Twenty-two mind-blowing wines of 2022

Godello in the Stellenbosch heather, Reyneke Wine Estate

We are who we are and we choose to live in a world according to wine. Within its walls are endless permutations and revelations, of the dark moments and the light, the romantic entanglements and the failures. We witness cycles of passion, highs and lows, endless accounts of quirky little episodes that reveal how grapes really live under the circumstances of a vintage. How they survive and thrive, eventually turning into the wine they become. A wine’s history is a lovely aside accompanied by a recorded and constructed account through the lens of someone who observes its transformations. We are messengers who take the land, plant and maker into consideration and always abide, recounting the story to those who would choose to listen. According to WineAlign I reviewed more than 3,000 wines in 2022, which means I tasted at least 3,500, if not more. In order to surmise this final list from a shortlist of more than 100 mind-blowing wines it meant another 2,900 are not even in the running and yet surely no less than a quarter are exceptional wines in their own right. That is how difficult, personal and stringent an exercise this annual choosing has become. I find it near impossible these days and yet somehow feel compelled to continue the drill. 

Godello in Chianti Classico

Related – Twenty-one mind-blowing wines of 2021

The year 2022 afforded multiple opportunities to get back on the road in search of great wines in places across the ponds and beyond. To Tuscany in both February and March, for the for the Chianti Classico Collection and also as chaperone to La Squadra Canadese for a week of exploration throughout the 11 UGAs of the territory. Forever in Chianti Classico included a masterclass presented by Italian wine expert Filippo Bartolotta and Consorzio President Giovanni Manetti titled Il Chianti Classico in 9 Decadi. This year-end summary includes one of those Chianti Classico wines dating back to 1949 but a few more could been here as well, including the fascinating Badia A Coltibuono Chianti Classico 1958. At Laura Bianchi’s estate the Castello Di Monsanto Sangioveto 1986 was one to blow my mind, as did Luca Martini di Cigala’s San Giusto a Rentennano Percarlo 2018 and VinSanto del Chianti Classico 1998. As a proud, card-carrying Ambasciatore there are dozens upon dozens of Classico and affiliate sangiovese that move me each and every calendar year. Il Molino Di Grace Gratius 2018 is an example and just one of many.

Related – Twenty mind-blowing wines of 2020

After that Tuscan adventure I moved on to Sicily for a five day exploration of The five estates of Planeta earth and my stay turned into two weeks. Covid-19 had caught me and yet the humanity of Alessio Planeta, Patricia Tòth and several winemakers aboard L’Etna turned a challenging test result into many days of discovery and deeper volcanic understanding. In fact L’Etna and Parco Statella saved my Sicilian quarantine. So many producers’ wines could and should be on this list: Azienda Agricola Sofia, Calcagno, Donnafugata, Eduardo Torres, Feudo Pignatone, Girolamo Russo, Graci, Scirto, Tascante, and Vigneti Vecchio. Oddly this was not a year for nebbiolo with likely the least amount of opportunities made available and yet a month from now I will spend 10 days in Piemonte to make up for the absence in 2022. That said there can be no forgetting Réva Barolo Cannubi 2018, from which impartiality is off the table because if you do not fall in love with this Barolo then you are not setting your palate free.

Travels in June and Abruzzo in four-part harmony included a bucket list visit with Emidio Pepe where I found that an unwavering commitment to land is everything that matters in making exceptional and memorable wine. It’s not only what you do but also who you are. Ahead of that trip I had tasted La Valentina Montepulciano d’Abruzzo DOC Bellovedere Riserva Terre Dei Vestini 2017, and there can be little doubt that it is a wine that resides at the top of the montepulciano food chain because this Riserva hails from a most specific and important terroir. After Abruzzo and then Rome I moved on to attend the first ever Anteprima for Simply Red: Rosso di Montalcino where the Brunello were set aside for one day only and the 2020 vintage of Rosso got directly under my skin, including Lorenzo Magnelli’s mind bending Le Chiuse Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2020. Dieci Anni di Rosso di Montalcino (Ten Years of Rosso di Montalcino) and Selezione di Rosso di Montalcino (Rosso di Montalcino Selection) showed wines of age-ability and purpose; my if Alessandro Mori’s Il Marroneto Rosso Di Montalcino DOC Jacopo 2019 did not blow my mind. A visit with Violante Gardini Cinelli Colombini meant a pour of Donatella Cinelli Colombini Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Io Sono Donatella 2015 for the most profound barrel expression of Le Donne’s Brunelli. 

Menfi

Related – Nineteen mind-blowing wines of 2019

In October the Cape Wine congress resumed after a four year absence and now more than ever this is what I have to say. South Africa is the most exciting and mind-expanding wine universe alive today. There are no less than 40 Western Cape wines from two dozen or so producers tasted in 2022 that could have made this list: A.A. Badenhorst, Alheit, Beaumont, Boekenhoutskloof, Crystallum, David and Nadia Sadie, Hamiilton Russell, Huis van Chevallerie, Kanonkop, Ken Forrester, La Motte, Leeu Passant, Klein Contsantia, Meerlust, Momento, Mullineux, Old Road Wine Company, Porseleinberg, Raal, Raats, Radford Dale, Restless River, Reyneke, Savage, Sijnn, Storm and The Sadie Family. To name but a few. Other southern hemisphere wines were killer in 2022, namely Torbreck Grenache Hillside Vineyard 2019, a special Barossa block to be sure.

With John Szabo MS and Rosa Kruger at the Old Vines Project tasting

In November a return to Montalcino for Benvenuto Brunello 2022 meant a look at the 2018 vintage but also the Riserva of 2017. At Col d’Orcia the Conte Francesco Cinzano Marone and his son Santiago led yet another vertical tasting, this time on the 8s and it was Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG Poggio Al Vento 1988 that stood both out and also the test of time. From Montalcino it was on to Vienna and then a Wagram-Traisental discovery tour that was both too short and mind-expanding – A return must and will happen soon. Meanwhile a tasting at home in the WineAlign office showed this Rheingau gem to the crü. Leitz Berg Schlossberg Grosses Gewächs Riesling Trocken 2019 is grand Rüdesheim indeed. 

These are the wines that blew my mind in 2022

Most of all 2022 was a year when associates, colleagues, wine professionals and especially friends reunited to break bread and taste great wines together. At a birthday party I had the opportunity to taste the following in one evening; Château Lafitte 1986, Château Mouton-Rothschild 1986, Chave Hermitage 2010, Guigal Côte-Rôtie La Turque 1999, Paul Jaboulet Aîné Hermitage La Chapelle 1990, Dom Perignon 2000, Veuve Cliquot La Grand Dame 1995 to name just seven of 20-plus icons. Bordeaux made several prominent appearances in ’22; Château Margaux 1989 (and 2004), Château Haut-Brion 2012 and Château La Mission Haut-Brion 2012. More importantly in 2022 we shared bottles of all ilk, pedigree and origin, not only the expensive and famous labels but all the great wines, big and small. Thank you to every person who poured, for every sip and taste, with heartfelt thanks. These are Godello’s 22 mind-blowing wines of 2022.

Markus Huber Grüner Veltliner Berg 1ÖTW 2021, Traisental, Austria

Highest and coolest vineyard of the Traisental Erste Lage because by three or four pm the forest casts shade over the vineyard. Limestone based soil as well, upwards of 380m and the only portion that has iron rich red elements in the earth. Actually finding a richness in this, surely vintage related and that is unexpected but it’s also the most savoury, minty cool, eucalyptus accented, or the like. Curious by comparison to Alte Zetsen and Zwirch, in what is assessed as almost dark, smoky, spicy volcanic-simulate stuff. Brings whole and utter meaning to grüner veltliner at the Grand Cru level. Drink 2023-2028.  Tasted November 2022

Godello with Charla Bosman

Sijnn White 2019, WO Malgas, South Africa

Up above the Breede River there are vines of chenin blanc, viognier, roussanne and verdelho, varieties that have been working towards a common goal, to eventuate at something great. Then 2019 comes along and the world changes. This is the vintage from which David Trafford, Sijnn and winemaker Charla (Hassbroek) Bosman take full reign of their collective charge. To be truthful the agriculture, winemaking and face of the brand is Bosman and were I in the market to hire someone of her passion, ability and professionalism I could not help but remunerate her like a top European footballer. But lucky we all are that she and Sijnn are together because she is at one with this impossible yet absurdly beautiful environment where wines like this White Blend are made and will blow your proverbial mind. They attach themselves and get so close to that personal part of you. Imagine Châteauneuf though I’d much rather consider Malgas because that is what this is. Rich and perfectly viscous, spicy, structured and fine. Drink 2024-2030.  Tasted October 2022

Girolamo Russo Etna Bianco DOC San Lorenzo 2020, Sicily, Italy

From the single vineyard at 730-740m of elevation and vinified in tonneaux. The 2009 was the first vintage of San Lorenzo Bianco for a wine that leads amongst the 80-90 thousand total bottles made by Giuseppe Russo from 18 hectares. A strong selection from the plants of carricante with cattaratto and grecanico. The carricante are the oldest and they provide the breadth in the mouth, the texture in unction and the presence that really makes you feel the vineyard. The difference between it and Nerina is really in the selection of the grapes. Giuseppe wants his whites to speak for his territory, here to be a bit more generous and 2020 obliges first because it was easier and second because it is such a vintage specific to the white wines. Such beauty and emotion is purity and life. No stress and a wine you want to drink. Drink 2022-2028.  Tasted March 2022

David And Nadia Sadie Wines Plat’Bos Chenin Blanc 2021, WO Swartland, South Africa

At a tasting where everything is Old Vines Project certified there must be something extraordinary about a wine to stand out from a crowd of greats. David and Nadia Sadie are in fact turning heritage vines chenin blanc (amongst other varietal explorations) into content born of context harboured though never paraded. They are rhythmic and scientific with just enough fantasy and romanticism, but never too much. Plat’Bos stands above Skaliekop and Hoë Steen because 2021 asks it to do so, not because it is better or more important, but it is surely chenin blanc profound. The 1981 Swartland planting is in the steady zone, shed of the mercurial and in ’21 so very linear yet salty of the earth in its sombre-sepulchral tone. There is reduction here because the poor soil nutrients demand that this chenin begins this way. The levels of tension and intensity are most elevated, sufficing to say as high as any from the Western Cape. Attention is paid unwavering to detail, sequencing is in order, purity incarnate, grape and place together pristinely kept. In Plat’Bos 2021 the palate is taken down to the whipping post by a wine built to endure. Given time there will be calm, healing and reward in the end. Drink 2024-2036.  Tasted October 2022

The Sadie Family Die Ouwingerdreeks Mev. Kirsten Wyn Van Oorsprong Stellenbosch Die Sadie Familie Wyne 2021, Stellenbosch, South Africa

The vines that supply Mev. Kirsten Wyn are the oldest chenin blanc in the country, out of Stellenbosch and planted in 1905. In 1947 every second row was pulled out to make room for tractors and the configuration still exists this way. “If South Africa has a true apex white Grand Cru vineyard then this is it” insists Eben Sadie. Facts are facts are you just can’t accede these levels of power, concentration, extract and tannin anywhere else. The nose communicates as an intoxicant of sublime forces and these grapes bestow chenin blanc 2021 are those that transcend fruit, deliver ethereality and a heightened sense of awareness. An awakening from necessary tension, crisis and personal freedoms, existential off the charts, poetic and epic. One hundred and sixteen stanzas recorded, in the books and the finest verse written right here in the most recent vintage. If enlightenment is to be gained from chenin blanc in the Western Cape, Mev. Kirsten would provide the fodder. “The grail. End of fucking story” concludes Sadie. All hail. Long live the queen. Drink 2025-2040.  Tasted October 2022

Iconic Bourgogne

Domaine De Bellene Vosne Romanée Premier Cru Les Suchots 2020, AC Bourgogne, France

“Suchots” originates from “souches,” the name given to the woods before the land was prepared to house these vines. Les Suchots is but a small 13 hectare part of the larger 220 in total for Vosne Romanée and was first planted in 1937. La Romanée and Saint Vivant are the closest plots, south of Echezeaux, north or Richebourg and though just six per cent of the appellation it is actually the largest Premier Cru Climat therein. The vineyard is divided in two by a road. The eastern part below lays just above the cemetery and the village terroir called Hautes Maizieres. The top part is located below Les Beaux-Monts. The 2019 was a dream, crème de la crème and yet 2020 seems to embrace the powerful vintage with a most extraordinary level of perfume. That and fruit concentrated to a maximum degree without falling into any of the trappings associated with hyperbole. The concept of pinot noir reaching regional levels like this seems counterintuitive to the variety-appellation contract but the balance and harmony at the top is something the likes almost never seen. This will surely be one of the wines that explain with hyper clarity what 2020 is as a vintage. Drink 2026-2040.  Tasted May 2022

Graci Etna Rosso DOC Arcurìa Sopra Il Pozzo 2017, Sicily, Italy

Sopra il Pozzo describes a special portion of the signature Arcurìa vineyard (and contrada of the same name), a block “above the well,” 100 per cent nerello mascalese picked in the last week of October. Treated to the same maceration and elévage as the Rosso for the same spontaneous style and time as Feudo di Mezzo. However Sopra il Pozzo’s “refuse” soil composition is different and requires patience in the name of time, due to its alternating layers of decomposed volcanics in stone and coarse sand. This is a section of recast material and the corresponding mascalese is both emasculated and chivalrous. The degree to which layers of fruit, mineral and umami incorporare and completare is finite and contiguous yet also lengthy, scorrevole and endless. There is rare Etna glycerin texture and perfectly timed acid tang. Tempismo perfetto. Grande. Drink 2024-2032.  Tasted April 2022

Elisabetta Foradori

Foradori Granato Teroldego 2019, IGT Vigneti Delle Dolomiti, Trentino-Alto Adige, Italy

Granato from Elisabetta Foradori resides at or near the peak of the Trentino-Alto Adige wine chain, a Dolomite force of varietal nature, richness incarnate and cragged to gain your full attention. Fruit comes at a great premium, not by absence of the heart but because so much site, land and space speak louder than words. A static red stuck in a state of cryogenic freeze, immovable and surely able to handle immobility and also time. Will drink beautifully for a decade and a half, or possibly more. Drink 2024-2034.  Tasted February 2022

Garage Wine Co. Truquilemu Vineyard Lot 97 Dry Farmed Old Vines Field Blend Carignan 2018, DO Maule Valley, Chile

The eastern facing side of the Coastal Range where the old vines grow, in places where you had to make wines for the Catholic Church, “to save souls.” The most aromatic of Derek’s wines, a true field blend with a je ne sais quoi of varieties bursting off of dry farmed bush vines. Showy with that combination of outright juiciness juxtaposed against iron-fisted structure. A wine that comes from a place where the farmer worked to break up the “los camellones”, strange diagonal lines drawn and a framer who shows how to separate the land so that making great wine is easier. This is a remarkable example of old, bush and real. Drink 2024-2030. Tasted July 2022

Barone Ricasoli Castello Di Brolio Chianti Classico 1949, Tuscany, Italy

Tasted as part of “Il Chianti Classico in 9 Decadi” led by Filippo Bartolotta with Giovanni Manetti at Stazione Leopolda in Florence at the Chianti Classico Collection. The oldest wine in the flight. apropos and just when you consider the Ricasoli heritage and lineage. A mineral layering which instinctively mimics the compaction of argiloso, macigno and calcari from Brolio’s soils, no longer feeling the separation or mille-feuille effect but now just all morphed into one and the same. There were surely some white wines in this mix, as per the formula written decades earlier by Bettino Ricasoli. Probably helped keep the freshness for some time and while this is now all earth and stone the wine is very much alive. There’s even some sweetness and citrus showing, indicative of blood orange some 73 years later, finishing with a trebbiano and malvasia Vinsanto tang.  Tasted March 2022

Isole E Olena Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG 2016, Tuscany, Italy

“I did not like Gran Selezione, I did not have anything against Gran Selezione but the discussion about UGA (sub-zones) was already underway so why not wait for this next change to the appellation?” The thinking for Paolo de Marchi was more about the wines that did not qualify for the appellation becoming wines that now qualified, the issue being a new rule could not apply to only 30 or so producers. So what is needed for that to happen? “All grapes born here should be able to travel with a passport.” If it is more complicated than that then there is much more to discuss. A Chianti Classico from a long, linear and fortifying vintage delivers equally appropriate and extending tannins, gripping the composition while proposing to become elegant and fine. The seamlessness and never wavering focus keeps on keeping on, in the ways of emotion in motion. Will remain in bottle one year more before being released to the market. Drink 2023-2027.  Tasted February 2022

Great anticipation to taste La Casaccia and Montosoli side by each from a vintage carrying no option but to act out the passion play through the glaring clarity of a sense of place. There are facts involved and there is no hiding the truth formed by these plots of sangiovese in this vintage. By now it is understood how 2018 exists on its own accord at one with nature though Francesco Ripaccioli will tell you there are similarities with 2013, if only because that vintage was greatly ignored and is drinking well at this time. La Casaccia in the località of Canalicchio is the wildcard of Montalcino and tasting several wines from the frazione reveals a collective affinity supplied by the year’s gifts. Nothing was portioned or taken away from the ’18 Annata and yet this Vigna sings with even more range and depth than that wine. The acids are simply out of this proverbial world, the linear aspects drawn with precise architectural or even, in Old English speak, a Cutter’s line. Remarkable reserve in concentration and forward slicing finesse. Forever long. Forever young. Drink 2025-2038.  Tasted November 2022

Biondi Santi Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG 2016, Tuscany, Italy

Riserva 2016 is the 42nd such vintage since 1888 from estate vineyards and the oldest parcels therein. Meanwhile olive trees and other compatible local species grow in those places and there always seems to be lower pH and higher bright acidity coming off the grapes. The Federico Radi team seeks to broaden biodiversity with unlimited scope and more vineyards would benefit by following such a plan. When Biondi-Santi gets to their next position we can expect even more refined and higher quality wines. Meanwhile the harmony and extant abilities in this ’16 Riserva are almost impossible to believe. A Riserva of fruit termed as the locus of the points drawn at an equidistant from the centre. Sangiovese of no stops and starts existing on a special kind of ellipse in which the eccentricity is zero and the two foci are coincident. Simple descriptors like crunch, chew or crust are not in the lexicon nor do service to speak about the texture of this remarkable sangiovese. Subtlety and strength, a dappling of early morning light, patterning and shimmering as if on water. The phenolics are spot on, coherent and the connection with both palate and tannins perform as an unbreakable bond. A canvas flooded with colour and while there is a level of transparency there are no white spots. Everything is filled in. Clocks in at 14 per cent abv. Drink 2025-2040.  Tasted November 2022

Fontodi Flaccianello Della Pieve 2001, IGT Toscana Centrale, Tuscany, Italy

Youthful is the proverbial understatement, zesty and full of Panzano life the other. A sangiovese in strike of ideal accord, freshness captured in bottle and development low, easy and slow accrued. Just like the season, stress-free, never too hot, never too wet. Stellar autumn of warm days and retentive cool nights. A late harvest and full phenolic character. It all shows in this 20-plus year-old Flaccianello, singing a ballad, verse after verse, refrain post refrain. After 20 minutes a sweet porcini perfume emits and one wishes for a 50 day dry-aged Chianina Fiorentina. What fortune! Along with the special effects of smoky rosmarino and wild fennochio. Drink 2022-2029.  Tasted February 2022

Sassicaia 2019, DOC Bolgheri, Tuscany, Italy

Priscilla Incisa’s Tenuta San Guido is located one hour south of Pisa, going back many generations. The surface area covers 2,500 hectares in a “classic Tuscan agricultural estate, of vines, olive oil, cereals including wheat and feed for thoroughbred horses. There are 500 hectares towards the seashore dedicated to a wild life refuge “paradise” free from hunting and for migrating birds coming from northern Europe and heading to Africa, especially because a good part of the land is covered by water during the winter. Before 1994 the appellation was Vino da Tavola. The grand vin Sassicaia is always a minimum 80 per cent cabernet sauvignon (as per the appellation) with cabernet franc. The youthful perfume of Sassicaia is really something other, an invitation to the plume of a great and mighty bird that will soon migrate or not be seen or heard from until another season. The fruit is both wound taut and also layered, a mix of liquids, gasses and decomposed mineral, turning on its axes, literally the earth itself. The effort put in speaks volumes about the quality and yet the seamless transitions are as if there are no transitions at all, only one contiguous entity. Will release in Ontario as an Online Exclusive by lottery on October 20th. Drink 2025-2034.  Tasted September 2022

Emidio Pepe Montepulciano d’Abruzzo DOC 2002, Abruzzo, Italy

The subtle and gentle elegance of 2002 is almost mystifying, if at least a surprise that kinda hypnotizes. Memory serves up a case of conflict and adversity, if also vintage envy for the bookends of 2001 and 2003. And yet the cool of the night prevails to elongate a montepulciano for our pleasure and make it sing 20 years later. It was also decanted to reduce the lees sediment and then re-corked for our benefit. Words cannot express what a beautiful place this 2002 EP is found to be. It is a treat to taste and also behold, exactly as of right now. Drink 2022-2026.  Tasted June 2022

Planeta Santa Cecilia 2005, DOC Noto, Sicily, Italy

Finding oneself in a state of utter disbelief upon nosing an older Santa Cecilia has just happened with thanks to this 2005 and the unthinkable aromatics it possesses. There have been some older examples like 2007, 2008 and 2011 which all showed morphological magic but this, this is something other. The state of perfumed preservation is impossible, the floral emanations and fruit continuance implausible and in suspension of belief. The 2005 is almost perfect, dark berries and red citrus alive, acids in perfect condition, wood dissolved, resolved and walked straight out the door. The life and vitality reside in the arena of the flawless, faultless and achievable. This is what nero d’avola, Santa Cecilia, Noto and Planeta can be, at its collective finest. Will drink this way (and also that) for five more years and with ease. Drink 2022-2027.  Tasted April 2022

Château Cheval Blanc 1998, Saint-Émilion Grand Cru Classé, Bordeaux, France

The 24 year-old 1998 has been argued and predominantly defended as a Right Bank vintage, especially for merlot based wines, which the 1998 Cheval Blanc happens to be. Clocks in at 65 percent plus (35) cabernet franc and the two combine for hypnotic aromatics to put mind and palate in an immediately dizzying and gratifying tizzy. Dark, dark fruit of the “cimmérienne” kind yet of a grace and genteel manner shared by other profoundly distinguished red wines. Thoughts can wander and wonder as a result of tasting this blind and considering the depth it is nebbiolo that is imagined. Only for a moment because the numerous dual-toned vibrations direct towards knowing this to be a blend and so Right Bank combinations lead by their impression. Both of ’98 Cheval Blanc’s are blessed of ripenesses, acids and structural bones all having peaked at a shared summit. The conclusion can only be a two-part perception, of balance and beauty. Drink 2022-2042.  Tasted November 2022

Mullineux Schist Syrah 2019, WO Swartland, South Africa

Vines planted in 1999, mature if still 12 years away from being classified as “Old Vines.” Schist is the home Brownstone Vineyard, shallow and rocky of less than 20 cm of soil. An extreme site in which vines attempt to grow, but so much comes down to the where and how. Rows are close together and planted in an almost race track configuration within an amphitheatre. The roots spread and dig deep within the stripes of schist interspersed with iron and the grapes are harvested plant by plant to create two apposite cuvées. Visually these are small vines with smaller leaves and an airiness – physically speaking. The skeletal backbone here is upright, towering and commanding, the juiciest of varietal fruit hanging as flesh, taut and muscular upon these bones. Unyielding yet never brooding nor astringent, but bountiful and beautiful. Drink 2024-2032.  Tasted July 2022

Penfolds Grange 1981, South Australia

Poured blind and easily recognized as a wine of great depth with at least two decades of maturity. Either older or hastily advanced but there are indicators to the former, namely high tones, substantial crunchy acids and full on perfume. There is a touch of Brettanomyces but only a feathery tickle and the wine still has something left to give and also to prove. Great depth is provided by wood notes, of soy, balsamic, wild fennel and all together now a reduction keeping its form, a foxy liqueur, once Cassis but now Amaro, finishing with flavours bloody and gamy. The reveal as Grange 1981 explains that while shiraz is always the game and king it had been a season for which the cabernet sauvignon portion exceeded 10 percent. Winemaker John Duval felt that ’81 was a tannic one but they left the building long ago. Both Barossa and McLaren Vale were involved and so this look back at blending expertise matters in the context of all Aussie blends being tasted today. Being present to be poured a taste of Grange represents good fortune and from 1981 there abides a full and fair suck of the sauce bottle.  Drink 2022-2025. Tasted November 2022

Donnafugata Ben Ryé 2019, Passito Di Pantelleria DOC, Sicily, Italy

Ben, as in “son of” and Ryé, a Sicilian riff on the concept of making strong mocker from the wheat grass. Think of grapes instead, in this case zibibbo (muscat of Alexandria) grown off the southwestern coast of Sicily on the Island of Pantelleria. Passito di Pantelleria DOC is one of the world’s great sweet wines, found only on this windswept promontory where the grapes concentrate, drink in the sea and express a view to which only this place commits. The warmest of vintages develops and comprises these particular sugars into something surreal. Extraordinary orange-ginger crème brûlée, perfectly embittered and made viscous in the most natural of ways. Layers of dedication and spice, health affirming herbs, respiratory fixing drops and sweetness captured, effortlessly and to gift plaisir. Apricots ripe and glazed, zen zero limone, giusto intenso. Nearly perfect. Drink 2025-2039.  Tasted April 2022

Vintage Port (c) Sarah Goddard/WineAlign

Niepoort Vintage Port 2019, DOP Douro, Portugal

Expect top concentration in Vintage Port from what Niepoort calls a “return to balance in the vineyard” type of season. Summer was unseasonably cool and the timely rainfall on the 26/27th of August was invaluable, allowing fruit maturity to go to completion. A recall to 2008, of natural, acid driven, balanced musts. Foot trodden in circular granite lagares with 100 per cent stems, racked soon after harvest, aged in “tonéis” (large oak vats) in the Douro over the winter, and then moved to the cellars in Vila Nova de Gaia in the Spring of 2020. Acid vintage indeed, fruit caught by circumfuse so as to be surrounded, ignited and eventually dispersed for decades of slow release power. The liquid chalkiness of tannin is so fine-grained you swirl and mull over just how hypnotizing it is. Truly great Vintage Port will act out this passion play. Drink 2025-2048.  Tasted October 2022

Good to go!

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All in the Primum Familiae Vini

Primum Familiae Vini tasting at Toronto's Four Seasons Hotel, April 23rd, 2015

Primum Familiae Vini tasting at Toronto’s Four Seasons Hotel, April 23rd, 2015

Can there be a more visceral wine experience than tasting some of the world’s greatest wine estates and all the while their principals just seem to only talk about history and family? Makes me think about parents, grandparents and children. About accomplishments, passing torches and smelling roses. Or something like that.

Perhaps it was the news of Etienne Hugel’s passing that was the impetus for me to relive this day, where giants gathered and mere mortals did their best to take in the magnitude of such a coterie of distinction. That afternoon gifted me and others their five minutes with Mr. Hugel, the epitome of Alsatian, a tireless ambassador for the Hugel brand, Alsace wines and the Primum Familiae Vini congregation of producers. Or maybe it was just the right time, a crossroads one year later where the confluence of circumstance and thought conjoined to let the notes come out.

Primum Fam

Tastes of PFV

As a stark contrast to the increasingly agitating globalization of wine, the Primum Familiae Vini members stand out as leading wine families whose aim it is “to defend and promote the traditions and values of family owned wine companies, and ensure that such ideals survive and prosper for future generations.” The PFV is an international association of some of the world’s finest wine producing families from France, Germany, Italy, Portugal and Spain. Created in 1992, membership into the organization is by invitation only, with a maximum of 12 highly respected families contributing generations of expertise.

PFV

PFV

The PFV estate principals arrived in Toronto for an April 23rd, 2015 Press Lunch at the Four Seasons Hotel organized by wine ambassador Christophe Brunet. On hand were Hubert De Billy, Etienne Hugel, Laurent Drouhin, Egon Müller, Miguel Torres, Priscilla Incise della Rocchetta, Thomas Perrin, Allegra Antinori, Julien Beaumarchais de Rothschild, Pablo Alvarez and Rupert Symington. Each arrived to represent eleven of the world’s leading families that at the time of the tasting, made up the association: Marchesi Antinori, Château Mouton Rothschild, Joseph Drouhin, Egon Müller Scharzhof, Hugel & Fils, Champagne Pol Roger, Famille Perrin, Symington Family Estates, Tenuta San Guido, Miguel Torres and Vega Sicilia. Each family owns vineyard estates, is one of its country’s most prestigious producers, and enjoys an international reputation for its wines. Each year in turn, a member of the association is elected President. The 2014/2015 President was Alessia Antinori, while in 2015/2016 she was succeeded by Miguel Torres.

PFV wines

PFV wines

Primum Familiae Vini supports charitable causes, hosting gala dinners to raise funds for a local charity by auctioning a PFV Collection Case. The beneficiaries have primarily been focused on helping disadvantaged children, the handicapped and specialist hospitals including. Some of these beneficiaries have been Childhood Brazil, Brasil, San Patrignano Charity, Italy, Grapes for Humanity, USA, Somdetya Charity Fund, Thailand, Kidney Dialysis Foundation (KDF), Singapore, The Public Welfare of Bunkyo Ward, Tokyo and the The Toronto Foundation for Student Success. In total, over $325K has been raised.

Pablo Alvarez, Vega Sicilia with Godello and Larent Drouhin, Maison Joseph Drouhin

Pablo Alvarez, Vega-Sicilia with Godello and Larent Drouhin, Maison Joseph Drouin

As you well know it’s all about the wine and the tasting note for Godello. The art of composing snapshots of wines tasted is a cathartic experience and the only way to bring about closure. It is a necessary process, cannot and will not be abandoned. The scores attached can stay put or go away. Neither relevant nor essential, scores are merely road signs on the exegetical path through wine. Once you pass them by their use is no longer needed.

My notes for the wines tasted are long and prosaic, even longer than most that I write, which says something about the profundity of such a tasting. That it took me the better part of a year to finalize my thoughts is not surprising. Until now I found no way to serve proper justice to these wines.

Primum Familiae Vinum

Primum Familiae Vini

Famille Hugel Riesling Jubilee 2010, Aoc Alsace, France (731448, $55.00, WineAlign)

The Jubilee’s style mirrors a reflection, of name, its maker and in the ripples it will gently spread as it progresses through time. Riesling that will eventuate to luxe, calme et volupté, like coming home after 50 years, resolved of sin, “in this year of jubilee each of you shall return to his property.” Hugel’s Jubilee is sourced from family-owned vines on the steep slopes of the Grand Cru Schoenenbourg above the village of Riquewihr. Terroir of great variegation; Keuper, marl, dolomite and gypsum, quaternary siliceous gravel, Vosges sandstone, Muschelkalk and periphery Lias marl limestones. The vintage is special, with no allowance for yields to climb and rife with sought after Riesling attributes. That of tannic intent, coursing coarseness of mineral condensation and repossessing acidity wrapped up in an enigma. Going forward it will gently give back but also remain rigid, slightly hidden, at times dormant, until such time when paraffin and honey take over. One of the finer Riesling cuvées of Alsace. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted April 2015  @FamilleHugel  @HalpernWine  @AlsaceWines  @VinsAlsace  @drinkAlsace

Super #champagne overture. I will always surrender. @Pol_Roger #sirwinstonchurchill 2002 #primumfamiliaevini

Super #champagne overture. I will always surrender. @Pol_Roger #sirwinstonchurchill 2002 #primumfamiliaevini

Pol Roger Cuvée Sir Winston Churchill Vintage Brut Champagne 2002, Champagne, France (SAQ, 12027016, $247.25,  WineAlign)

From one of the great Champagne vintages of the last 20 years, the 2002 ode to the British Bulldog is full of French vigor and supernatant rationalism. In 2015 its hue is golden gingered and the fine mousse causes sensory skips in the heart’s beats. These bubbles pay attention and tease the most sensitive olfactory nerve endings. The brioche baking and crumbs toasting are still just mere twinkles in the aromatic eye. The year 1996 is on many tasters’ minds and this wine has no qualms telling a direct lineage tale. Can there be more proof than what is spoken in the structure of this young wine? The bitters are forged from compression, without weight and void of oppression. A pleasure to taste, this Champagne is a deactivated refugee from an ancient European dominion. It’s hard to imagine it ever being anything but elegant and cool. Drink 2016-2027.  Tasted April 2015  @Pol_Roger  @Champagne  @HalpernWine

Scallop, kumquat, baby leek, caviar #fourseasonstoronto #julienlaffargue #primumfamiliaevini with #drouhin #chablis grand cru les clos 2012 and #egonmuller #riesling #scharzhofberger kabinett 1994

Scallop, kumquat, baby leek, caviar #fourseasonstoronto #julienlaffargue #primumfamiliaevini with #drouhin #chablis grand cru les clos 2012 and #egonmuller #riesling #scharzhofberger kabinett 1994

Drouhin Chablis Grand Cru Les Clos 2012

Joseph Drouhin Chablis Grand Cru Les Clos 2012

Joseph Drouhin Chablis Grand Cru Les Clos 2012, Burgundy, France (SAQ, 10998708, $88.00, WineAlign)

Drouhin’s Les Clos is Chablis incarnate. It delivers the importance of form and structure, with the incantatory power of storytelling to foresee the eventuality of its Moirai. It possesses the staying power to reveal the truth and reward with the fullness of gratification. Imagine pears, some dried and some fresh, pulverized and turned into gold stone. That is Les Clos. Barrels used are one to four years old and since 2004 there is no stirring of the lees. This determination arranges to opt for longevity of structure over immediacy in elegance. The enclosure is lacy organza, the interior filled with ripe fruit. Time (60 minutes) induces a mine of mineral wealth emergence, of shifting plates and rising outcrops from the quarry underfoot. Patience is required to bring all the moving parts in line. Drink 2017-2027.  Tasted April 2015  @JDrouhin   @BIVBChablis @BourgogneWines  @FWMCan  @Dandurandwines

Keep the car running. Magic 1994 #riesling from #egonmuller #primumfamiliaevini #scharzhofberger #rieslingkabinett

Keep the car running. Magic 1994 #riesling from #egonmuller #primumfamiliaevini #scharzhofberger #rieslingkabinett

Egon Müller Scharzhofberger Kabinett Riesling 1994, Mosel, Germany (SAQ, 12587945, $79.75, WineAlign)

It must first be said that after 90 minutes in the glass the orange blossoms open in the early morning to release their spring fragrance into the room. In a conference room at Toronto’s Four Seasons Hotel. Now I don’t really know if the Scharzhofberg vineyard was actually planted by the Romans or if it was occupied by eighth century Trier St Marien ad Martyres monks. If following the French Revolution it was in the possession of the Duchy of Luxembourg I couldn’t say. I can equivocate, with irrefutable conviction that tasting Egon Müller’s 1994 twenty one years after its release confirms the vineyard’s reputation for housing irreverent Riesling. The arcade fire of remarkable hue, life-affirming aromatic energy and sky-lift brilliance is palpable. At 20 plus years the ideology, eventuality and passionate progression of purely distilled Mosel fruit is realized. Currently suspended in jet-trail animation, the sugars over gas of this Kabinett are quantitatively resilient. The relationship has seen a symbiotic feeding for longevity. Riesling of stoicism, classic prevalence and perfect balance. The specific Scharzhofberg tang has been revised to elevate a new order derivative recorded in every pure note. “There’s a weight that’s pressing down, late at night you can hear the sound.” Time held will move forward ever so slowly. Keep the car running. Drink 2015-2034.  Tasted April 2015    @germanwineca

Miguel Torres Mas La Plana 2010

Miguel Torres Mas La Plana 2010

Miguel Torres Mas La Plana Cabernet Sauvignon 2010, Penedès, Spain (129676, $59.00, WineAlign)

The Torres Mas La Plana explains to the world why Penedès is one of the most important Cabernet Sauvignon outposts on the planet. In deference to its moniker, flat is not the operative word. With such lifted exuberance, richness and depth of fruit, it must be dared said that Bordeaux wisdom speaks from its Spanish roots. If Mas La Plana can always be good, this vintage is great. The layering of wood over Penedès soil gives it spice and subterranean pungency; cinnamon, clove, truffle and morel. This wine is now an internationally-styled giant, an expatriate made French wine with Spanish flair. Layered, structured and so much special fruit. All about the fruit. Drink 2016-2023.  Tasted April 2015  @TorresWines  @dopenedes

The reds of lunch. #vegasicilia #moutonrothschild #sassicaia #solaia #chateaudebeaucastel #maslaplana #primumfamiliaevini

The reds of lunch. #vegasicilia #moutonrothschild #sassicaia #solaia #chateaudebeaucastel #maslaplana #primumfamiliaevini

Château De Beaucastel Châteauneuf Du Pape 2005

Château De Beaucastel Châteauneuf Du Pape 2005

Château De Beaucastel Châteauneuf Du Pape 2005, Rhône, France (711317, $89.95, WineAlign)

Expectations are high for 2005 and the opening notes of warmth, amenity and avail confirm the dream. Soon thereafter the Beaucastel plays hard to get, walks away and closes down. At this 10 year juncture its evolution is only matched by its elegance, especially considering the initial arterial ardor in mimic of the vintage. Resurfacing to conjure up character in aromatics, mint, eucalyptus, garrigue, coal and tar evince this pure Châteauneuf Du Pape. A wine of global receptiveness, the 2005 rendition tames the conception. There is very little about its personality that is parochial but rather it represents what it means to be a star, everywhere, omnipresent, for everyone. After 60 minutes it actually closes down again. This will be one of the longest lived Beaucastels. Drink 2017-2045.  Tasted April 2015  @Beaucastel  @RhoneWine  @VINSRHONE  @ChartonHobbs

Antinori Solaia 2007

Antinori Solaia 2007

Antinori Solaia 2007, Igt Toscana, Italy (987586, $249.95, WineAlign)

Tasting the 2007 Solaia feels like looking directly skyward into the high noon sun with a semi-peeled orange in one hand, juices dripping, zest split and fragrant. Flowers bloom all around, cypress trees stand as sentries, sentient and giving off a savoury musk. The rosemary joins in, as do the lavender and the fennochio, because there is a breeze. Then there is only the pitchy darkness, the iron and the animale. This Solaia exudes sunshine, creme caramel and maturity. As per the style, especially in warmer vintages, Solaia always speaks of early evolved character though you know it will last for a very long time. This I have come to know, expect and believe. Drink 2015-2022.  Tasted April 2015  @AntinoriFamily  @HalpernWine

Braised Bison Shortrib, spring carrot, pommes dauphines @FSToronto #solaia 2007 #moutonrothschild 2005 #vegasiciliaunico 2004 #primumfamiliaevini #julienlaffargue #fourseasonstoronto

Braised Bison Shortrib, spring carrot, pommes dauphines @FSToronto #solaia 2007 #moutonrothschild 2005 #vegasiciliaunico 2004 #primumfamiliaevini #julienlaffargue #fourseasonstoronto

Sassicaia 2009, Doc Bolgheri Sassicaia, Tuscany, Italy (480533, $199.95, WineAlign)

Now increasingly accessible, the ripe and ferric Sassicaia ’09 continues to roar but the gamy musk of the wild beast is on the subside. The tannins have begun to relent and yet no holes, empty spaces or time-outs are to be found. With 60 minutes of air time the fruit speaks of plum hyperbole and dried flowers fill the air. Ten more years lay comfortably ahead. Drink 2015-2025. Last tasted April 2015     @Smarent

Sassicaia 2009

Sassicaia 2009

From my earlier note of November 2012:
The raven brunette is anything but sappy or syrupy yet is impossibly viscous. Hints at ripe berries growing in the crags of maritime gravel and the most expected hits of sanguine, animal musk. A huge wine in the making, the adolescent hunter Sassicaia off-roads up a steep incline to go tell it on the mountain of tannin. Disappears into parts unknown and will only reappear as a mature adult. Look to 2025 and it may say “the perspective to say the very least, changes only with the journey.”

No cartoon. The real deal. Gehry lines. #chateaumoutonrothschild 2005 @PFvini #firstgrowth #paulliac #bordeaux #onceinalifetime #primumfamiliaevini

No cartoon. The real deal. Gehry lines. #chateaumoutonrothschild 2005 @PFvini #firstgrowth #paulliac #bordeaux #onceinalifetime #primumfamiliaevini

Château Mouton Rothschild 2005, Ac Pauillac, Bordeaux, France (SAQ 10654286, $965.00, BCLBDB, 649582, $1895.00, WineAlign)

Where to begin? That Cabernet Sauvignon can so facilely lay down the law, with deputy Merlot and deputized Cabernet Franc in support, that it can syncopate and elucidate the infinite, of soil information into warmth and depth, that is does so in such a wondrous way, well, that is the crux. Mouton of incredulous form, of a liqueur that is wholly unique, even to Bordeaux. An intoxicant and yes, funky, a distilled terroir, compressed, eschewing the fractional and essaying to integration. Reduced, layered and yet bereft of cheese, cloy or cake. Healthy as a community of organisms can be, wealthy in its archetypal discretion and drawn of an architectural line to ritualize structure. Precise, innate, insistent and balanced. The cleanest, purest and ripest fruit from 10 years ago had always and continues to cut an exegetical rug on one of the greatest dance floors of wine. An age exemplary Mouton in requiem of Italian sculptor Giuseppe Penone’s label design. After 60 minutes it neither closes nor shrinks away. Open for business. Drink 2015-2045.  Tasted April 2015  

Vega-Sicilia Único 2004

Vega-Sicilia Único 2004

Vega-Sicilia Único 2004, Ribera Del Duero, Spain (702852, $475.00, WineAlign)

In a room full of Primum Familiae Vini no iconic red stands out with more singular parlous deference than the 2004 Unico. Sitting next to Pablo Alvarez and seeing his immediate reaction speaks volumes about its place in time and how it is showing. Alvarez does not smile so much as he simply acknowledges the work put in. Unico is correct and it is priceless. Is Alvarez making a comparison in his mind? Is he thinking 1970 or perhaps 1994? It does not matter because this blend of Tempranillo (87 per cent) and Cabernet Sauvignon (13) obviates derivative characteristics and so exhibits a kind of synoptic insatiability. Its persona is simply me, myself and I. The liqueur is not Bordeaux or IGT. The aromatics are exotic to the nth degree. The succulence and sucking inward grape tension is old and wise but the wine has 30-40 years of undetected evolution ahead. There is no need for a longevity prayer, just let it be. My ears hear “mais qu’est-ce que c’est bon!” perhaps from Alvarez, or maybe it came from Laurent Drouin to my left. The youthful Unico is like Les Enfantastiques, it has the “no se que” and we can call it terroir, from place, soil, climat and culture. Something that advances this early and yet has gone nowhere should be impossible. The precocious wisdom is beyond years, has reached a point at 10 that is palpable and yet so far from what it may become. It should be left alone for five more to find out. Drink 2020-2055.  Tasted April 2015  @Tvegasicilia  @DORibera

1977 @grahams_port...Oh to live to 111 and re-taste in 2077. @PFvini #symington #symingtonfamilyestates #rupertsymington #port #vintageport #primumfamiliaevini

1977 @grahams_port…Oh to live to 111 and re-taste in 2077. @PFvini #symington #symingtonfamilyestates #rupertsymington #port #vintageport #primumfamiliaevini

Graham’s Vintage Port 1977, Douro, Portugal (706663, $109.00, WineAlign)

The year 1977 was a huge one for the Douro and this Peter Symington vintage interpretation echoes the overemotionalism. The pitchy rim seems to be writhing, the aromatics roiling and my first thought is one of a houseguest that wishes he could escape an over vivid host. Vegetative freshness calms the savage beast; bouquet garni, garrigue and savoury herbiage from high yielding fruit. If cherries were roses and vice versa, they too would deter and distract. This VP has presence and distinction. It changes tempo, wades in the waters of age and treads with minimum effort. The toasted nut component is subtle, more than many and certainly in comparison to the modern era of Graham’s and others. The dry florals whiff as if the petals never dropped or ever will. The perfume drives upwards, to the ethereal. Nice little piece of Vintage Port history. Drink 2015-2022.  Tasted April 2015  @grahams_port  @winesportugalCA

Good to go!

Twitter: @mgodello

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WineAlign: Michael Godel

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