Niagara’s cool for chards

 

Niagara chardonnay, cornerstone of an industry, another one of nature’s mysterious constants, long-time member of both local and globally recognized greatness. A pandemic be damned the time had finally come to glide on down the QEW, inch by inch, to arrive in Niagara’s wine-lands and taste recently bottled vineyard bounty, plus some older surprises. At the behest, felicitations and facilitations of WMAO we the crü at WineAlign abided by the invitation. The visits included Le Clos Jordanne, On Seven Estate Winery, Stratus Vineyards, Trius Winery and Restaurant, Hidden Bench Estate Winery, Tawse Winery, Redstone Winery and Restaurant and the Bat Caves at Bachelder Wines. The next trip will take in at least seven more and after that, no less than seven again. And so on. Niagara is not conquered in a day, or a weekend.

And everybody tells me that it’s cool to be a cat
Cool for cats (cool for cats)

Related – A Chardonnay toast to Cool and the gang

The steamy and canicular July varietal sally coincided with the physical return, if only in part and to limited display, of the region’s annual i4c Cool Climate Chardonnay Celebration. Ontario’s most famous annual gathering inclusive of international winemaking stars is one that so many media, sommeliers, producers, importers, marketers and consumers have come to know, embrace and love. With a commitment for more arms to get jabbed and further progress towards community safety be made in these next 11 months, there should be every reason for optimism that i4c 2022 will return in full force next July.

Thomas Bachelder between Hanck East and West

Related – David Lawrason’s Canadian Wine Insider – Niagara’s Regeneration

In addition to chardonnay (that cool refreshing drink) there too were touring pours of sparkling wines, riesling, pinot gris, skin contact whites, rosé, pinot noir, cabernet franc and gamay. Those tasting notes are included in this report because quite frankly Niagara’s varietal diversity and inclusivity on full display should be duly noted. The festivities concluded on Sunday afternoon with not one but two Bat Cave barrel tastings with the stupefied, hyper-hypnotized and monkified winemaking tour de force himself, the other tall and thin white duke, Thomas Bachelder. No I did not make any formal notes on the dozens of chardonnay and gamay thieved from his barrels because frenetics and focus do not jive, not when Bachelder, barrels and argumentative discourse are involved. Bachelder began with some re-visits of finished “Villages” wines in the guise of Mineralité de Niagara and L’Ardoise, same same but for different markets (Ontario and Québec), both from the 2019 vintage. Then the surprise of the tasting emerged, two unmarked magnums, as of that very moment yet untasted and very special. “From the Heart Cuvée Number 1” is a project with fellow enlightened, philanthropic aiding and abetting abbot Steven Campbell. Their chardonnay crushes the concept with its dynamic and lush configuration. Why because of the very notion of being figuratively layered, blessed with a frictional vitality burnished into its collective heart and chardonnay soul. I had to stop after each sip to reassemble my nervous system and scrape my mind of the cosmos, not to mention the universe, galaxies and stars.

Crazy eyes in the throes of a four-hour Bachelder barrel tasting

The concept began as an annual Canadian Charity Wine Auction in support of the battle against climate change and then further developed into the Rescue the Grapes auction in NYC in partnership with Christie’s. Campbell and Bachelder convinced dozens of winemakers to donate small-ish lots of unfinished wines to be gathered and vinified as a single wine, an Ontario supergroup-cuvée if you will and finished by Thomas, acting as lead singer and songwriter. In Canada he and Steven are asking wineries to sponsor winemakers dinners in their home province and if they do host a dinner also support our auctions in the other two provinces. For the other province they donate a six pack of wine and will include  VIP “Passport” to the winery to promote interprovincial wine tourism. So far in Ontario Trail Estate, Malivoire, Southbrook, The Farm, Trius, Cave Spring, Pearl Morissette, Bachelder, Henry of Pehlam, Tawse and Rosehall run have all stepped up with a few more in the wings. In British Columbia Black Hills, Stag Hollow, Burrowing Owl, Okanagan Crush Pad, Tin Horn Creek, Tantalus, Quails Gate, Mission Hill and an Arterra winery are in with more to come.

The Bachelder Vineyard Map

The chardonnays were pulled from Willms Vineyard, Wismer-Wingfield est and ouest, Wismer-Foxcroft, Saunders Organic and Bio and Grimsby Hillside Escarpment Red Clay Barn Block. The gamay barrels tasted were Bator, Jackson-Bai “Bai Xu,” Wismer-Parke, Hanck est and ouest. Thomas did reveal the first ever bottle of Grimsby Hillside Chardonnay. The personal connection to that storied plot along the Lincoln Lakeshore in Winona will be investigated to the fullest extent of Godello law in a report coming soon.

Godello with Hidden Bench winemaker Jay Johnston

Has one really taken full advantage of a cool chardonnay weekend if one has not gone nose, palate, heart and mind deep into a seven year Hidden Bench Marlize Beyers to Jay Johnston Felseck Vineyard Chardonnay vertical? Methinks not. Not to mention a viticultural tour with J.J. and Joel Williams, Brut 2014, Rachis & Derma skin-contact and of course, Gamay. Thanks to proprietor Harald Thiel and congrats on being bestowed with the honour of “Champion Chardonnay of the year!” Couldn’t have happened to a more deserving and industry leading partner. 👏 👏 👏

Hidden Bench Winemaker Jay Johnston and Viticulturist Joel Williams

New to the Niagara Peninsula scene is On Seven Estate Winery, headed up by Vittorio de Stefano and with the charge in the hands of Canada’s most accomplished consulting winemaker Peter Gamble. Just as he has made giant viticultural and vinicultural strides with the likes of Stratus, Benjamin Bridge and Lightfoot & Wolfville, in typical, ambitious and big picture defining fashion it is Gamble who sees unlimited qualitative potential in the mineral-rich soils of OSEW’s Niagara-on-the-Lake soils. 

The sit-down at Stratus Vineyards titled “To lees or not to lees? That is the tasting” explained from the word go about the new direction concerns all things lees. To see two winemakers, they being J.L. Groux and Dean Stoyka existing on the same mad scientist solids page is something all Ontario wine pursuers should choose to follow. The pursuit is being played out in chardonnays and multifarious sparkling wines, in Blanc de Blancs, Brut Nature Zero Dosage and “Field Blend” Ancestral. For Ontario this means serious sparkling wine business.

Panko-Crusted Pork Rilette, poached plum & charred fennel salad, toasted hazelnuts, honey dressing, pickled mustard seeds – Executive Chef Steve Sperling, Tide and Vine Oyster House

“Lunch and Launch in Le Clos Jordanne Vineyard” moved us in many ways, first through distant Upper and immediate Lower Jordan Bench views, of Le Clos, Talon Ridge and Claystone Terrace. Tide and Vine Oyster House was responsible for feeding us to the breaking point, by oysters, yellow fin tuna tartar, cold smoked salmon, vichyssoise, pork rillete, surf & turf and olive oil cake. The chardonnay flowed, with Village and Grand Clos examples by hosts LCJ, but also international stars; Tasmania, Australia’s Dalrymple, Hemel-en-Aarde, South Africa’s Hamilton Russell and Russian River Valley, Sonoma County, California’s Gary Farrell. Here are my notes on those three wines.

Dalrymple Cave Block Chardonnay 2018, Tasmania, Australia ($70.95, Noble Estates)

A steely year with the vineyard’s hallmark acidity in a cracker Tazzy chardonnay with lip-smacking energy, intensity and drive. Soil, site and place in relentless pursuit of a focus at the head of body and game. Crunchy, crisp, indelibly fresh and piqued with the finest wisp of white peppery kicks. Nuts, complexity, bolts and length. All in. Drink 2021-2026.  Tasted July 2021

Hamilton Russel Vineyard Chardonnay 2018, Hemel-en-Aarde Valley, South Africa ($47.95, Noble Estates)

From the air-conditioned, cool breeze motivated vineyards (52 hectares) 100 miles from the ocean. Wet vintage, cool and long-hanging. Concentrated flavours in chardonnay that draws from all parcels which is more than just the Hamilton Russell way but in fact the only way. No fruit is wasted, all parts commit and contribute to the whole. A vintage like this is special, restrained, understated and one should not be misled by the shadowy depth and layering. Fruit is but a conduit for all else happening in this streamlined chardonnay. The alcohol and opulence are subtle, the pleasure calming, the capitulations promising. Methinks time will be long, slow and kind to HRV ’18. Drink 2021-2027.  Tasted July 2021

Garry Farrell Chardonnay Olivet Lane 2018, Russian River Valley, Sonoma County, California ($69.00, Noble Estates)

Pellegrini’s 1975 planted Olivet Lane Vineyard sits on 65 acres of sloping benchland in the Santa Rosa Plain, in between the warmer Westside Road region and the cooler Green Valley. If taking a step up from Gary Farrell’s estate label is even a possibility then yes Olivet Lane is just such an animal. Threefold (or ten times) more expressive, from jump started to flying ahead, in freshness, vitality and tightly wound intensity. Flesh and opulence submit to energy, motion and emotion. Captivated and caught up in a bold embrace. Forget bracing but surely feel the fineness and the purpose towards effecting satisfaction. Top, right, fine. Drink 2022-2027.  Tasted July 2021

Tres Cool Chardonnay

We’ve called on many estates over the last 10 years but truth is the visits were epic this time around, with thanks to the talent involved; Thomas Bachelder, Elsa MacDonald MW, Eugene Mlynczyk MW and the Arterra Wines Canada crew; Tide and Vine’s Mike Langley, Chef Steve Sperling and team; On Seven Estate Winery’s Vittorio de Stefano and Consulting Winemaker Peter Gamble; Stratus Vineyards Assistant Winemaker Dean Stoyka and Estate Director Suzanne Janke; Trius Winery and Restaurant’s Executive Chef Frank Dodd and team; Hidden Bench Estate Winery’s Winemaker Jay Johnston and Viticulturalist Joel Williams; Tawse Winery Winemakers Paul Pender and Jessica Otting; The Restaurant at Redstone Executive Chef Dave Sider and team; Thomas Bachelder and Mary Delaney. These are the 40 finished wines tasted over a near 30-hour period on July 24th and 25th, 2021.

Felseck Vertical

Hidden Bench Chardonnay Felseck Vineyard 2019, VQA Beamsville Bench ($42.20)

Tasted as part of an #14c21 seven year vertical Felseck Vineyard retrospective. No stirring, “I don’t like bâtonnage,” tells winemaker Jay Johnston, “unless I’m trying to get a wine to dry.” Never mind the lees aeration or the emulsification because texture in this ’19 is extraordinary to behold, gliding across the palate with Bench orchard fruit cleverness, penetrating perspicacity and juices running through unblemished flesh. Tighter and taut than ’18, while seemingly improbable but here yet unwound, far from the pinnacle at which point full expression will surely ache to be. The ’18 may be a beautiful thing but the ’19 is structured, manifold in destiny and ideal for those who know, or at least think they do. Drink 2023-2030.  Tasted July 2021

Hidden Bench Chardonnay Felseck Vineyard 2018, VQA Beamsville Bench

First a walk through the Felseck Vineyard and then a tasting with winemaker Jay Johnston and viticulturist Joel Williams as part of an #14c21 seven year vertical retrospective. Very warm season, much like 2016 though not quite as scorching and sun-filled. Would not call this stoic but would say that concentration, grace and all things stretched are in optimum balance this time around. Pretty quick turn around for Johnston to exact an ideal Felseck chardonnay just a year and a bit into his tenure at Hidden Bench. Just crunchy enough, more than ample and most importantly understated within the context of a great richness inherent in its varietal meets plantation DNA. There is no denying how enticing, invigorating and attractive this chardonnay is and will be to many who showed buyer’s foresight, but also those now lucky enough to come across its terroir-motivated beauty. Drink 2022-2028.  Tasted July 2021

Hidden Bench Chardonnay Felseck Vineyard 2017, VQA Beamsville Bench

Tasted as part of an #14c21 seven year vertical Felseck Vineyard retrospective. A vintage of survival, saved by a glorious September and into October. Looks like the richness made it with thanks to the fall weather and yet the elongation, length, elasticity and texture are all what matters to speak, walk, talk and tow the Felseck line. Solid, mid-weight, mid-acid and structure chardonnay that acts with perfectly middling emotion between the warm ’16 and ’18.  Last tasted July 2021

Felseck gifts what chardonnay needs with fruit equipped to start out subtle, gain traction and then commit to gliding into grace. That state of delicasse is now, with a natural orchard-stone-melon sweetness and an integration seamless, layered and eternal. Drinking this now makes great sense and the honey notes that may follow will only add to the mystique. The Ontario epitome of intelligent and refined chardonnay. Drink 2020-2025.  Tasted May 2020

Felseck Vineyard

Hidden Bench Chardonnay Felseck Vineyard 2016, VQA Beamsville Bench

Tasted as part of an #14c21 seven year vertical Felseck Vineyard retrospective. Smoking hot season, much like 2018. No other vintage will impress and woo a more general if elevated palate than this ’16 (save perhaps the high award winning ’18) because both concentration and grace reside in the arena of the beautiful, together, side by side. Not the tightest grain in the vertical retrospective Felseck ship. Can’t say this will live as long as the ’13 and ’14 but there is plenty of life in this gorgeous and not so alone 2016. Drink 2021-2026.  Tasted July 2021

Hidden Bench Chardonnay Felseck Vineyard 2015, VQA Beamsville Bench

Tasted as part of an #14c21 seven year vertical Felseck Vineyard retrospective. A short crop year, “we got slammed,” says winemaker Jay Johnstone, “but a wine of definite concentration.” Showing evolution and age in tones, developed richesse and caramelization well beyond both that of ’13 and ’14. No corn however, despite what the initial nose might have indicated. A faux creamed presentation that ended up more peach to apricot in drupe, not niblet. Nutty too, again idiosyncratic and a unique Felseck as such.  Last tasted July 2021

Sometimes I’m “walking down the street, minding my own business” when a taste of a chardonnay makes my eyes go wide. Like this lovely thing of really compelling and nuanced aromatics, diverting, bright and effusive. Intoxicating really, “must have been the sun beating down on me.” A soulful chardonnay, Darondo luscious, strutting at you, with golden fruit, layers of slaty under-vein, a bit of ancient bivalve fossil shell, piqued and long. Gets its texture from a pinpointed cru for sure and is very cool-climate Canadian, almost certainly Bench Niagara, more than likely in Beamsville. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted blind at NWAC18, June 2018

Hidden Bench Chardonnay Felseck Vineyard 2014, VQA Beamsville Bench

Tasted as part of an #14c21 seven year vertical Felseck Vineyard retrospective. A short crop year but a solid year. Now expressive with croccante and cracker sensibility. Aromatically touched by croissant to brioche biscuit richness, with still pulsing acids and mouthfeel second to none. This is a next era Hidden Bench Felseck and the launch point from off of the work put in through the previous five or six vintages. Tasted blind four years previous to now was a completely different experience. Drink 2021-2026.  Last tasted July 2021

Unction and creaminess, lost in a chardonnay dream because to nose it’s a sweet, floral, demure thing. Lees apparent so you can smell the work in progress and feel the texture. But it’s wound loosely tight with just enough give to make it so readily available. Beautiful little wine though I can’t help but imagine there’s more single-focus structure than a blind taste wants to give. Hope to come across this hard to get beauty again someday soon.  Tasted blind at NWAC17, June 2017

Hidden Bench Chardonnay Felseck Vineyard 2013, VQA Beamsville Bench

Tasted with incumbent winemaker Jay Johnston as part of an #14c21 seven year vertical Felseck Vineyard retrospective. The vintage may very well be considered much like 2021 is shaping up to be, wet and humid, culminating in a late season. A short crop year but surely one of the Bench’s best dating back to 2009. Persistently flinty and aromatic, holding the citrus and stone fruit line, still quite tight and yet to evolve with any considerable haste. Not one to think on as a specific Bourguignons terroir per se but definitely Hidden Bench, amphitheatric Beamsville of origin, expression and conclusion. Drink 2021-2025.  Tasted July 2021

Le Clos Jordanne Jordan Village Chardonnay 2019, VQA Niagara Peninsula ($24.95)

The first attempt and rather obvious pronouncement towards creating a Bourguignons Villages wine is this over-delivering for the price chardonnay from Thomas Bachelder and the re-invented spirit of Le Clos Jordanne. Jordan Village as in grapes gathered from the lower and upper Jordan benches. When warmed in the glass and were it drawn from a warmer vintage there might be even more fleshy opulence but with 2019 and this collection of LCJ single vineyards there is fresh magnification and edgy dance moves, shimmer and glitter, not to mention of glimmer of what this commercially viable brand will ultimately bring to the collective entity that is cool climate Ontario chardonnay. Drink 2021-2024.  Tasted July 2021

Le Clos Jordanne Le Grand Clos Chardonnay 2018, VQA Twenty Mile Bench ($44.95)

Le Grand Clos signals the return of the lower Jordan Bench and “I’m very happen it’s back in the (Escarpment) lexicon,” says winemaker Thomas Bachelder for a chardonnay of origins truly different than the upper benches in Beamsville, Vineland and Jordan. A svelte vintage, not lean by any stretch but surely tight and what some might say restrained. That may or may not include fine white caramel, liqueur glazed fennel and a mild sense of grilling. A chardonnay from vines in a season that needed not shut down to either hydric nor heat stress. Funny how both 2018 in Niagara and Hermanus produced similar results. The big “E,” fine-tuning, chiseled features and sneaky structure.  Last tasted July 2021

Thomas Bachelder’s second vintage since the reprise of Le Clos Jordanne’s chardonnay and pinot noir is perhaps the most nurtured (and nurturing) because he and team treated this varietal fruit through all the early stages; newborn, infant, toddler and child. The attention to detail, from choosing cooperage, forests, barrels and in elévage design is both mathematical and surgical. After 22 months the result is just so imperfectly perfect. Unequivocally noted as a high acid vintage and rather then fatten up this fruit the monk chose the direction of vintage seasoning and identity. Drills down into the Clos and where it fits within the Twenty Mile Bench. The exiguity and heretical transparency makes this a great ’18 Le Clos because ambiguity is the enemy of accountability and also progress. As a forward thinking chardonnay it represents itself, the maker and proffers a sense of place. Perfectly easy to drink right now and imperfectly set up for aging, but that’s just not the point. Drink 2020-2025.  Tasted November 2020

On Seven Estate Winery The Pursuit On Seven Chardonnay 2018, VQA Niagara-on-the-Lake ($45.00)

Seven acres, thus the name, in the hands of Vittorio de Stefano, “and a project paramount to wanting something sustainable that can compete at the international level and standard.” The vineyard is five acres and the property now 15.5. Planted half each to chardonnay and pinot noir, all organic. Bourgogne is the impetus, Niagara the goal. The genesis of planting decisions dates back to 2009, high vigour rootball SO4 rootstocks and clones finally acquired in 2014. Now at seven years of age the vines are ready to rock. A place of science, with oenological consultant/winemaker Peter Gamble at the fore and wines of minimalist approach starting out in reductive tendency, then finishing with longevity defining acidity. Richness and intensity meet at a general Côte d’Or vortex but in the end Niagara lake-proximate flesh and tension are the true meeting point. There is a distinct flintiness (and unlike other flinty chardonnays) but also a caramelization of high delectability and flavour. Vim and vigour, vivid and 20 per cent new oak over three years to gain such favour. Exotic too, with wood contributing to the extract, but surely essential trace elements; manganese, iron and calcium of causation allowing the minerals to make themselves heard. Intriguing wine if only at the beginning of a long story yet to be told. Only 82 cases made. The goal as the vines mature will be 800. Drink 2021-2024.  Tasted July 2021

On Seven Estate Winery The Pursuit On Seven Chardonnay 2017, VQA Niagara-on-the-Lake ($45.00)

Perhaps not the highest of knowable excellence yet clearly the most intriguing chardonnay that may never be emulated any time soon, certainly not out of 2019 or 2020. Singular stylistic wine, reductive and opulent, more Pouilly-Fuissé (with thanks to 2017) and a warmth that creates such a textural buzz. More fat in spite of that 8 g/L acidity, but such energy and considering the age at this point it almost seems the wine is going a bit backwards. That said the vanilla and caramel comes in wafts and waves, the flavours and textures in layers, long, lingering, forever. Only 108 cases made.  Last tasted July 2021

The newest Peter Gamble consulting joint is this from upstart The Pursuit of Seven. The chardonnay fruit is Niagara-on-the-Lake and the concentration suggest established vines (of at least 15 years-old it would seem) and no holds barred in terms of extraction and wood support. The density and fruit bang for buck are impressive and there is some volatility in distraction. Ambitious to be sure and the acumen employed true to form, not to mention distinctly clear. Drink 2020-2023.  Tasted March 2020

Vittorio de Stefano of @onsevenwinery with consulting oenologist Peter Gamble

On Seven Estate Winery The Devotion On Seven Chardonnay 2018, VQA Niagara-on-the-Lake ($65.00)

Imagine the minerals from these Niagara-on-the-Lake soils (manganese, iron and calcium) and the highest intensity fruit getting together in a tiny lot chardonnay case load. Then consider going against the grain with harder (elevated) turbidity in the ferments for more skin feel and purposed pulp for upfront loaded flavour intensity. That’s the direction and hyperbole of pursuit in The Devotion on Seven, an (only) 31 cases made chardonnay. Doubles (or perhaps triples) down on reduction, fulsome flesh and yet the warner vintage has as much to say as the inherent processes involved. Also a tannic chardonnay, in dramatic sensory extract as compared to the Pursuit on Seven ’18, though it can’t help but express more of everything as compared to the Pursuit of Seven. The acidity number of 8 g/L might seem extraordinary when considering the warmth and the ripeness of the vintage, however, and this matters most, ultimately it is the terroir that drives both the texture and the acidity of this special, barrel selection wine. Drink 2021-2025.  Tasted July 2021

Peller Estates Signature Series Chardonnay Sur Lie 2019, VQA Niagara-on-the-Lake

Yet another cracker 2019 chardonnay with the coolest of vintages meeting varietal bones and a karst of energy to drive the lees machine. Spent 10 months sur lie to be exact in a fully malolactic confirmed textural tang that benefits from a certain restraint only such a season can affirm. That being particularly cool and elongated for a chardonnay just crunchy enough to support the promise and extend enjoyment for a good, long and fruitful spree. Expect a future filled with a soft and creamy centre, eventuating in some creamed Niagara corn. Drink 2021-2024.  Tasted July 2021

Stratus Chardonnay ‘Unfiltered’ & Bottled With Lees 2019, VQA Niagara-on-the-Lake ($49.20)

“It’s not that we’re trying to change something every year,” explains assistant winemaker Dean Stoyka, which means that the R and D projects are in constant motion and take four to five years to come to fruition. The October 18-26 stretch is the latest harvest in quite some time (since 2009), fermented in various clay vessels and French oak, 76 per cent in neutral barrels and (24) in stainless steel. Great naturally developed acidity and just enough ripeness to gain favour with the fully-completely accessed, utilized and kept in the bottle lees. So lemon, so balanced and very fine. There is a combinative effect of mad scientist acumen for a wine that needs to be explained to a consumer mixed with absolute pleasure and amenability. One of the finest chardonnay peaks conquered nut just in Ontario but anywhere cool varietal mountains are meant to be climbed.  Last tasted July 2021

Tight one this 2019 chardonnay, seductively reductive and unwilling to relent this early in life. Knowable richness is optimized by being associated with green orchard fruit bite. Though so youthful and shrink wrapped at this time there are some ways to pair with potential and eek out enough charm. Boy do you feel the lees but the freshness really shines. Prosciutto comes to mind, as does mortadella, especially if it’s from Faenza. Drink 2022-2027.  Tasted October 2020

Stratus Chardonnay ‘Unfiltered’ & Bottled With Lees 2017, VQA Niagara-on-the-Lake

Warm and ripe vintage if only because of a gorgeous September into October, more lees than ever before, no new wood and an extended elévage nearing a year in length. Alcohol has risen, as has the pH though neither are what you might call vivid. The palate is actually tightly strung, the texture fulfilling and a cloudiness so perfect for what the winemaking team had long wanted to achieve. Hard not to see 2017 as the teaching wine where lees usage is concerned, the (after the fact) ah-hah moment whereby knowing what to do and how deep to go was learned by how 2017 turned out. In this case fulsome of stone fruit, opaque clarity, an oxymoronic ying-yang of positives in apposite attractions. A Monet vintage, modernized and so very J-L Groux. A Stratus, unlike any other. Drink 2021-2025.  Tasted July 2021

Stratus Chardonnay 2015, VQA Niagara-on-the-Lake

The 2014 vintage was essentially the first year when barrel lees would be left in the bottle and my how conservative this ’15 really was as compared to an evolution that culminates (currently) with the full on lees filed chardonnay vintage. Quite the opulent vintage mixed with aromatics still morphing, developing lees, brash and blushing by 40 per cent new oak, complimented by generous acidity. Showing with controlled drama and though the yields were low (only 88 tonnes) there is something quite special about this emotionally charged, vivid, scarce and remarkable chardonnay.  Last tasted July 2021

Stratus Chardonnay 2012, VQA Niagara-on-the-Lake

Tasting with assistant winemaker Dean Stoyka as part of a vertical exercise in “to lees or not to lees.” Neither hue nor aromatics suggest much evolution though the low-ish acidity and tropical fruit tell an emerging secondary story. Creamy and centred, gregarious of flavour, nothing left unsaid, hidden or kept hidden away. Up front and talking vintage warmth, opulence and ripeness. Was housed in only 18 per cent new wood. For a good time, drink up.  Last tasted July 2021

As per the house promulgation, in chardonnay, “still an assemblage process,” insists Groux, “no matter what we do.” Some grapes grown for Sparkling were added back in, for acidity, complexity and ultimately balance. That and though notably barrel burdened (a good, hard burden to bare) leading to a bargain, “the best I ever had.” Major key of whose who of Niagara fruit, power acoustic chords and 12-string harmonics. Drink 2015-2022.  Tasted June 2015

A change in direction is duly noted with J-L Groux’s 2012 chardonnay, from fruit picked six weeks earlier than in 2010. The program is scaled back and the wine is more “typical” of the region, in weight, in barrel effect and in alcohol. Still quite defined by natural yeasts that “sometimes go a bit wild, but I’m getting better at it,” concedes the clinician of vinous letters. Those feisty microbes are difficult to work with, like dealing with a wine that lacks natural clarity. “You have to shut down the bacteria, teach the yeast to stop stealing the lees. In 2013 I really got it.” The ’12’s altered course is welcome and encouraged and the world should wait with bated breath for what ’13 will bring. Here the complexity of aromatics is matched only by the intensity of tropical fruit. Has balance and a soft, round feel. Again, more texture and aromatics than natural acidity. Classic J-L style. “It’s not about trying to imitate anyone. It’s about making the most interesting and most complex chardonnay in Niagara.”  Tasted March 2014

Tawse Chardonnay Quarry Road 2018, VQA Vinemount Ridge ($35.95)

Definitely a warm vintage, picked on the early side, bite still clamped down, a bit of pesto and far from reductive as noted in Quarry Roads of the recent past (i.e 2011 and 2013). Pine nut pronunciation, no malic residual transformations (there will never me) and just bloody good freshness. Last tasted July 2021

No shocker that Quarry Road always finds a way to morph and change gears, meaning every so often, a year and up to two years later there will be some significant movement in this wine. Something about the Vinemount Ridge and how its players are in constant flux, adjusting sentiments and character to keep things curious, interesting and alive. Still the unencumbered and free-flowing expression it set out to be, free to be Quarry Road and as for me, I am always enamoured by how it marries personality with age. Natural (not unlike the Natural version of itself), enigmatic and very personal. Let it be. Drink 2021-2026.  Tasted May 2021

Tawse winemakers Paul Pender and Jessica Otting

Tawse Quarry Road Chardonnay 2011, VQA Vinemount Ridge

Fantastic ten years after flinty reduction from arguably the most cracking vintage of the previous decade. As it is said, “you’ve got to feed the beauty, it doth not come cheap.” And that is what Paul Pender went for in 2011. At 10 Quarry is light on its feet, fresh, spirited jumping rope and spinning in concentric chardonnay circles. It simply reeks of beautiful Vinemount Ridge stone.  Last tasted July 2021

The pinpoint accuracy and gemstone capture of the Quarry is exaggerated in ’11, amplified and fully plugged in. From my earlier, October 2013 note: “Carries that classic Paul Pender perfume; rocks and stones, flaxen, refulgent toast and the verdure Vinemount terroir. A free flying, linear, atmospheric smear of thermal fortitude and backbone. A polemic Bowie Chardonnay to make you believe “the strangest things, loving the alien.”  Tasted May 2014

Resides on the mineral, slate and lime side of the tracks. The calcareous quality imparted by its eponymous SV terroir makes it the antithesis of David. Creamy, 24-karat fruit.  Tasted March 2012 (barrel sample)

Thirty Bench Small Lot Chardonnay 2019, VQA Beamsville Bench ($34.95)

Prick, punch and torque from the conceptual vintage get-go, a classic 2019 in the making, if by so many yet to be understood standards. A chardonnay so cool it causes a brain freeze while simultaneously moving the soul. In fact put on some vinyl Gaye, get in on, or even disco foreshadowing Temptations, echoing the chardonnay law of the land. Don’t sleep on the high level fruit, not quite fleshy but surely potent and dynamic to match the season’s verve in acidity. Fine lees, better texture and all-around vitality so essential to chardonnay. Will improve with six more months in bottle. Drink 2022-2026.  Tasted July 2021

Trius Showcase Chardonnay Wild Ferment 2019, VQA Lincoln Lakeshore ($36.75)

A single-vineyard chardonnay once labelled Oliveira and then watching Tree Vineyard but no longer, though the source remains the same. Embraces a cool 2019 vintage played out through rewards in the guise of reduction, toast, flint and drive. In cool climate varietal terms this ’19 reminds of 2011 though to be clear and certain there is more focus where by the quantity and quality of ripenesses meet at the essential points of acidity and tannin. Here is a vintage to end a decade in the most poised and poignant way. Spot on, striking and graceful chardonnay. Drink 2021-2026.  Tasted July 2021

Remarkable finesse, flavours and design @triuswines and Restaurant by Chef Frank Dodd with @coolchardonnay accompaniments.

Beyond Chardonnay

Hidden Bench Blanc De Blanc Zero Dosage 2014, VQA Beamsville Bench ($48.00)

Second vintage from a tightly contested and smaller crop, initiated by then winemaker Marlize Beyers and subsequently disgorged by Jay Johnston, following five years on the lees. Moves from the practice of poetics to the anticipatory embracing of tomorrow’s science. Full disclosure this was tasted while walking the Hidden Bench chardonnay vineyards with a traditional method sparkling wine in hand first disgorged in the summer of 2019, when the yeasts were removed and the bottle was topped with the same wine. This tasting featured a January 2021 disgorgement and the term “Brut Nature Zero Dosage used when no sugar is added to the finished wine, which provides the most authentic expression of (the Hidden Bench) terroir.” Truth and synchronicity, grace, striking engagement, pure citrus and pleasure. Who could not anticipate and wait on subsequent vintages of this wine? The best is yet to come. Drink 2021-2027.  Tasted July 2021

Stratus Brut Nature Zero Dosage 2013, VQA Niagara-on-the-Lake ($100.00)

Comes across a bit cloudy, at least as compared to the B de B with thanks to the natural, lees left intact style. The citrus component is so pronounced, as is the taut, direct, lean and intense manifold destiny of what is truly a singular Sparkling wine. That being a living, breathing, inhaling and exhaling wine, slowly releasing proteins, acids and realizing its B de B Nature dream. Just amazing what lees can do for sparkling wine.  Last tasted July 2021

Released side by each with the Stratus Blanc de Blanc 2013 and while vintage and grape are the same, the similarities almost seemingly, ostensibly and allegedly end there. Yes in fact this 100 per cent chardonnay is a child of the most excellent varietal vintage and like the B de B spent six years on the lees. Comparisons cast aside it is the very fact that because much of the lees were transferred to bottle by a minimalist’s disgorging that this cloudy bubble with a Canadian artist’s series set of labels can’t help but elicit another memory. The Lilies of Monet and their clouds represent neither the horizon, nor the top or the bottom. Nor does a bottle of this Zéro Dosage Brut. The elements of water, air, sky and earth become intertwined in a composition without perspective, or so it goes in this hazy, opaque and dry as the desert sparkling wine. So many layers of lemon can be peeled, juiced and scraped away. If a Stratus wine could be a a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma then here it is. The texture here is palpable and the intrigue factor surely high, so it should be imagined that longevity will be this wine’s calling card. It’s more austere than the Blanc de Blanc but I think in fact it will. Drink 2022-2029.  Tasted November 2020

Stratus Blanc De Blancs 2013, VQA Niagara-on-the-Lake ($75.00)

One gram of dosage, disgorged in January 2020. Nearly six years on the lees based on the first R & D trials done in 2006 and 2007. High level autolytic entity, a toasted affair and an idea long time coming for the Stratus team. Fine tonic and bitters. With 15 minutes of air the blooming happens, floral, expressive and complex. This wine has really developed more layers, emotions and complexity.  Last tasted July 2021

The first (commercial) J-L Groux foray into traditional method Sparkling wine has been six plus years in the making, or in this case, senescence as the lees fly and his Blanc de Blanc has finally arrived. A notable moment in the Stratus continuum as they too now own a program of development, time, investment, research and acumen. The nose on this bubble tells a pensive story, or as fantasy goes like dipping your face into a tale-spun pensieve as it takes you back in time. In 2013 chardonnay excelled on the Niagara Peninsula and still today in 2020 we are drinking vintage examples persistent in their freshness and durability of construct. That this reeks of varietal lore is a hallmark moment, that and a conscientious adherence to reverence for solids and the focus on rotational detail. Speaks a Blanc de Blanc vernacular as a chardonnay should, with a bite out of a sharp fall apple, a pesto of verdant aromatics and a crunch of texture before drifting saline, briny and fine. Pretty good work J-L. Kudos for getting from there to here with intelligence and humility. Drink 2020-2026.  Tasted November 2020

Stratus Vineyards “Field Blend” Ancestral 2020, VQA Niagara-on-the-Lake ($35.00)

The inaugural Stratus commercially labelled release is what winemaker Dean Stoyka refers to as “in the mindset of monks.” A field blend of sémillon, chardonnay, riesling and viognier. Pressed all together, fermented dry and then re-fermented in the bottle with no sugar added. Dry enough, or so it seems, non-disgorged, under crown cap and so very fruity. Floral, allspice and spiciness overtop apricot, pear and black walnuts conceptually turning into Vin de Noix or Nocino. A natural testament to assemblage and a great use of varieties without a home. 100 cases produced. Drink 2021-2024.  Tasted July 2021

Tawse Spark Laundry Vineyard Blanc De Noirs 2013, VQA Lincoln Lakeshore

Actually quite shocked I’ve never tasted this wine before, a Spark about which winemaker Paul Pender exults by saying “2013 is my favourite vintage for all our sparklings.” Traditional method, pinot noir from Heather Laundry’s double L vineyard and a fizz that fits and sparks. Gingered and toasty, crunchy, wave cresting and fulsome by six years on the lees. The dosage was five to six g/L, in that Pender sweet spot all around, just right, so well and good. A little romanticism goes a long way where science is concerned, especially in this medium and in Spark Blanc De Noirs 2013 one is simply good for the other. Drink 2021-2025.  Tasted July 2021

Tawse David’s Block Estate Vineyard Spark 2014, VQA Twenty Mile Bench

Tasted side by side with the 2013 Blanc de Noirs, making for a striking if surprisingly antithetical contrasting contract with this Blanc de Blancs. Aged three years on the lees and finished with the same 5-6 g/L of dosage yet here so upfront, centred and personal. More immediate richness than what pinot seems to do from Laundry Vineyard and so even in sparkling it is David’s Block and chardonnay that gift quicker satisfaction. Likely vintage driven (again, even in sparkling), very pear and shortbread, a savoury dessert of a sparkling wine. Like olive oil cake, all about the simple pleasures. Drink 2021-2023.  Tasted July 2021

Trius Showcase Brut Nature NV Méthode Traditionelle, VQA Niagara Peninsula ($55.00)

The dry as the desert Brut nature initiates with a yeasty faradism of excitement from what strikes as a minimum four to five years spent sitting on those fascinating lees. While the wine does not exactly smoulder with a toasty salutation that is no matter because textural acidity and blooming aromatics also arrive to an applause of immediate gratification. There is an exceptional level of “croccante” satisfaction that parlays that “texture” into a lasting display of bits and bites. The make up is 50 per cent chardonnay and (45) pinot noir with (5) pinot meunier and 2014 being the primary vintage source, though there is some 2013 involved. Zero dosage, top tier, notch and drop. Drink 2021-2027.  Tasted July 2021

Tawse Rosé Limestone Vineyard 2020, VQA Twenty Mile Bench ($27.95)

Tawse began crafting Rosé from (Vinemount Ridge) Quarry Road Vineyard fruit in 2017 and now here they come with Twenty Mile Bench pinot noir. From Limestone Vineyard this represents a heads and tails Rosé, meaning 40 per cent is used for Spark traditional method bubbles and the bookends is destined for this salty, straight-shooting and crisp-freckled single-vineyard blush. Double-redheaded wow! Grape, place and style all on side for so many good reasons. 1000 bottles made. Drink 2021-2023.  Tasted July 2021

Tawse Pinot Gris Lawrie Vineyard 2019, VQA Niagara-on-the-Lake ($27.15)

Not to be confused with the Lowrey Vineyard on St. David’s Bench and a best varietal vintage for Paul Pender. Far from being a “Miller-Lite or Corona” pinot gris, instead creamy, fulsome, well-versed and elastic. The furthest away from metallic and/or turbid, low on phenols, no bitters, nor tonics neither.  Last tasted July 2021

Fresh and while this young is full of its original fruit, which is the biggest plus for pinot gris because dry varietal wines have a hard time after enough time has passed on by. Sulphur is not really an issue so this delivers the varietal and stylistic goods with fruit at the lead. Good acids, persistence and balance. Drink 2020-2022.  Tasted October 2020

Tawse Winery Carly’s Block Riesling 2015, VQA Twenty Mile Bench

A sleeper vintage, not necessarily exacting out of the blocks, not heavy cropped, middle of the road in so many respects. If I tasted this before memory fails to draw any retrospective conclusions) but Carly’s ’15 has already turned towards the petrol sun, “let the shadows fall behind you, don’t look back, just carry on.” This perhaps began more than a year or two ago and today acts Rihanna outspokenly so. Lime and almost cordial by now, warm and friendly as a riesling liqueur. Quite stable, animated, holding its patterning, likely to do so for an additional three or fours years. Drink before it returns home. Drink 2021-2024.  Tasted July 2021

Tawse Limestone Ridge Riesling 2012, VQA Twenty Mile Bench

Unlike the Carly’s ’15 (tasted at the same time) this Limestone ’12 has not moved forward with any vehement haste. The lack of advancing towards petrol is curious but the softening is surely comforting. Still resplendent with a particular 2012 meets Twenty Mile Bench acidity, now oscillating while integrating with waning fruit. Drinking beautifully.  Last tasted July 2021

From the newest estate vineyard, the single-vineyard Limestone Ridge exteriorizes its name in a rubric of pressed rock, struck flint and chalky density. Paul Pender has coaxed a multiplicity oft linear character, with major notes of lime zest and juice, persistent from start to finish. A mid-pause of oozing, residual sinensis is the determinant towards the wine’s matrix of longevity. A longer, leaner, meaner and mightier Riesling charged by a different sort of power. Kinetic, frenetic and electric.  Tasted twice, April and May 2014

Hidden Bench Rachis & Derma Aromatiq! Skin Fermented White 2020, VQA Niagara Peninsula ($35.00)

Whole cluster sauvignon blanc, viognier and riesling, layered atop one another, full on hilt in spice, a hit of gingerbread, light in talc and salve. Good-natured and textured when well chilled, oxidative for sure, drinkable, pleasurable, done in one puncheon. Simple really. Drink 2021-2023.  Tasted July 2021

Hidden Bench Rachis & Derma Chardonnay Skin Fermented White 2020, VQA Niagara Peninsula ($35.00)

Whole cluster chardonnay, more spirited than the Aromatiq!, crunchy even, definitely with more spice and plenty of bite. More tannin too, structurally sound to allow more secondary character and time spent developing cooler, more energetic waves of spirit. Wild ride yet just sound and subtle enough to attract the right kind of attention. Drink 2021-2024.  Tasted July 2021

Hidden Bench Gamay Unfiltered 2019, VQA Lincoln Lakeshore ($29.95)

The inaugural gamay release from Hidden Bench is eight years in the planning and making, from 2013 through planting in 2017 and with third leaf fruit for this game changing 2019. That is because the grape and the maker were made for each other so the question begs, what took so long to take the plunge? No matter because such an auspicious start can never come too late. A wine of native yeasts, a properly prolonged, 24-day maceration, an eighth of new wood and the Lincoln Lakeshore being the ideal appellation for what wants and surely needs. More than impressive for such young vine fruit, of a light smoulder lending an essence of jasmine and by argan to red, red fruit, tightly winding acids and such gamay crunch, the likes of which are attributed to expectation, hopes and dreams. When the vineyard grows up there will be further anticipations, exegeses further afield to include cru and reserve concepts. That is a countable fact based on current evidence and credible speculation.  Drink 2021-2023. Tasted April and July 2021

Hidden Bench Rachis & Derma Gamay 2019, VQA Niagara Peninsula

Naturally refined, welcoming, open-knit and my oh my, juicy as a basket of Niagara plums and peaches blended into rooibos kombucha. Rachis, “main axis or shaft, a stem of a plant, bearing flower stalks at short intervals.” Derma, or Dermis, “the inner layer of the two main layers of the skin.” In R & D the inner workings of gamay are accessed at the natural axis between light to fruity and joyful to dark, before sous serious and after vide structured. Middle ground, believable and exhibiting intrinsic purity. Drink 2021-2024.  Tasted July 2021

Tawse Pinot Noir Tintern Vineyard 2013, VQA Vinemount Ridge ($50.15)

This July 2021 tasting is my first for Pinot Noir Tintern 2013 in bottle but I did run through two different barrels with Paul Pender back in March of 2014. The vines were only three years old at the time, on a site (next door to John Howard) Pender likens to “reclaiming the swamps,” or “the Golan Heights project.” From the Vosges medium toast the wine was already showing colour, freshness and drive. From the Vosges, medium plus toast it was a bit reductive, with more tannin and more sappy wood. This look back reveals not a vintage of varietal exhilaration but a malic one with credit due the high levels of potassium in the soil. A cherry generosity a la Central Otago by way of the Vinemount Ridge. Almost a volcanic presence, but not and yes a pinot from young vines come about as a result of winemaking. Up front, in motion, drinking really well. Drink 2021-2023.  Tasted July 2021

Redstone Restaurant

Tawse Pinot Noir Cherry Avenue Vineyard 2017, VQA Twenty Mile Bench ($49.15)

Another high-toned pinot noir from an inverted vintage, in cherry spirit, a hit of fennel and enough lingering energy while there is a meld and morph towards darker black fruit. Broad shouldered, now tannic, settling in as a pretty big wine.  Last tasted July 2021

As for Cherry Avenue the twain is met, somewhere between Tintern and Quarry, in the middle of vintage and classic Tawse styling. Both firm and bright, the fruit a cherry but a darkening black one and then the grip of place though well within vintage reason. Less structured than Quarry but not as hematic and brooding as Tintern. Solid pinot noir. Drink 2021-2025.  Tasted June 2020

Tawse Cabernet Franc Growers Blend 2010, VQA Niagara Peninsula

How remarkably fresh, inviting, enticing and that is just the aromatic front. Effusive, the greater good of burgeoning, smelling like Bourgeuil in uncanny resemblance. Nothing leafy here, just the smell of youth, post-adolescence and from a notably warm vintage. A freshness that just may be a foreshadowing of what’s to come from 2021. Heat and water, humidity and rain, yet no vine stress nor disease pressure neither. A product of great agriculture and an example of 2010’s longevity. “On the riper side but not overly ripe,” tells Paul Pender with a pragmatically raised brow. Indeed. Drink 2021-2024.  Tasted July 2021

Tawse David’s Block Cabernet Franc 2013, VQA Niagara Peninsula

Whole-souled, benevolent and keyed up though that’s the vineyard, persistent and in perpetuity. Red to charcoal fruit, quite firm and tannic for the Tawse-varietal relationship and in that sense mostly related to vintage. Was not picked until November 15th and stayed in barrel for 18 months. Not showy really, not the ripest vintage after all but surely one to promote variegation, fruit/acid layers and particularities. Wait long enough (as in seven-plus years) and these things become complexities. Drink 2021-2023.  Tasted July 2021

Good to go!

godello

 

Twitter: @mgodello

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Quality virtual time spent tasting with Querciabella

A few years back I made my first visit to Querciabella, in September 2017, to be exact. Their position in Ruffoli east of the Greve hamlet and the eponymous river is one of the most distinct and perhaps least travelled of Greve’s frazioni. With stunning views towards the Val di Greve, the Colle di Panzano and the amphitheatre of Lamole, Ruffoli carries its very own perspective, one that is unlike any other perch where the Classico are made in Chianti. Several weeks ago I caught up with Querciabella’s n groot winemaker Manfred Ing for a virtual session, replete with a ten-deep taste through of his (and their) lekker wines.

Ruffoli, Greve in Chiani

Related – A river runs through Greve

The Ruffoli hill may not qualify for Chianti Classico’s newly minted UGA (Ùnita Geografiche Aggiuntive), but make no mistake. Ruffoli is the definition of a communal sub-zone in requiem of introspective investigation for its distinct soils, elevation, singularities and peculiarities. It is, as I have said before, “the Chianti Classico poster child for seeing the vineyards through the trees.” Along with Jurji Fiore’s Poggio Scalette and Il Tagliato by Marco e Elena Kupfer there forms a special bond for Ruffoli’s combination of elevation, thick forests and conglomerate soils that have been excavated from beneath those heavy woods. If Querciabella’s decisive resource and secret weapon are vineyard holdings in two other Classico communes, those being Radda and Gaiole, Ruffoli remains the epicentre and the wines can be imagined as residing at the rooftop and pinnacle of Chianti Classico.

Querciabella was founded in 1974 by Giuseppe (Pepito) Castiglioni. His son Sebastiano Cossia Castiglioni, investor and entrepreneur, converted the estate to organic viticulture in 1988, making Querciabella one of the first wineries in Italy to employ this practice. In 2000 Sebastiano introduced a 100 per cent plant‑based approach to biodynamics that forbids the use of animal products in both the vineyards and in the cellars. The Chianti Classico estate that means “beautiful oak” has always been one that lives for today while always imagining and thinking about tomorrow. The wines arguably act as the most Bourguignons of any in the territory whilst always and unequivocally speaking for the land that gives them life.

In April of this year I asked Ing to assess the damage caused by uncharacteristic mid-Spring frosts. His response: “Unfortunately the cold weather that swiped through Tuscany on the April 6th and 7th caused us some frost damage, having hit especially those vineyards which were ahead in their development. Our team lead by Dales is still assessing the damage and it’s early to say how the affected vineyards will recuperate. We will know better in the coming weeks as the vines develop. In Chianti Classico, where our vineyard holdings are spread in different locations and altitude, isolated pockets of lower lying vineyards were affected, especially those around and below our cellar in Ruffoli. At a first glance, it appears that the frost bite hit some of the early budding Chardonnay and the young Sangiovese vines that were first out the blocks. Most of the higher altitude vineyards buds haven’t fully burst yet, so we are fortunate and remain hopeful. In Maremma, temperatures dipped to record lows in some areas, especially in the early hours of April 8th. The Sangiovese vines had an early start this year so were particularly exposed. Vines are an extraordinary plants which are known for bouncing back. At this stage we can only wait and see. It’s already clear, though, that we are among many other producers concerned about losing some crop to frost damage.”

It remains to be seen how pandemic and travel will play out over these next several weeks but I have every intention of climbing the Ruffoli hill this coming September (or anytime such an endeavour is possible) to see Manfred and team for a walk in the vineyards and a sit-down to taste more from their most excellent portfolio; Vineyard Operations Manager & Master Beekeeper Catiuscia Minori, Agronomist Chiara Capecci, Agronomist & Technical Director Dales D’Alessandro, Direct Sales & Visits Coordinator Daniela Krystyna Cappuccio, Head of Marketing and Communications Emilia Marinig, Global Sales Director Giorgio Fragiacomo, Winemaker Guido De Santi, Winemaking Director Luca Currado, Agronomist & Operations Manager Marco Torriti, CEO & Domestic Sales Director Roberto Lasorte, Marketing Assistant Manager Valentina Bertoli and of course Owner and Honorary Chairman Sebastiano Cossia Castiglioni. In the meantime here are the 10 wines we tasted and discussed back on May 31, 2021.

Felt quite real to be talking Ruffoli, Greve, Maremma, Gaiole and Radda with Tuscany’s groot South African winemaker @bottleofgrapes ~ A virtual session with @querciabella maintains the ties that bind with @chianticlassico

Querciabella Mongrana 2019, Marermma Toscana DOC (13653, $23.95)

From 31 hectares south of Grosseto, divided into two re-planted parcels purchased in 1998-1999 near to Alberese, a village and frazione of the commune. Wines are crushed and fermented in Maremma and then transferred to Greve just before or just after malo takes place. The style comes from cement and stainless steel, of fruit purity kept intact and a coastal influence developing some muscle. Picked ahead of Chianti Classico with harvest always beginning two to two and a half weeks ahead of Greve. So much Tuscan coastal bushy and dusty herbology, of fennel and rosemary primarily. Managed by Agronomist & Operations Manager Marco Torriti and team who are responsible for this 50-25-25, sangiovese led blend with cabernet sauvignon and merlot. Drink this by the glass everywhere you go, matching the pasta shape on the bottle, if you are so inclined, wherever possible. Mongrana goes as does L, Maquis shrubland ingrained into an easy drinking, fun, juicy and exuberant blend. Will never mess with any course, nor wine that comes before or after. Has been labelled DOC Maremma since 2017. Drink 2021-2024.  Tasted May 2021

Querciabella Chianti Classico DOCG 2018 (728816, $45.95)

Remains 100 per cent sangiovese, as it has been since 2012, as a three-commune collection; Ruffoli in Greve (40 per cent), on the Volpaia side and across the valley to Radda (20) and San Polo in Rosso from Gaiole (20), across the ravine from Ama. The totality of the Gaiole fruit is raised on Alberese, the Radda in schisty Galestro and Ruffoli, well Ruffoli is really about elevation. A no extremities vintage following a very cold winter and no climate spikes save for the early August heat. The Querciabella richness is foiled but also optimized by a three-part mineral harmony that does not so much cut but adds three district notes to the wine. The epiphany may or not begin with this 2018 but the textural perception has undergone a transformational alteration, now in defence against the drying effect of sangiovese’s tannin. The winemaking team has moved forward from the experimental stage into a full-on working contract with Piedmontese cappello sommerso, keeping the cap submerged for extended periods (up to 45 days). The high elevation fruit is particularly promising, forging true connectivity with the process. You get it completely, intuit the polish and this Annata just melts straight into inherit structure, again with thanks for a portion that has settled early. The wheel is constantly turning for Querciabella’s wines. Stupendo. Drink 2022-2032.  Tasted May 2021

Querciabella Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2017 ($79.95)

Riserva, like most Riservas in Chianti Classico is usually more serious, often blended with cabernet sauvignon and/or merlot, subjected to more wood. Since 2011 Querciabella’s has been 100 per cent sangiovese but still a three commune (Greve, Radda and Gaiole) cuvée, a vibrant varietal wine, lush as it needs to be and what stands apart is its simple purity. The picking decisions are made throughout the season, not just at harvest and certain blocks are given the attention of dramatic foreshadowing. Riserva by Querciabella is a wine of evolution, including monthly tastings along the way (with 20 per cent new wood involved). Riserva is a factor of a trajectory, of sangiovese that is always rising, gaining character, fortitude and fruit in vessel that winemaker Manfred Ing knows in his heart is meant for Riserva. The tannins tell the story, croccante is how he describes or the flavour and texture he looks for, in my mind like crunchy and caramelized almonds and dried wild strawberries of a concentrated yet developing sweetness. A wine to age, surely, though not quite like ’16, but do sleep on this because the efficacy, youthful binding and wound intensity show the promise of great ability. Drink 2023-2030.  Tasted May 2021

Querciabella Turpino 2017, IGT Toscana ($59.95)

First commercial vintage was 2010 when at the time it was 50-50 Maremma and Greve. Since 2015 it identifies as 100 per cent Tuscan coast with more barrel exercise and power than Mongrana, now a cuvée of approximately 12,000 bottles. “Turpino,” as in a character from Sebastiano Cossia Castiglioni’s favourite poem, like his son Orlando (and also for the names Mongrana and Palafreno). Frost was a major problem in 2017, followed by heat, no rain and vines that just went crazy. Small pickings were done in the first week of September and then the rain came. The vines dropped in alcohol potential by a degree but the vines were tired and so the fruit could not hang in there like it could (better so) in Ruffoli. A blend of 40 per cent each cabernet franc and syrah with (20) merlot. Spiciness but not in a traditionally Tuscan syrah (Cortona) way and so the franc is to thank for the pique, sharpness and pointed directive of this ripe wine agitative of pricks and sway. In the end this is truly Tuscan coast, carrying the dried and bushy herbs but with an extended olive branch, muscular arm and structured savour. Only 10,000 bottles were made of this succulent, strange bedfellows (for Tuscany) red wine. House wine, Querciabella style. Drink 2023-2028.  Tasted May 2021

Querciabella Camartina 2016, IGT Toscana

The first vintage for Camartina was 1981, originally mostly sangiovese, then in and around 2001-2003 turning towards becoming mostly cabernet sauvignon. Now at 70 per cent with (30) sangiovese since that 2003. With the most spectacular vintage in pocket the possibility and even more so the probability from 2016 is endless. A Vino da Tavola concept that has evolved to make for the most mature, wise and complex IGT from Ruffoli hillsides, but this vintage shows a special energy, liveliness and vim from acidity that gives the wine, regardless of grape varieties, so much youth and life. Another one of nature’s and Greve’s mysterious constants. So Querciabella, of pinpointed DNA. vibrancy and length. Drink 2023-2033.  Tasted May 2021

Querciabella Palafreno 2016, IGT Toscana ($214.95)

Since 2004 has always been 100 per cent merlot, before that being a 50-50 sangiovese and merlot joint. Has to be an ideal vintage for Sebastiano and Manfred to bottle this idealistic wine because it has to, must smell like Tuscany and Ruffoli. Places home to poetic settings which suggest inner meaning and invisible connections. With that essence of 2016, of high priority acidity, sapidity and vibrancy in mind, this drinks so well and truth is shows how merlot has been domesticated upon the Ruffoli hill. The vines average 20 years of age, with some vines nearly at 30, planted in 1995 and/or 1996. Sweet, verdant and grippy tannins with a little bit of grit are surely involved. This will show off some swarthy secondary character and essenza di tartufo in 10 years time. Only 3,000 bottles are made. Drink 2021-2031.  Tasted May 2021

Querciabella Chianti Classico DOCG 1998 (728816, Price at release: $31.95)

Twenty plus years later and not by any means over the hill. Drinking with captured and preserved youth from a vintage that was passed over for being one to not give any sort of great attention or consideration. Fermented in 225L (some new wood) barrels, some big tanks, picked later than most Chianti Classico of the time and would not have been pure sangiovese. You can feel the botrytis induced blood orange and saffron from a vintage with pioggia, pioggio, pioggia, a.k.a. so much rain. Also liquorice, bokser pod and a smell of wet tar. Really textural Classico, holding firm and strong, with a few years of interest and more complexity developing potential left to seek out. Charm begets pleasure which leads to unadulterated enjoyment. Drink 2021-2024.  Tasted May 2021

Querciabella Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 1999

The 1999 was the last (original) Riserva produced until it was again resurrected in 2011 and what’s so cool about this vintage is how it was held to some early esteem, though paling in comparison to that “vintage of the century” that was 1997. Underestimated over the last 20 years, drinking so beautifully now, with frutta di bosca, tertiary tartufo and fungi. Just doesn’t strike as a fully mature adult reminiscing about the way things used to be but more like a wine with an outlook for more promise, good times and adventures still ahead. If you are still holding onto ‘99s from this part of Toscana you will be very pleased. Drink 2021-2026.  Tasted May 2021

Querciabella Batàr 2018, Toscana IGT ($149.95)

A joint between pinot blanc and chardonnay, whole bunch pressed, with furthered finer attention to detail, picked early in the morning and a decreased amount of new oak over the last 10 years. Now at about 20 per cent and less bâtonnage as well, keeping the strings tight and the backbone straight in the wine. “We don’t need to worry about getting richness in our wines,” tells Manfred Ing, and yes, the creaminess is automatic. There’s more bite to Batàr now, along with focus and precision, with an intention to allow for five (minimum) years ahead for energy to develop, flesh to increase and textural richness to become something naturally orchestrated over time. Batàr is a wine that defies flamboyance, deflates extroversion and muffles the most exultant cry. It knows what it is and what’s up. Terrific vintage for this singular, dual-focused and one goal achieved Querciabella bianco. Drink 2024-2029.  Tasted May 2021

Querciabella Batàr 2017, Toscana IGT ($149.95)

The effect of 2017 on white grapes meant a 40 per cent reduction in quantity and chardonnay surely suffered. Certainly true at 350m (south-facing) but also at 600m (on sandstone soils) where it thrives. The pinot bianco faces north so it did well in the season. The flinty reduction comes from the high elevation vineyard and you really notice it more in 2017, but also a fruit sweetness, like biting into a perfectly ripe apple, and also a peach. You still need to exercise patience with this wine because what it really shows you is how this particular cuvée will morph, oscillate and change, for sure and at least in its first five years. Definitely buttery, rich and creamy but let’s not sit on those laurels for too long because herbs, sapidity and a new kind of vim and vigour are just around the corner. A concentrated effort and one with many tricks up its Ruffoli sleeve. Drink 2022-2027.  Tasted May 2021

Good to go!

godello

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Collio sauvignon’s varietal independence 

Sentiero delle Vigne Alte, Cormòns

  1. An immersive week spent in the small Friuli-Venezia-Giulia outpost of Collio will change you, that much is true. With bags packed exactly two years ago this coming May two-four weekend, the projected alba of Venezia’s Marco Polo (VCE) by way of Copenhagen (and one of the finest six AM coffees in any airport anywhere) lay near the final destination. A transfer to Gradisca d’Isonzo where Hotel Franz as consummate host is played in culmination of the outward bound leg, there to settle in for a week of northeast Italian white wine heaven. My report upon return to an unconcerned June in Ontario paid verbal and pictorial visit to Enjoy Collio Experience 2019 under the title Varietal artistry of Collio Bianco DOC. The primary takeaway concerned “wines of performance without obstacles, fluid achievements free of interruption, representing the vital energy and élan of their territory. Unbeknownst to many they are filled with an unfamiliar blissfulness, for how all will be realized.” Fast forward two years and the time has now come to remember DOC Collio Sauvignon. 

I’m in a Rialto state of mind

Sauvignon, varietal wines of a unique and possessive Collio take, assimilation and capture of the world’s eighth most planted grape. In the white wine realm sauvignon blanc is the third most cultivated, trailing only the great and omnipresent ubiquity of chardonnay and La Mancha Brandy supplier airén. In New Zealand the grape uses up in and around 60 per cent vineyard space and worldwide occupies more than 120,000 hectares (300,000 acres). In Collio the blanc is omitted and the commitment to brevity allows for their prized and undemocratic sauvignon to co-exist in a über particular vacuum occupied by friulano, malvasia and ribolla gialla. These Gorizia Hills so proximate to Slovenia and the Adriatic coast make for whites of the highly aromatic ilk, “unique to a shared concentration of mito and geography. They stand alone in European character from out of soils variegated by sand, clay and rock.” These thoughts and claims do justice to sauvignon with both equal and in relation to the aforementioned coveted grapes, opposing justice.

Considerations about tasting sauvignon are tempered because one is always tempted to make comparisons. We probably have our own models and it is natural to pigeonhole them so in terms of Collio we need to create a new one, of a new benchmark and one for our own memories. “The biggest variable is site,” told Richard Baudains of the Wine Scholar Guild, a consideration in astute support of his earlier prelude for Collio Bianco when he said “go inside the area and the tradition and don’t worry so much about the grapes.” Somewhere in the mechanism of Collio sauvignon there is a device that simulates the gestalt of a storm. A switch, however personal, that reacts to and perhaps assimilates after tasting to find oneself stunned, as if spun in that vacuum that forms in the immediate wake of an historic turn. Or in this case, a varietal one.

Spessa Castle, Capriva del Friuli

Enjoy Collio Experience concerns the development of Collio through different experiences; unique, particular and special, which can be done in the territory, in the vineyard, in the cellars and with the producers. Each producer can express themselves by proposing experiences conceived and created for opinion makers (trade journalists, sommeliers, operators, buyers) presenting the uniqueness of their (history, winemaking model, etc.), cellars and of the whole territory. The development of the territory is shared through the Enjoy Collio program, enriched with initiatives and events, some in partnership with local associations and organizations. Tasting experiences happen at Livon, Pascolo, Ronco Blanchis, Caronesca & Zorutti, Gradis’Ciutta and Marco Felluga Russiz Superiore.

Related – Vertical tasting of Pinot Bianco at Marco Felluga Russiz Superiore

Gardens of the Spessa Castle, Capriva del Friuli

A Picnic Collio Experience at Rocca di Monte Quarin in Cormòns in the beauty of the sunset is not to be missed. Enveloped by the atmosphere of the sun that goes down over the hills, tasting the local wines and the traditional products in a unique setting. With the musical touch of Circolo Controtempo and in collaboration with the Municipality of Cormons. Dinner at at Baronesse Tacco, San Floriano del Collio in one of the most exclusive locations of the Collio, the wines of the producers and a menu created for the occasion by Michelin-starred chef Daniele Repetti in an informal, fresh and fun setting. Music by DJ Caplan’s. Then there is dinner with chef Antonia Klugmann at Spessa Castle, Capriva del Friuli. There are places that alone express the deep historical and human value of a territory. The Spessa Castle is one of those places and Collio is that territory. Chef Klugmann’s plates allow those present to play with the different flavours and nuances of the specialities and wines. It’s much more than a dinner.

Chef Antonia Klugmann at Spessa Castle, Capriva del Friuli

A walk through Sentiero delle Vigne Alte, Cormòns, to discover the territory, enjoying the value of a leisurely stroll. In the most suggestive view points of the route, the stories of Matteo Bellotto offer an authentic interpretation of the history, the nature of the Collio and its wines.

Chef Daniele Repetti’s Ravioli di Montasio, brodo d’Asparagi e perle d’ortraggi

One of the most beautiful and suggestive walks that overlook the Gulf of Trieste is surely one not to be missed, above the sea, connecting Sistiana to Duino. The path is named after the poet R.M. Rilke, a guest at the Castle of Duino at the beginning of the last century, as Dante had done before him, composed his famous “Duino Elegies” here. At the end of the walk you will reach the immediate vicinity of the Castle of Duino, a historic residence of the princes of Torre and Tasso.

Café in Piazza Unità, Triete

Coffee in Piazza Unità d’Italia, the living room of Trieste, largest square open to the sea in Europe. Here the whole city life pulsates, enclosed in a square with the most important buildings and those which made the city great: the liberty style of the Government building, the Assicurazioni Generali and Lloyd Triestino pillars of the Emporio and, built last, the Town Hall building.

In May 2019 these 33 examples of Sauvignon Collio DOC were poured with nine neighbourhoods at their collective source; Brazzano Di Cormòns, Capriva Del Friuli, Cormòns, Dolegna Del Collio, Farra d’Isonzo, Gorizia, Mossa, Oslavia and San Floriano del Collio. You see, site does matter and these notes may just reveal what each might offer, stimulate and add to to the sauvignon story.

Ascevi Luwa Sauvignon Ronco Dei Sassi 2017, San Floriano Del Collio, Collio DOC

Another great and thriving sauvignon, this here from San Floriano del Collio, spirited and alive though also rich and fleshy. Lots of citrus with peach and white flower blossom. Good acidity and sapidity. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted May 2019

Blazic Sauvignon 2018, Cormòns, Collio DOC

Green and reductive together, like green coffee and whole lot of green pepper. Drink 2019.  Tasted May 2019

Bolzicco Sauvignon 2017, Cormòns, Collio DOC

The first example to gift some capsicum, this from Cormòns is an aromatic stunner, with fruit, vegetal and salumi skin notes. It’s quite grassy, verdant and spiced though truth be told it’s also lean and direct. Taut and terse style with personality and intensity. Improves and fleshes a bit so due credit is given. Drink 2019-2021.  Tasted May 2019

Caccese Sauvignon 2017, Cormòns, Collio DOC

Simple, unassuming and quiet aromatics. Equally simple, fruity and low toned notes to taste. Flat without fat and kind of monotone to baritone mild ambience. A touch of wood influence makes for some creamy substance. Drink 2019.  Tasted May 2019

Ca’Ronesca Sauvignon 2017, Dolegna Del Collio, Collio DOC

Simultaneously herbal and salty from the northwest of Collio, with more lime than many and than the melon notes so prevalent from Dolegno. This has gelid texture and length to support that cooling feeling. A very composed white wine with no sharp edges, capsicum bites or peppery jolts. Very smooth. Drink 2019-2020.  Tasted May 2019

Casa Delle Rose Sauvignon 2017, Dolegna Del Collio, Collio DOC

Quieter nose, still cool, smooth and refreshing. Herbal and tart, tangy, sapid and long. A clear, honest, clean and composed sauvignon. Simple and notable for this. Drink 2019-2020.  Tasted May 2019

Castello Di Spessa Sauvignon Segrè 2018, Capriva Del Friuli, Collio DOC

From a warmer site facing the sea, this example is herbal, humid and yet quite clean. Quite a lot of energy and spirit to taste with lemon/lime flavours and plenty of persistence. Both lean and crunchy at the same time. Finishes with a sense of orange juice and lingers quite long. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted May 2019

Colmello Di Grotta Sauvignon 2017, Farra d’Isonzo, Collio DOC

More herbology here to be sure, sweet pesto, no nuts, bolts or mineral screws. Rich and fat to taste with a minor note of sapidity beneath acidity. Accomplished and straightforward. Not the one to age though who knows. I and we have all been wrong before. Drink 2019-2021.  Tasted May 2019

Baronesse Tacco, San Floriano del Collio

Colle Duga Sauvignon 2018, Cormòns, Collio DOC

The commune of Cormòns is larger and broader so there’s a more wide-ranging, unilateral softness to this varietal wine, with a touch of faux-sugary, almost exotic aromatics. Acidity is less than true and the sugary sensations repeat. Less cane s and more whiteness sprinkled and melting over humid orchard fruit, if you were to taste such a thing. Lacking sauvignon character here. Drink 2019.  Tasted May 2019

Drius Mauro Sauvignon Cormòns 2017, Collio DOC

Back to complexity with this wide ranging aromatic layering from Cormòns. All is present on the nose; herbs, melon, pear, savour and the first true hints of gariga/brushy hillside plants. Continues with true richness and texture on the palate, high level sapidity and a Sancerre-ness that while comparisons are fruitless, it does give some quality context. Lemon verbena and lime with spirit go long and true. Lovely wine. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted May 2019

Ferruccio Sgubin Sauvignon 2018, Dolegna Del Collio, Collio DOC

Rich and prominent proboscis, sapid and layered, multi-faceted and soliciting curiosity all the way through to temptation. Continues into the palate through an absorption of trace minerals, elements and intentions. You are led to believe that this site is different and special, then ultimately farmed and sauvignon made by an intuitive pair of Collio hands. True focus and precision here with the possibilities thought about in terms of aging. Drink 2019-2023.  Tasted May 2019

Fiegl Sauvignon 2018, Oslavia, Collio DOC

Another great and thriving sauvignon, this here from Oslavia, spirited and alive. Lots going on with the aromatic profile and there is simply no let down on the palate. A vineyard effected by La Bora, the wind that can blow down the traffic lights. A ventilated place with lean, stony soils to make for a very particularly varietal wine. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted May 2019

Gradis’ciutta Sauvignon 2017, San Floriano Del Collio, Capriva Del Friuli, Dolegna Del Collio, Collio DOC

Quite pulsing and fresh here for 2017 with what seems like some residual CO2, like older school Vinho Verde in a way. It’s herbal and lemony and commercial. Not so hard to understand. Drink 2019-2020.  Tasted May 2019

Humar Sauvignon 2018, San Floriano Del Collio, Collio DOC

The most pungent one yet, with capsicum, tobacco and hemp all over the nose. Vivid as it gets for sauvignon from Collio. Only this one makes one think of San Antonio in Chile. From mid-slope and younger vines. Fresh and rich as it gets. Drink 2019-2021.  Tasted May 2019

Komjanc Alessio Sauvignon 2017, San Floriano Del Collio, Collio DOC

As per the excitement of aromatics from San Floriano del Collio this too jumps from the glass though easier to assimilate and comprehend because the capsicum is set to a much lower threshold. Impressive extract and grape spirit to taste and feel the flits and spurts about the mouth. This is fun, moving and balanced sauvignon with purity and purposed intensity. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted May 2019

Kurtin Sauvignon 2017, Cormòns, Collio DOC

Simple, salty, linear, fine undefined citrus sauvignon, thirst quenching and long. Not much herbal savour or rich melon meets vegetal flavours but it will work well on a hot day. Drink 2019-2020.  Tasted May 2019

La Ginestra Sauvignon 2017, Mossa, Collio DOC

Faux sugary nose in serious richness from this warm vintage Mossa sauvignon blanc. Some verdant notes but also a bit of chèvre and guava. Curious wine here though also a bit reserved spirit wise. Quite spirited palate, however, citrus and linearity. Tart, tang and direct. Drink 2019-2021.  Tasted May 2019

La Ponca Sauvignon 2017, Dolegna Del Collio, Collio DOC

Really herbal, especially for Dolegno so it would seem the site delivers less sapidity and more pesto. In some ways this is the one that does have a reference point, like Touraine, especially. Simple and effective sauvignon. Drink 2019.  Tasted May 2019

La Rajade Sauvignon 2017, Dolegna Del Collio, Collio DOC

Deeper still, more extraction and what seems like maceration, even a bit of skin time. There’s a vegetal/fruit/salumi skin earthiness to the aromatics, even a touch of allium and potpourri. Quite the complex entry which solicits both curiosity and trepidation. The palate fulfills some expectations, notably the preserved lemon idea but not so much in terms of crunchy saltiness developed by sapidity. This is really close to being top notch. Drink 2019-2021.  Tasted May 2019

Livon Sauvignon 2018, Dolegna Del Collio, Collio DOC

Cooler, savoury and salty sauvignon from the northwest corner of the territory. Lime sorbet and dissolving citrus tablet. High acidity and while simple, strikes as could only be an example of Collio. Lean and linear. There’s really no other reference point. That’s that about that. Drink 2019-2020.  Tasted May 2019

Marco Felluga Sauvignon Villa Russiz 2017, Capriva Del Friuli, Collio DOC

The warmth is felt again from a place where ripening comes easier and so that generosity of fruit and spirit comes with a quick burst to nose. Faux sugary and rich that keeps coming in waves on the palate. Fruit sweet and nearly like as from a tin so ultimately singular in dimension. That said it’s quite ripe with apricot, namely, of note. Drink 2019-2020.  Tasted May 2019

Marco Felluga Russiz Superiore Riserva Sauvignon Blanc Capriva Del Friuli 2013, Collio DOC

Increased interest now with more mineral-salty-metallic pushes on the nose mixed with citrus spirit and a fineness not often noted. Taut and rich at the same time, their is focus, presence and length here, admirable and nearly exciting. Delicious sauvignon that should age quite well. Proves that it’s a wine that comes out in time. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted May 2019

Marco Scolaris Sauvignon 2018, Collio DOC

Herbal and verdant sauvignon without a doubt, very reminiscent of Touraine and filled with lime. There’s a bit of an earthy, nearly microbial note that distracts, followed by dissolving citrus and salts. Very salty wine. Négociant wine, not from a single estate. Quality wine while not site specific. Drink 2019-2021.  Tasted May 2019

Muzic Sauvignon Collio DOC Valeris San Floriano Del Collio 2018, Collio DOC

Perhaps the most curious aromatics thus far, here from San Floriano del Collio and a smell that’s so much more floral than the previous 20+ examples. Rich to the point of luxurious as well, with more substance and flesh than most. Sweetness of fruit, spice and accumulation. This should find its way to age for a half decade or more. From really old vineyards (perhaps up to 80 years) and at the highest of elevations. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted May 2019

Pascolo Sauvignon 2018, Dolegna Del Collio, Collio DOC

Same northwest location and similar saline locution though up another notch in texture and stage presence. Greener in a fresh verdant way, very fresh in Spring, morning dew and a bit of gelée. Melon flavour and quick to the juicy point. Drink 2019-2020.  Tasted May 2019

Pascolo Sauvignon 2017, Dolegna Del Collio, Collio DOC

Really herbal again, pesto with a nuttiness included so truly pesto in style. Fine salinity, acidity and sapidity with green apple, lime and melon notes. Quite amenable though would have been better six months ago, meaning fresher, but it is still drinking quite well. Just a touch of residual sugar is felt on the finish. Drink 2019-2020.  Tasted May 2019

Primosic Sauvignon Gmajne 2017, Oslavia, Collio DOC

Oslavia in the northeastern corner of Collio is a ventilated place of wind and so there is a particular freshness in this sauvignon blanc. The energy and drive here is quite impressive, with a ripe fleshy exterior pushed forward by sapidity and salinity. Lots of pulse and layering here. Drink 2019-2023.  Tasted May 2019

Ronco Blanchis Sauvignon 2016, Mossa, Collio DOC

From the bottom of the Collio amphitheatre in Mossa where the woods are prevalent around the vineyards. There may be a touch of botrytis here, then again there may be not. Sweet basil, herbal pesto and sweet cheese notes. Lovely citrus, melon and yellow fruit flavours but also like salt sprinkled over green mango. Drink 2019-2021.  Tasted May 2019

Schiopetto Sauvignon 2017, Capriva Del Friuli, Collio DOC

Quite gregarious is this sauvignon, from warmth and a marine proximate site. Salty and tart, tangy and sea crunchy. Lingers long and is another example of the big fleshy wines of the place. Benchmark really. Drink 2019-2021.  Tasted May 2019

Tenuta Borgo Conventi Sauvignon 2018, Mossa And Gorizia, Collio DOC

Mossa and Gorizia sites combine for a layered sauvignon effect and in this case it’s quite the citrus tablet dissolution. Feels lean as a result, as if the layers don’t quite mesh and the lack of substance is noted. That said it’s tart and fresh so perfectly serviceable. Drink 2019-2020.  Tasted May 2019

Tenuta Villanova Sauvignon 2015, Farra d’Isonzo, Collio DOC

Age apparent with immediate oxidation and bruised apple fruit straight off the top. Not much better on the palate though there still is some good acidity. If it were five years older it may have more interest and appeal. No real lingering varietal interest per se. Drink 2019.  Tasted May 2019

Venica Sauvignon Ronco Delle Mele 2018, Dolegna Del Collio, Collio DOC

Cuts the twain with one part northwest locale savour meeting sapidity and then fleshy, melon meets avocado verdancy. Much more palate presence in terms of vivid vivacity and acidity. Best of two worlds coming together for a gathered and layered effect. Best length of the three thus far. Drink 2019-2021.  Tasted May 2019

Zorzon Sauvignon 2018, Brazzano Di Cormòns, Collio DOC

From a specific corner of the larger commune Cormòns, there’s a lemon verbena meets lime zest nose and also the smell of tonic. Tones are low but surely interesting and the sauvignon makes the journey up and down the sides of your mouth for full effect. A bit tangy and faux sugary so perhaps just a note of botrytis though all in all it’s quite amenable stuff. Drink 2019-2020.  Tasted May 2019

Good to go,

Godello

Sentiero delle Vigne Alte, Cormòns

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

WineAlign

There must be 50 ways to remember Amarone

Memories of Verona

Buona Pasqua to everyone in the Veneto, Verona and as the title of this article indicates, a very Happy Easter to our friends and producers in Valpolicella. My last visit to the area was in October 2018 for a sidestep away from a Lake Garda focused journey west of the Adige River. Two years earlier I spent a September 2016 week in Verona and the Valpolicella Valleys. After that trip I published all my notes on the DOCs; Valpolicella (inclusive of Classico and Superiore) and Valpolicella Ripasso. The fact of the matter is on that week-long tasting through corvina, corvinone, rondinella, molinara, croetine and oseleta I also sipped, swirled and assessed a number of Amarone della Valpolicella DOCG and Recioto della Valpolicella DOCG. In between those two Veronese excursions there was a July 2017 Collisioni experience in Piemonte and during that festival a Progetto Vino Masterclass showed and poured the wines of eight Famiglie dell’Amarone producers. It just seems every trip to northern Italy must include Amarone.

Related – Valpolicella, Ripasso Valpolicella

Villa Moron, Negrar

Those collective tasting notes never made it to print, that is until now. Following those 2016, 2017 and 2018 voyages to northern Italian regions I published a host of articles and many notes, but as with every immensely immersive media trip there is always unfinished business. Each and every travel return to Canada requires the day to day of real world work detail; tasting through VINTAGES releases, consignment, private order and potential to market wines, followed by editing and publishing those reviews; restaurant buying and staff education too; most gratifying is wine education, sharing regional wine experiences and gained knowledge with sommeliers, other journalists and peers. The rigours of home and work life don’t always allow for every travel stone to be unturned.

Related – Barbera d’Asti Del Monferrato E Nizza Monferrato

Verona, September 2016

What can be attacked by retrospective means are notebooks scribbled by design and computer folders layered, pages and files filled with thoughts left to await their eventual fruition, temporarily resigned to the arena of “the never too late.”  This kind of post on Godello always comes accompanied by a huge sense of gratitude to the regional facilitators, logistical magicians and dozens of producers who share their life’s work, engage in conversation and give so generously of their time. These are the 50 wines tasted three, four and five years ago. Forty one Amarone and nine Recioto surveyed, evaluated, admired and yet consigned in those times, resigned to drafts, now unburdened, released and published.

Amarone della Valpolicella DOCG

Bertani Amarone Della Valpolicella Classico DOCG 2013

“You can like it or not but this is what Bertani Amarone Classico is supposed to be,” the words of host Michaela at the historic estate founded in 1857. The first vintage was 1959. Made the same way today. “This is a medication wine,” no sorry, “meditation.” Again, points are credited for the lack of jam, the shortness of breath and the heavy shaken oak restraint. But once again the charm needs to be coaxed. There is undeniable structure to look decades forward and to read the tea leaves for its past. Perhaps a virtual walk through a forest will ensue. Perhaps. Drink 2019-2029.  Tasted September 2016

Bertani Amarone Della Valpolicella Valpantena DOCG 2013

A 30 day drying period instead of 50, quite short for the region. Aged in Slavonian oak barrels, an earlier developing, made to drink with food early in life kind of Amarone. Sour cherry and dark chocolate. Quite young but I can’t see it getting much more interesting than this. Made for a consumer that has never tried an Amarone before and wants a gateway entry. Clocks in at 15.5 per cent, certainly not jammy though you feel the density and the weight. Drink 2016-2020.  Tasted September 2016

Brigaldara Amarone Della Valpolicella Classico DOCG Casa Vecie 2011

“At thirty three years old (1986) I came back to the family farm. It was the best decision of my life,” says Stefano Cesari. “I like this business. In my time the problem was the market. Now it is the cost of soil. You need big investment.” More elegance driven into this dusty, dried red fruit Amarone than most, with some frutta di bosco and fragola secco, heat on the nose in a slightly volatile way (or acetic) but plenty of equality abounds. Plenty of fruit and savoury character equals it all out. In Valpolicella west facing vineyards bring stronger wines and in the east more elegance. CCR, (40/40/20). Two years in barriques and two in 25 HL casks. The chocolate comes late. At 16.4 per cent this strikes an accord. Drink 2019-2029.  Tasted July 2017

Alfredo Buglioni

Buglioni Il Lussurioso Amarone Della Valpolicella Classico Riserva DOCG 2011

Alfredo Buglioni’s Riserva 2011 is a case study of 25 per cent in 50 hL barrel in a Valpolicella that bridges the old and the new school of Amarone. It notes less confiture and dried fig, negative reduction, inducement and decreasing hyperbole, from concentration, of facets and tents getting on one page together and of sugar levels. Palates of the Amarone are rarely so alive, sparked and again, as per the thread run through this house, electric. The properties of chalky and tannic will churn this through a ten year development wheel. Drink 2019-2027.  Tasted September 2016 and October 2017

Ca’ La Bionda Amarone Della Valpolicella Classico DOCG 2011

The bright, freshest Amarone, light as it can possibly be, with smoky limestone and volcanic influence mixed with clay. If you can’t see the forests (minerals) for the trees (soils) than you won’t get this Amarone. “If I am home I don’t drink Amarone,” says Alessandro Castellani, but you just know he sneaks some sips in the cellar. There is cherry in softly crushed ways and the silky palate with nary a chocolate moment. Just a baby, fleshing quickly so just imagine the feel in another 18 months. Drink 2018-2027.  Tasted September 2016

Ca’ La Bionda Amarone Della Valpolicella Classico DOCG Vigneti Di Ravazzòl 2012

A blend of 70 per cent corvina, (20) corvinone and (10) rondinella plus molinara from the renowned stony clay-limestone hill Ravazzòl. The vines average 50-70 years of age and in 2012 the Amarone is a lithe 16 per cent alcohol with necessary and alter-ego balancing acidity. Ca’ La Bionda acidity, singular, arisen from the mineral terroir to rise above most of the Classico territory. A wine that already sets about to linger almost before the first sip is taken, lending credence to the contemplative and meditative Valpolicella ideal. Even when a wine is so powerful it can elicit serenity and calm. Drink 2018-2032.  Tasted September 2016

Ca’ La Bionda Amarone Della Valpolicella Classico DOCG Vigneti Di Ravazzòl 2011

Generally speaking the Ravazzòl blend is 70 per cent corvina, (20) corvinone and (10) rondinella plus molinara. The clay-limestone soil is unequivocally the thing that changes the wine and with time the emerge is all about more mineral and spice. Much older vines (minimum 50 years old) bring about an increased richness but also a more lifted brightness. “This is my idea of Amarone, traditional but unusual,” tells Alessandro Castellani. “We’ve invented nothing.” Sapidity, acidity, supple peppery schisty-like, syrah-esque spice. Again a bite but no scathe. “It’s difficult to make an Amarone that is powerful with drinkability. You need a good terroir.” Drink 2019-2029.  Tasted September 2016

Ca’ La Bionda Amarone Della Valpolicella Classico DOC Vigneti Di Ravazzòl 2008

Just bottled one month ago after eight years in wood (Botti Grandi) so despite the age its just a baby. The wood is still quite up front. Here the most floral though the palate is thick and compressed, spice of course, as in all the wines but somehow there is evidence of what you have come to expect, despite the youth. The confusion and the conundrum align to cause your brain to say “too young to really know anything.” This is the beauty of complexity in Alessandro Castellani’s Amarone, specifically from the clay-limestone hill that is Ravazzòl. Drink 2020-2030.  Tasted September 2016

Ca’ La Bionda Amarone Della Valpolicella Classico DOC Vigneti Di Ravazzòl 2004

Opened two hours earlier, a cool vintage slowly fast-forwarded to today’s elegance. Is it mature? Of sorts as it carries the soil in its blood and whiffs like it was intended to be though I personally find it extreme youthful. A slight (as it used to be) sweetness (6 g/L of RS) and there is tobacco smouldering in a cedar box. Still not quite opening yet, spending an hour with it (or more) would be ideal. Undefined red citrus, exotica, florals, finesse, balance and elegance. Though it may have once been or at least acted-seemed greener, it has made it to this pretty stage. An integrated beauty. Drink 2016-2026.  Tasted September 2016

Locanda 800

Ca’Rugate Amarone Della Valpolicella DOCG 2013

Sees 32 months in barrel, of course there is richness and some very bright fruit but what is remarkable is the transparency, the claret consistency and the relative thin (and thankfully so) veneer. Finding this quite mineral, full of soil tang and with the barrel program here all new it’s quite an impossibility. As in Ca’Rugate’s whites, the barrel adds spice and some smoulder, not thick, glycerin and caky texture. This is Amarone you can drink, even if it’s a bit of smoke and mirror talk but it’s really done in the right way and for all the right reasons. At 16 per cent it fools with great acumen. Same vintage twice and yes, truly consistent. Drink 2017-2025.  Tasted September 2016

Cantina Di Negrar Amarone Della Valpolicella Classico DOCG 2013

A massive mouthful of Amarone with more varieties of chocolate than thought possible confined to one sweet and savoury bottle. Rich, extracted, caky and oozing with that aforementioned chocolate swirling in the machine, lathered like warm ganache and oozing out of a flourless torte’s every pore. Everything you might expect from Amarone in the developing Valpolicella world. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted September 2016

Cantine Negrar Domini Veneti Amarone Della Valpolicella Classico Superiore DOCG Verjago 2011

From grapes dried between five and six weeks, here the octane runs high, the sugars fully developed for a warm and generous Amarone. The spice cupboard is joined by tobacco and plenty of sweet Amaro bitters, with dusty espresso and a minimum 76 per cent chocolate all over the finish, still with massive tannin. A huge expression with an RS between seven and eight g/L. Drink 2018-2023.  Tasted September 2016

Cantine Negrar Domini Veneti Amarone Della Valpolicella Classico DOCG Vigneti Di Jago 2010

Now here, in my opinion, from a most excellent vintage, with more red fruit and less obvious splintering the freshness persists and the charm continues to draw emotive consideration. The impression brings some soil/terroir gifting, with aromas that suggest multi-stone (limestone and basalt) and freshness from clay. Though the sweetness seems elevated (an RS of 12 or more?) at least the red fruit, citrus expressed and thriving acidity is a match to the Amarone thing. Though massive again, with raging tannin, there is more honesty in this wine. Drink 2016-2022.  Tasted September 2016

Famiglia Pasqua Amarone Della Valpolicella Classico DOCG Villa Borghetti 2012

Comes in at 15 per cent, produced in Marano della Valpolicella, the drying process lasts up to four months (depending on the dates of harvest) for a 30-40 per cent loss of moisture into grape and sugars concentration. Sees 12 months in French barriques, is a fresher style of Amaraone, with quality red fruit but the flavours are directed by formula, cloyingly medicinal and acidified tart. Admittedly with its spice and its sweetness it loves the cheese and the dried fruit. Drink 2016-2019.  Tasted September 2016

Famiglia Pasqua Amarone Della Valpolicella Classico DOCG Mai Dire Mai 2010

Joint ventures between two families, a whopping 16.5 per cent, from corvina (65 per cent), corvinone (15), rondinella (10) and oseleta (10). The work of never say never, single-vineyard (Vignetti Montevegro val d’Illasi), up to four months appassimento, 44 days fermentation, mostly in new barriques for 24 months. The wood occupies the central square in the city centre, taking up residence with what seems to be exceptional fruit though its suppression hides what it might want to offer. Mocha chocolate big time, heat of the night and so much spice. Chalky clay dense and weighty. Intense Amarone. Cherries seeping in spirit water, over the top but for the right reasons where many would follow. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted September 2016

In motion at Fidora

Fidora Amarone Della Valpolicella Classico DOCG Monte Tabor 2010

A massive mouthful of Amarone with a boozy effect to make it seem as though it is quite sweet when in fact it’s an Amarone of extreme relative acidity. The RS level is oddly, curiously and impossibly low at 2.0 g/L with balancing thanks to massive dry extract and fierce, competitive and autocratic tannins. Not to mention 36-42 months in barrel that may as well have been 48, or more. Where else have you ever tasted such a thing? Needs a few to many more years to find its way. Drink 2020-2032.  Tasted September 2016

Masi Serego Alighieri Amarone Della Valpolicella Classico Vaio Armaron 2011

The descendants of San Pietro. Single Vineyard from the Serego Alighieri Estate, 70 corvina, 20 rondinella and 10 molinara, only in the best vintages. Use of cherry wood, brings more oxidation, but it’s only employed for four months. 15.5, illusion of sweetness, 6-7 g/L RS.  Last tasted July 2017

The Vaio Amaron is both highly polished and heavily composed Amarone with history, tradition and the way it has always been exuding out of every appassimento pore. Sourced from the eponymous vineyard which lays claim “it seems” to the name itself, this is Masi’s most iconic Amarone. The not quite reached prime time fig-centric red to black fruit is bright and alive but do not be fooled. The depths of plum and marly earth are plumbed, mined and excavated for full bore corvina, rondinella and molinara heavy exercize. From what I have come to recognize as a most excellent Amarone vintage (even though it is way too young to even begin to appreciate) you had better pull out the Monte Veronese for this dangerous and formidable Veneto. Drink 2019-2034.  Tasted September 2016

Nicolis Amarone Della Valpolicella Classico DOCG 2010

A blend of 65 corvina, 20 rondinella, 10 croatina and 5 molinara with a bit of SO2 that needs air to release. The reduction is consistent with the fresher Valpolicellas. Old school, deep red fruit, really fleshy, more than the price is drinkable, this has so much in common with similarly weighted reds, like sonoma cabernet sauvignon, Chianti classico Gran Selezione and Rhône Gigondas. Interesting comparisons aside (and stylistically they are valid) this is a rich, concentrated, high glycerin Amarone with a warm, sweet finish. Orange fleshy, summer patio melon liqueur cocktail. Very consumer friendly for a Keg Steakhouse red. Drink 2016-2021.  Tasted September 2016

Nicolis Amarone Della Valpolicella DOC Ambrosan 2008

Tallying in at 16 per cent alcohol which is par for the Amarone course and a number completely normal for the 2008 vintage. While it may be a bruiser it has barely walked out of its toddler shoes and is indeed a corvina blend of deepest intent. The eight year mark is where the layering begins to unfold and a glimpse variegates right here in this glass. A thick one, with a naturally funky porcine cure, humid and ideal for slices of ham in all iterations. Also perfect for the cuisine of Chef Diego Donatelli at Locanda 800 in Negrar. Drink 2018-2029.  Tasted September 2016

Nicolis Amarone Della Valpolicella DOC Ambrosan 2007

Single vineyard, current vintage available, sold in the LCBO, 70 corvina, 20 rondinella, 10 croatina, first made in 1990 (the normale was first made in 1978). This combines the rich extraction and big barrel impart of the Ripasso into a fortified, layered and deeply compressed Amarone. Sweetness seems magnified. The bretty voltility is part of the party. A mix of sweet, saline and savoury, not yet umami and still so young because it’s thick and taut. Will be late in 2017 before anything changes. Drink 2018-2028.  Tasted September 2016

Novaia Amarone Della Valpolicella Classico DOCG Le Balze 2011

Bottled in March and will likely be released in December. Single-vineyard aged three years in (some new and mostly old) barrels. Vines were planted in 1996, so now just entering right into the proverbial wheelhouse of exceptionality. It will have up to another 10 years or so before those vines will likely succumb to the Mal d’este wood disease. Richer, softer, gentle and amenable especially to taste, but that acidity, power and tannin does not relent. The aging adds to the density, the clay in this vineyard adds to the power and all tolled this is bigger and with more layered brawn than the Corte Vaona. Two different slices of Amarone pie. This one with a big chocolate espresso finale. Drink 2019-2028.  Tasted September 2016

Salvaterra Amarone Della Valpolicella Classico DOC 2009

Plenty of oak, including American, on the nose with the gamut run in kernel, nut and smoke. With Monte Veronese cheese aged 18 and 24 months the savoury and herbal aspects are foiled with reigned in agreement. This is modernity to the extreme, like some equally forged or a cross between Gran Selezione and Barolo, firm, concentrated but not shaken. Still quite youthful. Drink 2017-2027.  Tasted September 2016

Salvaterra Amarone Della Valpolicella Classico DOC 2007

Seems typical of the vintage, softer, rich and quite getable though there is heat and the aromatics of distraction; menthol, clove, vanilla, lavender, fennel and even cola. How this reminds me of high octane California pinot noir I’m not sure but it does. So thoroughly modern but without the same structure of 2009 and certainly not 2008, if that were tasted here as well. Drink 2016-2020.  Tasted September 2016

Santa Sofia Amarone Della Valpolicella Classico DOCG 2011

A representative of a best vintage, a specific vineyard and the addition of molinara (five per cent), stabilizer and a grape that has been ripped out to be omitted from the other wines. Quite remarkably perfumed with florals (roses and violets) that Amarone just does not often have. Except here it is, fresh and potpourri and then a mouthfeel that goes to velvet despite the dangerously intense acidity. The finish is dusted with espresso and shaved by bittersweet chocolate. Not as drinkable, with more structure and outright hedonism. Will live in infamy. Drink 2018-2033.  Tasted September 2016

Sartori Amarone Della Valpolicella DOCG 2012

The blend is 50 per cent corvina, (30) corvinone, (15) rondinella and (5) cabernet sauvignon. Comes in at 15 per cent abv, after a hot summer, four months drying process, raisin and plum with a baked fruit character. Fleshy and nearly though not entirely severe. Steeped tea of a few varieties, some forest floor, deep and brooding tannins. Sage and balsamic. Would not wait any longer. This should be consumed early. Drink 2016-2019.  Tasted September 2016

Sartori Amarone Della Valpolicella DOC I Saltari 2009

Old vines (some more than 40, average age of 20), low yields (1.5 tonnes per hectare), again quite secondary, almost into prune but certainly of a fig character. Though this wine and the Corte Bra have developed quite quickly their body and disposition are left off in the middle, leaning away from the overs of extraction, over-pressing and over oaking. You may not accuse the Sartori wines of over oaking. They are made with some restraint, against the rising norm, but they do brood with dark as night character. Drink 2016-2022.  Tasted September 2016

Sergio Zenato Amarone Della Valpolicella DOCG 2010

Founded in 1960, village near Lago Garda on the east side. Village of Santa Moggio, where the Valoplicella estate is located. Father was Sergio, now with sister and mother. CCR 60-20-20 plus oselata and croetine grown at 300masl, red clay with stones, difficult to retain water so irrigation is used. This is the dried fig and chocolate bomb, with soy, balsamic and five spice. So Mediterranean savoury, thick and shaken. Lots of French vanilla feel with 300L French tonneaux and 500L, plus 300L and 5000L French and Slavonian oak casks. This may never, ever fully integrate. It’s the thickest milkshake you will ever find. It’s a mess at this time and 17 per cent so wait 10 more years for it to get interesting. Drink 2027-2042.  Tasted July 2017

Speri Vigneto Amarone Della Valpolicella Classico DOCG Monte Sant’Urbano 2012

Family business in Valpolicella. Single-Vineyard, top of the hill in the Fumane Valley. Fume, as in hot, from its volcanic origins, especially for corvina. Soft soils (in texture, yellowish, friable but gets sticky when wet so over cover crops like fescue and clover are employed) and this will translate into the wine. Heavy in corvina (80 per cent) with reasoning because of its affiliation to volcanic soil and because winemaker (of 25 years) Alberto Speri simply thinks it’s the best grape. The grape that finds the most elegance. High percentage of drying (40 per cent), use of big oak, four years. Will go out on a limb and say this will indeed be the most elegant in a line up of eight formidable Amarone. Drink 2019-2032.  Tasted July 2017

Good morning @C_Valpolicella from @accordinilgino

Stefano Accordini Amarone Della Valpolicella Classico DOCG Acinatico 2013

The latin name of the wine is Acinatico, from ancient Rome, indicating the wines delineated from this place, produced from these specific berries. The vines were planted by grandfather Gaetano and are now up to 85 years old. Quite reductive and so very rushed into market young but this is the normale so perfectly understandable. A whack of tannin is met by acidity in the most rushing wave of red citrus. The wine is so taut and wound that the house style of secondary savoury character hasn’t even become a twinkle in its eye. Chocolate shavings cover everything, they cover everything. The chocolate of Accordini. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted September 2016

Stefano Accordini Amarone Della Valpolicella Classico DOCG Acinatico 2010

Has developed righteously, from a gritty and serious vintage, for which tannin was not at a premium. Plenty of expertly tempered chocolate works the mid-palate and the tart finish with a baker’s glaze. This is heavily wooded Amarone, sweet and custardy, mouth coating and really 90’s. Like Rioja or IGT from the same time period. Drink 2016-2020.  Tasted September 2016

Tedeschi Amarone della Valponicella Classico DOCG Monte Olmi 2011

Monte Olmi is a two and a half hectare parcel, southwest in the Classica area, where the winery is located. This archetypal Amarone was first produced in 1964 and is now an 8,000-10,000 bottle per year effort. The mix is classic Tedeschi corvina, corvinone and rondinella, in a one third of each plus minor percentages of oselata and several other endemic varieties (rossignola, negrara, dindarella, croatina and forselina), from the oldest parts of Monte Omi. This is the Amarone to celebrate tradition, keeping history alive and always remembering from where you’ve come. It spent four years in large casks and emerged at 17 per cent alcohol. The ceiling is reached, with balls, brash and no worries but is it balanced? Remarkably it is and also sour-edged, with tannin and the crazy, wild and free spirit of red fruit drawn off of morainic white and yellow limestone. But it will certainly improve and last as long as any. The acidity will see to that, even if the fruit fades. Drink 2021-2035.  Tasted July 2017

Tenuta Sant’Antonio Amarone Della Valpolicella DOCG Campo Dei Gigli 2012

Youngish winery, still essentially first generation, started in 1995. Armando Castagnedi is one of four brothers and Paolo is winemaker. They were born and worked in the vineyards but sold to cooperatives before. In the east (not in Classico), Montegarbi. The symbol of the flower of Sant’Antonio. White limestone chalky soil, lime and sand. Corvina (35), corvinone (35), rondinella (25) with croetina and oselata because of their elevation, wind, proximity to the sea with that wind in mind. Three years in tonneaux, not big barrels (young producer compromise). Clean and fruity with a syrupy pool in the middle, welling on the palate. Clocks in at 16 per cent, come out tonight. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted July 2017

Tenuta Santa Maria Amarone Della Valpolicella Classico DOCG 2010

Separated five years ago from the parent (Bertani) winery. Gaetano Bertani is the winemaker with the help of consulting oenologist Franco Bernabei. One 7th the size of the larger Bertani, 380,000 bottles vs. 2.5 million and no one from the family works with them at all. Amarone is corvina, corvinone and rondinella, reductive and young, in need of air and so much more. Plenty of acidity and a rage of tannin. The red fruit capacity is boundless and with all the rage around this whirls like a hurricane. Rocking Amarone, old-school, leathery and dry. Drier than the Ripasso. Fruit leather roll-up. Restrained at 15 per cent alcohol and acts like less. The number is 7.5 g/L RS. Drink 2016-2022.  Tasted September 2016

Tommasi Amarone Della Valpolicella Classico Riserva DOC Ca’ Florian 2009

Presented by PierAngelo Tommasi. Founded in 1902, the new generation is 1997, nine “kids” from four fathers. Only since 1990 has this vineyard been dedicated to a single-vineyard wine and since 2010 as a Riserva. “This wine tastes this way because of the vineyard,” says PierAngelo “and not because it is called a Riserva.” CCR, 75-20-5. Fermentation in wooden vats and the aging in 500L (French) tonneaux (in the first year) is a departure (for Tommasi) and the next three are in large Slavonian casks. This is the third vintage for Ca’ Florian and though it is massive, it is not volatile nor is it acetic. At 15.5 per cent and 4 g/L of RS it states the least obvious connotational expectation for the style and goes against its peers. This should be the top vintage of this SV wine, considering the integration, the level of fruit, the texture and the potential for aging. Drink 2019-2032.  Tasted June 2017

Valentina Cubi Morar Amarone Della Valpolicella Classico DOCG 2010

Valentina’s estate is now farmed certified organica though some older Amarones were not. From 1963, the estate dates back to the 18th century. At 16.5 it has to be a lie, again, not just because of colour but clearly its lightness of being is anti-Amarone. The grip and the grit of the aridity and tannin is the crux of this wine but there is plenty of fruit. That said it has chocolate and woody notes that give it some commonality so it is obvious that Amarone is almost impossible to change and to seek revolution. But this is 2010, before Valentina could write organic on the label and before the winemaking turned to its present motives. It was also the vintage. Structured and long. 2018-2025.  Tasted September 2016

Valentina Cubi Morar Amarone Della Valpolicella Classico DOC 2007

In ways that composition and result make for a dramatic difference, this is more traditional, darker and more extracted but also cooler, further into savour and with that umami prevalent throughout the region. This is not separate or antithetical, quite spicy and wholly tannic. and yet it is neither thick nor overdone. White chocolate is all in, This 2007 has more finesse but also real creaminess, sweet, savoury and blanketing. And that umami, mushroom and consomée. Drink 2016-2021.  Tasted September 2016

Valentina Cubi Morar Amarone Della Valpolicella Classico DOC 2005

Wholly, utterly, invisibly resolved, all umami, full truffle, dried forest floor and porcini mushroom. Something pine savoury but all vanilla and green tea ice cream. Spice and smoke all over the palate and the finish. Clocks in at 16 per cent alcohol. Very good vintage and showing well. Must have been a tannic beast in its time. Drink 2016-2019.  Tasted September 2016

Venturini Amarone Della Valpolicella Classico DOCG Campo Masua 2011

Centre of the Classica area southwest of Negrar. Vines in the 20-25 year range, rocky and clay under the topsoil. “Toar” as in volcanic, a very friable soil. A very clear strata separation between soil and rock. Hot and very dried fruit aromas which conspire to mask the florals aching to get out. A corvina (70 per cent), corvinone (10) and rondinalla (20) blend, dried for five months “in the natural way” and aged in 3000L big barrels for four years. Dried plum and apricot, roasted almond, charred onion and smoked meat. Spicy off the piquant charts. Sweetness follows. 16.5 and every bit of it. Drink 2019-2026.  Tasted July 2017

Vignetti Di Ettore Amarone Della Valpolicella Classico DOCG 2012

One of the more if not the most fragrant Amarone, of peppery plum and pomegranate fruit, richness, depth and plenty of dusty espresso. Acidity and tannin are equal and opposing, subduing fruit for the time being though three of four years down the road all should be in synch. This will develop umami. For now it lurks. Drink 2019-2026.  Tasted September 2016

Vignetti Di Ettore Amarone Della Valpolicella Classico DOC 2008

The 2008 is right where the 2012 projects to be in four years, carrying its peppery and stemmy spice into a secondary world inhabited by figs and still to be determined dried fruit. Tannins were tougher in 2008 and acidity higher so this remains just a baby. Plenty of espresso, again, but also some developed chocolate. A really well made Amarone from back in the day. Drink 2017-2025.  Tasted September 2016

Zonin Amarone Della Valpolicella DOCG 2011

Looking for freshness, fruit, that corvina punch. Plums again as are all the wines and grinds upon grinds of pepper. So much syrah is like this. New world syrah. Plenty of chocolate. A bit weighty but the acidity and tannin will drive this machine. It is a fruit first Amarone, that much is clear. The spice is everywhere though, which speaks to the wood as a major part of the impression. Very typical. How it was and many observe as should be. Hot finish detracts from the fruit freshness Drink 2017-2026.  Tasted September 2016

Recioto Della Valpolicella DOCG

Buglioni Recioto Della Valpolicella Classico DOCG ‘Il Narcisista’ (500 Ml) 2011

Like honey, with leesy, cheesy, red citrus and earthy notes mixed in. Gracious natural sweetness, use of sulphur to stop the fermentation, 140 g/L of rS (which is the maximum, can be as low as 110). The nose is remarkable, short on the sweetness despite the honey, so more like honeycomb. Good narcissist, if there is such a thing. Drink 2017-2027.  Tasted September 2016

Ca’ La Bionda Recioto Della Valpolicella Classico DOCG 2012

The drinkable Recioto with a level of sugar comparable to many producers’ Amarone. Aromas resemble the Amarone, as does the mouthfeel. Once you taste this “dessert” wine you can never go back. Plum, strawberry, beautiful. Caressing. Elegant. Finessed. Drink 2016-2028.  Tasted September 2016

Ca’ Rugate Recioto Della Valpolicella DOCG L’Eremita 2012

From a 500 mL bottle, a sweet disposition on a moderate (13.5 per cent) alcohol frame with Amaro liqueur bitterness. Liquorice and menthol on the nose, then plum pudding, black cherry dominant and mint jelly to taste. So much cooler than to what expectation would have made a commitment. Oh, it’s a Cherry Blossom, dark chocolate and when cracked open lets out the ooze of silky confection. Drink 2016-2021.  Tasted September 2016

Domini Veneti Amando Recioto Della Valpolicella Classico DOCG Amandorlato (Charmat Method Spumante Recioto) 2010

Charmat Method spumante Recioto, from one of last producers to do so, carrying on the home bottler’s accidental tradition. In the past apricot (or cherry) leaves or seeds were added to impart an almond flavour (Amandorlato) but today it’s developed leaving the Recioto in small cherry wood barriques with a low, slow and sugar burning fermentation. Naturally achieved 17 per cent alcohol without fortification, unique and meant for chocolate and cheese. “And a good cigar.” Less or more 25 euro retail or 19 ex-cellar or lets say $75-80 Canadian. Smells just like a Cherry Blossom, from the tree and out of the candy box. Sweet, bitter, drying and hot. An expensive acquired taste. Will drink for decades. Drink 2016-2046.  Tasted September 2016

Novaia Recioto Della Valpolicella DOCG 2013

From the oldest parcels in the oldest vineyard at La Novaia, the same process of the Amarone, using more ripe grapes, with an extended drying time to concentrate the juice. Fermentation arrested with cold temperature, registers 13.5 abv and spent one year in barrel. If it doesn’t happen the wine is filtered but that’s rarely needed. Full on black cherry syrup, runny raspberry confiture, sweet fennel tea and Chambord. Sweet but not milkshake thick. Great red chalky, spring maple bleed. A good Recioto ooze. Drink 2016-2026.  Tasted September 2016

Santa Sofia Recioto Della Valpolicella Classico DOC 2009

Same make-up as the Gioé Amarone, aged in Frenck oak for 14 months, plus 12 months in bottle. “A niche product that is hard to transmit its importance.” Of course no sugar adjustment, so to maximize the natural design, the fermentation is arrested naturally when the alcohol number is breached. Here at 14.5, higher on the Recioto scale but stlll well below the level of fortified. A balanced effort with acidity, tannin, bitters, tonic and plum essence sweetness. Dries out at then end with a pasty finish like salumi. Drink 2017-2028.  Tasted September 2016

Valentina Cubi Recioto Della Valpolicella Classico DOC Meliloto 2000

At 14.5 per cent and not produced every year, after this 2000 again in 2003 and 2010. Vanilla bean and ground espresso, cherry ooze or confiture. Dark chocolate, mint and orange zest. There is your pairing. Drink 2016-2026.  Tasted September 2016

Vignetti Di Ettore Recioto Della Valpolicella Classico DOCG 2013

Alcohol equitable to weight, acidity buoyant, dry extract elevated and residual sugar well-adjusted. Here we have typical and rich, balanced and ephemeral Recioto. What it needs to be. Drink 2016-2025.  Tasted September 2016

Zonin Recioto Di Gambellara Classico DOCG Il Giangio 2011

A 100 per cent garganega, aged in tonneaux, 24-36 months. “The typicity of this soil in garganega,” volcanic but dark basalt, apricot and pineapple with a minor herbal note and menthol cool, very sweet on the palate. Tart and sour, very pineapple, oil and mineral by basalt, not sticky but a salve, specific to Gambellara. There are 10-12 producers who make this wine (out of the 15-20 in the appellation). A very specific dessert wine. A 12-13 g/L RS number which seems impossible. Drink 2016-2025.  Tasted September 2016

Good to go!

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Memories of Verona

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WineAlign

Memories of South Africa in 60 notes

Water hole, South Africa

As this passage through weltschmerz marches on, the defining feeling of melancholy and world-weariness continues, no doubt magnified in the hearts and minds of the wanderlusts accustomed to consistent world travel. So the question begs, as it has for 12 months, how to summon thoughts that will keep a deep sadness about the inadequacy or imperfection of the world at bay? Speaking from a personal place, a simple and distracting way is to compose retroactive wine reviews, unearthing and editing nuggets of meaningful playfulness, tasting notes created in the past but never having found their way to the light of day. Recent thoughts about South Africa are the impetus for this story.

Related – Searching for great heart in South Africa

In a pandemic-free world Cape Town’s Cape Wine would be taking place six months from now but a difficult and necessary decision by Wines of South Africa has moved the trade show from September 2021 to October 2022. Intensive planning for one of the great triennial wine fairs on the planet begins 18 months out and so with vaccine promise and good hope the time has arrived for the industry to launch preparations for a Spring 2022 Capelands revival. Soon enough the hurdles, obstacles, impediments and hoops of pandemic, lockdowns, sponsorship landing and export bans will be added to the growing list of “what has been overcome.”

Fly me back to South Africa

Related – Spotlight on South Africa in VINTAGES August 6th

Wine trips afford tasting hundreds of wines in a week’s time and while all bottles poured by every producer are given full attention and solicit a hundred or so scribbled words on history, tradition, agriculture, winemaking, varietal and regional relativity, many remain in raw form, relegated to computer folders and on the pages of moleskin journals. Pulling them out months, if not years later can induce that elusive feeling of relief and in some extraordinary occasions, epiphany. This to the creator of course, not necessarily to the producer, wine prose seeker, consumer, regional administrator or marketer. Notwithstanding who may be watching or reading, the exercise is a satisfying one and stands on its own merit, if only to be soothed and take refuge in a safe prosaic haven, free from the savage talon grip of a world gone mad.

“What happens in Cape Town stays in Cape Town” carries a three year statute of limitation. With the inimitable Ken Forrester

Nature, farmers and winemakers continue their work. Grapes are still growing and wines are still being made. Cape Wine is one of the greats, a collection and gathering by an industry of more varied character and industriousness than you will ever find. Let’s hope a global correction and stabilization brings everyone back together. During the last edition in 2018 I published several articles and many notes but these are the fruits of unfinished business left unsaid, scattered and streaming bits of consciousness having patiently waited it out for this moment in the sun. With thanks to all these erudite producers who shared a few ounces, engaged in conversation and offered up their time. These are the 60 wines tasted 30 months ago, assessed, critiqued, enjoyed and until now, unpublished.

A.A. Badenhorst Family White Blend 2016, WO Swartland

Simply a case of “fantastic grapes from old vineyards,” small parcels from Adi Badenhorst’s Kalmoesfontein farm, around the Swartland and the greater Paardeberg Mountain. A tienvoudig veldversnit of chenin blanc, roussanne, marsanne, grenache blanc, viognier, verdehlo, grenache gris, clairette blanche, sémillon and palomino. Hard to imagine that ten grapes could be so tactful and get together for such a discreet nose, but they are and they do. Secretive and seductive, full of mystery and enigma, ferments in 3000L vessels and then concrete, of a co-existence executing balance and a dedicated focus on texture. A ten-fold paradigm shift as part of the pioneering, Western Cape appellative white blend parade. Those who know it get lost in the varietal party and just like the makers the soirée will go on forever. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted September 2018

A.A. Badenhorst Pinot Noir Bokkeveld 2017, WO Swartland

Grown further afield of the great old white grape vineyards, higher into mountainous terrain on the famed Bokkeveld shales. Makes for transitory, lifted pinot noir, “rain-slick’d, rubbed-cool, ethereal,” a little pastiche in a glass. Provides a cool flush of red berries, a note of allspice and truth is the fruit is really quite naturally sweet. Clean, characterful and only an afterthought of subtle savour. More than anything this pinot noir drifts and rises, kind of like reciting poetry. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted September 2018

Hanneke Krüger, A.A. Badenhorst

A.A. Badenhorst Secateurs Cinsault 2018, WO Swartland

Of the Badenhorst second tier of wines, a red blend though mainly cinsault (82 per cent) with (10) syrah and (8) grenache. Though this is technically a tank sample it will be bottled next week so essentially across the finish line. There will be 130,000 bottles of this unfiltered wine. Red fruit incarnate Cape style, sweet baking spices and from a band knowing what is needed for playing live in concert, lekker balance seekers capable of working with any instrumentation, including 4,500 and 7,200L blending tanks. Badass sound, fury and energy, dry rocket fuel, pure, raw emotion and precision. Drink 2018-2025.  Tasted September 2018

A.A. Badenhorst Grenache Raaigras 2017, WO Swartland

From the home farm at Kalmoesfontein, a scant 1268 vines by lowest of low yields and considered to be the oldest (1951) grenache vines in South Africa. The Raaigras (ryegrass) is a vineyard choker so without human intervention it would literally strangle a vineyard. One of those wonderful whole bunch ferments though a portion is de-stemmed and well if this is not the right stuff from the right place, transparent, curative, a gastronomy of ancient meatiness and spice. Tannic yet elastic and one of those wines ready to go from creation but won’t likely change anytime soon. For now, long and wide. Feel free to think “see you in 15 years on the other side.” Drink 2019-2029.  Tasted September 2018

Springbock Burger anyone?

David And Nadia Sadie Wines Chenin Blanc 2017, WO Swartland

A chenin blanc blend of 35-65 year-old 1960s, 70s and early 80s, mainly Paardeberg dry-farmed bush vine vineyards in the Swartland. Some shale and clay soils mix in for a top end chenin meritage with a faint if feigned salty vanilla sweetness. High and dry extract and grape tannin conspire in their conscription and into a stretched intensity requiring some patience for the opening up. Lingers forever thereafter. Drink 2018-2026.  Tasted September 2018

David And Nadia Skaliekop 2017, WO Swartland

Skaliekop, “hill of shale,” a curious dale of fine-grained, clastic sedimentary rock amongst the Paardeberg granite. For David and Nadia Sadie a chance to make a chenin blanc with both prescient soils lending their presence and tutelage. The people here speak of the Skaliekop, knowing well the wisdom and aridity, the windswept open space, exposed and warm. They recognize and tell of the difference it makes, how a wine such as this can act so implosive, salty, targeted and fervent. The vintage only serves to magnify a sentiment already assured, that fruitful and mineral will align, swell and expand as one from these first grapes to be harvested in the wider Paardeberg zone. Drink 2019-2029.  Tasted September 2018

David and Nadia Aristargos 2017, WO Swartland

In 2017 a Swartland appellative white blend of chenin blanc (58 per cent), viognier (14), clairette blanche (13), sémillon (7), roussanne (5) and marsanne (3). David and Nadia’s only white that sees enough skin-contact to inch it up to but not quite breaching the natural-orange-amber stereotype so moving along now. A free-form, stacked blanc of multifarious juxtaposition, a Cape sensation that does this thing better and more interesting than anywhere else on the planet. Complex because florals and salinity get together and express the Swartland without a care in the world. What really comes across the palate is texture, downy and coddling with a finishing pesto of sweetly herbal fynbos and renosterveld. A perfectly broad expression overall though please don’t typecast or compartmentalize the Sadies’ white blend. Let it be. Drink 2018-2024.  Tasted September 2018

David and Nadia Sadie Wines Elpidios 2016, WO Swartland

An ever evolving or rather moving target, Rhône motivated but at this point in South Africa’s modern tenure just better to say Cape inspired. Has had many lead singers in its time; syrah, carignan and based on David Sadie’s language, who knows, perhaps grenache will take a turn at the microphone. Here in ’16 carignan (39 per cent) is centre stage with syrah (31), pinotage (16), cinsault (9) and grenache (5) rounding out the players. Elpidios means hope, as in “Cape of Good” and like the place itself there are so many layers to peel away from this heady foreland of a red wine. The berry aspect is magnified by the pinotage and you should know that David and Nadia treat this grape with utmost respect. A mix of styles and inspirations make this both muddled and brilliant as it stretches into breadth and potential. A nexus of varietal and micro-terroirs caught up in a whirlwind of extracts, flavours, liqueurs and expression. Still fresh, spirited and alive so drink this well over a ten year span. Drink 2018-2026.  Tasted September 2018

De Kleine Wijn Koöp Kreatuur Die Synachin 2017, WO Coastal Region

“A collaboration between a bunch of young blokes, making of-the-moment wines from little-known vineyards around the Cape,” and under monikers that refer to “pushmi-pullyu animals.” Also with the winemaking help of Alexander Milner from Natte Valleij. Really quite the drinkable Rhône-ish blend of 56 per cent syrah, (26) grenache and (18) cinsault. Iron in multifarious soils (mainly granitic) make this hematic and deeply plum but still, not so difficult to knock back. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted September 2018

De Kleine Wijn Kop Ou Treffer Cinsault 2017, WO Stellenbosch

Ou Treffer, as in the ‘old hit’ in Afrikaans, also the old workhorse, in reference to cinsault of the Western Cape. Or if you will, like a hit song as the grape just seems to be the it one in South Africa these days. Or perhaps Traffic, by the Stereophonics. Beautifully aromatic, rich fruit and a soild funk from the particularities in these Stellenbosch vineyards. Half the ferment is de-stemmed, meaning the other half is whole bunch and old vines surely concentrate the fruit, stem funk and spun feeling all-around. Besides, “is anyone going anywhere? Everyone’s gotta be somewhere.” Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted September 2018

De Kleine Wijn Koöp Knapsekêrel 2016, WO Stellenbosch

The second cabernet franc release of the De Kleine Wijn Koöp boys’ Knapsekêrel (a.k.a the spiky little black Cape plant) comes from the Polkadraai Hills. Not just any vineyard mind you but one planted in 2000 and biodynamically farmed by Old Vines Project pioneer Rosa Kruger and current Stellenbosch guru Johan Reyneke. The winemaking hands of Lukas van Loggerenberg are to thank and while this shows the sultry smoky smoulder that often emits from Cape franc it is a challenge and work in project to find the varietal sweet spot. That’s because cool temps and long growing seasons are best but look out for this breadth of a team’s members to find what works. In the meantime the tobacco, dusty plum and pushed to the raisin precipice make up a tasty if humid treat in a glass. Drink 2018-2019.  Tasted September 2018

De Kleine Wijn Koöp Heimwee 2015, WO Stellenbosch

As with the Knapsekêrel cabernet franc, the Polkadraai west of Stellenbosch is the fruit source, a biodynamic vineyard farmed by Rosa Kruger and Johan Reyneke. The boys at the Koöp are back in varietal town and refer to this all-around floral spiced cabernet sauvignon as running “with tannins as smooth as your grandmother’s polished imbuia coffee table.” No doubt and you can almost hear them singing in Phil Lynott workingman’s poetry. That said, this cab is no thin Lizzy, more like thick as a brick. Hung long and well-developed, of a liqueur that oozes of red, red fruit. Or perhaps, “man when I tell you she was cool, she was red hot. I mean, she was steamin’…” Drink 2018-2020.  Tasted September 2018

Johannes de Wet in Robertson

De Wetshof Riesling 2017, WO Robertson

A known fact that riesling and limestone make a great couple so this look at de Wetshof’s Robertson ’17 is met with great mineral anticipation. Yes the finest calcareous blocks are dedicated to chardonnay because Bourgogne is the de Wet inspiration but anyone who has learned a thing about riesling around the world will know that limestone can work wonders. Alsace of course, as in Clos Windsbul but also The Niagara Escarpment’s dolomitic limestone and Germany’s Muschelkalk (especially in the Rheinhessen, Pfalz and Franconia). And so Robertson joins the list as witnessed by this linguistically aromatic example, working the glass with a pure lime distillate notion. A nod to Alsace more than anything else with acidity that doesn’t need to scream and shout but it’s truly there. The potential to pioneer the movement is here, along with Elgin as Cape riesling standard bearers. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted September 2018

De Wetshof Chardonnay Limestone Hll 2018, WO Robertson

Youth and drought make for the most naked and transparent of the past few Limestone Hill chardonnays. Absolute cool Kelvin freshness and a 270 degree vineyard scope to gather de Wetshof’s Robertson fruit from an amphitheatre of slope and aspect so subtle yet so meaningful. A fulsome regional DNA creates varietal layers gathered to make this cuvée a true spokes-wine for the limestone-based estate. Set foot on these soils, spin around, take it in. Then feel and intuit the truth in chardonnay that speaks to a place. Drink 2018-2020.  Tasted September 2018

De Wetshof Chardonnay Bataleur 2016, WO Robertson

Bataleur, as in a battalion of chardonnay soldiers, fruit up front, reduction and wood falling in, acids taking up the flanks and structure in support by land, air and sea. Or so it seems because this just marches like a military exercise in chardonnay. Flinty, biting back, yet buttered and toasted on the mid-palate with Roberston’s unique limestone felt from start to finish. Vanilla then white caramel with soft French cream fill and then the snap of lime acidity. Biting and downy, one and then the other, all tied up in robes and pearls, equalling out in the end. Fine work from 2016. Drink 2019-2023.  Tasted September 2018

Hamilton Russell Pinot Noir 2000, WO Hemel-en-Aarde Valley, Walker Bay

By this time 2000 is the 15th vintage of Hamilton Russell’s pinot noir and tasting both the 1986 and 1997 ahead of this only serves to heighten anticipation knowing full well longevity is by now a solid guarantee. The vintage seems like it must have been a demanding one because there is more hard grip, aridity and austerity here but it really has aged gracefully and beautifully. The posit tug between fruit and earth notes is performed like a string instrument’s bow, bending and angling with dexterity in balanced, fluid motion. Brings in the herbs and spices, wholly and truly of Hemel-en-Aarde origin, on hillsides and between rows of sagacious pinot vines. This is a treat and opens a portal into the future, beginning with the 2012 vintage that will usher in a string of sequentially impressive HR pinot noir. Drink 2018.  Tasted September 2018

Huis Van Chevallerie Circa Rosecco NV, WO Swartland

From a 32 year-old pinotage vineyard, great old vines that received some TLC from Old Vines Project pioneer Rosa Kruger. Secondary bottle fermented with a little help from “a special blend of liqueur de triage,” so unlike Prosecco in that regard. Early picked which is a given considering the granitic soil and therefore a “Rosecco” of low pH and severely high acidity. ‘Twas just a slight dosage and therefore comes across arid like the Swartland desert. A well cultured sparkling Rosé, crushable and easy like Sunday morning. Drink it for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted September 2018

Jan Harmsgat Chardonnay 2015, WO Robertson

True reduction yet to dissipate as noted by the smoky smoulder with a healthy compliment of wood still needing to melt in and away. Looking to settle over the next six months or so and allow the combination of vanilla extract and green apple purée to integrate, compliment and go forward in agreement. Though creamy there is a bite back at the finish so while this is good now it still shows promise for improvement down the road. Drink 2019-2021.  Tasted September 2018

Klein Constantia Sauvignon Blanc 2009, WO Constantia

Poured by Managing Director Hans Astrom in Cape Town alongside the 1987 labeled “Blanc de Blanc” and the 1994. The vines date back to 1979, with the first South African sauvignon blanc made in 1986. That ’87 was a B de B because of the botrytis-affected vintage. A 100 per cent varietal wine, built by the soil and so bloody mineral as a result. Oak texture but really that’s the end of wood talk, a salty streak, so direct and so personal. The kind of sauvignon blanc that invades your airspace and a vintage more Bordeaux than the rest. Or, if you will Sancerre but not so much this time around. Drink 2019-2023.  Tasted September 2018

Klein Constantia Sauvignon Blanc 1994, WO Constantia

Poured by Managing Director Hans Astrom in Cape Town alongside the 1987 labeled “Blanc de Blanc” and the 2009. The vines date back to 1979, with the first South African sauvignon blanc made in 1986. That ’87 was a B de B because of the botrytis-affected vintage. The ’94 vintage was another story altogether, apposite, far away from developing noble rot. Not the baller and perhaps even a bit “weak” with less weight but a saltiness that is more than intriguing. Perhaps more Sancerre-esque as a result but certainly lends longevity credibility to those passed over cool vintages neither celebrated nor considered to carry much staying power. May not be fleshy but is surely a curious and electric surprise. Drink 2018-2020.  Tasted September 2018

Leeu Passant Chardonnay 2016, WO Stellenbosch

Andrea Mullineux continues to foster the Leeu Passant line of heritage vines wines with work from Rosa KrMuger alongside. The “post (leaf-roll) virus vineyard,” of smuggled in clean material planted in Stellenbosch in the 1980s. The site is home to loam-rich soils of the Helderberg and the wine stylistically modelled after the oxidative approach to chardonnay. “Death and resurrection,” as Andrea puts it, meaning after the fermentation you allow the must to oxidize again, literally to the colour of cola. Risk reward actionable take and one that requires some shall we say, cojones. This chardonnay is not about luck and the methodology can’t help but connect you to the vineyard. You end up with this unctuous, astonishingly rich chardonnay that bears a resemblance to the vines and the place from whence it came. Unlike the Mullineux chenins or Swartland and so say hello to Meursault. Drink 2018-2025.  Tasted September 2018

Leeu Passant Dry Red Wine 2016, WO Western Cape

The throwback, ode and homage to South African reds made in the 50s, 60s, 70s, rustic, tannic, structured and reeking of the ancient soils that gave them life. Three locales are in the mix; Wellington, Franschhoek and Stellenbosch. The vineyards are the first pro-Phylloxera planted sites, a willy-nilly varietal scattering, blocks of two cinsault, a cabernet sauvignon and a cabernet franc. “It’s a deconstructed reconstruction,” says Andrea Mullineux, “where you break down what you love and build it back up again.” First thing is to show utmost submissive respect to 95 and 117 year-olds, the oldest registered red wine vineyards in South Africa. So you hand harvest their low yields and keep a minimum half of the bunches intact for to ferment these wise and experienced grapes. They spend 20 months in barrel then emerge structured and fit for 20 years of longevity. As with those post mid-20th century wines the profile is rich, tart, spicy, robust and layered with serious grounding. Revivalist red, keeper of faith and a lost style, uniquely South African. Today that translates to vogue. Boom. Drink 2020-2032.  Tasted September 2018

Lismore Sauvignon Blanc 2016, WO Greyton

The Cape’s south coast work of Samantha O’Keefe, a (500L) barrel fermented sauvignon blanc made in an oxidative way, or rather a wine of early introductions made with oxygen. Flinty no doubt then rich and full on the palate, of throttling grape tannin who’s antidote is a sense of settled calm. Late spice, Bordeaux in temperament but cooler still, an almost northern Sancerre-ish dexterity and layering. Composed and so very genteel. Drink 2018-2024.  Tasted September 2018

Lismore Chardonnay Estate 2016, WO Greyton

From the Cape’s south coast and Samantha O’Keefe’s original Greyton Farm, in re-build for a promising future. This ’16 is 90 per cent estate fruit, a natural ferment and all done up in neutral (300L) barrels, 11 months on lees. No malo except when a great vintage comes along. Simply an orchard and gingered and delight, a woven tapestry of backroads eccentricities and southern exposures, with a kick and twist of finishing spice. Drink 2019-2024. Tasted September 2018

Lismore The Age Of Grace 2017, WO Elgin

From rose-quartz soil in cool Elgin, a 100 per cent viognier, so apposite relative to the achromatic shades of Greyton sauvignon blanc and chardonnay. High demeanour and a sense of vivid colour in the aromatic wonder but more so in the levels of palate, front through middle to back. They come like a rainbow, rolling, over stones, in “colours in the air, oh, everywhere.” Orange, peach, nectarine and fine, fine Elgin acidity. They are wrapped in sour spice yet sit cross-legged, in complete control. An aristocratic flower child, surely full of and situated in an age of grace. Drink 2018-2023.  Tasted September 2018

Lismore Pinot Noir 2017, WO Western Cape

Fruit from both Walker Bay and Elgin and 30 per cent whole bunch (the first vintage was 15). So very herbal, savoury, stemmy and honest. A beacon in pinot noir you want to drink that comes equipped with an edginess about it. Full purity on display, grip, intensity and packed with provisions for the picnic. Marks the early beginnings of a varietal journey with some naïveté and dreams but look out. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted September 2018

Alette de Boer, Lowerland

Lowerland Tolbos Tannat 2016, WO Prieksa, Noord Kap

From South Africa’s furthest northern wine-growing area, a joint effort between grower Bertie Coetzee and winemaker Lukas van Loggerenberg. Wow does this ever smell like tannat with its depth of earthy fruit and suspension of oxidative animation. High acidity reminds of the really cool climate, more Niagara per se than southwest France. There really is something special here, as with Lowerland’s stellar whites, something singular, yet undefined, in enigma and mystery. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted September 2018

Lowerland Witgat Viognier 2017, WO Prieska Noord Kaap

The viognier may scent of exotic flowers and tropical fruits but as with most of Alette de Beer and Bertie Coetzee’s range this is surely a cool climate wine. Subtly so and yet of a tension and a demand that accrue a sense of northerly South African wine-growing sense. The wine was made by JD Pretorius at the Constantia property Steenberg and it comes about quite normal, varietally speaking but also beautiful. There is a liquid chalky feel, a product no doubt of quality dry extract mixed with Prieksa soil of desert sand and silty clay. Lean and structured, a lanky viognier that in the end delivers quite the delight. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted September 2018

Lowerland Die Verlore Bokooi 2016, WO Prieska Noord Kaap

Literally “easy drinking blend,” spoken through an indigenous vernacular from “the place of the lost goat.” At the time a blend of merlot, shiraz and tannat but like the Herd Sire Reserve that too will change over time. A racy and ripe red, earthy and parochial though fruitful in its red, black and blue mixed berry basket. There really is nothing to compare this too, neither old world origin or varietal mash up so assess it on its own terms. Just knock it back. Drink 2018-2019.  Tasted September 2018

Lowerland Herd Sire Reserve 2015, WO Prieska Noord Kaap

A red blend that will evolve (varietally speaking) but in 2015 it is based on cabernet sauvignon with petit verdot and a small amount of merlot. Bordeaux being the message but that too will change because the north of South Africa may actually share more affinity with the southwestern French wine-growing than anywhere else. This unique Noord Kaap Wyn van Oorsprong’s cool climate makes for early drinking reds and the 13 year-old vines here follow the party line for a red blend ripe enough to do what needs. There is more liqueur and spice here than what is noted in the merlot/shirtaz/tannat and also increased acid intensity. Somewhat oxidative but holding well and doling pleasure. Drink 2018-2019.  Tasted September 2018

Nina Mari and Ernst Bruwer, Mont Blois

Mont Blois Estate Chardonnay Kweekkamp 2016, WO Robertson

After 28 of not bottling their own wines the husband and wife team of Ernst and Nina-Mari Bruwer began again in 2017. This is one of the first, a single vineyard chardonnay off of 12 year-old vines, barrel fermented and aged 11 months. Speaks of Robertson, not specifically by limestone but with that WO’s orchard fruit and realism, by passing spice that’s merely a thought. Lovely snap, crack and bite which is truly Robertson while in delivery of everyday texture and mellow disposition. The kind of chardonnay to stay quiet and simply sip. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted September 2018

Mont Blois Chardonnay Hoog en Laag 2016, WO Robertson

“High And low,” in reference to the vineyard being a terraced block on clay. Heavy clay that is, a Robertson specialty and the Hoog En Laag receives the same elévage as the Kweekkamp chardonnay. Certainly a richer and fruit fulsome expression, less snap and bite. No subtle spice either and yet the barrel notes are equally noted. What this has is full-fledged texture, creamy and smooth, all day long. Drink 2018-2020.  Tasted September 2018

Mont Blois Chenin Blanc Groot Steen 2016, WO Robertson

The “big” chenin blanc because of the dense clay that gives nutrient life to the 32 year-old block of vines. Quite the steen intensity, ripping with fruit and a mineral streak for layer upon layer of Robertson quality. Naturally sweet pears, ripe and dripping, plus an unusual or unaccustomed to herbology. Perhaps it’s the famous local Rooibos talking. Really persistent chenin with loads of potential. Likely some flint and smoulder in its future. Drink 2018-2024.  Tasted September 2018

Mullineux Kloof Street Chenin Blanc 2018, WO Western Cape

A true Cape chenin blanc assemblage, in fact it gives meaning to the gathered idea, like an AOC Chablis made by a houses in names of Fèvre, Drouhin, Moreau or La Chablisienne. Mullineux’s twist is the back blending with some old barrel ferments to balance to new and “other” fruit components. A chenin blanc that is bottled the same year it was picked though that’s easier to do in the southern hemisphere where harvest happens in the first quarter months. Expectation always dictates value from the Kloof Street and 2018 does not disappoint with an attractive spiciness that speaks to the preservation of freshness in a chenin blanc possessive of no boundaries. One of the most versatile wines on the planet. Sheet pan sausages and fennel would be just ideal. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted September 2018

Mullineux Chenin Blanc Quartz 2017, WO Swartland

Soil is the single matter, catalyst and difference maker to dictate the peculiarities, idiosyncrasies and unique sets of behaviours in the Mullineux single-terroir wines. The chenin develops “freckles” in the sun, tells winemaker Andrea Mullineux and the warmth of the high presence of quartz retains and returns warmth, translating to a conduit of concentrated ripeness passing through the vines. Not a direct heat, otherwise the berries would burn but a reflected back-beat of light and one that is slowly transmitted with naturally occurring temperature control for how and when the plants are in need. The greatest positive is in the maturation of phenolics in the skins and not by a hasty overload in developed sugars. From out of the silica oxide comes vegetative growth that promotes and preserves a physiological process in retention of acid freshness. The result? A phenolic journey unique to chenin blanc as here with a striking 2017, dry as drought yet fresh as a daisy. Though there is some creamy texture there too is hyper intense clarity, a variegate of dappled aromatics and brindled flavours, all bound up in animated acid bounces. Drink 2019-2029.  Tasted September 2018

Mullineux Chenin Blanc Granite 2017, WO Swartland

In chenin blanc the Mullineuxs engage in this single-terroir comparison, first by Quartz and now through Granite. The reference is to the predominant mineral presence in the soil and in how it influences the chameleon varietal. In 2017 Quartz is a major concern but switching to sandy, decomposed rocky soil and everything changes. Berries leave the world of mottled and piebald to one of demure and decor with thanks to the diffused light set upon them. That and a place where roots must burrow, digging deeper through hunks of rock into the sub-strata. This is where trace elements and minerals are to be found in the water table below and while limestone and silex is not the tablet there is some ideological affinity here with the Loire. As such it is this Granite that speaks in a leaner, thoroughly mineral, less spice and increased sharpness vernacular. Precision cut, flint struck, metallic, a song of science and silence. Body and flesh are ambient, less “creamy” than in Quartz, linear in travels, long and of an aging potential surely cast forward. Focused all the way through, unrelenting but always in layers of overlap and subtlety. Drink 2020-2033.  Tasted September 2018

Mullineux Kloof Street Red 2017, WO Swartland

Kloof Street is a “heritage blend,” says Andrea Mullineux, “it’s a wine about the love for making wine, but having preferences.” From vintage to vintage maybe check the bottle for varieties because there is no steadfast formula. Heritage, as opposed to Rhône means playfulness, choices and the inclusion of a structure fortifying grape like tinta barocca, truly integral to the Western Cape meritage experience. Here in 2017 there are some notable added layers of flesh, drying tannin and largesse. An early extracted wine in fast stages of maceration to coax out the fruit and deter astringency. Comes away rich and robust, rocking the free and new world. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted September 2018

Mullineux Syrah 2016, WO Swartland

“I still consider it a blend,” insists Andrea Mullineux,”because it comes from seven vineyards on three soils.” Spends up to six weeks on skins, depending on how big the tannins are. Big equals patience. Burly early with spice and elongation but that heft and girth will slowly melt away. An invisible friend called acidity will usher the transformation, those gnomes of silent structure. The next stage will celebrate the leathery cherry fruit and cumulative Swartland savour.  Last tasted September 2018

The first drought vintage for the Swartland syrah and so the extract, concentration and density are all in compression mode. The change is felt with palpable impression, meatier, more char, even tar, and a little bit of dogma was necessary to bring in more granite-raised syrah to keep things swimmingly cool and savoury along. It’s a hematic one in 2016. To some this would be the bomb, the massive reason to believe and to others it might seem an impossible wall to scale. With a combination of love and patience the ’16 will please them all. Drink 2020-2028.  Tasted May 2018

Mullineux Syrah Schist 2016, WO Swartland

As with the two chenin blanc Quartz and Granite introspections there too is a Mullineux terroir combing of Swartland soils through the lens of syrah, there by Iron and here through Schist. The style or rather the result is befitting the monikers because Schist is the tamer one of the two and it is interesting to note that the syrah “blend” as Andrea Mullineux calls it is more like Iron than this elegant one. A huge January heat wave could have led this into the raisin danger zone because ripening under the shotgun is no way to approach harvest. Cooler heads and temperatures prevailed to allow for an unfurling, a plumping and a perking up. Schist comes out regal, aromatically civil and demure, but also juicier than a nosing might indicate. Acid retention is strong, sweet and quite friendly to work in cohorts with the cane and Baleni based spice. Dark in complexion, yes brooding yet sneakily serene, salty and so comfortable in its own skin. Drink 2020-2032.  Tasted September 2018

Mullineux Syrah Iron 2016, WO Swartland

The second of two Mullineux soil investigations for syrah is this dramatic and hematic nonpareil exemplar. Cultivar meets terroir, raised off of a heavy, gravelly clay, rich in iron, impressive and hallowed as antediluvian viticultural ground. That may not be completely Cape uncommon but this is clearly a paradigm shifter for drilled down South African syrah in attack meets beast mode, cimmerian, ferric and intense. Modish though, while inexorable character oozes from every pore and a mid-palate wells of extraordinary fill. Sharpens its wits on bullish tannin and expresses Northwest of Malmesbury iron with raw emotion and power, though without rusticity. What it may lack in elegance is made up by sheer force in reckoning, at first engaging and then gripping the palate by all means necessary. The velvet glove future lies somewhere in the next decade, likely latter first half. Drink 2022-2034.  Tasted September 2018

Paul Cluver Pinot Noir Seven Flags 2013, WO Elgin

Just a hint of evolution is showing in this five year-old pinot noir which is something because you had to work to find any in the just tasted 2009. The sweetest fruit comes from 2013, on of the riper, purest and most pristine vintages to express what Elgin has to offer. Ethereal actually, not loosely but effortlessly structured with a seamless bond forged between fruit and acids. Tannins are already subsiding in this elegant, balanced and slightly spiced pinot. Drink 2018-2026.  Tasted September 2018

Paul Cluver Pinot Noir Seven Flags 2011, WO Elgin

Such a composed vintage, cool, calm and collected. A Beaune Villages feel here, perhaps Aloxe-Corton with darker pinot noir fruit, almost black cherry but less obvious, more complex, full of baking spice. A genial and genteel Seven Flags nonetheless, elastic, pliable, amenable but not without undeniable and underlying composure. That backbone may bend with curvature ease but will not break. Provides the basis to see this Cluver from Elgin live easily up to and likely beyond its 12th birthday. Drink 2018-2023.  Tasted September 2018

Paul Cluver Pinot Noir Seven Flags 2009, WO Elgin

Harkens back to a time when the 1987 planted 113 clone was no longer the sole provider for the Seven Flags family after 115 and 667 had been planted in 2001. From 2009 it seems quite obvious the vintage was one to create big, robust, ripe and warm pinot noir. Even as it approaches its ninth birthday the evolution equation remains in early steps computation, perhaps just now moving to the next stage. Secondary development is still around the bend or on the next page, noted by the persistence of a cool climate, liquid but still grainy chalk. Also acts just a bit reductive which seems almost impossible but stranger things have happened out of South African vineyards. Just imagine the futuristic possibilities when these vines soon achieve heritage age. Remind me to ask Paul Cluver for a look at vintages from 2022 onward at Cape Wine 2039. Drink 2018-2023.  Tasted September 2018

Callie Louw, Porseleinberg

Porseleinberg Syrah 2016, WO Swartland

Poured by Callie Louw at Cape Wine 2018, this Riebeek Kasteel, Porcelain Mountain syrah somehow sits at a pantheon’s peak vintage after vintage, as if each one is a once in a lifetime effort. This must have been the epitome of such a consideration because Louw calls it “a fucking hard vintage, eh.” Strong talking words from the stoic and pragmatic BBQ smoker, winemaker and cricket master. Callie may have experienced a craftsman’s pain but the 70 per cent foudres and 30 concrete elévage not only tamed the savage beast, it helped to turn heads and remind of where greatness comes from. Tasted side by each with 2012 and 2013 only magnifies the massive structure in this ’16, a reductively bouncy, glycerin and impenetrable syrah in need of getting lost in the cellar. Will also need an epic song, “into the blue again, after the money’s gone.” Through the next decade and well into the following one this syrah will remain in light. “Same as it ever was.” Drink 2022-2040.  Tasted September 2018

Callie Louw’s smoker hard at work in Malmesbury

The Sadie Family Palladius 2014, WO Swartland

If you Google “South African white appellative blend” the number one result should surely be Eben Sadie’s Palladius and these are the 11 reasons why; chenin blanc, grenache blanc, marsanne, sémillon, sémillon gris, viognier, clairette blanche, roussanne, verdelho, colombard and palomino. Eleven blocks, all on granites, some from the Riebeek-Kasteel side. If looking forward to the brilliant ’16 and seeing it as a wine of mixed tenses, then this ’14 speaks in the imperfect because it strikes as the one to talk about the past and to say what used to happen. As in language, love, war and the past continuous, all is fair when it comes to assessing the verticals of wine, especially in descriptions. The 2014 Palladius is the back to the future vintage, of warmth and spice when things were picked overripe and new beginnings are constantly forged. But the citrus preserve and sheer electric lemon-lime energy looks ahead to the intensity of a youthful 2016, leaving a taster confounded, satisfied and awake all at the same time. This may go forward before it retreats once again. Drink 2018-2028.  Tasted September 2018

The Sadie Family Palladius 2009, WO Swartland

When talking about the 2009 vintage Eben Sadie talks of the decision to add sémillon, clairette blanche and palomino to his appellative white blend that already held chenin blanc, colmbard, grenache blanc and viognier. “To up the acidity,” aid and abet the tendencies of fleshy fruit to fatten in overripe behaviour. More than just acidity mind you, Sadie also looked to heighten the “acoustics” in a wine that was quickly becoming a major Swartland concern. Tasting this is September 2018 it can’t help but be noted how development and evolution have nearly caught up to 2005, a vintage cause and effect action no doubt. Here is the spiciest, sauciest and flat out nasty attitude Palladius, unabashed and already having done most of its living. That said the track record of these wines tells us to stay put, be patient and continue to relish the sapid, saline and ever-changing paths carved out. Drink 2018-2023.  Tasted September 2018

The Sadie Family Pofadder 2017, WO Swartland

Part of Eben Sadie and family’s “Die Ouwingerdreeks,” the old vine series and a reference to either or both puff adder snakes and the small “bushman’s land” town in the Northern Cape. Can be 100 per cent cinsault though the percentage is 85 in 2017, aged in old but not Jurassic wood. The ideal, epitome and exemplar bench-land varietal wine, not to mention a pioneer in the South African paradigm shift to conscious exultation of a plan in collective commitment for varietal, heritage vine and whole cluster ferments. From granite shales (not the decomposed kind) and yet another red fruit incarnate, freshest of the fresh precision wines. Pure Cape cinsault is this, with tannin but the kind that is sweet and stretched. No bullshit here. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted September 2018

The Sadie Family Treinspoor 2017, WO Swartland

Afrikaans for “railroad,” perhaps a reference to the method of transportation that brought these European grapes to the Cape, depending on how far back tinta barocca arrived in the Swartland. In fact it was in the 1920’s and now just a bit more than 200 ha’s of this hardy, rustic, dark-skinned, early ripening and versatile red lay scattered about, accounting for two one hundredth’s of a per cent for vineyard area in South Africa. Sadie’s is a single-vineyard line running through the Darling side of Malmesbury, a cimmerian blackish red reeking of Renosterbos which is ironic because animal activists have always believed that the railroads threaten Rhino habitat. Digressions aside this is a prime example of why some might consider tinta barocca to be the future grape of Swartland. Sweetly floral and in 2017 both ways perfectly ripe. Botanicals abound, bosplante in bloom while flowers await the bees. Where this shares affinities with cinsault and grenache is in the curative and salumi aromas leading to sweet yet elastic tannins. The finish and length are expressly Swartland in nature. Drink 2020-2028.  Tasted September 2018

The Sadie Family Columella 2016, WO Swartland

Red counterpart to the Sadie white signature Palladius and residing in the upper echelon of Western Cape appellative blends. Ontario lays claim to the Stratus White and Red while the Cape knows these. Allowing for some levity there is a kinship to be considered between Eben Sadie and J-L Groulx, two of the more unlikely mad scientists able to capture the lit and woke disposition of mastered assemblage. Imagine Groulx also pouring varietal shots of many different farmed varieties from the back of his pick up truck during a lawn bowl in Niagara-on-the-Lake. The full name is Columella Liberatus in Castro Bonae Spei, Latin for “liberated in the Cape of Good Hope” and as a pillar of strength Columella’s syrah, grenache, mourvèdre, cinsault and tinta barroca ascend to dramatic expression. Variegated in every respect; hue, perfume, flavour and structure, at once layered and then stratified with doric strength, able to bear the most concentrated weight. Relative acidity, fluted or grooved, wider in youth to help support and lengthen. Intensely fortified with help from the barocca, naturally and of itself, intuitively wild yet controlled. Such a focused wine one rarely comes upon. Drink 2019-2030.  Tasted September 2018

The Sadie Family ‘T Voetpad 2017, WO Swartland

The “footpath” from both the Dutch (het Voedpad) and Afrikaans, also the name of Dirk Brand’s rooibos and wheat farm next to this oldest vineyard in the Kapteinskloof near Piketberg. Some say the oldest in South Africa, planted between 1920 an 1928, but others will say the first vines went in around the 1890’s through to the early 1900’s. Takes the Sadie Family “Die Ouwingerdreeks” to the farthest, most extreme reaches of the old vineyards idea. “The vines have seen it all,” tells Eben Sadie, “don’t fuck with us” is their message. “Don’t mess this up.” And so Eben co-ferments in an as is format but more importantly works at the agriculture to a point of obsession. Newer inter-plantings will go in, of sémillon, sémillon gris and palomino from massal selected material. To deal with drought cover crops will also be added between rows, all of course through an organic approach. The blend is sémillon, sémillon gris, palomino, chenin blanc and muscat d’Alexandrie, all processed together, but this is not about extreme winemaking. More like extreme farming, finding ways to keep these twisted kurktrekker and cavatappi bending vines alive for to produce their magic. The wine that emerges is all about tendencies and multiplicities of texture. The dry extract here is off the charts making it seem forcefully and fiercely tannic. Fantasy and zeitgeist just happens and the results are right there in the bottle. A remarkable wine and vintage from an isolated vineyard where drought is always a factor. Drink 2019-2033.  Tasted September 2018

Abrie Bruwer, Springfield Estate

Springfield Estate Chardonnay Méthode Ancienne 2016, WO Robertson

Burgundian ode, ancient method of making chardonnay, a rare approach these days, with wild yeasts and no fining or filtration. No surprise that Springfield Estate is willing to give it a go because that’s how they roll. The plan is for deep longevity by a method akin to anti-aging serum, though 15 to 20 years would be astonishing in any case. Ground control to major tang, circuits wired tohu vavohu and a lemon custard to curd constitution that is simply merveilleux. Yes it is true that a hint of orange could turn into Cointreau after a half decade or more and the mid-palate cloud cover will continue to deliver warmth and appeal. Curious methodology plus romantic acumen equates to one of a kind. We’ll see where this goes. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted September 2018

Van Loggerenberg Wines Break A Leg Blanc De Noirs 2017, WO Paarl

Often referred to as a pink wine but to choose this term to call Lukas van Loggerenberg’s 100 per cent cinsault grown on Helderberg granite would not tell the right story. Blanc de noirs is more apt but even then more detail is necessary to do it justice. Sees nine months of lees time, “to remove the tutti frutti,” snarks van Loggerenberg, without jest but can you really know when he’s being serious? Leaves the arena of the Rosé absurd and settles at a hue of proper B de N colour, as if that really matters. Saltiness is the thing, the granite kind, the sort to set your eyes ablaze and your heart to rest. Not really a wine about texture, though there is plenty, but that’s not the goal. Anything but sweet and a wresting away from norms into a matter of reckoning. And all about five knee surgeries, something the winemaker and the critic know all about. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted September 2018

Van Loggerenberg Wines Chenin Blanc Trust Your Gut 2017, WO Western Cape

While there are wines in Lukas van Loggerenberg’s world that travel down the kamikaze viaduct, Trust Your Gut is not one of them. In fact there is a normalcy, a recognizable structure and an older Euro soul to the way this chenin blanc acts and feels. Sees 10 months sur lie in old French oak but no bâttonage, nor malo neither. Three zones bring the fruit; 45 per cent each Stellenbosch and Swartland plus 10 from Paarl. Take chenin blanc and treat it like a Villages wine by imagining Loire aromatics merging with Chablis texture. This my friends is a classic example of amalgamated Western Cape chenin style. There is irony in the name and no shocker there. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted September 2018

Early springtime in Cape Town

Van Loggerenberg Wines Cinsault Geronimo 2017, WO Western Cape

Geronimo is 100 per cent cinsault, 60 per cent from Stellenbosch and 40 “Break a Leg” Paarl. The get together finds energy that one without the other would not find “because cinsault doesn’t have high natural acidity,” explains Lukas van Loggerenberg, “it is a very good indicator of vintage.” The 2017 is, wait for it, 80 per cent whole bunch and while that is a factor of the Western Cape’s ripen anything, anywhere, anytime great advantage, it’s still an impressive strategy no matter where you are making wine. Spends nine months in barrel and comes out smelling like roses, candied petals mainly but other florals, hibiscus and such. A handsome cinsault to be sure and one that will take precious time to unwind, great acidity or not. Like the red Cape equivalent of white friulano in Collio, sneaky long and structured. Drink 2018-2024.  Tasted September 2018

Van Loggerenberg Cabernet Franc Breton 2017, WO Stellenbosch

A more than obvious ode to the Loire Valley, 100 per cent cabernet franc bearing the old world varietal name. Fruit drawn from Stellenbosch’s decomposed granite soils gets the 60 per cent whole bunch treatment, followed by 11 months in barrel. Transparent as cabernet franc is the understatement, open wide, ease of alcohol at 12.8 per cent and in delivery for the rapture of being alive. Lots of verdant tones but nary a green tannic moment. Seems like the beginning of a beautiful friendship so the future too is wide open. Drink 2018-2020.  Tasted September 2018

Sheree Nothnagel

Wildehurst Velo White 2016, WO Swartland

A testament to non-pareil, Cape appellative white blend equanimity, of colombard, grenache blanc and viognier, 33 of each, give or take one per cent. Only the viognier is barrel fermented though the equilibrium os never compromised. Intensely herbal, of a nose uncanny in its fynbos reek, lovely glycerin texture, again balanced and knowing the place it wants to be. Acid structure travels though in a pas trop travaillé, no trouble way. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted September 2018

Wildehurst Chenin Blanc 2017, WO Swartland

Barrel fermented and six months matured, 100 per cent chenin blanc, acting as if freshly spiced and in Cape terms, a really chewy white wine. Counterbalanced by a leanness in vintage while wound tight, just now perhaps beginning to unwind in repeat of its specific refrain. Acid structure makes up the lyrical couplets, sung again and again, as a reminder that fruit and wood will always align and submit to the citrus rhyme. Almost feels like still perlage and chenin blanc like this is very much a string of pearls, inclusive of tannins in long chains. Helps to explain the success of Wildehurst’s Méthode Cap Classique. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted September 2018

Wildehurst Red 2014, WO Swartland

A blend of shiraz, grenache, mourvèdre, viognier and cinsault, aged in old French barrels for 18 months. Like the solo cinsault but an even more held back and hard to crack the savoury and sweet candied shell. Both elements emerge with good agitation, first the sweet variegate of red fruit and then the brushy and dusty fynbos bushiness, here acting as an energizer for equal opportunity. Spills over with that Wildehurst acid-tannin continuum as all the wines take their time to ready, pivot in the glass and then speak of their age ability going forward. Big bursts are all power and no cake. Rich yet elastic and surely capable of going deep. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted September 2018

Wildehurst Cinsault 2017, WO Swartland

Just two barrels were found to be extraordinary and thus pulled by Sheree Nothnagel, away from the red blend and into this solo album. Quite the richly emulsified and ropey red fruit cinsault and while it follows along the varietal Swartland thread the differences are as great as they are to the party’s similarities. That is due in respect to the Wildehurst style, tighter and more acid-structure intense, higher-toned and less in the meaty-salumi-curative vein. Still possessive of that red as red can be fruit but here more akin to barbera or sangiovese from high altitudes and limestone soils. There must be something about Koringberg and the other Swartland sites that bring a special je ne sais quoi to Joanne Hurst’s wines. Maybe in thanks to Swartland shale, granite, silcrete and alluvium Renosterveld. Who does not love the smell of Renosterveld in the morning? Drink 2019-2027. Tasted September 2018

The Wine Thief Costa Del Swart Viura 2017, WO Voor Paardeberg

From the Western Cape’s chameleon of a region where anything goes and all things are considered. Case in point this viura of Spanish roots as part of the single barrel series. Surely Swartland specific (as opposed to Paarl), 100 per cent viura and only 180 bottles produced. Less alchemy and more herbology, but flinty, sharp and exciting. Direct, full of fun and even a bit waxy, with a riesling or sémillon feel that can only mean some petrol in its future. So much citrus gets ya in the end. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted September 2018

Good to go!

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WineAlign

Yearning for the Langhe

Godello in Cherasco

My kingdom for an Albese plate of Tajarin at Osteria dei Sognatori or a platter of Plin at Ristorante La Libera. What a wine writer would not do for a Langhe reprise, a Piedmontese redux, a tasting of any Barolo, Barbaresco, Roero, Dogliani, Alba or Langhe Barbera and Nebbiolo, Langhe Roero Arneis, Na’Scetta e Favorita. Were things normal and they most certainly are not, but were life being lived now as it was one year ago we would be convening in Alba in two weeks time. What I would not give to break bread with a winemaker, colleague or friend in Piemonte.

Related – Barolo DOCG previews and retrospectives: 2016, Riserva 2014, 2006 and Riserva 2004

Mark these words. The two specialized and specific DOCs of Nebbiolo d’Alba and Langhe Nebbiolo will gain prominence and become a two-headed beast in 2021. The world will gather to exult, raise up and drink these fine and vastly underrated examples of classified nebbiolo. Of this I became truly privy to one year ago but also throughout 2020 as more and more nebbiolo came to be assessed across my desk. Yes it was back in January 2020 when I travelled to Alba in Piemonte for Nebbiolo Prima 2020 and Grandi Langhe. I tasted more than 600 nebbiolo, dolcetto, barbera, arneis, freisa, chardonnay, pelaverga and even riesling during the eight day work staycation. Grande.

Grandi Langhe 2020

Related – Barbaresco DOCG previews and retrospectives: 2017, Riserva 2015, 2007 and 2005

Nebbiolo Prima and Grandi Langhe Trade Fair are a back-to-back cumulative by the work of many, not the least of which are organizations such as Consorzio Albeisa, a.k.a Unione Produttori Vini Albesi, Consorzio di Tutela Barolo Barbaresco Alba Langhe e Dogliani, Consorzio Tutela del Roero and Regione Piemonte. During that trip I tasted and reviewed 230 Barolo: DOCG 2016 (197), Riserva DOCG 2014 (6), DOCG 2006 (20) and Riserva DOCG 2004 (7). For Barbaresco the number was 92: DOCG 2017 (59), DOCG 2015 (15), DOCG 2015, 2007, 2009 and 2005 (18). As for Roero DOCG, 38 notes: DOCG 2017 and 2016 (33) and DOCG 2006 and 2007 (5).

Related – Roero DOCG Previews and Retrospectives: 2017, Riserva 2016, 2007 and Riserva 2006

Here’s to hoping for a return at any point in 2021, or in 2022 for the 25th Nebbiolo Prima followed by Grandi Langhe, if that’s how it will be. In the meantime here are 44 further reviews of wines tasted in and around Alba back in January, 2020. Langhe Nebbiolo DOC, Nebbiolo d’Alba DOC, Barolo DOCG, Barbaresco DOCG, Barbera d’Alba DOCG, Verduno Pelaverga DOC, Langhe Nascetta Del Comune Di Novello DOC, Langhe Favorita DOC, Roero Arneis DOC, Langhe Rosato DOC, Vino Rosso and Birbét. Care Langhe, spero di tornare presto.

Nebbiolo d’Alba DOC

Diego Morra Nebbiolo d’Alba DOC 2016

F.rom northern facing vineyards that receive no direct sun so essentially a cool Langhe climate. Nebbiolo that sees a short maceration and French wood. Not your everyday or expected nebbiolo in a really light and transparent style. Extremely fresh and refreshing, taut, high-toned and yet this creamy texture. Richer than half-and-half, perhaps like 20 per cent fat though lactose free and not enough to be whipped. So different. Drink 2020-2023.  Tasted January 2020

Malabaila Di Canale 1362 Nebbiolo d’Alba Doc Bric Merli 2017

From the vineyard directly in front of Bric Volta. A lighter, but far from unstructured nebbiolo with a new and certain grace and still unmistakeable Canale DNA. Here you can mark another reference point, not to mention the genetic and torch passing material provided by 650 years of history, information and accumulation in experience. The demeanour is confident and gracious. Who would not want a glass every night? Drink 2020-2024.  Tasted January 2020

Mauro Sebaste Nebbiolo d’Alba DOC Parigi 2017

Comes from the same type of marly soil as the barbera, here out of vineyards located in the villages of Alba and Diano d’Alba. The vines are around 20 years of age and the wine sees one year in (30 per cent new) American 40L and French 30L barrels. The idea is to draw out soft and elegant tannins, especially by the American oak. That much is true in a nebbiolo heading towards that direction though not quite yet there. A return in two to three years should do the trick. Drink 2021-2024.  Tasted January 2020

Nebbiolo Langhe DOC

Elvio Cogno Nebbiolo Langhe DOC Montegrilli’ 2018

A name taken from Valter Fissore’s grandfather’s vineyard in the Roero, not Barolo and yes this is a nebbiolo and a wine to drink. Immediately gratifying in so many ways. From vineyards on the other side of Novello, southwest exposure and very sandy soil with just a minor amount of sandstone. Fragolina di bosco and white raspberry, a juicy wine that can quench your thirst. Just a minor grip and chalk of tannin. Hardly causes any confusion and allows you to sip and sip and sip. Grill some fish and Montegrilli’s your friend. Drink 2020-2025.  Tasted January 2020

Mauro Molino Nebbiolo Langhe DOC 2018 ($27.95, Le Sommelier Inc.)

From two vineyards, one in La Morra (estate) and one in Roero. Less than a year in old, large barrels and a purposeful one, for early and often drinking enjoyment. Bright fruit, easy, forward and will surely solicit many a happy palate for dual-drawn, doubling down pleasure. Floral, well made and proper. Drink 2020-2023.  Tasted January 2020

Bollito Misto, Sinio

Azienda Agricola Taverna Langhe Nebbiolo DOC 2018

Declassified nebbiolo from Barbaresco with mildly candied fruit, slightly oxidative, but charming. Only been in bottle maximum one month. Drink 2020.  Tasted February 2020

Sottimano Langhe Nebbiolo DOC 2018 (454017, $32.95, Le Maitre de Chai)

Youngest vines in the Basarin Vineyard at 18 years old grown in sand and clay at the foot of Neive. The Langhe nebbiolo sees 20-30 days on skins (as opposed to 30-40 for the Barbaresco), ferments naturally and at low temperatures. Glaring as a vintage with a big grin on its face, unprecedented concentration, healthy extraction and completed by elevated dry extract. Incredible intensity for the appellation, something already noted in 2015 but bears repeating, like a mantra, for kicks, compliments, giggles and kudos. The Piedmontese maceration brings so much texture and chromatic accents; tangerine, vermillion, sorrel and umber. Longer maceration, less wood (four months) and no love lost for aging, not to mention waxing rhapsodically on. Drink 2021-2026.  Tasted January 2020

Osteria dei Sognotori, Alba

Barolo DOCG

Agricola Marrone Barolo DOCG Pichemej 2015

Pichmej is a combination of two vineyards, Bussia and Santa Maria, what Valentina and sister’s Serena and Denise Marrone call “our grandfather’s wine.” Who happened to be Carlo. A nebbiolo that you really can drink now but then again that’s the thing about young Marrone Barolo. They and this ’15 Pichmej display a sense of the ethereal in their youth. Nature in conjunction with nurture, a delicate touch and phenolic regulation to near perfection. If you would like to access the portal into the reality of how nebbiolo needs to be made in modern times then begin right here and know what’s what in 2020. Drink 2020-2026.  Tasted January 2020

Agricola Marrone Barolo DOCG Bussia 2015

Compared to Pichmej this nebbiolo from Bussia is a step up in concentration and also structure, the latter being in kinship with Bussia 2016. That said there is absolutely zero compromise to the stylistic execution that makes for a Marrone Barolo. Simulates the phenolic beauty of Pichmej and of ’16 but the fullest, deepest and most complete journey happens here. Enologist Donato Lanati has coaxed the fruit but not the bitters while the sisters Marrone find excellence in completing Bussia and all the rest. Lightness of being is also accrued while the wine clocks in at a hidden 15 per cent alcohol. Magic happens and success follows. Drink 2021-2029.  Tasted January 2020

Cascina Adelaide Barolo DOCG Baudana 2015

From Serralunga d’Alba and the apposite Barolo cru, forceful, grippy, demanding, always mired in posit tension tug. That alone explains no differing opinion but pay attention to the kind of “tensione” Adelaide’s creates. The numbered beats are off, out of time, or at least not understood in fours, yet orchestrated and aligned as they should be. As in five or taking the fifth, with a spoonful of notes, lines, vocalizations and structural arrangements feeling like they are unanswered. A vintage that men are dumbfounded by but girls can tell. Baudana is a hyper real get together of brushy aromas, dedicated flavours and highly functional architecture. This one stretches and creates an elastic musculature, flexible and persistent. Wouldn’t mess with Baudana. Drink 2020-2031.  Tasted January 2020

Simone Ortale and Giuliana Drocco, Cascina Adelaide

Cascina Adelaide Barolo Riserva DOCG “Per Elen” 2014

A blend of two cru and says Simone Ortale “we choose the best to make Riserva. It’s our jewel.” The same grandi botti (as per Preda and Cannubi) but here 62 months of aging time. The most mouthfeel, filling and the silkiest chalky liquidity, tannins and layering of multifarious, mille-feuille multiplicity. A nebbiolo for the decades. Drink 2022-2035.  Tasted January 2020

Cascina Boschetti Barolo DOCG Gomba 2015

A smooth, elastic, stretched and elongated nebbiolo from the Commune of Barolo and Boschetti’s estate fruit. Drawn off of the higher reaches and also some that is sold to Marchesi di Barolo. Drink 2020-2025.  Tasted January 2020

Cascina Boschetti Barolo Riserva DOCG Sernìe 2015

Sernìe is the cru inside the cru, a selection within the selection and a word in Piedmontese dialect that essentially means just that. Surely the richer, more concentrated, fully stretched, entirely elastic and truly elongated nebbiolo. Has the violets, purple fruit, foie gras and decadence. Drink 2021-2032.  Tasted January 2020

Cascina Boschetti Barolo Riserva DOCG Sernìe 2012

This older version of the cru within the cru comes from a very select parcel and as an estate flagship nebbiolo is only produced in select vintages. The formidable 2012 season made a request that winemakers (in this case Maurizio Delpero) did not try to extract too much fruit which would also mean an excess of tannin. Yet Boschetti’s Sernìe was subjected to a Piedmontese 40-day maceration (a cappello sommerso), a classic technique that eight years later establishes an exaggeration of nebbiolo riches. Was also a generous vintage that saw to healthy fruit and quantity. Serious Barolo right here. Drink 2020-2030.  Tasted January 2020

Crudo – La Libera, Alba

Diego Morra Barolo DOCG 2015

From the river between La Morra and Verduno, two plots with separate soils and expositions to combine for a double cru cause and effect. Balanced and dynamic, a nose of power meeting finesse. No winding or cinching but more a zig-zagging, ying versus yang, AC-DC, nebbiolo going both ways. Lovely spice. Drink 2021-2026.  Tasted January 2020

Diego Morra Barolo DCOG Monvigliero 2015

From four hectares in the Verduno cru and the three Ms, Mosca, La Morra and Monvigliero. The V in the middle is for Verduno. The 2015 nebbiolo is a really pretty one, floral and understated but of obvious power. Near formidable in its restraint with bursting a real possibility at any near moment. Not quite there yet but it’s coming, it’s real, leaving meaning. “In a room made of stone your future was made.” Wait for it. Drink 2022-2029.  Tasted January 2020

Elvio Cogno Barolo DOCG Bricco Pernice 2015

Ages three years in wood, one year further in barrel. One hundred per cent Lampia clone. A little bit more classic in terms of what is Barolo. The partridge is a special hill and a place that gives away these highly specialized nebbioli and 2015 is on the border between a red and a black vintage. More black then red. A vintage that will be so right and so joyous in middle age and ideal for salty (aged) cheese and meat. Splendido nebbiolo. Drink 2022-2029.  Tasted January 2020

With Valter Fissore

Elvio Cogno Barolo Ravera DOCG Vigna Elena 2014

Rosa clone of Ravera, not quite yet released (will be in three months), dedicated to daughter Elena. A registered menzione geografica named many years ago so the size on the label is set above the DOCG. More of a Bourgogne style. Rose petals and potpourri. Red fruit and red citrus so obviously a red year. Cured like salumi, bresaola maybe or at least eat some alongside. A touch vegetal and that is ’14, sun-dried vegetable and yes, like pinot noir. The first vintage was 1997. Drink 2024-2036.  Tasted January 2020

The quality of the wines gives everyone at Mauro Sebaste every reason to smile

Mauro Sebaste Barolo DOCG Cerretta 2015

Less weight and density in 2015, both in Serralunga fruit and also tannin. Much interest here in how it intimates the richesse of ’16 but not the youthful aggression of the tannin. More freshness, linearity and understanding. No hard edges, really easy to like and enjoy and enough grip to see it develop nicely over the next seven plus years. Might even last longer than imagined. Drink 2020-2027.  Tasted January 2020

Mauro Sebaste Barolo Riserva DOCG Ghè 2014

Ghè is the Riserva of Cerretta fruit but only the smallest berries are chosen. A mega clonal version per se, a Cerretta of Ceretta. Celebrates and argues the merits of a challenging vintage, spends 36 months in tonneaux and like the Cerretta there is pure and substantial fruit. Acidity and tannin too, more than you might imagine considering the wood. Tension and grace live side by side and this is just beginning to act like it will for its essential and optimum 10 year window. Drink 2020-2029.  Tasted January 2020

Palladino Barolo Del Commune Di Serralunga d’Alba DOCG 2016

A true commune Barolo drawn off of a scattering of vineyards, a Serralunga liqueur warming, comforting and reliable, plus a vintage tannin more stringent and yet to crack. Spent two years in grandi botti plus six further months in bottle. Of roses and tar, youthfulness and tension aboard a nicely balanced and upright frame. Drink 2021-2029.  Tasted January 2020

Palladino Barolo Riserva DOCG San Bernardo 2013

The “oriental plot,” from the other side of the Ornato cru and a nebbiolo to speak of extended elévage just as it should. Now into a balsamico cadence and a tartufo lilt. A matter of funghi, acciuga and back to that truffled sensibility. So much umami, the anchovy sitting like a salty and briny slice of maritime butter on toasted crostini with shavings both pencil and earthen nuggets in origin. Oh how the feeling of the block and the greater Piedmontese emanates from one glass of Barolo that only San Bernardo seems capable of gifting. The secondary nature of this nebbiolo is astonishing, if like Christmas come early but why not celebrate now? Should keep developing, morphing, giving again and again. Drink 2020-2030.  Tasted January 2020

Renato Ratti Barolo DOCG Marcenasco 2004 (713479, Halpern Enterprises)

Has quite obviously rounded into form, now beautifully rich and preserved. Poured from magnum yet showing all of its age, fruit sweetly hanging in the balance and as a whole an elegant nebbiolo worthy of the reference. Drink 2020-2024.  Last tasted January 2020

Of the famiglie Pola e Ferro is polar as compared to the non of the Burdin. AM and D nose “car exhaust.” I am tricked by its charm and think New World Syrah, but am reminded that the colour lacks gloom. Hugely muscular, girded by plastron and decades ahead of itself. “Leave it open all night and it’ll be amazing” says Dr. C.  Tasted April 2012

Cherasco

Barbaresco DOCG

Azienda Agricola Taverna Barbaresco DOCG 2017

Comes from one vineyard, the top part of the hill, Gaia Principe it’s called, one of four that make Barbaresco in the MGA. Quick maceration, only seven days, not very Piedmontese and because the house tradition is to make wines to drink and drink now. A very fresh nebbiolo, sweetly perfumed, clear, pure and precise. Drink this most days. No good reason not to. Drink 2020-2025.  Last tasted February 2020

Very ripe and organized, developed and heading forward with great haste. Acids are brighter than some so there is light streaking through the Neive vintage darkness. Another example that speaks to the great variability in 2017. Drink 2020-2024.  Barrel Sample tasted January 2020

Barbera d’Alba DOCG

Cascina Adelaide Vigna Preda Barbera d’Alba 2016

Same vineyard as the nebbiolo for the Preda Barolo but here the barbera fruit is notable deeper and darker. Spends up to 18 months in big barrel and high acidity for Alba with just the right and deft touch of necessary volatile acidity. Rich, luxurious and lovely. Drink 2020-2024.  Tasted January 2020

Cascina Adelaide Barbera D’alba Superiore Docg Amabilin 2016

Named after the creator himself Amabile Drocco who as a child was called Amabilin. The name chosen for the wine pays homage to the family’s origins. The yields are ridiculously low (half a kilo per vine) from 3,000 kg per hectare that represents half of the consorzio’s disciplanare rule. So concentrated and a true gem in the Adelaide portfolio, in fact this is truly one of the tops in all of what is labeled Superiore. Includes eight to ten per cent Barolo fruit but not that which might end up as DOC Nebbiolo. High acidity again (as with the Preda) and ultra special tannins. Only 2000-2300 bottles are produced. Drink 2021-2029.  Tasted January 2020

Diego Morra Barbera d’Alba DOCG 2016

Roddi is the source and direct sun exposure provided for a terroir-varietal relationship that is necessary when you consider acidity rates, ripeness measurements and structural assets. Here barbera gets into beneficial bitters, speaks with assuring alacrity and extolls the virtue of a mainly steely exterior. Really spirited, fresh and alive. Drink 2020-2024. Tasted January 2020

Elvio Cogno Barbera d’Alba DOC Bricco Dei Merli 2017

Single vineyard, aged for one year in wood. The hilltop of the blackbird and a wine nosing succinctly of black cherry. No way this is simply the wine of the osteria or the honky tonk bar. The maturation here is set so high on both fronts, first sugar and then phenolic. Acidity is supportive and there is no burn. There is no jam. What shows is body strength, spirit and a soft finish. Comes from elevation where the wind blows and you can feel the cool breeze running in the veins, like cool water. Picked late September and we are thankful for that. Drink 2021-2026.  Tasted January 2020

The view from Elvio Cogno

Elvio Cogno Barbera d’Alba DOC Pre Phylloxera 2018

Pre-Phylloxera because of these barbera vines’ ability to survive with thanks to sandy soil and 500m of elevation. A red soil that was not inhabitable to the louse. The vineyard is rented from Marcarini and Valter likes to farm it to to keep the history of his family’s work alive. Lower acidity, higher concentration and an affinity with northern Rhône syrah. Cool, smooth, silky, crystal clear and the pinnacle of barbera beauty. Incredible texture. Only 2,000 bottles made. Drink 2021-2029.  Barrel Sample tasted January 2020

Lucrezia Carrega Malabaila

Malabaila Di Canale 1362 Barbera d’Alba DOC Giardono 2018

From a single vineyard, eight yearsold and aged in concrete, for a reductive environment and more important a low, natural and slow ferment. A rich deep cherry barbera to be fair, sure and completely honest with a modernity of acidity that belies the reasons why barbera fell out of favour and became hard to sell. This will do the yeoman work to continue the resurrection. A spice market from a time gone by connects Giardino to a loyal and traditional wine. Drink 2020-2025.  Tasted January 2020

Malabaila Di Canale 1362 Barbera D’alba DOC Mezzavilla 2015

From 75 year-old vines in the Mezzavilla Vineyard, located between the villages of Cisterna (towards Asti) and Canale. Just a few percentage points of oak because the fruit demands it and concrete will keep freshness but doesn’t quite do enough for this fruit. Such a soothing acidity and a presence that speaks to the sand and the clay of the land from whence it came. Taste this fruit and you will understand. Drink 2020-2022.  Tasted January 2020

Mauro Molino Barbera d’Alba Doc “Legattere®”‎ 2017 ($24.95, Le Sommelier Inc.)

A selection of barbera vineyards of soils calcareous/clayey, maceration of six days, fermented in steel, aged in French oak. Just a classic, pure red fruit, high acid and smooth texture/tannins. Round flavours, big yet somehow understated. Drink 2020-2023.  Tasted January 2020

Mauro Sebaste Barbera d’Alba Superiore DOCG Centobricchi 2016

On the hill just above Alba on the way to Serralunga, of low yields that produce just about one bunch per vine. Spends one year in new French oak to gift spice, savour, silk and palate fineness. High acidity, at times too high but necessary to foil the hedonism. A piqued and plentiful barbera that in the end comes down to farming. Drink 2021-2026.  Tasted January 2020

Palladino Barbera d’Alba Superiore DOCG Bricco delle Olive 2017

Big barbera, 15 months in (50 per cent new) tonneaux with violets and spice smothering all else. Despite the enormity of it all this is barbera in a balanced varietal world and Bricco delle Viole is clearly a Superiore terroir from which to approach with great ambition. All assets are encouraged and flaunted  within the grand scale of this particular Alba spectrum. Will improve with some further wood integration. Drink 2021-2025.  Tasted January 2020

Azienda Agricola Taverna Barbera d’Alba DOC 2018

The red fruit juiciest and most succulent Barbera d’Alba with great acids. Make you wish more varietal wines like this would align, draft and glide alongside. Fresh and just lovely. Drink 2020-2023.  Tasted February 2020

Verduno Pelaverga DOC

Diego Morra Pelaverga DOC 2018

Diego Morra’s pelaverga ’18 is clear, concise and pure, lying with a varietal heart at its most effusive. Prim as is imaginable while a big expression for a light and silken grape. From a “normal,” manageable and consistent vintage. A wine executed with molecular gastronomy to an end forged by a grape-wine relationship. Social, artistic and technical pelaverga, investigating the physical and chemical transformations of ingredients that occur in farming and then, winemaking. Drink 2020-2024.  Tasted January 2020

Vino Rosso

Malabaila Di Canale 1362 Donna Costanza Cardunaj Vino Rosso 2017

A digestif wine, a Brachetto vinified dry and so curious. A dessert wine with no fizz and just a touch of sweetness. A moment’s Amaro bitters but no sense of liqueur. Odd to be sure. Drink 2020-2022.  Tasted January 2020

Método Classico Vino Spumante Di Qualita

Malabaila Di Canale 1362 Pas Dosè Método Classico Vino Spumante Di Qualita

A 50-50 nebbiolo and arneis mix, seven years on the lees, from the 2012 vintage and disgorged in October 2019. Yes you read this properly, seven years on lees. The Malabaila connection to the Esterhazy royalty in Austrian indirectly bridges two estates and you can’t help but think about the Blanc de Blancs made in the Burgenland. Zero dosage means lean, direct, sharp and energetic bubbles with remarkable precision. These are Grandi Langhe bubbles from Roero, not to be missed. First vintage was 2010. Can’t be Millesimato because it’s a blend. Drink 2020-2025.  Tasted January 2020

Langhe Rosato DOC

Malabaila Di Canale 1362 Langhe Rosato DOC 2018

From Lucrezia Carrega Malabaila with perfectly typical Rosato colour for nebbiolo taken from Roero lands. ’Tis a coppery hue, sexy rusty, mimicked in flavours with a note like lemon tisane. Steep in some currants and sweet herbs and you get the picture. Poured from magnum and good thing because a table of six would have otherwise gone very thirsty. Drink 2020-2022.  Tasted January 2020

Langhe Nascetta Del Comune Di Novello DOC

Elvio Cogno Langhe Nascetta Del Comune Di Novello DOC Anas Cëtta 2019

Cold stabilization and some wood aging but in botti, no longer in barriques. I have yet to put the nose to my glass and the aromatics are coming out. A semi-aromatic grape with here in 2019 from peach, elderflowers and high level acidity. I would imagine it’s most akin to chenin but even that is a stretch. The drinkability meeting complexity is off the charts. Once you go tactile-textile nascetta like this you may never go back. Approximately 16,000 bottles produced. One of now 30-plus producers in the Langhe. Barrel Sample tasted January 2020.  Drink 2020-2023

Le Strette Nas-cëtta Langhe DOC Pasinot 2018

Nascetta, or Nas-cëtta, as they say in the commune of Novello with fruit out of Pasinotti, Bergera, Pezzole and Tarditi at altitudes of 350 to 420m. Planted over many decades, in 1948, 1983, 2009, 2014 and 2016. The Piedmontese grape rarity likes the sandy, calcareous clay and its emission is semi-aromatic. This example sits somewhere between riesling and gewürztraminer though truth be told seems closer to friulano what with its glycerin and off-dry sentimentality. Novello is the place and the heights help bring about the oiliness and preserved citrus notes from the grape. Needs another year to fully bloom. Drink 2021-2025.  Tasted January 2020

Langhe Favorita DOC

Malabaila Di Canale 1362 Langhe Favorita DOC Donna Costanza 2018

A label made by Lucrezia’s father (who passed away in 2010) for his wife and her mother. Endemic, full of drive, a touch of a sweetness and in a way a cool, northern example that is linked to inzolia, or even zibbibo. More texture here and alloy notation. Lingers with herbs and sweet citrus. Drink 2020-2022.  Tasted January 2020

Roero Arneis DOC

Malabaila Di Canale 1362 Roero Arneis DOC Pradaj 2018

Pradaj in Piedmontese is “A valley with grass and flowers” and clearly a reference to the aromatics in the grape variety from this place. A perfectly correct and referenced arneis indeed and an ideal match to the local Plin agnolotti filled with herbs. When the arneis from Roero speaks clearly it does so like this, unadorned, floral and calm. Drink 2020-2022.  Tasted January 2020

Birbét

Malabaila Di Canale 1362 Birbét Donna Costanza 2018

Mosta d’Uva parzialmente fermentato or, grape must partially fermented to five point five per cent alcohol. Served traditionally as dessert though it could certainly be employed in aperitivo format, as Brachetrto d’Acqui often is. Very cherry, lightly carbonated and sweetly herbal. Simple pleasure. Drink 2020-2021.  Tasted January 2020

Good to go!

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Godello in Cherasco

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Backstage pass to Brunello di Montalcino

La Fortezza di Montalcino

VIP tickets to taste four Brunello di Montalcino from the acclaimed 2015 vintage

On Tuesday, November 17, 2020 I will play host and moderator for the second of six online seminars covering the entirety of Montalcino, joined by 25 producers and their exceptional wines. “Backstage pass to Brunello di Montalcino” welcomes Winemaker Francesca Arquint with her Collemattoni Brunello 2015, Oenologist and Proprietor Hayo Loacker and his Corte Pavone Brunello 2015, Violante Gardini Cinelli Colombini with Donatella Cinelli Colombini Brunello 2015 and oenologist Stefano Tofanelli pouring his Il Grappolo Brunello 2015 Sassochetto.

Related – Boomers, Gen Xers and Millennials: 40 years of Brunello di Montalcino DOCG

Montalcino, looking east

The Rosso and Brunello of Montalcino have for decades been recognized as residing in the premium realm of Europe’s finest red wines. You might think that a territory with such rich history, iconic figures, foremothers, forefathers and next generation figureheads would be content to rest on laurels and see little need to fix something that isn’t broken. Not so and while the new or next era of wine producers are certainly the obvious catalyst for exacting evolution, if at times gentle revolution, the answers run deeper and the interconnectivity with the past is well, unavoidable. I’m not a clairvoyant. If nothing out of the ordinary happened or presented itself I’d still see things the way everyone else does, or sees. In that sense I am the epitome of the boring writer. But I am a most fortunate writer because I travel a considerable amount. My game can’t help but to be elevated with the knowledge that a confident Montalcino is once again passing through a portal into a time of re-invention. I am trying to get to the source of what in recent years has been the impetus for a more than discreet across the board profound rise in quality.

Related – Benvenuto Brunello 2020: Montalcino surges ahead

Benvenuto Brunello 2020

The 2015 Brunello di Montalcino vintage

This return to an unequivocally and universally declared vintage of prominence for Brunello in one of both quantity and quality. It has been described as one “made by God,” that is to say all a winemaker had to do was not screw things up. Pundits and critics can’t help but try to break Montalcinio apart by affirming that one area or sub-zone is better than another. What ’15 does is level the playing field and remind us all that the whole is far more profound than any single part. The vintage is one of those automatic ones, marketing itself due to so many good wines having been made. A very good one for business while delivering high quality and most importantly without having caused any undue stress, especially relative to 2014. Despite lockdowns and pandemic related complications many Montalcino estates have pre-sold much of their 2015 Brunello. Will it be one of the longer lived in Brunello lore? Does it compare to let’s say 2001, 2004, 2006 and 2007 and 2010? Best that we allow the producers to address that question. What I can say is that the 2015 Brunelli speak to the wounded zeitgeist of our current situation with a knife that cuts straight through to the matter. They are sangiovese of purity, eloquence, accuracy and power.

These are some more comments I have made about 2015:

“A vintage of classic Brunello colour and the dichotomous relationship that bridges power and drinkability.”

“There is a perfume about 2015, a ripe cherry that stands apart.”

“The vintage question is far from a concern with respect to ripeness and a far more important consideration is more about the management of extraction, wood and acidity.”

“The come and get me vintage but don’t be misled, distracted or misunderstood. There are sneaky tannins everywhere.”

“In 2015, inexplicably and inescapably you can recognize the sangiovese from Montalcino.”

Collematoni

Collemattoni is the name of the podere in southern Montalcino dating back to 1672, very close to the village of Sant’Angelo in Colle. Giuseppe Bucci was the first Bucci,  a.k.a. Zappaterra, “the digger,” but there are some other possible meanings that might not exactly make it the most flattering of nicknames. The amazing thing about Montalcino’s oldest families is how they don’t sugar coat their ancestry. Sinners and saints are all remembered as they were. Marcello Bucci is the current generation, son of Ado and Vera, who in the mid-1980s decided to start bottling their own wine. Marcello is responsible for having created what is today Collematoni, an organic company in Montalcino.

The wines are made from 11 hectares of estate-owned vineyards, divided into five areas (Collemattoni, Fontelontano, Sesta, Cava and Orcia) for an average production of approximately 50,000 Brunello and Rosso di Montalcino. In favourable years Collematoni might prodcue 2,500 bottles of Brunello Riserva from grapes out of the Fontelontano vineyard. It is worth noting that thanks to the presence of a biomass fuelled heating system and solar panels, Collemattoni produces the 80 per cent of the electricity needed at the winery. The winemaker is Francesca Arquint who also happens to be married to Marcello. Arquint has also worked and made wines for Mâté and Caparzo in Montalcino.

Collemattoni Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2018

Such a consistently fashioned Rosso from Collemattoni, also a posit tug between freshness and structure, always to the proper precipice and edge of tang, tart and sour. Lingers with texture and wood rendering. A subtle wine that gains flesh as it works through the nervous system. Drink 2020-2023.  Tasted February 2020

Collemattoni Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2017

A highly specialized terroir-driven Rosso with intensely structured tannins shaped over solid and strong bones. Really intense Rosso with leathery cherries and lots of dried herbs. Very good length. Drink 2021-2027.  Tasted February 2019

Collemattoni Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2014

Collematoni is a ripe one without breaching the grey areas of 2014 Brunello. Fruit in the pomegranate and red currant spectrum is protected beneath a hard tannic shell with circulating acids. Quite a beast this young and needing three to five years to gain its charms. Drink 2023-2028.  Tasted February 2019

Collemattoni Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2013

Take a trip away from all you have noted, felt and perceived in the first 25 Brunello tasted from this 2013 vintage and begin anew. Imagine you know nothing of sangiovese nor how it translates from the Montalcino terroir. Take in this Collematini with open eyes, nose and mouth. It’s traditional, you would have to say and the most layered and variegated sangiovese imaginable. It transcends ubiquity and suggests a very personal affair. This is a religious, personal imposition from which there is no escape. The fruit is characteristic of vintage and specific to Sant Angelo in Colle but it comes replete first as a swell from the western sea and then a squall in the eastern wind. The fruit wave is massive, the stiff breeze of acidity equal to task and the tannins building, aboard ships whose masts flutter upon these seas. But it’s both a comfort and a charm, under a spell that you will not be able to avoid, not for a decade or more. Drink 2021-2033.  Tasted February 2018

Collemattoni Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2012

Gorgeous red fruit as generous and dare it be said, magnanimous as it gets. Collematoni is a fruit machine, but also a mineral maker and a long-distance, slow-evolutionary walker. The calcareous-clay impression (from San Angelo in Colle on the southern hill of Montalcino) leaves a lasting imprint on your Brunello soul. This carries fine millefoglie layers of fruit, woven in lattice and with alternative material from that fruit, of ground stone, acidity and sweet, fine-grainy tannin. No shards, no cruising and no need for rehydration. Carries it all in one bag, or bottle. Drink 2020-2032.  Tasted February 2017

Corte Pavone

Since 1996 Corte Pavone has been owned by Rainer Loacker and his sons, Hayo and Franz. Hayo is the winemaker. It is located in the Casanuova area to the west of Montalcino with hillside clay soils upwards of 450-500m, certainly one of the higher elevations in the territory. Much of the 90 hectares of the estate is covered with meadows and forests. Rainer Loacker is from the family that owns Biscotti Loacker and Remedia Loacker which produces and markets enzymes and other natural nutrients. He also owns Tenuta Schwarthof near Bolzano in Alto-Adige and Valdifalco in the Maremma. We often think about Brunello as coming from either northern or southern vineyards. In Casanuova and what separates it from other zones is the consideration of its western position and how the vineyards are affected by a closer proximity to the sea. More than this is the great altitude so that a cooler prevalence and diurnal temperature swing means Brunello of higher acidity. Hayo Loacker started carefully observing his organic terroir and vines 10 years ago and has set up a dynamic micro parcelling of the land, dividing it in different areas to define seven individual single vineyard of Brunello – what he refers to as the “7 dynamic Brunello crus.” They are Campo Marzio, Fior di Meliloto, Poggio Molino al Vento, Fiore del Vento, Anemone al Sole, Terra di Ginestra and Terra Nuova.

(c) Weingut Loacker

Corte Pavone Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2015

Heady and high floral aromas beget a formidable Brunello of fortitude and strength. Deep as black cherry emits in sangiovese from a certainty of high elevation, warm vintage solar radiation. A different sort of ’15 from the northwest adjacent Romitorio and surely a soil so different despite being so close. Rich, strong acids and loose tannin. Drink 2022-2028.  Tasted February 2020

Tenute Loacker Corte Pavone Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2014

From Rainer, Hayo and Franz Loacker in Casanuova to the west of the village. The clay soils pack at upwards of 450-500m on slopes at one of the higher elevations in Montalcino. Here is a big wine from Corte Pavone and one that could only have been difficult to manage in a vintage that tested the communal mettle. Dark fruit, wood spice and finishing chocolate. Drink 2020-2023.  Tasted February 2019

Tenute Loacker Corte Pavone Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2013

Since 1996 Corte Pavone has been owned by Rainer Loacker and his sons, Hayo and Franz. Hayo is the winemaker. It is located in the Casanuova area to the west of Montalcino with hillside clay soils upwards of 450-500m, certainly one of the higher elevations in the territory. Much of the 90 hectares of the estate is covered with meadows and forests. Only four hectares are dedicated to vineyards with vine age 30-35 years old and with a plan of converting another four also blessed with the best exposures. The organic wines are aged in Slavonian casks, French Barrique and Austrian oak barrels. Rainer Loacker is from the family that owns Biscotti Loacker and Remedia Loacker which produces and markets enzymes and other natural nutrients. He also owns Tenuta Schwarthof near Bolzano in Alto-Adige and Valdifalco in the Maremma. We often think about Brunello as coming from either northern or southern vineyards. In Casanuova and what separates it from other zones is the consideration of its western position and how the vineyards are affected by a closer proximity to the sea. More than this is the great altitude so that a cooler prevalence and diurnal temperature swing means Brunello of higher acidity. Though quite approachable for Montalcino sangiovese this ’13 is also reductive, fresh, energetic and its tones are set to high. Great food Brunello. Drink 2018-2026. Tasted March 2018

With Violante Gardini, Azienda Agricola Donatella Cinelli Colombini

Donatella Cinelli Colombini

Donatella Cinelli Colombini comes from one of Montalcino’s longest running families, of a history and I quote, “where the lives of heretics, jurists, men of the church and grape growers entwine.” In 1998 when she went out on her own to create a new project and in reaction to the fact that wineries in Montalcino did not trust a female cellar master, Donatella created the first all-female run winery in Italy. The restored Casato Prime Donne is on the northern side of Montalcino on the road to Buonconvento, with sandy clay and Galestro soils and has been in Donatella Cinelli Colombini’s family since the end of the 16th century. Of the total surface of 40 hectares, 16.5 are planted to sangiovese and are cultivated organically. Aging for the first year was in (5-7 hL) tonneaux and then continued in (15-40 hL) Allier wood and Slavonian oak casks. The wine comes from six small vineyards in a 10 hectare area surrounding Casato Prime Donne. Two interesting facts about Donatella. One, she teaches wine tourism in the Master graduate programmes of three universities and two, in 2016 she was elected National president of the Donne del Vino Association. As for her daughter Violante, from 2013 to 2019 she was President of the Movimento Turimso del Vino Italiano, from 2016 to 2019 she was Vice President AGIVI (Young Italian Vine and Wine entrepreneurs) ands in December 2019 was elected President.

Donatella Cinelli Colombini Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2016

Of the first couple of dozen Rosso tasted this is the one with some true, purposed reduction, if only as an early veil of protection, to lock in freshness and deliver this forward. Some pretty firm and fleshy fruit directs the body politic so that the first two years will seem hushed and suppressed. It will open like a flower and reveal some charm, soon after that. Another clear winner of purpose and focus from Donatella Cinelli Colombini. Drink 2020-2026.  Tasted February 2018

Donatella Cinelli Colombini Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2015

The 2015 is a deeper study in DCC soil and Brunello invention. You need to know that the northerly Donatella Cinelli Colombini terroir is more than offset, singular and testable. The makers of these Brunelli investigate every grain of sand, mould of clay and tumble of stones to forge the various cuvées of their sangiovese stable. This Annata carries a lyrical contralto in as much as that is a thing in Montalcino. A Cher, Annie Lennox, Nina Simone voice. It is precise and profound. It will live longer than the men. Drink 2023-2033.  Tasted February 2020

Donnatella Cinelli Colombini Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Prime Donne 2015

Prime Donne is a highly specific single expression of the most important fruit raised by Donatella, Violante and team. The dichotomy here is more perfume cross referenced in adjacency to more barrel inflected structure. More notions to consider, vineyard dirt expressed through morbido tones and wood scents in gentle baking spice. Quite weighty in tannins, surely a love song so divine, certainly a wine that will stand the test of time. Drink 2022-2032.  Tasted February 2020

Donatella Cinelli Colombini Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2014

Despite and in spite of the northern vineyard’s location of six small plots in a 10 hectare area surrounding Casato Prime Donne this from Colombini is quite ripe for the vintage. Strawberries and dusty, savoury accents drive the fruit into a pool of fine, welling and syrupy acidity. It’s an unusually simplified and somewhat flatlined wine for Donatella out of a vintage neither old-school nor flashy modern, yet major challenges are no obstacle for this estate and so her sangiovese is still very full of charm and grace. Drink 2021-2027.  Tasted February 2019

Donatella Cinelli Colombini Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2013

In 1998 when she went out on her own to create a new project and in reaction to the fact that wineries in Montalcino did not trust a female cellar master, Donatella created the first all-female run winery in Italy. It is now an estate run by a team of no fewer than eight passionate women. The restored Casato Prime Donne is on the northern side of Montalcino, with sandy clay soils and has been in Donatella Cinelli Colombini’s family since the end of the 16th century. Of the total surface of 40 hectares, 16.5 are planted to sangiovese and are cultivated organically. Aging for the first year was in (5-7 hL) tonneaux and then continued in (15-40 hL) Allier wood and Slavonian oak casks. The wine comes from six small vineyards in a 10 hectare area surrounding Casato Prime Donne. Donatella describes 2013 as “an old style vintage, a Brunello that is elegant, complex, deep and harmonious, that will last decades. The scarce vintages are nearly always the higher quality ones.” There have been exceptional wines from Donatella in the recent past but the most impressive thing she can do is make a great wine in a challenging vintage. This 2013 does what needs; it’s delicately passed fruit avoids the intensity and drying angst of others, keeping the bright faith, binding it to tannin through the coursing dialectical collection of acidities and then making a valid request for patience. All 2013 Brunello need time, some will never come into their marriages and others, like the ’13 from Casato Prime Donne are already there. It will go further than many. Drink 2020-2029.  Tasted February and March 2018

Donatella Cinelli Colombini Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG 2013

Welcome to the Brunello Riserva you may just want to drink right now. From estate vineyards at Casato Prime Donne. The fruit is luscious and as full as ’13 can be, ripe to the max and this from the northern zone. Herbal in an Amaro way, some desiccation to create this red, black and blue sangiovese liqueur. Rich and chewy with a silky mouthfeel and even chewier tannins. Not particularly grippy or tannic by demand, it flows and apportions full circle, ode to the earth, all in and blood orange bright. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted February 2019

(c) Il Grappolo Montalcino

Il Grappolo

On 25 hectares with 16 planted south of Montalcino around Camigliano, in an area dense with Mediterranean scrub lying between the Tyrrhenian Sea and the Val d’Orcia. The vines look south towards Monte Amiata and west towards the valleys of the Maremma. Sassocheto, meaning “stone quiet” is Il Grappolo’s iconic Brunello made from 20-plus year-old vines in the south-facing Piano Nero vineyard, planted at 300 metres of elevation in deep, pebble-rich schist soils with decomposed rocks of Galestro, Alberese, and sandstone.  The wine ferments in temperature-controlled open vats and is given a lengthy maceration; it then matures at least 24 months in French and Slavonian oak barrels and a further 6/12 months in the bottle. Without equivocation and to keep us comfortably seated in the plush authenticity of traditional Brunello it is Sassocheto that confirms our notion of a sangiovese-Montalcino world.

Il Grappolo Brunello di Montalcino DOCG Sassocheto 2015

“Stone quiet,” signature wine for Il Grappolo, from 20-plus year-old vines in the south-facing Piano Nero vineyard, planted at 300m near Sant’Angelo in Colle. Schist soils are strewn with Galestro, Alberese and sandstone, the whole Montalcino masala, all in veritable contribution. Sassocheto, exacting sangiovese, as in Brunello that is just like looking in the territory’s mirror. Pure and harmonious with sly power both “subdolo” and “furbo,” because tannins like these wind in two directions, depending on which was the fruit winds just happen to blow. A worthy “campione” of the 2015 vintage, to set an example for how to win when your vineyards gift such exemplary fruit. One of the great values of the year. Drink 2021-2029.  Tasted February and November 2020

Il Grappolo Brunello di Montalcino DOCG Sassocheto 2013

On 25 hectares with 16 planted south of Montalcino around Camigliano, in an area dense with Mediterranean scrub lying between the Tyrrhenian Sea and the Val d’Orcia. The vines look south towards Monte Amiata and west towards the valleys of the Maremma. Sassocheto is Il Grappolo’s iconic Brunello made from 20 year-old vines in the south-facing Piano Nero vineyard, planted at 300 metres of elevation in deep, pebble-rich schist soils with decomposed rocks of galestro, alberese, and sandstone.  The wine ferments in temperature-controlled open vats and is given a lengthy maceration; it then matures at least 24 months in French and Slavonian oak barrels and a further 6/12 months in the bottle. Without equivocation and to keep us comfortably seated in the plush authenticity of traditional Brunello it is Sassocheto that confirms our notion of a sangiovese-Montalcino world. Should Il Grappolo’s be considered as more traditional than most? Yes, but just as this 2013 tells us with utmost clarity, the vernacular is spoken through an ever evolving and forward thinking lens. No pretence and all in for the right reasons. Drink 2020-2029.  Tasted March 2018

Il Grappolo Brunello di Montalcino DOCG Sassocheto 2012

The 2012 Brunello vintage is taken to an extreme side in Il Grappolo’s Sassocheto, with very firm and vacuumed aromatics shut and locked in so very tight. The depths are occupied by cherries drying, losing their body weight and settling into a floor of forest leaves and a future occupied by mushroom and truffle. The old-school, fine leathery and old barrel tonic bequeathes much hope for the mouthfeel and it gives every reason to confirm the possibilities. The world as we have known it here in Brunello sits right in this glass. It’s both comforting and filled with ancient wonder. Drink 2019-2027. Tasted February 2017

Il Grappolo Brunello di Montalcino DOCG Sassocheto 2010

Sassocheto is Il Grappolo’s Vigna 2010, a Sant-Angelo in Colle ripper, intense, brooding, formidable and still raging. Some 2010’s have already evolved and settled into their skin but Sassocheto is just getting started. If you are unfamiliar with the house then think of Poggio al Vento from Col D’Orcia for a stylistic comparison. The leather and cherry liqueur mix into roses and volatile syrup for a heady stew that is more traditional than modern. This is serious sangiovese, Montalcino style. Drink 2019-2027.  Tasted July 2017

Good to go!

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Twitter: @mgodello

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A Chardonnay toast to Cool and the gang

Happy 10th Chardonnay anniversary i4C. Virtually or live, you’re still cool after all these years

Cool is the star attraction, 10 years running. Cool, what everyone continues to talk about, gathers to discuss, debate and celebrate. Cool is not one thing, one person or in one place but everything, in all of us, everywhere. Cool is what unites, brings meaning and really ties the varietal room together. Cool is chardonnay.

Related – Can chardonnay get any cooler?

On Saturday, July 18th at 6:00pm in “A Toast to VQA Cool Chardonnay” John Szabo and I welcomed everyone to for a virtual, interactive Zoom tasting of top Ontario wines, our virtual tailgate party. From near and far, everyone was encouraged to chat. “Get your socially distanced BBQ lit, pour yourself a glass of Cool chardonnay and let John and I have a chinwag, blow smoke, chew the fat, talk a lot without pausing,” John and I discussed the meaning of Cool and how it pertains to making wines in a climate that is anything by warm. We traded messaging, tasted eight wines between us and welcomed two special guests, Niagara’s winemaking monk Thomas Bachelder and Sicily’s Patricia Tóth of Planeta Winery. Here is the full video:

Related – I4C’ a future filled with Chardonnay

It began last Friday with events playing on Zoom screens across Ontario, throughout Canada and in fact, around the globe. There were wine tastings, educational seminars and breezy cocktail hours all virtually orchestrated to include winemakers, producers, sommeliers and wine critics, all talking about one grape variety at the core and the crux of cool-climate viticulture. The weekend long fest, affectionately known as “i4c”, has for 10 years now been bringing the wine community close together, perennially cementing the varietal bonds. Though the 2020 edition of the International Cool Climate Chardonnay Celebration gatherings was indeed virtual in 2020, they lost no lustre, significance or their chardonnay shine.

Related – The meaning of Chardonnay: You’ve gotta be cool to be kind

Chardonnay doesn’t suck and if you have doubts, a reluctant spirit to join in or just plain need to insist that you hate the stuff, consider this. Chardonnay is cool. It’s true, the good folks at i4C have shown this to me, more than once. Ontario winemakers have proved it to me. The South Africans really get it, as do the fine makers from New Zealand, Chile, Argentina and the not necessarily ready for prime time cool climate players from Australia and California too. Don’t even get me started on that Bourgogne stuff. Have we not all been contemplating the axiom of chardonnay continuing to make its own new set of rules, putting its best foot forward? Yes chardonnay is always on our minds, especially here in Ontario and so we feel the progression continuously dovetailing towards the cool and the ethereal.

In a way i4c feels like the prodigal child of the local wine industry and we wait for the homecoming every July. Change and adjustment has infiltrated all of our lives and so the concierge team and Wine Country Ontario decided to take i4C online from July 17-19. Nearly a thousand registrants got into the cool spirit by joining in three online zoom sessions, the first at 11:00am on Friday July 17, 2020 virtually for the #i4CAtHome School of Cool Homeschool Edition, presented by VQA Wines of Ontario, the Wine Marketing Association of Ontario and the Grape Growers of Ontario. The online presentation featured Andrew Jefford, Columnist at Decanter and World of Fine Wine Magazine and Academic Advisor to the Wine Scholar Guild. Andrew was joined by several of the i4C’s past keynote speakers in celebration of 10 Cool years of Chardonnay. This dynamic session involved interviews with past keynotes, all acclaimed authors and wine writers from across the globe, including Matt Kramer (2011 and 2015 keynote), Ian D’Agata (2016 keynote) and Karen MacNeil (2017 keynote). Here is that video:

Andrew Jefford begins. “Cool climate on its own is not enough. It’s what you go and do with it. The climate is just a single strand of that very complex equation that includes soil, topography and human catalysts. We don’t drink soils, we drink wine. Vineyard owners want drinkers to be greedy, to have an irreverent feeling for the vineyard. Cool-climate wine is possessive of a pattern of heat just adequate enough to produce ripe wines and to do so consistently enough. Chardonnay when grown in the right sites can shoot loveliness about, the litmus varietal, along with riesling and cabernet franc – the holy trinity. It’s not an austere holy grail, it shouldn’t mean punishing, painful, taut, tight, dry, short, bitter, lean, mean and caustic. No one in Chablis is trying to make “cool climate chardonnay,” they are trying to make the most balanced and ripe Chablis available in the vintage. The quest is always for deliciousness. Janet Dorozynski, Trade Commissioner at Global Affairs Canada writes “listening to Andrew (Jefford) is like drinking up the finest Chassagne. Arterra Wine’s Eugene Mlynczyk MW adds “new days but we’ll remember Andrew’s advice to be deliciously cool.” Jefford concludes his opening statement by saying “winegrowers have been blissfully unaware for centuries that they have been raising grapes in cool climates. They simply want to make wines that induce covetousness.”

Matt Kramer of Wine Spectator Magazine talks about The Aesthetics of Cool. “It’s a new phrase. A new world phrase. The measure is that it’s not a sure thing, to ripen and make great wine. If it does all the time then it’s not cool climate. We’re very impatient but the truth of the matter is the Burgundians set the standard for centuries and while the ultimate reign is over, everyone else is so new to it all. It’s a very modern locution, not a sure thing and how do we slowly make it become a sure thing.”

Ian d’Agata, multi-award winning wine writer and author of internationally renowned books is considered one of the leading experts in Italian wine Chardonnay and Climate Change. He asks and answers the million dollar question. “What climate change is really about is not just warmer weather but long and extreme droughts, warmer winters, flash floods and tsunamis. The melting of the polar ice caps might actually cool down Atlantic waters. Bordeaux could actually enter a cooler phase. Then a shift to biology. “Gene editing is potentially a very good thing, adding or subtracting from what is already there, it’s not like genetically modifying which introduces other organism into a host genome. The ethical issue is if people cross the line. the technology is not the issue, people are the problem.”

Karen MacNeil is a winner of the James Beard award for Wine and Spirits Professional of the Year, the Louis Roederer award for Best Consumer Wine Writing, and the International Wine and Spirits award as the Global Wine Communicator of the Year. “Everybody drinks Kim Kardashian’s Chardonnay. We think in terms of Audrey Hepburn but truth be told, it is Kardashian that moves off the shelves. People have moved their vineyards and vocabulary to cool, but not their mindset. They are still making big fat chardonnays. There’s a big disconnect, between talk and actuality, and that’s a dangerous thing. Most people are talking the cool talk, but not walking the walk. I think it’s a problem to pick early and call it a cool climate wine. There’s also a poorly conceived idea of ripeness. It’s a not a singular thing. It’s a kaleidoscope that morphs into a thing of beauty.”

With Magdalena Kaiser’s famous red hat, i4c 2018

The chat moves forward with everyone chiming in.

Jefford: “Saying cool climate is a style on its own is a trap. Iwould be very weary of that. Better to say I work in a cool climate and i am trying to listen to my vineyard, to be a vineyard whisperer.”

MacNeil: “When I think about ripeness I think about scrambled eggs. You have to take the pan off the heat one minute before its done. It’s the idea of being one step ahead of what you need the result to be. iI’s all about what happens before the big moment.”

Kramer: “What is identifiable as as being Ontario chardonnay? A lean but not mean and a distinct minerality and I believe it does come from the soil. I love Prince Edward County chardonnay, no other wine, certainly not from California or Oregon tastes like Ontario chardonnay. In a blind tasting Ontario would always stand out as being chardonnay, for whatever reason that may be.”

MacNeil: “I love maximum flavour with minimum weight. distinct obliqueness, vibrational, like watching ballet, you lift in the air with energy and without so much gravity. tension and flavour.”

d’Agata: “I really do believe Canada makes world class chardonnays, certainly better than chardonnay made in Italy. They speak of Somewhereness, to borrow Matt Kramer’s phrase, weightless, laser-like acidities and are able to communicate the sense of the land. Refreshing, mineral-driven site specific wine. Ontario can be very proud of it.”

Jefford: “Stealthy wines, wines you need to spend time with, cozy up to, sit beside and get to know. Have a meal with. Have a meal with your partner, have a second and third glass, drain the bottle and that you can do with Ontario chardonnay.”

Click here to see the list of participating Ontario wineries

Click here to see the list of participating International wineries

The afternoon session was one of academics meeting market experience in a lively debate! Featuring a dynamic panel of multi-hat wearing Canadian industry professionals: John Szabo MS (Ontario), Treve Ring (BC), Brad Royale (Alberta) and Véronique Rivest (Québec) held a virtual debate about the various scientific and interpretive parameters of what it means to be cool. Featuring, and leveraging, the sensational Chardonnays of Chablis, New Zealand and Ontario, each panelist was asked to defend, or condemn, one of the classic parameters of cool climates. Including, but not limited to, latitude, altitude, length of growing season, average temperatures, soil colour and temperature, and sunlight hours. Which is most important, and how should cool climate really be defined? Here is the video:

What are the characteristics of cool chardonnay?

Cool in this sense is trying to find the sweet spot as if at midnight where sugar ripeness, acid structure, phenolic ripeness and fruit character meet for optimum wine results. The latter is what John Szabo considers the critical aspect of making great cool-climate wine. Treve Ring talks about growing degree days and the original benchmark measuring stick, The Winkler Scale. Mean temperature of the month, minus 10, times the number of days in the month – multiplied by seven for the number of the season. On the positive side is for comparisons, i.e. Prince Edward County versus Chablis, 1250 vs. 1350 GGDs in 2019. Still a basic application but hardly complex enough to tell a full story. Ultimately the relationship between vine growth and temperature is not linear. This is the argument against GGDs being the be all, end all way to define growing ability in a climate. Grape varieties are all different and also different clones of a varietal will react different to sunlight hours. A good tool, a useful tool, but does not take climate into account. So, in the end “a limiting factor,” says Szabo. “It worked well in the 1940s and 50s “says Brad Royale, “in the time of emerging viticultural areas and where growers needed a simple, base reality.”

Royale goes on to talk about soil temperature and colour, heat retention and magnification, from white limestone, red, blue, black or grey clays, all effect grape growing in different ways. It is a chat note from Eugene Mlynczyk MW that stands out as important. “Science shows that things matter (or not) … with the added complexity of subjective factors in the case of wines (or any other “artform”) …” Karl Kliparchuk is a professor of Geology at British Columbia’s Institute of Technology. He adds “interior vs coastal vs near large interior water bodies also affects cool climate.” True that.

Raj Parr at i4c, 2018

The next question “are latitude and altitude the single most important determining factors for cool climate wines?” is answered by Soif Wine Bar in Gatineau’s Sommelier-owner Véronique Rivest, one of the most respected sommeliers in Canada and abroad. “No latitude is not the only factor, continentality (also with thanks to Chablis’ Athénaïs de Béru) is a much bigger factor, especially with respect to danger of frosts.” Latitude, latitude, latitude “will determine heartretention, solar radiation and seasonality. Latitude defines the original consideration of where to plant.”

Brad Royale adds that “a cool climate region is surely one that is susceptible to spring frosts, especially in the midst of warm temperatures.” Diurnal temperature shifts are key. “Most cool climate viticultural areas have relatively boring (10 degrees) diurnal temperature fluctuations. Hot climates, especially deserts have the widest range.” The group goes on to wonder if is sunshine the new rain and can we use length of growing season to define cool chardonnay? Both are answered with more yes than no responses so the times they are ‘a changin’.

Director of Sales and Education at Rex Hill’s Carrie Kalscheuer at i4c, 2018

Can Chardonnay get any cooler?

Is there a comparable white grape that speaks of its origins in more varied tones? We have unoaked, barrel fermented, 50-50, unfiltered, reductive, must oxygenated and many more methods and styles of Ontario chardonnay. Which one is done best? Sometimes we mimic Mâconnais, other times Chablis and often a Bourgogne Villages approach. What’s the best way to go about it? Is chardonnay a victim of its own ubiquity and adaptability.” What makes it so special then? “Chardonnay expresses place, as well as production, terroir as well as technique.” Chardonnay should taste like it has come from a place, but also from a time. It’s a hell of a lot easier to plant in the right spot.

As I mentioned, John and I tasted four wines each during our seminar. Here are my notes on the four that I opened.

Organized Crime Chardonnay Limestone Block 2018, VQA Beamsville Bench, Ontario (11951, $24)

From Jan Tarasewicz, his daughter Ania de Deluba and winemaker Greg Yemen, on Mountainview Road in the shadow of the Escarpments’s steep cliff faces. Whole bunch pressed, juice settled for 12 hours and put very turbid to puncheon (none new), no bâtonnage and full malolactic conversion. Classic Beamsville chardonnay of cool, snappy and piqued tendencies with the added warmth of a vintage bringing some lemon curd and just turning to golden ecru caramel glaze for rich measure. Lots of ripeness, definite somewhereness and what’s desired, as in deliciousness. Drink 2020-2023.  Tasted July 2020

I-Cellars Chardonnay Icel Vineyard 2017, VQA Niagara-on-the-Lake ($40)

From Niagara-on-the-Lake and 2010 founder Adnan Icel, a rich throttled chardonnay barrel fermented in 500L French oak puncheons, lees stirred for six months, then aged 12 months more. Tells us to expect rich, opulent, creamy and highly flavourful chardonnay. That it is. Flint-struck if only momentarily, correctly reductive in the sense of fresh encouragement combined with the Niagrified creamed corn, again, if only during this persistently youthful state. Maybe causes a note of bewilderment for some but stay with this wine, give it a year’s time and all will be worth it. Will drink in optimum and designed fashion eight months from now and for two-plus years thereafter. Drink 2021-2024.  Tasted July 2020

Trail Estate Chardonnay Vintage Three Unfiltered 2018, VQA Prince Edward County, Ontario ($40.00)

A bit more than a hectare of chardonnay and 312 cases in 2018, harvested September 19th to 24th (3-4 weeks ahead of 2017, which was October 8th). Set to natural ferment and put to 85 per cent 500 L French oak puncheons and 15 per cent 225 litre barriques, 33 per cent second fill, (17) third fill and (50) neutral, for 10 months. Lots of lees contact though I doubt Mackenzie Brisbois did much or even any stirring. Bottled unfined and unfiltered. When I reviewed number two I noted more flesh and complexity than the first vintage and said in many ways it was Mackenzie Brisbois’ first truly personal chardonnay. So 2018 is the next one and oh, baby. More flesh, more caramel, more body. If at first there seems to be a turbid or demure sense of aromatics, they come out like wildflowers with just a moment’s agitation. Sorry to say but the vintage is just a bit too easy, not hard to get, open to a relationship without needing too much coercing. But deliciousness and agreeability are positives and so we’ll just have to chalk it up to epistemic Trail Estate chardonnay success. Drink 2020-2025.  Tasted July 2020

Leaning Post Chardonnay Senchuk Vineyard 2018, VQA Lincoln Lakeshore, Ontario ($45)

Set apart from the Bench wineries and while still beneath the Niagara Escarpment Senchuk Vineyard sits on more of a plain that gently slides down the Lincoln Lakeshore and into Lake Ontario. Perhaps it will become Ontario’s next sub-appellation. Sandy soil is maculated by largish stones three to four feet down. This atop a bed of grey clay so the low vigour of the sandy soil will be offer up a flip-side, a foil to the heavy clay of nearby locales like the Beamsville Bench. This third chardonnay from the home vineyard comes off of vines planted in 2011 so now this seven-year old fruit is starting to really mean something. And Ilya Senchuk is a winemaker who studies, concentrates and plans his work around clones. It’s not just about where to plant which varietals but which clone will work best and where within the greater where. Vineyard, vintage and variance. Senchuk truly believes that greatness is determined by varietal variegation, from vineyard to vineyard and from year to year. From 2018: 64 per cent Clone 548 and (36) Clone 96. Listen further. Warm season so picked on September 18. The grapes were gently whole cluster pressed (separated by Clone), allowed to settle in chilled tanks over night. The juice was then racked into barrels; Clone 548 – one puncheon and three barriques, Clone 96 – three barriques, where they underwent spontaneous alcoholic and malolactic fermentation. The lees were not stirred and it was allowed to age for 16 months. Power, body, tons of fruit, definite barrel influence, a southern Bourgogne kind of vintage, so maybe Pouilly-Fuisée or Maconnais Village with a specific Climat. For the time being we call the Village Lincoln Lakeshore and Senchuk Vineyard the geographical designation. The lemon curd and the acidity are there in a great tangle so yes, this is très cool chardonnay. I think we can safely say already that the Pinot Noir and the Chardonnay grown in Ilya and Nadia’s home vineyard is on its own, one of a kind and makes wines that don’t taste like anywhere else. This 2018 cements the notion and opens the next stage of the discussion. Drink 2021-2027.   Tasted July 2020

Good to go!

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Barolo DOCG previews and retrospectives: 2016, Riserva 2014, 2006 and Riserva 2004

The Albeisa bottle is the symbol of the Langhe territory

Preview of Barolo DOCG 2016

Nothing in the behaviour of these nebbiolo consents to their age. Too serious, too impenetrable and at the same time terribly sharp, focused and severe. Wines as stiff as justice. Somehow they intimidate us but also create an environment for sheer, prolonged and utter enjoyment. Or at least they will, eventually, with time. When they arrive at their intended destination they will surrender a Barolo impression that we are barely drinking them. A retrospective look at yesterday Barolo DOCG 2006 and Riserva DOCG 2004 confirms from then, through current considerations, what will happen tomorrow.

Nebbiolo seekers may still be reminiscing about the Barolo & Barbaresco world opening as the largest appellation tasting for Italian wine in the United States. The event took place in New York City back in February 2020, featured over 200 producers, hosted 800-plus trade attendees and 500-plus consumers. Big stuff. As for me, my most recent Langhe experience was in January 2020 when I travelled to Alba in Piemonte for Nebbiolo Prima 2020 and Grandi Langhe. I tasted more than 600 nebbiolo, dolcetto, barbera, arneis, freisa, chardonnay, pelaverga and even riesling during the eight day work staycation. Grande.

Related – Barbaresco DOCG previews and retrospectives: 2017, Riserva 2015, 2007 and 2005

Tasting at Nebbiolo Prima 2020

Vintage 2016 was the first from which Barolo DOCG exceeded 14 million bottles and that number accounted for 22.4 per cent of the total volume reported by the Consorzio di Tutela Barolo Barbaresco Alba Langhe e Dogliani. That Barolo and Barbaresco are so prominent is due of course to their international stardom but from a real and factual standpoint the fact is that nebbiolo plantings make up 37 of the Langhe region’s total vineyard space. All appellations and varietals are important and need to be tasted at the combination of Nebbiolo Prima and Grandi Langhe Trade Fair. Yet the bottom line remains. Barolo is king and most attendees are puppies in love when it comes to chasing that regal nebbiolo dream.

Menzione Geographica

Barolo’s cru system has elevated nebbiolo to the top of the Italian wine charts and few would argue against it residing at the head of the global wine buying and collecting chain. Mentioning the geographical location is Barolo’s calling card and no other Italian appellation has built such a veritable reputation on the pinpointing of locations. The mere preesence of a Menzione Geographica on a Barolo label tells a specific story. In 1879, Lorenzo Fantini in his “Monograph of Vine Growing and Enology in the Province of Cuneo,” offered an accurate description of the zone and defined Nebbiolo as “the prince of vines.” Again, Fantini in his “Monograph” wrote “if the vine has within itself excellent qualities it is also undoubtedly true that the elaboration of its heavenly juice requires favorable land and soil. Not all soils provide equal savor, so if we must doff our caps to this princely vine, we must revere with equal respect that earth which hosts and maintains it…the vine growth along the Langhe slopes, so rich and luxuriant, dominates all other cultivations. To the amenities and asperities of those hills, the hand of man and investment have cultivated the most splendid of vines which in turn have entirely altered the aspect of those localities. If from the high plateau of La Morra you cast a look at the vast surface of grape vines stretching out before you, upon beholding those magnificent vineyards, so won.” (Source: “Nebbiolo the Territorial Vine” by Pietro Ratti 2004)

Barolo by the numbers

By the numbers

Albeisa is a non-profit organization whose primary mission is to develop and promote the wine production of the Alba area. The Union of Alba Wine Producers manages the use of the bottle Albeisa, or Alba bottle, and represents approximately 230 members and 13 million bottles. Thanks, as always, must be afforded Albeisa’s guiding light and force, as in the organization’s President, Domaine Punset’s Marina Marcarino. This is what I have said (more than once) about the fearless leader and her charge. “Always the first to pioneer, lead, teach and share, Marcarino expressed the pride and the passion of the community of producers that worked tirelessly to create this formidable assembly. Albeisa’s goal is not singularly focused. This event is not simply a matter dedicated to the tasting of wine. Agricultural evolution and wine-producing innovation are a major focus, always with a socio-economic bearing kept in mind.” At the opening dinner in Alba at the week-long host Hotel I Castelli, it was pointed out that the number of declarations for labelling always exceeds what is bottled. That is because three of four years after harvest 25-30 per cent of producers decide to de-classify their Barolo (2013 numbers). In that vintage 147 declared and 128 bottled. In terms of menzione geographica 46 per cent declared and at harvest 23 actually bottled with the name of a Barolo cru. There has been a steady decline of the de-classification of grapes. Barolo’s loss is Nebbiolo DOC’s gain.

Journalists at Nebbiolo Prima 2020

The feelings and sensations gained in assessment of so many Barolo perforce was at the time, an unbearably lucid experience. The exercise is a test of will, staying power and endurance. Nebbiolo Prima is a sprint and a marathon wrapped into one. Who could not be made stronger, wiser and yet so humbled by having tasted through the experience. These notes reflect my experience, my connection to Piedmontese life, performing to others rhythms. The totality of these tasting notes cover Barolo DOCG 2016 (197), Riserva 2014 (6), 2006 (20) and Riserva 2004 (7), played to the tune of 230 reviews.

All the Nebbiolo. Nearly 400 over four days. Roero, Langhe, Barolo, Barbaresco.

  • ***** denotes wines of the vintage

460 Casina Bric Barolo DOCG Bricco Delle Viole 2016

A cracked not-pepper, yes reductive if early corrective without reveal and aromas are all tar melt to fresh roses, though high in tone. This is Bricco delle Viole and will be very serious Barolo, tightly wound and equipped with some formidable structural unease. Look forward and further, far down the road. Drink 2023-2029.  Barrel sample tasted January 2020

Abbona Marziano Barolo DOCG Cerviano Merli 2016

Quality concentration, richness of fruit, wild-eyed acidity and mature tannins make for an across the board effective and pleasurable Novello Barolo. A fine sample that will drink well early and in the near term. take full advantage. Drink 2021-2028.  Barrel sample tasted January 2020

Abrigo Fratelli Barolo DOCG Ravera 2016

Big-boned nebbiolo here in Ravera clothing, so rich and concentrated, clearly from a warm part of the cru (perhaps the warmest) and a winemaker who allows the heavy fullness to do its thing. Welling and oozing with sumptuousness, thick tannin and ultimately a matter here of great Novello density. A style born out of necessity. Drink 2022-2028.  Barrel sample tasted January 2020

Very handsome Novello nebbiolo, finely chiseled Ravera structural components with taut flesh and timeless disposition. The variegated hue tells so many stories through so many layers, as does the way the transitions move through space and time with finesse and effortless ease. It’s a highly tannic and fierce competitor but the race is a marathon in this case, not a sprint. Drink 2023-2035.  Tasted January 2020

Agricola Marrone Barolo DOCG Bussia 2016

Welcome to Bussia. This is the prudent one, far from promiscuous and very promising. Hides everything and is not so fast to give anything away. The textural components are all together; chew, crunch, soft and crackling. Grooves slowly and changes tempo. Not sure which way it will go but its subtlety and its impression will not be denied. From Monforte d’Alba. Drink 2022-2029.  Tasted January 2020

Alario Claudio Barolo DOCG Sorano 2016

High toned and octane Serralunga d’Alba nebbiolo with acids ripe, ripping and all over the map. Makes the fruit look silly and small though tannin is negligible. Simple red lightning in Barolo. Drink 2020-2022.  Tasted January 2020

Alessandria Fratelli Barolo DOCG San Lorenzo Di Verduno 2016

Youthful Verduno but the sample exhibits tones quite up there with red citrus and wood-derived signs. Still a bit lean and verdant. In this adolescent state of grace it just seems woody, chewy and not even close to prime time. Drink 2022-2027.  Barrel sample tasted January 2020

Alessandria Gianfranco Barolo DOCG San Giovanni 2016

Fresh and effacing, ripe and ready for all that’s coming. Very Monforte d’Alba nebbiolo, in a flat out juicy way and tannins stuffed in back pockets. Knowable and reasoned for what mind of expectation commits. Drink 2021-2026.  Tasted January 2020

Assessing Barolo DOCG 2016

Alessandro Rivetto Barolo DOCG Del Commune Di Serralunga d’Alba 2016

So very ripe and extracted of very red berry Serralunga d’Alba fruit in a candied if savoury way. A nebbiolo of fruit, high acidity and simple structure. Nicely drinking and if it’s inexpensive I’ll gladly drink a few. Drink 2020-2022.  Tasted January 2020

Amalia Cascina In Langa Barolo DOCG Le Coste Di Monforte 2016

Quiet and in low light demure, not overly expressive for 2016 Barolo. Tart and dry, not must juice or even moisture. Can’t see this Monforte d’Alba developing much more complexity though when it settles there will be pleasure afforded. Drink 2021-2024.  Tasted January 2020

Angelo Negro Barolo DOCG Del Commune Di Serralunga d’Alba 2016

This is nebbiolo of largesse. prim, proper and so bloody commercial for all the correct reasons. Everyone can enjoy this as nebbiolo, Serralunga and Barolo. Clean and crisp with all the mild mannered and perfectly reasonable parts. Drink 2020-2024.  Tasted January 2020

Anna Maria Abbona Barolo DOCG Bricco San Pietro 2016

Quite smoky, so much so it seems that the smoke has only very recently been extinguished. So much barrel toast and smoulder. Juicy with tobacco resonating throughout. Drink 2021-2024.  Tasted January 2020

Castiglione Falletto nebbiolo in the big time, ripe, rough tumbling and nearly rambunctious. The warmth and developing liqueur is nothing but comforting and enveloping. Carries through without staying away from the initial portent and plan. Big, Rocche di Castiglione boisterous and impressive. Drink 2021-2027.  Tasted January 2020

And now for something completely different. This nebbiolo from Monvigliero is all saucisson, or in this Piedmontese instance, Cottechino. Honestly, just like it, raw and hematic, but also liberally perfumed, with roses of course. Structurally there are few equals and so the diversity in expression leaves a long-lasting and highly consequential impression. Now we are beginning to see why some would consider this Verduno as one of the greatest vineyards in the world.  Drink 2023-2036. Tasted January 2020

Anselma Famiglia Barolo DOCG Bussia 2016

A wealth of collected features and possibility abounds in this Monforte d’Alba Barolo though the barrel is still very much a prominent aspect of the coverall condition. Really textured, chewy and tannic of push and thrush. Layers of Bussia structure need to peel, unfold and melt away. Drink 2022-2029.  Barrel sample tasted January 2020

Ascheri Barolo DOCG 2016 ($56.99)

The Ascheri label is from La Morra. Seemingly the sort of Barolo that was, is and will always be this way. A bit rustic, surely made to act like itself vintage after vintage, coming across as fresh enough and equipped with all the dried fruit, savoury edging and portents that speak to the nebbioli of generations. Drink 2020-2024.  Tasted January 2020

Ascheri Barolo DOCG Coste & Bricco 2016 ($75.00)

Quite extracted and concentrated Serralunga d’Alba nebbiolo with so much orange on the nose. Blood, scraped and juiced but also hematic and layered. Huge wine of fruit, acids and tannin. Nothing left behind, in the Coste & Bricco fields, in the barrels or on the table here. Drink 2021-2027.  Tasted January 2020

Aurelio Settimo Barolo DOCG 2016

All in nebbiolo of earthy, swarthy and concentrated if chewy fruit. Also a touch volatile. Drink 2021-2024.  Barrel sample tasted January 2020

Aurelio Settimo Barolo DOCG Rocche Dell’Annunziata 2016 ($54.95)

Some quietly acquiesced development already in this sultry and sumptuous La Morra Barolo. That nebbiolo can do this is youthful exuberance is the speciality of the place, especially in Rocche dell’Annunziata where the acumen amongst winemaking is off the charts. This may peak earlier than some others but full enjoyment can be had nonetheless. Drink 2021-2026.  Barrel sample tasted January 2020

Barale Fratelli Barolo DOCG Castellero 2016

Youthful and slightly lean Castellero, with a transparency and tisane to be very sure. Really classic Barolo commune tannins, not overt as say anxiety inducing, but more than properly present and accounted for. Drink 2021-2028.  Tasted January 2020

Barale Fratelli Barolo DOCG Bussia 2016

The aromas here are dramatically 2016. Ripe and racy with a cured salumi note. Stay here for a few minutes and you are gifted tar and roses, For real. The way this Monforte d’Alba Barolo has been handled is so proper and gives it every opportunity to succeed. High quality Bussia for sure. Drink 2022-2028.  Tasted January 2020

Batasiolo Barolo DOCG Briccolina 2016

Quite the gregarious and expressive Briccolina aromatic sensation emits and gifts while in withstand against a formidable structural exchange. Plenty of fruit and just as much wood mean modernity and a whole lotta vanilla love. It’s a style to be sure, almost late 90s and early 2000s but there can be no avoiding what pleasure so many will derive from such an exercise. From Serralunga d’Alba. Drink 2021-2027.  Tasted January 2020

Bava Barolo DOCG Scarrone 2016

The full gamut of fruit play is in. Scarrone is orange in so many ways and also umeboshi plum, prune, berries and ultimately like a slow rendered Marbella demi-glacé. Very rich Castiglione Falletto nebbiolo, welcoming its wood and giving away without shyness nor restraint. Drink 2021-2025.  Tasted January 2020

Oh my the tobacco on this Verduno nebbiolo from Monvigliero is uncanny. Like grandfather’s pipe snuffed out but lingering and so obvious when you enter the room. Then the scent turns sweet and comforting, a warm hug of a nebbiolo beneath a blanket of couverture by tannin. Throws the cru at you with everything it can and should. Drink 2023-2033. Tasted January 2020

Borgogno Barolo DOCG Liste 2016

Particular and singular aromas from Liste speak of and to a Barolo nebbiolo sense of wildness and freedom. Great acids, fruit slung across a pole draped with both fruity and earthy opportunity. Really compact and extended with great length. A touch peppery warm but when it settles the beauty will surely emerge. Drink 2022-2029.  Tasted January 2020

Borgogno Francesco Barolo DOCG Brunate 2016

A forceful La Morra nebbiolo in hard-shell clothing there may seem to be morbido and amenable aromatic compounds but the palate hits you like a ton of mortar and brick. Crunchy, earthy and intense. This Brunate will soften and become a much more impressive wine in five plus years time. Drink 2023-2029.  Tasted January 2020

Boroli Barolo DOCG Brunella 2016

The high resonance distracts with both brightness and humour though it purports to tell a thin story. The insubstantial texture speaks to the fruit conecntration and the inability of structural parts to save. Drink 2021-2023.  Tasted January 2020

Sommeliers of Nebbiolo Prima 2020

Burlotto Comm. G.B. Barolo DOCG Acclivi 2016

A bit past prime aromatically speaking with a developed note of dried fruit and yet with some scarped skin energy that gives it a rightful tang. Quite orange in flavour, some tisane and mild finishing tannic twang. Drink 2020-2023.  Tasted January 2020

Borgogno Fratelli Serio E Battista Barolo DOCG Cannubi 2016

Cannubi of Barolo spice cupboard is just thus, just like this. That and sweet dried fruit, desiccated floral petals and some mean verdancy in the tannins. Seems soft but it’s really not. Time will ease the edging and the tension. Drink 2022-2028.  Tasted January 2020

Boroli Barolo DOCG Villero 2016

The third Villero style comes across through this more gregarious and less subtle Castiglione Falletto nebbiolo. Seeks quicker admiration and offers more immediate gratification. Texture is more liquid chalky and acids more integrated. Peppery in a non-reductive and French way with a really, really juicy finish. Fast admiration for such a specimen. Drink 2021-2026.  Tasted January 2020

Bosco Agostino Barolo DOCG Neirane 2016

Taut Verduno nebbiolo, richly embossed, hungrily ambitious and dealing in parts long, purposed and fine. Quite a warm compliment of Neirane seasoning, salt, pepper and wooden piques over every bit of the fruit in and out of time. We’ll see about this barrel bruiser because the red fruit seems to handle it just fine. Drink 2022-2029.  Tasted January 2020

Bovio Barolo DOCG Gattera 2016

A gregarious La Morra this Gattera in aromas though more down to earth on the palate. Texture is lean and elastic while tannins sharpen their digits on the fruit. Some distraction and separation. Drink 2021-2026.  Tasted January 2020

Bovio Barolo DOCG Rocchettevino 2016

Deep inhalant of La Morra nebbiolo this one with as much Rocchettevino vineyard soil, climate and tradition instilled, installed and distilled. Quite tannic and tense, in fact the attention to nervous detail is commanding and invigorating. A high quality structural if old school example. Drink 2023-2029.  Tasted January 2020

Brezza Giacomo E Figli Barolo DOCG Cannubi 2016

Tough early, tart and intensely textured Cannubi, very cool in climate oriented and sweetly herbal. Relatively soft and amenable acids, but also, in a way, Barolo tannins. Drink 2021-2025.  Tasted January 2020

Brezza Giacomo E Figli Barolo DOCG Sarmassa 2016

Sarmassa for Barolo nebbiolo brings a cupboard full of spice, a brush past greenery in winter in the wood next to the vineyard and steeps a tisane from all the twigs, leaves and herbs. Then turns to face the roses, where sweet notes bloom and pleasure awakens. Will offer great pleasure in the five year range. Drink 2021-2026.  Tasted January 2020

As you might expect the uncanny scent of roses in so many incantations is the thing and everything, at least in the beginning. Fresh bouquet and dried petals circulate in stereo. Offers nebbiolo faith to go on and it’s only just begun. Though the absolute tightly gift-wrapped fruit needs little and asks for nothing at this early stage it will in turn return everything it received. A wonderful vintage of Coste di Rose Barolo. “This will be our year, took a long time to come.” Drink 2023-2034.  Tasted January 2020

Bricco Giubellini Barolo DOCG Del Commune Di Monforte d’Alba 2016

Still reductive and in this case the rubber and pepper are how it shows. Chewy and near massive in its acid-tannin missive continuum. Really dramatic and big-boned nebbiolo from Monforte d’Alba with a need to come about and into balance. Drink 2023-2030.  Tasted January 2020

Bricco Maiolica Barolo DOCG Del Commune Di Diano d’Alba 2016

The tonality here is exceptional, high and mighty, unsettled, breathing heavily, yet disturbed. Needs time. From Diano d’Alba. Drink 2020-2022.  Barrel sample tasted January 2020

Broccardo Barolo DOCG I Tre Pais 2016 ($48.95)

Broccardo’s is a three-pronged Barolo affair from vineyards in Monforte d’Alba, Barolo and Novello for a true house amalgamation by Fillipo, Laura and Federico. While firm enough to speak about proper and cumulative nebbiolo structure there is an estate feel to I Tres Pais, a Piedmontese dialectical three verse poem that speaks to land, people and wine. That’s what Barolo is all about. Drink 2021-2027.  Tasted January and April 2020

Quite closed with little aromatic give. Seems protective, not so much reductive but keeps its Serralunga d’Alba Brea secrets hidden. The palate reveals more and especially a solid architectural foundation on which fruit can climb. This is a finessed and impressionistic Barolo with a great future ahead. Drink 2022-2028.  Tasted January 2020

Bruna Grimaldi Barolo DOCG Baudarina 2016

Good Serralunga d’Alba fruit core, a touch overripe and acidity tart, taut and in charge. All about that compendium distilled through Baudarina. Drink 2020-2022.  Tasted January 2020

Bruna Grimaldi Barolo DOCG Bricco Ambrogio 2016

Really quite herbal, almost Amaro nebbiolo, cool, verdant, forest floor and foliage throughout. Solid structure with a minor note of bitters and drying edginess in the end. Fine appreciation for translating the Roddi-Bricco Ambrogio sense of place. Drink 2022-2026.  Tasted January 2020

Burzi Alberto Barolo DOCG 2016

Another simplified nebbiolo in La Morra Barolo dress albeit with a next level quality of concentration, chewiness and heft. Tannins are relatively mild and so it’s like Langhe Riserva, if there were such a thing. Lovely to drink, any night of the week. Drink 2020-2024.  Tasted January 2020

Burzi Alberto Barolo DOCG Capalot 2016

A bit of rose in the La Morra nose candy and a scrape of orange zest mark the entry before this Capalot nebbiolo gets down to serious tannic business. A clear message of ripe citrus melts into a fruity tisane with a few herbs and leaves stepped in for good measure. Fun little La Morra and neatly soothing. Drink 2021-2026.  Tasted January 2020

***** Cagliero Barolo DOCG Ravera 2016

Yet another completely different expression of Ravera and showing the great diversity of wines made from the cru. Tonality is higher but not so high as to shine so bright you need to wear shades. Builds and builds, first from ripe red fruit then through fine acids and elastic texture then to really fine tannins. A ver precise and accomplished Novello Barolo with so much life laying put on a red carpet ahead. Drink 2023-2034.  Tasted January 2020

Camparo Barolo DOCG Boiolo 2016

Very tisane in its aromatic beginnings, like Rooibos with a wedge of lemon. A bit lean and musty, like cool climate pinot noir from a less than ideal fruit vintage, here from Boiolo cru in La Morra. Drink 2020-2021.  Tasted January 2020

Cantina Del Nebbiolo Barolo DOCG Perno 2016

Perno of another Monforte d’Alba stripe and colour, a bit dank and reductive, left to its own devices within the imbalance of its unhinging. Gives you its heart but you want its soul. Drink 2022-2026.  Tasted January 2020

Carlo Revello & Figli Barolo DOCG 2016

Different sort of La Morra nebbiolo here, part tisane and part liqueur. Not sure it knows what it prefers to be. Hard to be both. The fruit seems concentrated on the nose but stretches leaner on the slightly dilute palate. Good enough. Drink 2020-2023.  Tasted January 2020

Casa E. Di Mirafiore Barolo DOCG Lazzarito 2016

Quite the firm Serralunga d’Alba nebbiolo from Lazzarito cru right here, grippy in every respect, transparent, reeking of rose petals and old-school in many right ways. Does the singular thing it should and does it really well. Not so very multi-dimensional nor does it need to be. Drink 2021-2026.  Tasted January 2020

Giuliana Drocco and Simone Ortale, Cascina Adelaide

From Serralunga d’Alba and because though this is just a baby doubled down by the forceful cru it is a highly precocious little one, with thanks to a vintage that opens earlier in this part of town. This may be a funny way to start the description of a very big wine but the intuition and clarity spoken by the 80 year-old vines is massive in missive, front loaded with fruit, acid and tannin. Back loaded too so expect a 20 year journey, give or take a few. Drink 2023-2034.  Tasted January 2020

Cascina Adelaide Barolo DOCG Cannubi 2016 ($112.00)

From Barolo’s grand vineyard and in the hands of Simone Ortale a most elegant representation. Lighter, transparent, more floral aromatica and only handled inside the cellar by grandi botti. The result is also a sharper, pointed, high acidity nebbiolo, with more energy and lift. While still just an infant you can’t escape from seeing and tasting Adelaide’s Cannubi this way. Drink 2021-2030.  Tasted January 2020

Cascina Adelaide Barolo DOCG Fossati 2016

A bit over to right side of extraction and concentration for Fossati driving forward with drying fruit mixed into the gregarious personality of the wine. The extra push of spice and herbal accents come with some Bretty quality along from La Morra as if like Rhône grenache in a warm vintage. Cool and frontal, fully unabashed in untamed beauty. Tannins need time though too much will go too far. Undeniable power. Drink 2021-2027.  Tasted January 2020

Cascina Adelaide Barolo DOCG Pernanno 2016

From Castiglione Falletto and one of eight cru produced by winemaker Simone Ortale. So apposite to what comes from Baudana, here more delicate, soft (even mores so than the Italian morbido) and an unseen nebbiolo to match with foods not necessarily associated with Barolo. When thinking pinot noir, think again. Think Pernanno. Drink 2021-2025.  Tasted January 2020

Cascina Adelaide Barolo DOCG Preda 2016

Preda meaning “strong point,” a vineyard right in front of the winery and 25 years old. As a nebbiolo it is the rustic one, at the bottom of the Barolo hill and also planted to barbera. A rich marl and sandy soil so opposite to the marly silt of Cannubi. A touch hematic in a mixture of iodine and blood orange with clear herbal and red citrus running through its veins.Though maturity and wisdom may not be at the levels of the likes of Baudana and Pernanno the effect are purely Adelaide. Drink 2020-2024.  Tasted January 2020

Cascina Ballarin Barolo DOCG Bussia 2016

A bright and effusive Bussia for Monforte d’Alba nebbiolo can be just like this. A Barolo happy in the moment, full of berries and red citrus, with acids up front and tannins unobtrusive. A Barolo to drink now and for five-plus years while the tough ones sit and stew. Drink 2021-2025.  Tasted January 2020

Cascina Ballarin Barolo DOCG Bricco Rocca 2016

Freshness of fruit comes clear and concise in this nebbiolo from Bricco Rocca in La Morra. Crunchy red fruit, of currants and candied roses with fine acidity and not so much easy as tannins that can’t be dealt with. A really pretty Barolo. Drink 2021-2027.  Tasted January 2020

Lovely estate Barolo vineyard touch and gentle slide with rose petal and the mildest concrete meeting salumi cure. More than sneaky tannin but this slow creep and rise up to a yet unreachable crescendo. Star, painted Rothko swaths of rustic colour but so pure, so clean and so modern, yet not. Boschetti. Drink 2022-2031.  Barrel sample tasted January 2020

Cascina Chicco Barolo DOCG Castelletto 2016

Light and airy, no real need for brooding and like a full moon rising this goes dancing in the light. Knows where the music’s playing, feels the night. Nebbiolo like a Neil Young tune strummed on a harvest moon. Drink 2020-2022.  Tasted January 2020

Cascina Del Monastero Di Grasso Giuseppe Barolo DOCG Bricco Luciani 2016

Classic La Morra really, light and transparent, tart and comforting. Some bitters and tonic as well though more like drops in a rosewater cocktail. This really brings the roses, dried, distilled and then soft to drying tannins. Drink 2021-2025.  Tasted January 2020

Plin

Cascina Sòt Barolo DOCG 2016

Peppery reductive, full fruit development ensured, ripe and regal Monforte d’Alba nebbiolo. Great palate presence, focused and highly tannic. Acids are the glue and the catalyst for fun. Will please so many, of any and all camps. Drink 2021-2028.  Barrel sample tasted January 2020

Cascina Sòt Barolo DOCG Bricco San Pietro 2016

Here the citrus in namely orange stylistic is mixed with cured salumi in a Bricco San Pietro nebbiolo of firm Monforte d’Alba form. Texture forms a step up and creates a new mood for older styled clothing. This is a classic in its particular and parochial way in how it talks the talk and walks the walk to complete a sense and for a place. Really proper and will live long. Drink 2022-2030.  Tasted January 2020

Casetta Flli Barolo DOCG Casa Nere 2016

Classic, old-school, rich and dusty nebbiolo from the Casa Nere cru in La Morra. Some mustiness but a cool savour that speaks to ancient soil and the adage that tells us nebbiolo needs time and the glass. This will come around. Drink 2022-2028.  Tasted January 2020

Castello Di Verduno Barolo DOCG 2016

Lightly candied, tea soaked and orange citrus macerated. Solid and Verduno purposed, slightly old-school and perfectly seasoned for some good Barolo times. Drink 2021-2026.  Tasted January 2020

Cavalier Bartolomeo Barolo DOCG Altenasso O Garblet Suè O Garbelletto Superiore 2016

So bloody volatile and hematic valentine. Earthy fruit and crunchy texture, finishing with tough tannin. Drink 2021-2024.  Tasted January 2020

Bigger, thicker, fuller packed Bricco Boschis nebbiolo is this, of greater concentration and without compromise. The consistency carries through, from the aromatic start, with an startling chromatic burst, through the waves of palate strength and energy. Then with tannic thrush so integrated and yet unyielding. That’s how structure ensures longevity. Drink 2022-2032.  Tasted January 2020

Ginestra is a Monforte d’Alba animal altogether different. So rich, compact, rife with connective tissue and full on expressive. Big in every respect beginning with its berry and cherry fruit all the way down through the lines of structural adversity. So much gumption, attitude and power. Must be the sun, the exposition and the heights. The Sorì Drink 2022-2029.  Tasted January 2020

Cordero Di Montezemolo Barolo DOCG Monfalletto 2016

An advancing nebbiolo is like this with fruit very developed and tannins keeping things from going soft or past prime. In its wheelhouse just about already, integrated, playing as one, ready to match the table. Make use of this Barolo while more formidable examples take their sweet time. Drink 2021-2027.  Tasted January 2020

Costa Di Bussia Tenuta Arnulfo Barolo DOCG Bussia 2016

So many things to fault here. Volatility at the top, barnyard below and the shower curtain drawn. Obviously a flawed bottle.  Barrel Sample tasted January 2020

Crissante Barolo DOCG Del Comune Di La Morra 2016

Up there in terms of tones played and light, in cherry and rose water. A hint of liquorice and fennochio so savoury in an aniseed way. Tart, chewy and from the La Morra earth. Solid commune-based nebbiolo. Drink 2021-2027.  Tasted January 2020

Lalibera, Alba

Crissante Alessandria Barolo DOCG Capalot 2016

A quiet La Morra nose, a cool factor, a mint to evergreen line but oh so subtle as such. Good strength in acidity and command in tannin. This is a confident wine with Capalot bones and some fruit substance to cling on, hang around and be there when the integration takes place. Drink 2022-2028.  Tasted January 2020

Curto Marco Barolo DOCG Arborina 2016

Dusty and rusty La Morra-Arborina nebbiolo, earth-crusted and fruit just a touch dried. Seems older than ’16 and were it a five to seven year-old Barolo it would seem perfectly suited and aged for what should and even must be. Lacks freshness for 2016 but truth be told it would come across as true and worthy without the stigmata of vintage attached. Drink 2020-2022.  Tasted January 2020

Diego Conterno Barolo DOCG Del Commune Di Monforte d’Alba 2016

Wild berries meet juicy acidity in one of those Monforte d’Alba nebbiolo that rushed to the secondary gate and should remain there for a few years. Knows itself before many do and that advanced personality will see it drink beyond its age while others wait to grow up. Drink 2020-2024.  Tasted January 2020

Diego Pressenda Barolo DOCG Le Coste Di Monforte 2016

Quickly the tone of Le Coste di Monforte is revealed, on the light and drying side of nebbiolo things with a wild berry note that’s subtle and rewarding. Tannins seem to exceed the fruit a touch though they care little for bitters. Drink 2021-2026.  Tasted January 2020

Diego Pressenda Barolo DOCG Bricco San Pietro 2016

Rich, ripe and developed at least as far as 2016 sugars are conceded and concerned. Goes at it wholeheartedly, without hesitation and includes a minor note of verdancy. The wood fills in the holes and you notice it. I promise you. Drink 2021-2024.  Tasted January 2020

Dosio Barolo DOCG 2016

Spice notes on the nose take centre stage so wood is the immediate factor of record. Tannins follow suit and in between is acidity quite fine and very respectable. This is an architectural nebbilolo from the La Morra producer of perfectly reasonable ubiquity and top notch seasoning. Drink 2021-2028.  Barrel sample tasted January 2020

Dosio Barolo DOCG Serradenari 2016

Candied and earthy at the same time so feet in two worlds and not really quite connected at the twain. Crunchy tannin with a fruit lingering nicely in its youthful time of need. Solid La Morra if not truly remarkable Serradenari Barolo. Drink 2021-2025.  Barrel sample tasted January 2020

With Giorgio Boschis

E. Pira & Figli Barolo DOCG Via Nuova 2016

Via Nuova is the assemblage, the house wine, Vigna della Casa and a wine of all encompassing perfume. A mix of finesse and structure. Also textured with a charming glycerin and experiential moments in thyme. There is much pride and dreaming hope for 2016, with great aging potential. The tannins creep up, take hold and remain, secured and bonded. That’s nebbiolo grip and persistence incarnate. Drink 2023-2035.  Tasted December 2019 and January 2020

Why is Mosconi so special. “Why is anyone more beautiful than the other?” Nature. A connection to Domenico Clerico and when Chiara had a chance to join this plot she jumped. The flowers come at you in waves. The fruit is everywhere and all is stored inside, kept safe, comforted and comfortable. South facing below the village and again it just must be the place that brings this level of joy, elegance and structure. There are 25-30 years of life ahead for this 2016. So glad Chiara became a part of la squadra Mosconi. Drink 2020-2025.  Tasted December 2019 and January 2020

Elvio Cogno Barolo Cascina Nuova DOCG 2016 ($54.95)

“I consider 2016…a perfect vintage,” says Valter Fissore, “fresh, elegant and complex.” This comes from the youngest vines, under 17 years old, made for those who don’t want to wait 20 years. A Barolo that you could not find 20 years ago, from a blue vintage, the best kind. Yes, a true blue vintage it is, not just a simple blue and so very different to barbera. Fine tannins but ones that are very present. They build but not too much. “My Barolo are neither traditional nor modern. They are post-modern.” Drink 2022-2030.  Tasted January 2020

A 50 day maceration with a big amount of capello sumerso and 24 months of botti aging. From the blue vintage and fruit in the heart of La Morra that is the epitome of Ravera. Grippy and smooth, silken texture and tannins at their parochial finest. Savoury and sapid, wound tight and walking a straight line. No angles, no edges, niente spiggolo. Reminds Valter of Elvio’s Brunate ’78, at least in style; drinkability, sweetness and texture. Can bend without breaking, inveterate, elastic, long and eternal. Drink 2024-2036.  Tasted January 2020

Enrico Serafino Barolo DOCG Del Commune Di Serralunga d’Alba 2016

A slightly warm annd boozy nebbiolo this one, warm site(s) in Serralunga d’Alba derived and delivering a wealth of spiced red fruit. Again it is acidity that directs the motive and the plan. Just a touch overripe and overdone. Drink 2020-2022.  Tasted January 2020

Ah Fossati and its flirtatious aromatics, cheery, cherry and floral. A candied pansy and rose, a red citrus and a lightning quick set of fruit reflexes. Terrific texture, presence and finesse. Does what needs, for La Morra, come what may. Proper, elaborate and fine. Drink 2022-2031.  Barrel sample tasted January 2020

Ettore Germano Barolo DOCG Cerretta 2016 ($89.00)

The most reductive Serralunga d’Alba nebbiolo in the day’s tasting thus far is this cracked pepper one sprinkled over a hard savoury candied shell. What fierce and grippy structure this killer Cerretta exhibits with no prisoners taken, so none can be released. Well perhaps in five or so years there will be some sort of release and while fruit is pretty strong in its own right I’m not so certain it will keep up with the Joneses. Drink 2023-2029.  Tasted January 2020

Fenocchio Giacomo Barolo DOCG Villero 2016

Similar Villero transparency, effusive character and boundless possibility. Never needing to strike with force or command attention. The fruit concentration steps up with this example as does the acid-tannic lineage. The texture and drying, sear-sucking, moisture deprivation is noted so balance is just a bit teetering. Still Villero though, from Castiglione Falletto. Drink 2022-2026.  Tasted January 2020

Figli Luigi Oddero Barolo DOCG 2016

All things being equal there is nebbiolo, Barolo and overall ubiquitous personality emanating from this wide-ranging one. Takes everything in stride, assembles the parts and creates the classic construct of local apparatus. Everyone can use this machine and use it well for a decade. Drink 2021-2028.  Tasted January 2020

Fogliati Barolo DOCG Bussia 2016

Lovely aromatic beginning, floral, near racy and if smells were juicy this would be how they were. The palate follows suit with plenty of flesh, also provided by buoyant acidity. Crisp, clear, clean and nothing short of drinkable. Stuffing is ample and to be honest a breath of fresh, not kill you with tannin air. Quality Bussia out of Monforte d’Alba. Drink 2021-2025.  Tasted January 2020

Fontanafredda Barolo DOCG Fontanafredda 2016 ($33.00)

Quite ripe and effusive at the same time, part fruit juicy and part bright red citrus light. A middle road taken Serralunga d’Alba nebbiolo with prominent features and structurally sound constitution. Quite composed, grippy and ready to take on a ten year run. Drink 2021-2029.  Tasted January 2020

Fontanafredda Barolo DOCG Del Commune Di Serralunga d’Alba 2016

Quite ripe, overly so, extracted, pressed and compressed. The concentration is clearly impressive though there’s not much substance behind the fruity veil. Will drink well for a few years and then fall asleep into an oxidative state. From Serralunga d’Alba. Drink 2020-2024.  Tasted January 2020

Now into the Castiglione Falletto nebbiolo of Villero, so apposite, ulterior and offering the great change of pace. Firm, transparent, beautiful. Seemingly simple and just lovely there can be no hiding feelings that this from Castiglione Falletto is holding back layers lining the floor of the depths. The subtleties are boundless and the finesse too. Some may find this lacking but if you can’t see the forest for the flesh you not be paying close enough attention. Drink 2022-2031.  Tasted January 2020

Fortemasso Barolo DOCG Castelletto 2016

An apposite Castelletto from Monforte d’Alba, still transparent but with fruit and substance of a deeper heart. No real glycerin to the texture and though it shines through there too is a next level layer of concentration. Perhaps not in comparison to certain storied cru but in quality compassion nonetheless. Drink 2021-2027.  Tasted January 2020

A completely new Italian experience through a lens into the streets of curious Cherasco.

Fracassi Umberto Barolo DOCG Manteoetto 2016

Somewhat closed nose though you can tell even without tasting that the palate will be rich. Deep cherry notes come across that transition and there is indeed this creamy texture leading down a path to lactic taste. Winemaking is on display here. From Cherasco. Drink 2022-2027.  Barrel sample tasted January 2020

Franco Boasso Barolo DOCG Margheria 2016

Strength in protection and reduction makes this a Serralunga d’Alba nebbiolo to look at in protractive ways. A touch of Brett is clearly in the fray so expect an earthy, grippy and woolly Margheria for the long haul and the stay. Not going anywhere for quite some time. Drink 2023-2029.  Tasted January 2020

Franco Boasso Barolo DOCG Gabutti 2016 ($46.95)

There’s a next level set of circumstances presented and acquiescesd in this Serralunga d’Alba nebbiolo from the prominent and formidable cru of Gabutti. Fruit is big time while structural components are bigger. There can be little reason to go at it all in while so youthful because better and more integrated lies ahead. Liquid chalky, fine acidity and textural identity define and get in the face of tension so that movement happens and will continue in this positive way. Drink 2022-2030.  Tasted January 2020

Franco Conterno Barolo DOCG Panerole 2016

So much wood influence as noted by the vanilla, graphite and even American-oak like coconut on the nose. Hides the nebbiolo character entirely. Drink 2022-2027.  Barrel sample tasted January 2020

Francone Barolo DOCG 2016

Overripe and oxidative. Dried flowers and fruit. Drink 2020.  Tasted January 2020

Francesco Rinaldi E Figli Barolo DOCG Cannubi 2016

Quite youthful and candied strawberry Cannubi. Younger vines perhaps and a bit of bubble gum-jammy aromatic start. After that all tannin and grip. Drink 2021-2025.  Barrel sample tasted January 2020

Here is yet another stunning aromatic Verduno nebbiolo from Monvigliero albeit once again so stupidly youthful so as to get in the way of the knowing and the wanting. Lovely palate texture, silken and fine. All the structural attributes follow suit, in precision and long a perfectly reasonable line. Will be a great one. Drink 2023-2031.  Barrel sample tasted January 2020

Fratelli Serio & Battista Borgogno Barolo DOCG 2016

Very structured, highly classic and fruit secondary though righteous and proper enough to hang aboard a solid framework of Barolo ubiquity. Classic Novello in so many understood and expected ways. Drink 2022-2029.  Tasted January 2020

G.D. Vajra Barolo DOCG Baudarina

Richer and more extracted nebbiolo from Serralunga d’Alba and Baudarina is just this. That said the concentration from ripeness and pressing has has not brought along the negative aspects in tow. No astringency, verdancy or bitters so that’s a very good thing. Drink younger while more demanding commune crus bide their time. Drink 2021-2025.  Tasted January 2020

The thing of Bricco delle Viole that is beauty emits with gala fruit force into the canals of the layers. Bricco dell Viole the singular Barolo cru, from which fruit, texture and extension are consistently planned out, mapped and organized. So wound, so found and following a path that runs along a line along a circle. Slow unwind and unfolding coming, culminating in developed notes, to be far away, somewhere between then and then. Too soon to tell. Drink 2023-2032.  Tasted January 2020

Gagliasso Mario Barolo DOCG Torriglione 2016

A highly specific nebbiolo from Torriglione, fruity but shy, tempered and distilled. A liqueur like nose but nothing too heavy, sweet, salty or sour. Ulterior and finessed, sharp and mineral, spiced and even spicy. A real La Morra Barolo with the ability to allow you to find joy in a half decade’s time. Drink 2022-2029.  Tasted January 2020

Gagliasso Mario Barolo DOCG Rocche Dell’annunziata 2016

Another fine exampe from Rocche dell’Annunziata where there just seems to be a collective intuition for righteous, classic and proper. Great structure and concentration right here, second to none. Prime La Morra Barolo, primal nebbiolo and primo execution. Drink 2022-2029.  Tasted January 2020

Garesio Barolo DOCG Del Commune Di Serralunga d’Alba 2016

An ulterior version of Barolo from Serralunga is this, high in its tonality and buzzing with energy. The acidity is in full tang while the tannins too do the same. Not so much grippy as full of energy. Very good short term potential. Drink 2020-2023.  Tasted January 2020

Garesio Barolo DOCG Gianetto 2016

Quite solid of Serralunga d’Alba bones and equally capable in Gianetto flesh is this high acid dripping with red fruit nebbiolo. Pretty sharp and exceptional in tang from which that acid structure is everything and more. Will drink like this for a few seasons and then fade lightly away. Drink 2020-2024.  Tasted January 2020

Gemma Barolo DOCG Del Commune Di Monforte d’Alba 2016

Somewhat thin and dishy Monforte d’Alba nebbiolo without much ado. Purely and clearly varietal in its locality though the drying tannins do not quite match the fruit. Drink 2021-2024.  Tasted January 2020

Gemma Barolo DOCG Del Commune Di Serralunga d’Alba 2016

Just smells like liqueur, hot and bothered, no delicacy for what nebbiolo wants and needs. Very extracted, concentrated and full of spicy glycerin, there’s just a lack of love and finesse. Impressive though for and from Serralunga d’Alba. Drink 2021-2023.  Tasted January 2020

Very aromatic, highly prominent proboscis and spiced to the hilt. One of the very few nebbiolo that noses fennel in very fresh form. Also a tomato aspect but no leaf. Takes what the grand-sized Bussia cru gives and runs with the feeling. No shortage of Monforte d’Alba character or complexity. The winemaker must be pleased with this work from 2016. Drink 2021-2029.  Tasted January 2020

Giacomo Grimaldi Barolo DOCG Ravera 2016

A bit troublesome to nose, earthier than expected and a bit subdued. Perhaps just the block in Ravera that broods and sleeps a bit. Calm I suppose is what this Novello nebbiolo needs and chooses to exercise. Continues to flatline with not much tension in the mix. Drink 2020-2024.  Tasted January 2020

Giacomo Grimaldi Barolo DOCG Sottocastello Di Novello 2016

Quite up front this Novello nebbiolo sits with great presence. The response will be one met with consideration for greatness and it should merit some of that adulation. That said it’s stretched and youth likely its best attribute. The stuffing is not fully insulating. Drink 2021-2025.  Tasted January 2020

Osteria del Signotori

Gian Luca Colombo Vini Barolo DOCG Bricco Ambrogio 2016

Quite right this Bricco Ambrogio. Old school perhaps but finessed, righteous and well executed. Sensical and proper handling translate the Cru to this wine. Tannins are firm and elongated with just the sort of nebbiolo fruit core you expect every time you taste. Really solid wine from Roddi. Drink 2022-2028.  Tasted January 2020

Giovanni Rosso Barolo DOCG Cerretta 2016 ($91.50)

Oh my the wealth of strawberry and cherry is exceptional in this juicy Serralunga d’Alba nebbiolo with some dried fruit edging. Shows a converse effect by barrel infiltration that makes it quite the gregarious one. Drink this Cerretta early. Drink 2020-2023.  Barrel sample tasted January 2020

Giulia Negri Serradenari Barolo DOCG Serradenari 2016

Stinky, mephitic, closed and ultimately a matter of being heavily reductive. Not much else happening because the palate is stretched and lean. Drink 2021-2024.  Tasted January 2020

Grimaldi Luigino & C. Barolo DOCG Bricco San Biagio 2016

Decent fruit concentration though over-pressed and managed so that the latter half is astringent and tannins are concerning for their green streaks. Plausible in the short term, though will be troubling later on. Drink 2021-2024.  Barrel sample tasted January 2020

Josetta Saffirio Barolo DOCG Del Commune Di Monforte d’Alba 2016

When nebbiolo emits this wild berry lift it’s just like this. You can fully imagine lying in a patch of June strawberries and eating them one after one. There are a million ways to go with nebbiolo so here presents just one of those ways. More acidity than tannin and that’s just the way this needs to be. From Monforte d’Alba. Drink 2021-2023.  Tasted January 2020

I Colli Rossi Barolo DOCG Del Commune Di Monforte d’Alba 2016

Slightly mephitic and full on tang dominate the aromas. Youth is a factor in most reductive ways while mouthfeel is quite special. A disjointed wine now and spirited, spiced, so protracted in a protected shell. Seems like the candied fruit and floral will turn into beauty someday. Much patience needed. From Monforte d’Alba. Drink 2023-2029.  Barrel sample tasted January 2020

L’Astemia Pentita Barolo DOCG Cannubi 2016

Volatile and Bretty together for a true lesson in older-schooled, microbial Barolo. Earthy and wet forest, river’s edge fruit. Not a whole hell of a lot of pleasure to derive here. Drink 2021-2024.  Barrel sample tasted January 2020

Who makes it happen? They do

La Bioca Barolo DOCG Ravera 2016

Crunchy and candy-savoury fruit with an earthy twist and a seriousness that speaks to Ravera the place. Perfectly middle ground example with weight, transparent clarity and a very expressive nature. Truth be told you feel the wood at the end. so wait on this Novello until tomorrow. Drink 2022-2029.  Tasted January 2020

La Carlina Barolo DOCG 2016

Quite ripe and very strawberry, cool, minty, herbal and with top notch acidity. Tannins are chalky, fine and grainy. So youthful and great expectations lay ahead. From Grinzane Cavour. Drink 2022-2029.  Tasted January 2020

Le Ginestre Barolo DOCG Sottocastello Di Novello 2016

Big time aromatic Novello front, storm of flowers, ripe fruit and compact forest floor humus. All in with the aromatic wavs and nicely delineated to allow for good quality palate feel. If a touch sappy, the structure follows suit with sweet acids and also tannins. Really good presence and precision in Barolo with a long life ahead. Drink 2022-2030.  Tasted January 2020

La Fusina Barolo DOCG Perno 2016

Perno just seems to climb higher and higher, rising with all its parts in flight and unhinged. This Monforte d’Alba example carries a deeper sense of weight but still its temperature rises. All in for the sense of place. Drink 2022-2027.  Tasted January 2020

La Rachilana Barolo DOCG 2016

Strong mocker this Monforte d’Alba nebbiolo, fully reasoned, ripened and seasoned. Absolute clarity in vintage notability; rich, aggressive and tannic. Nothing held back and time is of the apposite essence. Drink 2022-2028.  Tasted January 2020

Le Cecche Barolo DOCG Bricco San Pietro 2016

Harkens back to the adage of Bricco San Pietro being a cru of orange scrape in a citric range. Simple here from Monforte d’Alba, syrupy with spice and tannic liquidity. Representative if coming across a bit juiced sweet. Drink 2021-2024.  Tasted January 2020

Le Strette Barolo DOCG 2016

More gregarious to nose with plenty of citrus, namely red of pomegranate and currant. Also a tomato leafiness and/or water that brings the verdant savour. Wood spice all over the back end, beginning with a peppery pique in the trip of the tongue . From Bergera-Pezzole cru in Novello. Drink 2022-2028.  Barrel sample tasted January 2020

Lodali Barolo DOCG Bricco Ambrogio 2016

Simple, fruity, unadorned and not particularly structured there is some basic pleasure to find in this young Roddi nebbiolo. The Bricco Ambrogio tannins are late arriving and don’t stay particularly long. Drink 2021-2025.  Tasted January 2020

Checkpoint Cherasco

M. Marengo Barolo DOCG Brunate 2016

Sugary aromatic waft of plum, peach, apricot and orange. Almost a saffron-like botrytis but its faux and curious. Texture is of the crusted and crunchy kind with a structure linear and polar when considering the nose of this La Morra nebbiolo. Curious Brunate for sure. Drink 2022-2027.  Tasted January 2020

M. Marengo Barolo DOCG Bricco Delle Viole 2016

Quietest of the Bricco delle Viole, set highest atop the Barolo hill’s tone, equipped with the chalkiest, finest tannic grain. This one sears within, into and inside, lined with the dried, crusted petal florals and a curative strip. Crunchy and crusted, white pepper and great purpose. Drink 2022-2029.  Tasted January 2020

Malvirà Barolo DOCG Boiolo 2016

Good if very transparent fruit concentration, currants and pomegranate, tannins a bit tart, taut and drying. Herbal and an Amaro note. Flattens at the finish. Drink 2020-2021.  Barrel sample tasted January 2020

Marengo Mauro Barolo DOCG 2016

A solid tannic example of nebbiolo with a penchant for firmness and drying notes to match the fruit content of a good vintage. Crunchy and crusted, herbal and cool climate factored. Should turn into something very proper. Drink 2021-2027.  Barrel sample tasted January 2020

Mauro Molino

Mauro Molino Barolo DOCG 2016

“Classic” Barolo from three Monforte d’Alba vineyards, including Béri and Conca L’Annunziata planted in 1982. Round, rife with ripe ’16 fruit. Neither pushy nor risky, meaning the sweet acids and gentle tannins simply round out the possibilities. So pleasant and that’s what this is all about. Ideal restaurant Barolo. Drink 2020-2024.  Tasted January 2020

Mauro Molino Barolo DOCG Conca 2016

From La Morra commune and Conca cu. Very pressed, slightly oxidative and welling with cherry liqueur. Some sweetness and pushy tannin. Drink 2021-2023.  Tasted January 2020

Mauro Molino Barolo DOCG Gallinotto 2016 ($74.95)

Gallinotto is 100 per cent from Béri, the oldest vineyard and meaning “a small chicken,” from Piedmontese dialect, now also Italian. There is as much earthy substance as substantial fruit from Béri though not as savoury as you might think. Very grounded with roundness and texture on the palate. All the parts coalesce into classic nebbiolo patterning and you intuit a further purpose yet to be revealed. Drink 2021-2026.  Tasted January 2020

Mauro Molino Barolo DOCG La Serra 2016

As the name suggests, La Serra comes a single vineyard in la Morra. Fashioned with power in mind, this is a small lot, raised in small casks nebbiolo to fortify and strengthen for a fulsome wine. The vanilla and graphite are prominent early and the transference to integration will be low and slow. Highly concentrated though also woollen, silken and a very linear wine. Drink 2021-2029.  Tasted January 2020

Mauro Sebaste Barolo DOCG Cerretta 2016

From Serralunga d’Alba, three years in tonneaux, a light and lifted nebbiolo from Cerretta cru. High-toned and also showing some rusticity across a range of dried floral and herbal potpourri. Roses for sure and a wood in space-time continuum. Classic really. Drink 2021-2026.  Tasted January 2020

Mauro Sebaste Barolo DOCG Trèsüri 2016

From three parcels located quite proximate to Roncaglie in La Morra, inclusing 20 per cent of fruit from Cerretta. Three parcels on the highest parts of the hill gift fruit to spend three years in Grandi Botti. An easy, amenable and approachable Barolo for4 everyday use. Tons of sunshine, ripe fruit and ready, perforce to proceed. Drink 2020-2023.  Tasted January 2020

Mauro Veglio Barolo DOCG Gattera 2016

Richness and concentration on the nose like few other La Morra with palate texture using the land and the barrel to full advantage. Some earthiness and beetroot with sharp acids and demanding tannins. Big wine from Gattera with potential for those who like things in such packages. Drink 2022-2030.  Tasted January 2020

Monchiero F. Lli Barolo DOCG Del Commune Di Castiglione Falletto 2016

Cool, savoury, climatic old-school nebbiolo with all the classic moves and parts. Rose petal, tight acidity and dry your eyes, demanding tannins. Also peppery and pushy. Drink 2022-2025.  Tasted January 2020

Monchiero F. Lli Barolo DOCG Rocche Di Castiglione 2016

Intense aromas speak louder and tell a quicker if deeper Castiglione Falletto story about a place (Rocche di Castiglione) and the potential. Smell this and exclaim. “Wow.” there’s a depth and a power, albeit a restrained one that is so modern and purposeful. Full in every respect, more so acidity than tannin but the latter is not exactly slumped in slouch formation. The excessiveness will work to dramatic early effect though not for decades. Drink 2021-2027.  Tasted January 2020

Morra Diego Barolo DOCG 2016

A curious perfume, flowers desiccated and macerating in a simple syrup. A faux botrytis like saffron broth perhaps with plums and sangria like notes. Unusual and then raisining on the palate. Almost tropical. A style to be sure and worth watching the progression. Drink 2020-2024.  Tasted January 2020

Morra Diego Barolo DOCG Monvigliero 2016

Taut, dusty, cinnamon-spiced and hard to get. So youthful, way too early to speculate and yet the aromatics speak to Monvigliero’s ability and to its charm. Gets inside the Verduno nose and never relents. Drink 2022-2028.  Barrel sample tasted January 2020

Getting down to the gritty La Morra earth and the nitty grip in nebbiolo from Rive cru that takes little heed in the need to keep prisoners. Crunchy and full barrel effect in place with fine-grains of tannin filling every nook and pore. Will ride out two decades of development through funghi umami and tartufo. Drink 2023-2033.  Tasted January 2020

Harder and tougher than other Brunate in that all parts are tense, nervous and demanding in such expedient youth. There needs to be a low and slow unwind to get to the heart of the nebbiolo matter. Will turn and morph into something crucial for La Morra. Drink 2023-2030.  Tasted January 2020

Paolo Manzone Barolo DOCG 2016

Very pressed, extracted and ropey without much energy or drive, There are some grains of tannin but the waning is already in. Drink up and use what Serralunga d’Alba pleasures are contained within the here and now. Drink 2020-2022.  Tasted January 2020

Paolo Manzone Barolo DOCG Meriame 2016 ($57.95)

Serious nose for this Serralunga d’Alba nebbiolo with a grand tisane mixed into the gangly and gamey parts of the constituent plan. Tannic in so many ways, not the least of which is the steeping sachet of herbs, spices and all the parts of Meriame’s land. Drink 2022-2027.  Tasted January 2020

There’s something stirring in this formidably structured Serralunga d’Alba nebbiolo, something about fruit but so much more about spice. All sorts of red citrus, seasoning, tar and roses abounds in a mess of Parafada fruit, Impressive, structured and long. Drink 2023-2032.  Tasted January 2020

Alessandro Olocco

Ornato is at the higher ranges of Serralunga d’Alba, all clay and no sand. Same elévage as Parafada, meaning 24 montbs in Grandi Botti and French oak, pus a further 24 months in bottle. So much more charming than what we often consider as being Serralunga, Conversely grippy, big and intense. Soil’s tension passes and threads through the structure and it sticks because of the great concentration. Aggressive without astringency. Will live 20-25 years easy. Drink 2023-2033.  Tasted January 2020

Parusso Armando Barolo DOCG 2016

The salumi cure and high toned aromatics are a dead give away for style and for what sort of chalky-sandy-marly soils this must have come from. Also developed and full of fruit that has made its full phenolic journey through to a late harvest. Will offer up its best pleasure earlier rather than later. Drink 2020-2022.  Tasted January 2020

Pecchenino Barolo DOCG Bussia 2016

Youthfully reductive in fact dramatically so and wound so very tight. Rich and and not yet gracefully textural but smooth and capable of turning supple. A minor aromatic distraction comes from a microbe undefined. We’ll see which way this Bussia from Monforte d’Alba decides to go. Drink 2021-2028.  Barrel sample tasted January 2020

Quite the rich and substantial fruit component in this from Le Coste in Monforte d’Alba and no surprise from the exceptional cru. You would have to be a fool of a big and misguided scheme to mess up Le Coste. The glycerin and palate presence are nothing short of grand in the way of how fruit works with barrel pride. This is for you who want a mouthful of Barolo. Mosconi abides. Drink 2023-2031.  Barrel sample tasted January 2020

Pelassa Barolo DOCG San Lorenzo Di Verduno 2016

Quite high toned with plenty of chocolate on the nose from wood. Too much tension and tartness to the point of high distraction. Vinyl and dusty. Too much. Drink 2020-2022.  Tasted January 2020

Piazzo Comm. Armando Barolo DOCG Novello 2016

Quite extracted, syrupy and almost jammy nebbiolo. Even a touch oxidative and moving quickly, especially across the oxalate palate. No notability in the tannic structure. Drink 2020-2023.  Tasted January 2020

Pio Cesare Barolo DOCG 2016 ($71.25)

A blend of communes for true estate blending business. Rich and developed dark fruit that goes for broke right from the word go. Also major tannins of mean business and some final bitters. No turning back from this one. Drink 2022-2026.  Tasted January 2020

Pira Luigi Barolo DOCG Margheria 2016

Oddly perfumed and quirky with big tannic thrush over delicate textured fruit. A bit disjointed though the singularity and offer to connect with a sense of place (Margheria in Serralunga d’Alba) makes this a nebbiolo to look forward to, somewhere four to five years down the road. Drink 2022-2028.  Tasted January 2020

Poderi Marcarini Barolo DOCG Del Commune Di La Morra 2016

Light, effusive and mild tisane of orange peel, herbs and woodsies. Lots of wood here and time is needed though it’s far from a spicy affair. Soft in texture and potential possible. Remains to be seen if there is enough fruit. Gotta have fruit. Hopefully that La Morra fruit. Drink 2022-2028.  Tasted January 2020

Curious aromas, almost bloody, candied, floral. Such red fruit is a delicacy, exotic, floral again and even a touch reductive. A liqueur d’expedition in a way or in so many ways. Some mustiness needs to dissipate and when it does will reveal nothing but flowers. Tannins will not be forgotten, mistaken or forsaken. They from La Serra in La Morra mean business. Drink 2023-2033.  Tasted January 2020

Podere Ruggeri Corsini Barolo DOCG Bricco San Pietro 2016

More orange scrape in the many varied citrus scents in this Bricco San Pietro. The cru gives and continues to give this way. Nice delineation if a bit lean in terms of feel across the palate. Simpler and easy as it comes. Drink 2021-2023.  Tasted January 2020

Poderi Colla Barolo DOCG Bussia 2016

Cracker crusted Monforte d’Alba nebbiolo, firm, grippy and jumpy. Certainly still a minor amount of reduction keeps this fresh and intact. Not yet ready for prime time though the stuffing, bones and flesh are all there to make it happen. Remains to be seen if too firm and grippy Bussia get in the way. Drink 2023-20229.  Tasted January 2020

Poderi Luigi Einaudi Barolo DOCG Cannubi 2016

As per the Cannubi prefect here Barolo commune presents the taut form, firm grip and tension filled youth. Località uncanny and far from entering a state of unraveling. Cool centre, savoury middle ground and firm as heck finale. Will always lay and be like this. Drink 2022-2027.  Tasted January 2020

Principiano Giuseppe Barolo DOCG Boscareto 2016

Very pressed and already oxidative. Not sure this will every offer bright and lively pleasure. Perhaps an off bottle. Drink 2020-2022.  Barrel sample tasted January 2020

Raineri Barolo DOCG Perno 2016

Now we see that Perno can deliver so many different things. In here the tobacco is strong, lit and smouldering. Quite herbal as well, richly juiced and strong as tannic tea. Massive Monforte d’Alba wine with tannins of great demand. Needs the most amount of time but clearly the stuffing is there. Drink 2023-2029.  Tasted January 2020

Renato Ratti Barolo DOCG Rocche Dell’annunziata 2016

On the earthier and swarthy side for Rocche dell’Annunziata with red plummy fruit crusted by clay and mineral salts. Still it can be nothing but La Morra Barolo from this storied cru what with its structural components seamlessly woven together. Another respectful nebbiolo with attention paid to local detail. Drink 2021-2027.  Tasted January 2020

Renato Ratti Barolo DOCG Marcenasco 2016 ($59.95)

Pretty nebbiolo from La Morra, simplified, rose-candied and full of expressive fruit. Some will scoff at the lack of structure and seriousness but who could not want to seek the pleasure in its bright tones and lightness of being? Is it Barolo? Marcenasco? Of course it is. Drink 2020-2026. Tasted January 2020

Réva Barolo DOCG 2016 ($66.15)

Another highly seasoned nebbiolo of rather dark red fruit and barrel piques that create spikes and valleys in the wine. Hangs on with enough energy to see the acidity match the fruit stride for stride. There’s a sense of structure to see this ’16 last for a decade strong and long. Drinking window will open shortly so the temptation will be to imbibe often and early, thereby fertilizing the narcotic poppy of drinking pleasure. Drink 2022-2030.  Tasted January 2020

There is plenty to attract and be attracted to from this swarthy and regaling Cannubi. Big red fruit, dried wild strawberry, tart raspberry and very firm tannins. The pressing and subsequent astringency are temporary but will lead to an earthbound secondary stage.  Tasted Blind, January 2020

Réva’s Cannubi is based or is the extension of an idea, initialized in 2012, to have three different expressions in Barolo. The search is for elegance of La Morra or Barolo and the structure of Serralunga or Monforte. The third is a combination and that is found in Ravera. The Cannubi plot was owned by Fratelli Barale, a Cannubi di Cannubi right next to the cemetery of Barolo. It’s still a rented property and will be owned at the end of a 10 year contract. Pure Barolo, close your eyes and this is recognizable as the dictionary entry. Hue as in deep depths of pure red with a streak of light. Palate of acidity and fine tannins with length. Rich without being too strong. Not closed, does not attack your mouth and yet there is grip to keep it moving forward. Really fine tannins and fruitful pleasure. Drink 2022-2032.  Tasted January 2020

The single-vineyard cru Lazzarito is added in 2016 and it is Daniele Gaia’s first harvest at Réva. Drive the best car and drive it right away. “This is the best wine Réva has never made,“ says Gaia with great irony mixed into humility. Tasted from low temperatures (22-24 degrees) in tank there was fear of Lazzarito’s tannins. Here above Serralunga a long strip on the top of the eastern side of the hill gives a marl-calcaire meets sandy soil and so the best of both structural worlds; freshness (also from high pH) and grip. Yes it’s silly young and impressionable but already handsome, unadorned and fruit so crunchy, yet also sapid, a pinch salty and the impression of acidity is a freshness with thanks to that elevated pH. A sample but already in bottle and will be released in two years. Drink 2024-2036.  Tasted January 2020

Revello Fratelli Barolo DOCG Cerretta 2016

Solid Serralunga d’Alba juice in far right extraction without problematic grit. Cerretta Crunchy and tannic, fruit juicy and expressionist. Gives away all of itself and needs nothing in return. Will show well for three, maybe four years. Drink 2020-2024.  Tasted January 2020

Reverdito Michele Barolo DOCG La Serra 2016

A big barrel influence on a La Morra nebbiolo of concentration means this will turn into something smooth, chocolatey and secondary before too long. Somewhat one-dimensional for La Serra in that respect. Drink 2021-2025.  Tasted January 2020

Reverdito Michele Barolo DOCG Badarina 2016

Light, airy and transparent Serralunga d’Alba Barolo here with a nice balance between grip and finesse. The fruit has been gently coaxed, receives and creates its structural Baudarina identity with relative ease. Top quality mid-weight example. So reminds of the Barolo from Scarpa. Drink 2022-2028.  Tasted January 2020

Rinaldi Francesco & Figli Barolo DOCG 2016

A slight oxidative note but still quite attractive with dried strawberry and a natural cure. Quite frankly smells and also tastes like a field blend of grapes picked at different times, stacked and fermented together. Drink 2020-2021.  Tasted January 2020

Rizieri Barolo DOCG 2016

Wildly aromatic front, namely untamed strawberry and some verdancy tossed in. Very La Morra nebbiolo in a rich and concentrated way, nearly glycerin, certainly taken full advantage of vintage possibility. Not overly complex or tannic but very, very drinkable. Drink 2020-2024.  Barrel sample tasted January 2020

Roberto Sarotto Barolo DOCG Bergera Pezzole 2016

Overtly hot and bothered. deeply rendered and distilled. Heavy extraction and vanilla in waves. So much wood. Drink 2021-2024.  Tasted January 2020

The brighter and higher toned Rocche dell’Annunziata is this example where fruit is parochial fruit but a steeping and a warmth takes it to a different level. More palate presence and furthered tannic fineness. There’s so much to appreciate and understand here, namely La Morra finesse and beauty. Drink 2022-2031.  Tasted January 2020

Rocche Dei Manzoni Barolo DOCG 2016

Wild berries and all the others in the market well up in this most fruity of Monforte d’Alba nebbiolo Barolo noses. It’s almost impossible how much red, blue and black berry fruit is in the mix. There are structural aspects but they pale in comparison. This one-dimensional wine is really something else. Modern is the understatement. Drink 2020-2022.  Tasted January 2020

Roccheviberti Barolo DOCG Rocche Di Castiglione 2016

Slightly elevated in its lift and sour entry. Very much in the saffron, blood orange and scraped skin vein. Searing inwards and so bloody implosive Rocche di Castiglione. So much character and Castiglione Falletto personality in abound. Wait for this to come back down. Drink 2022-2028.  Barrel sample tasted January 2020

A particulaly youthful and formidable nebbilloo from Bricco Boschis in Castiglione Falletto, no shrinking violet of a cru or in how it can confound the young and impressionable. There’s so much going on with respect to aromas; cured meat, fresh roses, rosewater, paved roads, fennel frond and spice. Then comes this brick of texture of inside like airy nougat. So real, so purposed, finessed and of the greatest intendment. How can you not see this but as a twenty year wine? Can’t you hear the organ croon out length, building to crescendo and classicism? Drink 2024-2036.  Tasted January 2020

Ruggeri Corsini Barolo DOCG Bussia 2016

Here is a really taut, firm and yet forgiving Monforte d’Alba nebbiolo from Bussia. Unmistakeable as Barolo with its masculine missive, its unrelenting structure and how it just says wait. Emphatically so. Big bones and long aging probability for sure. Drink 2022-2030.  Tasted January 2020

San Biagio Barolo DOCG Capalot 2016 ($59.95)

Quite high-toned and really tannic La Morra nebbiolo. Very little Capalot fruit joy early and perhaps may not really come. Can’t imagine the fleshing or the integration. Drink 2022-2026.  Tasted January 2020

Sansilvestro Barolo DOCG Patres 2016

Lean and closed, very youthful, not giving very much away. Chewy fruit, ripe acids and even riper tannin so when it emerges from the shell there will be a big ropey nebbiolo to sink teeth deep into. Drink 2022-2027.  Barrel sample tasted January 2020

Silvano Bolmida Barolo DOCG Bussia 2016

From the very large cru comes this high-toned nebbiolo with a certain sort of 2016 aromatic waft in tow. The citrus one bending towards the oxidative. Stays put and in touch with its plum fruit and tart acids. Drink soon. Drink 2020-2022.  Tasted January 2020

Simone Scaletta Viticoltore Barolo DOCG Bricco San Pietro Chirlet 2016

Very cured and curative nose personality, like meats hung in the cellar of a wet concrete floor. Smells like winter, damp and draughty but it’s somehow comforting and encouraging. Tart, full on tang and really solid extension. Singular Monforte d’Alba Barolo from the nook of Bricco San Pietro Chirlet. Drink 2021-2027.  Tasted January 2020

Sordo Giovanni Barolo DOCG Perno 2016

Now welcome to Perno. Perno of Monforte d’Alba specificity. Perno to tell a cru story, of sweet, sour and salty fruit, if it can be thus simplified. Tang in fruit, tart in acid and crafty in tannin. This is no breeze but it does keep blowin’ down the blow. Wild and ripping, energy like few other. What drive from a cru that knows how to live. Drink 2022-2028.  Tasted January 2020

Sordo Giovanni Barolo DOCG Rocche Di Castiglione 2016

A touch of stable floor and a blue sky, late fall, fresh day’s ride along the trail. That and fresh red berry, plum and rose petal. So much aromatic Rocche di Castiglione beginning. Speaks to place (Castiglione Falletto) with palate feel and then a crunchy crusted finale. Yes this will morph into a fascinating wine in middle age. Drink 2022-2029.  Tasted January 2020

Tenuta Cucco Barolo DOCG Del Commune Di Serralunga d’Alba 2016

Ripe and effusive, bright aromatics, quite floral and great potential ahead. Quite pure for nebbiolo with enough grip after extraction to send it further than many from Serralunga d’Alba down a crafty and well-designed road. Drink 2021-2027.  Tasted January 2020

Tenuta Cucco Barolo DOCG Cerrati 2016

The Cerrati tones are set to the top right here and there’s no stepping down any time soon. A plum liqueur dominates with tannins so strong, so firm and admittedly, so fine. Big and chewy, the kind of Serralunga d’Alba Barolo that will really develop some dried fruit meeting cured meet, nuts and even a bit of funghi character. there’s surely enough finesse to see that happen. Drink 2022-2028.  Tasted January 2020

Tenuta L’Llluminata Barolo DOCG Sant’Anna 2016

Fruity but in a juiced and reduced way, then swelled again with water. That sense is not so obvious but it describes the gains and losses of this La Morra Barolo’s swells. Texturally speaking it improves and impresses, as do the work of acids and tannin. Curious and potentially great. Drink 2022-2028.  Tasted January 2020

Tenuta Montanello Barolo DOCG Montanello 2016

Very pretty Castiglione Falletto nebbiolo here from Montanello. Most overtly aromatic, never achromatic, seemingly pushy and tannic. Older of mind, body and soul. Old soul. There’s always a place in our hearts for such a Barolo. Drink 2022-2027.  Tasted January 2020

Tenuta Rocca Barolo DOCG Bussia 2016

A deeper down the Monforte d’Alba well, twist of fate, somewhat dank though clearly serious nebbiolo of Bussia fame. So much tannin and yet charming. No questioning the personality and the effort. Drink 2021-2027.  Tasted January 2020

Trediberri Barolo DOCG 2016

Cool and floral, red fruit in the candied to naturally sweet spectrum. Some tisane, savour and fine acidity. Tannins are easy and supportive. High ranking on the La Morra amenability factor. Drink 2021-2025.  Tasted January 2020

Veglio Luigi E Massimo Barolo DOCG Raviole 2016

The Grinzane Cavour cru is indeed Raviole, the singular shape filled with red cherry fruit at the centre lightly volatile and edgy. Earth crusted and a potential for funghi or tartufi is definitely in the saucy or flaky future for this grainy farina nebbiolo. So curious and with so much possibility. Drink 2022-2028.  Tasted January 2020

Vico Luigi Barolo DOC Del Commune Di Serralunga d’Alba 2016

A reductive one, one part woollen, one part peppery (like Cornas syrah) and one part volatile. really, really interesting and curious nose. Stays true to Serralunga d’Alba course both on the palate and in the way the retexture mimics, then creates. Such potential and possibility excites, as does the length. Drink 2022-2028.  Tasted January 2020

Vico Luigi Barolo DOCG Prapò 2016

Really nothing else in this long flight of Barolo smells like this Serralunga d’Alba nebbiolo from Prapò. It’s a washed rind cheese meets berry clafouti with a yet undetermined set of bones and future. Confounding really and an absolute glaring example of Barolo in youth that resembles nothing of what it will one day become. Drink 2020-2022.  Tasted January 2020

Viberti Giovanni Barolo DOCG Buon Padre 2016

Più Comuni brings vineyards together in strange advance with high toned character mixing with an ooze of liquorice and really developed red plummy fruit. Also some Brettanomyces then true tang from acidity. Big wine that climbs all over the map. Drink 2021-2026.  Tasted January 2020

Vietti Barolo DOCG Lazzarito 2016 ($175.00)

Reductive and protected with little movement this early in its youth. Good core of red Serralunga d’Alba fruit albeit a bit gritty and then some bitters creeping in. If a bit hard-pressed and drying you simply must intuit the youth and what kind of eventuality it will transpose towards and to what end. Forget it Jake, it’s Lazzarito. Drink 2021-2023.  Tasted January 2020

***** Vietti Barolo DOCG Ravera 2016

Here comes the seductive Ravera with everything beautiful up front at first scent. So liberally perfumed but a subtle fragrance, rose petal, jasmine, orange aerosol in thought only, of cherries and greenery. What follows nay not be as consequential but enough stuffing and grip to avoid any sort of Novello nebbiolo letdown. Still Ravera, still strong. Drink 2021-2028.  Tasted January 2020

Virna Borgogno Barolo DOCG Sarmassa 2016

A lurker perhaps this Sarmassa, while the wood on this nebbiolo is very up front. The texture is all barrel derived (at this stage) and fruit seems a bit subdued. Cool factor for sure, lean (again, in the present) and not entirely allowing for the joys of ripeness or the representations in concentration to be set free. Dries out and peppers reductively in the end so please, don’t touch this for five years easy. Drink 2023-2028.  Tasted January 2020

Voerzio Martini Barolo DOCG 2016

Sumptuous nebbiolo of red berry and orange tinged fruit, quite impressive concentration and a modicum of structure. Love the acidity here and the liquid chalkiness in a La Morra that strikes as being a rendition created through master blending. Quality wine of solid proportioning. Drink 2021-2026.  Tasted January 2020

Thick in many ways, concentration for La Morra and also texture for so many layers upon the palate. This is La Serra and its ability, not to mention potential. This time around the pace is slower and the need for admiration is tempered by a better pace. Should drink beautifully in five-plus years. Drink 2022-2028.  Tasted January 2020

Barolo Riserva DOCG 2014

Anselma Famiglia Barolo Riserva DOCG 2014

Buzzing nebbiolo of wild fruit and an almost co2 effervescence. Not quite but it sure makes you feel like the enzymes are still alive and working. Unusual to be sure. Drink 2020-2022.  Barrel sample tasted January 2020

An aged Barolo here of big extraction, still raging tannin and more than a shake of Brettanomyces. A curiosity more than anything else. Drink 2020. Tasted January 2020.

Franco Conterno Barolo Riserva DOCG Bussia 2014

Good ropey red fruit is met by some Bretty character and mildly earthy beetroot. Quite the earthy Barolo with old-world, old-school charm. Acids and tannins are expected, directed, offer a sense of place (Bussia) and in the end are quite fine. Drink 2022-2028.  Tasted January 2020

Giacosa Fratelli Barolo Riserva DOCG 2014