The Italian cometh

They diverge and divulge so much @FattoriaBarbi @Noble_Estates @mrkcstr Raffaela Guidi Federzoni #brunellodimontalcino #2004 #vignadelfiore #riserva

They diverge and divulge so much @FattoriaBarbi @Noble_Estates @mrkcstr Raffaela Guidi Federzoni #brunellodimontalcino #2004 #vignadelfiore #riserva

As we head into the March break, here is a little something to think about in advance of next weekend’s VINTAGES March 19th Italian themed release. The offer is substantial and it comes on the heels of last week’s brilliant display of Sangiovese Grosso at the Art Gallery of Ontario for the recent coming of Benvenuto Brunello 2016.

Two of my favourite actors (Lee Marvin and Jeff Bridges) played pivotal roles in John Frankenheimer’s adaptation of Eugene O’Neill’s famous play. The Iceman Cometh is set in 1912 America with hard characters who live a pipe dream in their collective search for political and religious salvation. In one way or another they seek the sentimental reminiscences of their glory days and form a covenant to return to them tomorrow. The Iceman represents a sort of messiah meets grim reaper, killing the fantasy of the “tomorrow movement,” offering not salvation, but death.

So what does this have anything to do with Italian wine? Pretty much absolutely nothing, except for the plain and simple analysis about the Italians on offer for March 19. I recommend some beauties so don’t think that the death or the apocalypse of Italian wine is upon us. In fact, the greater category is booming, selling more product in Ontario and Canada as a whole then it ever has. Last month’s Vancouver International Wine Festival laid testament to the fact.

No, it’s just that so many of the reds and whites in the themed release walk a straight, boring and predictable path right down the middle of the road. Italy’s vast pool of talent would love to send us the best of the best, at $15, $50 and $150, if only the monopoly would receive. And so my friends, today I choose to consider the LCBO as the Iceman, all in good fun, of course. Who takes me seriously anyway? Certainly not me, fool as I am.

Here we have six stars from the VINTAGES release and six ethereal Brunelli still ringing in my ears and singing in my mouth. Sangiovese with the uncanny and impossible ability to linger for four days. There were many more worth mentioning because when you are holed up in a room full of Brunello, life is perfectly grand.

Where for art thou Brunello?

La Fiorita Brunello di Montalcino

La Fiorita Brunello di Montalcino

La Fiorita Brunello Di Montalcino 2009, Tuscany, Italy (Agent$65.00WineAlign)

La Fiorita’s 2009 normale is a special bottle of Brunello from a best of all worlds vintage. It exhibits the charms and shares the gifts of a posit tug between firmness and elegance. At this seven-year stage it evidences the first signs of secondary character, with spices dissolved in mulled liqueur and a new fathom of depth perceived. The measure of intensity is not one of dank, darkness or even pitch but rather profundity. The translation reads as both Sangiovese chapter and verse. Excellent 2009 example just beginning to drink as it should. Drink 2016-2023.  Tasted March 2016  @vadoapiedi

Col D’orcia Poggio Al Vento Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva 2008, Tuscany, Italy (0965525, $129.00WineAlign)

Only 8,000 bottles were made of Col D’Orcia’s always formidable and classically structured Brunello. Elegance offers a glimpse of hopeful emergence even while its firmness is still fully intact. The added determination and epic struggles of the vintage translate to a singular Sangiovese type of funk from a vineyard, like so many other south-facing Montalcino slopes, of what may just be the greatest physical involuntariness in the world. The fruit and texture are delicate, of a veritable Tuscan gastronomy, pure vernacular and of a leathery lightness of brogan being. The youth in this Brunello is palpable, nearly awkward but certainly not backward. It is progressing as it should, lentamente, lentamente. Three more years minimum is needed to coax it out of its coriaceous hide. Drink 2019-2028.  Tasted March 2016

Fattoria Dei Barbi Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva 2004, Tuscany, Italy (Agent$100.00WineAlign)

The Riserva contains no single vineyard (Vigna del Fiore) fruit and is composed of a selection dictated by different vineyard qualities, not necessarily all on equal footing and all brought in to be vinified separately. As per the directive, an average of three years is spent in oak, followed by a transfer into stainless tank. The aim is a traditional, classic, typical, true masculine expression of Sangiovese Grosso. With the firm intent kept in mind, the 2004 is unstirring, closed, macho and fist clenched, even after all these years. An hour later it extends an outstretched finger or two of kept fruit and bred in the bone funk in your direction, but no more. This Riserva is gripped by a fine dust and even finer, senescent and patrician grains of tannin equal in quantity to the stars in the sky. If 2004 is not one of Barbi’s better to greater vintages for Riserva the constellations will have to be re-drawn. To me this represents a foregone conclusion to purchase, further cellar briefly and open when the skies are blue. Drink 2018-2029.  Tasted March 2016  @FattoriaBarbi  @Noble_Estates

Fattoria Dei Barbi Brunello Di Montalcino Vigna del Fiore 2004, Tuscany, Italy (Agent 93609$100.00WineAlign)

The Vigna del Fiore single-vineyard designate Sangiovese tells an engraved, emblematic and heraldic Montalcino story. First made in 1981, the infamous Barbi Grosso was originally crafted as a celebration for Francesca Colombini’s 50th birthday. Previous to that inaugural release the grapes from the most southeastern part of the property were used in the blend of the Brunello Riserva. Inferential importance exists within the context of familial connectivity in this Blue label Barbi. Ancestral lineage matters, as does the nurturing femininity of the undertaking. Spends its first, early developing year in older French barriques, followed by two years in traditional, regionally employed (700L) traditional Slavonian oak. If the 2004 (or subsequent vintages) are perceived as expressive of an international style, chalk that up to effete but so much vineyard and next stage, secondary through tertiary evolution agrees to confound. The ’04 lays in soft exude with the wise smell of its original, naturally curated state, of cherries, roses and earth. Today the texture floats in the optimum buoyant air above a contiguously circled round globe, begs for and speaks of aged Tuscan cheese, like Brillo Pecorino DiVino or Toscano Stagionato. The next few years will be the best. Drink 2016-2020.  Tasted March 2016

La Mannella Brunello Di Montalcino 2010, Docg Tuscany, Italy (279083, $47.95, WineAlign)

Tasted alongside La Mannella’s 2010 Riserva this seems tame, elegant and baby-faced in comparison but it is no shrinking Sangiovese Grosso violet. No, sir. Assessed on its own it is in itself a wholly complex and beastly thing. The tonality is stratospheric, with a distant, amplified and magnified set of cherry to leather parameters. Very floral and blessed by holy drops of liquor. All that said, this 2010 Brunello of basic and modest means can be approached in the here and now provided a good decanting is strictly followed. Drink 2016-2022.  Tasted March 2016  @LaMannella  @Nicholaspearce_

Oh #brunello where art thou? You are here @PodereLeRipi listening to the vines @agotoronto #benvenutobrunello #brunellodimontalcino #50thanniversary #italiantradeagency

Oh #brunello where art thou? You are here @PodereLeRipi listening to the vines @agotoronto #benvenutobrunello #brunellodimontalcino #50thanniversary #italiantradeagency

Podere Le Ripe Lupie Sirene Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva 2009, Tuscany, Italy

A classy and classic, traditionally-styled, pure and ripe Sangiovese. Cherries, leather, sweet liqueur and anise confer in perfume. What a revelation, with late spice and a chocolate-laced finish. Lovely and really fine. The right stuff and though on the sweet side, that should dissipate with five to eight years in bottle. Drink 2017-2024.  Tasted March 2016  @PodereLeRIpi

The Italians cometh

Jerzu

Jerzu Chuèrra Riserva Cannonau Di Sardegna 2011, Doc Sardinia, Italy (270272, $17.95, WineAlign)

Lovely dry, dusty, musty and prickling Sardignian, properly Grenache rustic and approaching a level of divine. Cannonau of chew, leather, carbon fruit sketch, arid and rehydrated in residual freshness endowment. Get behind all $18 of this honest weighted red and put your char on. Drink 2016-2020.  Tasted March 2016  @AntichiPoderi

Greco di Tufo

Terredora Di Paolo Loggia Della Serra Greco Di Tufo 2014, Docg Campania, Italy (983197, $19.95, WineAlign)

Herbal is the understatement, saline the connecting cable, texture the conduit for extreme unction. Cumulatively intellectual qualities that endow this Greco di Tufo with more sumptuousness than it had achieved in recent times. Aromatic wealth comes by way of citrus preserved, pressed and layered. The overall impression is warmth, stress without breakdown and excessive personality. Still somehow its strikes as endemic, ancient, weird and wonderful. Drink 2016-2019. Tasted March 2016  @Terredorawines  @HalpernWine  @Reg_Campania

Il Molino Di Grace Il Margone Chianti Classico Gran Selezione 2010, Tuscany, Italy (435115, $39.95, WineAlign)

In a VINTAGES feature of more MOR Italy then should be rolled out in one media tasting, at least here we have multiple semblance of personality. Not quite sure we’ll call to celebration $40 of dynamism but there are inherent deep invested Sangiovese characteristics nonetheless. Tight angles, rigid corners and a Brunello-Sangiovese-like liqueur. Grosso in as much as CCR can be, with some dedicated rusticity and tannins still in action. Dries out nicely on the finish. Put some away for a 2020 rainy day. Drink 2018-2024.  Tasted March 2016  @Ilmolinodigrace  @chianticlassico

Donatella Cinelli Colombini

Donatella Cinelli Colombini Brunello Di Montalcino

Donatella Cinelli Colombini Brunello Di Montalcino 2008, Brunello Di Montalcino, Tuscany, Italy (431718, $56.95, WineAlign)

A vintage perceived as tough, difficult, demanding and volatile is just now entering the zone of changing perceptions. It has taken all this time to realize its abilities. Longevity for one. Beauty behind the mask, the other. Concentration is not so much ripeness and richness but of deeper meaning than that. Nothing here sits on the surface. Peel away a layer of orange, spice bark and bulb husk to taste from the inner fruit. From the core. “There is fire, there is life, there is passion, fever and fury.” That is Brunello. The tannins persist with near nastiness but there is so much to look forward too. Wait two more years. Drink 2018-2028.  Tasted March 2016  @news_donatella  @ConsBrunello  @LeSommelierWine

Giuseppe Quintarelli Rosso Ca’ Del Merlo 2007, Igt Veneto, Italy (722470, $99.95, WineAlign)

Rich Ca’ del Merlo from Quintarelli heeded with volatility and consumption. Veneto of war and peace, light, bracing, angular, seeping, steeping, macerated, tea leave studded and tannic for further thought. In this 2007 it is hard to not get caught up in the amalgamation’s bright sweep. Corvina, Corvinone, Rondinella, Cabernet Sauvignon, Nebbiolo, Croatina and Sangiovese, like reading Tolstoy, all together “alive, and very much so.” Will live for quite some time, but wait two years before embarking on the journey. Drink 2018-2030.  Tasted March 2016  @RegioneVeneto  @LiffordON

Tenuta dell’Ornellaia Ornellaia 2012, Doc Bolgheri Superiore, Tuscany, Italy (722470, $195.50, WineAlign)

Takes the purity of 2011, furthers the integration and mimics the precision, then pumps up the volume. Takes a breath and then, with soluble efficiency it refines the intricately woven lines a few steps furtrher, if that is even possible. I will say that the tannins are a bit tougher in ’12, with a tight string wound depressively around the fruit’s long and elegant tendrils. Fruit is the determinate factor, pure, blossoming and fragrant. It adds up to a consensus of one thought, that this vintage is yet another legend in the making, a fine and linear Ornellaia that should travel 30 plus years, perhaps longer. What liqueur, such botanicals and endless valleys passing through fertile hills. Drink 2019-2045.  Tasted November 2015  @Ornellaia  @AuthenticWineON  @AuthenticWine

Good to go!

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Wine around the boot in 40 days

Fall is the time for all things Italian, wine included.
PHOTO: KLAUS EPPELE/FOTOLIA.COM

as seen on canada.com

It began in the middle of October, on a Tuesday, on the ides I believe. Two weeks earlier I had penned this column: Fall is the time for Tuscan wine.

I was wrong. Fall is the time for all things Italian, wine included. At no time of year is there more of a conscious, active pursuit of Italian produce and gastronomy; salumi, chestnut, porcini, truffle and especially wine.

For the better part of a month and a half I have been tasting Italian wine, from just about everywhere it is made around the boot. Abruzzo, Basilicata, Calabria, Campania, Emiglia Romagna, Friuli Venezia-Giulia, Lazio, Liguria, Lombardia, Marche, Molise, Piemonte, Sardegna, Sicilia, Toscana, Trentino-Alto Adige, Umbria and Veneto. Three essential events brought Italy to Canada, two being of the intimate and tutored kind. The third, a massive annual affair (though no VinItaly) tied the Italian federation of wine-producing regions together under one gorgeously acoustic roof.

Lunch with Fiorenzo Dogliani of Beni di Batasiolo and Charton Hobbs, October 25, 2013

George Restaurant, 111 Queen St E, Toronto, (416) 863-6006 @georgeonqueen

The Dogliani family produce a wine range of wines in Piemonte and although love has not been lost for the “beni,” properties encasing the symbiotic relationship between farmhouses and vineyards, or tradition as a guiding force, Batasiolo is not out-of-place in the fast, forward thinking aesthetic of modern Italian winemaking. “Past and future co-exist” and wine speaks of the estate’s “Great Vineyards,” Briccolina, Boscareto, Cerequio and Bofani. Vineyards that persist in producing outstanding produce.

Tutored tasting with Gaia Gaja of Gaja Wines and Stem Wine Group, October 31, 2013

Bosk – Shangri-La Hotel, 188 University Avenue, Toronto, (646) 788-8888  @BoskTO @wineguy2005

Gaja owns 250 acres of vineyards in Barbaresco and Barolo. In 1994 they acquired Pieve Santa Restituta in Montalcino, Tuscany and in 1996 they added Ca’Marcanda in Bolgheri, Tuscany on the coast. The significance of this acquisition lies in the Bordeaux varieties grown there; Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and especially Cabernet Franc. There will come a day, not so far away, when that Cabernet Franc will make some truly exceptional wine.

The Gaja brand, while nearly 155 years young, has recently climbed into a league of its own. To consider the wines, the estates and the aura that surrounds, you might think there was a marketing team of hundreds blanketing the earth.  On the contrary. There is Gaia Gaja.

PHOTO: Michael Godel
Gaia Gaja and Sperss Langhe 1999

Gaia Gaja brought her family’s wines to Toronto. She spoke for more than an hour. Non-stop. “I am a woman and I am Italian,” she confessed. No one complained. All were captivated by the presentation and the presenter.

It is quite something to have the opportunity to taste wines like the 2008 Rennina Brunello di Montalcino, 2009 Barbaresco, 2008 Conteisa Barolo and the ethereal 1999 Sperss Langhe. Angelo Gaja is the rogue master of Piemonte, the first to think outside the box and break down ancient restrictions and boundaries. Who would argue that success is owed, more than in part, to his determination to rid the region of pride and stubbornness.

The dichotomy in images and in wine is not something easily understood unless you have listened to someone like Gaia Gaja tell the story. Here, a small village in Piemonte, the photograph showing a rag-tag assembly of small homes packed tightly together. The story told that beneath every house there is a winery and the greatest Nebbiolo on the planet there being produced. The farmers growing grapes on slopes so famous, not because the terroir may be noted as terre bianche or terre brune, but because the wines, like Sori Tildin or Sori San Lorenzo transform the produce into magic and command never imagined prices.

Gaja, the brand, is as famous as any from Italy, but Gaia takes nothing for granted. She is the perfect spokesperson for her family’s business. She is outwardly nostalgic, plotting a course from the very origins of the family’s connection to the land. Her attention to the simple is what Edward Steinberg noted in his Gaja memoir, The Vines of San Lorenzo. “The growing of grapes on one plot of land and their subsequent transformation is the story of Everywine.”

On November 4, 2013 I attended the annual Taste Italy, a tasting of wines from Italy at Roy Thomson Hall. I was particularly impressed with the terrific value to be found in the wines of Ca’ Dei Mandorle and the excellence from Pietro Rinaldi. Rinaldi’s BARBERA SUPERIORE (90) elevates the genre while the BARBARESCO 2010 (93) exudes a sweet, floral perfume. Castellare di Castellina remains one of my favourite Tuscan houses. The CHIANTI CLASSICO 2011 (90) comes from a vintage of agglomeration; the brood and weight of ’06 combined with the beauty and hedonism of ’07. The ’11 CC is fresh, elegant and full of rich fruit.

Here are eight full tasting notes on a wide range of Italian wines, from the hills of Piemonte in the northwest to the tiny island of Sardegna in the south.

JERZU CHUÈRRA RISERVA CANNONAU DI SARDEGNA 2008, Sardinia, Italy (270272, $16.95)

Ancient carsic cave dweller, inhabitant of underground hollows, Brett monster, heartbreaker saying “don’t you mess around with me.” A salt lick studded with crushed aniseed on a bed of Mediterranean flowering maquis and garrigue. Coal-fired, stonking stuff full of tannic tension.  A bit offal-ish and not for the faint of stomach or heart. For others a dream maker.  89  Tasted October 2013  @FrontierWine

DI MAJO NORANTE CONTADO RISERVA AGLIANICO DEL MOLISE 2010, Molise, Italy (967208, $17.95, SAQ 11294817, $17.35)

Has travelled a well-worn path up on cripple creek. The band played a veritable fruit and vegetable smoothie, pulsed from prune, oxidative purple plum, chewy raisin, tomato leaf and pulp in concentrate. Really excellent tension and a tar/coal/charcoal tendency came late. “When that nag to win came around the track” sure enough this Aglianico had won. If it weren’t for so much tomato on the nose this would have been a very fine wine.  88  Tasted October 2013

PHOTO: Michael Godel
Banfi Cuvée Aurora Rosé 2009

BANFI CUVÉE AURORA ROSÉ 2009, Alta Langa, Metodo Classico (355693, $24.95)

The fifth and surely seminal year in production of this French oak barrique aged, 100 per cent Pinot Noir fizz, composed from 90 per cent ”clear wine” and 10 per cent juice of the previous vintage. Follows classic, traditional skin contact cold maceration methodology and seems to emulate the style of Laurent-Perrier Cuvée Rosé Brut. Dry and savoury, distinctly rhubarb-scented, showing amazing freshness and wild borealis waves. A conglomerate Tuscan outfit paying attention to the small details in Piedmont.  90  Tasted November 2013  @CastelloBanfi

CA’MARCANDA PROMIS 2010, IGT Tuscany, Italy (745638, $47.95, NLL 7997, 2005, $46.11)

A syrupy rich and aromatically confected Tuscan coastal blend of 55 per cent Merlot, 35 per cent Syrah and 10 per cent Sangiovese. Anchored by a mineral stranglehold and intense aniseed studded grit. Dried rose, black tea and a trattoria’s wooden walls put you sitting in the taverna, waiting for the boar ragu to arrive. Will see to a serious future if the blackberry and Cassis fruit can hold up. The Promis is in ode to the past made in a clean and concise manner. Negotiates a partnership between the ancient Piemontese world of Angelo Gaja and a new generation of Tuscany style.  91  Tasted on October 25th and November 19th, 2013  @StemWineGroup

GAJA DAGROMIS BAROLO 2008, Piedmont, Italy (Stem Wine Group, $74.99, B.C. 161141, $69.99, NLL 7999, 2003, $84.99)

A Nebbiolo produced from two old vineyards owned by the Gromis family, acquired by Gaja in 1995, one in Serralunga adjacent to the iconic Sperss and the other in La Morra adjacent to Conteisa. Clay and marl Tortonian-era soils are its fodder and this Barolo comes across like iron-rich earth, boled through stucco and warmed to a rosy madder. Cultures 14.5 per cent abv with the most unimaginable, delicate nature. Mirror of her maker.  94  Tasted October 2013

PHOTO: Michael Godel
Batasiolo Line-Up at George Restaurant

BATASIOLO LANGHE ROSSO 2011, Piedmont, Italy (981019, $16.95)

Several local varieties (Nebbiolo, Barbera, Dolcetto) are sourced here from the hills of Langhe. Forward fruity, vinous and in turn, resinous, built solid and structured with juicy acidity. Plays all the right components to offer value. This Rosso is well-thought out, not heavy-handed nor overly composed. Excellent value.  89  Tasted October 2013

BATASIOLO BAROLO 2009, Piedmont, Italy (178542, $29.00, SAQ 10856777, $29.40)

Spent a year in bottle following its 100 per cent new oak, two-year, early settling. Produced from a combination of nine disparate vineyards, ranging from valley low to hilltop high, it is ultimately a very fine value in approachable, qualified and legitimate Barolo as you are likely to come across. A farmer’s finesse loads up red berry fruit and ripe plum, bursting fresh and massaged by a healthy level of grainy tannin. A general list Barolo that acts quite serious, if perhaps out of a vintage leaning towards the austere.  89  Tasted October 2013

BATASIOLO VIGNETO CORDA DELLA BRICCOLINA BAROLO 2007, Piedmont, Italy (992271, $75.00, SAQ 10814631, 1.5L $108.25)

From a chord running through a vineyard across a ridge at the top of a hill. Full sun exposure boldly transmutes to modernity out of the highest extraction. An underlying funk pays homage to the single vineyard designation’s storied past and this Nebbiolo is to Batasiolo as Madonna del Piano is to Valdicava. Hard as nails, rapt mineral composure, linear and precise like the vineyard it comes from. So far from opening the door to conjugal visits. There will be chestnut Zabaglione when the times comes 10 years forward. At $75 this is Cru Piemontese for a song. 93  Tasted October 2013

Good to go!