Crush on Benjamin Bridge

Benjamin Bridge Vineyards

It’s late October and I’m walking the vineyard with viticulturalist Scott Savoy who gestures below our feet into the genius loci where multiple layers of loam and sandy loam are mixed with river stones. In the vested interest of micro-climate orientation he points out the modest mountain ridges to the north and south, the stretch of valley to the east and west, to the big Bay of Fundy beyond and back down to the earth. He notes the fault line running diagonally away from the crush pad and tasting room, through the vineyard and down the slope to the river below. Today the namesake belongs to the winery but Benjamin Bridge is first and foremost a place. We all want to know about its history because there is something very special here. In this valley the apples are different and the vines grow berries smaller and unique. It’s a place that pulls on the heartstrings of innate curiosity.

Related – Consider the Gaspereau Valley

It comes from the name of the bridge that crosses the Gaspereau Valley and pays tribute to the Benjamin family who dammed up the river to become the first industrialists here. The name is a historical one, not one of fashion, trends, aggrandizement or narcissism. The ownership and the management of Benjamin Bridge Vineyards are fully cognizant of their place within a King’s County pantheon, of the past and for the future. Who among them wouldn’t pay a king’s ransom to protect it? They fully recognize how the tenets of farming, progression, life, struggle and ethos came before them and will continue long after they are gone. Just in case their work in making sparkling wines headed up by chief winemaker Jean-Benoit Deslauriers is not legacy defining enough they recently supplied a bottle of Benjamin Bridge Méthode Classique Brut Reserve 2012 to christen the first Irving Shipyard built Arctic patrol vessel. Sophie Trudeau used the bottle to christen the Harry DeWolf during an October ceremony on the Halifax waterfront. An interesting and poignant aside, this gesture.

Frost damage at Benjamin Bridge

The 2018 Nova Scotia harvest will live in infamy and perhaps not for the reasons everyone involved will want to remember. Frosts, rain, grape growing pressures and more frosts reduced quantities so drastically that emergency fruit was transported across two provincial borders from Ontario, a fact not lost as a notion that is pathetically-monopoly ironic. Annapolis Valley Vineyards were looking at losses of at least 50 per cent following a late Sunday frost overnight and into the morning of June 4th. Temperatures plummeted from the high 20s just two days earlier to minus three degrees celsius. There were some miraculous exceptions to the rule, like Avonport’s Oak Knoll Isle but damage ran from 20 to 100 per cent. Frost that settled in the lowest sections of valley vineyards were hardest hit.

All that happened to Nova Scotia’s wine industry plus more in, outs and twists than a Coen brothers comedy-drama and yet the greatest things happened anyway. The community of growers and producers banded together, traded grapes, shared experience and pulled each other through. This is a place where everyone understands that making wine is not about one vintage, individual accomplishments or accolades. Turning grape water into wine is a life-long partnership with the land, with the weather, the Bay of Fundy and each other. Success is wrought with challenges, adversity and responses to the contretemps of the day. Such tremendous odds give credence to Nietzsche saying “that which doesn’t kill you makes you stronger,” leading to an alignment with a maritime band of brothers and sisters. The year 2018 is the vintage during which the Nova Scotia wine producers in and around the Annapolis Valley were forced into a situation of needing one another and to become les retrouvailles, the reunited.

#lookoff in Canning, Nova Scotia

At the fore of this happenstance is Benjamin Bridge Vineyards, both in terms of being the helped and the helper. The Gaspereau Valley sparkling wine specialist is the unquestioned leader of their cottage wine industry and for so many reasons. Decisions made more than a decade ago to invest everything into this stretch of land south of the Bay carved through two micro-climate catalyst ridges for the purpose of creating the newest and most important innovative sparkling wine on the planet is nothing short of historical. The speed bumps may be serious but mark my words (and by many who have stated this before me), Nova Scotia is second only to Champagne for making the kind of sparkling wine we should and will want to drink. No disrespect intended to Franciacorta, Alta Lange, Prosecco, Crèmant de Loire, Bourgogne, Jura or d’Alsace. No ill will meant towards Sonoma County, Ontario, British Columbia, Tasmania, England or Roberston’s Méthod Cap Classique. I love you all but Nova Scotia can raise grapes for traditional method sparkling wine in ways and with results that blow everything else out of the proverbial water.

Not sure you need the banger. Jacket should scare them off!

Case in point, time and again, with variations on the theme, measurable and of a ceiling reckonable through infinite possibility. In this part of Canada vinifera varietals like chardonnay, pinot noir and pinot meunier can linger well in the autumn months, reach brix levels ideal for sparkling wine and still maintain acidities at levels all other regions can only dream of. The effect of the Bay of Fundy creates a unique environment, plain, simple and complex. Imagine adding up the flow of all the rivers in the world and asking that accumulation to submit to the power of one body of water’s tides that lower and rise as much as 17 metres every day. The Bay is like an air pump that moderates climate. Frosts be damned the picking in the Gaspereau of grapes just ripe enough for making wine is the latest anywhere. In Franciacorta for example picking of chardonnay happens in early August, just to keep natural acidity. In California it’s July and in the dead of night. We have begun to taste Nova Scotia bubbles at eight, nine and ten years on their lees. The results are astonishing with a combination of texture and acidity never seen before. As I said, the ceiling is boundless.

Crush at Benjamin Bridge: Chris Campbelll, Godello and Jean-Benoit Deslauriers

The charge at Benjamin Bridge is led by founder Gerry McConnell who purchased the property with his late wife Dara Gordon in the Gaspereau Valley in 1999. McConnell worked with Canadian oenological consultant Peter Gamble and Sparkling Wine Consultant/Champagne specialist Raphaël Brisbois to establish vineyards, a protocol and a long-term strategy for making world-class bubbles. Within three years of launching the project they knew it would work.

Sunday morning, #Kingsport Nova Scotia

The unfortunate passing of Raphaël Brisbois left a huge hole in the hearts and the ethos of the BB project but great timing, fortune and intellect came to the company in the extraordinary ethic and cerebral meanderings of head winemaker Deslauriers. Originally from Québec, J-B joined in 2008 and for 10 years has explored, extrapolated and elevated the game. No combination of diversity and focus is more apparent than it is now at Benjamin Bridge.

Winemakers at work, Jean-Benoit Deslauriers, Alex Morozov and Chris Campbell

The team on the ground and in the cellars is led by Head Viticulturist Scott Savoy and Chris Campbell who aides, abets and manages the trilogy of harvest, cellar and production operations. Alex Morozov is Assistant Winemaker to Deslauriers. Gerry’s twin daughters Devon and Ashley McConnell-Gordon have run the daily operations of the winery since early 2010, Keltie MacNeill manages the BB Club and Gillian Mainguy is the face of the place. Some of you may remember Gillian at Wines of Nova Scotia but now she is marketing, public relations and tireless world traveller on behalf the BB brand.

Racking chardonnay with head winemaker Jean-Benoit Deslauriers

In the third week of October I spent 48 hours with the gang at Benjamin Bridge. Crushing, talking, pressing, tasting, pumping, discussing, racking, ruminating, walking and speculating. There is a foundation of land, people and spirit you can’t know until you come here to really know.

The base is the matter and what matters comes from the great base

The discussion with Gerry and Jean-Benoit is now woven into the fabric of relationship with Pascal Agrapart who has been making wines at Champagne Agrapart & Fils since 1983. BB is keen on keeping a lineage with Champgane, a connection, to pursue more richness, texture and wines structurally rounder and fuller. Says Deslauriers, “we’re looking for the growers taking a Burgundian approach to winemaking, in the vineyard first. Pascal’s wines have always had that compelling textural quality.” Has anyone in Canada ever taken a grower’s approach to sparkling wine is the question. Here in Nova Scotia these are the wines with a stamp, of an equation in confluence from estate plus local vineyards and growing environments. The wines are not in jeopardy by adding this richness. “We still recognize the parcels we have selected through the wines we have made. There is still an inherent Benjamin-ness to the wines, ” adds Chris Campbell. I tasted the following wines off the record, some unfinished and others still who are the children of experimentation but even more so as matters of conceptual links to the reasons why Benjamin Bridge even exists at all.

Minas Friday morning

Brut 2016

Part estate and part Kingsport chardonnay fruit, with effervescence not the thing but it should tell a story. Already showing off its richness, density and concentration, even herein the “entry level,” the first full vintage for and from Pascal’s influence and tutelage. Cool stuff in here, decoupement particulare, this taking of different parcels for micro-vinifications.

Brut Reserve 2016

Of chardonnay and pinot noir, from the oldest estate blocks. There is so much more complexity, legit and from the word go. The terpenes are exceptional ones, and that is something they can be, built on acidity. Even without bubbles you can fully relate to it as the wine it knows it is. Grapefruit and tangerine, dry and sumptuous. The base is the matter and what matters comes from the great base. Perspective comes at you in solicitation of your emotions and opinions in many ways. You don’t always need CO2 to make contact with sparkling wines.

The future

Blanc de Noirs 2016

Now into pinot noir this new perspective makes you want to admit that it may be that chardonnay and pinot noir come together with a higher ceiling as a sum of their parts. Here it’s the antithetical aromatics of lemon rosewater and an amaro-herbal-red currant thing. Also oranges with spirit and a linger that reminds of the best athlete, with the greatest potential, but not the flashy star who scores early and often. 

Brut 2017

The secondary fermentation is only a few weeks old and it’s a very primary notation, with the bubble still on the way up. The rise is lime as a slow crawl along a coaster’s upward track, welling with tension and a coursing flow of anticipation. By way of comparison there is a tonic phenolic uprising either not noted or now having dissipated from the 2016.

Peculiar samples

Brut Reserve 2017

Once again the youth and the young phenols of very early fermentation but also a course led by the most unusual of vintages, cold and wet all summer long followed by 30-plus degrees in September and October. That’s 30-plus higher than right now in 2018. The contact here is unlike ’16, almost agitating and certainly unsettled. It would prefer not to be bothered at this time.

Brut NV

A non-vintage ’16, tirage in ’17. Could be vintage-dated but isn’t and won’t be. Higher acidity and more of the tonic phenolic-ness that the young ‘17s are showing. So I conclude that the NV is less structured and as an acumen-accumulated base wine it’s like a Blanc de Noirs or a reserve when younger. The translation states they are not only on to something and a real pattern is forming but they really know what they are doing, in separating micro cuvées and the outstanding wheat from the excellent chaff.

Kingsport cabernet franc

While I tasted these unfinished wines and other tank samples I also assessed 10 new wines from the portfolio. Here are my notes. The prices are all Nova Scotia retail from the winery.

Benjamin Bridge Méthode Classique Brut 2013, Nova Scotia, Canada (Agent, $45.00, WineAlign)

Disgorged June of 2018, now four plus months in bottle. Right from the beginning it is energy, spirit and tension. It’s mostly chardonnay but suggests richness marked by toast and flint. Quite a smokiness, not from oak, but an autolytic one. A true wine of secondary fermentation, naked and smouldering. Richness comes naturally, in second term existential notability, followed by density and length. The linger turns to mineral and salinity and you really want more right away, to layer upon what’s still left lingering behind. This is the Benjamin Bridge project incarnate, defined, teachable house style. The words of Jean-Benoit Deslauriers echo in your head, “with the possibility of absolute transcendency.” Eventually. Drink 2018-2028.   Tasted October 2018  benjaminbridge  liffordgram  @Benjamin_Bridge  @LiffordON  @benjaminbridgevineyards  @liffordwineandspirits

Benjamin Bridge Méthode Classique Brut Reserve 2012, Nova Scotia, Canada (275396, $74.95, WineAlign)

Now into a real vinous notion, with extra concentration that reminds you how Reserve wines have to be perfectly exceptional as still wine. The bubbles bring an added dimension but they are not the be all, end all. The richness here is taken to another level, still of course with a toasty edge but it’s the 2002 blocks of estate chardonnay and pinot noir (then 10 years old) that deal in this endearing fruit and enduring length. The sip expands and increases, with knowledge that it is that fruit, very apple orchard but a variety not fully known that drives this wealth. It’s also knife-edged and able to keep this youthful tension cut and fissured through the mouth. Not a sprinter but a climber able to amble and scramble up to heights for a decade plus. Drink 2018-2029.  Tasted October 2018

The following two wines were tasted in 2017 and a few months earlier at #i4c 2018, Ontario’s Cool Climate Chardonnay Conference in Niagara.

Benjamin Bridge Méthode Classique Estate Blanc De Blancs 2013, Nova Scotia, Canada (Agent, $119.50, WineAlign)

Tasted from a bottle disgorged in May 2017, there alights a plugged-in, three-pronged, dazed, charged and enchanted energy about the Bridge’s ’13 Blanc de Blancs. The history of go it alone pure chardonnay is a relatively short one for the estate so this quickly makes up for lost time or rather with haste sets the timer and heads out at first light. “Like sittin’ on pins and needles, things fall apart, it’s scientific.” Wild, of talking heads temper and yeasts, done up in demi-muids, with a wilder secondary fermentative push riding on the coattails of the primary fermentation. Everything in this wine is a productive child of the vineyard, of no third party sugars or consultations. “How do you do that without making a Pétillant Naturel,” I wonder aloud. It’s a second ferment, non-contiguous is the reason, even if the former is both influencer and mentor to the latter. It certainly falls under the category of “micro-cuvée. Like its cousin and predecessor (Blanc de Noirs 2011), this ’13 BdeB is mired intensely inward within its own specificity and is not so much a sparkling wine with competitive soul. It is a pure representative of chardonnay grown in Nova Scotia for one purpose. So let’s talk about true stories and wild, wild life. “You get on board anytime you like.” Drink 2018-2024.  Tasted July 2017

Benjamin Bridge Méthode Classique Estate Blanc De Blancs 2012, Nova Scotia, Canada (Agent, $119.50, WineAlign)

The vintage 2012 marks the beginning of the Benjamin Bridge oak program, here with some purchased fruit from friends and neighbours Lightfoot & Wolfville. This January 2018 disgorged bottle spent 66 months on its very, very fine lees and represents the inaugural departure away from reductive chardonnay in traditional method housing. Its acidity is striking, ripping and amazingly shot straight up to light and ignite the olfactory nerve. That is seems another six months to a year will only lead to textural and mouthfeel home improvements tells us there is seemingly no ceiling for how long on lees these south Fundy shore valley sparkling wines can go. The research is still one in progress but this much we know. The house of Nova Scotia is built on acidity. It’s a commodity much of the rest of the wine-growing planet will want to pay anything to use. Drink 2018-2024.  Tasted July 2018

Now back to October 2018.

Benjamin Bridge Riesling 2016, Nova Scotia, Canada (Agent, $24.95, WineAlign)

With time rieslings change drastically, much more so than traditional method sparkling, completely disconnected from their youth. So where is this going? Energy, tension, Nova Scotia. This is a Bay of Fundy riesling, ocean-wise, saline, poignant, direct. There are herbs and fennel but already this onset of glück and proverbial riesling stamp. Lemon-lime, tart angling, green to ripe apricot. Mostly fruit from grower John Warner, it’s not too edgy, a dry, albeit 15 g/L RS style. The Mosel frame is obvious and the ceiling for potential great but this strikes me as being three to four years away from really moving into another gear. Drink 2020-2027.  Tasted October 2018

Benjamin Bridge Riesling 2013, Nova Scotia, Canada (Agent, $24.95, WineAlign)

There is something I can’t simply put a nose or a finger on. It’s floral but also aerified, stratified, stratospheric, atmospheric. It’s sugary honeyed and very beeswaxy but not in a sticky way. The balance is a roundabout one where you have to travel the entire circumference in order to tie the whole room together. Something umami meets intangible allows you to imagine where 2016 will travel but it’s just an inkling coupled with a hunch. The wax is lit or rather unlit, snuffed, smouldering and beautiful. So worth this five years forward visit. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted October 2018

Benjamin Bridge Sauvignon Blanc 2017, Nova Scotia, Canada (Agent, Approx. $47.95, WineAlign)

The 2013 was the inaugural release and so here the fifth marks the man, the myth, the legend. Should sauvignon blanc be a Nova Scotia something, grown here is this tiny stretch of narrow valley? The answer is no but taste the impossible results and then try to say it with a straight face. A man who loves Sancerre and has the vision to stick with this project through unsurmountable odds and adversity deserves to drink his very own, very excellent sauvignon blanc. This 2017 strings forward a great moment of continuity although in less tropical, more saline and increased tension ways. There is an infiltration by tonic, lemon and lime and yet still explosively aromatic with citrus peel that connects the two vintages by way of this unequivocal substance and emotion. Let’s wait on this buffering streamer. Drink 2020-2027.  Tasted October 2018

Benjamin Bridge Sauvignon Blanc 2016, Nova Scotia, Canada (Agent, $47.95, WineAlign)

The difference between this and the previous vintage is turbidity, having it and not. It’s a negotiable varietal that doesn’t really prepare for winter and it’s not a match made in heaven with the climate. That said the adversity makes for wines of great interest. Not driven by rational motivation but by passion and love, from 0.75 tonnes of yield per acre. Explosive from the concentration delivered to each privileged berry. Dry extract is through the roof. The passion fruit on this ’16 is uncanny, almost tropical in fact it really is and yet in the end there is a revival of salt, tonic and lime. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted October 2018

Benjamin Bridge Nova 7 Sparkling 2017, Charmat Method, Nova Scotia, Canada (256289, $24.95, WineAlign)

You’ll be pleased to know that Nova 7 is a child of wild ferment and made in 15,000 cases. It’s not tied to any real natural winemaking processes, but considering all that is in the balance it was decided not to add any sulphur in the winemaking process, only before bottling. Hard line indeed. No messing with the aromatic spectrum, not the terpenes nor the esters or anything else, so that the wine has developed its full aromatic possibility. Just the greatest lithe hint of effervescence, the crushable one, better than mega purple sweet confections for people who want to drink flavour. Peach, strawberry and juicy fruit for the people, for everyman, woman and non gender specific imbiber, for people in the sticks who don’t, won’t and can’t drink grower’s Champagne. Aromatic backbone is New York Muscat, plus ortega, seyval blanc, l’acadie, vidal, riesling, chardonnay (and no perle). “It’s all a lot of oyster and no pearlA, perfect for this long December. And no need to swirl, so you get a kick from the natural CO2. Drink 2018-2020.  Tasted October 2018

Benjamin Bridge Cabernet Franc Rosé Small Lot 2017, Nova Scotia, Canada (Winery, $26.95, WineAlign)

“We knew in this season we wouldn’t have enough for a full-on commercial Rosé,” tells Jean-Benoit Deslauriers. This was harvested same day, red or pink, November 10th, whole cluster pressed for a few hours and then after débourbage transferred into concrete egg. There is remained for nearly six months and in March it was highly turbid at ferments’ end. No fining, no filtration, never a sulphur addition with thanks to natural acidities that protect. It’s a perfectly lovely oxidative note with creaminess brought by the egg, never to be stripped away. It emulates the Kingsport vineyard and the varietal. Orange skin, salinity and integrated variability, with good tonic bitters. Even a bit of firmness of tannin that says its come into its own now and will be a cerebral bit of fun for two or three more years. This is Rosé very much meant to be. There were in and around 200 cases made, this essentially estate exclusive, with a few exceptions. Drink 2018-2021. Tasted October 2018

Benjamin Bridge Cabernet Franc Small Lot 2016, Nova Scotia, Canada (Winery, $57.95, WineAlign)

Still from the Kingsport farm fruit, a whole cluster ferment, no messing with stems, fully oxygenated, no carbonic maceration, 30-40 per cent whole bunch. Total output is “a barrel and a bit.” An infused aromatic ferment, green spice and a char of tobacco, utter intensity, compelling and a phenolic reality. “A myth buster incarnate,” says JB, ripened beyond the sensory borders, miles away from other territories, with generosity and juicy ripe legs. From a warm vintage, nine months in neutral oak plus nine in the bottle. Then a decant and oh how the florals open up, furthered, blooming and intoxicating. More than just a fun little experiment so please wake up and smell the Gaspereau Valley. So lively, a wee salty and all energy. Drink 2018-2024.  Tasted October 2018

And one final tank sample.

Cabernet Franc 2017

A good portion of, as in 100 per cent whole berry, whole cluster fruit ferment. Heavily oxygenated, non-carbonic, from four barrels, to be bottled in December and then released next fall, so nine plus nine. There’s the floral rising from the glass, so pronounced. Strawberry, mint, cherry and liquorice, amaro, spice and tobacco. Green and pyrazine are looked for and not found. It’s the sand layer under the strat of mixed recent glacial run off rocks that mitigate the bubbling water beneath the soil and give this a tannic structure unheard of in Nova Scotia reds, Also remembering the urgency at the hands of the whole cluster ferment.  There are 900L available. Grab ’em by the growlers.

crush #interloper standing with harvest giants

Good to go!

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

WineAlign

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

WineAlign

The Cru chief comes to Toronto

The time is now. Olivier is in the @FineWineReserve house #zindhumbrecht @TrialtoON

The time is now. Olivier is in the @FineWineReserve house #zindhumbrecht @TrialtoON

Olivier Humbrecht came to Toronto last week to pour recent vintages of Pinot Gris, Riesling and Gewürztraminer. With brix and mortar special agent Ben Hodson of Trialto Wine Group leading the tasting room charge, Olivier also added in a few youthful historical gems in the line-up, including an “important and fantastic” Muscat that he so righteously and necessarily continues to insist on keeping both viable and alive.

Tasting Domaine Zind-Humbrecht Muscat, Pinot Gris, Riesling and Gewürztraminer with Olivier Humbrecht at the Fine Wine Reserve, Toronto

Tasting Domaine Zind-Humbrecht Muscat, Pinot Gris, Riesling and Gewürztraminer with Olivier Humbrecht at the Fine Wine Reserve, Toronto

Any time you get the chance to taste with Olivier Humbrecht the inevitable, integral and essential phenol-tannin-sugar-acidity sequence is front and centre. His devotion to ripe phenolics and grape tannin in white wines is now legendary and in many ways, revolutionary. Low pH levels continue to dominate his directive. “Ripe phenols come from the vines and Olivier continues to refer to structure and acidity as a direct consequence of what happens in the vineyard.”

Related – The cru chief of Alsace: Zind Humbrecht

The other blast from the past brought to the Fine Wine Reserve tasting was a 2006 Riesling Clos Saint Urbain Rangen de Thann Grand Cru of such pure acidity it speaks an ancient vernacular and spins in perpetual motion.

Related – All suss terroir

Humbrecht is the Cru chief of Alsace because of the plethora of terroir from which he chooses to make wine. It would be hard to name another Alsatian vigneron his equal of hands and with such a spirit of terroir understanding. In the 2011 vintage alone Zind-Humbrecht produced 29 different wines for Pinot Gris, Riesling and Gewürztraminer. Spread thin is not an issue. Each Cru, whether Grand, Clos or lieu-dit are approached with equal heedfulness and perpension. Here are the seven wines poured at the Fine Wine Reserve.

Keeping the #Muscat dream alive @TrialtoON #zindhumbrecht #olivierhumbrecht

Keeping the #Muscat dream alive @TrialtoON #zindhumbrecht #olivierhumbrecht

Domaine Zind-Humbrecht Pinot Gris Rotenberg 2012, Ac Alsace, France (Agent, $44.00, WineAlign)

Keeping jurassic or neolithic relativities in mind, the young(er) limestone results in a buoyant chemical level of free lime and higher pH, in addition to an earthly, marly tang and richness in clay. With 15 months tacked on there is weight are there are settled flavours, as if mimicking the 24-hour open bottle, tasted last June. “Pinot Gris is the most versatile grape we have,” says Olivier, so matter of fact. Drink 2015-2018. Tasted November 2015.

From my earlier note of June 2015:

The Rotenberg’s shallow, red soils (located on top of the Hengst) bring a whole new set of parameters to Pinot Gris, in stark contrast to the Calcaire. Two bottles were poured. A two-day old sample showed settled and mellow flavours. A new bottle was crackerjack reductive, leesy and with a shocky aridity so unusual for Pinot Gris. The soils bring concentration, here magnified and compressed by the hastened moment. All the hallmarks of the Zind-Humbrecht style are there, if suppressed; tang, herbiage and a spicy spike. Very dry (4 g/L) and really invigorating white wine.

Domaine Zind-Humbrecht Muscat Goldert 2009, Ac Alsace, France (Agent, $44.00, WineAlign)

Ripeness is a virtue, magnified here, from a very warm year, now six years on in compression from east facing, oolitic limestone and deep marl soil (classified as argileux calcaire). “Twas in another lifetime, one of toil and blood,” when Muscat was considered in much higher light. The 2009, dramatic at this age, bobs aromatics to the nines, dressed to thrill. Unctuous and magnetic, this has changed gears in ways that the ’12 had not and undoubtedly has yet to click. Lays claim to Olivier’s adage, “any fruit picked unripe will come with acidity but that’s not the kind of acidity you want.” In spite of ripeness this has maintained the correct amount of tartaric acidity and low pH to petrol up the Muscat truck deep into the end of this decade. Muscat to provide shelter from the storm. Drink 2015-2025.  Tasted November 2015

Domaine Zind-Humbrecht Riesling Clos Saint Urbain Rangen de Thann Grand Cru 2011, Ac Alsace, France (Agent, $88.00, WineAlign)

A wine always tough to pinpoint its aromatic desires, especially when so young, but it is not difficult to assess the willingness to thrive in spite of the harshest Alsace geological conditioning. That said, this has seen a minor spectre of development. It has made some new acquisitions; rock spirit outward of expression and ready to party from its early (before the 25th of September) harvest ripeness. Struck Riesling, in flint and some signal clarity of medium to thriving acidity. Southern Alsatian with veins running fine slate and bleeding minerals in steaks running across its salty skin. There should be a willingness to concede this as the most accessible immediate, modern era R de T there ever was. Drink 2016-2028.  Tasted November 2015

Domaine Zind-Humbrecht Riesling Clos Saint Urbain Rangen de Thann Grand Cru 2006, Ac Alsace, France (Agent, $85.00, WineAlign)

From a professed beautiful vintage until a week of rain at the end of September, leading to noble rot in many places without sufficient drainage. In the Rangen the botrytis hit but the cause, effect and reaction remained within reason. Smoke and noble rot, out of aromas and into hues. The smell is sweet (carried by 35 g/L RS) but the acidity hides at least half that number, so it rings across with unconscionable aridity. Still the proposal insists that the late harvest sensibility can’t be denied, with its Ixion hyperbole of mineral and acidity. Acidity keeping this Riesling swirling like a Thessalian king punished by Zeus for his love of Hera, by being bound to a perpetually revolving winged fiery wheel. Drink 2015-2026.  Tasted November 2015.

Domaine Zind-Humbrecht Gewürztraminer Turckheim 2011, Ac Alsace, France (Agent, $27.95, WineAlign)

“What we call a village wine,” says Olivier, “so it’s usually a sweet wine.” From a well-drained vineyard offering blossoms and blessings of full flavours, supple textures that leave the palate with a sense of weightlessness. “In ’11 Gewürztraminer ripened really well and went to a really good level of potential alcohol,” he notes. Here it remains fresh at 12.5 per cent alcohol and at a healthy level of 75 g/L RS, though just short of existing in the land of Vendanges Tardives. A wine made by the vintage. Subsequent wines would and will more often than not be nearly bone dry. Drink 2015-2022.  Tasted November 2015

"If you can see the differences of terroir in Gewürz, then you won’t see it in Riesling" @AlsaceWines #olivierhumbrecht

“If you can see the differences of terroir in Gewürz, then you won’t see it in Riesling” @AlsaceWines #olivierhumbrecht

Domaine Zind-Humbrecht Gewürztraminer Clos Windsbuhl 2011, Ac Alsace, France (Agent, $64.00, WineAlign)

This is the most northerly Zind-Humbrecht vineyard, in Hunawihr. Like oil and water from this to 2012. So much more richness, unctuousness, classic western European riverbank gluck and heavy weighted metal. Layers upon layers of texture though not nearly as dramatically sweet as it might appear to be. Hides it so well, thanks to those remarkable Windsbuhl gifting phenols and intense grape tannin. This has presence so very rare in Gewürztraminer. In the end its a glass full of liquid gems, polished, elegant and refined. Allow the sugars several more years to fully realize its potential relationship with the acidity. Drink 2018-2033. Tasted November 2015

Domaine Zind-Humbrecht Gewürztraminer Clos Windsbuhl 2007, Ac Alsace, France (Agent, $69.00, WineAlign)

Settled and amenable in an unexpected way, offering up its level of sweetness that 2011 and certainly 2012, do not, at least not yet. The phenols must have been available in an abundance of riches in 2007. They have allowed for an evolution to take this 2007 into its happy place right now. This has travelled the far eastern path to tropical fruit, of mandarin, in apricot and the mineral cream of south asian stone fruits. Those characterics persist and play nice with the Windsbuhl verve, subduing any notion of drama or over excitement. This is drinking well right now. Drink 2015-2027.  Tasted November 2015

Olivier Humbrecht was hoping to pour two more wines, two very singular and very different Sélection de Grains Nobles. The LCBO could not find the shipped cases in their warehouse so they were not present at the tasting. Perhaps they will turn up at the same time the ark of the covenant crate is found.

When I visited and tasted with Olivier at the winery back in June of 2014, I had the opportunity to have a go at a younger vintage of the Pinot Gris. The older 2007 is available through consignment with Trialto, along with the Gewürztraminer Sélection de Grains Nobles Goldert 2007 ($120.00, six-packs). The Pinot Gris Clos Jebsal Sélection de Grains Nobles Trie Spéciale 2007 is also currently available ($180.00, six-packs) in limited quantities. Here was my note on the ’09 Jebsal

Domaine Zind-Humbrecht Pinot Gris Clos Jebsal Sélection de Grains Nobles Trie Spéciale 2009, Ac Alsace, France (Agent, $180.00, WineAlign)

A south-facing, very steep slope of grey marls and gypsum. A vineyard that yielded a miniscule 10 hl/H. A stratospheric residual sugar quotient (in the realm of 500 g/L) and incredulous acidity to prevent the development of the yeasts. A fermentation that finally finished in the late winter of 2012. A wine aged in demi-guid. Selection of grapes of a botrytis so pure and dry. These are the specs of a wine I may never taste again. Olivier concedes he “really tries not to obtain the highest sugar concentration possible” but this 2009 is a “monster of a wine.” It will take forever to assimilate and digest the sugar. Unctuous, lush, rich and gorgeous does not do it justice. Pure distillation of fruit and stone, accented by spice, wild herbs and flowers. Like an injection of pure, Pinot Gris adrenaline. All this from dry extract, slowly rehydrated with magic pixie dust and the wonders of the natural world.  Will live for a century and then some. Drink 2020-2115.  Tasted June 2014

Good to go!

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

WineAlign: Michael Godel

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Gateway to Achaia, from Roditis to Mavrodaphne

Gate to Achaia Clauss Winery, Achaia

Gate to Achaia Clauss Winery, Achaia

A week of immersion on the ground running in Achaia drafts a new set of varietal tasting parameters. What is new to me are anent varieties of old. Roditis, Sideritis, Mavrodaphne and Mavro Kalavryta may be the grapes of ancients but obscurity be sprinkled, their resurrection blows forth in full paroxysmal scatter. The appeal is symptomatic of the new search for greatness in far away places.

Related – Till I reach Achaia ground

In  the second week of July I tasted through Patras and Achaia in the Greek Peloponnese. Here are 55 reviews from 10 producers.

Tetramythos

8ο kil. Pounta-Kalavrita, Ano Diakopto, 25003, Greece, 2691097500 The most modern facility in all of Achaia, re-built after a fire destroyed the property more than 10 years ago. Owned and operated by the brothers Aristos and Stathis Spanos.

Panyiotis Panagianopoulos, Tetramythos Winery

Panyiotis Panagianopoulos, Tetramythos Winery

Oenologist since 1999 is Panayiotis Papagiannopoulos, a winemaker who may just have been separated from twin Frank Zappa at birth. Located at Ano Diakopto of Egialia, on the slopes of Mount Chelmos, the 14 hectares of vineyards (450-1,000m) are farmed organically (and have been since 1997). Bush vines make up 80 per cent and endemic varieties (85 per cent) cultivated (plus some expatriates) are Roditis, Malagousia, Sauvignon Blanc, Mavro Kalavryta, Agiorgitiko, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. The total production is 13,000 cases with export to foreign markets (80 per cent) that exceeds peers by a wide margin.

Tetramythos Winery

Tetramythos Winery

Tetramythos Roditis 2014, PDO Patras, Greece (SAQ 12484575, $15.75, WineAlign)

Pulled from four vineyards at 650-850m of altitude and from vines 19-42 years old. No skin contact though it shows a light, slight tinge of colour. Nearly platinum in its yellow hue, perhaps attributed to organics says Papagiannopoulos, Eighty per cent was achieved through natural ferment (with zero malolactic) plus “one tank for security.” Roditis can go clean or develop anti-austerity, texture, viscosity in the direction of a dirty projector. The Tetramythos glides “forward through the clover and the bergamot.” I can see what she’s seeing. Tasting like a leesy ripe peach, this is the best “basic” Roditis tasted in Achaia. Serious match of Aleria Restaurant‘s Sea Bass Tartare. Drink 2015-2020.  Tasted July 2015

Tetramythos Roditis 2014, PGI Peloponnese, Greece (WineAlign)

Here speaks the truth in endemic Roditis, raised in unconscious, wild ferment, unfiltered, forsaken to fining and treated to minimal sulphur. From 47 year-old vines, this most natural Peloponnese is made for the French market (that includes Quebec) with elevated acidity, deeper mineral, higher tang, pomp, circumstance and attitude. Latin, really, striking actually. Drink 2015-2018.  Tasted July 2015

Tetramythos Roditis 2014, PGI Achaia, Greece (WineAlign)

Roditis is here designated as the traditional Retsina, subjugated to wild yeasts in clay amphora and no sulphur during alcoholic fermentation. From 25 year-old vines out of a single vineyard and pine resin collected from trees on the edge of the vineyard. Post low and slow fermentation the wine rests on its lees for two months.  Such a wild and sauvage display of terroir; pine resin, beeswax, sealants and amphora. Like pure pine distillate without excessive herbaceousness and in subtlety of its own complacency. The palate follows the other roditis renditions and the pine again returns on the finish. 14,000 bottles made. Drink 2015-2019.  Tasted July 2015

Tetramythos Malagoussia 2014, PGI Achaia, Greece (WineAlign)

A single vineyard at an altitude of 750m guided by 30 hours of skin contact, for mouthfeel, to saddle the cool climate herbiage, needed for structure and for distance. Exudes poise, presence, precision, not oily but somehow creamy, glistening, this glow of malagousia. Expresses the longest hang time in the mouth, lingering like no roditis can or is willing to. Thanks to early picking to preserve acidity, the alcohol is low (12.4 per cent) and that acidity (7.2 g/L) above and beyond. Only here does malagousia keep this kind of flinty bite, in kind to a mid-September pick, keeping on the right side of soft and hot. I think this will live longer than you think.  Drink 2015-2020.  Tasted July 2015

Tetramythos Roditis 2008, PDO Patras, Greece (WineAlign)

A wine to fulfill the promise of my own personal vindication. I had asked Angelos Rouvalis about laying Roditis down for three to five years or more, to see where it may go and he said, “why?” Here is why. Has fan vaulted to the skies, urged by petrol and a symphony of mythology. Akin and within aromatic mineral reach of sémillon or riesling, with just a basal drip of ambrosial, gaseous honey. The green notes (of pea and nettle) are exaggerated but that is attributed to 2008 fruit that may have never been fully ripe. Drink 2015-2017.  Tasted July 2015

Tetramythos Roditis 2014 and Muscat Sec Blanc Nature 2014

Tetramythos Roditis 2014 and Muscat Sec Blanc Nature 2014

Tetramythos Muscat Sec 2014, PGI Peloponnese, Greece (WineAlign)

A slightly carbonic, reductive character – its natural protection, to keep the oxygen at bay, as if nouveau white Beaujolais. Combines bay laurel and beatific citrus, namely grapefruit after the banana blows off through the shutters of the cabana. Quite silky for muscat, of keys and zests citrus (major) and resin (minor). It may be sorry to leave you high and dry though there is no reason to feel a need to be weened off its charms. Far-out, groovy and compelling vin nature. Drink 2015-2018.  Tasted July 2015

Tetramythos Muscat Sec Blanc Nature 2014, PGI Peloponnese, Greece (WineAlign)

Nothing short of lucent, this friable, direct and crunchy raw muscat. Effusive of individual vowels and consonants, typically Achaian, extrapolated to Greek in its lambent and inventive simplicity. More glade than wax, it coats with orange and the spirit of lime. So different and yet so familiar, inevitably dry and straight as an arrow. Drink 2015-2018.  Tasted July 2015

Tetramythos Sauvignon Blanc Milia White 2014, PGI Achaia, Greece (WineAlign)

Not so many places are out there where sauvignon blanc grows at 1000m of altitude, so its got that going for it, which is nice. Add to that four months in new oak. What results is such a melon, citrus and high acidity tropical fruit mess. Wow is this piercing, almost over the top. Like sémillon this struts, in nod to the Hunter Valley. With time there is a varietal emergence. Eventually. Will age a spell. Drink 2015-2019. Tasted July 2015

Tetramythos Mavro Kalavryta 2014 (SAQ 11885457WineAlign)

A terrific example for a grape saved from extinction, Tetramythos owns 1.9 of a total four hectares of MK. Kudos for the effort especially considering the variety is thin skinned, slow to mature and difficult to cultivate. Saw nearly 20 days of skin contact because “the variety dictates the practice,” notes Konstantinos Lazarakis M.W. The fruit and bitters express a push-pull of terroir. One of two wineries making dry wines from the endemic variety, here the fresh red grape, the food friendly marker. Here confidently struts modern Achaian winemaking, from the ashes of naturalism and antiquity, the way Gamay or Loire Cabernet Franc are wont to do. Vibrant, with verve and a necessary natural funk. Herbal and with a rub of tomato skin, creamy, cool yet resinous, followed through from aroma to texture. Drink 2015-2018.  Tasted July 2015

Kotrotsos Moschofilero Erasmios 2014 and Tetramythos Mavro Kalavryta 2014

Kotrotsos Moschofilero Erasmios 2014 and Tetramythos Mavro Kalavryta 2014

Tetramythos Agiorgitiko 2013, PGI Peleponnese (SAQ 12178957WineAlign)

Raised in old oak barrels, it carries the wooden ship scent on the sea. Possessive of a world up in the wind, roofless, like an August cathedral and yet a grounding sense to burrow into earth. In all that sense it drafts like Nebbiolo indenture. Ferric and tannic, with end spice. Drink 2015-2018.  Tasted July 2015

Tetramythos Milia Red 2012, PGI Peloponnese, Greece (WineAlign)

A kaleidoscopic, cosmopolitan blend of merlot (66 per cent), cabernet sauvignon (20) and mavro (black) kalavrita (14) aged in 2nd, 3rd and 4th fill barrels. Here, again the use of Bordeaux varietals that cloud the vision of what the land wants to say. Sure it will speak in a language that resembles Terra Alta or some IGT but it has a nowhere man feel, a lack of somewheress and surely no word from the mouth of Papagiannopoulos. Very Mediterranean in feel, with a tapenade of black olive and caper. Drink 2015-2018.  Tasted July 2015

Tetramythos Cabernet Sauvignon 2011, PGI Aegialia Slopes (WineAlign)

A new Bordeaux language is created, in natural wild ferment, unfiltered and housed for 30 months in 2nd and 3rd fill barrels. A highly savoury cabernet sauvignon, with a lean and mean green streak. Tannic and very tight. Coated by a veneer and seething in teeth chattering acidity. Not for the faint of cabernet sauvignon heart and in need of double bottle time, in minimum two to one ratio of what it saw in wood. Much appreciation for the vision and the effort. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted July 2015

Tetramythos Mavrodaphne Vin Naturellement Doux, Peleponnese, Greece (WineAlign)

As with so many of the Tetramythos line-up, this regional blend is the same but different. First it’s non vintage and second it is out of zone so not considered for PDO Mavrodaphne of Patras status. At 16 per cent alcohol and 58 g/L the sweet elixir spent nearly three years spent spinning in the excruciatingly slow centrifuge of natural fermentation. Traditional method adherence with the addition of organic, sun-dried raisins, “to increase the sugar levels.” The house quotient is three kilos of dried Black Corinth Raisin for every 100 L of must, in purport to increase the alcohol by one per cent. Here sweeps clean, sweet Mavro,  its port sensibility an aged, natural, dried fruit, nut and caramel melange. Pure beauty. Drink 2015-2025.  Tasted July 2015

Domaine Mega Spileo (Cavino)

The domain is set within a dramatically oriented steppe of an amphitheatre, in a bowl beneath the shadow of a 940m rock that houses the great Greek Orthodox monastery of Mega Spileo (Grand Cave). Nowhere else in the Chelmos mountains does monk viticulture resonate as it does here. The great vineyard (Megali Ambelos) perches above the Vouraikos Canyon at 800m of height. The winemaker for the wines of Cavino and Mega Spileo is Stelios Tsiris. Varieties grown since re-planting in 1999 include Mavrodafne, Mavro Kalavritino, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, Lagorthi, Assyrtiko, Malagousia and Riesling.

Mega Spileo Monastery

Mega Spileo Monastery

Roditis 2014, PDO Patras, Greece

A textured Roditis, its constant refrain one of herbiage, mineral, savoury bite and a direct pinch of austerity. Radiates fashioned with poise and meaning. Drink 2015-2017.  Tasted July 2015

Malagousia 2014, PGI Achaia, Greece

From a blend of three vineyards at 800m in altitude, this is a creamier, riper, more tropical take on the categorical grape. It’s tropical even, leaving peach to ascertain mango. Like a comfortable broth of warm emotions, this Malagousia belongs to the generality of varietal Greek persistence. Drink 2015-2018.  Tasted July 2015

Moschato 2014, PGI Achaia, Greece

Nearly bone dry (4 g/L RS) and well-nigh nicked by acidity (6.2 g/L TA) this is really a true expression of the Muscat Blanc à Petits Grains, an elegant cold pour into a glass on a breezy, sunny day. Until now Muscat in Achaia “could never look me in the eye” but the flurry of aromatics sing like a songstress in white lace. Its gaze is like lemon and olive oil and its tongue like the sweet wax on the rind. Here the Moschato path has been properly and soulfully taken. Rich in gold, like the kingdom of Agamemnon at Mycenae. Drink 2015-2017.  Tasted July 2015

Deus NV, Peloponnese, Greece

A blend of Moschato (80-90 per cent) and Sideritis, with a prodigious dosage to leave this sparkling wine larboard in the realm of 55 g/L of residual sugar. Translates to a tropical, custardy, sticky and waxy bubble that will repeatedly get you back in Achaia life again. Take a few sips “and I’ll drink and dance with one hand free.” You could really get stoned on this fizz. Drink 2015-2018.  Tasted July 2015

Deus Rosato NV, Peloponnese, Greece

Made from 100 per cent Syrah and slightly sweeter than the Muscat, here at 60 g/L RS. The lees, cheese and funk from Syrah turned to sparkling distracts from the sweetness, sending this to parts of southern France in meditative, Mediterranean, savoire savour faire. Raspberry and cranberry vie for sweet and sour supremacy and the wine actually, seemingly turns dry on the peppery, fizzy, tanky and spirited back side. Never backs down and the last conceit is one of tannin. So much more successful than the Moschato. Drink 2015-2019.  Tasted July 2015

Mega Spileo Moschato 2014 Deus and Deus Rose

Mega Spileo Moschato 2014 Deus and Deus Rose

Domaine Mega Spileo Grand Cave 2009, PGI Achaia

A dry vinified blend of Mavrodaphne (60 per cent) and Mavro (black of) Kalavritino that slumbers for 18-24 months (depending on who is offering the dissertation) in “squeaky clean” French oak. A pioneering bottle leading the charging trend to make dry wines from Mavrodaphne. Here so very layered, rich, ferric and in that vein, so very IGT. The oak is judged with a direct gaze into the eyes and density is furthered by demanding Daphne tannin, while flesh and elasticity is the work of the Kalavritino. Like a missile of tannic Syrah with Tuscan like cure in its veins and clotted plasma hanging on its dangling hook. Formidable to be sure. Drink 2017-2022.  Tasted July 2015

Domaine Mega Spileo Cabernet Sauvignon 2008, Peloponnese, Greece

An internationally stylized red that invokes the highest thoughts of all in, all out hedonism, more so than just about any varietal Bordeaux outside of Napa, Sonoma or the original mother land.

Thirty-two “boom shaka-laka-laka boom shaka-laka-laka” months in new French and american oak will do that, shouting “I want to take you Achaia” and in retort you should plead don’t leave me Achaia dry.

Looking back, in making decisions to make a wine like this, the thought would be “it’s the best thing that you ever had, the best thing you ever, ever had.” Fruit showtime is now fruit showing its age while oak is determined to suspend structure in purgatory. “Ain’t no valley low enough” so this style must have been tempting to have a go at the time, but times are changing. Ain’t no mountain Achaia enough? Not these days. Drink 2017-2022.  Tasted July 2015

Cavino Mavrodafne Reserve 2000 (Winery)

“We are about to experience one of the best underdogs of Greece,” says Konstantinos Lazarakis M.W. by way of introduction. The world had to wait 18 months plus seven years years for this to appear. A Port-style fortified red, fashioned from the 27 best judged oak barrels and finished in October of 2000. The mix is Mavrodaphne (70 per cent) and Black Corinth (30), expertly amassed and positioned at a time when using the 49 percent maximum allowance of dried raisin was the norm. Ahead of its time in that regards but also because of its rangy acidity, incredible acidity actually, something that gives this dessert wine the essence and spirit of raisin radio. That and a beautiful oxidation and it succeeds in wooing palates, not to mention fulfilling the promise laid bare by Mr. Lazarakis. Drink 2015-2020.  Tasted July 2015

Parparoussis

Achilleos str., 264 42 Proastio, Patras, Greece, 30 2610 420334, info@parparoussis.com

Antanassis Parparoussis and Moschato Vines, Domaine Parparoussis

Athanassios Parparoussis and Moschato Vines, Domaine Parparoussis

Founded in 1974 by oenologist Athanassios Parparoussis who works as winemaker while daughters   Erifili and Dimitra support on the business and marketing side. The winery is located in Patras and the property includes 10 hectares at Movri Achaias. Grapes are farmed organically and Parparoussis is one of only two vintners ion the region making wines from the rare and indigenous Sideritis. Parparoussis farms organically in principal but is not certified, nor is Athanassios concerned with the designation. It’s a matter of being devoutly pragmatic. “The soil is alive, so why kill it.”

Parparoussis Sideritis Dons De Dionysos 2014, Peloponnese, Greece (SAQ 11900995, $21.00, WineAlign)

The 2014 “gift of Dionysus” is herbal, arid, directly unassuming and fixed with a very savoury, nearly resinous pastel palate. The wind blows rosemary and lavender and truthfully it’s like a naturally cured red feeling in a white package. All lemon citrus at the tail. Drink 2015-2016.  Tasted July 2015

Parparoussis Rosé “Petite Fleur” 2014, PGI Achaia, Peloponnese, Greece

Just under 300 cases are made of this pale, lithe and prodigiously lithe blush wine, like the Dionysus, made from 100 per cent Sideritis. Skin maceration was performed overnight, “a one night stand,” while indigenous yeast was employed for a natural, dry vinification. The light and rust-directed antiquity of caste excess has caused an exaggerated herbal, namely oregano aroma. The overall feel is suppositious and may just be one of the great Rosé stories ever told. Drink 2015-2016.  Tasted July 2015

Parparoussis Sideritis Gift of Dionysus 2014 and Agiorgitiko Reserve 2010

Parparoussis Sideritis Gift of Dionysus 2014 and Agiorgitiko Reserve 2010

Parparoussis Les Dons de Dionysus 2010, PGI Achaia, Greece

Barrel Fermented blend of Assyrtiko (75 per cent) and Althorn (25). The first bottle is “not exactly as it should be,” oxidized and unpropitious, while the second pour much less so. In fact it tethers and teeters beautifully near that edge, on that razor the small creature walks, in a Dylan “what’s a sweetheart like you” way. So much more gumptive, anti-preemptive of depth, perception and possibility. Striking in its layering, stinging pierce of Assyrtiko with a suction of Althiri authority. Climbs upon itself and lingers in the air. “It’s done with a flick of the wrist.” Drink 2015-2020.  Tasted July 2015

Parparoussis Reserve Epilegmenos Oenos 2010, PDO Nemea, Greece

Further afield south in the Peloponnese comes this 100 per cent Agiorgitiko. The first bottle has a lactic-cheesy flaw, as if acetate of a mercaptan. One man’s flaw is another man’s history so the question does beg, was this meant to be? A winemaker’s intention? Apparently not. The second bottle, while still blessed of of a definite funk but one that is cleaner, unturned, a washed rind. So very dry. Drink 2015-2018.  Tasted July 2015

Parparoussis Rose Petite Fleur 2014 and Taos 2010

Parparoussis Rose Petite Fleur 2014 and Taos 2010

Parparoussis Taos 2010, PGI Achaia, Greece

A barrel fermented, dry vinified, 100 per cent Mavrodaphne. Naturally pitchy, high in acidity and purposed in tannin. A rare zero dilution at the hands of Black Corinthian Raisin and therefore not so high in alcohol, despite the richness of hue. Actually has a modern next tier level of complexity, complexion and aromatic intensity. Purple flowers and plum swirl in its circuitous, cycloid multiplicity. The savoury, resinous black bay laurel and chalky, cooked lentil, the grill and its smouldering charcoal are all in. Further resinous of bay oil on the back bitters and a very Tentura finish. Wild, sauvage, beautiful and built for the ling haul. Drink 2018-2025.  Tasted July 2015

Paparoussis Mavrodaphne of Patras Reserve 2003, PDO Patras, Greece

Vin Doux Nature poured from a 500 mL bottle, at 19 per cent, this is intensely nutty, of crème caramel and Cassis together as one. A marriage of godly sanctified vin santo cordial, with quite the balance from a brilliant vintage. There is heat that never burns, and a piquancy that offers no needed warning, Mavrodaphne of an aged, expertly developed expression. Such bitters at the finish end with wow. Drink 2015-2023.  Tasted July 2015

Paparoussis Muscat of Rio 2010, PDO Rio Patra

The sugar here is a strapping 160 g/L and the cost 15 euros for a 500 mL bottle. A vin de paille with so much more delicacy, structure and elegance and at only 13.5 per cent, a remarkable wine. Spice and relish is so smothered, coddled and pampered. The length is incredible. This is remarkable dessert wine with all tempos in balanace. Drink 2015-2030.  Tasted July 2015

Oenoforos (Rouvalis)

Selinous, 25100 – Aiyion, Greece, 30 2691029415, info@rouvaliswinery.gr.

Aneglos Rouvalis and WineAlign's DJ Kearney

Aneglos Rouvalis and WineAlign’s DJ Kearney

Eonologist is Angelos Rouvalis, a winemaker with an encyclopedic knowledge of every hill and slope in the mountains above Patras and where each variety grows best. Established in 1990 by Rouvalis, a Bordeaux-trained winemaker, recognized internationally as a pioneer in the renaissance that has taken place in the Greek wine industry in recent years. In 1994 Yannis Karabatsos, an agricultural engineer and expert in Greek viticulture joined the winery. “The Oenoforos winery consists of five levels on the slopes of Aigialeia in the village of Selinous. It combines monastic simplicity with state-of-the-art technology.”

Oeneforos Roditis ‘Asprolithi’ 2014, PDO Patras, Greece (SAQ 978197, $16.50, WineAlign)

The “white stone” could be considered the Pinot Grigio of Greece though the pink-skinned variety grown here between 800-1000m is such a bleed of high altitude calcaire. An amalgamated, aromatic accumulation is all about citrus without the airs of pierce and secondary sandarac meets kedros that reminds of clementine. At 11.5 per cent alcohol and low pH it might confuse for Trocken Riesling if not for its classic herbiage and austerity. Drink 2015-2018.  Tasted July 2015

Oenoforos Chardonnay Ianos 2009, Peloponnese, Greece

So buttered and creamy, in condition of its two years in oak. Age has delivered corn to popcorn. It’s both unambiguous and atypically Peloponnese, if certainly symptomatic of Chardonnay in a diaspora that veers from its regional path. Like the oak of all clothed Chardonnays, expect the excepted and drink up. Drink 2015-2016. Tasted July 2015

Oenoforos Cabernet Sauvignon Ianos 2004, Peloponnese, Greece (SAQ 11607342, $22.95, WineAlign)

A current release, all in Cabernet Sauvignon 10 plus years down its road after two years in French oak. A bold and state-of-the art for its time cool-climate take, with a clear and ad hoc Sonoma-like intention, with attitude out of altitude despite ’04’s nothing but average growing season. Herbaceous and currant direct Cabernet with plenty of fruit that has remained true and in the bottle. Sweet scents, floral and red citrus and expressly, naturally Greek. Red fruit from red soil. Has a natural, slightly oxidative cure that has emerged out of that oak shell. Strikes as a wine that needed this extended held-back time to get to this place. The palate’s fruit is dried and saline now, with tannin insistent in persistence. Rich but not nearly so, a gently rolling and evolving Cabernet with life in it yet, though the raisin character suggests now is better than tomorrow. Not so much mythologically invented, as it is internationally purposed, so it’s more a matter of higher and lower. The wine’s universe is a flat disc with hills, touched at its rims by the vast dome of the heavens. Drink 2015-2016.  Tasted July 2015

Oeneforos Rosé Mikros Vorias 2014, Peloponnese, Greece

Syrah with Viognier and Roditis. A layer upon layer blush combing of dry extract over full extract. Another example of the region’s ability to achieve Rosé excellence and the practice should both be encouraged and expanded upon. Drink 2015-2016.  Tasted July 2015

Oeneforos Chardonnay-Sauvignon Blanc Mikros Vorias 2014, Peloponnese, Greece

The white blend representation for the house line of fresh and direct wines translates to “small northern wind,” and here the SB sticks out like an Achaian thumb, dominating the nose with grass and capsicum. It’s toasty and almost Pouilly-Fumé smokey mixed with a pinch of Fuissé. The identity quandary brings Galician Albariño to mind, seen in the spirited almost effervescent tinniness. Very lime palate and fast forwards to stage right, running all the way. Drink 2015-2016.  Tasted July 2015

Oenoforos Merlot-Cabernet Sauvignon Mikros Vorias 2014, Peloponnese, Greece

Rusty and cured, just not quite ripe red plum, from a 60-40 combo, with a healthy level of veneer. Has gumption, pierce and a citrus red bleed. Drink 2015-2018.  Tasted July 2015

Oenoforos Asprolithi 'White Stones' 2014 and Syrah Ianos 2007

Oenoforos Asprolithi ‘White Stones’ 2014 and Syrah Ianos 2007

Oenoforos Syrah Ianos 2007, Peloponnese, Greece

Ferric, volatile, bretty but believe me when I say, all in a good way. The lingering meaty chew and porcine Mulligatwany is the expatriate Syrah equivalent of high gastronomy. A wild and wooly match to the Beef Stifado at To Katafygio. Drink 2015-2016.  Tasted July 2015

Antonopoulos Vineyards

25008 Vassiliko Chalandritsas, Patra, 30 2694061447, info@antonopoulosvineyards.com

The winery was founded by the late visionary winemaker, Constantinos Antonopoulos near the city of Patras in the northwestern of Peloponnese. Constantinos saw the vast, untapped potential of this diverse landscape, especially the mountainous region of Achaia and the unique winemaking opportunities it presented. A new up to-date winery has been built recently at Vasiliko, Achaia, where the majority of the winery’s vineyards are. Indigenous Greek varieties are the focus. All three Antonopoulos wines tasted at the winery Achaia Clauss were clearly achieved through very serious work. Though clean beyond the pale, they all exhibit slightly to more than leesy and all finish with so much salinity and limestone inflection. The only thing missing is the crustaceous accent.

Antonopoulos Vineyards

Antonopoulos Vineyards

Antonopoulos Moschofilero 2014, PGI Arkadia, Greece

A rich, striking, citrus Moschofilero with a beautifully severe tannic tang and many layers, scraped from a stone’s bleed and a gaze into the rock’s mirror. A wine akin to a creation of a true alphabet, made complex like the dactylic hexameter in poetry or a rhythmic scheme. Drink 2015-2018.  Tasted July 2015

Antonopoulos Adholi This White 2014, PGI Achaia, Greece

Essential and pedigreed blend of Lohorthi 65 per cent), Chardonnay (20) and Roditis (15) that expresses increased aromatics much like Viognier. Nearly profoundly tropical but so very dry, like Assyrtiko in its cracking open but with the feel of wild yeast and the feign of barrel. Chalk it up to 800-900m clay-limestone speak and no more than that, creasing to a crisp effervescence without bubble, yet it does tingle of the tongue. Like it’s working all the while, then on to citrus on the end, in lemon and lime torque as if by Riesling. The Moschofilero might be Mycenaean Linear B and this the other, later Greek alphabet. Drink 2015-2018.  Tasted July 2015

Antonopoulos Malagousia 2014, PGI Achaia, Greece

From sand and clay vineyards in the region of Aghios-Athanasios at a height of 600-900m. Picked late near the end of September to early october and cocrete and thought the ferment is a stainless one, this Malgousia exhibits a natural yeasty funk commingling with moving texture and savour that incorporates grasses. The sting of nettle wins over the softness and spumes a hay fever of grass. A warming, adult of a wine, with some power to age. Drink 2016-2021.  Tasted July 2015

Acheon Winery

Korinthou 121, Aigio, Greece, 30 26910 28062, info@acheonwinery.gr.

Sosanna Katsikosta is Oenologist and General Manager while Katerina heads up business and marketing operations. The sisters are carrying on a winemaking tradition passed on to them from their late father. Konstantinos Katsikostas carried the torch from his father Luke who founded the winery in 1946 in the area of Palaiokamares of Aegio. Annual production of 2,000 cases. Katsikosta is desperately, passionately practicing, experimenting, trying to stir up vinous ghosts and find their way back to ancestry, to ways of elders, to bring to light what used to be and to establish an identity for the world to see.

Acheon Roditis 2014, PDO Patras, Greece

A quintessential “Fox” Roditis, from low yields (40 hL/L), 900 m above sea level, in organic balance at 12 per cent alcohol. A distinct stone tang, push, pierce and a slight tingle or fizz on the tip of the tongue. Highly concentrated out of an elevated dry extract, with mineral and lemon. One of the more expressive push-pull of fruit and mineral. For everyday consumption with a bit of honey in its two to three year future. Drink 2015-2018.  Tasted July 2015

Acheon Sideritis 2014, PGI Achaia, Greece

The nearly extant one, a rare variety, being revived, planted at low altitudes, with yields 70-75 hL/L. Aromatic and misunderstood, with a Savagnin character, a funky, musky skin, like leather but not as deep, yet something oddly tropical, like jackfruit, or gummy bear, dusty ginger, and resin, like thyme. Another variety being worked with to see what it can be and to link back to what once was. Really good acidity. Drink 2015-2016.  Tasted July 2015

Acheon Sideritis 2014 and Rose Fairytale 2014

Acheon Sideritis 2014 and Rose Fairytale 2014

Acheon Moschato 2014, PGI Achaia, Greece

A banana and metal White Muscat, with plenty of herbal qualities, terrific saline and stony acidity dominating the palate. A medicinal grapefruit chew, not of pith, but of skin. Arid as a grove in wind and finishing with good length. Very interesting. Drink 2015-2017.  Tasted July 2015

Acheon Laura Nera 2012, PGI Eigialia Slopes

Mavrodaphe and nothing but, vinified dry, subjected to no aging. The smell of bay laurel (thus the varietal name) and fashioned for freshness. Still in command of a musty emmision this one, a strange cure, like some cool-climate, winter hardy hybrids, like Maréchal Foch and Frontenac. Perhaps a touch warmer, like opening the doors to Pinotage without the toast and the oak to fill and sweeten the green, reductive gaps. Has the roadhouse blues so “Keep your eyes on the road, your hands upon the wheel.” Drink 2015-2017.  Tasted July 2015

Acheon Rosé Fairytale, Peloponnese, Greece

A semi-sweet Rosé composed from 90 per cent Muscat co-fermented with 10 per cent Mavrodaphne. Dessert of blush hue and sappy, leesy, medicinal bitters. Very orange rind and chlorite, somewhat port-esque but so much more a tisane of pekoe and cough elixir. Totally off the charts different. Really like nothing tasted before. Drink 2015-2016.  Tasted July 2015

Wines of Parparoussis, Loukatos and Kontrotsos, Parparoussis Winery, Patras

Wines of Parparoussis, Loukatos and Kontrotsos, Parparoussis Winery, Patras

Kotrotsos

Vassiliko Achaias TK. 25008, 30 26940 61 900, vinko@otenet.gr. Winemaker is Giannis Kotrotsos.

Kotrotsos Erasmios Moschofilero 2014, Peloponnese, Greece

An unctuous, ambrosial Moschofilero, highly aromatic, of citrus and orange grove. A 12.5 appealing alcohol per cent and surround sound of acidity, good length and a bitter ending that follows a twinge of steely crick. Drink 2015-2018.  Tasted July 2015

Kotrotsos Muscat NV, PDO Muscat of Rio Patras

Also based on the 2013 vintage and c charging in at 15 per cent alcohol, here there is more rust, funk and metal, certainly not as fruit forward as expected. Sweetness is elongated, stretched and elastic, then snaps back to linear and upright. Drink 2016-2022.  Tasted July 2015

Kotrotsos Mavrodaphne NV, PDO Mavrodaphne of Patras, Greece The standard 15 per cent alcohol and in this plugged in, short fuse sweet wine is highly intense and lit caper green, dried fruit and a serious pasticcio of botanicals, distilled into a major excitative and concentrated sweetness.  The second bottle tasted has so much more life and character. Much more sweet floral attractiveness and the sweetness is less pronounced as a result. Goes from spice and piquancy to sweetness with the right transitory methodology, culminating in a great LBV Port finish. Nutty and spicy. Tremendous fruit forward expression.  Drink 2016-2024.  Tasted July 2015

Kotrotsos Chardonnay Oinos Aekos 2014, PGI Achaia, Greece

Combinbes barrel and resin for a full on savoury effect and so much noticeable, piercing grape tannin. Fierce, uncompromising, non-integrating invaluable invalid of tannin. So very cool climate savoury Chardonnay. Striking actually and a very acquired taste. Drink 2015-2016.  Tasted July 2015

Kotrotsos Agiorgitiko Erasmios 2012, Nemea, Greece An intoxicating perfume, of violets and charcuterie, floral and cure, vegetative and saline. Lactic, talcy, opaque and dusty, like Cabernet Franc from the coolest locale. Finishes saline again, chewy even. Drink 2015-2018.  Tasted July 2015

Karelas Winery

Georgios J. Karellas A.V.E.E, 41-43, Skagiopouliou Str., Patras, 262 22, 30 2610 321 000, karelas7@hotmail.com

Karelas Winery was founded in 1936 by Georgios Karelas. Using the native ‘Mavrodaphne’ grape, the company is renowned for it’s sweet, dessert style Mavrodaphne wine.

Karelas Pelagos 2013, PGI Achaia, Greece

Merlot and Mavrodaphne share the cure and the veneer of a strange bedfellow blend, the old and the new, the rust and the dust, the red and the black, the visitor and the been there done that. Tough acidity and tannin over red citrus fruit. Not shy. Drink 2016-2020.  Tasted July 2015

Karelas Achais 2013, PGI Achaia, Greece

Cabernet Sauvignon and Mavrodaphne smothered in more  obvious oak, though less tension and demand. A softer wine in using Cabernet over Merlot, ripened easier, better, with a second gear and then  into acidity mode. Again the cool climate veneer with a warm, savoury, minty middle. Drink 2015-2019.  Tasted July 2015

Mega Spileo Mavrodaphne and Karelas Mavrodaphe Reserve 2009

Mega Spileo Mavrodaphne and Karelas Mavrodaphe Reserve 2009

Karelas Mavrodaphne Reserve 2009, PDO Mavrodaphne of Patras, Greece

The only Mavrodaphne aged in highly seasoned toasted new French barrels. The standard weight bearing 15 per cent alcohol and a similar feeling as with previous kicks at the sweet Mavrodaphne can, but more red fruit and brighter raisins in the sun. The spice and liqueur here seem less spirited and combine for a more mature, seasoned, reasoned, direct and ultimately cleaner expression. Captain Jack (or George) will get you Achaia tonight “and take you to your special island.” Drink 2015-2022.  Tasted July 2015

Loukatos

Loukatos Bros, Β 3 & ΟΤ 24, Industrial Zone Patra 25018 Achaia / Patra, Greece, 30 2610 647588,  info@loukatos.com.gr

Perhaps most famous for their local production of spirits, namely Tentura and Mastic, Loukatos does a bang up job with dessert wines, especially in their handling of Muscat from Patras.

Loukatos Mavrodaphne NV, PDO Mavrodaphne of Patras, Greece

Vin de liqueur clocking in at 15 per cent alcohol. The dried roses and red flowers in liqueur link it to the likes of a Late Bottle Vintage Port. Wakes with a start, in sting and presence. Really lingers, tasting of blanched nuts and Halls mentholyptus. This batch was blended with 47 percent corinithian grape. The finish is so Manischevitz. Drink 2015-2023.  Tasted July 2015

Loukatos Muscat of Patras and Mavrodaphne of Patras

Loukatos Muscat of Patras and Mavrodaphne of Patras

Loukatos Muscat NV, PDO Muscat of Patras (WineAlign)

A 15 per cent abv Vin de Liqueur largely based on the 2013 vintage. Very clementine and apricot nosed, impeccably balanced from viscous to intensity in grape, with nothing musty or musky about it, though there is a musk melon sense, a botrytis that is very clean. Another excellent, natural sweet Patras example of what Muscat can do, again at super low cost, with high flavour and here, more fruit forward than the Kotrotos. Drink 2015-2021.  Tasted July 2015

Hahalis (Chahalis) Mavrodaphne 2011, PDO Mavrodaphne of Patras, Greece

Spent one year in barrel, the Tentura Castro “The Castle” is raisined and resinous with so much heavy artillery and coats of armour. The macro intent so black and porous, oxidative but alive, heavy and warm in alcohol but spirited and shooting cupid’s arrows. Sweet and Amarone trophy in a sense, with licorice and spice unlike anything else. Idiosyncratic to the nth degree. Drink 2015-2021.  Tasted July 2015

Achaia Clauss Mavrodaphne NV, PDO Mavrodaphne of Patras, Greece

From a lot penned Bin 601 at the standard 15 per cent alcohol and acting like it came from a 100 year-old barrel, of sitting bull wisdom and Bavarian history. Much like port, like brandy spirits and liquorice melting into cinnamon and clove. Not so idiosyncratic but resinous, sappy and piquant. Once you come to know these wines they speak this very direct language. Drink 2015-2025.  Tasted July 2015

Patraiki Mavrodpahe NV, PDO Mavrodaphne of Patras, Greece

A direct, rich, full-bodied leathery red of fruit the same that soaks in simple, sweet liqueur. The most accessible, commercial macro-intention of the black laurel lot. Drink 2015-2020.  Tasted July 2015

Crisis? No one’s gonna bring Greece down, nor me neither, ’till I again reach Achaia ground.

Good to go!

http://www.winealign.com/profile/2058-mjg

Till I reach Achaia ground

View of the mountains of Achaia from Tetramythos Winery and Homestay, Ano Diakopto of Aegialia, on the slopes of Mount Chelmos, Peloponnese

View of the mountains of Achaia from Tetramythos Winery and Homestay, Ano Diakopto of Aegialia, on the slopes of Mount Chelmos, Peloponnese

as seen on WineAlign

Man I wish I was there right now. Have you recently pondered or are you considering a visit to Greece? Have the sensational media reports of the last month cast a shadow of doubt on your travel plans? Are you worried about economic crises, ATM line-ups, looting and civil unrest? Don’t be. Do not fall victim as prey to dictum on what you or those who are telling you really do not know. You should go. Greece is just fine thank you very much. She welcomes visitors with open arms. This is what she wants and what she needs.

Crisis, what crisis? 

I am no John Maynard Keynes, have never rooted with Milton Friedman and can’t confidently say that my economic stars align with Paul Krugman, but on my recent trip to Athens and Achaia I saw nary a sign of unparalleled and utter economic disaster, of panic, anarchy or civil disobedience. I had many a conversation about government, taxes and the Euro. I learned that no is the new yes, “but whatever…” and that Greek wine aligns with the functions of the European union.

Write your problems down in detail Take them to a higher place

I am inclined to say, with indubitable and unequivocal doubt that Greece is the safest, most affordable and stupidly beautiful place on the planet. There is adventure, breathtaking vistas and scarcely, if commensurately discovered antiquity at every turn. And there is wine. Exceptional wine. Singular wine. Mythological wine. I can tell you five things I learned about the 21st century state of things Greece.

  1. Athens is a busy, hot, labyrinthian metropolis that somehow feels like an ancient village. It may just be the most unassailable and secure Gotham I have ever encountered. It did not leave me tired, on the contrary, it fuelled invigoration.
  2. Encounters with beautiful, nurtured and erudite folks along the course of a given day affords an equipotentiality to reaffirm faith in humans. Doors are always open.
  3. Bad governance may lead to civil jeremiad and global media strategies built upon the inevitable crumbling foundations of sensationalism and hyperbole, but Greece’s main concern is just that. Bad governance. Business carries on as usual, albeit with a noticeable reduction in smoking and petrol usage, but restaurants, cafes, coffee shops and shopping are not on hold. Centuries have seen such woe and yet Greece persists, remains and progresses. “Believe only half of what you see and nothing that you hear.” America may have long ago entered its Last Great American Whale period but Greece? Not even close. “They say things are done for the majority” and in the case of Greece, that just may be true. In a time of crisis, there are many business opportunists. Hard times? Grow better grapes. Can’t sell them at home? Export more than before and make better money.
  4. The combination of mountains, ocean, beaches and the symbiotic proximity of the appositeness is nothing short of mind-altering, awe-inspiring and soul-asservating.
  5. Forget the idea that Greek wine offers up some of the best values, anywhere. Consider that sort of posturing a given and or inconsequential in consideration of the adage that good wine is good wine, period, regardless of price. The wine producing regions of Santorini (Aegean), Thessaloniki/Naoussa (Macedonia) and Nemea (Peloponnese) have made wide inroads on the global scene. Yet how many of you have ever heard of Achaia and Patras in the northern Peloponnese? It is on the verge of breaking out. Obscurity no longer. Uncertainty be gone.

At the pass

Greece has been mired in waiting, or depending on your level of positivity and how to spin, poised to break out. The Greek wine industry is securely fastened in a place somewhere between the relic glow of early period brilliance and the cusp of legacy defining, career opus penning compositions. It is a work in process and the best is yet to come. The wines of Achaia are entirely indicative of this intellection. Antiquity is an amazing tourist attraction and in Achaia, as in the entirety of Greece, you can’t blink without stumbling upon a metaphorical doric this or an allegorical ionic that. Cradles of civilization just have a certain den xéro̱ ti and Greece is the world super-power. The question begs. How does this apply to wine?

Like so many wine producing nations not called France, Germany or Italy, Greece is poised for modern greatness but it has one distinct advantage. It lays ownership to some absolute conditions that easily separate it from emerging and developing, New World regions, but also from European peers. The first is obvious and that of course is a centuries old tradition of making wine. The second may come as a surprise, especially as it relates to wine. Mythology covets a paradigmatic relationship with Greek culture, however intangible it can be quantified. A visit to Achaia offers tantamount proof of such a notion. This from New Wines of Greece: “The fascinating archaeological sites with the notable museums and the grape-growing and wine-making history directly tied to the myth of Hercules are just some of the attributes that will appeal to those who indulge in wine tourism in the Peloponnese.”

Then there is the confluence from the slopes of Egialia, said to form the centre of the triangle of Ancient DelfiOlympia and Epidavros. It was not long ago that I connected the divine and the allegorical with Greek wine. I quote myself. “Me, I’ll concentrate on the divine mythology of Greek wine, of its place in the fractal world, how it can beautify and simplify, through recursion in dynamic systems, the bleak chaos of wine landscapes. Like the Morai, Greek wines are thread with motherly nurturing. For mere mortals, they direct fate from the birth of their drinking days to death. They are a highly independent bunch, unobstructed and driven by necessity.” It would be obtuse to ignore the hyper-reality of all these extraordinary things, to discount the divined revelation through profound symbols of religious myth. To see the analogy and pertinency with the mathematics of wine; pH, sugar, acidity and alcohol. Not exactly Pythagorean, certainly not Orphic, but mysterious somehow.

The Achaia advantage: From PGI to PDO and endemic varietals

The Peloponnese is located in the southernmost section of continental (western) Greece, its western and northern borders lining the Ionian Sea and the Corinthian Gulf. Homer called it Ampeloessa, meaning “full of vines.” The Achaian advantage is more than just a matter of slope and soil. The Nazi attrocities committed at Kalavryta will always be remembered as the darkest of Peloponnese days but neither war nor Phylloxera has truly interrupted centuries of growth and tradition.

Achaia is one of Greece’s largest wine regions and its 31 wineries accounts for approximately 10 per cent of the national wine output. The mesoclimate of Achaia is determined by a combination of mountain and sea. Erymanthos, Panachaikos and Chelmos range for vines at up to 850m though in Egialia grapes grow as high as 1050m. There are slopes here with a northern aspect, a factor which is not lost on the winemaker in search of cool-climate viticulture. The mountain man of Eigalia Angelos Rouvalis points to the hills and talks of  “a rare terroir, where facing north can achieve a significant drop in temperatures, creating specific vine balances, which is difficult to achieve in other places.” It is also here that the waters of the gulfs (Patras and Corinth) cool and temper the climate. Stronger winds ward off the warmer streams blowing up from Africa, creating a much cooler viticultural area than Patras.

The northern Peloponnese vineyards are divided into four distinct viticultural locales. In the east, in the areas of Egialia (Aegialia) and Kalavryta, the PGI Egialia wines are produced. Egialia’s temperate climate and northerly orientation on (250 to 850m) slopes are protected by the cool summer sea breezes of the Gulf of Korinthos (Corinth). Pausanias was a Greek traveler and geographer of the 2nd century AD, who lived in the times of Hadrian, Antoninus Pius and Marcus Aurelius. He referred to the villages of Egialia as ideal for cultivating vines. Egialia soils vary from white calcareous to fertile sandy loam with good drainage.

It is in Egialia that the endemic white (blush) and highly aromatic variety Roditis ripens ever so gently. The varietal take in the lower (450 to 500m), yet similar climate for the vineyards of Patras makes for wines of fuller body. Lower Patras slopes are positioned for another indigenous grape, the red varietal Mavrodaphne. Traditionally purposed for desert wine, modern usage of the “black” Daphne is happening for dry table wine, as is the black of Kalavryta (Mavro Kalavryta), from grapes grown on slopes close to the tourist town of Kalavryta. The coastal flatlands between Patras and Rio to the east are dominated by the white Muscat. The varietal watch is on for Mavro Kalavryta, a grape that performs like Gamay or perhaps Cabernet Franc. In the hands of a winemaker like Panayiotis Papagiannopoulos it will be a wine to help mark the act of Achaia’s second renaissance. Konstantinos Lazarakis M.W. sees it as “the best Gamay that is not Gamay.” This is a man who knows his audience. 😉 This is a grape that will define fresh and further down the Peloponnese road for red wines and begin to separate from itself from other red attempts. It’s future will see the establishment of plots into crus, to make simple fruity reds to drink and also more serious wines, to experiment and to use some older barrels and to envision the future when it has been given some age.

Konstantinos Lazarakis M.W. and Sofia Perpera, New Wines of Greece at the Sailing Club Restaurant, Patras

Konstantinos Lazarakis M.W. and Sofia Perpera, New Wines of Greece at the Sailing Club Restaurant, Patras

The four officially recognized PDO‘s are Muscat of Patras, Muscat of Rio Patras, Mavrodaphne of Patras and Patras. The first three are produced in the central and western section of Achaia. The local Muscat is known to the world as Muscat Blanc à Petits Grains and in Achaia as Moschidi. Under the regulations of both Muscat PDOs the wines may be vin naturellement douxvin doux or vin doux naturel. PDO Patras is made from 100 per cent Roditis, though there are several clones of this variety. Specific clones are generally chosen based on altitude, as each variant has been proven to work on particular slopes. The top wines are produced from a red Roditis, also known as Alepou. The PDO Mavrodaphne of Patras (Fortified, Vin De Liqueur) can be fashioned with up to 49 per cent dried and rehydrated Corinthian Raisin (Black Currant) in the mix.

Black Corinth Grapes

Black Corinth Grapes

Despite the fact that the predominant amount (almost 99 per cent) of Black Corinth ends up in a pouch full of currants, its agricultural significance continues to play a role in the sweet red Mavrodaphne of Patras. Top quality vineyards have historically been cultivated with the Black Corinth because they fetch as much as 300 per cent more money than wine grapes. The bizarre terroir-varietal-trade flow chart is changing for the better but the raisins remain a long way from extinction. Slopes that face the sun perpetuate the propagation. Then there is the unusual scenario of the earthquake factor. “In Patras we are either raisining or shaking,” quips Lazarakis.

Kalavryta Mountain Tea

Kalavryta Mountain Tea

Other white varieties grown in the region include the extremely rare Sideritis (only two producers for the variety that shares a name in common with a flowering plant known as Greek Mountain Tea), Malagousia, Lagorthi, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc. Other red grapes cultivated include Agiorgitiko, Xinomavro, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah. The wines of Achaia are built upon an alcohol premise that keeps them stable, in balance and immune from oxidation. Their attitude fights the life work of Louis Pasteur and Jean-Antoine Claude Chaptal. If the wines lost some footing due to the trending towards bacteria and sugar mien, now, with the world peeling back from manipulated wines, the Achaian style is poised to grab their market share.

Accidental tourists at the Archaeological Museum of Patras

Accidental tourists at the Archaeological Museum of Patras

 

Tetramythos

8ο kil. Pounta-Kalavrita, Ano Diakopto, 25003, Greece, 2691097500 The most modern facility in all of Achaia, re-built after a fire destroyed the property more than 10 years ago. Owned and operated by the brothers Aristos and Stathis Spanos.

Panayiotis Papagiannopoulos, Tetramythos Winery

Panayiotis Papagiannopoulos, Tetramythos Winery

Oenologist since 1999 is Panayiotis Papagiannopoulos, a winemaker who may just have been separated from twin Frank Zappa at birth. Located at Ano Diakopto of Egialia, on the slopes of Mount Chelmos, the 14 hectares of vineyards (450-1,000m) are farmed organically (and have been since 1997). Bush vines make up 80 per cent and endemic varieties (85 per cent) cultivated (plus some expatriates) are Roditis, Malagousia, Sauvignon Blanc, Mavro Kalavryta, Agiorgitiko, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. The total production is 13,000 cases with export to foreign markets (80 per cent) that exceeds peers by a wide margin.

Ano Diakopto of Egialia

Tetramythos Winery, Ano Diakopto of Egialia

Tetramythos Roditis 2014, PDO Patras, Greece (SAQ 12484575, $15.75, WineAlign)

Pulled from four vineyards at 650-850m of altitude and from vines 19-42 years old. No skin contact though it shows a light, slight tinge of colour. Nearly platinum in its yellow hue, perhaps attributed to organics says Papagiannopoulos, Eighty per cent was achieved through natural ferment (with zero malolactic) plus “one tank for security.” Roditis can go clean or develop anti-austerity, texture, viscosity in the direction of a dirty projector. The Tetramythos glides “forward through the clover and the bergamot.” I can see what she’s seeing. Tasting like a leesy ripe peach, this is the best “basic” Roditis tasted in Achaia. Serious match of Aleria Restaurant‘s Sea Bass Tartare. Drink 2015-2020.  Tasted July 2015

Tetramythos Roditis 2008, PDO Patras, Greece

A wine to fulfill the promise of my own personal vindication. I had asked Angelos Rouvalis about laying Roditis down for three to five years or more, to see where it may go and he said, “why?” Here is why. Has fan vaulted to the skies, urged by petrol and a symphony of mythology. Akin and within aromatic mineral reach of Sémillon or Riesling, with just a basal drip of ambrosial, gaseous honey. The green notes (of pea and nettle) are exaggerated but that is attributed to 2008 fruit that may have never been fully ripe. Drink 2015-2017.  Tasted July 2015

Tetramythos Roditis 2014 and Muscat Sec Blanc Nature 2014

Tetramythos Roditis 2014 and Muscat Sec Blanc Nature 2014

Tetramythos Muscat Sec Blanc Nature 2014, PGI Peloponnese, Greece

Nothing short of lucent, this friable, direct and crunchy raw Muscat. Effusive of individual vowels and consonants, typically Achaian, extrapolated to Greek in its lambent and inventive simplicity. More glade than wax, it coats with orange and the spirit of lime. So different and yet so familiar, inevitably dry and straight as an arrow. Drink 2015-2018.  Tasted July 2015

Tetramythos Mavro Kalavryta 2014 (SAQ 11885457WineAlign)

A terrific example for a grape saved from extinction, Tetramythos owns 1.9 of a total four hectares of MK. Kudos for the effort especially considering the variety is thin skinned, slow to mature and difficult to cultivate. Saw nearly 20 days of skin contact because “the variety dictates the practice,” notes Konstantinos Lazarakis M.W. The fruit and bitters express a push-pull of terroir. One of two wineries making dry wines from the endemic variety, here the fresh red grape, the food friendly marker. Here confidently struts modern Achaian winemaking, from the ashes of naturalism and antiquity, the way Gamay or Loire Cabernet Franc are wont to do. Vibrant, with verve and a necessary natural funk. Herbal and with a rub of tomato skin, creamy, cool yet resinous, followed through from aroma to texture. Drink 2015-2018.  Tasted July 2015

Kotrotsos Moschofilero Erasmios 2014 and Tetramythos Mavro Kalavryta 2014

Kotrotsos Moschofilero Erasmios 2014 and Tetramythos Mavro Kalavryta 2014

Domaine Mega Spileo (Cavino)

The domain is set within a dramatically oriented steppe of an amphitheatre, in a bowl beneath the shadow of a 940m rock that houses the great Greek Orthodox monastery of Mega Spileo (Grand Cave). Nowhere else in the Chelmos mountains does monk viticulture resonate as it does here. The great vineyard (Megali Ambelos) perches above the Vouraikos Canyon at 800m of height. The winemaker for the wines of Cavino and Mega Spileo is Stelios Tsiris. Varieties grown since re-planting in 1999 include Mavrodafne, Mavro Kalavritino, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, Lagorthi, Assyrtiko, Malagousia and Riesling.

Mega Spileo Monastery

Mega Spileo Monastery

Moschato 2014, PGI Achaia, Greece

Nearly bone dry (4 g/L RS) and well-nigh nicked by acidity (6.2 g/L TA) this is really a true expression of the Muscat Blanc à Petits Grains, an elegant cold pour into a glass on a breezy, sunny day. Until now Muscat in Achaia “could never look me in the eye” but the flurry of aromatics sing like a songstress in white lace. Its gaze is like lemon and olive oil and its tongue like the sweet wax on the rind. Here the Moschato path has been properly and soulfully taken. Rich in gold, like the kingdom of Agamemnon at Mycenae. Drink 2015-2017.  Tasted July 2015

Deus Rosato NV, Peloponnese, Greece

Made from 100 per cent Syrah and slightly sweeter than the Muscat, here at 60 g/L RS. The lees, cheese and funk from Syrah turned to sparkling distracts from the sweetness, sending this to parts of southern France in meditative, Mediterranean, savoire savour faire. Raspberry and cranberry vie for sweet and sour supremacy and the wine actually, seemingly turns dry on the peppery, fizzy, tanky and spirited back side. Never backs down and the last conceit is one of tannin. So much more successful than the Moschato. Drink 2015-2019.  Tasted July 2015

Mega Spileo Moschato 2014 Deus and Deus Rose

Mega Spileo Moschato 2014 Deus and Deus Rose

Cavino Mavrodafne Reserve 2000 (Winery)

“We are about to experience one of the best underdogs of Greece,” says Konstantinos Lazarakis M.W. by way of introduction. The world had to wait 18 months plus seven years years for this to appear. A Port-style fortified red, fashioned from the 27 best judged oak barrels and finished in October of 2000. The mix is Mavrodaphne (70 per cent) and Black Corinth (30), expertly amassed and positioned at a time when using the 49 percent maximum allowance of dried raisin was the norm. Ahead of its time in that regards but also because of its rangy acidity, incredible acidity actually, something that gives this dessert wine the essence and spirit of raisin radio. That and a beautiful oxidation and it succeeds in wooing palates, not to mention fulfilling the promise laid bare by Mr. Lazarakis. Drink 2015-2020.  Tasted July 2015

Parparoussis

Achilleos str., 264 42 Proastio, Patras, Greece, 30 2610 420334, info@parparoussis.com

Antanassis Parparoussis and Moschato Vines, Domaine Parparoussis

Athanassios Parparoussis and Moschato Vines, Domaine Parparoussis

Founded in 1974 by oenologist Athanassios Parparoussis who works as winemaker while daughters Erifili and Dimitra support on the business and marketing side. The winery is located in Patras and the property includes 10 hectares at Movri Achaias. Grapes are farmed organically and Parparoussis is one of only two vintners ion the region making wines from the rare and indigenous Sideritis. Parparoussis farms organically in principal but is not certified, nor is Athanassios concerned with the designation. It’s a matter of being devoutly pragmatic. “The soil is alive, so why kill it.”

Parparoussis Sideritis Dons De Dionysos 2014, Peloponnese, Greece (SAQ 11900995, $21.00, WineAlign)

The 2014 “gift of Dionysus” is herbal, arid, directly unassuming and fixed with a very savoury, nearly resinous pastel palate. The wind blows rosemary and lavender and truthfully it’s like a naturally cured red feeling in a white package. All lemon citrus at the tail. Drink 2015-2016.  Tasted July 2015

Parparoussis Rosé “Petite Fleur” 2014, PGI Achaia, Peloponnese, Greece

Just under 300 cases are made of this pale, lithe and prodigiously lithe blush wine, like the Dionysus, made from 100 per cent Sideritis. Skin maceration was performed overnight, “a one night stand,” while indigenous yeast was employed for a natural, dry vinification. The light and rust-directed antiquity of caste excess has caused an exaggerated herbal, namely oregano aroma. The overall feel is suppositious and may just be one of the great Rosé stories ever told. Drink 2015-2016.  Tasted July 2015

Parparoussis Sideritis Gift of Dionysus 2014 and Agiorgitiko Reserve 2010

Parparoussis Sideritis Gift of Dionysus 2014 and Agiorgitiko Reserve 2010

Parparoussis Taos 2010, PGI Achaia, Greece

A barrel fermented, dry vinified, 100 per cent Mavrodaphne. Naturally pitchy, high in acidity and purposed in tannin. A rare zero dilution at the hands of Black Corinthian Raisin and therefore not so high in alcohol, despite the richness of hue. Actually has a modern next tier level of complexity, complexion and aromatic intensity. Purple flowers and plum swirl in its circuitous, cycloid multiplicity. The savoury, resinous black bay laurel and chalky, cooked lentil, the grill and its smouldering charcoal are all in. Further resinous of bay oil on the back bitters and a very Tentura finish. Wild, sauvage, beautiful and built for the ling haul. Drink 2018-2025.  Tasted July 2015

Oenoforos (Rouvalis)

Selinous, 25100 – Aiyion, Greece, 30 2691029415, info@rouvaliswinery.gr.

Aneglos Rouvalis and WineAlign's DJ Kearney

Aneglos Rouvalis and WineAlign’s DJ Kearney

Eonologist is Angelos Rouvalis, a winemaker with an encyclopedic knowledge of every hill and slope in the mountains above Patras and where each variety grows best. Established in 1990 by Rouvalis, a Bordeaux-trained winemaker, recognized internationally as a pioneer in the renaissance that has taken place in the Greek wine industry in recent years. In 1994 Yannis Karabatsos, an agricultural engineer and expert in Greek viticulture joined the winery. “The Oenoforos winery consists of five levels on the slopes of Aigialeia in the village of Selinous. It combines monastic simplicity with state-of-the-art technology.”

Oeneforos Roditis ‘Asprolithi’ 2014, PDO Patras, Greece (SAQ 978197, $16.50, WineAlign)

The “white stone” could be considered the Pinot Grigio of Greece though the pink-skinned variety grown here between 800-1000m is such a bleed of high altitude calcaire. An amalgamated, aromatic accumulation is all about citrus without the airs of pierce and secondary sandarac meets kedros that reminds of clementine. At 11.5 per cent alcohol and low pH it might confuse for Trocken Riesling if not for its classic herbiage and austerity. Drink 2015-2018.  Tasted July 2015

Antonopoulos Vineyards

25008 Vassiliko Chalandritsas, Patra, 30 2694061447, info@antonopoulosvineyards.com

The winery was founded by the late visionary winemaker, Constantinos Antonopoulos near the city of Patras in the northwestern of Peloponnese. Constantinos saw the vast, untapped potential of this diverse landscape, especially the mountainous region of Achaia and the unique winemaking opportunities it presented. A new up to-date winery has been built recently at Vasiliko, Achaia, where the majority of the winery’s vineyards are. Indigenous Greek varieties are the focus. All three Antonopoulos wines tasted at the winery Achaia Clauss were clearly achieved through very serious work. Though clean beyond the pale, they all exhibit slightly to more than leesy and all finish with so much salinity and limestone inflection. The only thing missing is the crustaceous accent.

Antonopoulos Vineyards

Antonopoulos Vineyards

Antonopoulos Adholi This White 2014, PGI Achaia, Greece

Essential and pedigreed blend of Lohorthi 65 per cent), Chardonnay (20) and Roditis (15) that expresses increased aromatics much like Viognier. Nearly profoundly tropical but so very dry, like Assyrtiko in its cracking open but with the feel of wild yeast and the feign of barrel. Chalk it up to 800-900m clay-limestone speak and no more than that, creasing to a crisp effervescence without bubble, yet it does tingle of the tongue. Like it’s working all the while, then on to citrus on the end, in lemon and lime torque as if by Riesling. The Moschofilero might be Mycenaean Linear B and this the other, later Greek alphabet. Drink 2015-2018.  Tasted July 2015

Acheon Winery

Korinthou 121, Aigio, Greece, 30 26910 28062, info@acheonwinery.gr.

Sosanna Katsikosta is Oenologist and General Manager while Katerina heads up business and marketing operations. The sisters are carrying on a winemaking tradition passed on to them from their late father. Konstantinos Katsikostas carried the torch from his father Luke who founded the winery in 1946 in the area of Palaiokamares of Aegio. Annual production of 2,000 cases. Katsikosta is desperately, passionately practicing, experimenting, trying to stir up vinous ghosts and find their way back to ancestry, to ways of elders, to bring to light what used to be and to establish an identity for the world to see.

Acheon Sideritis 2014, PGI Achaia, Greece

The nearly extant one, a rare variety, being revived, planted at low altitudes, with yields 70-75 hL/L. Aromatic and misunderstood, with a Savagnin character, a funky, musky skin, like leather but not as deep, yet something oddly tropical, like jackfruit, or gummy bear, dusty ginger, and resin, like thyme. Another variety being worked with to see what it can be and to link back to what once was. Really good acidity. Drink 2015-2016.  Tasted July 2015

Kotrotsos

Vassiliko Achaias TK. 25008, 30 26940 61 900, vinko@otenet.gr. Winemaker is Giannis Kotrotsos.

Kotrotsos Mavrodaphne NV, PDO Mavrodaphne of Patras, Greece The standard 15 per cent alcohol and in this plugged in, short fuse sweet wine is highly intense and lit caper green, dried fruit and a serious pasticcio of botanicals, distilled into a major excitative and concentrated sweetness.  The second bottle tasted has so much more life and character. Much more sweet floral attractiveness and the sweetness is less pronounced as a result. Goes from spice and piquancy to sweetness with the right transitory methodology, culminating in a great LBV Port finish. Nutty and spicy. Tremendous fruit forward expression.  Drink 2016-2024.  Tasted July 2015

Karelas Winery

Georgios J. Karellas A.V.E.E, 41-43, Skagiopouliou Str., Patras, 262 22, 30 2610 321 000, karelas7@hotmail.com

Karelas Winery was founded in 1936 by Georgios Karelas. Using the native ‘Mavrodaphne’ grape, the company is renowned for it’s sweet, dessert style Mavrodaphne wine.
Mega Spileo Mavrodaphne and Karelas Mavrodaphe Reserve 2009

Mega Spileo Mavrodaphne and Karelas Mavrodaphe Reserve 2009

Karelas Mavrodaphne Reserve 2009, PDO Mavrodaphne of Patras, Greece

The only Mavrodaphne aged in highly seasoned toasted new French barrels. The standard weight bearing 15 per cent alcohol and a similar feeling as with previous kicks at the sweet Mavrodaphne can, but more red fruit and brighter raisins in the sun. The spice and liqueur here seem less spirited and combine for a more mature, seasoned, reasoned, direct and ultimately cleaner expression. Captain Jack (or George) will get you Achaia tonight “and take you to your special island.” Drink 2015-2022.  Tasted July 2015

Loukatos

Loukatos Bros, Β 3 & ΟΤ 24, Industrial Zone Patra 25018 Achaia / Patra, Greece, 30 2610 647588,  info@loukatos.com.gr

Perhaps most famous for their local production of spirits, namely Tentura and Mastic, Loukatos does a bang up job with dessert wines, especially in their handling of Muscat from Patras.

Loukatos Muscat of Patras and Mavrodaphne of Patras

Loukatos Muscat of Patras and Mavrodaphne of Patras

Loukatos Muscat NV, PDO Muscat of Patras (WineAlign)

A 15 per cent abv Vin de Liqueur largely based on the 2013 vintage. Very clementine and apricot nosed, impeccably balanced from viscous to intensity in grape, with nothing musty or musky about it, though there is a musk melon sense, a botrytis that is very clean. Another excellent, natural sweet Patras example of what Muscat can do, again at super low cost, with high flavour and here, more fruit forward than the Kotrotos. Drink 2015-2021.  Tasted July 2015

Old cask and young DJ Kearney at Achaia Clauss, Aigialia, Achaia

Old cask and young DJ Kearney at Achaia Clauss, Egialia, Achaia

Crisis? No one’s gonna bring Greece down, nor me neither, ’till I again reach Achaia ground.

Good to go!

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Catch 22 wines

Godello's garden meets Greek Horaitiki

Godello’s garden meets Greek Horaitiki

Twenty two wines I tasted from the August 22nd release. Some are really good. So what’s the catch? Some not so much. As always, take a grain of salt and judge for yourself. Godello is not traditionally a site to explore the good, the bad and the ugly. The good news is that the worst of these 22 are actually quite well-made. The bad news is that each will only satisfy a certain kind of palate and a specific sort of temperament.

Something for everyone. LCBO 101. I hope you find something you like.

From left to right: Koncho and Co. Tsinandali 2012, Man Vintners Free Run Steen Chenin Blanc 2014, Featherstone Four Feathers 2014, Grace Lane Riesling 2013, Henri Bourgeois Petit Bourgeois Sauvignon Blanc 2014, Perrin Réserve Rosé 2014, Vineland Sauvignon Blanc 2013 and The Crusher Viognier 2013

From left to right: Koncho and Co. Tsinandali 2012, Man Vintners Free Run Steen Chenin Blanc 2014, Featherstone Four Feathers 2014, Grace Lane Riesling 2013, Henri Bourgeois Petit Bourgeois Sauvignon Blanc 2014, Perrin Réserve Rosé 2014, Vineland Sauvignon Blanc 2013 and The Crusher Viognier 2013

Koncho & Co. Tsinandali 2012, Kakheti, Georgia (412981, $12.95, WineAlign)

Boxy, foxy, contained, constrained, aromatics waiting to burst, in big timbre and quite spicy. A bit reductive and very juicy. Boisterous, wild-eyed expression. Drink 2015-2018.  Tasted August 2015  @GeorgianWineSoc

Man Vintners Free Run Steen Chenin Blanc 2014, Wo Coastal Region, South Africa (126847, $13.95, WineAlign)

Good texture and mouthfeel in this Chenin, dry but unctuous, direct and filling. Works coastal wonders in many ways. Drink 2015-2018.  Tasted August 2015  @MANVintners  @vonterrabev  @WOSACanada

Featherstone Four Feathers 2014, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (341586, $14.95, WineAlign)

Though Riesling dominant this is a shared experience, with cool climate Chardonnay and richly aromatic Gewurztraminer lifting spirits and exhaling breaths. The Sauvignon Blanc seems to add ripeness and juicy palate flow. A mouthful of ripe fruit to be certain and amenable beyond its pragmatic ways. One of the better value white blends and one to look at for Niagara Peninsula propensity within the context of designing an appellative blend. Drink 2015-2017.  Tasted August 2015  @featherstonewne

Grace Lane Riesling 2013, Yakima Valley, Washington (420737, $14.95, WineAlign)

Simple, straightforward, slightly spritzy Riesling with a full-blown lemon lime palate and a finishing set of bitter piths. Good length gives it life. Drink 2015-2018.  Tasted August 2015

Henri Bourgeois Petit Bourgeois Sauvignon Blanc 2014, Igp Vins De Pays Du Val De Loire, France (672345, $15.95, WineAlign)

A lithe and petite Sauvignon Blanc, balmy, touched by spice accents and a whisper of lemon/lime. Tart but not really striking or biting. Soft Sauvignon Blanc, quick and effortless. Drink 2015-2016. Tasted August 2015  @ChartonHobbs

Perrin Réserve Rosé 2014, Ac Côtes Du Rhone, France (719062, $15.95, WineAlign)

Pretty Rosé, arid enough though really juicy and presentable to a wide army of followers. Some tonic and even more brine. A late feeling of pickles and preserves. Better than many. Drink 2015-2018.  Tasted August 2015  @Beaucastel  @ChartonHobbs  @RhoneWine  @VINSRHONE

Vineland Sauvignon Blanc 2013, VQA Niagara Escarpment, Ontario (551168, $16.95, WineAlign)

Spicy vintage for the Escarpment, concentrated in many ways, for juicy fruit, capsicum and savoury herbs. A touch effervescent which does not detract, but rather adds a buoyant lifeline because the tart acidity is really something else. Fun with Sauvignon Blanc from up on the shelf. Drink 2015-2017. Tasted August 2015  @VinelandEstates  @benchwineguy

The Crusher Viognier 2013, Wilson Vineyard, Clarksburg, California (361964, $16.95, WineAlign)

Reductive Viognier, nice and fresh for a change, cool Clarksburg fruit thankfully kept shy and in absence of high alcohol, overly heated sunshine gluck. A bit of a mouth breather, tropical in a longan way and of enough though not striking acidity. Finishes overly bitter, in lime pith and a kind of nettle. Drink 2015-2018.  Tasted August 2015  @SebastianiWines  @Select_Wines

From left to right: Trivento Golden Reserve Malbec 2012, Pascal Jolivet Attitude Sauvignon Blanc 2014, Gérard Bertrand Côte Des Roses Rosé 2014, Paco & Lola Albariño 2013, Herdade Do Rocim Red 2011,S. Cristina Massoni Lugana 2014 and Gray Monk Pinot Blanc 2013

From left to right: Trivento Golden Reserve Malbec 2012, Pascal Jolivet Attitude Sauvignon Blanc 2014, Gérard Bertrand Côte Des Roses Rosé 2014, Paco & Lola Albariño 2013, Herdade Do Rocim Red 2011,S. Cristina Massoni Lugana 2014 and Gray Monk Pinot Blanc 2013

S. Cristina Massoni Lugana 2014, Doc Lombardy, Italy (200097, $17.95, WineAlign)

Tanky and metallic, coastal and postal for Trebbiano di Lugana. Quite herbal, reminiscent of Sancerre, with spice, nettle and linear length. Layered and structured white with a seriousness in its expression. Drink 2015-2020.  Tasted August 2015

Herdade Do Rocim Red 2011, Alentejo, Portugal (423574, $17.95, WineAlign)

A regional blend of Antao Vaz, Arinto and Roupeiro. Very cimmerian, rich and dense Alentejano, wildly berry delicious and yet fierce. Lots of oak, lots of optimism and plenty of swagger. Very spicy and toasty finish. Drink 2015-2019.  Tasted August 2015  @winesportugalCA

Paco & Lola Albariño 2013, Do Rías Baixas, Spain (350041, $18.95, WineAlign)

Concrete and tank Albarino, steely and mineral, cool and bristling. Turns to stone fruit on the palate, gets down to juicy and then ricochets off the walls, drawing salinity and pulverized limestone into the very linear finish. Such a calcareous, wound white wine, on a spindle, in a vacuous void of aggregate and steel. Drink 2015-2020.  Tasted August 2015  @pacolola  @azureau

Gérard Bertrand Côte Des Roses Rosé 2014, Ap Languedoc, Languedoc-Roussillon, France (373985, $18.95, WineAlign)

Dry, floral, medicinal, quite tight and angled, not angular Rosé. The sea salinity and briny strawberry confluence is quite striking. Doesn’t really linger so in the end it’s a bit of a simple quaffing Rosé but what of it? That’s right. Drink 2015-2016.  Tasted August 2015  @GBvins  @LanguedocWines  @FwmWine

Pascal Jolivet Attitude Sauvignon Blanc 2014, Loire, France (971887, $19.95, WineAlign)

A neat feat to stretch Sauvignon Blanc like this, in phyllo layers and like bitter greens braised to sweet tenderness. Savoury though the herbs are not the most recognizably cultivated, used or considered. Like winter savoury, or Spruce tip, edible seaweed even. All tossed lightly, gingerly in a citrus vinaigrette. Playful SB, at times tight and bracing and then generous, giving, forthcoming. Previous vintages have had more shine. Drink 2015-2020.  Tasted August 2015  @HalpernWine  @LoireValleyWine

Trivento Golden Reserve Malbec 2012, Luján De Cuyo, Mendoza, Argentina (588731, $19.95, WineAlign)

Heavy handed, much wood and chalky, full on bloody Malbec. Has Oz strength and gumption. Good lengthy finish. Drink 2015-2019.

From my earlier note of August 2014:

This Golden Reserve Malbec by Trivento is a juicy, dusty, fruit tree addition to the #WWAC14 flight and arrives just in the nick of time. Despite the dark fruit, it has no Drake spoken word conceit. It sings in classic Drake lullaby, with beefy meet pine forest aromas and so “you find that darkness can give the brightest light.” Tender refrains soften chalky, stalky wood and corresponding bitter chocolate. Big tannins on this balladeer. Has impressive stuffing.  @TriventoArg  @Select_Wines  @winesofarg

Last tasted August 2015

Gray Monk Pinot Blanc 2013, BC VQA Okanagan Valley, British Columbia (321612, $20.95, WineAlign)

Into another cool climate Pinot Blanc poster from Gray Monk, the standard bearer for the variety, in this price and stylistic niche, for anyone who cares or dares to join the bandwagon. Juicy stone fruit of a peach, yellow plum and nectarine fold, circular bites of acidity and mineral bleed and just a touch of tonic to tie it all together. Always great stuff. Length even better than in 2012. Drink 2015-2020. Tasted August 2015  @GrayMonkWinery

From left to right: Domaine De Rochebin Vieilles Vignes Bourgogne Pinot Noir 2013, Buena Vista Chardonnay 2013, Benjamin Bridge Nova 7 2013, Featherstone Onyx 2010, King Estate Signature Collection Pinot Noir 2013, Charles Baker Picone Vineyard Riesling 2012 and Cantina Del Pino Barbaresco 2010,

From left to right: Domaine De Rochebin Vieilles Vignes Bourgogne Pinot Noir 2013, Buena Vista Chardonnay 2013, Benjamin Bridge Nova 7 2013, Featherstone Onyx 2010, King Estate Signature Collection Pinot Noir 2013, Charles Baker Picone Vineyard Riesling 2012 and Cantina Del Pino Barbaresco 2010,

Domaine De Rochebin Vieilles Vignes Bourgogne Pinot Noir 2013, Ac Bourgogne, Burgundy, France (424275, $22.95, WineAlign)

Such a pretty red cherry, fine earth and cinnamon heart confluence on the aromatic front, with no palate or late tannin affront. The acidity seems particularly natural and fitting, the finish quick and efficient. Very good old world look at the world of Bourgogne. Drink 2015-2018.  Tasted August 2015  @BourgogneWines

Buena Vista Chardonnay 2013, Carneros, Sonoma County, California (67405, $23.95, WineAlign)

Cream in your coffee, sui generis housed and reductive Chardonnay with a chip on its shoulder. Aromatic rhythms are modulated by the barrel’s influence while flavours are pleasant though not wholly distinctive or full of character. Very directed Chardonnay and an exemplary regional example for the price. Will show better a year on. Drink 2016-2018. Tasted August 2015  @BuenaVistaWines  @TandemSelection

Benjamin Bridge Nova 7 2013, Gaspereau Valley, Nova Scotia (256289, $24.95, WineAlign)

Down $1 in price from this time last year.

From a bumper crop, there came to market 11,000 cases of this Nova Scotian feel good, faux-sparkling story. Winemaker Jean-Benoit Deslauriers’ Nova 7 dissimulation in bubbles is a true trick of the trade and though this white wine strikes as if it were a child of a warm vintage, there is a classic lightness of Rosé fizz being in its ever so slight effervescence. A singular wine in many hybrid incarnations, in Muscat ways, of pink Perle de Csaba, segmented and pressed for a sweet burst of grapefruit. It’s low (7 per cent) in alcohol, excellent in acidity, sweet and sour, citrus zesty, juicy and dry at the same time. Batch delineated and loyal to continence, though if the quantity creeps much higher that may come in to question. Grown up pink lemonade and so easy to consume.  Tasted June and July 2014, July 2015  @Benjamin_Bridge  @jbdeslauriers

Featherstone Onyx 2010, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (372433, $29.95, WineAlign)

Strikes as Cabernet Franc dominant and quite savoury so, slightly cured and richly layered. Merlot appeals and appears with its own distinct clarity, gift-wrapped with tidy flavours in refrain of Franc that acts like fruity Cabernet Sauvignon. The vintage is very in and though it’s warmer and coated with more wood than would best service its needs, this has settled into a really nice glass of red berry and plum red wine. Kudos to the blender and the patience afforded the result. Drink 2015-2018.  Tasted August 2015  @featherstonewne

King Estate Signature Collection Pinot Noir 2013, Oregon (984005, $34.95, WineAlign)

High quotient of ripeness, astringency below, earth above sprinkled and saturating. Quite an effusive design and rambunctious effort. All over the map. Big, bouncy and biting. Drink 2015-2018.  Tasted August 2015  @KingEstate

Charles Baker Picone Vineyard Riesling 2012, VQA Vinemount Ridge, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (241182, $35.00, WineAlign)

This ripe Picone in 2012, not a surprise and ripping at the same time. The orchard stands out, the texture overlaid and the length outstanding. Picone in ’12 has presence of more immediate notice, standing firm and tall to be counted early and then, for years to come, often. Like juice bled from escarpment cragges, a speciality that is singularly Picone. Drink 2016-2022.

From my earlier note of June 2014:

A vintage that begged to be protected in the vineyard, meaning no leaf plucking and no thinning. A most excellent goal of (0.691895068 kg / m2), or 2.8 tons an acre was realized, as opposed to one in 2010. Heavy vigor slowed down the ripening (leaving that kind of tonnage on the vine), to an elongated balance. Comes from terroir Baker nods to as “a barren tundra,” which you don’t get down the hill. In 2012 there was no waste, no rot, no problems. Its residual climbs to 15 g/L but you’d never know it. There is a confit of citrus, a mellifluous sensation of preserved lemon. Total count is 600 cases.

From my earlier note of March 2014:

“Baker’s iconic child yet breathes in unsettled, spumous emission from out of a warm vintage. So primary and such a hard act to follow. Vanguard Vinemount Ridge, arid as the desert and citrus, carbonic tight. Treated with cool, cooler and colder methods to seek result and strike balance in an opulent, lees-appertained, tangy finish. A Picone that says I don’t live today, so it is told and canvassed, “uh, get experienced, are you experienced?”  Last tasted June 2014  @cbriesling

Cantina Del Pino Barbaresco 2010, Docg Piedmont, Italy (922880, $37.95, WineAlign)

Nebbiolo of intonation, modulation and stress, with a noticeable mid-life moment in volatility, in contrast to an enamoured aromatic loveliness in rose petal and candied flower. Dusty swirls and tight red fruit meets stark acidity. A Barbaresco such as this has historical advantage on its side but scares a bit in the present. A very fair price for a wine that has to be stashed away for at least three years for the angst to subside. Drink 2015-2018.  Tasted August 2015  @LeSommelierWine  @piemonte_italia

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Arch classic Alsace at Domaine Weinbach

Domaine Weinbach, (c) Cassidy Havens, http://teuwen.com/

Domaine Weinbach, (c) Cassidy Havens, http://teuwen.com/

Domaine Weinbach

The great estates of the world do not endure for lifetimes, generations and centuries without an innate endowment to carry on, no matter the circumstances. Through tragedy there is always a prevail. There just has to be. I did not get the chance to meet Laurence Faller. I am sure that I would have loved to. Having tasted some of her wines at the domaine where she nurtured and finished them is at least a small concession. When I visited Weinbach last June, I did have the opportunity to meet her mother Colette Faller and I am lucky to have done so.

Catherine Faller, (c) Cassidy Havens, http://teuwen.com/

Catherine Faller, (c) Cassidy Havens, http://teuwen.com/

Related – In a Grand Cru state of mind

Thanks to Catherine Faller, who gave generously of her time and her family’s wines, the visit in the winery’s caves and up on the Schlossberg Grand Cru opened up the portal into Domaine Weinbach, Kayserberg and Alsace. Tradition and progress at Domaine Weinbach carries forward in the hands of winemaker Ghislain Berthiot, who worked with Laurence for 11 years. Here are the six wines tasted in June of 2014 and their notes.

Domaine Weinbach Muscat Réserve 2013

Domaine Weinbach Muscat Réserve 2013

Muscat Réserve 2013, Alsace, France (SAQ 10273521 $45.00, WineAlign)

True belief denotes Muscat as the launching point for any Alsace tasting, but nowhere does the ontology mean more than at Domaine Weinbach. The vintage cements the doctrine. Darts straight back to the nadir of taste and smell, to the points of the tongue and inner nose unable to elude such an attack. From vines of the Clos des Capucins, soil composed by marno-calcaire at the foot of the Altenbourg Grand Cru. Low-yields (28 hl/L) drive acidity and fruit purity atop cut and cutting apricot crossed with the essentia of a grape. Here is an apéritif extraordinaire, cocktails and caviar, crunchy canapé and pure distillate. Opens the doors to Weinbach perception. Drink 2015-2025.

Schlossberg Horse, (c) Cassidy Havens, http://teuwen.com/

Schlossberg Horse, (c) Cassidy Havens, http://teuwen.com/

Riesling Grand Cru Schlossberg Cuvée Sainte Catherine 2013, Alsace, France (Agent, $66.00, WineAlign)

From a difficult vintage with rain at harvest. A large crew was needed in mid-October to get the pick done with haste. This ’13 is essentially being given away, so it’s a gift to the world, in a sense. The fruit comes from some of the oldest Riesling vines, situated half way up the granite Schlossberg slope. Tasting this in 2014 is 12-15 years premature. Such an infant this Schlossberg, so very primary, as if by tank, as if by womb. Assumes the role of the richest of Weinbach’s Riesling aridity, exercised by the most established finesse. Peaches are exorcized in attack and persistent. Currently mired in a micro-oxidative state. You can sense it working, churning, moving in animation.  If a taste of 2005 is any indication, it will be 2022 before this wine will begin the Cuvée Sainte Catherine reveal. Look for the open window to fall between 2025 and 2030.

Domaine Weinbach Riesling Grand Cru Schlossberg Cuvée Sainte Catherine 2005

Domaine Weinbach Riesling Grand Cru Schlossberg Cuvée Sainte Catherine 2005

Riesling Grand Cru Schlossberg Cuvée Sainte Catherine 2005, Alsace, France (Agent, $66.00, WineAlign)

Here the rich and panegyrical Riesling from the first biodynamically farmed vintage at Domaine Weinbach. The old vines from the Grand Cru’s mid-slope averaged 60 years in this ’05, a wine that managed the best southern exposure to great effect. “You can have a whole lot of fantasy when it comes to food” with this Riesling vintage says Catherine Faller. That’s because there is a magnified, munificent and magnificent toast in this ’05, like some older Burgundy. The spice notes are right on the tip of the tongue with all the necessary sapidity of youngish Alsace, wise and wistful. Now having just entered the secondary window, this wine is such a perfect portal for the gauging of aging, itself looking for ideal consumption between 2020 and 2025. Full reward offered to those with further patience.

Domaine Weinbach Gewürztraminer Cuvée Laurence 2011

Domaine Weinbach Gewürztraminer Cuvée Laurence 2011

Gewürztraminer Cuvée Laurence 2011, Alsace, France (Agent, $68.00 (B.C.), WineAlign)

From an altitude of 225 to 250 metres and out of the marly limestone soil beneath the lieu-dit of Altenbourg, located at the base of the great Grand Cru Furstentum vineyard. In conjunction with the micro-specific sub-Mediterranean climate and the Indian Summer of the 2011 vintage, the results here are of the elegant kind. The total effect upon carefully judged fruit and in the late Laurence Faller’s Gewürztraminer magician’s hands, this “foie maker” is lifted, exotic and ethereal, like exceptional, fermented Yuzu. A subtle and quiet entry gives to a confident middle and a demanding, spicy finish. Lets go and slides softly into ethereal flavours. Catherine Faller’s eyes light up when she imagines a Cuvée Laurence pairing with “blood orange duck.”

Schlossberg Castle, (c) Cassidy Havens, http://teuwen.com/

Schlossberg Castle, (c) Cassidy Havens, http://teuwen.com/

Pinot Gris Altenbourg Quintessence De Grains Nobles Cuvée D’or 2010, Alsace, France (Agent, 375 mL $539.00, WineAlign)

Domaine Weinbach created the moniker “Quintessence” when it was coined to describe the 1983 cuvée. The nickname is apt for the rapt selection of rare pearls from the lieu-dit Altenbourg. The marl, limestone and sandstone Clos is a gentle slope between 225 and 250 metres high, just beneath the limit of the Grand Cru Furstentum. In a late harvest SGN like this one from the low yielding 2010 vintage, at a sky-high residual of 200 g/L you would think sweet to the back of the brain. You would be right but each time that intensity is carefully brought back from the brink by formidable, if unctuous Pinot Gris acidity, a bubble within a bubble, never bursting, always teasing. The concentration and purity here are magnificent, the flavours hanging in extract of endless, suspended animation. A wine to sip, to share and to save for senectitude.

Large Foudres at Domaine Weinbach, (c) Cassidy Havens, http://teuwen.com/

Large Foudres at Domaine Weinbach, (c) Cassidy Havens, http://teuwen.com/

At the Millésimes Alsace, the professional trade fair for Alsace wines, one of Laurence Faller’s great legacy wines was poured.

Domaine Weinbach Gewürztraminer Furstentum Grand Cru Vendanges Tardives 1994

Domaine Weinbach Gewürztraminer Furstentum Grand Cru Vendanges Tardives 1994

Gewürztraminer Furstentum Grand Cru Vendanges Tardives 1994, Alsace, France (SAQ, 11521362 $132.00 (2012), WineAlign)

The wine was presented in Colmar by Sommelier Caroline Furstoss who began with the soulful tribute of “Laurence is felt in this wine.” Deduction, by salience and sobriety of grace, is considering the Faller’s ’94 a pure expression of the Furstentum terroir. Noted are the aromas of quince, apricot, their blooms and a grain of spices. Though already twenty years in, it remains conspicuously fresh. The richness and concentration are at such a high level. Flavour begins with a marmalade in defiance of confection and has no end. Though the vintage is decadent, warm and unctuous, there is always balance. Has a tannic impression and smells like flowers from warmer France. Furstoss reminded everyone that it is “an expression of a daughter.” Impeccable balance.

Kaysersberg, from the Grand Cru Schlossberg, (c) Cassidy Havens, http://teuwen.com/

Kaysersberg, from the Grand Cru Schlossberg, (c) Cassidy Havens, http://teuwen.com/

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