San Casciano’s nascent time in Chianti Classico

Poggio Torselli

As per the recent wave of Chianti Classico producers creating regional associations because of their shared geographies and ideologies, so too has L’Associazione San Casciano Classico followed suit. Just about one year ago in the Fall of 2018 the producers of San Casciano Val di Pesa organized to promote and protect the wineries of the municipality. This past September there were 19 (of the 23) members of the association on hand to host 13 Canadian journalists and sommeliers for a San Casciano summit at the historical Villa Poggio Torselli.

Villa Poggio Torselli

The villa’s origins are recorded in the land registers as early as the beginning of the 15th century. It is approached by an awe-inspiring boulevard of cypresses and is one of the largest and most elegant residences in the area of the San Casciano Hills, near Florence. “Queen of all villas” as it is known dates back to 1427 bearing the name of Poggio Torselli. These noble family names are associated with the villa; Macchiavelli, Corsini, Strozzi, Antonori, Capponi and Orlandini, who owned the villa until 1722. Status is a draw for important figures, so visits were made by Pope Pius VII who stopped over on his way to Paris to crown Emperor Napoleon in 1804 and also Paul I, Emperor of Russia.

Poggio Torselli Seasons Garden

The gardens are astonishing and surely one of the Chianti Classico territory’s finest. Known as the “Seasons Garden” it was created in the 18th century, teeming with narcissus, tulips, hyacinths, dahlia, sage, clematis and giant Indian hibiscus. Most notable are the fritillaries, also known as “imperial crown” and the entire garden is surrounded by the golden crown of 120 secular lemon trees.

Related – If you’re going to San Casciano

San Casciano the village is also one of eight sub-zones in Chianti Classico’s most northwesterly sector. The full name San Casciano in Val di Pesa tells us that its location is proximate to the valley of the Pesa river and it shares a border with two other communes, Barberino Tavarnelle to the south and Greve in Chianti to the east and southeast.

The sangiovese of San Casciano are made in the image of their makers; stoic, serious, at times austere, surely classic and noble. They speak with a succinct and old-school vernacular that lends great credence to the adage that sangiovese needs the bottle. The wines are unabashedly uncompromising in that they talk the talk of a sense of place that shares affinities only with each other and themselves. Their time in the sun has come, with help no doubt from a changing climate. That glaring condition was on full display the day we met and tasted because a deluge the likes there was never seen rained down and for many hours. When the tasting was complete the skies cleared and the sun shone on what was a symbolic calling to San Casciano’s nascent rebirth. The time for their distinctive sangiovese has surely come.

These are 21 of the wines tasted in September at Fattoria Poggiopiano and with the L’Associazione San Casciano Classico at Poggio Torselli.

Antinori Pèppoli Chianti Classico DOCG 2017 (606541, $19.95)

Chianti Classico from Peppolì, 90 per cent sangiovese with merlot and syrah. An enriching wine and enriched by the international grapes, juicier and more refined, if not also a very concentrated version of these wines. It’s mature and stylish to be sure. Drink 2019-2023.  Tasted September 2019

Famous volumes

Carus Vini Chianti Classico DOCG Baldéro 2016

Presented by the estate’s Sales Manager Pamela Bernini. Estate grapes of 12-13 hectares grown on clay-calcareous soils. Eight are sangiovese, the other three being syrah, merlot and cabernet sauvignon. Baldéro is 100 per cent sangiovese with only a small portion raised in tonneaux. Rich, spirited and juicy stuff. Really fresh, effusive and expressive. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted September 2019

Fattoria Cigliano Di Sopra Chianti Classico DOCG 2017

Only the second vintage of organic, 100 per cent sangiovese and an indigenous ferment. There were a mere 1400 bottles produced from a seven hectare plot, planted in 1982 and 2004. New plantings are going in. From Maddalena (age 26) in cohorts with Matteo (age 24). Quite sharp, fresh and also tannic. A start-up with experience on the fly. Drink 2019-2023.  Tasted September 2019

Castello di Gabbiano Chianti Classico DOCG 2016

A threefold experience of fennel, blood orange and pancetta. There are equal parts five per cent merlot and “other complimentary varieties.” The classic in every respect, dark cherry fruit, dusty, savoury and taut. Fresh, elegant as need be and utterly solid.  Last tasted September 2019

Castello di Gabbiano’s Chianti Classico may repeat itself and act the obvious one, but once again in 2016 it is full and ripe, filled in at every turn, deep, dark and handsome. The ability to deal in pleasure is immense from gathered quality fruit and as always this Annata finds the quickest line for us to appreciate the unwavering sense of equilibrium. Simply put it is Gabbiano and winemaker Federico Cerelli who offer a quality guarantee at the most attractive price. Leaves no reason to doubt. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted February 2018

Azienda Agricola Mori Concetta Chianti Classico Morino DOCG 2018

Mainly sangiovese with canaiolo, colorino and pugnitello. An excessively savoury and forest brushy Classico with the fruit edging away from cherry and into plum. Peppery spice adds to the complexity of this grippy sangiovese, Juicy and sharp, totally in charge of all the fun and more. Reminds me of a slow ripened ’14 with more flesh and sapidity. Drink 2019-2023.  Tasted September 2019

La Querce Seconda Chianti Classico DOCG 2016

Niccolò Bernabei and this project that began in 1995. Organic since 2001 in the most northern spot of San Casciano. Fifty per cent comes from a newer property in the south, for lightness of being and balance. Clay with stones for one of the darker and developed sangiovese in the commune. Toffee and coffee juxtaposed against freshness and really elevated acidity. Also a product of long fermentation with plenty of extraction, tannin and structure. And it needs it desperately. Not green in any means but certainly pressed and expressed. Grows in stature and also widens into greater breadth with air and time.  Last tasted September 2019

Nicely funky volatile, a rich cherry liqueur, full of spice both out of the vineyard and from the barrel. There is this chewiness that is also marked by a mouthful of spice, candied flowers and calcareous chalkiness from big variegated stones in the soil. Crunchy Annata out of San Casciano in Val di Pesa. Drink 2020-2026.  Tasted February 2019

La Sala Chianti Classico DOCG 2015

A combination of two estate vineyards and it shows in the depth of layering, rich, chocolaty and silky smooth. Dark berry fruit, a bit pressed and good high level acidity.  Last tasted September 2019

La Sala’s Annata 2015 is a bambino, a San Casciano in Val di Pesa sangiovese with 10 per cent merlot to speak for sites at 300m, seemingly more instructed by Galestro from out of the Argilla Rossa in 2015. It was raised in grande (45 hL) botti and has now only been in bottle for five months. It’s tart and firm, strong with doppio shots of espresso and very structured for the vintage. Tells a tale about the sort of sangiovese that comes from San Casciano. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted February 2018

Fattoria Di Luiano Chianti Classico DOCG 2017 ($24.50)

This is San Casciano and the wines are linked by being characterized with soils prevalent in the Greve River Valley, in connection with Antinori’s Peppoli, of river stones and Alberese, into which roots can dive deep in search of water, trace elements and minerals. “A representation of a season for our place in Chianti Classico,” explains Alessandro Palombo. Classic Luiano florality and botanical lift in spite of ‘17s challenge. A tisane for sure, of violet and lavender but also spices. Rounded out by cabernet sauvignon and merlot planted at 330m on less rocky soils. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted September 2019

Antica Fattoria Machiavelli Solatio Chianti Classico DOCG 2017

Located in Sant’Andrea in Percussina, neighbours of Poggio Torselli and the house in exile where Niccola Macchiavelli lived. From 27 hectares of vineyards, stony and porous soils. Really the first reductive Annata in this San Casciano lot, protected, protractive and taut. Called Solatio because it’s a sunny place in an otherwise cooler area of the greater territory. Ripe sangiovese with 20 per cent merlot, tannic and just a touch green. Drink 2019-2023.  Tasted September 2019

San Casciano Hills

Famiglia Nunzi Conti Chianti Classico DOCG 2017

Winemaker Gianpaolo Chiettini and what he considers some of the bigger sangiovese of Chianti Classico. Estate carries 40 hectares in the southern San Casciano area of Mercatale where calcari-Alberese soils are there to bring grip and structure. Also some vineyard with clay to mitigate and keep things swimming richly along. Much of the harvest was tossed away and sold for bulk. True selection was performed and with the stringent work through several picks. Thirty per cent saw older barrels in what is clearly a wine of soil and place. Drink 2019-2023.  Tasted September 2019

Orsumella Chianti Classico DOCG 2016 ($23.95)

Presented by Sales Manager Andrea Fabbri from a San Casciano farm located on the road from Bargino (near Antinori) proximate to Monte Ridolfi at 300m. Takes the name from the small river. The Annata is 100 per cent sangiovese eased through a short maceration and conversely similarly in extraction as a result. Native yeasts are used and it spends one years in Grandi Botti, 2500L and very old. A simple execution equals a simple equation. Young, fresh and delicious. Drink 2019-2021.  Tasted September 2019

Poggiopiano Chianti Classico DOCG 2017

From proprietor Giovanni Battista Bartoli, of sangiovese and colorino and a San Casciano winery with no international varieties. Also no Riserva. High-toned, dark fruit and dusty sangiovese, rich in syrup swirl, certainly a vintage matter, concentrated, with a notable spike of heat. No new barriques used, only second and third passage. Long and consistent. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted September 2019

Poggiopiano Chianti Classico DOCG La Tradizione 2016

“I am quite Taliban in this idea,” says Giovanni Battista Bartoli, of being 100 per cent anti-international varieties. These San Casciano soils are of clay, sand, river stones and “limo” a silty-clay. Vinification in concrete tanks, for no better reason than micro-oxidation. La Tradizione is pure varietal sangiovese and curious to even remarkable in that the palate accentuates or rather elevates the floral notes, in violets and blues. Tone spikes in whole bunches, really tart acidity and implosive intensity. A touch pressed. Drink 2020-2024. Tasted September 2019

Poggio Torselli Chianti Classico DOCG 2016 ($24.85)

In the northern part of San Casciano at 250m of altitude. Pressed for success, caramel, vanilla and simple savoury syrup. Strawberry with some of it deeper into wild types. Rich and fleshy, smooth, silken and proper acidity. Mainly clay soils with some Alberese. Creamy with help from lees and battonage. A bit of a chocolate finish again with solid acidity. High quality for the style. Drink 2019-2021.  Tasted September 2019

Corsini and Capponi crests

Principe Corsini Le Corti Chianti Classico DOCG 2016 ($26.95)

Duccio Corsini’s vineyards mostly face south, though some point to the east and the west. Vineyards teeming with fluvial sediment and river stones, large, medium and small. Ostensibly an ancient river situation on a hill. Showing beautifully today and at this time; juicy, fleshy and bloody expressive. The sweet tannins need two more years to resolve. Made with five per cent colorino. Drink 2020-2026.  Tasted September 2019

Fattoria San Michele A Torri Chianti Classico DOCG Tenuta La Gabbiola 2017

From Franca in the far north of San Casciano on 470 hectares and 65 planted to vineyard, 15 of which are in Chianti Classico, 12 in production. Mostly sangiovese with five per cent syrah planted closest to the river just because it’s not a site for sangiovese. A true peppery syrup to nose, haughty and heady with no shortage of concentration and grip. Quite stylish and modern. Very enticing and a bit heated at the same time. Drink 2019-2021.  Tasted September 2019

Terre Di Perseto Chianti Classico DOCG Albòre 2016

Presented by Beatrice Landini. Two young brothers take over from grandfather. A notable mephitic sangiovese crusted in its major reduction. Really wound tight, quite juicy and if traditional it’s done with plum pudding and spice. No oak and yet done up in a very closed environment to give a crisp, tight and crispy expression.  Last tasted September 2019

Sweet and candied, high acidity but not in a VA way, though alt-morbido malic and hard candy shelled. Needs some time for the crackling and the cracking to flake away. Drink 2019-2020.  Tasted February 2019

Villa Belvedere Campoli Chianti Classico DOCG 2017

Deep, dark and handsome from an old estate in the south of San Casciano on the north end of the ridge up from Radda, through Panzano and into Mercatale. Purchased five years ago and re-planted. Carries the richness meeting mineral notes of Galestro raised sangiovese albeit in the depth of a San Casciano vein. A note of smoky fennel and pollen with ripe acidity. Very much a product of young vines that will lead to more elastic and structured wines in years to come. A wine with shared affinities, to Mercatale in San Casciano and also Panzano. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted September 2019

Villa Sant’Andrea Chianti Classico DOCG 2017

A large 600 hectare estate with 50 hectares under vine, including merlot and two cabs to go along with sangiovese. The nose indicates jam and verdancy, likely picked ahead of the rains at high sugars early in September. Merlot especially in the first week and the sangiovese 15 days later. Phenolics are close but one more week (to ten days) would have likely taken this fruit to its final destination. Drink 2019-2021.  Tasted September 2019

Villa Mangiacane Chianti Classico DOCG 2016

Presented by estate director estate manager Graziano Santoro. Very near the village of San Casciano, from Galestro filled vineyards, well pressed and of a specific density. There’s a curious oyster shell note and dark black cherry fruit, pit and all. Plenty of oak, plenty of ambition, spice and pique. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted September 2019

Villa Vallacchio Chianti Classico DOCG 2017

In the areas of Campoli and Tignanello, juice only sold to bulk through the 2015 vintage. Beginning in 2016 an Annata and a Riserva began to be produced. Ripe and floral with phenols very close to being fully realized. Still just a touch of verdancy with what can best be described as extreme fruit. A crunchy and tight Annata. Drink 2019-2020.  Tasted September 2019

Good to go!

godello

Poggio Torselli

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

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The republic of Feudo Montoni

Fabio Sireci and Melissa Muller

“The republic of Montoni” as it is called because the wines here come from and represent all the small surrounding villages, where unemployment can be 70-80 per cent. Towns where more and more of the population is aging as all the young go away. Montoni as custodian of heritage, 550 years of grape-growing tradition, located 80 kilometres southeast of Palermo in Contrada Montoni Vecchi, Cammarata, Agrigento.

So good to be back at #feudomontoni with @SicilyMelissaM and @FabioSireci ~ My naive melody ~ feet on the ground, head in the sky, it’s ok I know nothing’s wrong. ~ #thismustbetheplace

Related – Notes from 2019 Sicilia en Primeur

“Today there is nothing you can think of as six centuries ago,” is how Fabio Sireci begins a narration on the history of family and land. After the fall of the local aristocracy is when his grandfather took over this farm. Today the surrounding fields of durum wheat are gone and resemblance is but a thing of mythology and tales set to memory. “If you see some it’s as if they were genetically born in a laboratory.” Though Fabio Sireci has little interest in wheat, he does have a master plan for grapes.

Nero d’Avola vine and propaginato in the Vrucara Vineyard

Vrucara is Fabio’s pre-phylloxera plot perpetuated to nero d’avola vines, some as old as 120 years. There they sit in their sandy soils, fit, stoic and regal. Their youngest children are already mature at 40 years. The babies are not yet plants of true concern, children of propaginato, propogated by the bending down of older canes buried into the sand from parents on either side of a missing vine. They will carry the torch one day and keep this storied vineyard alive. Sicily’s future depends upon it.

The dogs of Montoni

A turning point in the Feudo Montoni timeline involved a meeting with the oenologist Giacomo Tachis. The legend of Italian winemaking was most famous for bringing Bordeaux to Tuscany but he was also instrumental in helping Sireci understand the purest relationship between varietal and place. There was a clear idea of needing to meet him even while affording the consultant costs was still in question. But Montoni’s vines were known going five to six centuries back in time and in fact it was agronomist Andrea Bacci’s 15th century book published in Chianti Classico’s San Casciano in Val di Pesa that mentions the vines of this Sicilian place. “Vines large enough that you could wrap your arms around the trunk,” he wrote. Old vines, noted Tachis, as opposed to those in vineyards where humans do all they can to keep the vines short. “They are almost never trees.” And so he convinced Fabio to do as his father and his grandfather did. Propaginato.

Fabio Sireci in the wild

“The most important thing that makes our wines different or better than others is the richness of heritage,” explains Sireci. Genetics and altitude plus “we have 350 days of light.” It can be extremely hot but with the prevailing winds the days may be warm but the nights are cool, even in August. “Questi elementi,” he continues, “they stop the fermentation process. In Sicily the pH can be as high as 3.8 to 4.0 but in our hills it’s more like 2.8, giving us higher acidity, freshness but also longevity.”

Montoni

Varietally speaking

The grapes catarratto, grillo and inzolia form the basis of the white Montoni masala. They are planted higher and grown with greater fervour. “Our catarratto is greener and fresher. The high acidity and saturation is felt on the palate,” with thanks to that low pH. “We are organic,” he admits but sometimes shies away from the discussion because “it has become a complicated word. I’m afraid of farms that look manicured and perfect.”

A walk through Fabio’s vineyards is all you need to know about organics. Perfectly groomed and tidy rows? Not so much. At Montoni the proper reaction to perfection is wild legumes, grasses, weeds, herbs and all the salad ingredients you could pick growing wild and free. Elegante e selvaggia. Fields blessed by the pazza luna, the crazy moon.

Feudo Montoni Catarratto Masso Sicilia DOC 2018, Sicily, Italy ($22.95)

Masso is the cru, “conglomerate stone,” from the soil. Fermented in cement, locked in for and with freshness, sapid and ultra fresh. In 2018 it rained every 10 days, including during harvest so the aromatics are an about face from 2017, a vintage that saw no rain from March to October. What was a relative tropical 2017 is now an herbal, verdant 2018, with aromatics filled by wild finnocchio, fava, honeysuckle, chick pea and lentil. So to speak. Great freshness and so linear, with more age potential. More lime in ’18 and sapidity but only having tasted ’17 will you heed to that belief. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted May 2019.

Feudo Montoni Inzolia Dei Fornelli Sicilia DOC 2018, Sicily, Italy (539932, $22.95)

‘Tis a perfumed vintage for inzolia in Montoni’s world and while the length of time for its stay in stainless is not defined, it remains at service, ready when ready and different every year. If it’s floral so be it with thanks to the blooming heather or in this property’s case, the purple honeysuckle. Another indigenous wine extended from the pied de coup, wildly elegant and yet so simple. Will gain some honey and more flinty strike with a few years in bottle. “And we’ll all go together.” Drink 2019-2023.  Tasted May 2019

Feudo Montoni Grillo Timpa Sicilia DOC 2018, Sicily, Italy ($22.95)

Like the cattaratto and the inzolia the aromatics have turned 180 degrees in ’18 from the wet year, with linearity and direct to the senses notes. Still the fresh squeeze of lemon gets you quick, with smiling spirit. A wholly soulful grillo that will keep you woke and alive. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted May 2019

Feudo Montoni Nerello Mascalese Rosé Di Adele Sicilia DOC 2018, Sicily, Italy ($22.95)

“For you Adele I will pull out all the thorns and put in roses.” This from Fabio Sereci’s father to his mother. Also symbolic for bringing a vineyard back to life. The only wine not named after a cru, but after mama, the mama, the only mama. The “roses of Adele.” The most sapid, herbal, linear and did I mention sapid Rosé in the these parts and any nearby and far away. Take nerello mascalese, grow it in the wilds of Feudo Montoni and this is the result, elegant, lengthy and certainly piu sale. Drink 2019-2021.  Tasted May 2019

Feudo Montoni Nero D’avola Sicilia DOC Lagnusa 2018, Sicily, Italy (523738, $23.95)

The cru where the nero d’avola grows, the lazy one or better yet the smart one, intelligent one who is a late starter, but when he works he’s very good at what he does. Lagnusa. Also a grape gown in clay soils from which yields are low, once a negative now very positive in terms of quality. Some concrete aging and only a short contact with mostly (approximately 80 per cent) old barrels. Another factor of a vintage, herbal, dusty, so very fennel and aromatic enhancing legumes, non marmalata, far from dense, heavy or over the edge in any possible sense of reality. Just balanced in its slightly wild, feral, cured and elegant way. Drink 2019-2023.  Tasted May 2019

Feudo Montoni Nero d’Avola Vrucara Sicilia DOC 2015, Sicily, Italy ($58.00)

The en primeur nero d’avola, finished but so far from even hinting at a readiness. Wild strawberry and the dreams of aromatics to come; carob, liquorice, salumi and all the herbs. Grasses and magical things that grow in a Montoni natural world. Top quality acidity for 2015, reeling, supportive and wild. A truly structured wine and one that will resist growing old despite the passage of time. Drink 2020-2029.  Tasted May 2019

Feudo Montoni Nero d’Avola Vrucara 2010, IGT Sicilia, Sicily, Italy

From Fabio Sireci’s pre-phylloxera vineyard in which some heritage nero d’avola with unparalleled root structures find water six to eight metres below the sand and clay layers. Some are as old as 120 years and still others have been raised by the Sireci method of propaginato, the bending of a heritage vine cane into the earth and then brought up as a new vine. The savoury here is fed by so many surrounding native plants, aromatic oils and how they share the terroir with the Vrucara vines. It’s a great wine, singular, mature and mellowing but done with such confidence and lessons learned. One of Sicily’s greatest wines of confidence and humility. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted May 2019

Feudo Montoni Nero d’Avola Vrucara Sicilia DOC 2008, Sicily, Italy

Still just a baby, curative youthful, high acidity very much in charge with an uncanny at present aroma of wild strawberry. Impactful wild fennel and roses still in bloom. Just the first stages of secondary character are upon the aromatics but structure controls the rest, all of whom still lay in wait around the next decade. We visited the queen by pickup at night where she sits on her throne, as she has for 120 years, with her children born by propaginato, over the course of all that time. Like a cavallo indonato or, if you like, non manzito. Untrained, not wanting to be fenced in, needing time to civilize, habituate and domesticate. We’ll all be long gone.  Last tasted May 2019

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

Feudo Montoni Perricone Sicilia DOC Core 2008, Sicily, Italy ($22.95)

The most interesting of grapes, known as guernaccia in this part of Sicily, “the grape of the farmer,” thick-skinned, disease resistant and perfect for making home made wine. Full phenolic perricone still has a green pit, picked late (in November), so Fabio cuts/crimps the vine very hard, blocking the flow of sap from the rootstock to the clusters, ostensibly creating an appassimento technique but in the vineyard, one week before harvest. Intriguing from bitter cocoa, through tobacco, carob, bokser and liquorice. You absolutely need lignification, brown stems, for whole bunch fermentation and add all this up, the grape, the techniques and the result is almost singular for any red wine in the world. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted May 2019

Feudo Montoni Passito Rosso IGT Terre Siciliane, Sicily, Italy

From nero d’avola and perricone. Upwards of 200 g/L of RS. That nero liquorice and carob is magnified, hyperbolized and liquified. The acidity brings stability and re-introduces the varietal centrifuge and microcosmic sense of place to the wine. This is like the place itself, centre of some people’s necessary universe, where everything goes on and on.  Drink 2019-2029. Tasted May 2019

Feudo Montoni Passito Bianco IGT Terre Siciliane, Sicily, Italy
From grillo with some cattaratto to elevate and manage acidity in a passito that is upwards of 136 g/L of RS. So much fruit goings on; gelid orange, caramelized orange, burnt pineapple and apricot. Just faintly nutty, surely unctuous and fine. Drink 2019-2029.  Tasted May 2019

Good to go!

godello

Fabio Sireci and Melissa Muller

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

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Glorious 2017s from Bouchard and Fèvre

I am persuaded, I am charmed, I am seduced. It begins with a deal made in kind to a region’s most consistent producer, by allowing a cross section of their wines to act as a teaching moment for the vintage. Submit to the truth and the circumstances. There are moments when you think “there’s really no point in doing anything in life, because it’s all over in the blink of an eye,” and then you taste through some Bourgogne 2017. But one never knows until the the contract is signed and the ink dry. Still we can dream. Kingdoms for an allocation.

Champagne Henriot is the parent distribution company at the head of the Bourgogne houses Domaine William Fèvre and Domaine Bouchard Père & Fils. Each year their Ontario agent Woodman Wines and Spirits puts out the call to media, buyers and sommeliers to taste the current vintage. There simply is no other event on the Toronto calendar that affords a comparable taste, assess and climb into the heart, mind and body of a Bourgogne vintage. Two dozen reds and whites from the region’s great villages are a sample size large enough to know that the 2017s bring quality to a modern day high with that rare combination of fruit and structure. These are chardonnay and pinot noir that tease, hypnotize and excite.

Related – Bourgogne in a word: Climat

The quality is noted through both the whites and the reds and while pricing is reflective of the vintage it’s really just about as fair as can be expected. There are in fact some exceptional deals to be had and at all appellative levels. Russell, Jason and Rachel Woodman laid out the Bourgogne red carpet at Montecito Restaurant hosted by Heather McDougall and staff on Thursday, September 12th. Please read on through my notes below to gain some insight, agreed upon or not with respect to these exceptional 17s.

Related – Three estates, 23 wines, one agent

Mysteries of climat, soil and orientation in Chablis and The Right Bank

Domaine William Fèvre Saint Bris 2017, AOC Bourgogne ($24.95, WineAlign)

Not that we wouldn’t expect flesh and unction from a Fèvre Saint-Bris but ’17 brings sauvignon blanc in Bourgogne next door to Auxerre into a whole new sun-shadowy light. It’s one of those dappled mornings, at once bright and cast effusive, then cool, greyscale, at calm respite. Terrific interplay of patience and energy, activity and rest. Does both and well done at that. Drink 2019-2021.  Tasted September 2019

Chablis

Domaine William Fèvre Chablis Premier Cru Fourchaume 2017, AOC Bourgogne ($76.00, WineAlign)

Fourchaume the most broad shouldered Premier Cru steps lightly into view from 2017 before offering up an aromatic bite into a just ripened basket full of yellow and green fruit. The fruit accumulation is impressive, variegated, crunchy and fulsome. There’s something suggestive, hidden, shadowy and yet unearthed about this one from the wide swath of a hill. Something two to three years away. Patience will reward that curiosity. Drink 2021-2027.  Tasted September 2019

Domaine William Fèvre Chablis Grand Cru Bougros 2017, AOC Bourgogne ($96.00, WineAlign)

Bougros the Grand Cru holds little back in a gone for broke style it should be suggested few other Cru Chablis will frame from the vintage. There’s dramatic foreshadowing of fruit exceedingly healthy, wealthy and destined to greatness. Truth be told the cumulative offer of sheer sustenance suggests no sneaking here but simply an advance and a leap into a pool of chardonnay exceptionality. Drink this with pleasure and confidence almost immediately and then for 10 further years of incremental bliss. Drink 2019-2028.  Tasted September 2019

The Reds

Domaine Bouchard Père & Fils Premier Cru Beaune Du Château 2017, AOC Bourgogne ($66.00, WineAlign)

A true estate expression and the first google result for a search of two words, Bouchard + Beaune. The Château de Beaune, the true estate vernacular and the spokesperson for its dialect. Higher toned, darkness of fruit, pure black cherry and then a silken, liquid limestone chalky palate. Here’s the introduction to pinot noir, Premier Cru and Beaune. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted September 2019

Domaine Bouchard Père & Fils Savigny Lès Beaune Premier Cru Les Lavières 2017, AOC Bourgogne ($71.00, WineAlign)

Lavières is silky smooth and stunning, gently if generously spiced and who would not want to think that the flat stones used on roofs would be found in this Bouchard sector of soil. From the word “lave,” not a volcanic reference but indeed in reference to those limestone slabs atop the old houses. The palate brings in some fine-matchstick sliced fennel and then good clean fun in healthy dark cherry fruit. Very ripe Savigny. Drink 2020-2027.  Tasted September 2019

Domaine Bouchard Père & Fils Nuits Saint Georges Premier Cru 2017, AOC Bourgogne ($73.00, WineAlign)

Quite bright and effulgent Nuits-Saint-Georges and showing more lithe ease and attitude than the Beaune labels. Here is a crossroads, not middle of the road but twain team building pinot noir. This is a glue for the Bouchard group in the reds, residing somewhere along a line between the light and the dark, the silken and the gripped, the beauty and the beast. It’s all of that and more, big red fruit, crunchy and intense. It’s all so very posh and polished. Drink 2020-2028.  Tasted September 2019

Bouchard Père & Fils Gevrey Chambertin Premier Cru 2017, AOC Bourgogne ($77.00, WineAlign)

Gevrey Chambertin is at once open, friendly, getable. It’s also sneaky structured, grippy, formidable even. The great Premier Cru chameleon giveth and taketh away. It teases and then pulls back. While it may at certain moments act like a pinot noir in love it is in fact looking for affection but not yet ready to accept. Wait a few turns of the calendar for this Romeo. Drink 2022-2030.  Tasted September 2019

Bouchard Père & Fils Chambolle Musigny Premier Cru 2017, AOC Bourgogne ($91.00, WineAlign)

Chambolle Musigny is constructed of a structure enabling its fruit and acids to tether along the frame for long, longer and longest aging. This may be the first of the ’17 Premier Crus to lash immediately back, to speak on its own behalf and say “back off” with emphatic hand gestures and voice. This as C-M is a cherry brick of limestone and marl, equipped with all the tools necessary for looking into the next decade, without equivocation and whether or not you are prepared to listen. Drink 2022-2032.  Tasted September 2019

Domaine Bouchard Père & Fils Beaune Clos De La Mousse Monopole 2017, AOC Bourgogne ($95.00, WineAlign)

The aromatic intensity of pure demure, depict and delight is the combed and combinative epitome of what Clos de la Mousse can be, whether probable or possible. This entry is confident, streamlined, crystal clear. The transitions are chord-constructed, seamless, effortless and executed with maximum efficiency. This fruit meets acid melting into and with fine tannin is a get on the same page affair. It grabs hold of nerve endings and hangs on for seemingly ever. Great Premier Cru. Drink 2021-2031.  Tasted September 2019

Bouchard Père & Fils Pommard Premier Cru 2017, AOC Bourgogne ($112.00, WineAlign)

Pommard 2017 brings the violets and florals en masse as the conduit and foil apposite its firm and grippy nature. This is truly an aromatic wonder, a gatherer of sunshine and a hunter of fine to finest acids and tannins. There is a silky component that settles the palate but it’s just a trick. There is pure limestone melt throughout this mouthfeel and structure is a matter of great demand. Look ahead towards seventeen years from 2017 I would imagine. Drink 2023-2034.  Tasted September 2019

Domaine Bouchard Père & Fils Volnay Premier Cru Ancienne Cuvée Carnot Caillerets 2017, AOC Bourgogne ($129.00, WineAlign)

It seems to me that for the first time since 2005 the artist known as Les Caillerets is want to act this way. Free, fruitful, humid and excitable yet built on rock ’n roll swagger. This sashays across the olfactory and the palate like nobody’s business. A mashup of 1970s star power; Mick strutting, torn and frayed. Rod in Faces mode stay with me, both pictures telling a story. Remarkable concentration, consistency throughout its components, always acting tough, cocky and cool. Drink 2021-2029.  Tasted September 2019

Domaine Bouchard Père & Fils Beaune Grèves Premier Cru Vigne De L’enfant Jésus 2017, AOC Bourgogne ($170.00, WineAlign)

Hard to believe how deep into its tenure this absolute iconic pinot noir has come but it is indeed the one, the expert, the consummate professional and never wavering traveller. Moves without impediment through time and space, in and out of consciousness, which is exactly what happens to us as we taste this 2017. Spice of the highest delectability and a seamless weave of impression meeting expression. What more can you say? Drink 2023-2035.  Tasted September 2019

Domaine Bouchard Père & Fils Le Corton Grand Cru 2017, AOC Bourgogne ($199.00, WineAlign)

A magical entry can only lead towards and into a land of great hope and expectation, a place where pinot noir is a rare gift, expensive mind you, but a true gift for the select few. This is the magic elixir indeed, pure, crystalline and of a fabric ethereal, alluring, luxe and pristine. This graces all buttons and notes for pleasure and longevity. It’s hard not too be seduced and if you are not you are simply not paying attention. Drink 2023-2038.  Tasted September 2019

Domaine Bouchard Père & Fils Echézeaux Grand Cru 2017, AOC Bourgogne ($391.00, WineAlign)

There is a next level concentration, glycerin texture and layering in seamless accord that few other 17s are capable of showing. There is also a bit more grip and tension that stands apart from that silky luxuriousness that Corton just seems to integrate with less pronouncement. This is a splitting hairs matter because Echézaux is everything imagination can conjure and more. Magnificent pinot noir. Drink 2024-2035.  Tasted September 2019

The Whites

Bouchard Père & Fils Montagny Premier Cru 2017, AOC Bourgogne ($43.00, WineAlign)

Montagny makes a quick and informative introduction into the zippy nature of the 17s mixed with fleshy substance and emotion. There’s a little bit of everything to go around and the world is a chardonnay oyster through the lens of Montagny. Good for all and all for one. Drink 2019-2023.  Tasted September 2019

Domaine Bouchard Père & Fils Beaune Du Château Premier Cru Domaine 2017, AOC Bourgogne ($65.00, WineAlign)

Bliss in chardonnay amenability with all the purity, necessity and accumulated estate culpability gathered to act out the epitome of Beaune capability. More flesh than Montagny but also increased bite. A bit reductive and certainly exuberant with grip in the bag and the bank. Drink 2021-2027.  Tasted September 2019

Bouchard Père & Fils Meursault Domaine 2017, AOC Bourgogne ($76.00, WineAlign)

There’s pure savour, lush fruit ascension and absolute Meursault movability unshaken, unstirred and just merely whetting the appetite and thirst. So tight and wound to thrill there’s Meursault coursing through arteries and itching to spill forth. Just wait three years for the honey to emit with emotive aromatic intensity and then to tell a next stage story. Drink 2021-2029.  Tasted September 2019

Bouchard Père & Fils Puligny Montrachet Premier Cru 2017, AOC Bourgogne ($77.00, WineAlign)

Puligny brings some power to the table with help from the glorious barrels, aiding and abetting the lush constitution. The quality is exceptional and this despite being the one that is non-specific, made of fruit from varied blocks and carrying no moniker such as Combettes or Champs-Gain. If you consider the purity and clarity, not to mention the rise from fresh through texture and into structure then you’ll see how this P-M is the affordable steal of the vintage. Drink 2022-2031.  Tasted September 2019

Domaine Bouchard Père & Fils Meursault Premier Cru Genevrières 2017, AOC Bourgogne ($140.00, WineAlign)

Toasty and integrated with exceptional ability, reductive in the ways of Meursault and how it’s protective custody of this particular parcel is unlike any other. Great strength and composure, purity and crystalline limestone exclamations. Exceptional toast and smoky, singsong voice. So worthy of its reputation. Drink 2021-2029.  Tasted September 2019

Domaine Bouchard Père & Fils Corton Charlemagne Grand Cru 2017, AOC Bourgogne ($283.00, WineAlign)

Boasts more outward behaviour then Chevalier-Montrachet and also a quicker knowing acceptance of flesh, texture and full attack. Great reduction, even greater smoky smoulder and a healthy pinch of rock salinity above and beyond. Wonderful work by the Cru, the vines and their uncompromising fruit. Drink 2021-2037.  Tasted September 2019

Domaine Bouchard Père & Fils Chevalier Montrachet Grand Cru 2017, AOC Bourgogne ($513.00, WineAlign)

The couverture is all encompassing acting as a full sheathing tapestry in surround of a fruit core of sheer concentration and yet as a whole so understated. It’s hard to imagine more coaxing and less pronouncement. Relatively speaking there’s no estate equal to what has happened here. Great mineral crash into life and love, into fruit and impossible acidity. A magnificent chardonnay with 25 years of life ahead. Drink 2021-2039.  Tasted September 2019

Good to go!

godello

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

WineAlign

Garage Wine Company redux

Derek Mossman Knapp – Garage Wine Co.

Sara d’Amato and I last caught up with and tasted the secrets of Chile’s deep interior with expatriate Etobican Derek Mossmnan Knapp three years ago yesterday, in September of 2016. I noted at the time that few have gone as deep and traced as far back “into the country’s heartland, oldest vines and ancestral traditions.” His wines from the Secano Interior are made by hand, naturally, in small lots parcel by parcel. Garage Wine Co. is still a matter of ploughs and manos en el suelo. Workers gain strength and energy from mugs of ulpo, toasted heirloom wheat flour with honey and water. This is a place where Derek tells us that one’s only real needs are “clippers, a hatchet, and a lifetime of experience to pass on.” Oxford commas sold separately.

Related – We take you now to garage wine in Chile

He continues to educate us. “Let’s make a mugrón” he says, a vine branch that is buried at the end so that a new plant is born. Like the Sicilian propaginare in Fabio Sereci’s Vrucara Vineyard. “This is regenerative agriculture. It’s not about finding a nice old man to support, but rather rolling your sleeves up and working elbow to elbow. The flavour is in the farming.” The work is relentless, essential, never-ending. “With seasonal cover-crops ploughed under no need for fertilizer,” he continues, “rastreando no es lo mismo y no incorpora nitrogeno de la misma manera.” Or, nitrogen will never incorporate as successfully by tracking. In Secano Interior there is only one way. The right way.

Contrary to common belief and heaps of marketing, the complexity of a wine most often comes from the farming.

Yes, the farming. A winemaker can aspire to creative angst and/or the never-ending and hopeless aspiration to attain the sublime but without the right, proper and tireless work ethic of agriculture there is no greatness. Tilling, hoeing, ploughing and straightening things out are the keys to the salvaes, the volleys, salutes, provisos and reservations for securing the possibility of making memorable wines.  Garage Wine Co. personnel are putting in the time.

País-Cariñena, Sémillon, Carignan Field Blend and Cabernet Franc. These are the four seminal bottles Derek brought along for Sara and I to taste at the WineAlign office. And it was good.

Garage Wine Co. País Cariñena Phoenix Ferment Single Ferment Series 2018, DO Secano Interior Cauquenes, Maule Valley, Chile (WineAlign)

“A wine that rose from the 2017 bush fires, quickly having ascended out of the ashes as something resurrected and reinvented.”We’ve gotta make a white from the reds,” tells Garage Wine Company founder Derek Mossman Knapp. A pressed whole with stems (like Champagne) field blend, or more succinctly a co-ferment of stacks, one on top of the other, país followed a few days later by cariñena. That said it was picked earlier, crisper and sharper in 2018. The acids are extraordinary and the melding of flowers, white and yellow are mimicked, extended and replayed by citrus and stone fruit flavours on repeat. Crazy smart and delicious, if never before tasted and understood. For interested parties, price would be 6.5 US ex-cellar. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted August 2019

Garage Wine Co. Sémillon Isidore Vineyard Lot # F1 2018, DO Maule Valley, Chile (WineAlign)

Single vineyard white off of lands shepherded by ancestral farming. Isidore is the patron saint of the worker and this is a wine not ordinarily made. Now the decades of urban legend, blue blood in the veins and perverso (perversity) replace bulk wine from places with no paved roads (and valid D.O. paperwork) left behind for such an exercise. It’s both rich for sémillon (thanks to skins) and its sessions but the acids keep it grounded, flint-struck, stone-driven. Certainly reminded of Chris Alheit a continent away. Old vines are meant to deliver a sting for sémillon and though just shy today of what it will bite with again, there is an intensity in feeling to make you wish for sea creatures of brine, fat, citrus and bitters. That’s the vernacular it speaks and seeks. Price would be 11 US ex-cellar. Drink 2020-2026.  Tasted August 2019

Garage Wine Co. Lot #77 Carignan Field Blend Truquilemu Vineyard 2016, DO Maule Valley, Chile (WineAlign)

Here getting into the usage of lignified stems, first with a run through the de-stemmer, after which the brown and ripe ones are put back in. Avoids the candy floss of carbonic maceration while conversely encouraging more integration and camaraderie. Violet floral and expressly ripe with thanks to a few plants of malbec, país, mataro and tintara negro. So youthful and high-toned, plenty of fruit, more so intrigue and an old vines in old vineyards brushy herb savoury notation that permeates while hiding in the shadows. Why does this wine, not driven by anything in its plot, arouse in us such a powerful emotion, containing the entirety of what the wines is between a set of ineffable parentheses? It’s a unique structure, one that takes breaths and inhibitions away, as will others that do so, though not in any exclusive or elitist way. Seems right, big, structured, proper and just. Drink 2021-2029.  Tasted August 2019

Garage Wine Co. Cabernet Franc La Higuera Vineyard Lot #62 2014, DO Maule Valley, Chile (WineAlign)

“Just wet it!” they say in how to make this cabernet franc, as in the dry Martini, Hawkeye Pearce way. Just a wave over the ferment, avoiding too much wood and keeping it real. The fruit is ostensibly dark as a cimmerian night, with minor keys played by iodine, soy and balsamic, though ultimately the settling over five plus years will reveal a more natural state. It’s chewy inside and crusted enough to make it crunchy on the outside, a perfectly textured red like a steak charred and cooked rare inside meeting a proper cookie but in cabernet franc clothing. As you nose and taste it continues to refine, come into balance and also elegance. Imagine what those five years in bottle will effect. Drink 2022-2029.  Tasted August 2019

Good to go!

godello

Derek Mossman Knapp – Garage Wine Co.

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

WineAlign

Spotlight on South Africa in VINTAGES August 6th

South Africa’s South Coast

as seen on WineAlign

Rosé all day, an absence of whites, reds in Portuguese, French and Italian dress plus choosing South Africa like falling off a log

It has been nearly a year since I last visited South Africa and every time VINTAGES rolls out an easily managed thematic collection of wines from that great country the heart swells and memories flood back into the brain. The powers that be within the LCBO’s New World buyers’ department do their finest no sweat work and narrowing down when it comes to Western Cape collections, surely witnessed and proven by the duck soup choices made for both the July 20th and August 6th releases. But we can’t lay too much emphasis on their easily accomplished selections as being the be all, end all reason for the successes. Producers are fortunate to work with exceptional terroir that includes dozens or more old vine blocks in many Cape nooks and transversely the Ontario purchasing choices are so numerous it’s like shooting fish in a barrel. The winemakers adage of “just don’t mess it up” translates into kudos to the buyers for getting things right. The fact is South African wines are of such high quality across varietal, producer and regional lines they speak for themselves and do so with great heart.

What do you do with the Swartland Swingers? Lawn bowls in Malmesbury of course

Related – Heritage and diversity in South Africa

Which brings me to what struck so strong in September 2018, straight to the heart and without equivocation. Heritage and diversity are the country’s two greatest strengths. Sure as a circle will turn you around there is this third tangible and credible something that seems so unmissable about South Africa and South Africans. Resilience. Neither politics, nor conflicts between and in the oppression of peoples nor drought can deter the farmers, workers and producers of this nation. The human condition mimics its heritage vineyards planted to century-old varieties, to perpetuate and to persevere. This is the South African way. And it is the wines that are exceptional in ways that require great levels of explanation.

Over the last several centuries grape varieties were brought, expatriated and forced into the blending of exile. No peoples should ever be de-humanized nor taken for granted and neither should wines be quietly dismissed. With each passing varietal situation time has been sublimed and wines produced in South Africa teach us that they simply are not examples of minor beverages. It has taken place in the heart of agriculturalist and winemaking ability, to change small things and see greatness in ascension to that which is simple, authentic and refined. It’s a matter of having felt sensations introduced into the absurdity of our lives.

We begin with some wines tasted and assessed back in September 2018. These are a cross-section of what the country’s makers do best, some unknown, others better known and collectively they act as examples in performance at the highest level.

Fourteen South African producers and wines you need to know

A. A. Badenhorst Chenin Blanc The Golden Slopes 2017, WO Swartland (WineAlign)

The Golden Slopes is chenin blanc planted on granite hillsides, vines in the 80-ish years of age and this surely has much to do with the paradigm of success predicated by a focus on texture. Remarkable heritage vines on the Badenhorst for which Adi is able to seek, measure and play. Like the Secateurs it is indeed all about texture but here, this is something other. Conatus. The Golden Slopes are marked by intense and impressive warmth, lees and the effects of managing lost acidity. Adi finds a way for them to be kept by the moments gained in flesh and layers. Old vines do what the young and inexperienced do not. They achieve an innate inclination, in this case for chenin blanc to continue to exist and enhance itself. Drink 2019-2027.  Tasted September 2018

Craven Wines Syrah The Faure Vineyard 2017, WO Stellenbosch (WineAlign)

Like the sister Firs this Faure Vineyard site is also 21 years of age, east facing towards the Heldeberg, with rocks in the soils. The name is more than familiar to Jeanine Craven, who was a Faure before she merged with Mick. What really separates this place is the marine air, three kilometres from the sea, as far as the African Black Oystercatcher flies. Again the planning involves whole cluster pressing and on skins seven days, to make pure syrah. Separated by 15 kms the Faure is antithetical to the Firs, salted by the sea and of a furthered intensity in a different form. It’s near searing, linear, grippy and with acidity lifting everything. Really juicy, pushed by a wow factor, clean, no funk and so much spice. Drink 2019-2027.  Tasted September 2018

David And Nadia Wines Chenin Blanc Hoë Steen 2017, WO Swartland (WineAlign)

One of two single vineyard explorations from the Sadie’s work is this 1968 steen planted in deep soils to the west, towards Darling. This fourth vintage is a demure of chenin blanc’s deepest, richest and most glycerin textured possibilities. Time and a warming in the glass causes this floral emergence in a spiced space time continuum usually reserved for white wines like Condrieu. But this is entrenched in heritage steen genetics, not viognier and the acidity is all local, parochial and fine. The complexities are circular by nature, in rotation and encompassing all that we hold sacred for Cape wines. Takes hold of your mind and controls your breathing with its life affirming energy, like an invisible blanket wrapping you up in the desert, at night, under stars. Total production is 45,000 bottles. Get some. Drink 2019-2028.  Tasted September 2018

Hamilton Russell Vineyards Pinot Noir 1997, WO Hemel En Aarde Valley (WineAlign)

It was 1997, a point 10 years deep into the Hermanus pinot noir investigations and what Anthony Hamilton Russell called “the year the Dijon clones kicked in, or at least the use of them.” This is seemingly more evolved than that ’86 if only because the über ripe fruit may have baked a bit in the sun. Tastes so old school Beaune now with a cane sugar-cocoa-vanilla trilogy of development. Powerful pinot noir now in the throes of its soporific times. Drink 2018.  Tasted September 2018

Huis Van Chevallerie The Hummingbird Colibri Kap Klassique 2017 (WineAlign)

The Hummingbird is composed of 70 percent viura with chenin blanc from Christa von la Chevallerie’s Nuwedam Farm in the Paardeberg. The first viura as far as we can tell in South Africa, a Spanish grape variety not very high in acidity picked up and elevated by the chenin. This first vintage kick at the sparkling can in a Cava style is mostly 2017 fruit, in bottle 12 months so very much adhering to a Cap Classique model. Christa thinks both outside the box and the varietal groove with this textural beauty and so its moniker naturally importunes as Kap Klassique. As a bottle of bubbles it offers a forward rush of life, crystallized in a brilliant jewel of a moment. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted September 2018

Ken Forrester Wines Chenin Blanc The FMC 2004, Stellenbosch (WineAlign)

FMC, as in Forrester (Ken), winemaker Martin Meinert and chenin blanc. Here looking back 14 years to a time when they and only a handful of others had the true understanding of foreshadowing as to what the signature grape variety could become for South Africa. That is why they set to making this highly specific and purposed example. From a single vineyard, then 34 years old (now pushing 50) and the eighth vintage, by 2004 fully commanded stylistically by its makers. Barrel fermented and bloody rich, still viscous, now so honeyed and lit like a candle in a cool cave. A true original, like the Ford Motor Company, a female main character kicking butt in an action film, FMC. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted September 2018

Lismore Chardonnay Estate 2017, WO Greyton (WineAlign)

From the Cape’s south coast and Samantha O’Keefe’s Greyton Farm down a dusty road. The Estate sees 500L barrels, 35 per cent new and is a best fruit selection cuvée. It’s also about the ferment “to keep a limey tension,” tells O’Keefe, so it’s really about the combination of the two. Like the “normale” the orchard fruit persists but here there are stone fruits joining the apples and now the grip takes hold. If the other needs a year in bottle this “Reserve” could entertain three. In quite an awe-inspiring way it travels to and fro on a Meursault-Marsannay line, of high construct and palpable intensity. I’d wait the three for the grace and beauty of its future. Drink 2020-2027.  Tasted September 2018

Momento Wines Grenache Noir 2017, WO Western Cape (WineAlign)

There are some South African winemakers who just seem to intuit what grenache is capable of realizing comme il faut from a Cape raising. Marelise Niemann is one of a select few who have mastered the art and science of grenache pulmonary resuscitation. Hers is 90 per cent Paardeberg and (10) Voor Paardeberg, so not labeled as such. “The most important red grape in South Africa,” she says with varietal diffidence and I will not be one to argue. Not with Marelise. These are bush vines, all itching to succeed off of decomposed granite. These vines scratch and claw their way out of the aridity and the adversity to gift a purity of fruit and very special tannins. Pretty and with a level of tension seen in its face, after some time on skins and a natural ferment crawled out of whole bunch pressings. Spiced and spicy, demurred, matured in old oak 16 months, wise, mature and nurturing. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted September 2018

Mullineux Cape Winemakers Guild ‘The Gris’ Sémillon 2013, WO Swartland (WineAlign)

This was the year Andrea Mullineux began working with this rare and certified by the Old Vines Project sémillon gris from a 1960 planted (just 2 kms away from the chenin blanc), heritage dry-farmed plot grown on the granite soils of the Paardeberg in the Swartland. Only a few blocks exist anywhere and in 2014 some of this fruit began to augment the Mullineux Old Vines White. It is what Andrea calls “a project of the jumping gene.” It’s like a varietal ride on a pogo stick, in colour from pale like colombard to dark as cinsault. A citrus attack like no other and subjugated to the lush manifestations of skin contact. Still so flinty-smoky, lean and yet of a texture like an emollient of florals keeping the wine moist, fleshy and flexible. Though not the saltiest of vintages this gris is in complete control of its phenolic emotions. It’s also blessed of this unreal incandescence. Wholly unique in every respect. Drink 2018-2026.  Tasted September 2018

Paul Cluver Pinot Noir Seven Flags 2015, WO Elgin (WineAlign)

The most floral vintage of the Seven Flags and the first with clones 115 and 667 brought into the blend. This to create new concepts and levels of complexity with vines old, new and next level involved. The intermixing leaves us with a sensation involving many layerings; fruit, acid and structural. The fruitiness and fresh flower gatherings presents an aperture of severe harmony and adds up to a bunch of aesthetic yeses. Give it a year or two to integrate. Drink 2020-2027.  Tasted September 2018

The Sadie Family Palladius 2016, WO Swartland (WineAlign)

Palladius is the quintessential spear brandishing South African appellative blend with more varietal diversity than an oenology department’s nursery. It holds chenin blanc, grenache blanc, marsanne, sémillon, sémillon gris, viognier, clairette blanche, roussanne, verdelho, colombard and palomino. No one does varietal interaction and trickery like Eben Sadie. No one. The ’16 is a wine of mixed tenses, the whole echelon and the black hole in the sun. Fruit comes from eleven different blocks all on granites, some from the Riebeek-Kasteel side. Ages in clay amphorae and concrete eggs, then racked into foudres, “to bring it all together.” Palladius holds a casual disregard for synchronizing fruit, acid and extract verb tenses in the way it uses a conditional interrogative without the proper structural order. It’s a wine of fine and unfair intensity, iconic, wise, learned and all for good reason. Imagine this to age well beyond its 15th birthday. Drink 2019-2032.  Tasted September 2018

Savage Wines Syrah Girl Next Door 2017, WO Coastal Region (WineAlign)

Though the négoce roaming transverses the entirety of the Western Cape, sometimes you just go home again. This as small as it gets Girl Next Door resides and is raised out of a 0.38 hectare Noordhoek vineyard, “the weekend hobby vineyard,” as Duncan Savage would put it. A block of great clichés, “the home garden,” or at least close to home and certainly “a work in progress.” The developing plot is a mystery wrapped inside an enigma within a narrative that currently fashions a wine to speak of a long term vision. In these first chapters it is already doling dark and mysterious, rich and silky, highly meaningful fruit. How this can’t turn into one of the great epic novels of Western Cape lore is beyond you and me. Home is where the heart soothes then savage beast. Winemaker and syrah. Drink 2020-2026.  Tasted September 2018

Silwervis Cinsault 2016, WO Swartland (WineAlign)

A single-vineyard is the source and a unique one at that for the Swartland because here is the spot where the decomposed granite of the Paardeberg begins to meet the northern slate. Paardeberg cinsault. If you are not yet familiar with this lovely beast it’s high time you got stoned on it. A varietal echelon rebirth eschews decades of French mistakes and enters into a revolution. As I noted from the ’14, it’s also a revival, a saving and a reformation. Having made itself a home in the Swartland now cinsault can create its own narrative, re-write the book and speak of the terroir. Transparency is truth and in a tightly wound, uniquely tannic way this curls tart and cured meaty filaments around a paradigmatic red fruit core. It’s bloody caesar delicious. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted September 2018

Van Loggerenberg Wines Kamaraderie 2017, WO Paarl (WineAlign)

Just the second vintage of Lukas van Loggerenberg’s Kamaraderie is a chenin blanc from a 1960s planted, two hectare single-vineyard in Paarl. Lukas picks the bottom of the slope first and the top many days later so there is this natural layering of fruit. Reeks with reminiscence, of fennel and pistachio, of fronds and gelid cream. Only 800 bottles make this one of South Africa’s rarest chenins raised for 10 months in old barrels, unstirred, shaken or allowed to visit with the malolactic king. There’s a dissolve of delicious citrus seamlessly streaked through fleshy fruit in what is just such an organized and structured chenin. Finishes with the brine, oh the brine. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted September 2018

Stellenbosch Braai

In VINTAGES

While the August 6th VINTAGES is chock full of stalwart South African wines it bears repeating that July 20th also gifted some worthy picks. The list below takes a page out of each book.

South Africa picks – August 6th Release

651711, Cederberg Chenin Blanc 2018, WO Cederberg ($18.95)

Michael Godel – Next level chenin blanc from the Cederburg appellative specialist, so very herbal, lime driven and smart like dry riesling in a Rheinhessen way. Terrific acids lift and elevate the lime and tonic flavours. Most excellent arid example with a dried herb finish.

652867, House Of Mandela Phumla Pinotage 2017, WO Western Cape ($21.95)

Michael Godel – A pinotage that bridges the twain between old school and necessary modernity, with plenty of wood induced chocolate and some mocha but also quality varietal acidity and tannin. Rich, unctuous and spirited to the thriving point of attack.

355438, De Wetshof Finesse Lesca Estate Chardonnay 2018, WO Robertson ($24.95)

Michael Godel – Lesca’s fruit is drawn from three vineyards in Robertson notable for their predominant soils of limestone and chalk. Great work from the De Wetshof bros who just allow this grape variety to shine on, be explicit and act of its very own accord.

651810, Spier 21 Gables Cabernet Sauvignon 2014, WO Stellenbosch ($39.95)

Michael Godel – From the extraordinary Annandale Estate in Stellenbosh Spier’s is very peppery cabernet sauvignon with a distinct local touch of glare and flare. Steely exterior, massive fruit and and such a bloody lekker South African. Long and juicy. Who says you can never go back to old school.

South Africa picks – July 20th Release

698274, Rustenberg Stellenbosch Chenin Blanc 2018, WO Stellenbosch ($14.95)

Michael Godel – Rustenberg continues to prove that it qualifies for top varietal value specialist out of Stellenbosch by pumping out pop hit after hit and this chenin blanc is no exception. Fruit riper than many, mild spice meeting wafts of vanilla and more than its share of lees-effected texture. All around right and proper.

698290, Bellingham Homestead Shiraz 2017, WO Paarl ($18.95)

Michael Godel – Deep, dark, handsome and peppery shiraz here from Stellenbosch with a syrupy confection and plenty of energy on the flip side. Really drinks like a bigger, more expensive and chic wine.

Best of the Rest for August 6th

498535, Malivoire Vivant Rosé 2018, VQA Beamsville Bench, Niagara Escarpment, Ontario ($19.95)

Michael Godel – Canada knows Rosé but Malivoire really knows Rosé. Vivant may be there between entry-level and cru but it’s done up so right, light but too much so, gently expressed but enough that fruit gets through and shines bright as if picked just there. Salinity strikes through without splitting up that fruit, like a main vein bringing oxygen and essential nutrients like blood to the mind. Last tasted July 2019.

668335, Argento Reserva Cabernet Franc 2015, Mendoza, Argentina ($15.95)

Michael Godel – Argento is from the owners of Uruguay’s Bodega Garzón, Chianti Classico’s Dievole and Montalcino’s Podere Brizio. A year past the freshest time in its life but cool, savoury and without too much barrel overtake (thanks to second and third passage wood). Well-worked and solid to be franc, true to place, now chewy and offering proper value.

667527, Château De Montguéret 2017, AP Saumur, Loire Valley, France ($17.95)

Michael Godel – Ostensibly the driest and purest form of chenin blanc from Saumur with the Loire’s post-modern take on the Western Cape, in a way though without pungency, pepperiness or glucose inflected texture. This is dry as the desert, tart, tangy and intense. Needs some richness in food to make all ends meet.

964221, Le Volte Dell’Ornellaia 2017, IGT Toscana, Italy ($29.95)

Michael Godel – Welcome into the Ornellaia range by way of the second wine that has never shown even a modicum of compromise. Hot vintage but acidity is strong and true while fruit stays cool, seasoned and reasoned, There’s a real meatiness to this ’17 and a lovely sense of salumi cure. Once again an educational tool for Bolgheri and Toscana.

260802, Brancaia Riserva Chianti Classico DOCG 2013, Tuscany, Italy ($38.95)

Michael Godel – Sangiovese needing the bottle is proven here. Now a year and a half later this swirls into a grosso sangiovese like liqueur with plums, cherries and spice. Really Riserva in style and now just 18 more months away from its guaranteed due elegance.

922054, Silvio Nardi Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2013, Tuscany, Italy ($50.95)

Michael Godel – Oenologist Emanuele Nardi draws his classic Brunello from the fluvial Cerralti parcel, a mix of jasper which is a type of opaque, granular quartz, along with shale and clay. Classic liqueur and modern texture give way to grippy acidity and more than necessary structure. This is one of those Brunello that speak with fruit early but with a knowing nod to longevity.

What goes best with chenin and cinsault? Tuna Burger at Sea Breeze in Cape Town

Thanks for reading up on South Africa once again.

Good to go!

godello

South Africa’s South Coast

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

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Riding red blends from Canadian frontiers

Ancient PEC red care of Geoff Heinricks

Ancient PEC red care of Geoff Heinricks

as seen on WineAlignRed Blends, White Blends and Sauvignon Blanc – Medal Winners from NWAC 2019

Some producers may be riding red blends all the way to the bank while others, including many winemakers simply love making them. Hearing about or looking at the broad term “red blends” causes many of us to think about wines that are big in every respect. Broad shouldered, big-bodied, long-legged, tannic and age-worthy.  As for how these wines are made we imagine a barrel room of oak casks filled with deep, rich and dark liquids made by winemakers and their science flasks layered by endless combinations of samples in varying percentages. This is in fact how most red blends are made. Barrel and tank samples of different grape varieties are pulled and with a conditional maximum amount of each kept in mind, the constituent samples are mixed and matched until the blend just feels to come out right. Add in a bit of chemistry for scientific balance and Red’s your uncle.

Red blends is employed as that highly scientific wine-speak term used to define one of the largest, broadest and most undefined categories in wine. There are blends established in the Old World emulated and mimicked from Argentina to South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and everywhere vinifera is grown. Bordeaux’s Left and Right Bank are most commonly copied but so too is the Southern Rhône. The triumvirate of cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc and merlot lead the way while grenache, syrah and mourvèdre are the source of much imitation. Blending does not stop at such multi-varietal exactitude because the Australians (namely) decided that syrah/shiraz goes with everything and why not. The concept of admixture or fusion is becoming increasingly relevant and the norm for red blends made in Canada, especially in British Columbia and to a lesser extent in Ontario too.

Chef Albert Ponzo’s Gnocchi with Morels

Basically anything made with two or more grape varieties qualifies and in some cases a kitchen sink is amalgamated from literally dozens of locally planted options. To be honest the methodology categorically removes said wines from every other varietal class or division, in competition or otherwise. So the question begs. How do judges at the National Wine Awards of Canada assess, rate and ultimately dole out medals when the comparisons are all apples to oranges? How do we as a team decide which blends are most deserving in a sea of peers comprised of wholly different, antithetical and multifarious combinations?

The answer is complex but in the end not exactly rocket science. Truth be told the necessity of knowing the percentages in the blend is the mother of invention. This is because each wine is a sum of its combinative parts while success is predicated on the communal effort and seamlessness of the gathering. But more than anything and it’s certainly cliché to say, wines as blends must achieve balance and those that do will reap the most reward. News flash to corroborate that theory. Most varietal wines are blends too, made up of vineyard slash vessel percentages picked, mixed and matched by the winemaker. What really is the great difference?

Is there any wonder why Canadian winemakers love the category of Red Blends? At this year’s Nationals there are 105 medals awarded to a group of wines that in their collective make-up include just about every red (plus a white or two) grape varieties grown in Canada. Read that number again: 105! Three out of four Platinum winners are from British Columbia and 12 of 14 Silvers as well. As for Bronze, 60 are from B.C., 24 from Ontario and three are from Nova Scotia.

While it would be a joyous exercise to break down all the medal winning wines it would also be one that just might put you to sleep. So for the purposes of analytical brevity and for the fact that we have an unprecedented four Platinum winners in 2019, let’s stick to these exceptional wines. The Hatch Dynasty Red 2016 is syrah and malbec from the Hans Estate Vineyard in Osoyoos raised in all new French oak for 18 months. Yes, ALL new French oak. Noble Ridge Reserve Meritage 2016 from Okanagan Falls is essentially classic Left Bank Bordeaux led by merlot with cabernet sauvignon with minor amounts of cabernet franc plus malbec. Hester Creek Syrah Viognier 2017 from the Okanagan Valley is a stunner and steal for the price though truth be told could have very easily been awarded a similar accolade in the straight varietal category. Niagara’s Tawse Meritage 2015 is a three-pronged Bordeaux varietal mix of merlot, cabernet sauvignon and cabernet franc “with so much going on you might not understand what it’s trying to say.” It’s like Glossolalia but will surely live on through epochs of Canadian Meritage notability and infamy.

OK I lied. Some mentions and some love for the Golds as well. Out of Niagara the judges jumped for the merlot, cabernet franc and cabernet sauvignon in Marynissen Heritage Collection Red 2015 and the kitchen sink blend only Stratus Red 2016 can gift; cabernet franc, merlot, cabernet sauvignon, syrah, malbec, tannat and petit verdot. The hits keep on coming from B.C., especially strong in this category demarcated by grip, grit and strength. The following 12 began their journeys with a plethora of varietal combinations, spoke with great ability to reach the judges palates and all ended up Gold.

Note the seemingly infinite combinations is this diverse group. Maverick 2016 Rubeus, syrah, merlot, cabernet sauvignon and cabernet franc; Bench 1775 2016 Cabernet Franc MalbecCorcelettes 2016 Meritage Estate Vineyard, merlot, cabernet franc, cabernet sauvignon, malbec and petit verdot; Corcelettes 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon Syrah Menhir Estate Vineyard; Black Hills 2017 Addendum, merlot, cabernet franc, cabernet sauvignon; TIME Winery 2016 Meritage, merlot, cabernet franc, cabernet sauvignon; Mission Hill 2016 Quatrain, merlot, syrah, cabernet franc and cabernet sauvignon; Sandhill 2016 Single Vineyard One Small Lots Program Vanessa Vineyard, cabernet franc, cabernet sauvignon merlot and syrah; Moon Curser 2017 Dead of Night, syrah and tannat; Sun Rock Vineyards 2016 Red Meritage, merlot, cabernet sauvignon and cabernet franc; Red Rooster 2016 Golden Egg, mourvèdre, syrah and grenache; Nk’Mip Cellars 2016 Winemakers Talon, syrah, cabernet sauvignon, malbec, merlot, cabernet franc and pinot noir.

If you don’t see a clear and obvious pattern in these Red Blends be neither confused nor discouraged because this is how things function and in turn offer up so much possibility in fresher frontiers. In today’s garden of climate change affected vineyards it is Canadian winemakers who are the beneficiaries of a wild west, anything goes environment where mates can be made across varietal lines both renewed and re-invented. Embrace the diversity and let it ride.

We finish we a special red blend tasted with Maggie Granger in Prince Edward County.

Grange Of Prince Edward Bunny Wine 2016, VQA Prince Edward County ($65.00, 1500ml, WineAlign)

Bunny Wine is nothing if not playful, a field blend that tugs on conceptual heartstrings and has been doing so for 18 months. It has come into kairos, whether unexpectedly, by chance or by the intuition of the moment, it matters little. Bunny is an extension of three plus years of furry flirtations, in cuvées that have come before, of gamay and pinot noir, of passe-tout-grains. I’ve tasted barrel samples and now here we are at the real thing, “the milk of the gamay bunny, drinkers of spillage by tipsy monks. Even if you know little or care less about bunnies and monks it’s the truth even if it didn’t happen, based on memories and perception, just as a look back at that taste and this note will be. Seamless weaving here, between Bourgogne cousins, north and south, grippy and supple. Hard to tell one from the other and isn’t that the point? From the Victoria Block, four rows of pinot next to four of gamay, picked, fermented and crushed together. All thanks to fruit of exemplary patience. Drink 2019-2023.  Tasted June 2019

Good to go!

godello

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

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Don’t you, forget about IGT

San Francesco, Il Molino di Grace

Multiple visits to Tuscany over the past 36 months and more specifically to Chianti Classico have meant that nearly a thousand sangiovese have been opened for tasting opportunities. The tours have also acted to allow for benefactor moments, to present table wines made in part or in whole that either do not or have been chosen to not qualify for DOCG appellative status. These cases are purely opportunistic, in the name of IGT Toscana (and other typical geographical notations) for the purpose of impressing the merits from well-maturing vines of cabernet sauvignon, merlot, blends with sangiovese and other solo sangiovese wines of Chianti Classico producers.

The Galestro of Isole e Olena, Barberino Val d’Elsa

The idea of the IGT practice goes back four-plus decades, to a time when Bordeaux grape varieties began to infiltrate and populate Chianti Classico soils. So much of what was planted through the 90s remains and because only 20 per cent of a Chianti Classico can be filled by grapes other than sangiovese, in many cases it is the “international” varieties that fill in and those grapes still need to go somewhere. It is also a consideration that Chianti Classico aged in new oak barrels is a scarcity these days and so those vessels need to be used for something so ecco, it is IGT, big, small, super or baby that gets the nod.

Fontodi vineyards in the Conco d’oro, Panzano

In the mid to late 1970s Tuscany there developed a quick ascent of the Super-Tuscan, wines that eventually came to be called “IGT” as a by-product of a perfect bureaucratic storm. The micro-nationalistic wave of Denominazione di Origine Controllata (e Garantita) served Italy’s elite producers both a blessing and a curse because on one hand it afforded wines the highest level of (Italian) classification while on the other it added unbending restrictions on how those wines could be made. The rule breaking table reds thus became symbols of resistance, wines that told governments and consortiums where to go and in effect led to an eventuality of response, of a sweeping, money-grabbing movement across that region’s wine-producing territories.

Paolo de Marchi and Cepparello 1995

It was nigh twenty years later that authorities got wise to the situation and so Goria’s 1992 Law 164 was created, thus giving birth to the IGT designation. New monies began to line the government’s pockets. So much for rebellion though twenty years was plenty of time to establish and set up a group of famous wines for life.

The main reason for moving away from the appellation was the restrictive law that said you couldn’t make wine labeled as Chianti Classico if it contained 100 per cent sangiovese grapes. Later examples included Monteraponi when Michele Braganti changed from DOCG to IGT in 2012 because at 12.5 per cent alcohol it did not qualify for Chianti Classico and so it had to be Toscana Rosso. The great first wave began as Chianti Classico producers began to dismiss appellative laws by de-classifying their 100 per cent sangiovese. Fontodi’s Flaccianello delle Pieve and Isole e Olena’s Cepparello are two of the more famous examples. Outside the Classico territory and in other Tuscan lands there were others many consider to be the most rogue and famous of them all. Tenuta San Guido’s 1968 Sassicaia, Antinori’s 1971 Tignanello, 1986 Masseto and Ornellaia, first produced in 1985. But in 2019 the push for Chianti Classico’s Gran Selezione category to become a 100 per cent sangiovese appellative wine has sparked not only new debate but also great speculation. Will those once rebellious producers return their top wines and in many cases, single-vineyard sangiovese back to the appellation? Along with Flaccianello delle Pieve and Cepparello, the list of possible returnees might also include the following:

  • Badia a Coltibuono – Sangioveto
  • Carobbio – Leone
  • Castello di Querceto – Le Corte
  • Castello di Rampola – Sangiovese di S. Lucia
  • Fattoria Montecchio – Priscus
  • Il Molino Di Grace Gratius
  • Monteraponi – Baron’Ugo
  • Montevertine – Le Pergola Torte
  • Podere Campriano – 80 (Ottonta)
  • Podere La Cappella – Corbezzolo
  • Principe Corsini Le Corti – ZAC
  • Valdellecorti – Extra
  • Vignavecchia – Raddese

San Marcellino Vineyard, Monti in Chianti

In February of 2019 I tasted 21 assorted IGT wines, from Rosato to Bianco to Rosso. I’ve also added three others tasted a year ago that had not yet made it to print. These are my notes on that 24 strong, eclectic and impressive lot.

Rocca Di Montegrossi Rosato 2018, Toscana IGT, Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

Rosato from sangiovese raised from Chianti Classico galestro soils found in Monti in Chianti and only 30 minutes time through press. A 100 per cent sangiovese stunner with absolutely no excess, no onion skin, no oxidation, from all estate vineyards, including San Marcellino’s grapes that once would have been green harvested. Texture, sapidity and character are written down and expressed as a scientific problem out of which complexity sets all to high. One of Tuscany’s great Rosatos, made with great purpose, structure and food friendly to say the least. So good. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted twice, February and April 2019

Lunch at Le Fonti

Le Fonti Di Panzano La Lepre Delle Fonti 2017, Toscana IGT, Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

Antipasti wine, house wine, smells like good salumi. The Lepre tank is all the juice from the vineyard blocks where the ripening isn’t perfect and also some pressed juice not used in Chianti Classico. Theoretically from “de-classifed” grapes but in good vintages it could very well be Chianti Classico from a quality standpoint, though wouldn’t qualify because it’s made with 30 per cent merlot. A top notch vintage for Le Lepre, juicy, somewhat tannic and finishing with seed-noted beneficial bitters. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted February 2019

Le Fonti Di Panzano La Lepre Delle Fonti 2014, Toscana IGT, Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

Three years forward and the (70 per cent) sangiovese aromatics are eerily similar to the fresher and very forward 2017. Perhaps more salumi and certainly finnochio pronounced. Holding well with tannins resolved and this from the challenging 2014 vintage though truth be told it was the right one, of structure to carry a “second wine” like this forward. Drink 2019-2020.  Tasted February 2019

Vicky Scmitt-Vitali and Guido Vitali, Le Fonti in Panzano

Le Fonti Di Panzano Merlot 2016, Toscana IGT, Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

From vineyards planted in 1998 and 2000, this is the second vintage of the varietal hugger, with Le Fonti aromatics stronger than grape. It’s one year in barrel so in the baby Super Tuscan mold, fruity, juicy, lower in acidity and pretty much crushable. Easy and very proper. Drink 2019-2021.  Tasted February 2019

Le Fonti Di Panzano Fontissimo 2015, Toscana IGT, Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

Certainly crafted from an easier, less stressful vintage and the blend is about 55-60 per cent cabernet sauvignon, 35 merlot and 10-15 sangiovese. Still those Le Fonti aromatics, of salumi and fennel, but here also pepper, graphite, Cassis and chocolate. Very Tuscan so makes sense in such a vintage for the reference to be Toscana as opposed to the frazione within frazioni called Alta Valle della Greve. Very grippy meeting the expected liqueur elixir and black cherry meeting black currant. Acidity is quite fine, purposed and integrated. Impressed by the length. Drink 2020-2023.  Tasted February 2019

Le Fonti Di Panzano Fontissimo 2014, IGT Alta Valle Della Greve, Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

Fontissimo is a blend of merlot, cabernet sauvignon and sangiovese. A wine made in Chianti Classico to break in new barrels and to express territory through the ulterior processes of grape blending and winemaking. Here is where Guido Vitali and Vicky-Schmitt Vitali can work on their chops and hone their craft. Hello 2014, vintage of stars and bars, vintage of ages and for those who are paying close attention. Also, welcome to the highly specific Alta Valle della Greve. There’s a commonality for sure that is found in this valley but there is also a simplicity and a sense of place within a place within a place. Easy drinking actually. Drink 2019-2021.  Tasted February 2019

Iacopo Morganti, Il Molino di Grace

Il Molino Di Grace Gratius 2015, Toscana IGT, Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

Gratius is the Molino di Grace 100 per cent sangiovese table wine that resides with a dozen other territorial greats in that existentialist realm outside of the appellation. If and when it will become Chianti Classico DOCG remains to be seen but this 2015 sits on the side of tangy, tart and so bloody structured side and yes, the dominant notes are distinctly blood orange. Elongated and elastic it’s offers up a free and equitable look in the varietal mirror, productive in perfectly perpetual inertia, firm, grippy and motivated. Will come together in a few years time and drift ever so slowly for seven more. Drink 2022-2029.  Tasted February 2019

Podere La Cappella Oriana 2015, Toscana IGT, Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

“In my opinion it is young to drink,” shrugs Natascia Rosini. In fact it’s oft considered unusual to hold back white wines to drink, not just here but in Italy as a whole. Then again, who else makes vermentino from estate grapes in Chianti Classico. Salinity and sapidity reign in a shockingly good vermentino. Pear and herbal notes with richness that just put this over the top. Picked late at full maturity and kept in the cellar for two weeks (at four degrees) before pressing. Never failing San Donato vermentino. Drink 2019-2023.  Tasted February 2019

Podere La Cappella Oriana 1997, Toscana IGT, Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

The last time I was able to taste such a comparison was 2014 versus 1998, two under-appreciated cool and wet vintages. Now we look at warm years, 2015 and 1997, the latter at the time considered the greatest. Many sangiovese have failed and fallen but this vermentino, well, even if the colour and the nose are far evolved, the palate has plenty of life. Salinity and sapidity still rock and stone their way, with that marine wind from the sea rushing through, into the air and the soil of San Donato in Poggio. Hard to decide between this and ’98 because there is more flesh here (bringing a honeyed apricot), but sometimes lean is so nice. Such a special moment. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted February 2019

Podere La Cappella Corbezzolo 2013, Toscana IGT, Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

From sangiovese planted in 1981 and 1982, a vineyard not certified as Chianti Classico so this wine can’t be called Gran Selezione. To say this is young and perhaps even being unaware of what it can be would be an understatement. It’s calm and powerful, elegant and ready to strike with force. Such identifiable, formidable, indestructible and yet malleable tannins. A mimic of the singular Colombino rock found only here in the territory, calcareous white stone both strong to build houses (and cellars) and schisty to break apart between your hands. Imagine how this will drink when it allows itself to break down in just the right way and at just the right time.  Last tasted February 2019

The Corbezzolo from vine and into bottle is 100 per cent sangiovese and in name “the fruit tree that produces a very tart berry for making jam.” This comes straight from the heart of the Rossini matter, out of the oldest vineyard planted in 1990-1991. It would be hard not too think on Podere La Cappella’s sangiovese as untethered to family, to meals and the kitchen’s hearth. The demi-glacé in Corbezzolo is deeper, richer, slower developing, of graceful, elegant and ethereal aromatics, even a bit exotic verging on quixotic. There is this far eastern temperament because the fruit seems to simmer with cool, jasmine-floral savour in a galestro clay pot. The acumen is variegated in the singular Corbezzolo concentration but this is not a factor of extract or density. Depth is sangiovese light, dancing from 2013, a gorgeous vintage that everyone will want a piece of. Drink 2020-2035.  Tasted February 2017

Podere La Cappella Cantico 2012, Toscana IGT, Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

As always 100 per cent merlot with a grafting connection to chardonnay and American rootstock. The vintage is a savoury one for the thirty-plus year-old IGT. It’s a very Mediterranean sensation, of black olive and balsamico, hematic ooze and woodsy floor. It’s actually still quite closed or perhaps it’s entered a dumb or quiet phase but don’t be fooled; there is powerful restraint and it may pounce anytime. Drink 2021-2029.  Tasted February 2019

Podere La Cappella Cantico 1999, Toscana IGT, Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

A beautifully advanced merlot from vines that would have been 17 and 18 years-old at picking time. If you’ve got a truffle dog, take this wine and go truffling because this merlot is at the head of that aromatic game for the territory. Such a creamy merlot, with plenty of necessary acidity and the freshness of truffle. Merlot as tartufo incarnate. Truly. Delicious. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted February 2019

John Matta and John Szabo Vicchiomaggio

Castello Vicchiomaggio Ripa Delle Mandorle 2016, Toscana IGT, Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

Sangiovese (80 per cent) with cabernet sauvignon, all fruit and nothing but the fruit, plummy and with a nutty smokiness, but also manageable with simplicity from and for fruit. What works and gives from the basic and forthright IGT ideal. Drink 2019-2020.  Tasted February 2019

Castello Vicchiomaggio Ripa Delle More 2016, Toscana IGT, Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

Sangiovese (50 per cent), cabernet sauvignon (30) and merlot (20), from “the hill of the blackberry.” A rich, purple flower aromatic, liquid chalky, deeply rendered red. Done up in a combination of new and pre-used barriques. There’s a salumi feel, a musky pancetta and a silky smooth mouthfeel. Nearing glycerin but staying its clay-mineral coarse. Drink 2020-2024.  Tasted February 2019

Castello Vicchiomaggio Villa Vallemaggiore Poggio Re 2016, Maremma Toscana DOC Rosso, Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

From cabernet sauvignon grown on sandy soils in the warmer maritime area near Grossetto. The grapes comes from “the hill of the king,” and the attributes are so bloody varietal obvious. Cassis, ribena, blackberry, savour and spice. Chocolate and rosemary, tarragon and cinnamon. Very expressive and with good elevated acidity. Quite the tannic beast. Drink 2020-2025.  Tasted February 2019

Castello Vicchiomaggio FSM 2015, Toscana IGT, Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

From a project that began in 1995, this is 100 per cent merlot of a small, 3,000 bottle lot. It’s hard to decide if it’s more varietal or more Toscana so let’s just say it straddles the two with perfect ease. Youthful, big and warm, very Mediterranean with gariga, black olive, rosemary and dusty notes. Silky smooth however and finishes in balsamic, viscous and reduced. High quality merlot to be sure, with fine tannic structure. Drink 2021-2026.  Tasted February 2019

Amphora, Fattoria Montecchio

Fattoria Montecchio Priscus 2015, Toscana Rosso IGT, Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

The IGT is 100 per cent sangiovese of 1,200 bottles aged in 100 per cent terracotta amphora formed, forged and cured on the Montecchio property. Same must/juice as the Gran Selezione so the side by side comparison is the show. Winemaker Riccardo Nuti is interested in this investigation for family tradition, commercial continuity and passion project affirmation. Quick time on skins, fermented in terracotta tanks and racked into “amphora,” in this case elongated egg-shaped clay vessels for the next two plus years. The texture and the spice are higher, as is the volatility but the threshold is not in any danger of being breached. The tannins are more present, demanding and vivid. And I prefer them because they are just that more interesting. This is in fact a remarkable look at the relationship between grape, vessel, material, approach and place. Drink 2024-2033.  Tasted February 2019

Fattoria Montecchio Pietracupa 2016, Toscana Rosso IGT, Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

An IGT blend of sangiovese (60 per cent) and cabernet sauvignon with a percentage coming from San Donato in Poggio vineyards close by. Much deeper, bigger, broader and brooding as a blend with smooth silky consistency and fine silky tannins. Very oaky, completely mature and filled with the flavours that lie on the balsamic-chocolate-blackberry spectrum. Though the sangiovese character is lost it’s a real high-end charmer. Drink 2020-2027.  Tasted February 2019

Fattoria Montecchio La Papesa 2015, Toscana IGT, Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

A varietal merlot of high level ripeness and while it’s a bit overripe and certainly extracted the acidity is supportive, balancing and results in something charming. The tannins are soft and comforting with zero astringency so yes, think of this as a great big San Donato hug. Figs in reduced balsamico are the prevailing flavours, with lots of dark but not bitter chocolate coming through with the finishing next level morbido feelings. As big as it may seem to some palates it’s actually quite easy to drink. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted February 2019

Monte Bernardi Tzingarella 2017, IGT Toscana Centrale, Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

A Bordeaux blend from young vines in frost spots and high humidity places not really suitable for sangiovese. The blend is merlot, cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc and canaiolo. So what is it? Well for one thing it’s the “daughter of the gypsy,” and then it’s a high acid, taste of place before anything else red blend. High tonality, ripe purple fruit and and a boatload of currants. No pyrazine, well perhaps just a bit. Low alcohol for such an animal, remarkably so and once again it’s a great matter of sapidity. Just a hit of chocolate late, as per the grapes which needed to have a say. Drink 2019-2023.  Tasted February 2019

Monte Bernardi Tzingana 2015, IGT Toscana Centrale, Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

The “Gypsy,” from the old Greek, or in Italian, gitano or tzigane. This gypsy is the old vine version, of 50 years, top grafted on a sangiovese/malvasia/canaiolo/trebbiano vineyard planted by the previous owner in the late 80s. It’s made from merlot, cabernet sauvignon, cabernet sauvignon and petit verdot (but no canaiolo) and also no sangiovese because tells Michael Schmelzer, there is no cannibalizing the Chianti Classico. This is deeper, richer, lower in acidity, still sapid but not as pronounced and higher in finishing chocolate. The wood needs a year more of integration. Drink 2020-2027.  Tasted February 2019

Luca Martini di Cigala, San Giustro a Rentennano

San Giusto A Rentennano Percarlo 2013, IGT Toscana, Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

Percarlo IGT Toscana 2013 is the current vintage of the 100 per cent sangiovese that began in the 1980s when it was forbidden to label such a beast as Chianti Classico. “Percarlo is his identity so he will not come back,” insists Luca Martini di Cigala. Made from the smallest bunches and a selection of the best fruit, yet still from the same vineyards albeit blessed of more from tufo soil. Percarlo carries the same San Giusto richness and acidity working in silky tandem and the tannins are the most plush, which they’d have to be to match the high level of glycerin. Formidable and exceptionally refined sangiovese. Drink 2019-2028.  Tasted February 2018

San Giusto A Rentennano Percarlo 2005, IGT Toscana, Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

Once again you would have no idea that any time may have passed, not just because the hue has yet to morph but because the aromatics and fresh gelée are one in the same, together as they have always been. The purity and exquisite texture also conspire for a sublime intertwine and then out of this comes the acidity, trailing like a comet. The tannins are still so strong and so the smoky spirit and intensity of variegated flavour persists, gets reprimanded and is held out for all to taste. Here the maximum coaxed from the grape is acceded above and exceeded beyond. Drink 2019-2035.  Tasted February 2018

Poggio Scalette Il Carbonaione 2015, IGT Alta Valle Della Greve, Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

Il Carbonaione is from the finest sangiovese on the Ruffoli property, a Chianti Classico vineyard declassified, with vines as old as 90 years but in reality, not exactly 100 per cent sangiovese. Some post-phylloxera ungrafted vines and many co-planted with no record of origin perhaps or likely place mammolo, colorino, canaiolo, malvasia, trebbiano and even occhiorosso in five to ten per cent amongst clones of sangiovese. The nose is like the Chianti Classico magnified, reduced, compressed and elevated. The florals rival the Lamole but they are more into potpourri and the acidity is super, super fine. The only comparison might be in acidity like Luca’s San Giusto a Rentennano, with the sandy soil base and the saltiness but the tannins here are set upon broader shoulders. With much less stone worked in the soil you lose the chalky grain streak but gain this broader complexity. With such beckoning and burgeoning acidity the vinatge is put on a great pedestal and the possibility seriously exists for two decades of aging. Ruffoli’s 400-600m elevation, with a long growing season (sometimes seeing pick times up the second week of October) means the full and complete phenolic ripeness is wholly realized. Not to put too much stock in here but 13.5 per cent alcohol. Just sayin’. Drink 2020-2034.  Tasted February 2018

Good to go!

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San Francesco, Il Molino di Grace

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