles are made. Drink 2019-2023.  Tasted November 2018

Fontodi, Panzano in Chianti

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

Related – Fontodi’s one hundred per cent sangiovese

Fontodi Meriggio 2017, Colli Toscana Centrale IGT, Italy (AgentWineAlign)

The last vintage from which amphora will play only a small role (20 per cent) because in 2018 the number will be 50. Some barrel aging delivers the texture but ultimately freshness and a respite from sun for a rest in the shade. This is the meaning of Merrigio, where the mind takes a break and rids itself of stress.“Everyone thinks sauvignon blanc should be a reductive wine,” says Giovanni Manetti, but it can be wine of complexity, from a vessel and a lees time that can give it richness, especially on the mid-palate. This grows at the bottom of the Conca d’Oro where warm days meet much cooler nights and that diurnal fluctuation delineates fresh developing abilities. From a hot and dry vintage and it’s fresh, popping, yellow fruit focused and with very mature, proper and dedicated acidity. I’ll take a bottle, in the shade. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted September and November 2018   #Fontodi  rogersandcompanywines    @rogcowines  Az. Agr. Fontodi

Fontodi Chianti Classico DOCG 2015, Tuscany, Italy (933317, $36.95, WineAlign)

More acidity, structure and body comes from Panzano and also a clean and distinct purity. Still working through its liquid chalk, no more than a year away from entering the next phase of its life.  Last tasted September and November 2018

If balance were the ultimate end to all sangiovese means then one nose into this Annata 2015 tells us most of what we need to know. When Giovanni Manetti talks of 2015’s great acidity we may not have been able to inuit or ultimately know what he meant, at least as far as the peer into the collective lens of other wines. Through Manetti’s Panzano focus we now understand. The integration, inclusion and open-armed grande abbraccio of Fontodi’s 2015 talks of fineness, precision, elegance and soft-spoken power. There is the finest of sangiovese dust and the circling of tannic wagons enveloping optimized fruit and bringing the entire family in this wine together. It’s a great vintage for Fontodi.  Drink 2019-2025. Tasted February 2018

Fontodi Chianti Classico Filetta Di Lamole DOCG 2015, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $35.95, WineAlign)

From Giovanni Manetti’s cousin who has documentation that the family has been in Lamole since 1049. The vintage takes this old vines project to another level, with an inherent understanding of the natural order of Panzano translated over for things specific to Lamole. The Annata from Fontodi’s Conca d’Oro vineyards is cleaner, more easily understood, less dramatic, natural. Lamole is a clean funk that is bred from mountainous terroir, feral and wild.  Last tasted September and November 2018

Lamole, though still wild west and yet underdeveloped is clearly the next important Chianti Classico sub-sub-zone terroir. With so much untapped potential it is Giovanni Manetti’s of Fontodi that speaks the earliest, clearest truth about such capabilities. Not that we want to see too quick an exploit of this unique micro-climate and geological wonder but the insatiable thirst of curiosity begs to know. What earth gets into, inside and beneath this sub-strata is dramatic and so bloody personal. It’s a thing of forest floor, rock interface, space and sky, all encompassing, with the filtered, dappled light of sangiovese all pervasive and ethereal. Great chalk and dust particles visible to the naked eye in those streaks of lightning acidity and fine tannin swirl to lightness of being. Though 2014 is a sangiovese of great brood, flavour and commercial appeal, now there is greater potential. This ’15 is perhaps the first Fontodi of Lamole that has crossed into the true reality of the territory. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted February 2018

Fontodi Dino IGT Toscana Centrale 2015, Tuscany, Italy (AgentWineAlign)

Here the sangiovese taken from the higher elevation section of the vineyard in the Conca d’Oro just below the village of Panzano. Named after Giovanni Manetti’s father, Dino is aged for a minimum nine months on skins in amphora and not just any but in the “orci,” with Fontodi clay made by the Manetti family. Dino is a reflection on life and the lessons learned through the generations and for Manetti it’s about a modern look using ancient tools. The polymer chain development of tannins is completely different, here with an early and on repeat cycle occurrence of oxygenation, along with several layers of protection. Such unique tannins and structure aboard great richness and yet intrinsically in proviso of necessary freshness. It’s so chewy and almost crunchy but in an airy nougat or savoury meringue meets panetone kind of way. Dino stands singular, sturdy and go it alone. Drink 2020-2027.  Tasted November 2018

Fontodi Flaccianello della Pieve IGT Toscana Centrale 2015, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $147.95, WineAlign)

A wine with its roots in 1981, amidst the birth of the Super Tuscans during strict regulatory times. First made as a breaking the rules reaction to be the finest wine from the estate. It could be a Chianti Classico, which is how it is made and de-classified the day before bottling. Born, raised and rebelling just before it goes out to the world. It will come back to the appellation, along with Percarlo, Tignanello, Cepparello, Fontalloro and many others, when the solution is agreed upon and the time is right. “I’m a dreamer,” says Giovanni Manetti. He’s not the only one but he is the one to imagine the possibilities and the changes. Flaccianello the 100 per cent sangiovese is the finessed, salty and sexy one although in 2015 there is no love lost between its vintage and its soul. The quality of the tannins are some of the best ever. Such a strong character for the pure IGT and although some 15s are overly generous, Fontodi’s are stronger, bolder, polymerized and in exhibition of greater intensity. Even Flaccianello needs much more time, however, beginning in 2013 the time in small barrels was reduced and here by 2015 it’s 18, no longer 24 months. Astringency be gone and fruit quality so high the result is a eureka one, with perfume in aromatics brought to the highest quality. Finally Giovanni, you are on to something. Drink 2021-2034.  Tasted September and November 2018

The boys at Fontodi

 

Fontodi Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG Vigna Del Sorbo 2015, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $85.95, WineAlign)

From the rocky parcel of 50 year-old vines, planted facing south by southwest. The fruit concentration is obvious, a rising tide of high quality consciousness that raises the bar for all. The tannins are exceptional in their tight-grained coiling, wound like fishing wire around a spool. Some of Fontodi’s darkest cherry fruit is here, along with real genuine leather and a chef’s purposely dehydrated fennel powder meant to foil and compliment a deeply rendered demi-glacé, slicking out from beneath the arrosto di cinghiale. The 2015 Vigna del Sorbo is a meaty wine, il corso principale del pasto. Drink 2021-2032.  Tasted November 2018

Fontodi Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG Vigna Del Sorbo 2014, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $85.95, WineAlign)

As a racer the ’14 Vigna del Sorbo might as well be Giuseppe (Beppe) Saronni, winner in 1978 of three stages in the Giro d’Italia, 24 overall and champion in 1979 and 1983. In 1982 he won the world cup with Paolo Rossi. Sorbo is a global sangiovese, the people’s “campione,” beloved sprinter, collaborator and legacy definer. Today the sangiovese from Fontodi’s Conca d’Oro vineyard smells like rabarbaro (rhubarb), black cherry and cut grass. Beautiful combination.  Last tasted September 2018

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 Riserva Vigna Del Sorbo 2004, Tuscany, Italy (AgentWineAlign)

Carries 10 per cent cabernet sauvignon with the old vines sangiovese and at this 14 year stage it’s now into the denouement of its secondary character, a period that still has three to four years remaining. Umami ushered with no rush or rapid heart rate on the pulse of acidity begins its full swing, with mushroom and truffle on the horizon. The destination is still a matter of parts unknown further on down the road. Quite a firm vintage by tannin still leaving its grip on the plum meets wild strawberry fruit. Drink 2018-2028.  Tasted September 2018

Fontodi Chianti Classico Riserva Vigna Del Sorbo 1993, Tuscany, Italy (AgentWineAlign)

The vines in 1993 would have been half the age they are now and this from a cooler, slightly wet but not too rainy a season. A slow-ripening vintage with high acidity. The wines were tight and rigid for many years and tannins mostly unrelenting. This from around the time that the vineyard was beginning to show how it would turn out something different every vintage and so a young Giovanni wanted it to be a single-vineyard wine. This is fresh with striking acidity during all stages of its enjoyment. It’s airiness shows at the very beginning and then returns full circle, upon and with linger at the finish. The earthiness runs through but also plays second to the liqueur and especially that acidity. The direct explanation comes from the maker himself. “The fresh finish (of the 1993 wine) should be the trademark of Chianti Classico wines.” Drink 2018-2024.  Tasted November 2018

Isole e Olena, Barberino Val d’Elsa

Isole e Olena Chianti Classico DOCG 2016, Tuscany, Italy (704346, $34.95, WineAlign)

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

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

The Galestro of Isole e Olena, Barberino Val d’Elsa

Isole e Olena Chianti Classico DOCG 2016, Tuscany, Italy (704346, $34.95, WineAlign)

Confirms the spice that is so layered by Galestro and Alberese but also 15 per cent canaiolo. It’s sangiovese, place of origin, San Donato and the accumulation of grapes grown in this set of ridges in and around Olena. Certainly more of a sour-sapid note in this ’15, a higher tone and more effusion than ’16. At least in terms of Isole e Olena.  Last tasted November 2018

Paolo de Marchi’s Annata is not exactly the most typical ’15 because of its unabashed sapidity, still a bit reductive out of origins in freshness incarnate, with acids burgeoning and expanding in the mouth. Liquorice and carob flavours climb on top of the lingering smell of balsam wood. Full and expansive, intense and bigger than many though a right-proper texture it most certainly delivers. “This is only one-third of the potential of the vintage,” says De Marchi about how it is showing a year and a half in, now imploding and beginning to shut down. This seems to be the trend in Paolo’s wines, fresh and vibrant just when and after being bottled, then protective of themselves before turning into something beautiful once again. This will develop into a decades long lived Chianti Classico. Drink 2020-2033.  Tasted February 2018

Isole e Olena Cepparello 2015, IGT Toscana, Tuscany, Italy (25650, $108.95, WineAlign)

Many believe you can’t go home again and this 100 per cent sangiovese is one of the original locals, along with 11 (or more) Super Tuscans that in many ways are no longer, nor for arguments’ sake should be. As such Cepparello is one of the wines destined to lead a literary, intellectual or at least historical return that says you can go home again. Home to Chianti Classico and specifically here, Olena as part of San Donato. This is an exceptional Cepparello, seamless, blessed of pure, perfectly phenolic fruit, unblemished, stylish and with pitch perfect acidity. What else can be done here that is hoped for, wished for, dreamed of or wanted? Feels like home. Drink 2020-2032.  Tasted November 2018

Isole e Olena Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG 2013, Tuscany, Italy (AgentWineAlign)

Gran Selezione as a matter of assemblage. “It can come from one of two ideas in your heart but why don’t we take the experience of the Super Tuscan and shift the quality of the blend. To fix the ups and down of sangiovese?” The words of Paolo de Marchi. “What is Chianti Classico? It is the beauty and the transparency of the acidity. I’m trying to solve the idea of Gran Selezione myself. I don’t have answers yet.” He continues. “I’m not at war with anybody anymore, as long as there is quality.” So 2013 is simply that, 2013, exaggerated with great hyperbole from Paolo de Marchi’s world. It’s identifiable as such, perfectly sour in seamless connectivity to itself and then place from where it came. Intense and architectural structure.  Last tasted November 2018

When the Gran Selezione 2013 was in the conception stage there was “the search to integrate the experience of Super-Tuscan into the research of sangiovese.” The acidity is even higher in this ’13 than the same vintage Cepparello, because of 90 per cent sangiovese. Something textural is ganache oozing, connected to an espresso-noted and tobacco waft, followed by such spice. This is a moist intense expression of GS, likely needing 10 years to settle in. Long and exciting, plugged in and pulsating. Drink 2022-2032.   Tasted February 2018

Isole e Olena Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG 2010, Tuscany, Italy (AgentWineAlign)

According to Paolo de Marchi Gran Selezione “has to be a wine of Super Tuscan roots, set in a Chianti Classico setting.” Just a little bit more than 80 per cent sangiovese with cabernet sauvignon and syrah. The acidity and transparency is Chianti Classico while the gentler touch is in a way, not. This turns the entire Gran Selezione idea on its head. It’s the antithetical one, in opposition to what or where the category seems to be going but at the same time fully entrenched within the ideal and the rules. It’s a rich and complex liqueur, truly red cherry and new leather, truly high-toned and truly a matter made by a master of assemblage. Truly Gran Selezione. From and for a moving target, out of vineyards and through the cellar. At least in terms of today. The enigma, the past and the future. Puts the question before the answer.  Last tasted November 2018

Isole E Olena Gran Selezione 2010 graces a factor in which “the blend lifts up the quality,” a noble venture or undertaking that balances the angles and trips into light. The reductive one is, as per the firm and grippy vintage, tannic and taut, wound still in the present, with the carob and the savour. The minty one, in a way, and with graphite and creosote. Very sapid, tight and intense. The most brooding of the four (’15, ’13 this and ’06). Drink 2021-2030.  Tasted February 2018

Istine

Walking on Alberese with Angela Fronti in her @istine_raddainchianti and #cavarchione Gaiole in Chianti vineyards ~ #chianticlassico #vignaistine #vignacavarchione

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

That this Vigna Istine is so different than what comes later out of 2016 shows how this particular site will offer up the most diversity, complexity and multiplicity over a stretch of vintages. Here from 2015 the flowers are in full bloom and the acidity stretching upwards with lift and light. It’s a lovely insight into the beauty of edgy volatility when managed so right. Love how this walks an edge of danger to form a liaison between vineyard, through maker to glass.  Last tasted September 2018

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  angela_fronti    @istineraddainchianti

Istine Chianti Classico DOCG Vigna Istine 2016, Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

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

Istine Chianti Classico DOCG Vigna Casanova Dell’Aia 2015, Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

Casanova Dell’Aia is the vineyard closest to the village of Radda, thickened by much more clay, facing due south. The mineral being Alberese in limestone chunks and so there is this combination or richness and rocks but through a marked earthiness. The flowery aromatics are certainly there but again, bound up in the notes prepared, presented and presupposed by the soil. It’s rounder to be sure by the direction of vineyard, but also vintage driven. In the end it’s nothing if not handsome, fulsome and looking to achieve a relationship with a char outside and medium rare in, cut two inches thick. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted September 2018

Istine Chianti Classico Docg Vigna Cavarchione 2016, Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

A dramatic vineyard somewhat a distance from Istine (25 minutes return as far as the car drives). Really rocky, full of Galestro and Alberese, bottled in May 2018 and will be sent to market in January 2019. There is a richness to Cavarchione that comes sooner but it’s also a taut and herbal affair with a lower grumbling of acidity than Istine. Ripe and deeply rendered fruit abounds, in waves that build, as if they might accumulate into a tsunami of sangiovese aromatics. It’s also floral, of violets and roses. Sweet balsamic and fine tannin will take this deep. Drink 2020-2027.  Tasted September 2018

Istine Chianti Classico Docg Vigna Cavarchione 2015, Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

Time has clearly helped to open up the aromatics of this more generous vintage gifting wine and yet despite this thought I have to say that the vintage variation in Angela Fronti’s wines are not afforded so simple an explanation. Thinking about the differences, comparisons and contrasts in her three single-vineyard sangiovese is truly a complicated matter. All that said this is beginning to drink with beautiful pulchritude and gentility. Also with Gaiole’s acidity, savoury and intense.  Last tasted September 2018

Angela Fronti produces three single-vineyard Chianti Classico, this being the one from Vertine in Gaiole. She began vinifying her three parcels separately in 2012 but also makes a general Annata and a Riserva that combines the three. The real passion comes through in these single expressions and Cavarchione might just be the the most impressive, at least in this vintage, even if it happens to be the outlier so far from the Istine estate. Precocious wisdom born of age-old dispensation is what drives this sangiovese, just as it does in the Vigna Istine (between Radda and Castellina) and the Vigna Casanova dell’Aia (near Radda). Cavarchione shows deep wisdom, perfect impression and with an eye looking forward for a terroir reveal. It’s an intensely calm sangiovese and while this is not as immediately drinkable as the Annata ‘normale’ it is not far from warming up and bringing the heat. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted February 2018

Monte Bernardi Chianti Classico DOCG Retromarcia 2016, Tuscany, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

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

Azienda Agricola Montefioralle, Montefioralle-Greve in Chianti

Montefioralle, Greve in Chianti

Montefioralle Chianti Classico DOCG 2016, Tuscany, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

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

Montefioralle Chianti Classico DOCG 2015, Tuscany, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

“The year, in my opinion, was too hot,” explains Lorenzo Sieni. “We don’t have perfect tannin in this vintage.” At least not for the Annata made from younger vines. More than one year in bottle now, still nervy but the levels of phenolic ripeness and juiciness are exceptional. More firmly structured than many ‘15s because of the place, the altitude and the solar exposure. Striking acidity brings about the balance. Drink 2019-2024.  Last tasted September 2018

Perhaps this vintage is necessary to gain an understanding of Montefioralle or perhaps it was always there and a connection just needed to be found. The inhalant of elemental abstraction is remarkable and singular so let us open the discussion about the interest and in fact the necessity for Montefioralle. Just gorgeous from a fruit perspective, dusty and rising in tone with breaches considered and levels touched but never crossed. The risks are many with the rewards justified, palpable and great potential comes as a result. Check out Montefioralle. This tells you why. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted February 2018

Montefioralle Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2015, Tuscany, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

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

Montefioralle Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2014, Tuscany, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

“The only way to increase the quality was to decrease the quantity,” is Lorenzo Sieni’s explanation of the vintage. Plenty of cutting (40 per cent) led to 1,800 bottles produced, “but I’m very proud of the result.” True liqueur and it’s actually begun to show some secondary character, dried fruit and a hint of porcini and such, certainly not typical but that was this vintage. Intense perfume, high liqueur, incense, peppermint and smells of salons and apothecaries. A wild Riserva ride. Drink 2018-2022.  Last tasted September 2018

Montefioralle is a deeply felt sensation of sangiovese preservation bringing everything that is Montefioralle within Greve with power and grace. Such fruit wealth is remarkable for 2014, distinct from its geological birthing and powerful to the end. Oh how this celebrates a zone within a zone. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted February 2018

Montefioralle VinSanto del Chianti Classico DOCG 2014, Tuscany, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

From trebbiano and malvasia at a sugar content of 129 g/L, soft, lighter, in balance with its acidity. Nothing heavy or cloying, noting peaches and apricots, perfect for a bite of biscotti. Only three years of aging, the minimum, for a light and fresh VinSanto. Thanks to Carlo in his element inside the Vinsantaia. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted September 2018

Monteraponi, Radda in Chianti

#monteraponi #raddainchianti

My first visit with Michele Braganti and Alessandra Deiana @monteraponi in Radda takes me back to the genesis of the Chianti Classico script. Though having often told many tales of others, I was perhaps not ready to assimilate this level of understanding until this time. Things do now in fact make more sense than they did before and many new tales will be told.

Monteraponi Chianti Classico DOCG 2016, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $42.60, WineAlign)

Michele Braganti’s 2016 Annata is 95 per cent sangiovese with canaiolo, certified organic, off of the youngest (9-15) year-old vineyards. “Here is Radda,” he insists. Generally speaking at Monteraponi “the stone is highly rich in stone,” which sounds like a proverb and believably so, plus the altitude does not allow for Michele to make powerful wines. It’s cold here, even in September it can be five degrees at night. Acidity comes from structure and the fruit walks like un funambolo, a tightrope walker. It’s both linear and climbing uphill. This is red limestone lightning sangiovese of absolute purity, transparency, honesty and connectivity. To the land. Drink 2019-2029.  Tasted September 2018  monteraponi  deianaalessandra1  @Monteraponi  @Cavinona  @Monteraponi  @cavinona

Monteraponi Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG Campitello 2015, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $109.27, WineAlign)

From the Campitello cru, an existing vineyard inherited by Michele Braganti’s father when he purchased Monteraponi in 1974. A sangiovese (90 per cent) existential storditore with canaiolo and colorino. From Alberese and Galestro soils, the combination of which is not lost on the veritable intuitions of multiplicity. It makes for the most structured of these wines. Multiply the purity and the direct connection to place and this is Campitello. The only Riserva anywhere in the territory to deliver this particular combination of transparent, luminescent lightning red fruit and structure. Drink 2020-2028.  Tasted September 2018

With Michele Briganti

Monteraponi Baron’Ugo 2015, IGT Toscana Rosso, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, WineAlign)

Michael Braganti changed from DOCG to IGT in 2012 Why? The simple fact of rule because at 12.5 it did not qualify for Chianti Classico and so it had to be Toscana Rosso. He was a very famous man this barone named Ugo, placed in heaven, not hell, by Dante Alghieri because of what he did for Florence. The Chianti farmhouse of Monteraponi once belonged to Earl Ugo, Marquis and Governor of Tuscany. The vineyard was planted by Michele’s father in 1974, copying the grapes of Campitello; sangiovese, canaiolo, colorino, trebbiano and malvasia. It’s just the vineyard that separates it, that and the Bourgogne bottle. Purity again, of place. Drink 2020-2028.  Tasted September 2018

Ormanni, Barberino Val d’Elsa and Poggibonsi

The answer to what is @chianticlassico could very well start with these pure sangiovese of #fattoriaormanni ~ #poggibonsi #barberinovaldelsa

Ormanni Chianti Classico DOCG 2015Tuscany, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

The traditional meets the modern, forward and progressive at a crest, a poggio point from a one year aging in large cask meets used barrel. Precise and pinpointed best describes this savoury sangiovese of ripe fruit that is elongated by elastic phenolics and tannins. The altitude (400m), windswept vineyards and locale make for late ripening. And so a warm and generous vintage like 2015 is so in control, more consistent and wise from this estate. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted September 2018

Ormanni Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG Borro del Diavolo 2015Tuscany, Italy (435149, $42.95, WineAlign)

Fruit from the Borro del Diavolo vineyard and from the nearby Montignano vineyard see only small barrels, new and 2nd fill are used to age the Riserva. Extremely useful and far from any open door at this mark so first thoughts say don’t even try to go there now. The vineyards are teeming with both Galestro and Alberese so the structure is both fortified and elastic. This is Riserva built on grape and terroir, purely, inextricably, truly Barberino Val d’Elsa on the edge of Poggibonsi. Transparent, savoury, grippy and serious. After 20 minutes the fruit seems to sweeten and allows this to open itself up for consumption. Two years will see to it blooming immediately upon opening. Drink 2020-2028.  Tasted September 2018  #fattoriaormanni  rogersandcompanywines    @rogcowines  @fattoriaormanni  @rogcowines

Ormanni Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG Etichetta Storica 2012Tuscany, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

A very wise, established, traditional, clean and advancing sangiovese in Gran Selezione clothing. There is a deep understanding and a subtlety in this wine, from a warm yet firm vintage, just now softening, integrating and getting ready to show its true abilities. This from a vintage for drinking and for waiting. So sweetly savoury, crisp, juicy, chewy and cerebral. Drink 2019-2027.  Tasted September 2018

Ormanni Canaiolo IGT Toscana Vino Biologico 2017Tuscany, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

Fresh to a startling point, juicy, crisp and liquid chalky. Simple and effective acidity with negligible tannin. You can see how canaiolo would add juiciness and another level of savoury to sangiovese. Drink 2018-2020.  Tasted September 2018

Fattoria Pomona

Fattoria Pomona Piero Rosso IGT Toscana 2016, Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

The work of Monica Raspi, veterinarian transformed into winemaker, her mother Inga, on a property housing an abandoned brick factory deserted after the owner lost money to horses. The founder was Bandini, great grandfather who purchased the estate after it sat empty between the 50s and 80s. The work is rounded out by Monica’s husband Enrico, Rheumatologist and cook, he of a palate extraordinaire. Here in Castellina in Chianti where fruit from the lowest part and youngest section of the vineyard offers its pure, raspy, bright red cherry sangiovese, richer than you might expect and of “hair combed just right.” It’s IGT that “came out with its soul untouched.” One day it will finish growin’ up and become Chianti Classico. Drink 2018-2020.  Tasted September 2018  fattoria_pomona    @fattoriapomona

Fattoria Pomona Chianti Classico DOCG 2016, Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

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

Fattoria Pomona Chianti Classico Riserva Bandini DOCG 2015, Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

From the last of the vineyard planted in 1987, now ripped out in 2018 mainly because of it having grown older and tired and having come into a time of lowest of the low production. ’Twas the Vignavecchia. This takes the conglomerate of soil and intensifies the sangiovese, by way of 15 months in grandi botti, then transferred to concrete for nine months before bottling. “Needs to be more elegant, not heavier,” insists Monica Raspi. That it is, in balance, far from dense and weighty, pretty, in pulchritude, with not a whisper noted by the wood. Wonderfully, respectively and gently rendered Riserva. In 2016 it becomes just Pomona. Drink 2019-2027.  Tasted September 2018

Principe Corsini – Le Corti

With @principecorsini at Le Corti and the many varied shades of his sangiovese. The genesis of San Casciano, right here, as always, right now.

Principe Corsini Le Corti Chianti Classico DOCG 2015, Tuscany, Italy (400861, $26.95, WineAlign)

“A gate vintage,” smiles Duccio Corsini, wryly I might add. Nice in quantity and quality. Aged in concrete vats, from 95 per cent sangiovese, with colorino. The rich, dark, handsome and polished blend. The level of spice is quite amazing when you consider there is no wood involved.  Last tasted September 2018  principecorsini  artisanal_wine_imports  @PrincipeCorsini  @ArtWineGuru  Principe Corsini  Artisanal Wine Imports

Duccio Corsini’s sangiovese is the amenable one in the name of Villa Le Corti 2015, rich and fully developed, chalky and chewy as only San Casciano can be, There is extraction with a purpose towards a rendering of the most modern expression leading to great appeal. The fine-grain in the structure will help to lead this down an even and timely developing path. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted February 2018

Principe Corsini Le Corti Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG Cortevecchia 2015, Tuscany, Italy (429117, $47.95, WineAlign)

“The old court” Riserva from the modernist’s gateway vintage is another ’15 from Duccio Corsini up there in quantity and certainly quality. Aged in grandi botti the 95 per cent sangiovese is augmented by a traditional colorino, as per the usual law laid out by these courts. Similar spice to the Annata though expanded and sonorous, despite such a different élevage, here out of large barrels. The texture adds to the ideal, going wide and thickening into a consistency likely or at least imaginatively bled from a river stones terroir. Here the land augments well-extracted, full-on San Casciano hillsides fruit. Youthful remains the understatement, possibilities the attenuazione. Drink 2021-2028.  Tasted September 2018

Principe Corsini Le Corti Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG 2015, Tuscany, Italy (429109, $69.95, WineAlign)

“A gate vintage,” informs Duccio Corsini, “nice in quantity and quality.” Aged in tonneaux, 80 per cent sangiovese and (20) merlot. Don Tommaso has been intense and brooding in the past but now here things have climbed to another level. The fruit extraction is optimum, dense and intense. The fine chocolate coated dark fruit swirls into concentrated acidity and welcomes silky, bejewelled tannin. There’s a smoothness unlike any other in San Casciano and rarely matched anywhere in the greater territory. Drink 2022-2030.  Tasted September 2018

Principe Corsini Le Corti ZAC IGT Toscana 2015, Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

Zac is the most important wine in Le Corti’s portfolio, a 100 per cent sangiovese that will always serve to remember the light of family and San Casciano life. It could be speculated that the greatest attention is paid to this by Prinicipe Duccio Corsini, the most pragmatically cerebral of all Chianti Classico winemakers. “Think of Don Tommaso with no merlot and taste ZAC,” he asks. From Gugliaie Vineyard, a single cru, and brother, or in this case sister to Don Tomasso’s Gran Selezione, Zia-Anna-Corisini, sister to Duccio’s grandfather. Without merlot it is truly naked, edges not rounded, acidity making for a mouth watering rise, spray and fall, then into the cognizance of ultima purity unearthed. It’s a pure San Casciano expression within the context of a Gran Selezione culture, but in the end it is the fruit of a Cru to come as a child would and will always conjure the best of memories. Innocent, pure and sweet. Drink 2020-2029.  Tasted September 2018

Tenuta Marsiliana Birillo 2016, IGT Costa Toscana Rosso, Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

This Maremma estate owned by Prinicipe Corsini – Le Corti (of Chianti Classico) is a hot and dry climate, mainly flat though with a wash down of metallic red iron soil through the fields. Aged one year in barrel the liqueur is lush, welling, oily and parochially incredible. The blend for anywhere is 60 per cent cabernet with (40 merlot). Fresh, high acidity, iron fisted but not in or of tannin. High value quotient. Drink 2018-2020.  Tasted September 2018

San Felice, Castelnouvo Berardenga

San Felice Chianti Classico DOCG 2016, Tuscany, Italy (282996, $19.95, WineAlign)

Sangiovese with colorino and pugnitello. The little fist bunches once included for added colour but that is no longer the need. It is now the quality of the tannin and ulterior complexities that keep it in the blend. The top quality vintage is a spice machine giver, tight, fruity, tart and intense.  Last tasted September 2018  borgosanfelice  chartonhobbs  #BorgoSanFelice  @ChartonHobbs  Borgo San Felice

Particularly standard and middle road taken sangiovese, expressive of ripe annata 2016 fruit, tart and pressed to weight. Filled in and ready for the earliest enjoyment is clearly the intent, from fruit taken full advantage and tannin kept to a minimum. Just a touch of verdant berry intertwine is noted. Drink 2018-2020.  Tasted February 2018

San Felice Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG Il Grigio 2014, Tuscany, Italy (716266, $28.95, WineAlign)

Here 100 per cent Sangiovese from Castelnuovo Berardenga comes across with vintage quality tannin, tight and locked shut, still and not ready to emerge, even at this four year mark.  Last tasted September 2018

Not an easy vintage to create the archetype Riserva Il Grigio but if you are partial to the savoury, slightly cedary, high-toned and charmingly low alcohol exception to the modern Chianti Classico rule then you’ve come to the right place. This sangiovese is as old-school as it gets for San Felice and props are afforded for listening to the vintage wind and coming forward as a messenger for the words whispered by those atypical breezes. This is balanced and correct, taking no prisoners and holding no conference. It’s an as is CCR with confidence and grace. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted May 2018

San Felice Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG Il Grigio 2014, Tuscany, Italy (403477, $48.95, WineAlign)

The Gran Selezione is minimum 80 per cent sangiovese plus indigenous varieties only, including pugnitello. Very firm, dusty, multi-variegated, tart red fruit and serious in structure. Il Grigio hyperbole in complete mimic of the Riserva with a half year’s extra aging. Might gift an extra three or fours years longevity. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted September 2018

San Felice Chianti Classico DOCG Poggio Rosso 2007, Tuscany, Italy (SAQ 11213191, $46.25, WineAlign)

Poggio Rosso was the appellation sangiovese that turned into Gran Selezione in 2011, in the second year of the category and creating a second for the estate. The first year having been only one produced from a separate selection. Really developing at this point, with balsamico and mushroom notes coming from the warm vintage after spring frosts and the result being a small crop. Spice notes really exaggerate the cherries and the tannin is quite sweetly intense. Chalky chocolate finish. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted September 2018

San Felice Vigorello IGT Toscana 2013, Tuscany, Italy (726463, $64.00, WineAlign)

Was a varietal sangiovese for 14 years and is now 35 per cent pugnitello, (30) cabernet sauvignon and merlot plus (5) petit verdot. It’s quite reductive, big, bouncy and settling into a hedonistic place. Very tannic, full of peppery chocolate, demanding and then there is this tobacco, mentholated and graphitic cool quality, complex and intense. Drink 2021-2029.  Tasted September 2018

Tenuta Perano

Welcome #lambertofrescobaldi @frescobaldivini to Chianti Classico. So many reasons to smile ~ incredible vineyards #alberese #galestro #steepslope #gaioleinchianti #tenutaperano #peranoestate #collinedigaiole

 

Tenuta Perano Chianti Classico DOCG 2015, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, WineAlign)

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

Tenuta Perano Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2015, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $35.00, WineAlign)

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

Terrabianca, Radda in Chianti

 

Terrabianca Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG Croce 2014, Tuscany, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

Croce is 100 per cent sangiovese 15 months in Slavonian oak and six months in bottle. The richest 2014 CCR in the region or at least the one dying for trying. Smooth and velvet chocolate ganache, with savoury edging accenting a full extractive complement. Big sangiovese. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted September 2018   terrabianca_winery  profilewinegroup    @ProfileWineGrp  @ProfileWineGroup

Terrabianca Campaccio IGT Toscana 2013, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $39.95, WineAlign)

Aromas are wild in this sangiovese, cabernet sauvignon and merlot from Radda in Chianti blend aged for a year in French and American oak. The potpourri of Chinese five-spice, clove, violet and mint is extraordinary, Rioja like. It’s a massive nose with an endless supply of scents. Incense and peppermint. Drink 2020-2026.  Tasted September 2018

Terrabianca Campaccio Selezione IGT Toscana 2011, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $56.00, WineAlign)

The Super Tuscan formerly known as Campaccio Riserva rested for two years in small barrels (French and American) plus one year in bottle. The Radda in Chianti blend of sangiovese, cabernet sauvignon and merlot repeats the potpourri of wild and exotic aromas though with greater glaring hyperbole. The acidity too is exaggerated but funnily enough, not the tannin. The extra year in wood and the specificities of the vintage are to thank. Drink 2018-2025.  Tasted September 2018

Val Delle Corti, Radda in Chianti

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

Val Delle Corti Lo Stranieri Rosso IGT Toscana 2015, Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

This 60 per cent sangiovese and 40 per cent merlot is bottled to celebrate the estate’s merlot plantings with sangiovese as its host. Now in production for six years (planted in 2000 and then in 2008). “Non complicato,” and that it is, only for IGT, now developed well enough to produce good fruit, a passion play and for pane, salumi, with Radda acidity, “right between the eyes.” Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted September 2018

valdellecorti  @ValdelleCorti  @valdellecorti

Val Delle Corti Chianti Classico DOCG 2016, Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

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

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

“I like the ’15 very much,” says Bianchi and it has been in bottle one year. Classico. Annata. Radda. Holds approximately three per cent canaiolo, as in every year. “We can be good and smart and cunning as we want but the factor of luck is absolutely important.” Climate change affords enormous advantage but the element of luck is key. Lots of luck here. Bright red fruit, so much energy, so much life. Drink 2018-2023.  Last tasted September 2018

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.  Tasted September 2017

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

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

Val Delle Corti Extra IGT Toscana 2014, Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

Extra is “a result of our manic research on the quintessential search for sangiovese in Radda and Valdellecorti,” explains Roberto Bianchi. A Riserva of the Riserva, from Chianti Classico vineyards, first done in 2013, now with “even more consciousness.” The formula is a matter of selecting results of barrels that have really done something special. In the future it may come from a cru vineyard, up above the cantina, where the cypress trees grow with a history of producing great sangiovese. Planted in 2017 in the old terraced way to prevent erosion with heat resistant clones to mitigate stress in drought and better for water retention. Here from the challenge of 2014, it is certainly smoother, richer and expressive of more accomplished fruit, with an extra year in really old barrel. Still the acidity. Perhaps when the cru is ready this will become the estate’s Gran Selezione? The future is wide open. Drink 2021-2030.  Tasted September 2018

Vignavecchia, Radda in Chianti

Big love for the #fiasco of @vignavecchiafattoria and even bigger love for the passion, tradition and quality of the sangiovese. Grazie Orsola ~ #raddainchianti

Vignavecchia Chianti Classico DOCG 2016, Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

Tasted with Orsola Beccari in Radda in Chianti, from a just about ready barrel sample. The dusty rose and violet perfume, pretty and savoury of a particular Vignavecchi localitá nose. This is the Macigno and the Alberese speaking, of elegance woven through structure. Lovely purity. Drink 2020-2027.  Tasted September 2018  #vignavecchia    @VignaVecchia

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

Almost no movement in a wine that reached an accord and a fruit-acidity-tannin agreement early in its tenure. It’s still there and not evolving yet. Amazing considering no oak was used. Drink 2019-2025.  Last tasted September 2018

Sometimes there comes along a sangiovese of seriousness and classic nature to explain some things, particularly about the commune and the ground underfoot. Vignavecchia’s is such a Radda in Chianti animal, rooted in mineral traced earth, fruit seeping in its own bled liqueur and the chains of acidity and tannin strung together with inexplicable seamlessness. The fine exquisite character of this sangiovese is a testament to honesty, purity and clarity. This house just travels from strength to strength, with no break in the accord. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted February 2018

Vignavecchia Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG Odoardo Beccari 2014, Tuscany, Italy (478875, $33.95, WineAlign)

“It’s not a very complicated or complex Riserva,” tells Orsola Beccari. Right of passage is second, third and fourth use barrels, with a small percentage (10ish) of merlot. It’s tight and reductive, at the peak of Radda acidity, perhaps not with fully uniform ripeness and so it is the lack of density that delivers the charm to match the Radda perfume. Paints another Vignavecchia picture. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted September 2018

Vignavecchia Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG Odoardo Beccari 2011, Tuscany, Italy (478875, $33.95, WineAlign)

There’s almost a Burgundian comparison, the perfume and power, like Volnay, not masculine, but athletic. Like the climbing Cashmere goat, always walking uphill, not up and down, until it will arrive at where it needs to graze and breathe. No oscillation, just a rising. Come on up. Very representative, of Orsola, Odoardo, Vignavecchia and vintage. More impressive than ever before.  Tasted September 2018

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 2017

Vignavecchia Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG Odoardo Beccari 2014, Tuscany, Italy (AgentWineAlign)

With 10 per cent canaiolo, just from the first, many terraced, closest to home estate vineyard. This has changed since last February, however minor, softened even. Aged in Grandi Botti, 8,000 bottles produced. Will be one of the great 2014 Gran Selezione.  Last tasted September 2018

Vignavecchia’s Odoardo Beccari is the obstinate one showing the first major number of reduction or at least it acts this way relative to nine other examples. Perhaps an opinion is skewed by having been in awe of recent examples or maybe its just a hunch or a feeling but this is stylistically found to be closer to Riserva and further from Gran Selezione. That is said in the most positive way. Still the soil is everything and the fruit abides. Crazy tannin here overtop serious acidity. Remains six years away, at least, from opening to charm and enjoyment. The structure is founded in deep classicism. Just remarkable sangiovese. Drink 2022-2030.  Tasted February 2018

The author Godello in Radda in Chianti

Vignavecchia Raddese IGT Colli della Toscana Centrale 2014, Tuscany, Italy (AgentWineAlign)

In the past it was not possible to produce 100 per cent sangiovese as CC and so Raddese was born, like so many other IGT. It could in fact now be Gran Selezione, but it is simply Raddese, from Radda, a local, from this place. It’s a selection, 4,000 bottle lot, the best bunches of the year, champion sangiovese of the season. It’s like Leone, Flacianello, etc, a lieu-dit like name, as an administrative word to create an estate gathered representative of the people who make wine in this place. Raddese. Very pretty wine, softer than the Chianti Classicos and the finest Radda acidity. Drink 2018-2025.  Tasted September 2018

Vignavecchia VinSanto del Chianti Classico DOCG Casuario 2009, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, 375 mL,  WineAlign)

A beautiful and aggressive Vin Santo. Dried herbs; rosemary, thyme and marjoram. Figs and apricot, with great sweetness and several conjugating dense acidities. Still quite primary, caramelized with great savour and working through some awkward moments towards a connubial future. Drink 2020-2030.  Tasted September 2018

Villa di Geggiano

Villa Di Geggiano Bandinello 2017, IGT Toscana Rosso, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $24.95, WineAlign)

A 60/20/20 sangiovese/syrah/ciliegiolo mix, two weeks in stainless and a few months in old wood. The concept of design is to create fruity and ask to be consumed when young. Beautiful acidity from a southern, warmer clime possessive of necessary ventilation and a micro-climate where frosts and hail seem to pass on by. A tiny micro conca d’oro climate within a larger area typified by a great variegation in the soil; Alberese, schisty Galestro, limestone and clay with some sand. An extra level of interest is piqued by a rhubarb and black cherry meeting. Only 15,000 bottles were produced in 2017. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted September 2018  villadigeggiano  andreaboscu  barrelselect  @VilladiGeggiano  @BarrelSelect  @villadigeggianowinery  @barrelselect

Villa Di Geggiano Chianti Classico DOCG 2015, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $35.95, WineAlign)

It is noted that Geggiano’s terroir delivers a dark hue and deep profile but not the weight and thick constitution that might be thought to accompany or expect. It’s 100 per cent sangiovese and it does clock in at 15 per cent, though not surprising considering the vintage and the southerly location. A bit of new French tonneaux but mostly older, for 12-14 months. High acidity and elasticity takes this into balance. Delicious sangiovese comes from place and respect and Geggiano’s carries forth with tonality and depth. First wholly varietal wine in this vintage.  Last tasted September 2018

Geggiano’s particular corner of Castelnuovo Berardenga delivers the gift of calm and collected, deeply fruity and sneaky, streaky, stony sangiovese. It gets neither more subtle nor more appreciable than these wines and in 2015 there is warmth indeed but also a cool sliver of mineral truth. This Chianti Classico does not guess at its ways and intentions, it commits to them with implicit and intuitive, life affirming strength. Great length, really great length. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted February 2018

Villa Di Geggiano Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2012, Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

The 2012 is the current release because they (Geggiano and sangiovese) need time in the bottle. They simply keep a firm grip on their youth for quite an extended period of time. Riserva for the Bianchi-Bandinelli brothers is a matter of the best vines and the better barrel samples. Creosote and graphite really come from this nose, with tapenade, blood orange and violets. It’s almost more red fruit than the Annata “but that’s alchemy,” says Alessandro BB. This is a great example of work done alongside sangiovese oenologist Paolo Vagaggini, to transfer the variegate of the vineyard, through the conduit of time, into the glass. Still so young with great chains of stretched tannins, to be better in three more years. Drink 2020-2031.  Tasted September 2018

Four words for you babe- Mi-cro Cli-mate ~ #castelnuovoberardenga ~ Riserva ’09 by @villadigeggiano ~ #initforthelonghall

Villa Di Geggiano Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2009, Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

Tasted alongside the 2012 there is a marked humidity and warmth of vintage and now three years on the balsamico and chocolate are really beginning to emerge. Certainly more strength and depth, the chains of tannin and command are breaking down and the wine is entering its next stage of life. Warm, silky smooth and soothing. Drink 2020-2027.  Tasted September 2018

Volpaia, Radda in Chianti

Castello di Volpaia Chianti Classico DOCG 2016, Tuscany, Italy (953828, $30.95, WineAlign)

Sangiovese simply stated is the fresh maker from the vintage that speaks to a maximum loud and clear pronouncement. Here Volpaia takes ripeness and wraps it up in a shell of protection that can and will not be broken. You can absolutely smell the freshest of red fruits in this ’16 and it’s a feeling that never dissipates. Always a benchmark for Radda and the greater territory. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted November 2018  castellodivolpaia  rogersandcompanywines  @volpaia  @rogcowines  @volpaia

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

From the vintage out of which no single vineyard wines were made. All of them are here, in this Riserva. With high elevation comes later picking and so because the weather turned beautiful in late September and early October it allowed hang time and more developed phenolics. And so here there is length, elongated loveliness and very restricted, properly managed, pent up aggression. It’s real and will age with some wavering here and there, for a decade or more, before really going into a secondary state you may or may not be interested in drinking. I for one will always be.  Last tasted November 2018

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

Castello di Volpaia Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 1991, Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

From back in the days of the old Chianti Classico and the rules when white grapes were allowed in the mix and here they are very present. There persists a fresh fruit construct even while earthy, umami, forest floor secondary notes are very much in play. Opened for hours ahead but not decanted, there develops a wild strawberry note that reeks of at once maceration and then, leather. The acidity is there but on a linear plane so not necessarily upholding its end, but that matters not because the persistence is unwavering. Drink 2018-2020.  Tasted November 2018

Castello di Volpaia Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 1988, Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

This return to a time in Chianti Classico when rules were lax and white grapes were permitted to mingle and variegate with the reds. This ’88 is amazingly floral, older earthy of course but alive with flowers so blessedly perfumed. The acidity is striking for thirty years, vibrant, eyes to the world and showing little sign of walking away from the theatre. It’s a testament to everything Volpaia has worked for and all that it can be. This will drink so well for five to seen more years. Wait 20 minutes and boom, fennocchio! And toffee, even a bit of caffé. Drink 2018-2024.  Tasted November 2018

Castello di Volpaia Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG Coltassala 2015, Tuscany, Italy (Winery, $60.00, WineAlign)

Perfumed and powerful but quite frankly I can’t see any development since February of 2017. The fruit is out, up and in full control of its destiny. A long life ahead confirmed.  Last tasted November 2018

Welcome to the new age for Chianti Classico Gran Selezione longevity, meaning this is one to go further, deeper, well into the Radda in Chianti night. In answer to the question of category content, Coltassala was a Riserva (labeled as IGT) until the ’14 vintage (and there is no ’14 GS), always with five per cent mammolo, from the plot co-planted at the end of the 1960s. Then the vineyard was grafted in the late 70s (before Coltassala was created) in the early 80s. “Coltassala is a question of what was in this vineyard” notes Giovannella Stianti Mascheroni. Most interesting is how this Chianti Classico carries 10 times the acidity of the Annata and the Riserva, in great tension and demand, dominating and to be honest, is quite distracting. It’s nearly an impossible proposition of structure but from a night when a 1987 Riserva showed zero signs of decline, anything is to be believed. Coltassala is truly a body of work to represent this 500m vineyard and Volpaia with the highest nobility. Drink 2022-2032.  Tasted February 2018

Castello di Volpaia Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG Il Puro 2011, Tuscany, Italy (Winery, $150.00, WineAlign)

Il Puro is as you would imagined it would be, the pure one, a 100 per cent sangiovese made from 25 different and combined clones. It’s a project concerned with protecting and preserving the genetic diversity of 60 years involved with the local and endemic varietal relationship. It’s all happened in Volpaia’s single vineyard Casanova. Quite bright and high-toned, there are layers upon layers of sangiovese-ness in a quite seamless package. It’s round, warm, soothing and welling with liquorice. Velvety tannins and so a lithe, liquid structure for optimum early to mid-years consumption. Drink 2018-2024.  Tasted November 2018

Good to go!

godello

Sangiovese is the future – Montefioralle, Greve in Chianti

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

WineAlign

Searching for great heart in South Africa

A view of the Simosnberg from Amazink Live in Kalmandi Township

Heritage and diversity in South Africa

as seen on WineAlign

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

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

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

A deeper understanding

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

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

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

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

So much to think about

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

Performers at Amazink Live

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

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

Sundowners, Sanbona Game Reserve

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

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

Chef Gregory Henderson, Wildekrans Wilde Forage, Bot Rivier

New age of diversity: Bot Rivier

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chardonnay vineyard in Robertson

Regional spotlight: Robertson

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

L’Avenir Wine Estate and Country Lodge

Pino Pistols – The next generation of Pinotage young guns

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pinotage winemakers at L’Avenir

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

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

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

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

Wildekrans Wine Estate

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

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

Graham Beck Winery, Robertson

Méthode Cap Classique

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Heritage vines

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

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

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

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

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

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