Going back to South Africa

In just a few more sleeps I’ll be back in South Africa. Since attending Cape Wine in 2015 I have had the great fortune to spend many mornings, evenings and excursions with several groups of South African producers here in Ontario. In the past year we entertained visits from the Premium Independent Winemakers (PIWOSA) and most recently this May Chris Mullineux led a masterclass on mostly Chenin Blanc at lbs. Restaurant. Chabrol Restaurant also held a tasting and lunch with representatives from seven outstanding South African wineries.

Related – Around the Cape in 50 wines

On my way to one of those events I was in the car and listening to the CBC. The DJ began talking about Handel as being the composer who could have become a hip hop artist. I’ll explain what he meant in a minute. When I think about South African wines it’s almost impossible to put your finger down to think of it as one thing, one style, or one type of music. You can apply this just about anywhere but in the Capelands there is so much diversity; there are rock n’ roll stars in the Swartland, R & B, soul & Motown in Stellenbosch, Jazz in Elgin, Classical music wherever you want to hear it. But what there is everywhere is flow. Reggae flow, soulful Stevie Wonder flow, hip-hop flow.  What the DJ was trying to say is that a composer who writes with this ease of ability, with an unconscious penning of notes coming from a place that was always there from the beginning, with a creativity that comes out of effortless ease, it just flows. South African wines, collectively, have flow.

Great soils, weather and a Mediterranean climate

When I returned from that 2015 Cape Wine congress I said that South African wine is not what we thought it was. This mantra can’t be repeated often enough. Introduce me to a winemaker who is not in tune with his or her terroir and I’ll show you a winemaker who is either faking it or blindly towing a company line. That breed is few and far between. In South Africa I met exactly none of that ilk.

Related – Once upon a time in the Western Cape

LK @wosa_ca introducing Chris @mullineuxwines for what will be a wild ride through the Western Cape ~ #winesofsouthafrica

I don’t feel the same way, not quite exactly the same way, three years later. Now I see the necessity of not planting whatever you feel like wherever you feel like, but specializing, picking out micro-plots of terroir for very specific grape varieties. Narrowing the focus, figuring out what works best and why. It’s the Burgundian way and indeed the way all great wine regions make their mark. I am also inclined to agree with the heritage seekers and protectors. Old vines, especially dry, bush-farmed vineyards are the backbone of South Africa’s diversity and possibility.

At the lbs gathering Chris Mullineux noted there was a time when chenin blanc tasted like sauvignon blanc, green and sharp, or creamy like chardonnay and sweet. There have been so many styles. Mullineux explained. “We’re no longer trying to make chenin taste like sauvignon blanc or chardonnay, or Huet for that matter.” The grape variety has been in the country for more the 350 years, since the 1650s and it can withstand warm and dry conditions and perform really well. No discourse on new versus old in South Africa can be addressed without first looking at the modish dialectal of Chenin Blanc. The combination of bush and old vines, coupled with indigenous ferments and skin contact addresses has elevated the stalwart, signature grape to its current reality. Sixteen wines were presented that morning, including eight by Andrea and Chris Mullineux.

Into the South African mystic ~ A formidable line-up led by @mullineuxwines with thanks to Chris, LK @WOSACanada JG @lbstoronto @wosa_za @NicholasPearce_

Simonsig Chenin Blanc 2017, WO Stellenbosch, South Africa (981167, $13.95, WineAlign)

From Stellenbosch, the pride and joy, the rainmaker, hay-maker, large volume wine. Decomposed shale provides perfume to chenin, picked over three passes, early acidity, middle palate savour and later harvest tropical fruit, namely guava. There is texture, something firm in its structure and a clear-cut ripeness of acidity. Drink 2018-2019.  Tasted twice, May 2018   simonsigwines  azureau  @SimonsigWines  @azureau  @SimonsigWines  @azureauwinesandspirits

MAN Family Wines Chenin Blanc Essay 2017, WO Western Cape, South Africa (Agent, $14.95, WineAlign)

‘Essay’ is MAN’s chenin blanc with more more stone and citrus fruit, crisp, almost crunchy, getting into texture and would really elevate the fish game. Drink 2018-2019.  Tasted May 2018   manfamilywines  vonterra  @MANVintners  @vonterrabev  @MANFamilyWines  @vonterra

Deetlefs Chenin Blanc 2016, WO Breedekloof, Western Cape, South Africa (465443, $16.95, WineAlign)

The youngest wine route in South Africa and just 90 km outside of Cape Town, the Breedekloof wine route lies in the Breede River Valley, which stretches from Gouda in the west, McGregor in the south, Montagu in the east and the Tankwa-Karoo National Park in the north. “We call it over the mountains,” explains Chris Mullineux, “around that bend from Cape Town.” It’s an area with a long history of chenin by the river bed. A place of fertile soils, where young vines have great vigour and then when they reach 35 years plus, deliver great concentration. Some green pepper and pyrazine here, a throwback to the sauvignon blanc ringer days and also more weight and laced up tightness. It’s a savoury but quite cool expression. Gets crunchy and chewy, one and then the other, like Napolitano pizza dough, in a way. Drink 2018-2020.  Tasted May 2018   deetlefswineestate  nicholaspearcewines  @Deetlefs_Wine  @Nicholaspearce_   @DeetlefsWineEstate  Nicholas Pearce

May 23rd, 2018 #lobsterroll by @lbstoronto ~ #lostinamoment ~ pairs beautifully with South African #cheninblanc

Pearce Predhomme Chenin Blanc Old Vine/Wild Ferment 2017, Clear Mountain, Stellenbosch, South Africa (Agent, $22.99, WineAlign)

The next chapter in the Nicholas Pearce-Will Predhomme chenin blanc joint is the richest to date, as a matter of unction without presumption. The great blended barrel and tank amalgamation dishes an orchard tone citrus smoothie with rigour, tension and then perhaps, yes, a posit tug of confident Stellenbosch belief. Presumption even, knowing that you will adore it. And you will. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted May 2018   pearcepredhomme  nicholaspearcewines  willpredhomme  @PearcePredhomme  @Nicholaspearce_   @WillPredhomme  Nicholas Pearce  willpredhomme

Ken Forrester Old Vine Reserve Chenin Blanc 2016, WO Stellenbosch, South Africa (Agent, $17.95, WineAlign)

Texture from old plants can never be underestimated and this number two of four tiers in the Forrester stable digs so much deeper. It’s more passionately meets seriously defined out of a labour of love so you have to pause and stay with it.  Last tasted May 2018

Reserve is a funny term for wines like this because it speaks to the idea that it should be put aside for further use. I don’t think that is Ken Forrester’s plan and here he once again raises his old vines game with the 2016 chenin blanc. Fruit and mineral are entrenched in this great posit tug of war, each shredding the twain and meeting at the trenchant median. Stellenbosch continues to dole out some of the planet’s most striking and finest whites with chenin blanc at the centre of it’s value universe. With major thanks to Ken Forrester. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted March 2017   fmcwine  noble_estates  @KFwines  @Noble_Estates  Ken Forrester  Ken Forrester  @NobleEstates

I want to eat the dishes chef wants to cook ~ @jwillcook killed it last night @lbstoronto with the wines of South Africa

Survivor Chenin Blanc 2017, WO Swartland, South Africa (Agent, $17.95, WineAlign)

Survivor is richer, deeper, creamier, the chardonnay chenin, in a way, with round and mild acidity. Very tropical, from guava and papaya to mango and ultimately, simple like a banana, with coconut and cream. Drink 2018-2019.  Tasted May 2018   survivorwines  kirkwooddiamondcanada  @SurvivorWines  @KDC_NATIONAL  @SurvivorWines  @KirkwoodDiamondCanada

Mullineux Kloof Street Chenin Blanc Old Vines 2017, Western Cape, South Africa (Agent, $27.26, WineAlign)

Still in the middle of drought, the 100 per cent chenin is so youthful right at this stage. Part Paardeberg, ancient granite decomposed into sand, plus rocky, shallow slate, better in the blend out of cooler years. Still a flint strike but also something verdant, smouldering too, like white tobacco, if there is such a thing.  Last tasted May 2018

You would think this came straight from the vines and into the glass because fresh was never this new, exciting and getable. In fact when thinking about tasting 2015, 2016 and now this 2017 there is no doubt this is the most immediate and gratification guaranteeing Kloof Street yet. It’s already in delivery of ripe citrus, orchard and tropical fruit, all three, fleshy, unctuous and divine. So juicy, unconsciously so and as drinkable as any chenin blanc on the planet. Drink 2018-2020.  Tasted January 2018   mullineuxwines  nicholaspearcewines  @MullineuxWines  @Nicholaspearce_  @MullineuxWines  @MullineuxWines  @MullineuxWines  @MullineuxWines

Mullineux Kloof Street Chenin Blanc Old Vines 2016, WO Western Cape, South Africa (Agent, $22.95, WineAlign)

From the very dry year this 100 per cent chenin is from 36 and 38 year old vines in two vineyards, so considered old vines because its certified (above 35, a labelling law that came into place this year). Natural ferment, freshness meets a terrific sense of place, with downy texture by one third barrel. Aging nicely.  Last tasted May 2018

Some older vines (in the 40 year range) combed off of variegated soil types from several Swartland vineyards combine for definitive Western Cape effect. Kloof Street is the poster child for the way in which Chris and Andrea Mullineux’s are taking South African by storm. Though they spend so much effort concentrating on specific soils with über specific wines, this chenin blanc is the multi-purpose white to teach a thing or two about the rest of their work. It’s exemplary of ripe and perfectly extracted, multi-sensory fruit and personality. Though this 2016 is a bit warmer and deeper than previous vintages (and the portion of barrel ferment is further felt), it continues the thread of honesty, decency and consumer educational necessity for the Cape wine oeuvre. It will also develop some peaches, herbs and honey with time. Drink 2017-2021.  Tasted March 2017

Mullineux Old Vines White 2016, Unfiltered & Unfined, WO Swartland, South Africa (Agent, $36.95, WineAlign)

The old vines are between 36 and 65 years old and the 60-65 per cent chenin blanc is blended with grenache blanc, clairette blanc and viognier. There is also a smidgen of sémillon gris, unique to sémillon, then mutated after 45-50 years, becoming like gewürztraminer. Really flinty, lightning across the sky moving with strikes through the glass, but somehow rich and grippy, then elastic, slippery, moving like an glacial ooze. Extraordinary really. Cryptic white blend, in the end.  Tasted again, May 2018

From French water mill to Swartland bread basket the Old Vines White continues to woo and sooth savages with its exceptional quality. From winemaker Andrea Mullineux this is equation building by chenin blanc (62 per cent) plus grenache blanc (15), viognier (11), clairette blanc (8) and sémillon. It may as well be Meursault Premier Cru Genevrières or Châteauneuf-du-Pape blanc transposed into the body of chenin-plus in South Africa. The combination of flinty strike and sun-fleshy body is perfectly tugged with posit force, stretching, flexing and relaxing with each effortless sway. The tease of lemon curd, sweet herbal pesto and creamy warm climate fruit never submit to the realities of ambition or extension. All remains calm, purposed and transfixed. As am I. Drink 2020-2028.  Tasted May 2018

Mullineux Old Vines White 2015, Unfiltered & Unfined, WO Swartland, South Africa (Agent, $36.95, WineAlign)

The Old Vine White 2015 is a revelation, built by 36-65 year-old vines, of 60ish per cent chenin blanc mixed with grenache blanch, clairette blanc, viognier and the mutated sémillon gris. A year adds almost nothing to the development save for a minor magnification of the flinty feeling but the linger, oh the linger. This is length unparalleled for South African white wine and how it is left to breathe in its broad expression is there forever. You can walk around the block and these old vines will be with you, by your side, in mind, body, spirit and never-ending flavour. Drink 2019-2028.  Tasted May 2018

Ken Forrester Chenin Blanc The FMC 2016, Stellenbosch, South Africa (37291, $64.95, WineAlign)

The straight-lined FMC is chenin blanc on a path of the shortest distance between two points from straight-shooting Ken Forrester. It’s ambitious and righteously so, a statement wine, no longer (if ever) Loire but now indelibly Stellenbosch stamped,. Not an off-dry, botrytis copying style but now from larger barrel and so minor oak and lack of noble rot addendum. It’s simply older vines from the same old vineyard and so comfortable in its own skin. Yes it has a honeyed note but it’s from the bees replete with a sexy, waxy feeling. The aging possibilities are long to endless. Drink 2019-2029.  Tasted May 2018

Varietal and single-vineyard wines are great but #cartology is forever ~ so pleased to get a chance at this today ~ another laser from @chrisalheit

Alheit Vineyards Cartology Bushvine Chenin Blanc Sémillon 2016, Western Cape, South Africa (Agent, $46.95, WineAlign)

Chris and SuzaanGroupe Soleil Fine WinesAlheit’s Cartology ’16 exhibits a citrus layering that separates it from other Western Cape white blends and an implosive intensity that is simply stunning, but also frightening. As a reminder the blend is a smaller amount of eighty year-old La Colline sémillon from Franschhoek running ambagious with 30-40 year old chenin blanc grown in Skurfberg, Perdeberg, Bottelary Hills and Kasteelberg. Few white wines anywhere in the world are even remotely positioned in this field where energy and light spin with infinite speed in the centrifuge of life. That doesn’t even speak to texture for a wine that is the topographical depiction of these nooks of the Western Cape. Needs two years to flesh out, evolve just a hair and bring another level of interest to the glass. Drink 2020-2028.  Tasted May 2018  chrisalheit  gsoleil123  @ChrisAlheit  @GroupeSoleilTO  Suzaan Alheit  Groupe Soleil Fine Wines

Mullineux Schist Chenin Blanc 2014, Swartland, South Africa (Agent, $89.95, WineAlign)

Mullineux’s Schist is a 100-120 case production (though only 72 in 2014), from schist, of course, not granite, which adds mid-palate weight and texture. Also from older (36 and 40 years) vines based from soils of the Kasteelberg. It’s a heartfelt message and cerebral pulling string from the 2014 density gifting vintage. Older barrels wrap like a blanket for fruit richer than you’d ever imagine, full-bodied, beautiful and robed in petticoat unction. It’s also dry as the farmland desert. Truly one of the finest chenin blancs from South Africa and beyond. Drink 2018-2027.  Tasted May 2018

Mullinuex Olerasay Straw Wine NV, WO Swartland, South Africa (Agent, $59.95, WineAlign)

Mullineux’s non-vintage Straw Wine is fashioned from grapes hung in trees for three weeks. The key is to concentrate the acidity which doubles from the pressing number, plus sweetness that is off the charts. No rain in the picking season means no fear of rot. The use is of chenin blanc from the same vineyard as Kloof Street and it’s amazing how the same grapes can deliver such a different expression from the same place but with the simplest adjustment of winemaking methodology. An amazing look from a healthy 14 barrels made, so distinct as a dessert wine, with pineapple, lemon preserve and apple purée. Bold and delicious. Drink 2019-2031.  Tasted May 2018

A little bit of this, a little bit of that. A little bit of schist, a little bit of granite. Amazing vintage variation, from ethereal to powerful. Singular @mullineuxwines

Mullineux Syrah 2016, Swartland, South Africa (Agent, $42.95, WineAlign)

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 2015, Swartland, South Africa (Agent, $42.95, WineAlign)

Mullineux’s Syrah is sourced from several different vineyards around the Swartland, from granite, schisty slate (structure and tannin), plus the mid-palate giver, from lighter, porous soil suited to arenicolous vines. Here is a complex weave of geology, barrel usage and ultimately textures. There is a meaty char but also a floral, violet potpourri. A wine with a lot of integrity and generosity. From a vintage widely considered fantastic everywhere, moderate in every respect; cool, rain, sun, wide picking window. Easy. Drink 2018-2024.  Tasted May 2018

Paul Cluver with Ken Forrester’s Chenin Blanc

A few wines from the PIWOSA visit, June 2017

Paul Cluver Riesling Close Encounter 2015, Elgin Valley, South Africa (Agent, $23.99, WineAlign)

Paul Cluver’s Close Encounter is a matter of remarkable contrast elevated by texture so that sugar and acidity are seamlessly meshed, gathering both apple orchard and mango grove into one sweet and sour package. Channels its inner Rheinhessen like no other southern hemisphere riesling but does so with pure Elgin elegance and individuality. Most excellent riesling.  Last Tasted June 2017

A more serious effort than the sibling ‘Dry Encounter’ because this riesling knows what it wants to be. On its left may be Alsace and on its right the Mosel but in truth this speaks to a Kabinett reasoning, with Elgin layering. At nine per cent alcohol, 36 g/L RS and 8.2 g/L TA it knows the difference and speaks the truth about off-dry riesling, with elevated and yet balancing acidity. It pretends to be nothing but what is of and for itself. Flint and an attainable stratosphere (between 300-500m above sea level) accept the airy drifts of oceans and the gathering returns to earth with the weight of wax and glade. If you think South African riesling is “a real nowhere man, sitting in his nowhere land,” taste Elgin and think again. The skeptical Nowhere man is ignorant to the new frontier for riesling and to him I say “please listen, you don’t know what you’re missing.” Drink 2015-2020.  Tasted September 2015  paulcluverwines  hobbsandcompany  @paulcluverwines  @amargarethobbs  @paulcluver  @HobbsandCo

De Grendel Op Die Berg Pinot Noir 2014, Elgin Valley, South Africa (Agent, WineAlign)

“The Latch” in Dutch it means, where once settlers used the hill as a beacon for navigation. A crunchy, chewy and soil driven pinot noir, so bloody terroir driven, as if the bleed of the earth wells in the bottle and glass. There is fineness to the tannin but more than this acidity that defines the structure, or drives it and leaves you sipping on repeat. Cool summer nights do the savoury, spicy accents. Clearly this piece of Elgin was meant to raise pinot noir. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted June 2017   degrendelwines  churchillcellars  @degrendelwines  @imbibersreport   @degrendelwines  @imbibersreport

Exceptional lads of South African wine take Toronto @chabrolto led by fearless leader Will ~ @WOSACanada @WOSA_Za

Seven producers, seven varietal wines

This tasting was led by master South African messenger Will Predhomme at Chabrol, Toronto’s smallest space and largest kept secret in the hands of Niall McCotter and Chef Doug Penfold.

First up was Sean Griffiths introducing Mulderbosch, based in Stellenbosch, “the centre of the universe,” He spoke of how South Africa has a long history of winemaking and Mulderbosch started in 1659. Looking forward to 2019 that is 360 years, a perfectly symmetrical number, of degrees, coming around full circle.

Mulderbosch Sauvignon Blanc 2017, WO Western Cape, South Africa (933424, $17.95, WineAlign)

The 2017 is the 25th vintage and “we’re always looking for cool-climate fruit.” notes Sean Griffiths. Fermented with its lees in the search for a fuller, richer style. It is surely round, rich and finish-able. A wine of great heritage, for itself and South Africa as a bigger entity but it’s not a replica of anything, least of all “old world.” Hints at a subtlety of weight, pungency, citrus, thiols, vegetation and flint. It’s 100 per cent sauvignon blanc, more passion than pamplemousse, more fruit than mousse. Touched but not bound by tradition. Maritime salinity finishes the spirit. Everything is under control. Drink 2018-2020.  Tasted May 2018   mulderboschvineyards  abconwine  @MulderboschV  @AbconWine  @Mulderbosch  Abcon Wine

Next up, Johannes De Wet from pioneering chardonnay specialist De Wetshof in Roberston, an area of limestone presence and the context of that rock is important. All estate work; farming, winemaking and bottling. First regional planting of chardonnay was in the late 1970s and then in the early 1980s. Johannes’ dad was a chardonnay smuggler.

De Wetshof Limestone Hill Unwooded Chardonnay 2017, WO Robertson, South Africa (419622, $16.95, WineAlign)

From four vineyards on clay with high limestone content, and high pH soils. Citrus abounds, all around, first lemon peel, and then grapefruit. Lots of lees (110 days) but unoaked with the end result being a desired weight. The source is 80 kms from the sea, a place of wind and cold nights, not surprisingly a great area for bubbly. Limestone Hill is a ridge, a step up to the mountain. This chardonnay is striking, sharp, full of energy and then calm, so drinkable. Crunchy and pure, honest, transparent and in its way, just perfect. Drink 2018-2020.  Tasted May 2018  dewetshofwines  glencairnwines    @glencairnwines  @dewetshofwines  @GCwines

Marthinus van der Vyver is Country Manager, North America, Ken Forrester Wines. Ken began with five restaurants in Stellenbosch and one day he saw an auction sign and three hours later, boom he walked away with a winery. If you have met or just heard of Ken Forrester, you know he is a force not just in wine, but a figure larger than life and hugely responsible for putting South African wines on the world’s stage. Partly because of his work to establish a premium level Chenin Blanc but also because of a tireless ethic, an entrepreneurial spirit and certainly his ambassadorial work. Forrester is a team player in the way a Football or Rugby captain rallies his teammates, his club and his country. I’ve had the pleasure of a four-hour tasting session with Ken in Stellenbosch and that interaction is indelibly stamped in my memory forever. Great guy whom Marthinus has the pleasure of calling Dad. He is Ken’s son-in-law and is responsible for taking care of the most important treasures in his life.

Ken Forrester Roussanne 2016, WO Stellenbosch, South Africa (Agent, WineAlign)

The 2016 is the third vintage of this wine, from 39 year-old vines. ‘Tis a risk-reward white held at bay, away from the safety of blending, of barref fermentation, and time spent in 80 per cent used 400L barrels. The vineyard is on the second last farm before you reach the Heldeberg, where hot days give way to late afternoon sea breezes. These are 15 of 60 roussanne hectares in Stellenbosch. Striking aromatics, a flinty, saline and pulsating white with presence and a stand up demand to be noticed. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted May 2018  fmcwine  noble_estates  @KFwines  @Noble_Estates  Ken Forrester  Ken Forrester  @NobleEstates

Stephen Joubert is viticulturalist at DGB. “My passion is to understand South African terroir and to figure out what grows best and where.” Ocean is the thing, heavy soils, cold winters, dry summers, sea breeze influence, to keep acidity and freshness. We happened to have been in Sicily at the same time back in May. I’m curious to see what grape varieties gave him ideas for what to do back home in The Cape.

Bellingham The Bernard Series Old Vine Chenin Blanc 2016, WO Stellenbosch, South Africa (12724, $29.95, WineAlign)

This Bellingham Estate chenin blanc from old vines watched over by viticulturist Stephen Joubert carries an indelible stamp of richness, from that vine age and the leesy style. From granite and weathered shales, a minor note of reduction climbs over top of the rich, chic, stylish and full fruit and while it seems like the wood is very much in play it’s really more lees than anything that terms the texture and renders the weight. Old vines provide the density and structure to allow wood to take part in an ambitious attempt to create longevity. The locked in    spirit will go a long way to seeing some developed fruition but there may be a bit too much extraction so an oxidative quality might creep in before the wood has fully settled and integrated. Should work out well in the mid-term. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted May 2018   bellingham_wines  dionysuswines  @Bellinghamwines  @DionysusWines   @bellinghamwines  @DionysusWinesTO

Danie de Kock presents Spier from Stellenbosch, going strong since 1692, always family owned, most recently purchased in 1993 and since 1996 Johannes Smith is the viticulturalist. Using the word “Signature” on their labels infers or might be what the chef wants to be known for. You should recognize varietal and get what you expect from that name on the bottle. In Spier’s case merlot should be a grape that gives you a great big hug.

Spier Signature Merlot 2016, WO Stellenbosch, South Africa (454827, $15.95, WineAlign)

Spier’s Signature Merlot 2016 is raised on alluvial soils, some estate, some purchased. “We’re trying to show a good solid wine.” Receives seven to eight months of dance floor wood for the fruit to express its moves, of 3rd and 4th passage. The best selling South African merlot in the LCBO happens to be the only one. Acidity and tartness at good height and level while reduction is lower than low. Breadth is a matter that is chalky, in chocolate guise and far from reduced, cooked out, even with just a touch of honest pyrazine. Drink 2018-2019.  Tasted May 2018   spierwinefarm  @SpierWineFarm  @SylvestreWSON  @spierwinefarm  Stephen Marentette

Francois Bezuidenhout from MAN family wines explains how the estate’s seven varietal wines are each equipped with an Afrikaans name. The vintner started out with three friends looking to make everyday varietal wines in 2001, as an anagram after their wives, Marie, Annette and Nicky. MAN. Chenin is the signature white.

Man Vintners Shiraz Skaapveld 2016, WO Coastal Region, South Africa (71332, $14.95, WineAlign)

Named Skaapveld, meaning “sheep’s field” this shiraz is a spicy, deep plum and raspberry red fruit red, a touch reductive and rusty-firm-grippy-transparent. Fruit is essentially from Paarl (with also some out of Stellenbosch), on decomposed granite and clay, dry-farmed and not the usual irrigation because of water retentive soils. Liquid chalky, talcy, oozing of chocolate and a shot of espresso but always returns to the red fruit. Mediterranean, black olive mixed with the chocolate. Peppery rotundo and lovely really. Drink 2018-2020.  Tasted May 2018   manfamilywines  vonterra  @MANVintners  @vonterrabev  @MANFamilyWines  @vonterra

Murray Barlow manages the winemaking at the 880 hectare property, larger than Pomerol, from an estate who’s first wine was made in 1692. In the early 1800s it was split in two, one purchased by John X Merriman. Rustenberg was one of the first to re-plant vineyards after phylloxera. The pioneer owned it until 1926 and was also the last Prime Minister previous to modern day South Africa. In 1941 Peter and Pamela Barlow bought the estate. Their son Simon took over the running of the farm in 1987. Winemaker Barlow represents the third generation of his family to make wine at Rustenberg wines on the foot of the Simonsberg Mountain in Stellenbosch, South Africa. Murray is the vini, father Simon is the viti. The Barlows have been at Rustenberg for 77 years: the longest period any one family has owned the farm during its well over 300 years old term. It’s a new world estate and like many others is  much older than the Boredelaise.”

Rustenberg John X Merriman 2014, WO Simonsberg-Stellenbosch, South Africa (707323, $24.95, WineAlign)

This is from altitudes between 250-500m, of deep rich red granite, high iron soils at the foot of the Simonsberg Mountains. Always 100 per cent estate fruit, merlot on south facing slopes which are cooler spots and then cabernet from those leading west (for afternoon sun). Fruit that thrives on cooling influences but no frost or hail and including beneficial breezes. A wet season preceding three successive drought vintages. Wow in that it’s so very Bordeaux and that’s saying alot because so many varietal or regional ode South African blends are not like their old world ancestors. Here all five Bordelais varieties work together, see plenty of barrel (20 months) and bottle time (one year) for it all to come together. Tobacco, olive, chocolate, classic Bordeaux stylistically and in the hands of a true South African pioneer, right along with the Meerlust Rubicon. Best at 10-15 years but can go 30. Drink 2020-2030.  Tasted May 2018   rustenbergwines  woodmanws  @RustenbergWines  @WoodmanWS  Rustenberg Wine Estate  @WoodmanWS

Good to go!

Godello

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

WineAlign

Hamilton Russell three ways

Olive and Anthony Hamilton Russell at Ridley College

Anthony and Olive Hamilton Russell are tireless wanderers of this earth. When you consider the amount of time they spend travelling in support of one, their eponymous winery, two, their Hermanus friends and colleagues and three, Wines of South Africa, it’s amazing that they are able to find time to produce high quality wines. That they do with great consistency and though they are responsible for interpreting the Hemel-en-Aarde in three ways, in each case they do one or two things and they do it really well.

Hamilton Russell Vineyards works three appellations. The WO of Hemel-en-Aarde Valley is a geological wonder akin to Burgundian soils of 35-50 per cent top soil clay layered with exposed shale, closest to Walker Bay. It is here that Anthony and Olive pioneered the raising of chardonnay and pinot noir. Ashbourne red and white blends are fashioned in the Upper Hemel en Aarde Valley, on the eastern border of Hamilton Russell Vineyards, built of decomposed granite, with freer draining soils and more diurnal temperature fluctuations then the Hemel en Aarde Ridge. The property is named after Anthony’s great, great-grandfather Lord Ashbourne who was Lord Chancellor of Ireland in the late 1800’s. Southern Right is the line of pinotage and sauvignon blanc raised on the western border of Hamilton Russell Vineyards, on a 448 hectare property just behind the old fishing village of Hermanus.

In 1991 Hamilton Russell was the only one producing wines. Now there are 22 in the valley. They began running in 1991 and made full purchase in 1994. A cold current rises up from Antartica into the tip of South Africa’s (Western Cape) “making quality winemaking possible,” explains Anthony. “Our soils have been on the surface for more than 300,000,000 years. I like that you can taste ancient soils in every glass.” Hamilton Russell is what he refers to as their “immediate family.” Southern Right and Ashbourne are close relatives.”

As for varietal choices, there is little doubt that pinotage is (once again) booming while others are dropping. The plantings are very much on the rise. “What people thought was pinotage was badly made pinotage. It’s not a bad grape,” insists Hamilton Russell. We like to control what’s happening on both borders of Hamilton Russell.” So Southern Right (1994) and Ashbourne (1996) are more than just passion projects. “We also want to change people’s perception of pinotage,” he adds. There were no releases between 2011 and 2014, instead it was used as a re-thinking period and a chance to reflect on vineyard/agricultural culture, followed by the new age. “I don’t have a beard, I’m in my 50’s (plus) and I’m doing some pretty hipster stuff. We just don’t look the part.”

I have had numerous opportunities to taste, track, re-taste and follow the chardonnay and pinot noir over the past five years. I often add to my notes because theirs are highly organized, Burgundian powered structures that demand re-visits and respect. The Ashbourne and especially the Southern Right varietals and blends have seen less exposure but the notions of longevity (Ashbourne) and drink-ability (Southern Right) are fast gaining attention.

A few weeks back and post i4C Cool Chardonnay conference I sat down with Wines of South Africa’s Laurel Keenan, Angela Aiello and the South African Wine Society to listen in on Anthony Hamilton Russell’s dissertation and a tasting of eight wines. Here are the notes, plus two for their recently released ’17 chardonnay and pinot noir.

Southern Right Sauvignon Blanc 2016, WO Walker Bay, South Africa (512277, $21.95, WineAlign)

The Southern Right whale is a frequent visitor to Walker Bay and this sauvignon blanc should be a frequent visitor to your glass. It’s a white wine that acts as a messenger to its proximate location to a cold body of water. It’s a pure Western Cape fresh, flinty and smouldering sauvignon blanc so akin to a Bordeaux White. You could close your eyes and imagine Pessac-Leognan (perhaps even hoping for Sancerre or Chavignol) but there really isn’t any need. Six clones and six yeasts, multiple ripeness levels and some clay-grown vines deliver fat fruit to meet the linearity and tension of other shale grown fruit. In the end it’s a complex and rare chance to taste this kind of value. Drink 2018-2020.  Last tasted July 2018

The pungent nature of this sauvignon blanc brings a vigor sight and taste unseen. Classic herbal meets gooseberry and passionate notes are berry-derived and very floral. The palate confirms the notion and makes one a true believer in Walker Bay. Drink 2017-2020. Tasted July 2017   olive_hamilton_russell  noble_estates wosa_za  wosa_ca  @OliveHR  @Noble_Estates  @WOSA_ZA  @WOSACanada  Olive Hamilton Russell  @NobleEstates  @WOSACA

Southern Right Pinotage 2015, WO Hemel-en-Aarde Valley, South Africa (486167, $26.95, WineAlign)

Tasting ’15 while ’17 is already sold out back home. From an opulent and wide open vintage, the wine offers just those expressive attributes. Smokiness meets curative meaty notes and an umami sort of South African garrigue. From a vintage where phenolic ripeness occurred at a higher level of alcohol so it carries a 15 per cent volume, but does so with marked ease. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted July 2018

Hamilton Russell Ashbourne 2009, WO Hemel-en-Aarde Valley, South Africa (486167, $25.95, WineAlign)

The Ashbourne ’09 includes cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, malbec, petit verdot and syrah blended in, “which brings nothing really to the party,” says Anthony Hamilton Russell, “but at least it doesn’t compete with Southern Right.” It’s deeply savoury and smoky, continues to smell like chocolate and will always show its wood. The single-vineyard heavy clay block was always in delivery of fruit ripe but never over that edge, all the while telling its shepherds when to pick so that balance and structure can be had. The linger and length are exceptional. “The variety doesn’t suck.” Truth that. Drink 2018-2024.  Last tasted July 2018

Ashbourne is a 25 barrel cuvée and the outlier in the Hamilton Russell pinot noir-chardonnay stable. With more than enough time behind at eight years on it is essentially evolved and resolved, now a downy blanket of Bordeaux fibres woven, seamless and soft. The fruit dries a bit but like all great aging South African reds the candidly curated acidity is years from relinquishing its grip. Ashbourne is not a matter to blow one’s mind but it teaches some vinous life lessons about Hemel-en-Aarde and the greater good of aged South African reds. It can be enjoyed right now and left for another decade. Like Meerlust’s Rubicon it’s an easy on the pocketbook gift in kind to Ontario from proprietors Anthony and Olive Hamilton Russell. Drink 2017-2024.  Tasted October 2017

Hamilton Russell Ashbourne Pinotage 2015, WO Hemel-en-Aarde Valley, South Africa (486167, $25.95, WineAlign)

It could be expected that this 2015 pinotage blend would already act somewhat to quite advanced when in fact the evolution is virtually non-existent. A side-by-side revisit with 2009 is all that is needed to drive the point. The ’15 is still quite demurred, tightly wound, not in a fresh to reductive way but more in terms of its finely-crafted pyramids of Giza architecture. The acidity and the spice are up there on the crests of the upper steps, very near to the pinnacle. Again it is the way the wine stays with you like a slowly rendered demi-glacé made from the lightest roast of bones that keeps the karst of stone sublime in your mind and mouth. Drink 2018-2028.  Tasted July 2018

Hamilton Russell Ashbourne Pinotage/Cinsault 2018, WO Swartland, South Africa (486167, $25.95, WineAlign)

“We wanted to work with an unoaked pinotage, to mix with a lighter and brighter cinsault.” In fact the cinsault really shines with (by now) classic Western Cape lithe ability because the pinotage allows it to. Add to that a verdant, pyrazine and currant streak and in the end you get perfume but no impenetrability that an overly green and wooded forest would demand. Beautiful (1972 planted) Paardeberg on decomposed granite gifts a chic and classy, perfectly correct blend of these two made for each other varietals. Will settle into one another so effortlessly and with sleepy grace in another year or so. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted July 2018

Hamilton Russell Ashbourne Sauvignon Blanc/Chardonnay 2018, WO Walker Bay, South Africa (Agent, $25.95, WineAlign)

There can be no more fruit in a white blend than what bursts from this sauvignon blanc-chardonnay scene. Just released in South Africa and carried by Anthony and Olive (Hamilton Russell) on the plane. Chavignol is the reference point, with lightly structured sandstone soils bringing lightness, airiness and delicate fruit. Or think Jim Clendenen’s Au Bon Climat out of Santa Barbara. It’s democratically priced (a Hamilton Russell first) without gratuitous sugar and still dry, tart and direct. Also the first screw-cap for the company. Bottled just three weeks ago. Drink 2018-2020.  Tasted July 2018

Hamilton Russel Vineyard Chardonnay 2017, WO Hemel-en-Aarde Valley, South Africa (931006, $44.95, WineAlign)

A Hamilton Russell chardonnay must have its nuts, butter and über direct acidity. It just may remind of Bâtard perhaps because depth, richness and a ridges-straddling connection to the valley it comes from all work in this way. But what else brings that connection? In 2017 it’s elegance for sure, but also intensity. This 36th vintage is “a reflection, always of the same piece of ground, even if we are always insecure and trying to improve, it’s a far bigger thing than we are. We feel justice to serve it. We feel we have a duty to this.” This is what Anthony Hamilton Russell told me last year and it perfectly applies to this 2017. Back then he noted that “god made the 15s and winemakers watched. In ’16 winemakers made the wine.” So what about ’17? With heady attention paid to its eccentricities and idiosyncrasies, it’s really a matter of both. Drink 2019-2026. Tasted twice, July 2018

Hamilton Russel Vineyard Chardonnay 2016, WO Hemel-en-Aarde Valley, South Africa (931006, $44.95, WineAlign)

Says Anthony Hamilton Russell. “It took the French to teach me not to care about the colour of chardonnay, but to only worry about flavour and texture.” Fermented with a healthy amount of solids and introduced to oxidation in its youth. This helps and results in a chardonnay well-adjusted to adult life and to adults. “You cannot measure an aesthetic with a number,” meaning you can’t learn from a measured response. Literally speaking. The balance is as good as this archetype of an HR white has ever been. It is after all, the HR white.  Last tasted July 2018

No stone is left unturned in the Hamilton Russell 2016 chardonnay because it speaks with utmost Hemel-en-Aarde Valley clarity. There is less make-up in 2016 so the fruit, acidity and subtle salty quality all must have begun to speak from the word go. The first pressed, non-clarified must would have done nothing but made the maker’s smile, mimicking a foggy morning over Walker Bay and so they have allowed the wine to speak for itself. This is a beautifully restrained and go it alone rendered to be measured chardonnay, with beauty and grace. Drink 2017-2022.  Tasted September 2017

Hamilton Russel Vineyard Pinot Noir 2017, WO Hemel-en-Aarde Valley, South Africa (999516, $58.95, WineAlign)

’m not sure it can be stated often enough that when you continually do one thing well, without compromise or mutation, than you’re more likely to do it very well. This is the case with a Hamilton Russell pinot noir, the only one that is produced. From the best fruit available and swinging in the direction of the vintage, either into or away from the winds of vineyard or winemaking. The 2017 is like the chardonnay in that it’s a best of both worlds seasonal and acumen-focused display, neither one or the other dominant and in the end, so balanced. The fruit depth is exceptional, the acidity deeper still and the intensity wound around it all. It’s so precise and layered, like a pinot noir prism, like staring far inside the intricate and symmetrically patterned angles in a diamond. Drink 2019-2028.  Tasted July 2018

Hamilton Russel Vineyard Pinot Noir 2016, WO Hemel-en-Aarde Valley, South Africa (999516, $58.95, WineAlign)

“We believe in wines of consequence.” How pinot noir is capable of performing in South Africa can be defined right here, with a wink and a nod to Gevrey-Chambertin. Pure unbridled Hamilton Russell cerebral joy, nothing taken for granted and all possibilities celebrated.  Last tasted July 2018

This welcome ethereal return of Hamilton Russell’s Hermanus benchmark pinot noir follows on the heels of the early-picked, dense, muscular and compressed 2015. Comfortable alcohol meets optimum phenolic ripeness so lets think on it in terms of ’08 burgundy, though perhaps not as tight and classic. This is the second fully organic vintage, not certified but with no systemic use of chemicals. Young (just last year turned 30) winemaker Emul Ross from Chamonix and viticulturist Johan Montgomery have reverted to gentler pressing and travelled further away from hyper-reduction. Open fermenters handle the entire pinot noir harvest at once so there is nary a posit tug of war or movement at shock times. Thus the elegance and as mentioned, the ethereal. It should always be noted that all the HR grapes go into these wines, with no tactical moves and philosophical aberrations (any more), no reserve wines, no single-vineyard, no divergence from monopole, always staying the broad expression course. “We committed to this in 1981 and other than experiments, we’ve stayed this way,” says Anthony Hamilton-Russell. There is simply no plot, block, aspect, top, middle or bottom slope separation. It’s pinot all in for one purpose, fully conjoined and conspiring to make the Hamilton Russell expression. This expression, of pure fruit, no drudgery, clarity and exceptional length. Drink 2017-2029.  Tasted October 2017

Olive and Anthony Hamilton Russell at Ridley College

Good to Go!

Godello

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

WineAlign

Tasting Ontario Part Six: Pinot Noir

Gather your thoughts about pinot noir. Begin with Bourgogne and it’s really quite easy to articulate an opinion. Smells like cherries, shows earth and mineral notes of/from clay and limestone. Texture is specific to the village where it is grown. New Zealand? There’s a recognition regardless, save for a special and singular red fruit that is specific to Central Otago. What about California and Oregon? Any wine geek who knows who they think they are could surely pick them out of a blind tasting with great certainty? Now what about Canadian pinot noir? That’s a totally different story.

Related – Results of the 2018 WineAlign National Wine Awards of Canada (The Nationals): Pinot NoirNational Wine Awards of Canada 2018

If it were just a simple matter of Ontario versus British Columbia that would be one thing but there is Nova Scotia to consider and within the provinces so many sites of origin and stylistic variegation making it really difficult to identify the source. It may be a challenging and oft-times heartbreaking grape but in Canada it increasingly finds a way to ripen from coast to coast. Even if that were less true just five years ago the tenets of experience, acumen and passion have taken pinot noir to heights few believed it was capable of going. That winemakers can now produce so many varied examples tells us it’s here to stay.

Bourgogne uses the word Climat to define vineyards or rather the DNA of the vineyards and the official term is specific to wine while the reference lieux-dits is an administrative one. Many would argue that while dirt makes an impact it is climate that inflicts the most drama on a wine but even more important than climate and soil, it’s the people who give the terroir its cultural identity. In Canada these notions of accumulate knowledge that can be transmuted from generation to generation are developing so that each appellation or sub-appellation is managing to produce a specific style of wine from vintage to vintage.

Related – Tasting Ontario Part Five: Varietal Whites and Appellative Blends

In Ontario there are pinot noir crus few would ague against the probability that in most vintages quality will be a guarantee. Crus like Lowrey Vineyard on the St. David’s Bench, top blocks in Prince Edward County, several vineyards up on the Beamsville Bench, Wismer-Foxcroft and many plots on the Twenty Mile Bench. In the Okanagan Valley there are many premier growing sites; East Kelowna, Naramata Bench, Okanagan Falls, Summerland, Lake Country, the Similkameen Valley and increasingly on Vancouver Island.

Producers in British Columbia may have more merlot planted than they can or want to have to deal with but in red grape terms, pinot noir is it. There are more single-vineyard, name-assigned, block-designate, terroir collection, (x) series and (Y) cuvées attributed to the grape than any other. Granted some passion projects are giving some love to gamay and cabernet franc but the attention doted upon pinot noir is unequaled and unprecedented. Proof is in the tabulated pudding, so to speak, with the final results at NWAC2018 showing what’s what.

There were 73 medals awarded to pinot noir, a staggering number that represents just less than half of the wines submitted and four per cent of all wines entered into the competition. Only red blends (93) and chardonnay (79) received more total medals but most impressive were the 28 Gold Medals in this category, plus 18 Silver and 27 Bronze. The naysayers who continue to doubt whether pinot noir is a viable signature grape in this country are not paying close enough attention to the signs, portents and in conclusion, results. Here are 30 tasting notes for pinot noir made in Ontario.

Vieni Estates Pinot Noir 2015, VQA Vinemount Ridge, Ontario (550608, $16.95, WineAlign)

Vieni’s pinot noir shows off some pretty impressive fruit, certainly veering towards the sweet and dried fruit spectrum but hanging around with some good acidity, firm grip and proper 2015 structure. It’s more than a pleasant surprise and it’s only $16.95. Good fruit meets equally good acumen in a must try Vinemount Ridge buy. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted March 2018  vieniestates  @VieniEstatesInc  Vieni Estates Wine and Spirits

Château Des Charmes Pinot Noir 2016, VQA Niagara On-The-Lake, Ontario (454967, $16.95, WineAlign)

The warm sites can’t help but develop dark fruit and vintage variation seems to be in a current state of suspension. The string is alive with the ’16 pinot noir, always a matter of value for Ontario. Still just as ripe as 2015, perhaps not quite as charming but certainly generous. It holds back from cooking at a level of stovetop heat unnecessary to the execution of the dish. Gentle, resilient and restrained, far from a pressed or pressing matter and just ideal for weekdays and weekends alike. Pair this wine with everything but I recently discovered that long pasta noodles with prawns in a spicy garlic, chile and tomato sauce worked quite well, thank you very much. Drink 2018-2019.  Tasted April 2018  chateaudescharmes  @MBosc  Château des Charmes

Château Des Charmes Pinot Noir 2015, VQA Niagara On-The-Lake, Ontario (454967, $16.95, WineAlign)

This remains one of the better values for pinot noir out of Ontario with generous thanks to some of the warmest growing sites in the province. It’s also worthy for what it does not try to do, which is too much. The Château des Charmes pinot noir is just what it needs to be from 2015; ripe, charming and generous. It shows lovely restraint and balance, finishing with some gentle spice after the reign of fruit. It’s also really easy to crush so cook up at least three courses to make it last. It will pair with just about everything. Drink 2017-2019. Tasted November 2017 and February 2018  chateaudescharmes  @MBosc  Château des Charmes

Coyote’s Run Pinot Noir 2016, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (53090, $19.95, WineAlign)

Two blocks, two soil types and two proximate meets apposite pieces of the Niagara Peninsula raise a pinot noir in get together fashion for a consistent estate style. The tonality is elevated like few other and the fruit on the nether side of fresh. It’s energy and vitality is a combination of acidity and dried or even scorched earth-derived savour. Tang and sapidity are not the result but smoulder and spice surely are. Drink 2018-2019.  Tasted March 2018  coyotes run  @coyotesrun  Coyote’s Run Estate Winery

Flat Rock Cellars Pinot Noir 2016, VQA Twenty Mile Bench, Ontario (1545, $20.95, WineAlign)

In true essential Flat Rock style this 2016 pinot noir deals in rusty, ropey, ripe and flattering red fruit with its always balancing note of tension. The vintage is certainly prettier, easier and friendlier than most so the fans should pile up and add to the overall success of Flat Rock representing Ontario pinot noir on the map. This is nothing but fine and enjoyable work from a true varietal leader. Drink 2018-2020.  Tasted February 2018  flatrockcellars  @Winemakersboots  @FlatRockCellars

Kew Vineyards Pinot Noir 2014, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (Winery, $23.95, WineAlign)

More high tines, dialled back a touch, lithe, again some effusive character, tart, so very tart, a whack of wound tight intent, dry tannins, so much tea. Cranberry, earthy, lots of tone and structure. Drink 2019-2023.  Tasted blind at NWAC18, June 2018  @kewvineyards  @kewvineyard

2027 Cellars Pinot Noir Edgerock Vineyard 2016, Twenty Mile Bench, Ontario (Winery, $24.95, WineAlign)

Edgerock is Twenty Mile Bench fruit with expected 2016 ripeness and just an edgy twitch like quick lightning strikes on that fruit. There is some chewiness to the fruit laced by acidity and some drying tannin that is a bit deferential for the vintage and for Peninsula pinot noir. Not sure that pinot noir can get much riper than this in Ontario and so the perfect storm of vineyard, vintage and execution is met. The nose is so very ripe to almost advanced, with strawberries macerating and flavours so well to far developed. Not as fleshy as some as a result but will soon begin to develop some nice secondary character. Good summer wine, for this summer and hopefully an indigenous one for the fall. Drink 2018-2019.  Tasted February 2018  2027cellars  @2027cellars  2027 Cellars

Meldville Wines Pinot Noir 2016, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (Winery, $27.20, WineAlign)

Derek Barnett’s is a sweetly perfumed pinot noir, fully expressive of ripe 2016 fruit and with a tannic drying edge. It’s a bit lactic to be sure, seemingly argilo-calcareous in nature and really reminds me of some far away sangiovese or corvina grown on white limestone soils. Really unique, lithe and elegant for Barnett if also tangy, sweet and sour. Not sugar sweet but aromatically so. Drink 2018-2020. Tasted February 2018  meldvillewines  @meldvillewines  Meldville Wines

Thirty Bench Small Lot Pinot Noir 2015, VQA Beamsville Bench, Ontario (Winery, $28.95, WineAlign)

Bright and effusive, eye and olfactory opening, citrus, steeped herbal tea, with fruity accents. “All around the blooming heather,” purple fruit flavours, fiddle background and thoughts of rolling thyme hills. Good bass line, baritone underneath, full of structure, real structure. Time has had an effect. Drink 2019-2023.  Tasted blind at NWAC18, June 2018

The tones are elevated and the fruit is really ripe though the acidity is quite calm in this extreme small lot pinot noir. You can get a true sense of the culture and the micro-managed terroir that separates this from some less expensive and certainly more rustic Niagara cousins so the cost is quite understandable. The fruit is the thing, given all the attention and the credit. Drink 2018-2020. Tasted February 2018  thirtybench  pellerwines  @ThirtyBench  @PellerVQA  @ThirtyBench  Andrew Peller(Andrew Peller Import)  Emma Garner

Leaning Post Pinot Noir 2016, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (Agent, $28.95, WineAlign)

Ilya Senchuk’s small lot (220 case) 2015 pinot noir is actually a new wine set to be released this spring. It’s a blend of fruit drawn from both McNally and Lowrey vineyards, two exceptional cru that have been the focus of previous Leaning Post single-vineyard pinot noir. The most notable difference here is how all the tension and vaporous tones melt away to create this fluid, fleecy and ductile wine. The fruit selection seems clearly developed to gain easier access with downsized structure or perhaps it just happened this way. It is here that the house style reads as a lithe Peninsula pinot noir manifesto with clarity and transparency to set up and introduce the estate’s next vintage, recently planted young vine pinot noir. Drink 2018-2021. Tasted February 2018  leaningpostwine  nicholaspearcewines  @LeaningPostWine  @Nicholaspearce_  Leaning Post Wines  Nicholas Pearce

Redstone Pinot Noir Limestone Vineyard 2013, VQA Lincoln Lakeshore, Ontario (Winery, $29.95, WineAlign)

The Redstone Vineyard pinot noir comes off of the ridge that is all Redstone estate fruit expect for the 40 acres riesling block (of 60 in total). There is a ferric gaminess to this pinot with its tension and dusty, tart rusticity. Intense in its litheness, like light and bright strawberry on steroids. Really lingers. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted November 2017  redstonewinery  @RedstoneWines  Redstone Winery

Domaine Queylus Pinot Noir Tradition 2015, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (392738, $29.95, WineAlign)

From 2015 comes a fully ripened, full advantage press taken and fleshy warm pinot noir on the dark cherry end of the fruit spectrum. The wood is fully supportive of that wealth of fruit and tension is really nowhere to be found. The tannins are sweet and also do little to distract from the fruit. What it manages to elevate in terms of energy and vitality is this lovely elegant tang from both soil and wood, short of spicy and in gentle drift. The pleasure is all now do enjoy this before the decade strikes midnight. Drink 2018-2019.  Tasted February 2018  queylus  @Queylus  Domaine Queylus Winery

Trail Estate Pinot Noir 2016, VQA Niagara Peninsula (Winery, $30.00, WineAlign)

The Peninsula ’16 pinot noir is a joint Wertsch and Wismer blend, six barrels Between the Lines and two Foxcroft. The goal is not fully in focus, even if it’s just too early to call. Niagara pinot noir from these parts is want to be rusty, red fruit volatile and so bright you gotta wear shades and this ’16’s profile reads from such a script. It’s so very different from the lemon-citronella note that County pinot often surveys. So what does Trail Estate have, at least in here? Lightness for one thing, ease of drinkability and sweet tannin. Wild ferment and no new oak got this here, plus some neutral, second and third fill. It’s got candied floral and cinnamon heart, is quite tangy but honestly quite delicate. Simple yes, quite OK and at times, volatile too. Drink 2018-2020.  Tasted April 2018  trailestatewine  mackbrisbois  @TrailEstateWine  @MackBrisbois  Trail Estate Winery  Mackenzie Brisbois

Pork Tenderloin and Flat-Iron Steak marinated in black raspberry lees grilled with black raspberry sauce.

Westcott Vineyards Pinot Noir Estate 2016, VQA Vinemount Ridge, Ontario (Winery, $30.00, WineAlign)

The Westcotts have to be so very pleased with the result of their 2015 estate pinot noir, a wine of great farming in loyal custodial work across an exceptional rolling terroir. This Vinemount Ridge locale is the perfect love-hate relationship builder but when sacrifices are met and zero corners are cut it will produce some very fine, albeit fortune abetting fruit. This ’15 interprets ripeness with an edge of tension by way of a gentle rusticity and mild barrel spice. A second taste weeks later also gives salumi, natural funk, cèpes, dusty balsamic earth and the angled torture or the ridge. It’s all there, wonderfully integrated and already hinting at a truffled secondary stage. Not yet mind you, but not so far away. Would it perhaps benefit from one less day or two of phenolic ripeness in exchange for half a point higher acidity? Perhaps but ultimately the vintage decides, as do the handlers who listen to the wind. A greater pinot noir vintage likely lies ahead and for this wine, further understanding. Drink 2018-2021. Tasted February and March 2018  westcottvineyards  @WestcottWines  @westcottwines

Trail Estate Pinot Noir 2016, VQA Niagara Peninsula (Winery, $30.00, WineAlign)

The Peninsula ’16 pinot noir is a joint Wertsch and Wismer blend, six barrels Between the Lines and two Foxcroft. The goal is not fully in focus, even if it’s just too early to call. Niagara pinot noir from these parts is want to be rusty, red fruit volatile and so bright you gotta wear shades and this ’16’s profile reads from such a script. It’s so very different from the lemon-citronella note that County pinot often surveys. So what does Trail Estate have, at least in here? Lightness for one thing, ease of drinkability and sweet tannin. Wild ferment and no new oak got this here, plus some neutral, second and third fill. It’s got candied floral and cinnamon heart, is quite tangy but honestly quite delicate. Simple yes, quite OK and at times, volatile too. Drink 2018-2020.  Tasted April 2018  trailestatewine  mackbrisbois  @TrailEstateWine  @MackBrisbois  Trail Estate Winery  Mackenzie Brisbois

Hidden Bench Estate Pinot Noir 2016, VQA Beamsville Bench, Ontario (Winery, $31.95, WineAlign)

Really high-toned in which volatility may be in charge if checked by ballads of bright, currant-berry fruit. Cranberry, pomegranate, has got it all, but also a lovely earthy grounding. Rays of light on the mountain, “such a simple thing.” Has to be an example of a concentrated house style by a great pinot noir maker from great pinot noir terroir. Like a bench somewhere special where pinot can get through chains, “some how, some how.” Really tannic so all should be good and structure laid out cool. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted blind at NWAC18, June 2018   hiddenbench  markanthonyon  @HiddenBench @MarkAnthonyWine  Hidden Bench Estate Winery  Mark Anthony Wine & Spirits

Cornerstone Pinot Noir 2016, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (Winery, $32.00, WineAlign)

Big and verging into oxidative, a raisin and fig note, almost appassimento. Could very well be or at least made in a ripe, concentrated and mimicking style. Glycerin, strawberry, leafy savour, jammy and quick to reveal itself. Immediate gratification in a really big pinot noir. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted blind at NWAC18, June 2018  cornerstonewine  @cornerstonevino  @cornerstonewinery

Flat Rock Cellars Pinot Noir Gravity 2014, VQA Twenty Mile Bench, Ontario (1560, $34.95, WineAlign)

Gravity is the focus of Flat Rock’s pinot noir exploration and with a whole bunch addendum it changes gears in 2014. This is a very important vintage for Gravity, to leave behind and move forward into a new world. That it does with more ripeness, structure and less intimidating consternation than past vintages have shown and with a freshness also not before seen or tasted. The balance between ripe black cherry, linear and focused acidity, neo-classical structure, followed by an intense drive to please delivers the whole package. Well done on the first of two Gravity swan songs from outgoing winemaker Jay Johnstone. Drink 2019-2023.  Tasted February 2018  flatrockcellars  @Winemakersboots  @FlatRockCellars

Closson Chase Pinot Noir K.J. Watson Vineyard 2015, VQA Niagara River, Ontario (Winery, $34.95, WineAlign)

From Kevin Watson’s Niagara River vineyard, a place that warms quickly and leads to very early harvests, in this case September 15th. Deals a pinot noir of whole clusters that when they come in smell like blueberry and clove but take little time to move out of that realm and into one occupied by cedar, mushroom and artificial strawberry candy. It’s a complex situation that requires opening several bottles over a few year period to really gain an evolutionary understanding of regional pinot noir, this particular Niagara fruit and Closson Chase winemaking in the hands of Keith Tyers. Drink 2019-2023.  Tasted April 2018  clossonchasevineyardsClosson Chase  @ClossonChase  Closson Chase Vineyards

Tawse Pinot Noir Unfiltered Quarry Road Vineyard 2016, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (Winery, $34.95, WineAlign)

Unfiltered elevates and lifts Quarry Road fruit up to a forthright plateau where it generously gifts at its purest and most impulsive best. This is seriously juicy, sexy, fleshy and ripe pinot noir from the Vinemount Ridge, a windswept variegated set of rolling hills that plays hosts to the larger Quarry Road set of blocks. It is this gathering of fruit from here and there that allows winemaker Paul Pender to have a better representation of the appellation and ultimately a better balance. And so this ’16 is a wonderful example of the beautiful relationship between producer, appellation and vineyard. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted December 2017  tawsewinery  @Tawse_Winery  @tawsewines

Stanners Vineyard Pinot Noir 2016, VQA Prince Edward County, Ontario (Winery, $35.00, WineAlign)

From County fruit, again in 2016 not so much a great quantity thing but for the median kind of vintage, not bad either. The fruit is exceptional, bright cherry effulgent and County radiant. Just a hint of meaty cure, salmagundi and analogously speaking, quite layered. Such a wine is poignant, with energy and drive, holding on to the past, but with a deeper understanding and thinking about the future. “When you talk about the past, what are we talking of?” In a family Stanners pinot noir we’re talking about moving from strength to strength and really the sky is the limit for what this wine can become. It’s a more complete and better structured song than before. If I feed Colin Stanners a War on Drugs lyric he’d sing “and I’m moving on a cast, shadows on my seam, I keep moving to changes, yeah, ooh.” His ’16 pinot noir is just a child right now and like the song, it will gain flesh in a year’s time, be timeless, then last a very long time. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted April 2018  stannerswines  @StannersWines  Stanners Vineyard

Thirty Bench Pinot Noir Small Lot 2015, VQA Beamsville Bench, Ontario (461566, $35.20, WineAlign)

The tones are elevated and the fruit is really ripe though the acidity is quite calm in this extreme small lot pinot noir. You can get a true sense of the culture and the micro-managed terroir that separates this from some less expensive and certainly more rustic Niagara cousins so the cost is quite understandable. The fruit is the thing, given all the attention and the credit. Drink 2018-2020.  Tasted February 2018  thirty bench  pellerwines  @ThirtyBench  @PellerVQA  Thirty Bench Wine Makers  Peller Estates Winery & Restaurant

Tawse Pinot Noir Quarry Road Vineyard 2016, VQA Vinemount Ridge, Ontario (Winery, $35.95, WineAlign)

It would not be a Paul Pender raised pinot noir without the triple threat of dustiness, meatiness and tension all working in a circle of Niagara Bench lands love. In Quarry Road’s case it is a very specific Vinemount Ridge condition, from a place of wind, rolling hills and variegated clay and limestone soils that deal directly with and into these vines. They are at seven years of age by this point, just long enough to speak the truth and turn this pinot noir into a wiser and more experienced wine. The fruit is remarkably delicate when you consider the grip and purpose exercised by the tannin and yet it’s all coming together nicely. I for one am really looking forward to what eight and nine years of age will mean for 2015 and 2016. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted November 2017  tawsewinery  @Tawse_Winery  @tawsewines

Rosehall Run Pinot Noir JCR Rosehall Vineyard 2016, VQA Prince Edward County, Ontario (Agent, $39.00, WineAlign)

Though statements of monadical hyperbole should very much be avoided, a taste of Dan Sullivan’s ’16 JCR makes one think it has all come to this. The glycerin fruit endowed with so much natural sweetness and magnificently low alcohol feels like an impossibility. In a way it is but it’s also a County reality. This may just be the least astringent PEC pinot noir ever produced and at the same time seems entirely void of tension. Yet there is structure and cohesion, two functors so very necessary to see it drink well for 10 years, with great charm and further curiosity for five more after that. Drink 2018-2028.  Last tasted July 2018

Bright, red raspberry, light and effusive with a simple, liquid chalky feel. Really drinkable. The tart is part of a delight in composition. A good chew.  Tasted blind at NWAC18, June 2018   Rosehall_run profilewinegroup  @Rosehall_Run  @ProfileWineGrp  Rosehall Run Vineyards  Profile Wine Group

Meritorious match alert @leaningpostwine #lowreyvineyard pinot noir with #goulash and #spaetzle

Leaning Post Pinot Noir Lowrey Vineyard 2014, St. David’s Bench, Ontario (Agent, $42.00, WineAlign)

It was a very good pinot noir vintage across the peninsula board and so not necessarily one to separate with megaphone announcement the Grand-ish Cru St. David’s Bench Lowrey Vineyard from the lower flats and the upper benches. Even though many a winemaker were opting for some percentage of whole cluster fermentation the vintage combined with this block was not such an animal. What Lowrey, Leaning Post and the vintage were meant for was a module that included grapes hand-picked, hand-sorted, de-stemmed, partially crushed and soaked on skins prior to fermentation. Three days later a spontaneous fermentation in small open-top fermenters would be followed by a transfer to French oak barrels (35 percent new, 30 one-year-old and 35 older) for 15 months. The result is another exemplar of pinot noir lithe excellence in this, the final chapter ahead of Ilya Senchuk’s newly planted pinot noir story ready to unfold out of the home (Winona) vineyard. The 2014 Lowrey is a wine that elevates a goulash game (which I can attest to because of an out of mind and body experience), but it’s also magically understated and subtly complex. It’s almost unmovable, resistant to early development all the while a joy to drink. Open it, store it, age it, wait on it. It’s all good. Drink 2018-2025. Tasted March 2018  leaningpostwine  nicholaspearcewines  @LeaningPostWine  @Nicholaspearce_  Leaning Post Wines  Nicholas Pearce

Tawse Pinot Noir Laidlaw Vineyard 2012, VQA Vinemount Ridge, Ontario (Winery, $44.95, WineAlign)

Juicy straight up, red cherries in their ripest state, a bit dusty and lifted. Tart, dry, herbal, savoury, so interesting. Really tannic and remains to be seen if this structure will deem that fruit to drift into some elegance. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted blind at NWAC18, June 2018 tawsewinery  @Tawse_Winery  @tawsewines

The Farm White Label (Mason Vineyard) Pinot Noir 2015, VQA Twenty Mile Bench, Ontario (Winery, $50.00, WineAlign)

A high-toned, effusively bright and perhaps edging into volatile pinot noir. Flavours are rusty deep, quite orange-zest scraped and scented, like Irancy. If it’s really that simple then there may not be much tension later on, so think about pairing its coolness now. Lean and verdant with shading into crimson is a very specific beneath bench Niagara speciality, replete with firm if tender emotions. This example is for the here and now. Drink 2018-2020.  Tasted blind at NWAC18, June 2018  thefarmwines

Tawse Pinot Noir Cherry Avenue 2013, VQA Twenty Mile Bench, Ontario (Winery, $59.95, WineAlign)

The Tawse Cherry Avenue ’13 is hotter than July, classic soul Twenty Mile Bench pinot noir that has hit its stride because of solid winemaking, varietal-musicianship and über professional production. Five years forward is the right time to take in the firm and founded cherry fruit, aged in oak for 18 months in 40 per cent new French oak. Filled with feeling and wonder, Cherry avoids the temptations of disco and new wave to stay focused on the old world prize and can’t help but “put me in the right direction, with tender love and affection.” It’s a wine from an estate holding the Midas touch and from a time when it could be argued it was pausing at the crossroads of an illustrious career, looking in all four directions. The pinot noir exploration has fortunately continued, justified and vindicated by such a retrospective look. Drink 2018-2023.  Tasted May 2018  tawsewinery  @Tawse_Winery  @tawsewines

Karlo Estates Pinot Noir Estate Grown Wild Ferment 2016, VQA Prince Edward County, Ontario (Winery, $65.00, WineAlign)

As with the Estate chardonnay the elévage from winemaker Derek Barnett for the second Karlo home-front pinot noir is wild ferment, barrel ferment and barrel aging. Oh if this isn’t so Prince Edward County; wild, wooly, bright and engaging, reeking of red cherry and plum. It’s also quite cedar savoury but also salumi-cured, naturally and necessarily so. The accrual is complex and driven by a devoted purpose to make something small really effin’ matters. This is fine-grained pinot noir with a sense of condiment, a relish that supports the fruit to make it tangy, juicy and real. And it’s been done without any excessive intervention or wasted notes played. Terrific origins, sense of place and quality. Drink 2018-2022. Tasted February 2018  karloestateswinery  @KarloEstates  Karlo Estates

Good to Go!

Godello

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

WineAlign

Tasting Ontario Part Five: Varietal Whites and Appellative Blends

There were 33 medals handed out to White Blends at the 2018 WineAlign National Wine Awards of Canada; seven Golds, 17 Silvers and nine Bronze. Quietly, stealthily and without great fanfare the strength of the white blend category has taken NWAC18 by storm. The quality of the wines entered has never been higher, visibly and notably spread across the country. The time has come to establish party lines, to create truly parochial white appellative blends under appropriately chosen names. Nova Scotia has long been there with their apt-scripted Tidal Bay. Ontario and British Columbia should heed the economic and marketing success enjoyed by their maritime cousins and join the appellative party.

Related – Results of the 2018 WineAlign National Wine Awards of Canada (The Nationals): Best of Blends: Red, White and Tidal Bay

The French regions of Bordeaux and the Rhône Valley are clearly the benchmarks and the inspiration for Canadian-made emulative examples, first from a sauvignon blanc-sémillon connection and then with blends that make use of marsanne, roussanne and viognier. A testament to expatriate excellence is noted in the seven overall Gold Medals in this year’s judging and no less than six others finishing at high Silver status on the cusp of Gold. I for one awarded five 90-plus scores to wines I clearly deemed worthy of such accolade and esteem.

It is interesting to note that White Blends centred by sauvignon blanc in the Okanagan Valley rely on much higher percentages of sémillon than their counterparts in Ontario. The simplest explanation tells us that the grape variety has trouble surviving harsh Ontario winters, especially when we look back at 2015 and 2016 when much of the province’s vines were killed by sub-25 degree temperatures. But it’s more than that. In B.C. sauvignon blanc can get pretty ripe, tropical and zaftig so it is sémillon that helps to mitigate, temper, inject a flinty-smoky-mineral streak and ultimately bring balance to the relationship.

There was a time not too long ago when after the best juice was chosen for varietal wines producers then needed to find a way to use up the dregs of their white ferments. White blends came about out of economic necessity, but like Rosé production in this country so many are now produced with a purpose. As a farmer, if you know specific blocks of sauvignon blanc are destined to join with other plots of sémillon you’re going to prune, pluck, green harvest and ultimately pick in very specific ways. Appellative blends have become a year round occupation. That much is clear.

Related – Tasting Ontario Part Four: Gamay

The top scorers at this year’s Nationals have been awarded to seriously and thoughtfully crafted wines. The winners are not entry-level, introductory products at the lower or lowest common denominational levels. They are not simple aromatic blends of vague fruit and sweet impression, in fact many are graced by beneficial and forward thinking structure. The future certainly looks white blend bright. Here are 36 recently tasted Ontario varietal whites and appellative white blends.

Summer spread

Sprucewood Shores Pinot Grigio 2017, VQA Lake Erie North Shore, Ontario (426577, $14.95, WineAlign)

Just a hint of contact it would seem, leading to a not so obvious result in platinum gold hue but more so into the floral nature of its aromatics. Some sweet melon and pear fruit with good concentration and equal if necessary acidity. Can certainly drink a glass of this. Drink 2018-2020.  Tasted blind at NWAC18, June 2018  sprucewoodshores  @SprucewoodWine  @SprucewoodShores

Château Des Charmes Aligoté 2017, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (296848, $15.95, WineAlign)

The Château des Charmes self-proclaimed “pinot grigio” alternative was never more truthfully written than in reference to this 2017 aligoté. Screwy wet summer merging into crazy hot autumn weather made for one of the latest harvest dates in the estate on the York Road in St. Davids storied history. The rare Niagara Peninsula varietal vines are planted primarily at St. David’s Bench and Paul Bosc Estate vineyards but more are going in, surely out of testimony to the sales of this more than apropos local grape. Surely no one knows aligoté like the Bosc family and yet even they could not have seen this peachy, melony, fleshy and ripe one coming. It’s like a hyperbole of Val do Salnés in Rias Baixas albariño, crisp, aromatic and marched along by natural acidity. It seems sweet but trust me it’s not. It’s the long-hung, fully phenolic fruit and higher pH talking. This is not your average Bourgogne aligoté, searing, taut and intense. It’s a departure for the house but if it could always be made this way I think they would gladly go for the style. Waxy finish too, bringing an added note of complexity. Very cool. Drink 2018-2020.  Tasted July 2018  chateaudescharmes  @MBosc  Château des Charmes

Nyarai Cellars Pinot Gris 2016, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (Winery, $20.95, WineAlign)

This is quite a striking, rich, creamy and yogurt-leesy, a.k.a. Loire chenin blanc, fixedly in the guise of pinot gris. More skin contact then some plus so much yeasty texture combine to make for the fullest of an Ontario gris expression. This is the sort of feeling that normally comes from multi-varietal, dry white appellative Niagara blends but in a solo pinot gris it’s nothing short of remarkable. Drink 2018-2020.  Tasted February 2018  #nyaraicellars  @NyaraiCellars  Nyarai Cellars

Tawse Winery Pinot Gris Redfoot Vineyard 2017, VQA Lincoln Lakeshore, Ontario (Winery, $24.95, WineAlign)

From out of the dense Lincoln Lakeshore clay comes this flush and luxurious pinot gris, literally rolling in it. It makes for a highly aromatic take on the grape, all in for gris and not to be confused with lighter, less meaningful grigio. The Redfoot Vineyard is clearly earmarked for such a purposed way of interpretation and though the clays of the double L sub-appellation are best with syrah and cabernet franc there can’t be any reason not to allot 10-15 per cent of acreage to white plantings. In the hands of Paul Pender it seems obvious that pinot gris is the one. This dry take is just about perfectly right, with citrus and wet stone hanging around the fruit. Leaner might be more suitable but ultimately it’s balance that is most important for this rich fruit raised by the pottery soil. Drink 2018-2020.  Tasted June 2018  tawsewinery  @Tawse_Winery  @tawsewines

G.Marquis Sauvignon Blanc The Red Line 2016, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (Winery, $13.95, WineAlign)

Big love, big fruit, all about texture and juicy fruit on the palate but with some fine, wound acidity. Excellent. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted blind at NWAC18, June 2018   g.marquisvineyards  @GMarquisWines  @G.MarquisVineyards

North 42 Degrees Estate Winery Sauvignon Blanc North 43 2017, VQA Niagara Lakeshore, Ontario (547836, $14.95, WineAlign)

Quite the character this North 43/North 42 degrees sauvignon blanc, fruit amassed on the nose, from canteloupe to underripe passion fruit with a wet, coppery alloy build that translates across latitudinal lines onto the palate. The metallic flavours are undercut by an herbal tonic with a spoonful of tinned fruit cup. Drink 2018-2019.  Tasted April 2018  north42wines  @StratusWines  North 42 Degrees Estate Winery & Bistro 42  @north42degrees

Château Des Charmes Sauvignon Blanc 2017, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (296848, $15.95, WineAlign)

Interesting take, quite a mineral salt wiring through the green apple fruit, here some feel of barrel but not the malo-creamy effect created. Goes quite juicy and crunchy without resorting to tart. A bit more acid intensity would have sealed the deal. Drink 2018-2020. Tasted blind at NWAC18, June 2018    chateaudescharmes  @MBosc  Château des Charmes

Lakeview Cellars Sauvignon Blanc 2016, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (483958, $17.95, WineAlign)

An interesting sauvignon blanc for the Peninsula because the pungency is quite Marlborough but the relaxed state and relative weight is all Niagara. Very easy drinking as far as SB is concerned with notable extraction and a green streak, herbal mostly, running through. Drink 2018-2019.  Tasted April 2018  lakeviewwineco  @LakeviewWineCo  @LakeviewWineCo

Kacaba Susan’s Sauvignon Blanc 2017, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (Winery, $17.95, WineAlign)

Quietude in such a lovely way, mineral meets orange blossom, soft and amenable through the middle, quiet and mellow, fades off slowly, into the sauvignon blanc sunset. Drink 2018-2019.  Tasted blind at NWAC18, June 2018  kacabavineyards  @KacabaVineyards  Kacaba Vineyards and Winery

Stratus Wildass Sauvignon Blanc 2016, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (376814, $18.95, WineAlign)

t’s more Stratus than sauvignon blanc, even by regional varietal standards, whatever that is, due to the ripe flavours and long-developed phenolic ripeness. Ultimately it is the quotient of a cup of fruit cocktail and an energy level that serves to encourage a sitting back with a glass in meditative state more than a mind stimulated to invigorate. Drink 2018-2019.  Tasted April 2018  stratuswines  @StratusWines  @StratusWines

Organized Crime Sauvignon Blanc 2016, VQA Beamsville Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (396275, $18.95, WineAlign)

Sometimes sauvignon blanc goes tropical and green at the same time, or at least it is the two poles by picked grapes that combine for such a layering. Citrus and bitters mix into the two sides and all the components walk along, separate and alone together, without making any real contact. Maybe a year will tie the room but the acidity is low so waiting is a counterintuitive idea. Drink 2018.  Tasted April 2018  organizedcrimewinery  Organized Crime Winery

Henry Of Pelham Fumé Sauvignon Blanc 2016, VQA Short Hills Bench, Ontario (444268, $19.95, WineAlign)

With a wink and a nod to Mondavi this lays the lumber in smoulder upon sauvignon blanc with just a wisp, like cold smoking salmon so that it breathes cool and mentholated, without char and a real smoky feeling. The fruit is light and even a bit precious, the weight quite lithe and the overall notation one of gentle demure. You have to appreciate the deft, slight of winemaking hand approach. Drink 2018-2020.  Tasted February 2018  henryofpelham  @HenryofPelham  Henry of Pelham Family Estate Winery

Meldville Wines Sauvignon Blanc 2016, VQA Lincoln Lakeshore, Ontario (Winery, $20.20, WineAlign)

Derek Barnett’s sauvignon blanc may be the fleshiest of the Ontario lot, ripe, tropical and impressively coaxed from off the vine. The phenolic aggregate is a 2016 triumph even while it dances a funky step into botrytis-like rhythms. Notes here and there of herbs and tonics add to the mystique and the rapport. So bloody interesting, singular and meditative for the grape. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted February 2018  meldvillewines  @meldvillewines  Meldville Wines

Peller Estates Private Reserve Sauvignon Blanc 2017, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (Winery, $20.20, WineAlign)

Massively fruit aromatic sauvignon blanc, all gathered in a tin cup found in the exotics isle. Juicy melon meets passion fruit and so much more in between, then with a side of metalloid. Raps so commercially viable and succesful it hurts my ears and my eyes. “Any awards show or party I’ll get fly for it, I know that it’s coming I just hope I’m alive for it…I just wanna be, I just wanna be.” Remarkable success for sauvignon blanc, in Ontario. Drink 2018-2020.  Tasted blind at NWAC18, June 2018   pellerwines  @PellerVQA  @PellerEstates

Redstone Sauvignon Blanc Limestone Vineyard 2016, VQA Twenty Mile Bench, Ontario (Winery, $23.15, WineAlign)

There isn’t a ton of sauvignon blanc grown up on the Limestone Ridge but as a top level Twenty Mile Bench riesling terroir it changes the varietal course with considerable concern. As far as it goes this is quite an alloy challenged, mineralized expression, not quite flinty but certainly feeling like a mouthful of richly compressed, calcareous stones. The fruit is so anti-tropical it’s almost reductive and most certainly draws its tang from the soil. Such a curious sauvignon blanc with almost no frame of reference, save for a moment to consider Sancerre, but yet another successful effort from winemaker Rene Van Ede. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted February 2018  redstonewinery  @RedstoneWines  Redstone Winery

Traynor Sauvignon Blanc 2016, VQA Prince Edward County, Ontario (Winery, $25.00, WineAlign)

Reductive, not flinty or smoky, but reductive. This carries the gooseberry-passion fruit suitcase of fruit. I like the fruit-acid balance and the way it delivers semblances of tart and tangy. Really nicely judged wine. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted blind at NWAC18, June 2018   traynorvineyard  @TraynorVineyard  @traynorfamilyvineyard

Hidden Bench Fumé Blanc Rosomel Vineyard 2016, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (68825, $29.95, WineAlign)

The vineyard gains another year, the farming and winemaking too and so fumé blanc out of Rosomel gets better, as things often do with age and wisdom. ’Twas a great year for growing grapes on this amphitheatre of a vineyard block up on the Bench and no love lost for sauvignon blanc neither. There is tension, wound intensity and fierce competitiveness in the ’16, perhaps the most Sancerre and least Pouilly-Fumé it has ever been and so the declaration leans to saying it is “a mineral year.” Nothing against the fruit because the personality cult of lean, crisp and crunchy is in full order, though each sip after sip speaks in those Sancerre or Chablis by way of Saint Bris terms. Stellar, as always, in continuance, moving towards the best it can be. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted May 2018  hidden bench  markanthonyon  @HiddenBench @MarkAnthonyWine  Hidden Bench Estate Winery  Mark Anthony Wine & Spirits

Trius Showcase Clean Slate Sauvignon Blanc Wild Ferment 2016, Niagara-on-the Lake, Ontario (Winery, $31.95, WineAlign)

Quite flinty, barrel-aged sauvignon blanc, buttery nearly, banana and cantaloupe. So much fruit along with the toasty-creamy barrel. Almost perfectly in balance but it’s wildness and sweet-yeasty lees cumulative turns to a bit of caramel and only accentuates the vanilla. A really cool take on the grape with exceptionally developed flavours. Drink 2018-2019.  Tasted blind at NWAC18, June 2018   triuswines  @TriusWines  @TriusWines

Not all screw cap closures are created equal

Two Sisters Sauvignon Blanc 2017, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (Winery, $34.00, WineAlign)

Excessive tightness of screw caps does not allow any kept reduction to blow off so winemaker Adam Pearce closed here with a screw cap threading just a bit less rigid. A fine detail but an important one and the only wine to receive this attention, so just a minute amount of oxygen transfer can occur. Just released 11 days ago. The big change is now a fruit vineyard blend that is 70 per cent Four Mile Creek and (30) Twenty Mile Bench. From a cool, wet and rainy season so really it’s all about the grower in a vintage where the varietal struggled with mould and mildew. Eight per cent barrel ferment was used to augment the leanness, for body and peace of mind. A bit reductive and tight with good acid structure to the peach-yellow-plum-kumquat fruit. Good linger. Delicious. Drink 2018-2021. Tasted July 2018    twosisters_vineyards  @TwoSisters_wine  Two Sisters Vineyards

Fielding Estate Gewürztraminer 2016, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (146753, $19.95, WineAlign)

Fielding’s pays respect to how gewürztraminer has to be made in Ontario with a fleshy, off-dry style though making sure to counterbalance with a fine dose of acidity. From dosage to dose it dances the do-si-so with high quality peach-litchi fruit and grapefruit acidity. If you’re in need of a white to compliment some high-octane, multi-seasoned and possibly spicy food, Fielding’s is textbook and will do the work. It’s a gewürztraminer you can trust. Drink 2018-2020.  Tasted January 2018  fielding winery  richiewine  @FieldingWinery  @RichieWine  Fielding Estate Winery

Redstone Gewürztraminer 2016, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (Winery, $21.95, WineAlign)

A sip sends a warm shiver through from a simple off-dry gewüztraminer attack more flat than round earth, trying hard to stay on the dry though the bitters and creamy fruit deliver more sweetness than what might have been intended. Some skin contact deals peach skin and those bitters while the acidity quietly abides. It’s nearly, almost and close to cloying by honey mixed in concentrate with a note of alkali. Everything lingers. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted October 2017  redstonewinery  @RedstoneWines  Redstone Winery

@mackbrisbois brought the past, the present and the future @trailestatewine to taste. Thanks Mack! Indeed, to my pleasure and my education.

Trail Estate Gewürztraminer 2016, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (Winery, $30.00, WineAlign)

Few winemakers in Ontario are as curious, aloof and serious about making gewürztraminer like this,”looking through that window, into the delicate place.” The changing of mind is so important during the process because it shows an understanding of both mistake and possibility. Mackenzie Brisbois takes a spoon of Niagara Lakeview fruit (Glen Elgin/Wismer farmed), puts it through a whole cluster press, a fermentation in old oak and then wait a minute. An about face transfer to stainless steel tank (just after a few days) because it is too reductive, but then sends it back to old wood where it remains for about nine months. Bottles back in September of 2017. The result is a gewürz that finishes dry (under 3 g/L) so delicate for a customer’s palate, with lots of lemon and lime but never searing, perfect for cold smoked or tataki prepared salmon. Bitter pith note but it dissipates, as does the acidity so keep in mind this is floral and fine. “The delicate place. The questions it raise. The delicate place yeah.” Enjoy it now and gimme fiction. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted April 2018  trailestatewine  mackbrisbois  @TrailEstateWine  @MackBrisbois  Trail Estate Winery  Mackenzie Brisbois

Trail Estate Skin Contact Gewürztraminer 2016, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (Winery, $40.00, WineAlign)

The 2016 gewürztraminer fruit is from the Werscht’s (Between the Lines) Niagara farm, super ripe at 24 brix and aromatics on steroids. It clocks in at a healthy 13.5 alcohol, after 13 days on skins and beyond. Close your eyes and the warm pungency will simulate a sensory experience, like standing inside the butterfly conservatory, with all the dessicating fruit, secretions and balmy, humid aromas wafting around. Or maybe even more exotic, like walking past stalls in a south asian market, with fruits cut open so you can see what they are, mangoseteen, marquesa, jackfruit and durian. There is great fun to be had in acidity and spice. Lush, floral and nicely funky. By now an understanding and a level of maturity to think on is as a classic Brisbois white. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted April 2018  trailestatewine  mackbrisbois  @TrailEstateWine  @MackBrisbois  Trail Estate Winery  Mackenzie Brisbois

Malivoire Viognier Stouck Vineyard 2016, VQA Lincoln Lakeshore, Ontario (Agent, $24.25, WineAlign)

From vines planted in 2010 the magic of excitable youth with just a hint of maturity has brought this block of the terrific Lincoln Lakeshore vineyard to this vintage. Warmth and ultimately ripeness have released the aromatic blessedness of viognier, which along with an unpurposed number of residual sugar will allow this to gain some further complexity with age. May just be the most varietal viognier ever produced out of Niagara but it’s obviousness as a regional example can’t be denied. It exudes confidence without even trying, is naturally oily and grippy because its acidity matches the high notes. It’s a touch boozy at 13.5 alcohol, at times metallic and at others, tropical, because that’s what viognier wants to be. It’s just a terrific effort from winemakers Shiraz Mottiar and Dan Stouck. Drink 2018-2022. Tasted February 2018  malivoire  noble_estates  @MalivoireWine  @Noble_Estates  Malivoire Wine  Noble Estates Wine & Spirits

Lakeview Cellars Viognier 2015, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (Winery, $24.95, WineAlign)

Pretty tart stuff from the get go, full of tangerine and beautifully dry. Gently pressed and kept in spirit high through the use of stainless steel tanks. Quite floral, not potpourri mind you but a fresh blossoming breath of a bouquet. Simple viognier, effectively executed and perfectly correct. Drink 2018-2019.  Tasted February 2018  lakeviewwineco  @LakeviewWineCo  @LakeviewWineCo

Redstone Viognier Redfoot Vineyard 2016, VQA Lincoln Lakeshore, Ontario (Winery, $28.95, WineAlign)

The barrel is a big time influence here, offering a combination of creamy vanilla and yet some reduction. There must be some lush viognier fruit back there somewhere but the wood is really in control. Subtle hints of varietal florals, far eastern fruit and spice linger behind the veil. Tasted blind it is the creamy texture and vanilla that makes cause for it to be considered so much like California chardonnay. Good acidity however rescues and thinks about the future. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted twice, June 2018 and then blind at NWAC18, June 2018  redstonewinery  @RedstoneWines  Redstone Winery

Calamus Estate Winery White Night 2014, VQA Ontario (484014, $13.95, WineAlign)

A very good use of vidal (85 per cent) gets an apple jolt from chardonnay in this very peach and grapefruit oriented white. It’s like fruit cocktail in a glass but drier than off-dry and quite savoury. Stage right spicy too, like clove and capsicum, in a way akin to Kiwi sauvignon blanc but in the end it’s white appellative blend in hybrid dominance, running all the way. Drink 2017-2018.  Tasted January 2017  #calamuswinery  @calamuswinery  Calamus Estate Winery

Featherstone Four Feathers 2017, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (341586, $14.95, WineAlign)

Varietal birds of four feathers (riesling, chardonnay, gewürztraminer and sauvignon blanc) flock together for a wild ride in aromatics, texture, tang and acidity. Here a notable waxiness from the gewürztraminer does oily, glück potpourri with outgoing nature and a sweet meets sour set of flavours. Runs from orchard fruit with bite into the tropical and then some bitters. Nothing simple and quite stirred. Drink 2018-2019.  Tasted April 2018  #featherstonewinery  @featherstonewne  Featherstone Estate Winery

13th Street White Palette 2016, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (207340, $15.95, WineAlign)

White Palette is at the top of its hyperbole game in 2016 with a light’s glare flooding a room of high aromatic and flavour intensity. Glade, polish, wax and major citrus all max factor the scents and smells. Lemon and caramel well through the palate and funky emissions deal in Peninsula clay with obvious earth. It’s a case of the curious and not fully expected in 2016. Worth a look nevertheless, with fresh seafood off the coals. Drink 2018-2019.  Tasted May 2018  13thstreetwinery  @13thStreetWines  13th Street Winery

Rockway Vineyards Chardonnay/Riesling 2015, VQA Twenty Mile Bench, Niagara Escarpment, Ontario (545905, $16.95, WineAlign)

The varietal get together is both convenient and seamless, in delivery of a cool climate nose and a ripeness to imagine a warmer climate palate. It’s layering is one stacked by alternating textures and walks straight ahead, simple and for the sake of nothing, but for to enjoy.  Drink 2018-2020. Tasted April 2018  rockwayvineyards  @RockwayVineyard  Rockway Vineyards

The Hare Wine Company Crown Land White 2016, VQA Niagara On The Lake, Ontario (Winery, $18.95, WineAlign)

The blend of 60 per cent gewürztraminer and (40) riesling is a lovely mix of lemon, apricot and mild barrel notes. It’s a pithy affair, mildly battered and of a soft demeanour. Fresh with fruit skin scents, a passion fruit tang and acidity that’s pretty darn close to spot on. Chewy texture, finishing strong and long. Drink 2018-2020.  Tasted February 2018  theharewineco  @TheHareWineCo  The Hare Wine Co.

Kew Vineyard Estate Marsanne 2016, VQA Beamsville Bench, Ontario (Winery, $18.95, WineAlign)

The dominant marsanne (90 per cent) is joined seamlessly by viognier in a white blend rich with barrel notes, nutty and toasty. Perhaps a touch less interesting on the palate but it’s welling with presence and persistence. Metallic and effective, with great finishing bitters. Drink 2018-2020. Tasted blind at NWAC18, June 2018  kewvineyards  @kewvineyards  @kewvineyard

Tasting at Pearl Morissette, July 2017

Pearl Morissette Cuvée Blu 2016, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (Winery, $25.00, WineAlign)

Cuvée Blu is an appellative blend like no other, amphora fermented, 100 per cent whole cluster chardonnay, with pinot gris, riesling and sauvignon blanc. The group spent three and a half (no, not a typo) months on skins, pressed and aged in foudres. I taste this and self-reflected that I would need to taste this once a day for two weeks to wrap brain, heart and imagination around its mythology. I’d also need to understand how it pushed further then just about anything and to see what would happpen, over and over, again and again, each time anew. You can drink this immediately or anytime over the next six years. What’s the difference? How can you know what to do? Self-described by the PM team as “a chameleon charmer and a poem built from the taste of colours.” Memories of a 2017 summer recall the whimsy of hues. “Yellow, orange,” smiled Svetlana Atcheva, “it might as well be blue!” Drink 2018-2024. Tasted July 2017  pearlmorissette  @PearlMorissette  Pearl Morissette

Southbrook Vidal Skin Fermented White 2016, Small Lot Natural Wine, VQA Ontario (Winery, $29.95, WineAlign)

The first time I tasted this blind (at Terroir Symposium) I noted it to be “vidal-like,” a touch oxidative, of this elegant paste or salve, with notes of green plum and just a touch of grapefruit. The second pass confirms it to be a fine vidal orange wine, with more texture than should or would be expected. It delivers lemon and tannin, plus a calculated layering of ample and enough acidity to carry it along. A fine example. Really mouth coating and so tannic. Takes what was learned from 2014 and 2015 experiments and with VQA category approval in its back pocket, begins the true journey forward. Drink 2017-2020. Tasted blind at NWAC17, June 2017 and February 2018 southbrookvineyards  thelivingvine  @SouthbrookWine  @TheLivingVine  Southbrook Vineyards  The Living Vine inc.

Stratus Vineyards Stratus White 2014, VQA Niagara Lakeshore, Ontario (660704, $38.20, WineAlign)

White assemblage under the Stratus label is not like spinning a single record, it’s like Rock ‘n Roll radio. Opening a bottle brings great excitement and anticipation, with a sense of wonder. What songs am I going to hear or more to the point, which grape varieties am I going to taste, in which percentages and in what order? In 2014 it’s a medley of chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, viognier, sémillon and gewürztraminer. The blend spent 21 months in (15 per cent) new oak. The fruits are varied and each one (or mélange of several) represented a hit in their own right. Tutti frutti, orange blossom special, little green apples, the lemon song, kiwi, peach, tangerine and forbidden fruit. In the end I heard it through the grapevine, by way of a conduit provided by great and necessary acidity. A top quality Stratus White, worthy of repeat plays. Drink 2018-2025.  Tasted twice, May and June 2018    stratuswines  @StratusWines  @StratusWines

Hidden Bench Nuit Blanche Rosomel Vineyard 2016, VQA Beamsville Bench, Ontario (Winery, $40.00, WineAlign)

It’s primarily sauvignon blanc (94 per cent) but don’t discount the effect created by sémillon. This is a really lovely barrel fermented stroll through a fresh morning glade, with ripe fruit everywhere and a perfectly pointed and lifted flinty nose. A bit reductive and fresh, as it should and absolutely must be, with hints of vanilla and caramel. Quite ambitious and serious with a focus and a precision that speaks to the acumen of a specific cru that in the end, instructs for sauvignon blanc meets sémillon education. Drink 2019-2024. Tasted blind at NWAC18, June 2018    hiddenbench  markanthonyon  @HiddenBench @MarkAnthonyWine  Hidden Bench Estate Winery  Mark Anthony Wine & Spirits

Good to Go!

Godello

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

WineAlign

Sicily in review

Nose deep at Baglio Christo di Campobello

Last week my first report from Sicilia en Primeur appeared over at WineAlign. I discussed the island’s amazing diversity of geography and how its producers have developed an uncanny ability in understanding of how to match their island’s multifarious and idiosyncratic varietal necessities to the über-specific demands of micro-climates and terroir. In that report 30 defining examples were explored and reviewed. In this Godello follow-up I offer up an expanded snapshot, with 45 additional tasting notes and dozens of images to highlight my eight days spent touring and tasting across bella Sicilia.

Related – Sicily’s varietal concentration: Measuring an island’s wealth in grape varieties, a journey through its winelands and tasting Sicilia en Primeur

~ ~ ~

As seen on WineAlign … Have you ever felt so at home or been so comfortable travelling as you have been in Sicily? If you’ve not been then you might not understand what I mean. Sicily is Casa quantu stai e tirrinu quantu viri, “home for as long as you need to be and land as far as the eye can see.” I always assumed it would be the water to captivate me, but from endless seas of wheat to grapevines covering plains, hills and terraces, it would always be about the land.

You might also think this island in the southern Mediterranean would ripen grapes with the sort of ease akin to some of the world’s warmest climates, like South Australia or the Western Cape of South Africa. Oh that it were so simple. In Sicily they say, Austu e riustu capu i mmennu, “after August, winter starts.” Growing grapes is truly a matter of place. You need to be specific with your grape varieties and match them to your micro-climate, but also your soils. This is a Sicilian necessity.

Inside the doorway there's me, endlessly thinking and working. ~ The author at Tenuta Regaleali

“Inside the doorway there’s me, endlessly thinking and working.” ~ The author at Tenuta Regaleali

A trip to Italy’s southern most wine region of a mere eight days is enough to be struck by the number of specificities Sicilian winemakers and producers have already figured out in order to make generational decisions. The success of any wine region depends on knowing where to denote qualitative probability so that it is possible to achieve the greatest results. This is the Burgundian model and yet Sicily’s vineyards are defined within a land of mono-estates, much like Tuscany in that its crus are single-owner farmed. This means that in order to qualify their best blocks and single-vineyards they must do so with ambition and ego. Unlike Tuscany the complication is much greater because they are not going at the exercise with just one grape. This might be looked at as a most difficult undertaking but if you own your problems and your decisions you can make it happen. In micro terms there are 23 DOCs and one DOCG. Go smaller and look at the hundreds upon hundreds of contrade, crus or small geographic areas defined in terms of soil types, including many layered volcanic lands. In macro terms this is also why the island has chosen to create an all encompassing category: Sicilia DOC. It is in fact the only DOC unanimously chosen to represent the region as a whole. In terms of size Sicily is equal to South Africa, Germany and three of New Zealand. Yes, it’s bigger than you would have thought.

Godello, Jessica Bordoni and Sharon van Minden

At Castellare di Castellina’s Niscemi outpost of Feudo di Pisciotto on the plain of Gela it is oenologist Marco Parisi who talks of their location six kilometres from the sea but even more about the specific micro-climate. He tells of a project called reliquendo, an investigative and experimental vineyard where they study 13 indigenous varieties nicknamed “relics” because they are cultivars that are no longer used. They continue to study these varieties just to check if some of them have the potential to become or return to be a variety good for wine production. The mixed plantings of red and white are then treated with micro-vinificatons. Parisi is also focused on nero d’avola. When he waxes about the island’s most important grape variety he refers to it as having a typical smell of straccio bagnato, the “air of wet cloth.”

Capo Milazzo, Sicily

Sicily is occupied by a variability of viticulture, rainfall, elevation and and soils. The diversity applies to nero d’avola as well, with so much variation in cluster and berry size, biotypes and clones. it’s just not the same grape everywhere it’s planted and grown; Menfi, Noto, Capo Milazzo, Vittoria and Etna. Noto has calcareous soils like Jerez and Champagne, not really comparable to anywhere else. Capo Milazzo is alluvial, deep soils, friables, out of rivers that came from the northern mountains. Menfi and the whole western side has energy and colour, violets, plum, chcolate and mint. Vittoria is red fruit in style, with bottle aging capacity, generally turning fruity to leafy and tobacco plus/minus chocolate. Noto is close by but it’s a mobile texture, silk and velvety tannins. Capo Milazzo’s proximity to the sea leads to salt, algae, black cherry and cypress. All this from Patricia Tóth of Planeta.

Feudo Principi Di Butera winemaker Antonio Paolo Froio

At Feudo Principi Di Butera winemaker Antonio Paolo Froio points out the mix of conditions just within the estate’s lands, eight kilometres from the sea and even greater, the importance of mountain influences. The variability of the calcareous soil provides very different results in (especially) nero d’avola. Three distinct parcels, Trapani in the west, the estate’s central plain and the “eastern theatre” are all planted to different clones. The west deals in fatter wines of lower acidities, the east in smaller, compact bunches and in the central plain, less compact bunches, bigger berries, high acidity and tannin. These revelations lead to correlations and being able to make desired blends in varietal wines. As a result Antonio’s wines are pre-emptive, planned with great foresight and always with a caution strike. They are focused, precise, clean, sophisticated, subtle and balanced.

Castello Falconara

At Baglio Del Cristo Di Campobello proprietor Carmello Bonetta delves deep into the highly specific and territorial chalky soils and a micro-climate of high day for night diurnal temperature fluctuations. The limestone/gypsum in this portion of Campobello di Licata is quartz-like though very fragmented and fragile and it is here where grillo, the child of zibibbo and cattarrato was born. Masseria del Feudo’s Carolina Cucurullo is a fourth generation farmer with two distinct vineyards in Caltasinetta and of the first producers to plant chardonnay, in 1991/1992.

Agronomist Davide Bacchiega, Tenuta Regaleali

Agronomist Davide Bacchiega, Tenuta Regaleali

You would have to search the island many times over to find an estate project with more research and experimentation behind it than that from Alberto Tasca of Tenuta Regaleali. There is no sea influence at Regaleali so higher diurnal temperature swings mean picking times are generally late September to late October. In Siciliy! Tasca tells us “you learn from the bees, to know if you are doing well.” And so the approach is sustainability, to measure impact, to grow regal varieties, use herbs and to create biodiversity in the vineyards. “Organic is too static,” says Tasca. “I prefer biodynamic. It’s more in touch with the land and the practices that associate with the land. Sustainability speaks the greatest to impact.” So he and agronomist Davide Bacchiega work with universities, learn about soil health, raise cover crops and sheep for ricotta.

Alberto Tasca, holding court at Tenuta Regaleali

The focus on syrah takes place at Moreale because it’s too cool and wet around the estate at Regaleali. There is experimentation with perricone, alberello bush vines for nero d’avola and cattarrato. Rain is collected in man made lakes, for use in arid vintages and for cleaning tanks. Rosemary and bay laurel grow everywhere. Inzolia is grown in the Barbabietole Vineyard and heritage vines are propagated by burying canes, waiting for budding, tying it down with an iron ring and then cutting a spur into the vines. This methodology and preservation helps to keeps the true nature and spirit of a wine like Rosso del Conte alive.

Melissa Muller and Fabio Sireci, Feudo Montoni

Which brings us to Feudo Montoni. Fabio Sireci’s secret world is found in the Contrada L’Homo Morto. This is the heart of Sicily, where provinces collide and in terms of elevation his estate is one of the highest (at 700m) and sits at the confluence of the winds, including the Sirocco that blows from North Africa.  There is also 350 days of sunlight, something the surrounding wheat fields quite enjoy. But in Sireci’s vineyards there is no search for heat and alcohol, only freshness, high acidity, low pH and long life. Fabio says “we do not have a marketing plan, we have only what the grapes give to us.” His pre-phylloxera nero d’avola Vrucara vineyard houses 100-plus year-old alberello bush vines. Just as they do at Regaleali, at Feudi Montoni they make use of propagine, the method of replacing spaces where century vines have passed on, by burying an arm, allowing it to take root and then splitting it to become it’s own ungrafted plant. It’s quite simple. You can’t graft onto vines so old. “Everything here is stopped in time.”

Feudi Montoni, L’Homo Morto, Siclia

Feudo Montoni’s history goes back 1500 years with Roman records indicating that in the sixth century there was a notation of this field as being a place where specific biotypes of vines thrived. If Fabio could ever get past his inferiority complex perhaps he’d celebrate such knowledge. His vineyard is that special, 30 of 80 hectares planted are all his, il nanismo, “the dwarf estate.” Fabio and his partner Melissa Muller make 25 vinifications of the same grape, every year. Talk about experimentation and dedication to varietal understanding. “I love my land and we choose the best areas to bring my wines to the world,” he says with no complex whatsoever. Whites (grillo, cattarrato and inzolia) are planted at the highest elevations, where the iron and the magnesium rule. The lower parts are sandy, from erosion, with the presence of fossils and shells from an ancient sea. There is also black soil, with humus, layered, stratified, above the argilo, clay and sand. This is where you find Vrucara. “It’s easy to make good wine, more or less” says Fabio, “but we need to transfer the soul of the vineyard into the wine. Please don’t take me for a crazy person.” No chance of that Fabio. What about nero d’avola? “It’s like a crazy horse,” he insists, “wild and crazy young, then slowly refines. It needs micro-oxygenation and producers shouldn’t look at it with the market in mind.” He finishes by asking “What is nero d’avola? Look at a map of Sicily,” is the answer.

Palermo

After visits to Feudi di Pisciotto, Feudo Principi Di Butera, Baglio Del Cristo Di Campobello, Masseria del Feudo, Tenuta Regaleali and Feudo Montoni I travelled to take part in the Sicilia En Primeur events. In Palermo I took part in a walking tour of the city. The original one day stroll through the city of Palermo concentrated on baroque and contemporary art. The tour highlighted the urban changes of the seventeenth century Palermo and the originality of Giacomo Serpotta’s sculptures together with contemporary works of art from both public and private collections: Palazzo Belmonte Riso – Regional Museum of Contemporary Art; Galleria Francesco Pantaleone at the Quattro Canti; Palazzo Butera – Massimo and Francesca Valsecchi Collection (a building site due to open on June 15th for Manifesta 12, the European biennial of contemporary art, opening in the city in mid June); Palazzo Torremuzza with the Bevilacqua collection of contemporary art (to be confirmed as it is a private house, normally not open to the public). Starting from the Quattro Canti, the baroque heart of the city, continuing to Piazza Bologni with Palazzo Belmonte Riso and ending at Palazzo Butera on the waterfront, art historian and contemporary art curator, Valentina Bruschi illustrated the most interesting antique and contemporary works of art.

#notthesame ~ #quattrocanti #palermo #siciliaep18 #siciliaenprimeur #fourcorners

In Palermo we listened intently to a panel discussing the current state of Sicily’s wine industry and its connection to the city. The presentations by Maurizio Gily, Mattia Filippi (Assovini Sicilia), Antonio Rallo (Sicila DOC), Planeta’s Alessio Planeta and Palermo Mayor Leoluca Orlando all looked to connect the island by the phrase stato stazione delle una perfetta, meaning the union is currently situated in a perfect state, working together for the common good.

Fountain of Shame, Palermo

More than 100 journalists representing a total of 22 countries took part in the recently concluded edition of Sicilia en Primeur, a preview of Sicilian wines organized by Assovini Sicilia. As Palermo is the Capital of Culture for 2018, the city’s Palazzo Riso, Museo d’Arte Contemporanea della Sicilia was chosen as the backdrop for the tastings, masterclasses and meetings with wine producers, confirming once again the increasing amount of attention that the island’s wine industry is attracting from all over the world. By the numbers 53 wineries participated in the event, 450 wines were presented for tasting in the wine producer halls (50 of which were en primeur tastings), 360 wines were presented in the tasting hall, 144 wines were on the wine list, 103 Magnums and five standing room only masterclasses.

Sicilia en Primeur Press Conference, Museo Riso, Palermo

Sicilia en Primeur Press Conference, Museo Riso, Palermo

Potential was also stressed by the mayor Orlando. In his speech he explained “this city, like the island’s wine industry, has managed to overcome its challenges and now, thanks to the commitment of many, it has become the Capital of Culture. In Palermo, we have witnessed a cultural change and the same applies to the world of wine: we know how to work together to use our Mediterranean origins to our best advantage. To draw an analogy between the experiences of Palermo and Sicilian wine, it is fair to say that we have managed to reconcile the roots and the wings of our existence. A metaphor indicating our respect for the past and commitment to the future.” The mayor summarized his message with three words about his city of Palermo. “Exciting, safe and inexpensive.”

Palazzo Butera Palermo

The decision to allow producers and bottlers across the island to bottle under the appellative umbrella code of Sicilia DOC has led to a 124 per cent increase in the number of bottles produced compared to the first two months of 2017. “Just reward for quality and control,” says Antonio Rallo, Chairman of the Sicilia DOC consortium, also known as Consorzio di Tutela Vini Doc Sicilia. “This growth data is no surprise to us and confirms the level of interest companies are showing in the Sicilia DOC designation. An important element is that all of the Sicilian DOCs showed a pattern of growth in the first two months of 2018, confirming, as in the rest of Italy, that our aim is increasingly focused on a designation system capable of guaranteeing greater quality and controls throughout the entire supply chain, both in Italy and abroad.”

Missed flight first order of business #espresso

Take nero d’avola and now grillo as great examples of how Sicily has wrapped their arms around native grape varieties to create market share. Both grillo and nero d’avola can only be sold under the Sicilia DOC label. Grillo’s achievement as a top 10 selling Italian white wine confirms the legitimacy of this decision and above all that consumers have greater confidence in a product that is protected and guaranteed. “We are very proud of the results obtained for our Sicilian Grillo wines, which further confirms the growth trend of the Sicilia DOC label,” remarked Rallo, “but in particular it highlights how safeguarding autochthonous vines can bring excellent results in terms of sales and induce greater confidence in a market that is increasingly aware of the importance of purchasing a traceable product. The adoption of monitoring and control activities highlights the value of our vine varieties and acknowledges the importance of a controlled and guaranteed supply chain.”

Sicila en Primeur, May 2018

Sicila en Primeur, May 2018

My tastings across the island engaged no less than nine important grape varieties, plus the region’s most celebrated blend and only DOCG, Cerasuolo di Vittoria. The opportunities to taste happened during visits to the six aforementioned properties and the three-day intensive gathering in Palermo for Sicilia en Primeur. The four-part opportunity was split between Sommelier service, Masterclasses, walk around producer one-on-ones and a private morning hotel tasting from bottles generously offered by several producers and graciously collected by the JustSicily and Sopexa staff. The week’s wines included the whites; grillo, inzolia, carricante and cattarrato, plus the reds; nero d’avola, nerello mascalese, syrah, frappato and perricone. Most of the island’s table wines fall directly under the all-encompassing and smartly organized denomination of DOC Sicilia, with notable exceptions labeled as IGT Terre Siciliane. Deeper investigations took in the volcanic specialities of DOC Etna Bianco, Rosso and Rosato. Then there were wines from characteristic locations (and communes) such as Sclafani Bagni, Noto, Campbello di Licata, Milazzo, Niscemi, Cammarata, Mozia, Caltanissetta, Menfi, Butera, Acate and Vittoria. Here are my reviews of 75 wines tasted in Sicily.

Tasting through the range of Planeta Winery with winemaker Patricia Tóth ~ Image (c) Pasquale Buffa

Tasting through the range of Planeta Winery with winemaker Patricia Tóth ~ Image (c) Pasquale Buffa

Inzolia, Grillo and Catarratto

Masseria del Feudo Inzolia Sicilia DOC 2017, Sicily, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

From vineyards in Caltasinetta at 450m, organic, picked in the third week of September. Wild ferment and done up in stainless steel. The inzolia with the most amount of lemon and orange peel to nose, it’s a very fruity and ripe rendition with the classic metallic tang and pith bitter finish. But it’s soft, amenable and gracious. Solid, non-agreesive inzolia. Drink 2018-2019.  Tasted May 2018  masseria.del.feudo  @fcucurullo  Masseria del Feudo

The lacquer of #polpo @ Baglio Cristo di Campobello

Feudo Principi Di Butera Insolia Sicilia DOC 2017, Sicily, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

Seró is 100 per cent insolia, a selection of finest limestone parcels subjected to a very cold and extended maceration. Table sorting selection eliminates the smallest and least effective berries and then, a soft crush. Certainly an increase in texture and ripeness with both phenolic and sugar/alcohol but still comes across as the leaner, less tangy and oxidative style typical of winemaker Antonio Paolo Froio’s directive. Also an increase in tropical fruit aromatics. The aim is for a certain amount of longevity and this should extend three to four years though more than five would be a stretch. It’s a trial and the curiosity factor is one full of intrigue. Drink 2018-2020.  Tasted May 2018  feudobutera  Zonin  francescozonin  Sebastien Ouellet  zonin1821  FeudoButera  Antonio Paolo Froio  Zonin  Francesco Zonin

Feudo Montoni Inzolia Dei Fornelli Sicilia DOC 2017, Sicily, Italy (539932, $22.95, WineAlign)

“Inzolia sometimes is afraid of Inzolia,” says Fabio Sireci, “so it is so often mixed with chardonnay, because it’s considered too neutral.” In Montoni’s hands it has been a varietal wine for a few years now, learning from micro-vinifications, practicing, seeing what it needs. Here it comes with a combination of peach and citrus, saline without tasting at all of salt and so, what is this? It’s the sedimentary rock and the varietal soul. How else to explain the magic? Come un lama, like a blade, cutting through fruit that came bled from stone. Implosive impressionistic tang, thriving in the mouth. Terrific texture, like a laser. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted May 2018  feudo_montoni  @FABIOSIRECI  Fabio Sireci Feudo Montoni (Fabio Sireci)  @feudomontoni

Masseria del Feudo Grillo Sicilia DOC 2017, Sicily, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

Also from the vineyards in Caltasinetta, similar to the inzolia but an earlier pick (third week of August), wild ferment, same altitude, a rich and even creamy grillo but with a clarity defined by the trace elemental-mineral push of the vineyard. Orange segmented and a touch of grapefruit, peach skin, a slight pith, no barrel but characterized by lees. Might develop a honeyed note in a year which can only elevate the sense of balance. Drink 2018-2020.  Tasted May 2018  masseria.del.feudo  @fcucurullo  Masseria del Feudo

Love me a little lean and focused #grillo in the morning

Feudo Principi Di Butera Grillo DOC Sicilia 2017, Sicily, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

The estate’s vineyards for grillo are upwards at 500m above sea level and the treatment is considered in many ways like what would be done for sauvignon blanc. A minor reduction means locked in freshness and grillo takes a turn towards snappy green apple fruit. It’s also terpenic, with white and yellow flowers, good persistence and the veering to the verdant side of the spectrum with a classic Butera lean strike. Drink 2018-2020.  Tasted May 2018  feudobutera  Zonin  francescozonin  Sebastien Ouellet  zonin1821  FeudoButera  Antonio Paolo Froio  Zonin  Francesco Zonin

Feudo Montoni Grillo Sicilia DOC Timpa 2017, Sicily, Italy (111252, $22.95, WineAlign)

Grillo here is warmer, fuller and more intense than 2016. This zibbibo and catarratto cross can’t help but see, feel, hear and sense all that it comes from, with a catarratto lucido heritage, more laser-like, with layered citrus, honest, clear and transparent but more aromatic and a minor note of akin to certain southern aromatic varieties. Orange zest and fennel broth mix with real fruit and the omnipresent stoniness. Drink 2018-2023.  Tasted May 2018  feudo_montoni  @FABIOSIRECI  Fabio Sireci Feudo Montoni (Fabio Sireci)  @feudomontoni

Feudo Montoni Grillo Sicilia DOC Timpa 2016, Sicily, Italy (111252, $22.95, WineAlign)

Fabio Sireci’s 2016 grillo carries the aromatics of sugary fruit with exceptional ripeness with thanks to long, slow and perfectly developed phenolics and of course, altitude in Sicily. The mouthfeel is magic with tropical lychee, mangosteen and green mango flavours. These are not aromas but actual flavours. From a member of “schizophrenic grapes that include it and vermentino,” personalities that split and divide depending on harvest time. This is picked early enough to avoid a terpene and gooseberry-figgy wine. Lemon, mint and musk all come in to play but it is the tropical fruit and pure acidity that take the reigns. The absolute level of elegant tart incarnate. So good. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted July 2017.  feudo_montoni  @FABIOSIRECI  Fabio Sireci Feudo Montoni (Fabio Sireci)  @feudomontoni

Carnage for two please, By Bye Blues @ Mondello Beach

Planeta Grillo Terebinto Menfi DOC 2017, Sicliy, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

Planeta’s varietal grillo is raised at Cantina Ulmo in Menfi, a western Sicilian outpost where pebbly-inlaid deep soils are found around Lake Arancio. The terebinth is a Sicilian shrub with glossy fronds. a.k.a. Pistacia Terebinthus or white pistachio, used as rootstock for pistachio production. The Menfi grillo is pulled from a low lying clay vineyard at 50m. Aromatics and texture are equally rich at maximum ripeness as bottled sunshine, pomelo sago unctuous and so consumable. Mango trees are actually in the same family as pistachio but of more interest is the fact that the female trees produce the nuts while the male produces the pollen. Sounds familiar, not to mention that male and female pistachio trees are often grafted together to bring about pollination. Drink 2018-2019.  Tasted May 2018  planetawinery  plant dependent  noble_estates   @PlanetaWinery  @Noble_Estates  @planetawinery  Tóth Patricia  @NobleEstates

Baglio Del Cristo Di Campobello Grillo Sicilia DOC Lalùci 2017, Sicily, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

Lalùci in Sicilian dialect means “the lights” or in terms of financial crisis, carry on, stay the course, “keep the lights on.” As a solo artist (100 per cent) grillo carries a lemony freshness that gets lost in bianco (blends) and along with this citrus there too is a pith bitterness. Herbs are also in play, mainly thyme and a faint but deliciously subtle rosemary. What trumps the bianco is the seamless transition to palate weight, with a move to more tropical flavours, almost mango but certainly peach. A taste of 2009 shows can girl can age so stash one or two away for some early twenties fun. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted May 2018  cristodicampobello  campobello_wine  cristodicampobello

Baglio Del Cristo Di Campobello Grillo Sicilia DOC Lalùci 2009, Sicily, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

The nine year-old grillo’s lemon is intensified, preserved, reduced to a curd’s flavour and consistency, now the light at the end of a dark tunnel. it’s a symbolic, if almost mythical bottle, only five Lalùci (now four) left in this world and certainly a romantic ideal. The lights are still on, the project still in operation and the family fully entrenched, exaggeratedly excited and carrying the torch from papa Bonetta. This is a lovely older wine, really well-aged, still alive, impressive in its longevity. Drink 2018-2020.  Tasted May 2018  cristodicampobello  campobello_wine  cristodicampobello

#pecore di Regaleali

Tasca D’Almerita Grillo Mozia DOC 2016, Sicily, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

This grape grows in particular among the salt flats of the Marsala Pond on the small island of Mozia, an environmental and archeological gem where the Phoenicians once passed through. There are 17 hectares of grillo di Mozia, with oenologist Giacomo Ansaldi at the fore, bush system (Alberello) planted vines on sandy soils and a pruning system with 10 buds on the cane to guarantee production but also to protect from wind, sun and heat. The grapes are sent over by boat to Regaleali for production. The grillo sees four months on the lees and while it was a challenging vintage with no rain from April to September, nature and the sea always bring temperature fluctuations. Excellent grillo here, sapid, rich and very mineral from vines deeply in search of trace elements. The marine influence in notable so this is like no other with a sémillon character but still with grillo fruit. Might develop some honey. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted May 2018  tascadalmerita  @TascaWine  Alberto Tasca  Tenuta Regaleali  Tasca d’Almerita

Tasca D’Almerita Catarratto Sicilia DOC Antisa 2017, Sicily, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

Antisa is planted in the highest part of the estate, is harvested late, after nero d’avola, as well as perricone. It’s a vine that deals with heat and aridity stress better than grillo. This from Tasca is deeply rendered catarratto, of metallics and orange blossom, sapid again but with a candied floral that transfers to the palate and with more persistence. Pure lemon all over the finish. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted May 2018  tascadalmerita  @TascaWine  Alberto Tasca  Tenuta Regaleali  Tasca d’Almerita

Feudo Montoni Catarratto Sicilia DOC Masso 2017, Sicily, Italy (111252, $22.95, WineAlign)

Catarratto by Fabio Sireci is salty and sapid of course, carrying the name of the vineyard in the Contrada L’Homo Morto, Masso meaning “hill of rock.” It is point of fact catarratto that is cultivated at the highest point on the estate. Brings a clean and bright clarity, clarified through inox and then into cement tank. Few catarratto will deliver this balance between fruit and stone, with a calm warmth that settles on your palate. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted May 2018  feudo_montoni  @FABIOSIRECI  Fabio Sireci Feudo Montoni (Fabio Sireci)  @feudomontoni

Mazzei Zisola Asiza Sicilia DOC 2017, Sicily, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

This is third vintage of Zisola’s Azisa, finding great success even though Filippo resisted planting white grapes. The blend is grillo and catarratto of balance and decadence, ripeness from vintage, rich, summery, full of fruit and just a hint of skin contact. Drink 2018-2019.  Tasted May 2018  marchesimazzei  profilewinegroup  @MarchesiMazzei  @ProfileWineGrp  Marchesi Mazzei – Castello di Fonterutoli  Profile Wine Group

Missed flight fourth order of business @byebyebluesPA #mondello

Nero d’Avola

Feudo Principi Di Butera Spumante Brut Sicilia DOC Neroluce, Sicily, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

This Charmat method sparkler is made from the dark-skinned nero d’avola and its impossibly pale hue makes the oxymoron that much more incredible. Picked mid August it smells like deep and dark red fruit and because it carries a naturally high number of natural sugar there is in no real need for dosage. Smooth, balanced, calm and fit with just the right amount of buoyant acidity. Drink 2018-2019.  Tasted May 2018  feudobutera  Zonin  francescozonin  Sebastien Ouellet  zonin1821  FeudoButera  Antonio Paolo Froio  Zonin  Francesco Zonin

Mazzei Zisola Noto Rosso Sicilia DOC 2016, Sicily, Italy (303925, $19.95, WineAlign)

Tasted with Filippo Mazzei in Palermo, Noto Rosso is nero d’avola from the Cantina in Sicily owned and operated by the Castellina in Chianti estate that produces Fonterutoli. A stainless ferment is followed by 50 per cent aging in stainless and 50 in 2nd and 3rd passage oak barrels, It’s a perfectly rich and plummy nero with great red liquorice tang and a distinction to celebrate pure, honest commerce. Very nero, very Noto. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted May 2018  marchesimazzei  profilewinegroup  @MarchesiMazzei  @ProfileWineGrp  Marchesi Mazzei – Castello di Fonterutoli  Profile Wine Group

Feudo Principi Di Butera Nero D’avola Sicilia DOC 2016, Sicily, Italy (Winery, $18.95, WineAlign)

Really complex perfume, jumping from the glass, fresh, vital, from large plantings that make up more than 50 per cent of the agriculture. It’s both dark red fruit expressive and also herbal, of fennel and then a territorial limestone impression running through the fruit. Quite chewy and expansive in the mouth, all a result of stainless fermentations followed by older, larger barrels, 30 and 50 hL. Gives a broad, soft, elasticized and stretched palate texture with no departure from varietal and place. Very focused, clean, modern interpretation with no excesses, attitude or conceit, nor ambition neither. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted May 2018  feudobutera  Zonin  francescozonin  Sebastien Ouellet  zonin1821  FeudoButera  Antonio Paolo Froio  Zonin  Francesco Zonin

Terre Di Giurfo Nero d’Avola Sicilia DOC Kuntari 2014, Sicily, Italy (Winery, $19.50, WineAlign)

Kuntari is where the classicism of soil meets barrel-driven nero d’avola is fixed at the twain so that high tonality raises the awareness of sun-worshipped fruit. While that is happening there is no love lost at the vortex of that union because it is blessed by tannin. Plum dusty and full of medicinal herbs this brings back the past and a most recent account of how nero d’avola arrived at this place and time. It’s a big nero, warm, grippy and powerful. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted May 2018  terredigiurfo  cavinonawine  @terredigiurfoIT   @Cavinona  Terre di Giurfo  Cavinona – Italian Wine Delivered

Pasta al Forno, by Melissa Muller

Feudo Montoni Nero d’Avola Sicilia DOC Lagnusa 2016, Sicily, Italy (523738, $22.95, WineAlign)

Lagnusa is a nickname though Fabio Sireci doesn’t clarify if its him, or perhaps his father, or a farmer on the property. These nero d’avola vines come from grafts taken off of the ancient Vrucara. Fabio’s “entry-level” nero is one of a younger, youthful maturity and a prune-cinnamon-salumi trilogy, with only a hint of wood, micro-oxidation by cement vats and ultimately fruit-earth-black sandy stone earth balance. Always the Cammarata comune in the Province of Agrigento Montoni sapidity, of grit, grip, strength and understanding. A double rainbow might just appear after a sip of this regional nero d’avola from the Montoni property. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted May 2018  feudo_montoni  @FABIOSIRECI  Fabio Sireci Feudo Montoni (Fabio Sireci)  @feudomontoni

Planeta Nero d’Avola Sicilia DOC Plumbago 2016, Sicily, Italy (Agent, $24.99, WineAlign)

Plumbago the nero d’avola from Menfi and the purple wildflower that grows in the woods and around the farmhouse at Planeta’s Ulmo estate. Lake Arancio is the vineyard location for the downiest nero in town. Soft in terms of fruit but high acidity full of pulse and energy, a tart intensity and a brushed swath of current, in every colour, crack-scented, tang-sapid and liquid chalky textured. The homes are 3rd and 4th passage barriques and tonneaux plus a year in bottle to market. Lovely balance on the high beams caught in the frame of the headlights. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted May 2018  planetawinery  plant dependent  noble_estates   @PlanetaWinery  @Noble_Estates  @planetawinery  Tóth Patricia  @NobleEstates

Baglio Del Cristo Di Campobello Nero d’Avola DOC Sicilia Lu Patri 2015, Sicily, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

In Sicilian dialect Lu Patri means “the father,” explains Carmello Bonetta, “which is really my father but also every father” and the variety is the father of them all. At Cristo Di Campobello nero d’avola plays the part of everyone’s father, including the evocation of the religious one, the most representative. Here the specific chalky limestone works with grape variety and peeks through despite the make up, bringing a zinging, ripping, tart and tangy nd’a with energy and that classic acidity. Also the classic amaro bitters, part burnt orange, part liquorice and part fennochio. This should age with stony ease. Drink 2020-2027.  Tasted May 2018  cristodicampobello  campobello_wine  cristodicampobello

Baglio Del Cristo Di Campobello Nero d’Avola Sicilia DOC Lu Patri 2009, Sicily, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

We tasted two bottles of Lu Patri 2009, the first being a bit muted, not very evolved, a character that could be described as one of slow micro-oxygenation. In the second a minute advancement and I agree with Carmelo that this is preferable, because by now it is clear that all of his wines get better with age. They are not that much fun when stuck inertia-like in their undeveloped youth. The evolution at this stage has brought wild cherry, part fresh (Yes!) and part dried. The acidity is linear up and down the sides of the mouth and the length exceptional. First wine with true chocolate and espresso ahead of the balsamico. The last supper nero d’avola. Truly. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted May 2018  cristodicampobello  campobello_wine  cristodicampobello

Tasca D’Almerita Nero d’Avola IGT Terre Siciliane Lamùri 2016, Sicily, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

Lamùri is 100 per cent nero d’avola from a 2002 initiated project where it was decided to do research and bring some quality love to the grape. “L’amour” (l’amore) in Sicilian, this selection is from two high altitude (450m) vineyards with time spent in some oak barriques of 2nd and 3rd use, to savour, flavour and spice, which it does, without make-up or cake baking. It’s all red fruit, some dried, with a fennel, bay laurel herb-crust. Florala, sapid as all these wines are, ropey and with fine acidity. Drink 2019-2023.  Tasted May 2018  tascadalmerita  @TascaWine  Alberto Tasca  Tenuta Regaleali  Tasca d’Almerita

A missed flight due to strike opens the door to more #degustazione now with the archetypes of @vdawinery ~ #cerasuolodivittoria

Valle dell’Acate Nero d’Avola Sicilia DOC Il Moro Limited Edition 2015, Sicily, Italy (Agent, $34.95, WineAlign)

This speciality of nero d’avola is labeled vendemmia da uva ultramatura, an understatement for the rich, black earth and steady Mediterranean sun that forms a crust and injects a voluminous, mineral liquid intensity to capture earth and sky. Il Moro could be the Moor, of Arabic identity, dark-haired or dark-skinned, certainly apropos for the grape and for the cimmerian yet transparent action of this wine. Let it breathe, settle and exhale. This will ready itself at just about the same time as the ’14 which makes it just a touch more amenable and in turn, beautiful. Drink 2021-2028.  Tasted May 2018  vdawineryValle dell’Acate  halpernwine  @VdaWinery  @HalpernWine  Valle dell’Acate  Halpern Wine

Valle dell’Acate Nero d’Avola Sicilia DOC Il Moro Limited Edition 2014, Sicily, Italy (Agent, $34.95, WineAlign)

Il Moro is a child of a wholly antithetical vintage and this particular brooding Moor of a nero d’avola is actually the reductive one as compared to 2015. The vintage will clearly deliver more age ability as the fruit is locked in tight behind an iron, black soil curtain. Sun is a factor but there is more understated wealth and probably balance here, though it’s not nearly as gregarious and open as ’15, which is saying alot. The fruit seems richer and the violets are everywhere. Drink 2021-2029.  Tasted May 2018  vdawineryValle dell’Acate  halpernwine  @VdaWinery  @HalpernWine  Valle dell’Acate  Halpern Wine

Azienda Agricola Cos Nero Di Lupo IGT Terre Siciliane 2016, Sicily, Italy (Agent, $36.95, WineAlign)

Nero di Lupo is the “black wolf,” a would be reference to the nero d’avola grape variety and specific to how it grows in this southern Sicilian clime. Perhaps a sheep in wolf’s clothing, pecore in abiti da lupo, there is this docile, domicile quality but with teeth and bite behind. Don’t poke this bear and don’t expect it to lay down, soften and play dead any time soon. It’s a tightly knit nero d’avola, spun with fine natural acidity and even finer tannin. The dark rooted, soil driven fruit is earthy but in a wholly sapid and structured way. Are there any other nero d’avola that taste like this? Methinks not. Drink 2019-2028.  Tasted May 2018  giustoocchipinti  thelivingvine  #COSwinery   @TheLivingVine  AZIENDA AGRICOLA COS  The Living Vine inc.

Valle dell’Acate Nero d’Avola Vittoria DOC Tané 2013, Sicily, Italy (Agent, WineAlign)

Tané is from the eastern part of the island in Bidini Contrada. Now falling under the auspices of the Vittoria DOC this 100 per cent nero d’Avola used to be labeled as IGT Sicilia Rosso (through 2011 and there was no production in 2012). Extremely low, not totally commercially viable yields deliver this intense, extracted, concentrated and grippy nero in the way of let’s say, Ruché but with deeply layered and furthered phenolics. A big wine with solid architecture and a wild, floral intensity needs time and a carefully selected Sicilian arrosto. The tanned one is certainly kissed by the Mediterranean sun and rendered deeply hematic by the dark red soil of Bidini. Drink 2021-2029.  Tasted May 2018  vdawineryValle dell’Acate  halpernwine  @VdaWinery  @HalpernWine  Valle dell’Acate  Halpern Wine

Mazzei Zisola Noto Rosso Sicilia DOC Doppiozeta 2015, Sicily, Italy (SAQ 11792138, $39.75, WineAlign)

Doppiozetta is from two single estate parcels in vineyards and a then selection of top grapes from there, while the name seems to denote double the Latin numeral septem, meaning seven. Not sure if this should be two sevens of two times seven or maybe even two (or twice) the decimal unit prefix in the metric system denoting a factor of 10 to the 21st power. Regardless, the mathematical concentration of this Sicilian iconic original and most important wine of the estate is impressive. It is made with a selection of endemic nero d’avola, rigorously bush trained, a self-professed “super nero,” and the real usage of Doppiozeta highlights the ZZ-top core of the Mazzei name. This nero d’avola is fresher and higher toned, more floral with a ferric push, mineral though as if by shells of the sea, full and Mazzei structured, needing some time. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted May 2018  marchesimazzei  profilewinegroup  @MarchesiMazzei  @ProfileWineGrp  Marchesi Mazzei – Castello di Fonterutoli  Profile Wine Group

Planeta Noto DOC Santa Cecilia 2015, Sicily, Italy (Agent, $54.99, WineAlign)

The first vintage was in the late 90s and the appellation eventually became DOC Noto, with the initial vintage of 2003 having been where it was fully done in Noto, but 2008 is the official DOC recognition. This is when both Noto and Sicilia are on the label for the DOC to be recognized as 100 per cent nero d’Avola. Comes by way of the white chalky soils of Noto and is deceptively rich, deeply rendered, of an incredible acidity, dark and viscous fruit. There is so much happening in violet florals and light. Did I mention the acidity, amazingly linear but waiting to circle and become ringing. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted May 2018  planetawinery  plant dependent  noble_estates   @PlanetaWinery  @Noble_Estates  @planetawinery  Tóth Patricia  @NobleEstates

Planeta Noto DOC Santa Cecilia 2014, Sicily, Italy (Agent, $54.99, WineAlign)

Didn’t think it would be the case but 2014 has just begun to accept a peak behind the curtain into the world of where it may be going. Just a minor Noto note of development, a first peeled layer, one strip of wood and veneer shed. So very strawberry, rolled up and compressed, from the wet vintage that followed a dry winter. It’s still a bit tight, with linear acids and a great concern of purpose and strength. Not the most structured Santa Cecila of all time but certainly built for a 10 year run. Drink 2018-2024.  Tasted May 2018  planetawinery  plant dependent  noble_estates   @PlanetaWinery  @Noble_Estates  @planetawinery  Tóth Patricia  @NobleEstates

Planeta Noto DOC Santa Cecilia 2011, Sicily, Italy (Agent, $54.99, WineAlign)

Santa Cecilia from 2011 is a special nero d’avola, balanced in silent but sweetly deadly acquiescence of Noto’s white chalky soils. Her tannins are abundant and smooth, running in one direction and so it’s a wonder how un-evolved and yet so involved this nero d’avola is equipped to believe about and with great kindred spirit with itself. That it presents this youthful and yet to advance is a thing magical and sincere. Inner strength is one thing but outward beauty is the real deal. Or is it the other way around? Either way they combine for one of Cecilia’s greatest acuity and remainder of structure. Drink 2018-2026.  Tasted May 2018  planetawinery  plant dependent  noble_estates   @PlanetaWinery  @Noble_Estates  @planetawinery  Tóth Patricia  @NobleEstates

Planeta Noto DOC Santa Cecilia 2007, Sicily, Italy (Agent, $54.99, WineAlign)

Time has been kind to Santa Cecilia Noto 2007, sidled along and preparing a path laid out with dried fruit, tobacco and black currant-Cassis development. There is this cool eucalyptus, menthol, chinese herbal medicine, cola and chocolate combing and combining that lingers for longer than the road to Noto. In just a two week span I was blessed to taste vintages ’07, ’08, ’11, ’14 and ’15 and I’ve come to a conclusion. No two Noto nero d’avola by Patricia Tóth are alike and the theories of relativity need not apply. They are snowflakes and children of singular personalities. But they all speak one of Sicily’s clearest and most transparent brands of nero d’avola vernacular. The language of 2007 is savoury, mild mannered Mediterranean and structured, but never grippy or too firm. It’s just right. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted May 2018  planetawinery  plant dependent  noble_estates   @PlanetaWinery  @Noble_Estates  @planetawinery  Tóth Patricia  @NobleEstates

Feudo Principi Di Butera Nero D’avola Sicilia DOC Deliella 2015, Sicily, Italy (Winery, $55.00, WineAlign)

Deliella is a selection in the vineyard, from edgy, prurient and analytical investigations in special vineyard blocks with maximum of five bunches per vine to find more concentration from each vine. It’s actually quite a taut and reserved nero d’avola with a slow release of aromatics and charm, dark liquid fruit chalky, structured and quite calm. Takes its time but the acidity carefully climbs up and down the sides of the mouth to stress its position in the overall architecture. Aged in 30 hL casks (and larger tonneaux) for 14 months. There will be some extended longevity here, not forever but likely five to seven years. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted May 2018  feudobutera  Zonin  francescozonin  Sebastien Ouellet  zonin1821  FeudoButera  Antonio Paolo Froio  Zonin  Francesco Zonin

Feudo Principi Di Butera Nero D’avola Sicilia DOC Deliella 2014, Sicily, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

Deliella for nero d’avola ’14 is clearly a different vintage but a year in bottle has helped to release the early aromatics, even if it’s a more savoury and herbal than fruit matter at this stage. The red berries and plums are studded by sprigs of rosemary, the calcari runs through chalky and flashes its committed comet-commute trail of fine tannin. Close your eyes and try to really enjoy the fruit that fills the mid-palate you don’t yet see from 2015 and will no longer come from vintages as old as 2005. Ultimately it is the integration and fineness of the moving parts recognized for greater harmony from this vintage. Drink 2018-2023.  Tasted May 2018  feudobutera  Zonin  francescozonin  Sebastien Ouellet  zonin1821  FeudoButera  Antonio Paolo Froio  Zonin  Francesco Zonin

Feudo Principi Di Butera Nero D’avola Sicilia DOC Deliella 2005, Sicily, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

At 13 years you can see how the time that has passed goes beyond what the grape is really capable of, though these tertiary aromas are more than curious and in fact they are charming to the point of fascinating. Figs and caramel-balsamico reduction but also dried red fruits, like a cross between plum and liquorice with accent by fennel, rosemary and mint. It’s interesting that the acidity is still a part of the Deliella effort, saying something real about this territory, the three-part vineyard harmony, these chosen clones and how age develops along with balancing nero d’avola energies. Finishes saline and you need to linger with it to see what will happen. Not quite time to close the book. Drink 2018-2019. Tasted May 2018  feudobutera  Zonin  francescozonin  Sebastien Ouellet  zonin1821  FeudoButera  Antonio Paolo Froio  Zonin  Francesco Zonin

Soils of Feudo Montoni

Feudo Montoni Nero d’Avola Sicilia DOC Vrucara 2014, Sicily, Italy (111286, $58.00, WineAlign)

Vrucara is labeled by cru on the front label and only as varietal on the back because the place is the most important ingredient, so that the grape can be separated from not only the rest of the estate but also from the rest of Sicilia. Only this cru does this for nero d’Avola. Only Vrucara and its ungrafted pre-phylloxera, European 100 plus year-old wisdom knows the soul of place to transfer into wine. It is a wine that has already developed the acumen it will carry through life. Freshness and acidity are a right from birth and need six or seven years to not move into secondary life but to begin at all. Acidity is upward of 8.2 g/L of tA and it lifts not just fruit but soul. Vrucara is wild grass that lives under the vine, in the words of Fabio Sireci “not a wine to make but a wine to protect.” A wine that carries the torch, flag, signature and emblem of estate, varietal and island. There are 4500 bottles produced Drink 2019-2031.  Tasted May 2018  feudo_montoni  @FABIOSIRECI  Fabio Sireci Feudo Montoni (Fabio Sireci)  @feudomontoni

Feudo Montoni Nero d’Avola DOC Sicilia Vrucara 2008, Sicily, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

The answers are so simple and yet unanswered because magic is involved. You can understand the old vines and the way their fruit turns into wines that begin with ancient wisdom but move so little in the first seven years. What happens at 10 is the turning outward, to express the place and speak the dialect of the cru. The acidity is still high but is now in lift, with fruit at the height and en anergy that flows, really flows, moving across your palate with grace, grab and attention. A contiguous wine from start to finish, with intensity, impression and precision. The structure is come cavallo domato, like a trained horse. Dramatic nd’A but with no drama at all. Tamed and in respect of ancient vine, where it grows and what it wants to give. “Ma zitto,” a wine to keep you silent. Drink 2018-2029.  Tasted May 2018  feudo_montoni  @FABIOSIRECI  Fabio Sireci Feudo Montoni (Fabio Sireci)  @feudomontoni

Cerasuolo di Vittoria

Feudi Del Pisciotto Cerasuolo Di Vittoria DOCG Giambattista Valli 2016, Sicily, Italy (Agent, $36.95, WineAlign)

Giambattista Valli Cerasuolo di Vittoria is 60 per cent nero d’Avola and 40 frappato, in attest of 14 per cent alcohol, a terrific vintage and 10 months in barrique. Exceptionally aromatic, this is a perfume of great ambition as it almost smells like American oak but it’s only French, with creosote, vanilla, lavender and tarragon. Rich in mixed soil impart, from sand and clay. It’s a very deep impression, tasting like pomegranate concentrate, with plenty of acidity and fine, mild tannins. It’s so very purple, as in its phenolic fruit content and consistent, slow maturation. There was no speeding up of the polyphenolics from overly hot summer months. Made for whole cuts of beef, cooked rare and sliced, running bloody. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted May 2018  feudidelpisciottowinerelais  castellarewine  dionysuswines    @DionysusWines  Feudi del Pisciotto Wine Relais  Castellare di Castellina  Dionysus Wines & Spirits Ltd.

Terre Di Giurfo Cerasuolo Di Vittoria DOCG Maskarìa 2014, Sicily, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

Maskarìa is a top quality vintage for the only Sicilian DOCG in a red that captures the union between nero d’avola and frappato. This dark soil driven Cerasuolo di Vittoria suggests more nero dominance but with fruit forward assistance from the lighter soil raised frappato. Really hits both the high tones and low baritone notes, one and then the other, for maximum effect. Once again it is high acidity, not unlike some Aragonese garnacha or Monferrato barbera that sings the loudest in the chorus. Big wine indeed. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted May 2018  terredigiurfo  cavinonawine  @terredigiurfoIT   @Cavinona  Terre di Giurfo  Cavinona – Italian Wine Delivered

A missed flight due to strike opens the door to more #degustazione now with the archetypes of @vdawinery ~ #cerasuolodivittoria

Valle dell’Acate Cerasuolo di Vittoria DOCG 2014, Sicily, Italy (Agent, WineAlign)

The iconic blend is 60 per cent nero d’Avola and (40) frappato from vineyards located on the Bidini Soprano plateau. The frappato vines are planted in clear red soil while the dark red soil produces nero d’Avola. The Classico comes to market a year and a half (in this case 21 months) after the previous September harvest, a key ingredient to integration, harmony and ultimately success. This is part of the estate’s project known as seven terroirs for seven wines. The age ability here is strong, with high-toned acidity and the notable presence of firm, grippy tannin. Words like benchmark and traditional are two ways to look at it. Drink 2020-2027. Tasted May 2018  vdawinery  halpernwine  @VdaWinery  @HalpernWine  Valle dell’Acate  Halpern Wine

Planeta Cerasuolo Di Vittoria Classico DOCG Dorilli 2016, Sicily, Italy (Agent, $38.95, WineAlign)

Cerasuolo di Vittoria Classico is one thing, Dorilli 2016 is another matter altogether. The name of the estate marks the iconography of this Planeta blend, from a chosen vineyard carrying the dialectical tome of the river passing by. The old maps say Dirillo but through time this has changed, just like this Burgundian wine will draft through wake and evolve. There is a minor reduction here so it’s not as open as the normale though it’s offset by an extra year of aging for release 18 months after harvest. Blooming should happen some time in 2019 after the 70 per cent nero d’avola and (30) frappato begin to unfold out of itself for a full and layered Vittoria. Still there is the Cerasuolo fragrance from a guarantee by vintage and for texture. Drink 2019-2027.  Tasted May 2018  planetawinery  plant dependent  noble_estates   @PlanetaWinery  @Noble_Estates  @planetawinery  Tóth Patricia  @NobleEstates

Rosso del Conte

Tasca D’Almerita Rosso del Conte Monreale DOC 2007, Sicily, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

Rosso del Conte comes out of the DOC Monreale and the first vintage of this Sicilia original was 1970. It was the first single-vineyard wine in Sicily, was (back then) usually 65 per cent perricone and (35) nero d’avola done in 500L chestnut barrels but too much tannin meant a need to switch. Chestnut was abandoned and so experimentation led to change. The 2007 is really brought from soil, in this case the San Lucio Vineyard, with stony red fruit and wood spice. The ’07 blend is nero d’avola (54 per cent), perricone (26) and other red varieties (20). Drink 2018-2020.  Tasted May 2018  tascadalmerita  @TascaWine  Alberto Tasca  Tenuta Regaleali  Tasca d’Almerita

Tasca D’Almerita Rosso del Conte Monreale DOC 2000, Sicily, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

The 2000 “red wine of the count” is age apparent and so much more so than the 2007, so secondary character is really a matter of at least 12, if not 15 years plus with the supermarca Rosso di Conte. Now blessed by an aromatic potpourri of balsamico, tar and roses, like a sapid and warm mix of nebbiolo and sangiovese, with carob, bokser, rosemary, and bay laurel. All the important herbs of the Mediterranean world. Very territorial, impressive, constructive and intense. All about what grows in and out, the savoury pods known and unknown, almonds, metallics and trace elements. A terrific legacy wine once created through trial and error, of grape varieties (now perricone and nero d’avola) matched to terroir (S. Lucio Vineyard) by Conte Giuseppe Tasca d’Almerita. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted May 2018  tascadalmerita  @TascaWine  Alberto Tasca  Tenuta Regaleali  Tasca d’Almerita

eady for anything after having stormed that castle first thing in the morning ~ #siciliaenprimeur #siciliaep18

Frappato and Perricone

Feudo Montoni Perricone Sicilia DOC 2016, Sicily, Italy (Agent, $22.95, WineAlign)

Perricone, also called pignatello, from the land of clay soils, where they make clay pots called pignatelli, here called guarnaccio, perhaps related to grenache. Deeper and darker though not necessarily richer with fruit that thinks in terms of red and black currants. The grape is transparent despite its hue and there is a kinship with cabernet franc but again a reminder of grenache. Strong skin, big grape, with green seeds and 10 per cent green skin. Disease resistant but when it ferments the greenness can give bitter tannin. So Fabio Sireci was the first to mitigate this by waiting for the seeds to turn brown. It’s picked in November when the seeds taste like hazelnuts. It actually reminds of Kekfrankos in a way, with this depth and savoury smoulder. Kept in the cellar for a few days to brown in vintages of too much rain. These techniques are essential to deliver it as the soft, round wine it is. Will turn to chocolate and liquorice even though there was only cement involved in its elévage. The drying of stems before fermentation is almost appassimento in a way, albeit for just a few days or so. So interesting. A wine of very low (3.15) pH and high (7) tA. This and the rest of Montoni’s wines are two of Sicily’s greatest kept secrets. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted May 2018  feudo_montoni  @FABIOSIRECI  Fabio Sireci Feudo Montoni (Fabio Sireci)  @feudomontoni

Terre Di Giurfo Frappato Vittoria DOC Belsito 2016, Sicily, Italy (Winery, $19.50, WineAlign)

Belsito from Terre di Grufo’s is one of the more extracted and full-bodied frappatos out of Vittoria, leaning in the direction of dark, dusty plum and black cherry fruit. The ripeness has been pushed to the limit with high acidity to match and balance in the headlights of moderate alcohol. This is both ready to drink and also in dire search of a ragu of sorts, in stew, on pasta or in a bowl accompanied by sharp cheese. With this ripe ripper you could go west, southeast or far east to multi-faceted and spiced cuisine. Drink 2018-2020.  Tasted May 2018  terredigiurfo  cavinonawine  @terredigiurfoIT   @Cavinona  Terre di Giurfo  Cavinona – Italian Wine Delivered

Valle dell’Acate Frappato Sicilia DOC Il Frappato 2017, Sicily, Italy (Agent, $32.95, WineAlign)

I was first introduced to Valle dell’Acate’s frappato a few years back by Francesco Ferreri and at the time noted its off the beaten path uniqueness. The roots from this 100 per cent frappato go back at least six generations to pre-Phylloxera times. All organic and replanted using massal selection, the Vittoria is one of only five in the region. It hails from the Contrada of Bidini and just a kiss of barrel time (up to three months) determines a fresh and spirited frappato that smells like roses in early morning bloom. There is a quick to the point peppery kick to pique interest and to prepare the palate for a traditional and classic Sicilian meal. Drink 2018-2020.  Tasted May 2018  vdawinery  halpernwine  @VdaWinery  @HalpernWine  @ValleDellAcate  Halpern Wine

Anchovy on strawberry at Feudi del Pisciotto Wine Relais

Feudi Del Pisciotto Frappato IGT Terre di Siciliane Carolina Marengo 2015, Sicily, Italy (Agent, WineAlign)

Clocks in at 13.5 per cent alcohol and while frappato is generally considered to be a one or two winter wine, it is made here with structure and age ability in mind. A better year for frappato but still challenging because it starts budding early and hangs the longest so it is subjected to everything that happens in a vintage. But frappato is not as sensitive to disease like nero d’avola. Sees 10 months in first and second passage barriques. The natural freshness and energy is a bit blurred at this youthful stage, but frappato cannot run or hide. It will always be floral and yet here the wood brings out a volatility and a reductive tendency you wouldn’t normally associate with the grape variety. One of the most ambitious frappato just about ever, high in fruit quality and given plenty of attention, as if it were sangiovese or nebbiolo. Takes on tobacco and plenty of spice, mostly from the barrels but also out of some pretty string extraction satisfaction. Drink 2019-2023.  Tasted May 2018  feudidelpisciottowinerelais  castellarewine  dionysuswines    @DionysusWines  Feudi del Pisciotto Wine Relais  Castellare di Castellina  Dionysus Wines & Spirits Ltd

Two #Cos beat as one ~ #frappato #nerodilupo

Azienda Agricola Cos Frappato IGT Terre Siciliane 2015, Sicily, Italy (Agent, $36.95, WineAlign)

The Cos Frappato is in many ways the poster child, the entry point and portal into the singular oeuvre created by Giambattista Cilia e Giusto Occhipinti. Perhaps it’s because it parlays as the one wine straddling two worlds, the natural (sic) and the conventional, but also because it’s unadorned beauty is something everyone can appreciate. You may not need Chopin, Gaugin or Rodin for this frappato but you do need calm, time and no distraction. This open-minded and wide-eyed red is full of fruit both scraped of skin and sliced open in an outdoor market. It’s not so defined as to what those fruits may be so make some up, if you will. The purity of varietal from vineyards in Vittoria is delivered, without complaint or denial, just an expression of the extreme southern point of Sicily in north African violet aromatics and light. Lovely finesse yet quite magnified and concentrated. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted May 2018  #aziendaagricolacos  thelivingvine    @TheLivingVine  AZIENDA AGRICOLA COS  The Living Vine inc.

Varietal revelations in #sicilia at #tenutaregaleali @TascaWine ~ #perricone #guarnaccio #tascadalmerita

Tenuta Regaleali Perricone Sicilia DOC Tasca D’almerita Guarnaccio 2016, Sicily, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

Endemic perricone is the grape that has always existed at Regaleali, since 1954, in the historical San Lucio vineyard. The massal selection allowed for extending the vineyard, because believing in perricone (always known as Guarnaccio at the Estate) means respecting the winemaking past of western Sicily, which was rich in this grape. Because brother Rosso del Conte was always offering an age able wine, it was decided to bottle this varietal wine for freshness and possibility. It sees 12 months in 2nd and 3rd use barrique. The first vintage was 2012 and there is a sweet nuttiness about this grape made in this way, like marzipan or nougat, with currant red fruit and in a way, like cabernet franc but without any pyrazine intrusion. A note of carob or bokser joins in, advantageous acidity for buoyancy and a calmness without any real demand by tannin. So much pleasure and confidence. Too early in its tenure to know about aging solo but how can confidence not speak to an avowal of yes? Drink 2019-2026.  Tasted May 2018  tascadalmerita  @TascaWine  Alberto Tasca  Tenuta Regaleali  Tasca d’Almerita

Panelle chick pea fritters from Fud Off Catania ~ Sicilian street food

Syrah

Feudo Principi Di Butera Syrah Sicilia DOC 2016, Sicily, Italy (SAQ 10960161, $19.55, WineAlign)

An international variety perhaps and/or as old as Sicilian grape growing in Syracusa. Either way it’s well adapted to Sicilian soils, particularly here with plenty of calcari, maturing early at the end of August or latest early September. It must be managed for acidity, so expositions are very important. This is very rich but it has maintained its energy with a pulse that moves with the bigger bodied fruit. The freshness comes form east and west vineyard positions, balancing the north-south densities. There is a slightly dusty plum note but spice bookends the fruit, with some bitter amara notes at the end. Drink 2018-2020.  Tasted May 201  feudobutera  Zonin  francescozonin  Sebastien Ouellet  zonin1821  FeudoButera  Antonio Paolo Froio  Zonin  Francesco Zonin

Masseria del Feudo Syrah Sicilia DOC 2017, Sicily, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

From estate vineyards in Caltasinetta picked early in the third week of August. Raised by a wild ferment and the use of concrete vats. More freshness and bright fruit as compared to the nero d’avola and so as a result, less bitters. There is sweetness in the mid-palate and a silky consistency. The bitters do come forth at the finish. The most expressive and floral wine in the portfolio, though still those bitters and pressed personality but in the form of syrah, it’s both characterful and meaty. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted May 2018  masseria.del.feudo  @fcucurullo  Masseria del Feudo

Palermo’s multicultural streets

Mazzei Zisola IGP Terre Siciliane Achilles 2015, Sicily, Italy (AgentWineAlign)

This is Mazzei’s first bottling of syrah and before it was added to the Noto (Doppiozetta). Like the nero d’avola the syrah vines were also planted in 2004 and 2005 (though some additional nero was planted in 2007). Syrah was put in to experiment and for blending, even though they knew it was nero d’avola territory, but the syrah has impressed the most. This is big, meaty, structured syrah with classic Mazzei bones and acidity but simply Sicilan tannin. Kind of the sort to take your breath away, tangy, high in deep red citrus and chewy. Really chewy. For all the talk of syrah across the island this is one to say “you’re on it something” but with an undertone of “we’ve always known this unspoken truth.” Drink 2020-2026.  Tasted May 2018  marchesimazzei  profilewinegroup  @MarchesiMazzei  @ProfileWineGrp  Marchesi Mazzei – Castello di Fonterutoli  Profile Wine Group

Maroccoli Syrah Sicilia Menfi DOC 2014, Sicily, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

The name Maroccoli is local for “ideally situated vineyard” and syrah must find its spots to shine. An elevated hill between lake and sea is this Maroccoli’s place in the sun and the syrah it delivers is spicy, high tonal and indelibly stamped with firm grip. It’s both meaty and exotic, wildly berry filled and sharp as a tack. It seems syrah could use an extra year or two beyond the Bordolese out of Menfi. Drink 2019-2023.  Tasted May 2018  planetawinery  plant dependent  noble_estates   @PlanetaWinery  @Noble_Estates  @planetawinery  Tóth Patricia  @NobleEstates

Puro e modesto @tornatorewines #degustazione with Domenico d’Antoni at #siciliaenprimeur #siciliaep18 ~ @nicholaspearce_ ~ #etnadoc #etna #etnawine

Carricante and Etna Bianco

Tornatore Etna Bianco DOC 2017, Sicily, Italy (Agent, $23.95, WineAlign)

Tasted with the estate’s Domenico D’Antoni, the Bianco is 100 per cent carricante, on very little soil above the volcano’s basalt at 500-6500m. There are 25 hectares of bianco, 24 of which is carricante that shivers with this fresh, salty nasal inhalation, still so youthful and needs a little time away. The most important thing is that you respect and understand the simplicity of this noble but basic grape. No malo, high potassium and volcanic soil so the acidity is naturally preserved. Young vines with great room for improvement at 5-5.5 g/L acidity. Find a better value in Etna Bianco, I dare you. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted May 2018  tornatorewines  giuseppetornatore  nicholaspearcewines    @Nicholaspearce_  @tornatorewines  Nicholas Pearce

Planeta Etna Bianco DOC 2017, Sicliy, Italy (Agent, $33.99, WineAlign)

The Etna is 100 per cent carricante produced at the Feudo di Mezzo winery in the Contrada Taccione, in Montelaguardia. Now labeled simply as Etna, not as the artist formerly known as Bianco and apparently for no reason at all. Seventeen was a really warm year here in the 690-720m vineyard and so the quickest maceration was performed due to so much sun-developed colour on hand. Stayed on lees until February, also less than usual but again the hot season saw quick development. The quotient distilled is a plentiful one, a brocade like golden silk, full and full of everything it can be. Not the sapid, mineral and volcanic salty carricante of let’s say 2014 but sometimes “luxury is the opposite of vulgarity…and complication, a necessity that begins where necessity ends.” Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted May 2018  planetawinery  plant dependent  noble_estates   @PlanetaWinery  @Noble_Estates  @planetawinery  Tóth Patricia  @NobleEstates

Torre Mora Etna Bianco DOC Scalunera 2017, Sicily, Italy (Agent, WineAlign)

orre Mora is the Etna outpost of Tuscany’s Piccini, owners of Villa al Cortile in Montalcino and Valiano in Chianti Classico. Scalunera is the Contrada on the northeastern edge of the volcano and the Torre Mora (and Benanti) vineyard sites at 650-670m are the first just off the lava flow, planted to Albarello bush vines. Salty, of course, but quite ripe, full of fleshy fruit. It’s a body phenolic unexpected and quite the mouthful of Etna Bianco. A broad expression that gives it all. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted February 2018  picciniwines  @PicciniWinesUK  PICCINI WINES  

Godello @ Mondello ~ #italianstrike

Terra Costantino Etna Bianco DOC Deaetna 2014, Sicily, Italy (Agent, $33.99, WineAlign)

Terra Costantino’s is from Contrada Blandano in the Comune Viagrande, on soils sabbie di matrice vulcanica, a blend of carricante and catrarratto, three to one, at 500m, part bush vine and part spurred cordon. Intense aromatics for the two-varietal blend, with great concentration, so much sunlight and while lower in altitude, the palate softness is matched by great presence and high tonality to balance the opulence. Only 1900 bottles produced and though anything but a laser-focused Etna Bianco it speaks of place and opens awareness to the world. Perhaps acts a bit older than you would expect but it’s a terrific entry without too much linearity. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted May 2018  terracostantino  @TerraCostantino  TerraCostantino

Tenuta Di Fessina Etna Bianco DOC A’Puddara 2015, Sicily, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

A’Puddara is from Silvia Maestrelli out of Contrada Manzudda a Biancavilla, on scisto sabbioso e fine, presenza di pomice e lapilli, i.e. sandy and fine schist, pumice and lava. This 100 per cent carricante is farmed on Alberello (bush vines) at 900m. Starts an Etna tasting with a schisty fullness, tart and a minor oxidative accent, with plenty of acidity. It’s properly salty and mineral pushed. Very correct for varietal and place with lemon all over the place. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted May 2018  tenutadifessina  @tenutadifessina  TENUTA DI FESSINA

Cottanera Etna Bianco DOC 2017, Sicily, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

Here on the northern slopes near Randazzo it is Cottanera and its contiguous vineyard in blocks of Solicchiatta, Sotto Cantina, Sopra Cantina, Iannazzo, Fiume and Aurore. This is carricante of flint and citrus, from struck basalt to grapefruit and a remarkable absence of pith. It’s also fleshy and filling, with a minor blanched vegetal note but also with high quality, fine, laser-like acidity. So poised, composed and focused. Just an excellent bianco from adjoining contiguo lands, concentrato e completo. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted May 2018  cottanera   @Cottanera  Cottanera

Tornatore Etna Bianco DOC Pietrarizzo 2016, Sicily, Italy (AgentWineAlign)

The upwardly mobile Tornatore Etna Bianco is from a single-vineyard at 600m, in the Contrada Pietrarizzo. Aging is different, now carricante grapes and just a few percentage points of catarratto five months in big (grandi botti) of 5000L It’s somewhat of a field blend style, albeit with more stature standing taut and firm of a confident structure and texture. It’s found to be almost a bit creamy, with beautiful flavours and prolongated elasticty. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted May 2018  tornatorewines  giuseppetornatore  nicholaspearcewines    @Nicholaspearce_  @tornatorewines  Nicholas Pearce

Planeta Eruzione 1614 Carricante Sicilia DOC 2016, Sicliy, Italy (Agent, $42.99, WineAlign)

Passion projects are not for the faint of heart but they are perhaps reserved for winemakers too smart and too worthy for their own good. Eruzione is such an animal for Planeta’s winemaker Patricia Tóth, a varietal carricante ode (with 10 per cent riesling) to the great and tragic 1614 Etna eruption. If boys don’t cry I still shed a tear or two for history and for my love of this wine. It comes from the black volcanic soil of the Contrada Sciaranuova vineyard, next up the mountain from Contrada Santo Spirito. In ’16 it’s not measured by a low ’14-like pH, not quite as sharp, so therefore fuller and with more unction. It’s still an Etna-bled eruptive white, still beating raw by laser focus out of inspirational terroir. Readier too because it’s been held back a few more months for release. This wine will let you arrive at where you want to be. So many whites are mired in repeatable refrains. “Plastic passion is a Hyacinthe heart. Plastic passion is a transparent tart…Plastic passion is a gold guarantee. The plastic passion is murdering me.” Eruzione is life affirming and though other wines may pay the bills, this cariccante is the cure. Fill your prescription and drink up its passion. It’s the winemaker’s too. Drink 2018-2024.  Tasted May 2018    planetawinery  plant dependent  noble_estates   @PlanetaWinery  @Noble_Estates  @planetawinery  Tóth Patricia  @NobleEstates

#palermo

Nerello Mascalese and Etna Rosso

Feudo Montoni Nerello Mascalese Rosé Sicilia DOC 2017, Sicily, Italy (111252, $22.95, WineAlign)

Adele is roast of a 10 minute press, literally, then into inox tanks. Carries the name of the finest cru of life, not vineyard, but mama. Rosato of the most lithe possibility, remarkable in its varietal nerello mascalese obviousness, singularly fruity but certo to be more sapid than anything else. Where Rosé must go, into the air, from out of the land and the womb. Pure immediacy from the volcanic grape realized and enjoyed. Drink 2018-2020.  Tasted May 2018  feudo_montoni  @FABIOSIRECI  Fabio Sireci Feudo Montoni (Fabio Sireci)  @feudomontoni

Tornatore Etna Rosso DOC 2016, Sicily, Italy (487090, $23.95, WineAlign)

Just a small portion of nerello cappuccio joins the masacalese in Tornatore’s Etna Rosso and it’s not quite as warm as the ’15 tasted in Toronto a month later. Spent one year in 3000 and 5000L botti after a 10 day cement maceration, to ward of reduction. Domenico d’Antino also talks about trying to avoid malolactic, “but the wine will tell you,” and they use the same yeast strain in all the wines. This was just bottled in December and it’s already so clean, transparent and honest, not green but young. It is the epitome of modern, useful and works with a yeoman’s ability to be the teachable one, for consumers and restaurant drinkers, about what is Etna today. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted May 2018  tornatorewines  giuseppetornatore  nicholaspearcewines    @Nicholaspearce_  @tornatorewines  Nicholas Pearce

Barone Di Villagrande Etna Rosso DOC Vendemmia 2016, Sicily, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

A different northern Etna expression is a factor of chestnut barrels, lending a distinct nutty and ulterior earthy notation to nerello mascalese. As a result the fruit is emphasized but the umami is tenured, or at least relegated to another parallel universe. There is a wealth of flavour but also a deep sense of tradition and a world that once was. It’s a bit chalky albeit liquid and viscous with some gariga, leafy, evergreen savour and mountain tea tannin. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted May 2018  baronedivillagrande  katherine_mellin_  @Villagrandewine  @apparitionwines  Barone di Villagrande  Katherine Mellin Apparition Wines

Barone Di Villagrande Etna Rosso DOC Contrada Villagrande 2016, Sicily, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

The self-effacing Contrada is at 700m with a southeast exposure, warmer and mildly humid. This is Etna in purport of what it really is, a Rosso derived off of a volcano, with wild flowers, sweet balsamico drizzled red fruit and this blanched almond or chestnut nuttiness from you guessed it, chestnut barrels. This is using your terroir and what grows, coming from estate trees to mesh naturally with the nerello mascalese (including 20 per cent cappuccio and mantellato) grown here. The aging renders the baby fat and leads this through a portal into dried wild strawberry, white caramel and a slightly smoky beat. There is real texture here to celebrate the singularity of a contrada Rosso. Drink 2020-2027.  Tasted May 2018  baronedivillagrande  katherine_mellin_  @Villagrandewine  @apparitionwines  Barone di Villagrande  Katherine Mellin Apparition Wines

Pietradolce Etna Rosso DOC Solicchiata 2017, Sicily, Italy (538165, $25.95, WineAlign)

The Etna “normale” is one of the DOCs great umami entries into the mountain’s northern portal slope, taken from vines growing at 600m in Solicchiata, Bush (alberello) and espalier training on stony, light sandy loam soils produce this lithe version of the estate style. It’s slightly piqued and spicy, unencumbered and unadulterated. The dry, dusty, sun-soaked and rainless season is to me perfect for this entry-level Pietradolce, even if it turns out to be a challenge for the crus of certain Contrade. This wine does not always give away this much concentration and red berry fruit as it does in 2017. It’s warm but also lined by a cool, stony streak. Not sure the structure from 2017 is as strong as ’16 and I’d rather drink this in 2018 and 2019. This sample is labeled “Campione di Vasca,” not yet bottled but it is a finished wine. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted May 2018  pietradolce  woodmanws  #Pietradolce  @WoodmanWS  Pietradolce Vigneti in Solicchiata, Etna  Woodman Wines & Spirits

Tornatore Etna Rosso DOC Trimarchisa 2015, Sicily, Italy (Agent, WineAlign)

The Contrada Trimarchisa 2015 is fresher than 2014 and more complicated, simply vulcanica, of mainly nerello mascalese with some nerello cappuccio at 600m. The vineyard is close to the river and there was some vintage some rain with uneven ripening. More florals here, with layering and variegation, done up in 2nd passage barrels. The acidity and tannin are intertwined and the violets come out but true red fruit also wrapped in and with the structural components. This vintage is cooler and fresher, with age ability potential confirmed. Drink 2020-2027.  Tasted May 2018  tornatorewines  giuseppetornatore  nicholaspearcewines    @Nicholaspearce_  @tornatorewines  Nicholas Pearce

Benanti Etna Rosso DOC Rovittello 2013, Sicily, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

Benanti’s Rovittello is nerello mascalese (90-95 per cent) with nerello cappuccio grown at 750m from the Contrada of Dafara Galluzo in the area of “Vidalba,” in the Comune Castiglione di Sicilia. Soils are vulcanico, piuttosto sciotto con sabbie laviche e giusta presenza di pietre, or lava with sand and stones. It’s a Rosso of history, welled up into this studious and wise wine, almost perfectly aged, with wood, terroir and fruit in complex combinations. Small sites, older vines and a variegation of soil make this serious and intense. It’s fine and akin to the spoken realm of nebbiolo and sangiovese though also torched by tobacco, earth and ferric necessity. Has entered the early stages of secondary life. Drink 2018-2025.  Tasted May 2018  benantiwinery  lenotecadimorenodemarchi  @BenantiWines  @MorenoEnoteca  Benanti Viticoltori  L’Enoteca di Moreno De Marchi

Vivera Etna Rosso DOC Martinella 2012, Sicily, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

Vivera’s Martinella is mostly nerello mascalese (90 per cent) with nerello cappuccio from vineyards at 550-600m. Contrada Martinella’s soil is volcanic, ricco di scheletro a reazione subcaida, profondità 250 metri. Deep, brooding red fruit and still a touch reductive despite its age, from Irene Vaccaro, hers is a really structured wine with liquorice and tobacco, plums and a chocolate note, as by wood still working its way through the fruit and the vulcanico. Firm, complex and grippy. Very territorial Etna Rosso with spicy bite. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted May 2018  viverawinery  @viverawinery  Vivera Winery

Planeta Eruzione 1614 Nerello Mascalese Sicilia DOC 2016, Sicily, Italy (Agent, $42.99, WineAlign)

Like the yellow lorry carricante thriller it is Etna Rosso incarnate that is portrayed in this Eruzione red lorry nerello mascalese (with nine per cent nerello cappuccio) from up the mountain’s 890m vineyards of (Contrada) Sciaranuova, but with some fruit from lower altitude at 600m. The vine age is part 2008 and part 20 year-old vines and a small section going back 90 years but just a small spot. The higher you climb for nerello macalese the more finesse you acquire. This Eruzione is swimming through lava with it, smoothed by plenty of silky texture, raspberry and chalky liquid tannin. Nerello, “you ain’t nothing but a true embrace. You ain’t nothing but a hidden face.” Your Planeta edition gets neither more refined, elegant nor focused. You’ve been descried as the “alternative classic” or the new light pinot noir. Maybe frappato, but not you, nerello mascalese. Let’s leave you out of the discussion. Leave you alone. Talk about the weather. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted May 2018    planetawinery  plant dependent  noble_estates   @PlanetaWinery  @Noble_Estates  @planetawinery  Tóth Patricia  @NobleEstates

All in, all out Contrade comparative @pietradolce #etna degustazione from #michelefaro e #mariofaro

Pietradolce Etna Rosso DOC Archineri 2016, Sicily, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

Archineri is a trifecta Etna Rosso from the Contradas of Zottorinoto, Rampante and Solicchiata on Mt. Etna’s northen slopes, same soil as the ER DOC and at various altitudes, between 600-900m. The ideal here is aimed at layering and variegation, to take three blocks of similar topography and geology for what is a broad but focused northern expression. Archineri might mean “black bows” or better yet “black arches” and the label offers a whimsical, Beatles’ Yellow Submarine like iconography. This is nerello mascalese that flows like long raven hair, trailing behind beautiful fruit and the classic sweet stone umami of these subtle northern expressions. From a great vintage no doubt and ready to enjoy if need be but will morph and utter more mythologies as time goes by. This sample is Campione di Vasca, not yet bottled, but it is a finished wine. Drink 2020-2028.  Tasted May 2018  pietradolce  woodmanws  #Pietradolce  @WoodmanWS  Pietradolce Vigneti in Solicchiata, Etna  Woodman Wines & Spirits

Pietradolce Etna Rosso DOC Contrada Santo Spirito 2016, Sicily, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

Contrada Santo Spirito Etna Rosso is also on the northern slopes at approximately 850-900m. The Santo Spirito is less subversive than Rampante, more likely to please early but with higher tone and acidities. This really hits the high notes in opposition to the soprano of Rampante. A more mineral for sure if still umami based nerello mascalese with similar aging potential, albeit along a parallel graphing line. This sample is Campione di Vasca, not yet bottled, but it is a finished wine. Drink 2020-2028.  Tasted May 2018  2-3  pietradolce  woodmanws  #Pietradolce  @WoodmanWS  Pietradolce Vigneti in Solicchiata, Etna  Woodman Wines & Spirits

Pietradolce Etna Rosso DOC Contrada Rampante 2015, Sicily, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

Rampante is from Michele Faro’s nerello mascalese way up at 850m, off of prephylloxera alberello bush vines 80-90 years-old. Rampante is in Solcchiata, Comune Castiglione di Sicilia. The soil is franco sabbioso con abbondante presenza di scheletro, sandy loam with skeletal stone fragments. It’s a matter of rusticity and liquid chalk with a young curative meets medicinal perfume. Tannins are quite chalky, as is the acidity without a true integration (in its youth) for structure but it wants to take you there, so you’ll have to exercise extreme patience. Old vines and inherent wisdom are everything here in its purest and most honest form. Few other wines will develop any wilder and earthy secondary aromas than this. Not a wine for the uninitiated. Drink 2020-2028.  Tasted May 2018  pietradolce  woodmanws  #Pietradolce  @WoodmanWS  Pietradolce Vigneti in Solicchiata, Etna  Woodman Wines & Spirits

Pietradolce Etna Rosso DOC Barbagalli 2015, Sicily, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

The estate flagship Etna Rosso Barbagalli is taken from Contrada Rampante in the area that is known as “Barbagalli” in Solicchiata. This northern Etna 80 to 100 year-old pre-phylloxera vineyard delivers the most naturally earth-crusted, umami-laden expression in hyperbole, concentration and peak spiciness. There is a buzz about this nerello mascalese that the rest of the portfolio does not pulse with, neither outward through expressionistic energy nor inward, retracted and self-effacing by implosive feeling. The texture separates itself with multi-faceted tenor and a tremor of explosive potential that might strike at any time, anywhere, any place. This will turn into something ethereal, of that there can be little doubt. Drink 2022-2032.  Tasted May 2018  pietradolce  woodmanws  #Pietradolce  @WoodmanWS  Pietradolce Vigneti in Solicchiata, Etna  Woodman Wines & Spirits

Serious, call me in 20 years @etnadoc Rosso from @cottanera

Cottanera Etna Rosso DOC Dicittassetesalme 2016, Sicily, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

Dicittassetesalme could be translated as “seventeen corpses” but in this case it’s an ancient way of measuring a Sicilian vineyard. One “salme” essentially equals just over 17,000 square metres, or one and a half hectares, more or less. The Dicittassetesalme is nererello mascalese on lavico-argiloso soils, a mix of basalt, limestone and clay. It is structured for the long haul and filled to overflowing with intensities to distract, occupy and take over your senses. It’s a brooding affair while this young, standing firm and strong, raising the hairs on the back of the neck and in demand of full command attention. The future is wide open. Drink 2021-2030.  Tasted May 2018  cottanera   @Cottanera  Cottanera

Good to go!

Godello

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

WineAlign

Garda’s Chiaretto success

Lago di Garda, Torri del Benaco

In northern Italy travel east from Milan towards and beyond Brescia or west from Venice through Verona and you will reach the southern shore of Italy’s largest lake. Lago di Garda is famous for many things, including an open invitation to pass through its gates to reach the Dolomite mountains. On either side of the lake two grand edifices gaze at one another across the crystal clear water. At the southeast end Castello Scaligero di Sirmione and fortress guards the harbour below Monte Baldo and across to the western shore Villa Galnica rises above the lake in Puegnago del Garda. It is on the hills and plateaus behind these great structures where something pink is happening.

Two wine regions on these opposing shores are disparate bedfellows but together sluice the Rosé key to collective success. Bardolino Chiaretto and Chiaretto Valtènesi are the most recent and important Rosato designations in Italy and their hopes, plans and dreams rest on the shoulders of two leading grape varieties, corvina and groppello.

Simply put, Chiaretto (key-are-et-oh) is the Rosé version of Bardolino. It’s made from those same grapes (corvina, rondinella and molinara) and the colour varies from rosy pink to coral-red. “Chiaretto Pink” is the battle cry of the Italian dry Rosato, “a lighter shade of pale,” hence the name “Chiaretto”, which derives from the Italian “chiaro,” meaning light or pale. The grapes are vinified using white winemaking practices, wholly apposite and antithetical to its other usages, namely in Bardolino, Valpolicella, and Amarone.

@chiarettopink @ilbardolino e tutte cose #corvina @villacordevigo #vignetivillabella with Il Presidente Franco Cristoforetti and Tiziano Delibori

As with Garda-west neighbour Valtènesi, Chiaretto from Bardolino’s roots go back to 1896 when Pompeo Molmenti learned of the Rosé vinification technique in France. In 1968 Bardolino Chiaretto was among the first Italian wines to receive DOC (Denominazione di Origine Controllata) status. Since the 2014 harvest, Chiaretto’s winemakers have collectively pursued a “Rosé Revolution,” choosing a pale pink colour and more floral-aromatic notes. Consorzio di Tutela Vino Bardolino President Franco Cristoforetti invokes the Rosé revolution in his introduction of the Chiaretto, confirming the region’s commitment to a very specific style and the key to its success. “Together, the Chiaretto of Bardolino and the Valtènesi Chiaretto,”  explains Franco Cristoforetti, “produce 12 million bottles, placing Lake Garda in the role of absolute leader in the Italian production of Rosé designation of origin.” The region’s greatest ambassadorial asset is Angelo Peretti, an economist and writer who fully understands that by gaining a true sense of community and having a common goal the two regions can be highly successful in their pursuit of Rosé. Chiaretto for the win.

Extending from south to west between the towns of Desenzano and Salò, in the heart of the morainic amphitheater on the Brescia side of Garda, Valtènesi includes the territory of the following municipalities in the province of Brescia, characterized by the microclimate of Lake Garda: Salò, Roè Volciano, Villanuova sul Clisi, Gavardo, S.Felice del Benaco, Puegnago del Garda, Muscoline, Manerba del Garda, Polpenazze del Garda, Moniga del Garda, Soiano del Lago, Calvagese della Riviera, Padenghe sul Garda, Bedizzole. It also includes part of the territories of the municipalities of Lonato del Garda and Desenzano del Garda.

Angelo Peretti

In Valtènesi the first and most commonly employed method makes use of a white vinification with red grapes and a short maceration to obtain colour, by direct pressing of the destemmed and crushed grapes. The second makes it possible to obtain more hue and structure in Rosato by means of a short maceration of the must and grape seeds in order to increase the extraction of anthocyanin and tannin. The first process is specifically used to vinify Rosé wines only. The second, not so widespread method has the primary purpose of enriching and improving the remaining red wines, which remain in the tank, after the subtraction, for salasso. The regulatory board instructs that the release for consumption of Valtènesi Chiaretto may take place from the 14th of February following the harvest, while the release for consumption of Valtènesi can take place from the 1st of September after harvest. The Denomination of Controlled Origin (DOC) was recognized in 1967.

Alessandro Luzzago is the President of the Chiaretto Valtènesi consorzio and tells us that over the last four years the Valtènesi have been working with the association of Provençe, sending their wines over to see where they are in relation to the region that produces the type of Rosé they want to imitate. The communication is leading to making better wines. “A change of philosophy is taking place and perspective,” notes Luzzago, “you start the work in the vineyard, thinking of Rosé.”

Anton Potvin, Bill Zacharkiw, Pascal Arsenault and Paola Giagulli on the shore of Lago di Garda

Back in October of 2017 I joined a group of intrepid sommeliers for a week long investigation into the wines of Bardolino, Valtènesi and Custoza. A report of the red, whites and sparkling from these regions will follow but this is strictly a Chiaretto exposé. I tasted these wines with thanks to the producers, John Szabo M.S., Bill Zacharkiw, Anton Potvin, Nadia Fournier, Maja Baltus, Brad Royale, Al Drinkle, Véronique Dalle, Pascal Arsenault, kidnapped American turned adopted Canadian Nicolas “Nicky Ray Beaune” Capron-Manieux, our chaperones and educators, Angelo Peretti and Paola Giagulli. Here are 30 reviews of Bardolino Chiaretto and Chiaretto Valtènesi.

Welcome to the new @chiarettopink on the #Bardolino shores of #lagodigarda #rosato #discoverchiaretto #lefraghe #villacalicantus #leginestre #poggiodellegazie #albinopiona #gentili

Bardolino Chiaretto DOC

Bergamini Bardolino Chiaretto DOC 2016, Veneto, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

Bergamini is located in Lasize with 13 hectares of vineyards farmed organically but not certified. The Bardolino Chiaretto is corvina of the minimum 70 per cent plus rondinella and molinara. Subjected to a 24 hours soak and it is the combination of location and the full maceration that drifts a bit darker than some, yet with plenty of salty sapidity. The molinara brings the salt. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted October 2017  bergaminiaziendaagricola  Bergamini Azienda Agricola

#chiaretto @chiarettopink #rosato #bardolino #discoverchiaretto

Cantina Di Custoza Bardolino Chiaretto DOC Biologico Terre in Fiore 2016, Veneto, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

A gathering of corvina, molinara and rondinella in the simplest Rosato, so similar in profile to the cantina’s whites. Metallic and balmy at the sam time, like citrus salve on a copper pipe. Drink 2017.  Tasted October 2017

Cantina Di Custoza Bardolino Chiaretto Classico DOC 2016, Veneto, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

Customer’s Chiaretto Classico is the conventional one, also like the cantina’s whites but with more mid-palate weight and overall intensity. This carries some acidity, real, natural or otherwise. Drink 2017-2018. Tasted October 2017

From tbe #bardolino shores of #lagodigarda to Toronto, benvenuti @chiarettopink Rosati to @pizzalibretto … @winerypoggiodellegrazie @tenutalapresa #villabella #lefraghe #gentili #caveg

Cantina Di Negrar Bardolino Chiaretto DOC 2016, Veneto, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

The cooperative’s Rosato is a full and fleshy one, with a healthy 7.8 g/L of residual sugar after two hours of skin-contact and a compressed version of gentle pressing. This is Rosé from an outfit that makes 1.2 million bottles of Amarone, one tenth of the total production in the area, out of a cooperative made up from 230 members. They produce 300,000 bottles annually (inclusive of the two different Chiaretto), this being the tart one, somewhat saline but more so tangy with the sugar so it’s ultimately sweet and sour Rosé. Would love to have had a bottle or two of this around with Cantonese food in 1975. Drink 2017-2018.  Tasted October 2017  cantina_valpolicella_negrar  @CantinaNegrar  @CantinaValpolicellaNegrar

Cantina Castelnuovo Del Garda Bardolino Chiaretto Classico DOC Ca’ Vegar 2016, Veneto, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

From vines with some established street cred (10-25 years old) the Ca’ Vegar is Rosato raised on promises and morainic, calcareous-cay soils. It’s a traditional Lago di Garda blend of corvina veronese (80 per cent) with rondinella (15) and molinara. So similar in vein to the Spumante and the Custoza in that it’s faintly herbal, with mild acidity and a rustic, sweet coppery sensation. This is just one of those really inexpensive far from petty wines that taste just fine for the less discerning but who also won’t drink fake and dishonest wine. You could sell the farm to promote and get temporarily rich off of pushing this Chiaretto. She was, a Veneto girl. Drink 2017-2018.  Tasted October 2017  cantinacastelnuovo  @BoscodelGal  Cantina Castelnuovo del Garda

Casaretti Bardolino Chiaretto Classico DOC Rosa Dei Casaretti 2016, Veneto, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

Classic Rosato from the eastern shore of Lake Garda, composed of corvina (70 per cent), rondinella (20) and molinara. Both colour and impression suggest a somewhat longer bleed though its maintains freshness, lightness and a reserve of attitude. It has some but also more fruit than many other examples, of red berries but not in any over the top way or tangy hyperbole. Pays ode to its reductive side of the Chiaretto tracks. Drink 2017-2018. Tasted October 2017  stefano_rossi  Azienda Agricola Casaretti

Le Fraghe Bardolino Chiaretto DOC Rodòn 2016, Veneto, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

Chiaretto Rõdon is 80 per cent corvina and 20 rondinella picked at red wine phenolic ripeness and subjected to six hours skin contact, i.e. a quick (50 saignée) and 50 pressed (no maceration) soak. Rõdon means pink (or Rosé in Greek) and Le Fraghe the “wild strawberry” which this so closely resembles. This is a prime example of how screwcap helps to keep freshness because it’s an easy wine (and varietal) to oxidize. This is really sapid, dry, sharp but so beautifully finessed Rosato. If you need to know the present and immediate future of Chiaretto Pink, look no further than this perfectly pure and honest effort from Matilde Poggi. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted twice, October 2017 and January 2018  #lefraghe  #matildepoggi      Le Fraghe  Matilde Poggi

Matilde Poggi and John Szabo

Le Fraghe Bardolino Chiaretto DOC Rodòn 2017, Veneto, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

In a stroke of pure Rosé genius and unwavering consistency Le Fraghe’s Matilde Poggi writes the next Chiaretto Pink chapter with this piu salé 2017 Rōdon. It’s both charming in its rusty rusticity and yet also crisp, clean and perfectly tangy. The wild strawberry is faint this early on and still beneath the sweet aromatic compost but by the time late spring comes this will bring all that fragola pleasure and unbridled joy. Rōdon is as good as Rosato gets in all of northern Italy. Drink 2018-2020.  Tasted February 2018  #lefraghe  #matildepoggi      Le Fraghe  Matilde Poggi

Gentili Bardolino Chiaretto DOC 2016, Veneto, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

Gentili sits above Costermano in the northern part of Lago di Garda, with high altitude vineyards, high sand soils with stone and light clay. The second generation winemaker follows in the footsteps of his father who started in the late 1970’s. “My dream was to select the best vines from the best vineyards.” Bardolino Chiaretto 2016 comes from the same vineyards as the red but not the same grapes. There is a selection here, from corvina, rondinella and molinara (60/30/10). This has the faux sugary, South African chenin blanc styled extract, tannin and personality. Apple and peach skin, somewhat tropical, fresh, vital and then a bite into red apple. A tart, somewhat sweet and crisp apple. Different than some Chiaretto but there is no residual sugar here. In its completely dry state there too is no flint, sulphite or struck notes. Very interesting. Drink 2017-2019. Tasted twice, October 2017 and January 2018  Azienda agricola Gentili

Le Ginestre Bardolino Chiaretto DOC 2016, Veneto, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

From oenologist Marco Ruffato, here Chiaretto comes from a vintage of low sugars and quiet phenols, but high acidity so expect a specific style that is lean, direct and prompt. A 24-hour soak in tank with no enzymes and then sulphites after fermentation. Mainly (80 per cent) corvina with rondinella and corvinone, all together leaving this at a great pale Rosato. Also with thanks to the Pergola training. So direct, really quite beautiful, on the right side of acidity. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted October 2017  leginestrewine    Marco Ruffato

The genesis of #tortellini perfect #loveknots so proud to have tasted the care of 58 years from Alceste and Nadia Pasquali #jewellcaskets #borsavallegio

Le Morette Bardolino Chiaretto Classico DOC 2016, Veneto, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

A typical blend of corvina (55 per cent), rondinella (35) and molinara picked in the production area of Bardolino hence the label “Classico.” You really get the peach skin and ubiquity of strawberry, also with a fresh squeezed lemon, juiced and tart. So very tangy and a sour candy flavour takes to a dry finish. Truly a “made” Rosato in a compressed and reserved style, lean and near-searing. Drink 2017-2018.  Tasted October 2017  lemorettelugana  @Le_Morette  @lemorette.lugana

Il Pignetto Bardolino Chiaretto DOC 2016, Veneto, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

From a southeastern location on the outer morainic range of Lake Garda, the Morando famiy’s Bardolino Chiaretto is composed of 60 percent corvina, (20) rondinella, (15) molinara and (five) sangiovese. A gentle 12-15 hour soak on the skins promises classic Chiaretto texture and flavour, broad in the mouth, with tons of lemon mixed into red fruit and a decided leesy texture, from some bâttonage. Really easy drinking with good acidity. Drink 2017-2018.  Tasted October 2017  ilpignetto  Cantina Il Pignetto

Silvio Piona

Albino Piona Bardolino Chiaretto DOC 2016, Veneto, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

Silvio Piona’s Chiaretto is from Custoza, in the south of Lago di Garda, between the lake and the city of Verona, the furthest village south in Bardolino. Albino Piona goes back to 1899 and here 118 years later we find a fine and elegant Rosato, void of power because frankly it never needs it. Fruit and spice, but certainly light, a prodigy by glacial till, some argileux clay and alluvial deposit. A different soil than up where they make Chiaretto on the steps of Monte Baldo. The climate is still the same and heavily influenced by the lake. Piona’s may or not be 100 per cent corvina, which would technically be illegal, so if you read this don’t write about something Albino may or may not have got a way with, the quasi legal Chiaretto. Light and fruity, sapid and fresh, just openly aromatic enough, knock it back Rosato. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted October 2017  Silvio Piona    Azienda Agricola Albino Piona  Monica Piona

Tenuta La Presa Bardolino Chiaretto DOC Baldovino 2016, Veneto, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

Baldovino the brand is corvina (70 per cent) with rondinella (20) plus molinara and the Bardolino outlier, sangiovese. Sourced from a twofold terroir, the Caprino Veronese and Località La Presa. Baldovino’s is the palest of the coppery-hued Chiaretto, with more sugar than is perhaps warranted and as so suppresses the inherent saltiness of the parochial appellative spirit. That said the salinity insists on paying heed to some necessary balance and proper personality so in the end this technically sound Rosato points the compass’ arrow straight up the DOC ruler’s median line. Drink 2017-2018.  Tasted October 2017  tenutalapresa    Tenuta La Presa

Poggio Delle Grazie Bardolino Chiaretto DOC 2016, Veneto, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

Out of Castelnuovo del Garda, Poggio delle Grazie’s is exactly what any doctor would and should order for a Chiaretto prescription. This a very fruity, ripe and balanced Rosato, from the predominant corvina (80 per cent) and rondinella. Raised only in stainless, 12 hours on skins, with the first vintage having been 2014. A very lithe and pretty strawberry blush, with rounder acidity than most, but light and perfectly pleasant. An 8,000 bottle export possibility steal at 4.0 euro ex-cellar. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted October 2017  poggiodellegrazie  winerypoggiodellegrazie  Poggio delle Grazie – ufficial page  Elisabetta Panetto  Massimo Brutti

Vini Rizzi Bardolino Chiaretto DOC Marco Polo 2016, Veneto, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

Highly typical Garda blend of corvina, rondinella and molinara from Cantina Seiterre, a group with holdings in Piemonte, Toscana, Valpolicella and here, in Bardolino. Big box Rosato yet full of weight and secondary thoughts. On the darker side of Chiaretto hue but in retention of the light and the salty, at least in terms of citrus and floral aromas, mild berry flavour and approved texture. Drink 2017-2018.  Tasted October 2017  cantina_seiterre    Cantina Seiterre Verona

Cantine Tinazzi Bardolino Chiaretto Doc 2016, Veneto, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

Tinazzi makes wines in the Veneto and Puglia and the Chiaretto is drawn off of the Valleselle Estate in Bardolino. The blend is 70 per cent corvina, with molinara and rondinella for a straight-ahead fruity and vinous Rosato, tart, the red fruits felt coated by a lactic, yoghurt shell. There’s a semblance to something akin a later harvest Rosé, something that could only happen in the Veneto. Drink 2017-2018.  Tasted October 2017  cantine.tinazzi  @CantineTinazzi  Cantine Tinazzi

Valetti Bardolino Chiaretto Classico DOC 2016, Veneto, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

Valetti’s Rosato is composed from 70 per cent corvina, 20 rondinella plus the outlier, 10 sangiovese. The faux sugary Rosé sniffed blind could very well be value Cape South African chenin albeit with a rhubarb savoury edge. Yet it has reached a phenolic ripeness which only the Bardolino area can achieve, unlike in Valpolicella where corvina can’t get there from here. It’s the Mediterranean climate and you feel it here. It gets neither more straightforward nor more small village, family tight commercial than this. Textbook Chiaretto. Drink 2017-2018.  Tasted October 2017  valetticantina  @CantinaValetti  Azienda vinicola Valetti Luigi srl

#vignetivillabella #villacordevigo #discoverchiaretto #bardolino #corvina

Villabella Villa Cordevigo Bardolino Chiaretto Classico DOC Biologico 2016, Veneto, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

Organic Chiaretto from 75 per cent corvina and 25 rondinella, for what Franco Cristoforetti refers to as “the Rosé revolution that started in 2014.” A short maceration/time on skins does the right thing for hue and in extracting citrus and orange from the corvina skins. Here it’s very much more like a white wine produced from red grapes, the only imagination of colour being red fruits, and so the method and the style deliver as much palate replay as any Rosé on the planet. So very not vinous and so far from the oxidized style that was still so very prevalent in the recent past. The difficult 2014 vintage marked the turning point. Picking was accomplished between September 10 and 20. Drink 2017-2018.  Tasted October 2017  vignetivillabella  villacordevigo  @VillaCordevigo  @VignetiVillabella

Villabella Villa Cordevigo Bardolino Chiaretto Classico DOC Heaven Scent 2016, Veneto, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

Heaven Scent in the words of Franco Cristoforetti offers “the feeling like here was to be in heaven,” speaking of his vineyards and this “place in the sun at Cordevigo. The style is similar to the Bio VillaBella but it thinks more in terms of an international customer, with less acidity and further roundness on the palate. More lemon but a preserved, compressed one and less orange. Still produced from the dominant corvina and the picking times are the same, albeit now in a less structured, milder acidity result. Drink 2017-2018.  Tasted October 2017

Villa Calicantus Bardolino Chiaretto Classico DOC 2015, Veneto, Italy (Agent, $31.95, WineAlign)

Villa Calicantus is the organic, biodynamic, terroir defending, smallest of Bardolino estates passion project of winemaker Daniele Delaini and his natural, vin de garde wines on the moranic hill above Bardolino and Lazise. Higher up than Cavaion, in Calmasino. Delaini also produces a bigger and deeper Rosato called Chiar’Otto but this Classico ’15, though very different than most still adheres to the paler, lighter and cleaner DOC example. Mostly. It’s certainly less of a geek out Rosé but again, like the Otto its methodology is essentially descried to that of a red wine. Young vines of corvina, rondinella, molinara and sangiovese of extremely low Chiaretto yields, native yeasts, five months of ageing in small still wood vats and zero clarification dole out a base, forward and natural blush. This just feels like trouble melting away and like a child comfortable in its alternative skin. A child encouraged and allowed mutual respect and friendship with its parents. For Daniele, sometimes you make the wine and sometimes the wine makes you. Drink 2017-2021.  Tasted October 2017  villacalicantus  thelivingvine    @TheLivingVine  @VillaCalicantus  The Living Vine inc.

Villa Calicantus Chiar’Otto Vino Rosato ADXVI 2016, Veneto, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

Chiar’Otto is Daniele Delaini’s Vino Rosato from a natural fermentation, the name meaning “Big Rosé” as opposed to the smaller, lighter and saline examples directed by the Bardolino Chiaretto DOC. The deferential and apposite qualities in Delaini’s are at the far end of the morainic Garda spectrum, far and away from any other winery in the entire region. It’s oxidative, the natural wine that isn’t, but it spills over in ubiquitary must while acting Garda-funk specific. This is a red wine spoken in a gamay cru way, almost Jura, like trousseau, but it really smells of oranges, red fruit and also the calcareous soil from which it comes. It’s certainly possessive and expressive of these affinities but also a matter of open barrel, overnight fermentation. Otto is the outlier and the pioneer for what the future holds in Rosato off of Bardolino lands. As a red wine of light composition and soil-loyal admonition it’s very good. As a Rosé it requires further understanding and evolution to elevate its game. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted October 2017  villacalicantus  thelivingvine    @TheLivingVine  @VillaCalicantus  The Living Vine inc.

Daniele Domenico Delaini #villacalicantus welcoming I Canadesi to #levignedeibardolino at #fortedegenfeld

Zeni Bardolino Chiaretto Classico DOC 2016, Veneto, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

Substantial vine vigour and generous yields of corvina 50 (per cent), rondinella (40) and molinara deliver substance in perfume. It begins with fennel and lemon thyme urged forward by a feeling of sulphur and Saccharomyces. Lean and tart on the palate, simple and easy in dimension. Drink 2017-2018.  Tasted October 2017  zeni1870  @Zeni1870  @zeni1870

Chiaretto Valtènesi

Valtènesi Chiaretto DOC

Cantina la Pergola Valtènesi Chiaretto Classico DOC Riviera Del Garda 2016, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

The blend is groppello (60 per cent), marzemino (20), barbera (10) and sangiovese (10) in a well extracted and bled, highly flavourful Rosato expressly Chiaretto and decidedly Valtènesi. Even the name suggests something haute in class and couture, for relaxation time, on a shore, in the sun. Ever-bearing strawberry and cherry meet a clay richness smack in the middle where salt and air collide. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted October 2017  @cantinelapergola

Costaripa Valtènesi Chiaretto DOC Rosamara 2016, Italy (SAQ 11415121 $20.90, WineAlign)

Costaripa’s Valtènesi Chiaretto is the perfect opener to gain a contrastive and apposite feeling from across the lake on this western side of Garda. It is here that Rosato takes on a decidedly Provençal feel. Nicole Vezzola explains. “I feel as much French as I do Lombardian.” Groppello is such a delicate grape and here the percentage is set around 60, with marzemino, plus 10-15 sangiovese and barbera. Costaripa is the only winery fermenting 30 per cent in old barrels before making the blend. “My father (Mattia Vezzola) believes that to make a good Rosé you have to make a blend, of varieties and parcels.” As a grape groppello carries more spice than let’s say, pinot noir, but this is a Rosé matter so the reference point need be cinsault, grenache and mourvèdre, but it’s just a matter of idea that starts and ends there. “The aim we have as Valtènesi is to shift the idea of colour to a structured wine.” It alights with lightness and freshness, then moves to salinity and finesse. Structure is more ideal than reality, or perhaps in Rosamara, just a different state of mind. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted three times, October 2017  costaripa  nicolevezzola  lenotecadimorenodemarchi  @costaripa  Costaripa

Godello with Nicole Vezzola

Costaripa Valtènesi Chiaretto DOC Molmenti 2013, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

The Molmenti Chiaretto spent two years in tonneaux and two years in bottle. This is something completely different for Rosé, treated with red wine poise and attention. Same blend as the Rosamara, with the intention to create more structure and ultimately, longevity. The saltiness persists and there is weight, even metallurgy but very little wood-addendum. The lightness of Rosé just doesn’t really attract too much barrel sheathing, perhaps in mild spice and texture, but not in bitters, tannin or any sort of salve. This too because even with two years of barrel time there is no achievement of malolactic, thanks to temperature control but also by virtue of being a low acidity, Mediterranean climate wine. Molmenti is likely a whereabouts that you have never been to before, in so many ways. There are a mere 4,000 bottles for a Rosato in command of 13 euros, cellar price. Drink 2017-2022.  Tasted October 2017  costaripa  nicolevezzola  lenotecadimorenodemarchi  @costaripa  Costaripa

La Guarda Chiaretto Valtènesi DOC 2016, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

Here Chiaretto exemplifies its position as a most characteristic and typical wine of the west coast of Lake Garda. A few hours of pressing leads to the desired pale, salmon and peach skin colour, replayed in stone fruit aromas mixed with citrus and dried clay. Stainless steel is used to lock in freshness and preserve aromatics. Guarda makes use of the characteristic processing method called “levata di cappello,” litterally to “take of the hat” with their classic blend of groppello, marzemino, barbera and sangiovese from the morainic hills of the Valtènesi. This is one of the more sapid tasting Chiaretto though with a mild mannered acidity. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted October 2017  @LaGuardadiNegri

Pasini San Giovanni Il Chiaretto Valtènesi DOC 2016, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

From Raffa di Puegnano (a fraction of the Brescia municipality on Lago di Garda), in contest for a perfect introduction and overview of the area of Valtènesi. Pasini’s is a blend of all four grapes, including sangiovese at less than 10 per cent (but for strength), whereas the groppello is 65 per cent, with the barbera (for acidity) and mazemino (sugar) delivering the overall balance. This organic Rosato is what Paolo Pasini refers to as the “overnight wine,” a child of only a slight vinfication and brief contact with the grape skins at the midnight hour of the first night. Carries the western Garda personality in pocket but with more sulphite-struck rock and iodine saltiness, even a note of hematic plasma. The palate delivers some sugar (4-5 g/L), just up from the bone dry style, not obtrusive but acting with the metallurgy on the nose to tun out more compression and down weighting. Price is 6.65 euro, ex-cellar. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted October 2017  pasinisangiovanni  @polpasen  @pasinisangiovanni

Pasini San Giovanni Chiaretto Valtènesi DOC Rosagreen 2016, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

Unlike the classico Chiaretto, the skin-contact is elevated from eight to 24 hours in the Rosagreen. It’s also a switch to varietal, single-vineyard (Soiano) groppello. The groppello can handle the triple contact time without darkening and compressing, remaining in its necessary state, vital and energetic. Not so much the sapid style but plenty of verve plus the elegance and easily achieved balanced by the singular and solo groppello. Conversely dried too, with less than 2 g/L of RS. Just a touch more expensive at 7.10, ex-cellar. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted October 2017  pasinisangiovanni  @polpasen  @pasinisangiovanni

Scolari Chiaretto Valtènesi DOC 2016, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

Scolari’s is the thoughtful, intuitive and even philosophical Chiaretto, a matter so gentle, pale and in their words, to “know how to grasp the fleeting moment.” The first and most pristine clusters of groppello, marzemino, barbera and sangiovese are chosen for the production of Chiaretto, into contact brief and subtle then moving to separate the must from the skins. What is fundamental is the sensitivity of the maker, who “must apply technology as art.” Scolari’s begins with salinity and a silky texture, passes by wild berries and then ends with a bitter almond note. It’s textbook and yes, everything is accomplished with a whisper, all things mild, even acidity and then the moment is gone. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted October 2017   #cantinescolari  Cantine Scolari

Lago di Garda, Torri del Benaco

Good to Go!

Godello

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

WineAlign

The great Gabbiano

@castgabbiano in light of expression and meaning

A return visit at Castello di Gabbiano

Federico Cerelli is Chianti Classico’s new renaissance ranger, a man on a mission to not only seek out great terroirs but also to reinvent what can be induced, coaxed, persuaded and realized from his denizens of field and plantation. Though Castello di Gabbiano’s portfolio is a massive project with scopic reach, Cerelli never rests on complacency, laurels or sales figures. There is no settling for average at Gabbiano or the blasé delivery of unexciting wines just because you’ve already earned the trust of your buyers. If a Gabbiano owned or managed vineyard in Mercatale Val di Pesa requires the cash to improve the health of the vines or to rip out and replant, than it is done. Can there be a finer example of commercial scope meeting artigianale than the quixotic and obsessive Castello di Gabbiano?

About his masterpiece novel F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote “I want to write something new, something extraordinary and beautiful, simple and intricately patterned.” Like the vineyards of Gabbiano but also a project in Radda in Chianti that is Federico’s new baby, that being the remarkable IGT Toscana work at Poggio di Guardia with Stefano di Blasi. It is there on a storied plot and historical estate where they are producing sangiovese with cabernet, merlot and amphora raised rebo. Cerelli can thank the work he’s put in at Gabbiano and the team who support his endeavours for this springboard to something exciting and new.

Gabbiano’s hills in Mercatale Val di Pesa

Related – Three days, eight estates, Chianti Classico

A return visit to the 12th century Castello di Gabbiano touches an estate and a castle that remained in the possession of the Florentine banking family Bardi until the early part of the 15th century. After it passed to the Soderini family, one of the most politically influential families in Florence, it was converted of the turreted manor house of Gabbiano in Fattoria, already completed by the late 15th century.

Today the 147 hectare estate is divided up into DOCG Chianti Classico (109 hectares), IGT (35) and Vin Santo. I have had the pleasure to taste with winemaker Federico Cerelli, Managing Director Ivano Reali and Marketing Director Silvia Bottelli on several occasions and this most recent sit-down focused on vertical looks at Riserva and Gran Selezione. Ivano is responsible for directing the complete renewal of all estate vineyards including new plantings and managed improvements to the estate’s winemaking facilities and practices. At the start of our visit Federico drove us to the ridge opposite and to the east of the castle and winery to gain a clearer ante-understanding of Gabbiano’s soil types, slopes, aspects and exposures. Looking at the blocks you can intuit how the two men work side by side with meticulous attention, verging on obsessive, to focus on agriculture and how it connects to winemaking. Federico and Ivano are in constant analytic contact with the vineyards and corresponding production methods. There is no rest for these two. Later on our discussion on Gabbiano and Chianti Classico carried over to dinner at the estate’s restaurant, Il Cavaliere. These are my notes on the seven wines poured.

Triumvirate #chianticlassico Riserva and Gran Selezione verticals at @castgabbiano with Federico Cerelli 2011-2013

Castello Di Gabbiano Chianti Classico Riserva 2015, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (216309, $22.95, WineAlign)

The consistency of the Gabbiano Chianti Classico Riserva continues in 2015 and it is becoming increasingly impossible to find matchable quality at this price level. The 2015 is a Riserva of extreme youth, really grippy, full, extracted and liquid chalky rich. Don’t misunderstand or be duped because this ’15 isn’t brighter than the more than surprising ’14. It is not a question of stepping back from success and time will be a factor for both longevity and the preservation of freshness. So it is a matter of vintage. This carries an early and spicy sangiovese wisdom and this will serve it well. It’s frankly a bit hot right now but that too will relax. With each passing year another rung is ascended up the CCR ladder forged by the Federico Cerelli and Ivano Reali Gabbiano union. Drink 2019-2028.  Tasted September 2017  castellodigabbiano  markanthonyon  @castgabbiano  @MarkAnthonyWine  @castellogabbiano  Ivano Reali (Castello Di Gabbiano)  Mark Anthony Wine & Spirits

Castello Di Gabbiano Chianti Classico Riserva 2014, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (216309, $22.95, WineAlign)

Now tasting with winemaker Federico Cerelli he says he wasn’t even sure he would make Riserva out of 2014 but with more skin contact and longer maceration he was able to add some structure. The depth is the thing. This will age much longer than most would choose to give it credit for.  Last tasted September 2017

The difficulties presented by the vintage were determinate in excluding the Gran Selezione Bellezza from production so it is that bottle’s loss that became the Riserva’s gain. The single vineyard’s 2014 yield may not have been stellar but its significance is not lost on the overall Riserva gathering, down 40 per cent in quantity. It is here that we see the expertise of a winemaker like Federico Cerelli, to work with new parameters literally thrown at him by chaos and uncertainty. Less than 18,000 bottles came out of 2014 and the wine saw its expected time in barriques and botti, none of which were new. This is CCR of sangiovese brightness meets firm ’14 grip. The varietal freshness is preserved in ways previous vintages were not. Once again this incumbent year is put on vivid display, befallen to knowing hands and forward thinking minds. The aging potential here is excellent. Drink 2018-2029. Tasted February 2017

Castello Di Gabbiano Chianti Classico Riserva 2013, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (216309, $22.95, WineAlign)

The advanced character is minor but poignant, as expected and predicted. A touch of balsamic, softness and richness.  Last tasted September 2017

First and foremost it is the wood, or the lack of wood that stands out in the CCR 2013. It may be observed as a different kind of wood, less polished and more natural but what really wins out is the fruit. The cherries are surfeited by impressed tannin and linger with good tonic for a good length of time. Great restraint shown by winemaker Federico Cerelli. Drink 2018-2024.  Tasted June 2016

Burrata e pomodoro at IL Cavaliere del Castello di Gabbiano

Castello Di Gabbiano Chianti Classico Gran Selezione Bellezza 2013, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (652438, $39.95, WineAlign)

Bright, structured, vibrant, just in a great state, with tons of fruit and yet it will continue to improve, over the next two or three years.  Last tasted September 2017

Tasted with winemaker Federico Cerelli alongside the new era ushering 2012, a wine with six months further resolve, which is really just a moment in life. Looking at this 2013 it clings to that ’12’s ideal, still firm and in need of down time, stirring still, wasting some time. Here a gear switch, alteration and adjustment. A reduction of new oak, an increase of the mineral cogitation specific to the Albarese soil, with tannins great like in 2012 but finer, more elegant. This is more classic in the sangiovese thought because what also is allowed is the level of dry extract, “over 30 for sure” notes Cerelli. This Bellezza is pure sangiovese, the best Bellezza in years, classic to remind of many years ago but a very modern wine. It is the Gabbiano predicament and the predilection to announce what Gran Selezione means so in a word, bravo. You could actually drink this now and then over 25 years. “What is Bellezza? This is the best block of the estate” is the answer as told by Federico. Great tannins, simply great tannins. Drink 2019-2032.  Tasted May 2016 and February 2017

Castello Di Gabbiano Chianti Classico Gran Selezione Bellezza 2012, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (652438, $39.95, WineAlign)

Quite antithetical to the bookends of 2011 and 2013 this feels a bit cooked and raisined at this stage though it’s certainly a different sort of vintage and forged from a deferential set of structure parameters. Enjoy earlier while the others work their slower evolutions.  Last tasted September 2017

Sangiovese all in, 100 per cent pure-blood and nothing but new barrels to round off every divergence, angle and edge. Expectations demand secondary characteristics from such a bella Chianti and this piccolo Gran Selezione delivers. In 2012 it over-delivers, already hinting at tertiary aromas and flavours, leathery, cedary and potent. Due to its advancing ways it’s a bit of a double-edged sword, albeit carried by a knight on a beautiful horse. It’s a joust we should all be willing to wage in the near to medium term, especially if a Florentine steak or double cut-veal chop are part of the battle. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted February 2016

Castello Di Gabbiano Chianti Classico Gran Selezione Bellezza 2011, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (652438, $39.95, WineAlign)

Tasting Gabbiano’s Gran Selezione Bellezza 2011 in 2017 is a treat of timing and perhaps the advantage is unfair, also for having already tasted 2012 and 2013 on two occasions each. The slings, arrows and raptures of experience offer perspective for having waited out this Chianti Classico borne of a hottish and dry season. Now having gained another two years in bottle it has benefited from the integration and the settling. I really get true sangiovese character, savoury, tart, energetic but certainly sheathed in more new barrel than the more recent and scaled back vibrant 2013. Really chewy, this ’11 has come together in such an amenable and fortuitous way. Drink 2017-2024.  Tasted September 2017

Ristorante Il Cavaliere at Castello di Gabbiano

Gabbiano Dark Knight 2016, IGT Toscana (Agent, $17.99, WineAlign)

Dark Knight is cabernet sauvignon and merlot from the Tuscan coast with some estate sangiovese, It’s lush, dark, silky with a little bit of residual sugar (7 g/L). Fruity, simple, faintly sweet and for so many commercial purposes, it’s a slam dunk. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted September 2017

@castgabbiano in light of expression and meaning

Good to go!

Godello

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

WineAlign