Seventeen in VINTAGES February 4th, 2017

breakfast

as seen on WineAlign

Familiar and not so familiar Europe, always cool chardonnay, seeing South African red (and a white)

These past two weeks have been difficult, bizarre and disturbing to say the least. No one is immune to thinking about the twists, turns and horrors of recent world events. With no disrespect to activism, especially on a personal level, at WineAlign our job as critics is to find ways to keep the machine running, in other words, to focus on wine. In 1975 Saturday Night Live did a skit in which Paul Simon played one-on-one basketball against one-time Harlem Globetrotter and NBA legend Connie Hawkins. Just before the game sports reporter Marv Albert asks Simon about his strategy in going up against The Hawk. “Uh, but I’ll just have to play my game, as I usually play it,” says Simon. “I mean, I’m not gonna change anything, I’ve gotta stay with my strengths… basically, singing and songwriting.” At WineAlign we’ll simply do the same.

Wines across the Mediterranean are a primary focus of the VINTAGES February 4th release. A great number of them will coax a feeling of familiarity and there are others that may not ring a bell. In any particular wine purchasing scheme it is always best to strike a balance between the poles of available options so best approached by looking to one and then the other. While France, Spain and Italy will always deliver the tried and true, a gem of a geeky or otherwise deferential varietal can be unearthed if your mind and your heart are open. Get into the corners and alleys of habituated Europe but also a place like Greece. You will marvel at how it can change your outlook to usher in the most interesting of times, in life and in wine.

Related – Only one in VINTAGES January 21st, a writer’s defence and nine more

A view through Vouraikos Canyon from Mega Spileo Vineyard

A view through Vouraikos Canyon from Mega Spileo Vineyard

Don’t worry. I’m not going to run off and wax rhapsodic about wines found “off the beaten path,” argue on the semantics of what exactly that means or how it should be defined. But I will tell you a little story. In July of 2016 I visited one of Europe’s most extraordinary vineyards, found in Achaia, located in the northern Peloponnese. At the top of this incredible canyon you stand at the foot of another even more imposing and massive rock face that is home to the 11th century Mega Spileo monastery. Gazing north through the cracks in the mountain cragges you can see the azure blue waters of the Gulf of Corinth. Looking straight down you see the greenery of the healthy Mega Spileo vineyard. The entire footage leaves an indelible mark. What’s the point? The point is to get out there and make discoveries. This also applies to what can be found in the VINTAGES catalogue.

Related – Seventeen for January 7, 2017

#cool

Chardonnay is always in the spotlight so why should February 4th be any different? This past summer at Niagara’s Cool Chardonnay conference I found out that we have to look at organoleptics and ask a very important question. Is your expectation of a Chablis going to be the same as chardonnay made from anywhere else? More important, who are we putting this wine in front of? Ian D’agata’s take struck a Canadian chord. He talked of “a welcome astringency characterized by piercing flavours. These are cool-climate wines. Cool climate chardonnay is not about a long litany of fruit descriptors. If you have a cool-climate viticultural area it behooves you to give the people what they are looking for.” More cool chardonnay examples available on this release are worthy of your time and your dollars.

Bush vines, Groot Drakenstein Mountains @AnthonijRupert Wyne @WOSACanada #lormarins #franschhoek #southafrica #winesofsouthafrica #mesmerizing

Bush vines, Groot Drakenstein Mountains @AnthonijRupert Wyne @WOSACanada #lormarins #franschhoek #southafrica #winesofsouthafrica #mesmerizing

South Africa is a geographical and geological land of wonder, of ancient soils and picturesque intrusions. Extreme examples include the shale and schist of Swartland that turns into dust and the granite domes of Paarl, which are 30 million years old. We are talking about beginning of time stuff, but how does it impart into wine? Taste more than just a few South African reds and you will get a sense.

I’ve said it before and will repeat myself. South African wine is not what we thought it was. This mantra can’t be repeated often enough. Ventures into the Cape wine lands, tastings and zealous immersion into Stellenbosch, Paarl, Franschhoek, Swartland and Hemel-En-Aarde see to that. If you’ve not visited you can’t possibly know what revelations lurk but you can get a glimpse by drinking South African wines here in Ontario.

Familiar Europe

sierra

Sierra Cantabria Selección 2014, Doca Rioja, Spain (Agent190520$14.95, WineAlign)
@RiojaWine  @azureau

nimes

Château d’Or et de Gueules Les Cimels 2013, AC Costières de Nîmes, France (Agent480301, $15.95, WineAlign)
  @RhoneWine  @VINSRHONE  @NaturalVines

Grand Cru Riesling, Alsace

Grand Cru Riesling, Alsace

Jean Biecher & Fils Schoenenbourg Riesling 2014, AC Alsace Grand Cru, France (Agent, 469767, $23.95, WineAlign)
  @AlsaceWines  @drinkAlsace  @VinsAlsace

not-all-terroir-is-created-equal-cinque-cru-barone_ricasoli-granselezione-castellodibrolio-chianticlassico-massimilianobiagi-francescoricasoli-stefanocapurso

Five terroirs of Ricasoli

Barone Ricasoli Castello di Brolio Gran Selezione Chianti Classico 2013, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (Agent, 942607, $59.95, WineAlign)
@barone_ricasoli  @chianticlassico  @imbibersreport

Not-so familiar Europe

There's a new obsession in town- #campania @vinalois #falanghina #greco #fiano #aglianico #pallagrello #pallagrellonero #palagrellobianco #cassavecchia #pontepellegrino #therealcampania #massimoalois #vinialois #brandnewdaywines #bndwines

There’s a new obsession in town- #campania @vinalois #falanghina #greco #fiano #aglianico #pallagrello #pallagrellonero #palagrellobianco #cassavecchia #pontepellegrino #therealcampania #massimoalois #vinialois #brandnewdaywines #bndwines

Ponte Pellegrino Greco di Tufo 2015, IGT Campania, Italy (Agent477760, $13.95, WineAlign)
@vinialois

prunotto

Prunotto Mompertone 2015, DOC Monferrato, Piedmont, Italy (Agent, 388587, $18.95, WineAlign)
  @HalpernWine  

alicante

Tommasi Poggio Al Tufo Alicante 2013, IGT Toscana, Italy (Agent, 70797, $22.95, WineAlign)
@UNIVINS  @Tommasiwine

Mega Spileo Monastery

Mega Spileo Monastery

Domain Mega Spileo Red 2010, Peloponnese, Greece (Agent, 466110, $29.95, WineAlign)
@DrinkGreekWine  

chenin

Domaine F L Savennières Chenin 2012, AC Loire, France (Agent470971, $33.95, WineAlign)
@DomaineFL  @vinsdeloire

spatlese

Maximin Grünhäuser Abtsberg Riesling Spätlese 2014, Pradikätswein, Germany (Agent, 481374, $39.95, WineAlign)
  @germanwineca  @WinesofGermany

More cool chardonnay

citry

Simonnet Febvre Bourgogne Chitry 2014, AC Bourgogne, France (Agent, 479667, $19.95, WineAlign)
@SimonnetFebvre  @LouisLatour1797  @ImportWineMAFWM  @BourgogneWines  @vinsdebourgogne

Blue Mountain Vineyards Phoo: (c) www.bluemountainwinery.com

Blue Mountain Vineyards
Phoo: (c) http://www.bluemountainwinery.com

Blue Mountain Gold Label Brut Sparkling, Traditional Method, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia (Agent, 206326, $28.95, WineAlign)
@BlueMtnWinery @rogcowines  @winebcdotcom

Time to taste at Domaine Queylus

Time to taste at Domaine Queylus

Domaine Queylus Tradition Chardonnay 2014, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (Agent, 489591, $24.95, WineAlign)
@QueylusVin  @Dandurandwines

luminous

Beringer Luminus Chardonnay 2014, Oak Knoll District, Napa Valley (Agent, 395699, $39.95, WineAlign)
@beringervyds    @NapaVintners

South African reds (and a white)

Rustenberg R.M. Nicholson 2013

Rustenberg RM Nicholson 2014, Wo Stellenbosch, South Africa (Agent, 278390, $19.95, WineAlign)
@RustenbergWines  @WoodmanWS  @WOSACanada  @WOSA_ZA

mentors

The Mentors Shiraz 2012, Wo Paarl, South Africa (Agent, 403618, $29.95, WineAlign)
@KWVwines  @Dandurandwines  @WOSACanada  @WOSA_ZA

Avondale_Wines_Jonty_s_Ducks_Pekin_White_web

Avondale Jonty’s Ducks Pekin White 2015, Wo Paarl, South Africa (Agent, 439554, $15.95, WineAlign)
@Avondalewine  @RareEarth_Wines  @WOSACanada  @WOSA_ZA

 

I would like to wish you all great February release wine hunting and gathering. The WineAlign team is in travel mode these days but rest assured the reviews from upcoming VINTAGES releases will be dutifully covered. I’m off to Antiprime Toscane next week and will be back in time for everything March. The February 18th release will find a focus on Australia and March 4th, well, it’s anyone’s guess!

Good to go!

Godello

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

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In the Campania of Vini Alois

There's a new obsession in town- #campania @vinalois #falanghina #greco #fiano #aglianico #pallagrello #pallagrellonero #palagrellobianco #cassavecchia #pontepellegrino #therealcampania #massimoalois #vinialois #brandnewdaywines #bndwines

There’s a new obsession in town- #campania @vinalois #falanghina #greco #fiano #aglianico #pallagrello #pallagrellonero #palagrellobianco #cassavecchia #pontepellegrino #therealcampania #massimoalois #vinialois #brandnewdaywines #bndwines

A few weeks back Devon Masciangelo of Brand New Day Wines and Spirits asked if I would have the time to taste through the full portfolio of Vini Alois. I first met Massimo Alois in the fall of 2014 when the Italian Trade Commission rolled out the red carpet at Toronto’s Roy Thomson Hall for the 19th annual tasting of Wines from Italy. At the time I was struck by Massimo’s varietal Cassavecchia called Trebulanum.

Related – Off the beaten Italian path

Last March a varietal Pallagrello Nero showed up through a VINTAGES In-Store-Discovery release and once again the light went on. With two memorable wines in the bank I was quick to respond to Devon’s request. IN! And then I broke two bones in my foot. So Massimo had to come to me, with BND chaperone Jarek Morawski. I don’t normally conduct tastings in my home but Massimo was happy to oblige.

Related – Eight is Enough

Massimo and his father Michele so perfectly fit the description I had considered after that Italian tasting two years ago. “You can’t help but notice that modern winemakers with a wistful eye are casting reflexively into the past with a hunger for vinous resurrection. By grafting their pre-Phylloxera ancient vines onto healthy root-stock they have turned the varietal compass on its head. As they have moved through their days with an open-mind to the panoply of grape interactions, they have beget the endemic revival. Old is new again. Meet the awakening of the Italian grape vernacular.”

Vini Alois is the dream of Michele Alois, his winery set amongst the Campania foothills of the Caiatini Moutains in the province of Caserta, on a plateau consisted of nine hectares. His family’s roots are in the silk business. “The name Alois is synonymous with quality in the production and creation of silk cloths that are present in the most famous rooms of the world: from the Italian Parliament to the White House, to the Louvre Museum. Born in 1885 in the time of Ferdinand IV of the Bourbon family, the Alois factory built a constant success under the head of the household, until 1992 when Michele Alois planted 9 autochthonous grape varietals and created a double activity for the already established family dynasty.”

Campania has enjoyed success from a holy trinity of whites, of Greco di Tufo, Falanghina and Fiano di Avellino. But it is in the higher altitudes and volcanic soils where these grapes, where aglianico and especially the ancient and endemic varietals, Casavecchia and Pallagrello, really find their special way. The Ponte Pellegrino “entry-level” wines from Alois should do very well and open the door to the rest of the portfolio. So thank you to Devon and Jarek for sending Massimo my way. Such a fascinating tasting to enforce the adage that endemic is the new vino da tavola.

pp

Ponte Pellegrino Falanghina 2015, Igp Campania, Italy (Agent, $17.00, WineAlign)

Tasted with Massimo Alois, the first of ten in a line-up covering two ranges, the Alois all estate and this Falanghina-Ponte Pellegrino from 10-15 percent estate plus purchased grapes from two provinces, Caserta and Benevento. There are approximately 200,000 bottles produced and the queu is so named for the tiny cellar and first vineyard location. This is honest to goodness spot on rich, almost waxy and very golden sunshine-amassed falanghina. It is blessed with such terrific acidity despite the warm but balanced vintage cast in a five-year span out of which systemization and harmonization change and challenge every year. This to Massimo is more like 2010, warm and balanced, unrelenting and typical in its assignment off of volcanic soil. Drink 2016-2018.  Tasted November 2016

Ponte Pellegrino Greco 2015, Igp Campania, Italy (Agent, $17.00, WineAlign)

Set up by Massimo Alois to be tasted between the falanghina and the fiano and for very good reason. The 200,000 bottle output of the Ponte Pellegrino “entry-level” wines are sectionally estate and regnant to the provinces of Caserta and Benevento. The greco channels more dry extract than the falanghina so conversely more weight and structure, a bit more intensity and acidity. This is true and yet foiled by a preserved lemon and chardonnay or chenin-like organoleptic quality from a wine that is not easy to vinify because it oxidizes easily. So here it resolves with such evolved flavours quite beautifully archived in a more than affordable entry-level package. Though it won’t age it presents for here and now pretty exposition. Draws less from its volcanic base and more from the clay. Drink 2016-2017.  Tasted November 2016

Ponte Pellegrino Fiano 2015, Igp Campania, Italy (Agent, $17.00, WineAlign)

Massimo Alois pours his fiano behind the falanghina and the greco in order to examine the ternary relationship between and the way in which the latter goes to great lengths to elicit strengths from the first two. This is a step up to an even richer pandemic Ponte Pellegrino from sandy soils in the provinces of Caserta and Benevento plus one seventh homespun estate fruit. The chomp down bite and elastic chew are subdued by a swelling tumescence on the palate, closer to greco than falanghina. Possesses that far reaches of the mouth acidity with similar weight to the greco. Really a best of both worlds Campania for either camp to seek indulgence, typicity and above board fiano relevance. Drink 2016-2018.  Tasted November 2016

Ponte Pellegrino Aglianico 2013, Igp Campania, Italy (Agent, $18.00, WineAlign)

So many things conspire to bring this provincial Ponte Pellegrino aglianico into perfect entry-level form here in the autumn of 2016. First and foremost is a sense of utter freshness from its gifted volcanic soil. Second is the less is more approach from Michele and Massimo Alois. Third is the volcanic terroir. Did I already mention that? It is presciently less pressed, smothered, angular, tannic and edgy than what secretes from other aglianico terroirs. Smoother in texture, red fruit redolent and potent from the Alois vineyard (60-70 per cent) and raised only in stainless steel. The question begs. Why doesn’t everyone make aglianico this way? The answer abjures. Because of the soil. Drink 2016-2020.  Tasted November 2016

alois

Alois Caulino Falaghina 2015, Igp Campania, Italy (Agent, $22.00, WineAlign)

Caulino is the estate grown falanghina raised of a totally different élevage than the Ponte Pellegrino. It is fermented for more than five to six weeks with regular batonnage and plenty of racking. Massimo Alois is seeking purity and clarity and so the lees are removed, always cleansing the wine. Immediate notice is given by the pure essence of stone edging to citrus, like kaolin liquified (go figure, with poetic namesake extrapolated license) or imagined from hydrous aluminum silica, like clay into china. Caulino comes by way of very low yields (less than 2kg per plant) and so the resulting inward impression is almost impossibly beautiful, so crisp and pure. There are less than 30,000 bottles made and you will note some bonafide structure and a real easy on the palate creaminess. If falanghina like this is approached with ulterior motives and misguided ways it will go dirty (torbido) as it is a grape (not unlike the others) very susceptible to the lees taking on microbes. Drink 2016-2020.  Tasted November 2016

Alois Caiatì Pallagrello Bianco 2014, Igp Terre Del Volturno, Italy (Agent, $27.00, WineAlign)

Caiatì is 100 per cent endemic to Campania pallagrello bianco, from the Casertan dialect “u pallarell,” or “small ball,” in reference to the grape’s tiny, round shape. Less than half (maybe 33 per cent or so) of the juice is racked to 3rd or 4th (neutral) oak, urged past malolactic with some batonnage into June for a long (seven month) fermentation. The other half makes use of some noble lees stirred once a month for four months in stainless steel. The two parts are bottled insieme after one year. Their accrued accumulation is nothing if not creamy, like unsweetened honey of naked, viscous purity. Such a grape requires the careful calculation of time, like this volcanic and limestone bianco grown at altitudes up to 900m on land friable with clay on the Caiatini Mountains. The name may carry little meaning passed down through generations but the wine shines like Chablis, albeit on a bank more fruit than mineral. Drink 2016-2021.  Tasted November 2016

the-union-of-campania-massimo-vinalois-aglianico-and-volcanic-soil-magic-volcanicwine-campole-massimoalois-vinalois

The union of #campania. Massimo @vinalois #aglianico and #volcanic soil #magic #volcanicwine #campole #massimoalois #vinalois

Alois Campole Aglianico 2013, Campania, Italy (Agent, $22.00, WineAlign)

f you are looking for reasons or have ever wondered why aglianico is so difficult to grow successfully beyond Campania you only need a basic 101 sense of ancient geology. Or a few minutes with Massimo Alois. The Campanian simply doesn’t work in limestone insists Alois, why, because in such a terroir it goes strraight to the savoury and gets Damien mean. So if “you give me miles and miles of mountains…I’ll ask for the sea.” Or a volcano. Here from 100 per cent volcanic soil Campole comes across so naturally volcanic with blessedly terrific red fruit, like creamy rice cooked in aglianico, pulsating and alive. It’s simple really. “Volcanoes melt you down.” Drink 2017-2022.  Tasted November 2016

Alois Murella Pallagrello Nero 2013, Igp Terre Del Volturno, Italy (Agent, $30.00, WineAlign)

Pallagrello is native to the hills around the Campanian town of Caiazzo, and referenced in numerous historical texts, including the Roman “Pilleolata” from the work of Pliny the Elder. In the 19th century it was called by the name “Piedimonte Rosso.” The Pallagrello Nero from Alois sees 18 months in large (85 hL) botti followed by 18 in (25 hL) smaller 10-20 year old casks. The lengthy aging process is necessary for the rustic, natural, perfectly, expertly, so subtley volatile wine. Like greco in hot summers the varietal is subject to certain microbes and the conditioning brings a spicy, subtle volatility or “highlights.” The flavours recall salumi, in cured feelings of gastronomy and this is what makes this wine most drinkable. Such wise older barrel impart but a fruit expression with a citrus, limestone twist. Though this is ready for an immediate go it will offer a 10 year (from vintage) kind of ageablity. Drink 2016-2023.  Tasted November 2016

Alois Settimo Casavecchia Pallagrello Nero 2014, Igp Terre Del Volturno, Italy (Agent, $22.00, WineAlign)

Settimo is composed from casavecchia and pallagrello nero, a working combination of two Campanian horses, vinified separately and then thrown together. Well, not so much thrown as much as the pallagrello sidling up to the casavecchia left overs (as in second wine) after the top tier varietal Trebulanum. This is something special for a “second wine,” a national, seventh heaven, high-stepping over seven bridges affair bringing great breeds together. Shares affinities with high quality reds from disparate places, very Bordelais or perhaps even like a Rhône GSM. Savoury and decidedly Mediterranean, of black olive and tea, garrigue, herbal and dusty. Very cool. Drink 2017-2021.  Tasted November 2016

massimo-alois

Massimo Alois

Alois Trebulanum Casavecchia 2012, Igp Terre Del Volturno, Italy (Agent, $42.00, WineAlign)

Pliny spoke of a “Vinum trebulanum” from a place called Trebulanis in Campania. In Cicero’s letters a reference is made to Pontius’ house at Trebulanum. From high-level historical figures to a 21st century vine that survived Phylloxera and the parasite fungus of Oidio dated 1851,Trebulanum sits at the pinnacle of the Alois pyramid. The “old house” is from low-yielding hermaphroditic casavecchia, blessedly developed without tight bunches. The antithetical red Campanian, the organic varietal, so resistant to disease, hardy, tough and self-sufficient. Casavecchia is the “cleansed wine,” with 50 of the hL drawn from the 85 hL botti, while the other 35 go to Settimo. After separation it undergoes 18 more months in 25 hL casks, plus one extra year in bottle. A breath of Campania altitude and the frehest of air pervades the perfume. Here the hue is so much deeper, the wine deeply impressed. Unlike the Pallagrello or the blend this represents the perfectly natural expression of Campania, deep and pure. Flowers are redolent for the first time and then there is this exceptional note of citrus. So fresh, for now. I would expect this to gain a smoky stature, some porcine roast and naturally cured, nebbiolo-like tar and roses. Drink 2016-2022.  Tasted November 2016

Good to go!

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

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