Castello di Ama’s state of the art

Two months ago yet another Toscana adventure came to a close. The tastes and sights indelibly stamped are etched forever in memory. Before moving on down the SR2 from Siena to Montalcino we paid the most profound and contemplative Chianti Classico visit of all, sulle colline di Gaiole. To a place where wine, art and landscape interact, variegate and intertwine. A place where the slow pace of play is grounded in grace and nature slowly renders an intoxication of faith. Where the exceptionality of place, experience and innovation can’t be underestimated, not at Castello di Ama.

La Cappella di Villa Pianigiani (18th century)

It was mid-August 1995 and my wife and I were on honeymoon, holed up in a little nook of Castelnuovo Berardenga near Ponte e Bozzone, just outside of Siena. We used this idyllic spot as our base camp from which to explore Chianti Classico for two full weeks that summer, which incidentally was cool, often rainy and now, none to my decades of studiously learning about sangiovese surprise later, proved to have resulted in turning out some elegant and structured wines.

One day we drove up into the Gaiole in Chianti hills, up a long drive past what I now know as Vigneto Bellavista and parked on a crest of gravel straddling the picturesque vineyard on one side and on the other, Vigneto San Lorenzo of Castello di Ama. Just as it was on February 15th of this year, the scene was one of stillness and tranquility, frozen in time, albeit memory delivers the picture in black and white. We wandered aimlessly, taking in the vines and the quietude when a small voice came rising from a dwelling in the tiny hamlet. An old woman motioned for us to come down the steps and into a small room. We tasted a few sangiovese, purchased a few bottles and were on our way.

La Cappella di Villa Ricucci (18th century)

The woman was likely Lorenza Sebasti’s grandmother and five years ago I recounted the story for her when Lorenza was pouring Ama’s wines at their Ontario agent Halpern’s annual grand tasting. Her name was Ermellina, Lorenza’s nana that she called Mami. She could perhaps have been the fattoressa, or agente fondinario, land agent to the hamlet of Ama which takes its name from a small borgo, or agricultural village, nestled in the Gaiole hills at an altitude of almost 500 metres. Five centuries ago, it was the hub of a florid farming and winemaking business overseen by a group of local families. “The road from Radda leads to Amma, three miles away on a hill and home to the Pianigiani, Ricucci and Montigiani – the most prominent families in Chianti,” wrote Grand Duke Peter Leopold of Habsburg-Lorraine in his 18th-century Report on the government of Tuscany.

The winery was founded in the 1970s by a group of Roman families; Tradico, Carini, Cavanna and Sebasti and in the 1980s Lorenza’s husband Marco Pallanti, a Tuscan, took over the winemaking duties. Pallanti is a former President of the Consorzio Vino Chianti Classico and the pioneer who undertook one of the most ambitious vineyard transformations in the region’s history during a five-year period in the 1980s when he chose to re-trellis 50,000 vines (planted to 2,800 vines per hectare) to an open lyre system. Much of the vineyards were also grafted to new sangiovese clones and other beneficial varieties (like merlot) to take advantage of Ama’s specific topography and singular geology.

Carlos Garaicoa, Yo no quiero ver mas a mis vecinos

Castello di Ama’s 80 hectares of vineyards surround the hamlet of Ama by an extended radius of three kilometres at altitudes ranging from 450 to 550 metres above sea level. The four valleys are marked by harvested Galestro rock at the top of each vineyard; Bellavista, San Lorenzo, Casuccia and Montebuoni. Bellavista stands apart because set atop that hill at an altitude of 490m is the block that is used to make L’Apparita, Tuscany’s first pure varietal merlot. In 1975 this portion was planted with canaiolo and malvasia bianca, then grafted over with merlot clone 342 between 1982 and 1985.

Kendell Geers, Revolution/Love

The village of Ama is made up of aggregate buildings of medieval origin, along the axis of a main street and essentially protected by two villas on either end; Ricucci and Pianigiani. There are three small chapels, one dedicated to the Blessed Virgin of Carmine, at the Villa Pianigiani. The second, along the main street, is dedicated to San Lorenzo and the third, dedicated to San Venazio, in the garden of Villa Riccucci.

Michelangelo Pistoletto, L’albero di Ama

Marco Pallanti is proud of the more than 35 years of work and adventure he has poured heart, mind and soul into the purity of these Gaiole hills. “It is important for wines to maintain a link to their place of origin” he writes. “The fundamental idea of tasting a wine and displaying the vines from which it comes. Wine has to spring from the rocks of the vineyard and reflect the sun, the season, the heavens of that hill, in that moment.” Pallanti’s notion of connecting the past, in viticulture, viniculture and architecture with the future is manifested through 15 art installations on or abutting vineyards, set into landscapes and occupying cellar spaces. “To give the illusion of being able to perfect perfection,” he expounds from grape and through the intangible gift, to “make seen what cannot be seen.”

Ilya & Emilia Kabakov, The Observer

The 15 site-specific installations are a collection of explicitly contemporary works still in progress, all created to marry place and idea. The artists commissioned and represented are Michelangelo Pistoletto, Daniel Buren, Giulio Paolini, Kendell Geers, Anish Kapoors, Chen Zhen, Carlos Garaicoa, Louise Bourgeois, Cristina Iglesias, Nedko Solakov, Ilya and Emilia Kabakov, Pascal-Martine Tayou, Hiroshi Sugimoto, Lee Ufan and Roni Horn.

Hiroshi Sugimoto, Confession of Zero

Once inside the tasting room at Castello di Ama Marco led John Szabo M.S. and I through the estate wines, focusing as we should on the four vineyards, Bellavista, San Lorenzo, Casuccia and Montebuoni. Here are my reviews on the six wines tasted.

Marco Pallanti, Godello and John Szabo M.S.

Castello di Ama Purple Rosé 2017, IGT Toscana, Italy (Agent, $20.85, WineAlign)

Bottled recently, going to market on March 1st, this is sangiovese with a minor amount of merlot, a new Rosato for Ama, really fruity, of an amazing colour, viscous, spicy, tart and so bloody delicious. Savoury and herbal moments but always that return to fruit. A touch of citrus pith and tonic mark the finish. Very fresh and spirited Rosé and I can’t imagine anyone not wanting to drink two glasses. Drink 2018-2019.  Tasted February 2018

Roni Horn, Untitled

Castello di Ama Chianti Classico DOCG 2015, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $34.95, WineAlign)

The artist now known simply as “Ama” is a highly touted, self-reflective sangiovese with fruit to end all fruit, every iota of sensory and sensual fibre filled in and a deeply inward, charted impression. The first vintage was 2010, when Gran Selezione began its newly classified journey, so this is the sixth instalment in the Ama new age. The Chianti Classico equivalent of a Bordeaux Château’s estate wine, the one to explain the house style and philosophy. Needs three more years to develop all its charms and move to the next stage of its life. There are 90,000-100,000 bottles produced.  Last tasted February 2018.

“The road from Radda leads to Amma,” where some of Chianti Classico’s most fertile land treats sangiovese vines as if they were planted in a garden. Hard not to experience this Gaiole Chianti Classico as a sangiovese of extreme youth for a quick to bottle Ama, so floral and what just has to be so as a result of some whole cluster, feigning carbonic and hyperbole of managed freshness. Some exotic spice in perfume and real, certain, credible clarity. Not that this will entertain notions of Ama longevity but the purity clarifies the 2015 vintage position of consumer and critical mass quality. Drink 2018-2024.  Tasted February 2017  @CastellodiAma  @castellodiama  @HalpernWine  castellodiama  halpernwine  @halpernwine

Questa non è una finestra, @castellodiama an instrument through which something is represented. #danielburen #chianticlassico #landscapepainting … Daniel Buren, Sulle vine punti di vista

Castello di Ama Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG San Lorenzo 2014, Tuscany, Italy (418897, $48.95, WineAlign)

San Lorenzo is not actually a single-vineyard wine though the fruit source depends highly on this side of the estate. It is in fact a blend of all the best places of the property and from a vintage out of which no La Casuccia or Bellavista were made all the best fruit (including some merlot) ended up in San Lorenzo. The quality of the acidity and the tannin separate this from Ama but that wine’s pedigree should not be in question for it remains the broadest, most appropriate brushstroke for Ama. San Lorenzo delivers a domino structure, stacked and yet imagined as fallen, a set of roads and walls to walk and climb along, to eventually arrive at a pre-destined destination. This is the white meets grey meets sandy brown limestone of the broad amalgamation of the mineral estate, salty and rich, with depth into a grotto.  Last tasted February 2018.

Even with the benevolent San Lorenzo as the sample size, going at 2014 Gran Selezione is like trying to crack a walnut shell with your teeth, the husk so tough you might break two or more trying. What is noted in the single-vineyard San Lorenzo is a hyperbole of 2014’s general characteristics; firm grip, savour, herbology and liqueur. There is extreme Gran Selezione personality humming in San Lorenzo and help me if two years are needed simply for assessment and five for the drinking window to open. The attention to soil and Ama’s prized Gaiole in Chianti Climat is duly noted, as is the careful selection from the vintage. I will say this. No amount of selection, barrel or time can allow Gran Selezione to escape from 2014. In the short term it will be a downfall, in the long, long, long run a blessing. Drink 2021-2031.  Tasted February 2017

Castello di Ama Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG Vigneto Bellavista 2013, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $242.59, WineAlign)

You just have to stand and gaze out over said vineyard to feel the awe and then to understand its connection, for Castello di Ama, to the Gran Selezione category. The rise up to and astride the estate is a collina rocciosa so singular to Gaiole in Chianti. If it is not correct to intuit, self-convince and deduce that Bellavista just tastes like the salty, calcareous and deeply stony white rocks of that blinding light vineyard then so be it. The wine is saturated beyond imagination and without any possibility of feeling chalky on the palate. If this isn’t Grand Cru Chambertin or Montrachet in red, Chianti Classico form, then no wine in Toscana can be considered as such. That it also carries in pocket the great ripeness of sangiovese fruit, streamlined acidity and mille-feuille tannin is a variegation of thought to consider at every smell, taste and turn. Just amazing for the vintage with non-aggressive though confident tenets of structure. A Gran Selezione generally in production of four to six thousand bottles. Drink 2021-2031.  Tasted February 2018

Giulio Paolini, Pardigma

Castello di Ama Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG Vigneto La Casuccia 2013, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $242.59, WineAlign)

Vigneto La Casuccia is a vineyard with different qualities in the stones of the soil and with malvasia nera accumulating another level of spice, even spicy when you taste. The sangiovese nose is deeper in fruit, bricks baked in and in emission of a graphite sensation, with more and differing effects brought on by limestone, though in apposite effect by the Galestro of Bellavista. The acidity is even more striking than what is derived from the adjacent block and the tannin stronger, broader, more obvious though never over-demanding. If apprised in the poetic terms of a haiku, this may deal in the facile of a read while mired in the inability to ascertain ultimate meaning. We’re only in the first incomplete five words at this stage and it will be five more years before we can say the next seven will even enter the discussion. So be patient. As with the Gran Selezione Bellavista the production is generally in the range of four to six thousand bottles. Drink 2022-2034.  Tasted February 2018

Anish Kapoor, aima

Castello di Ama L’Apparita 2013, IGT Toscana, Italy (Agent, $242.59, WineAlign)

Castello di Ama L’Apparita IGT Toscana is merlot from atop the Bellavista hill and you just might see an apparition if you wander the rows in the dead of night. In reality, on a clear day when happening upon the vineyard, this is the spot from which the towers of Siena will appear. The first L’Apparita was 1985 so it is this 27th from 2013, with only 2002 and 2012 having been avoided. Merlot ripens earlier than sangiovese so it can be made more often. You recognize it as merlot, not Pomerol, not St. Emilion, not Maremma, but purely from this territory. The quality of acidity is vineyard-terroir driven and the tannins are sweet, plush and broad, different from Casuccia but sill set upon wide-developed shoulders. There is that ubiquitous Ama spice and in L’Apparita, a sense that tar is a factor and roses a quotient down the road. Drink 2020-2030.  Tasted February 2018

Good to Go!

Godello

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

WineAlign

Garda’s Chiaretto success

Lago di Garda, Torri del Benaco

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

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

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

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

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

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

Angelo Peretti

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

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

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

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

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

Bardolino Chiaretto DOC

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

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

#chiaretto @chiarettopink #rosato #bardolino #discoverchiaretto

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Matilde Poggi and John Szabo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Silvio Piona

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#vignetivillabella #villacordevigo #discoverchiaretto #bardolino #corvina

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chiaretto Valtènesi

Valtènesi Chiaretto DOC

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

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

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

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

Godello with Nicole Vezzola

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lago di Garda, Torri del Benaco

Good to Go!

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Castellina in golden light

Gallo Nero of Rocca delle Macie in Castellina in Chianti

Each time I travel to Chianti Classico the conversation regarding sub-zones rises closer to the surface. The deep and profound understanding of sangiovese as contributing to the greater good and power of Chianti Classico will not soon be superseded but producers are increasingly adamant about presenting their wines in the context of località and cru classificata. An annata is coming soon from which the names of both commune and village will proudly by worn on the bottle. With time comes change, however slowly, as necessity draws nearer and clearer into focus.

Granted there are some exceptions in Chianti Classico where fruit from neighbouring communes get together to make a Chianti Classico blend, so to speak, but these examples are few and far between. The Gallo Nero producers own, farm and harvest grapes from estate vineyards surrounding or in very close proximity to their production facilities. Chianti Classico is a highly territorial place, protected to the ultimate end of and by a family’s (or a custodian’s thereof) genealogy, history and legacy. As the region continues its march into the most modern of golden age there is a palpable and emotional push to celebrate the places within the place.

Related – Get Radda for Chianti Classico

The thinking or imagining about the landscape of Chianti Classico is more often than not acquiesced by a general feeling of winding roads through hilly landscapes, verdant vineyards and lines upon lines of cypress trees leading up drives to Etruscan estates. Generally speaking there is plenty of truth in such a conjuring but the distinct vistas, angles, geologies and visually speaking, the casts of light are so very different from one collateral enclave to the next. In Castellina there is a sense of wide open space and undulation you just don’t find in neighbouring lands. Borders are shared with Castelnuovo Berardenga to the southeast, Radda to the east, Greve to the north and Barberino Val d’Elsa to the northwest.  There can’t help but be some venn diagram drawn circles to adduce commonalities with neighbouring communes but Castellina is unique to itself and to its 66 producers associated with the Consorzio Vino Chianti Classico. In many respects and though it may be a generalization to say so, the sangiovese of Castellina are of the most lush, full-bodied and modern wines in the region. There is a thread that runs through, deep, mature and wise, an echelon of tangibility, from umbrage through illumination to loop a Castellina character from beginning to end and back again. The circle always returns to a point where Castellina is bathed in golden light.

This past September an ambassadorial group of Canadians paid visits to three historical properties in Castellina in Chianti. John Szabo M.S., Brad Royale, Steven Robinson and Godello took another step into the world of understanding, unearthing and disseminating the particular characteristics of communes and in the case of Castellina the epiphany was found in the consistency of the wines. It may be abstract to say but the Chianti Classico found here offer the greatest probability of correctness, high quality and regional guarantee. Read these 21 notes from Bibbiano, Castello di Fonterutoli and Rocca delle Macie, then judge for yourself.

Bibbiano

Related – Chilling with the bad boy of Chianti Classico

My second visit in as many years with Tommaso Marrocchesi Marzi reinforced the duality of landscape and sangiovese personality that the highly cerebral and zealous winemaker accepts, cherishes and celebrates through his wines. Bibbiano’s extraordinarily unique plateau position is a place of great dichotomy. The vines of Montornello slides gracefully down on the northwestern side and on the southwestern, Vigna del Capannino. “With glaring clarity is the determinate or indeterminate Bibbiano slope each wine draws their fruit from. In some cases one or the other and in others, a combination of the two. Montornello and Vigna del Capannino. The descending vineyards on either side of the Bibbiano plateau offer up an incredible study in contrasting Chianti Classico geology.”

We tasted eight wines with Tommaso, some of which were revisits for me. He also shared three new vintage samples, first a 2016 barrel pull from fruit drawn off the northern side. From tonneaux it gave beautiful, sexy fruit, spicy, tart, of great acidity and fine, spicy tannins. Structurally speaking this can only be from Montornello, albeit from wood, unblended with concrete sangiovese, so tannic, and very much in spice. The 2016 southern side is sangiovese grosso, from 25hL Slavonian oak botti and again, could only be the Capannino side with its big, thick and cakey fruit, massive, spicy and long. A 2016 blend or “taglio” may or may not have had some malvasia nera in there, from French tonneaux. Such perfume, alarmed, unparalleled, velvety, mouth coating and intense. With spice again and tight, taut, tannic (tight grain) structure. Really cakey and the thought again is just wow.  Here are the notes on the eight finished wines.

Bibbiano Listrice 2016, IGT Toscana, Italy (WineAlign)

Listrice is a blend of trebbiano and malvasia, pretty much 50/50, a fantasy name says Tommaso Marrocchesi Marzi. Il Istrice is a simple, fresh, straightforward white representative of the area. It’s salty, directly tart and made from fruit pulled only off the northern site/side of the Bibbiano estate. Is this so named because the northern vineyard’s fault dip is steeper near the surface then shallower with increased depth? Perhaps one day Tommaso will concur. There were approximately 2000 bottles produced. Drink 2017-2018.  Tasted September 2017  bibbianowines  lesommelierwine  @bibbianowines  @LeSommelierWine  Bibbiano Chianti Classico  Le Sommelier, Wine Agency

Bibbiano Rosato Scappalepre 2016, IGT Toscana, Italy (WineAlign)

Scappalepre, as in “the run away hare,” another whimsical name for a Bibbiano wine. This follows the growing number of specifically designed Tuscan rosés, especially for the Chianti Classico territory, to join the trendy ranks but with great sangiovese purpose. Scappalepre is from 100 per cent sangiovese fruit picked off of north and south vineyards and harvested purposely for Rosato. It is picked early, at least a few days before for Chianti Classico. Not quite saignée method but with a wealth of Rosé possibility, fresh and structured, confusingly phenolic and up there in the 14-plus per cent alcohol realm. A wine of sugars, acids and alcohol. It’s in a league of its own. Approx. 2000 bottles produced. Drink 2017-2019. Tasted  September 2017

Bibbiano Chianti Classico 2015, Tuscany, Italy (168286, $23.95, WineAlign)

“It’s a very genuine grape. It will never try to have fun with you,” explains Tommaso Marrochezi Marzi. This could easily have been said about the 2014 sangiovese though we know by now that the grape’s resilience has and will continue to bring itself about, and around. This 2015 shows its colours early, often and in great fruit strength. It’s beautiful and expressive, a spoken varietal message that is clear and understood. It should be enjoyed while it talks in fruit this way. Silky smooth, textured like fine satin, caressing and even sexy, sulty and lush. No colorino now and perhaps its inclusion with be more likely when the new vineyard grows up but for now the indigenous grapes are used in the Bibbianaccio IGT. Here again raised in all concrete for the élévage lending freshness, properly oxidative, anti-reductive character. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted September 2017

John Szabo M.S., Steven Robinson, Brad Royale, Silvia Fiorentini and Tommaso Marrocchesi Marzi

Bibbiano Chianti Classico Riserva 2014, Tuscany, Italy (AgentWineAlign)

The first vintage not called Montornello is now a Chianti Classico Riserva on its own with that (northern slope) vineyard separated as a Gran Selezione. The smooth depth of sangiovese fruit character here is entirely Riserva though without edges or toughness. No grit, some minor grip, fineness and silkiness of tannin. The perfect summer of September allowed picking to happen at the end of the month, in delivery of enough quantity and quality for both Riserva and Vigne di Montornello Gran Selezione. A Riserva as polished, modern, clean and drinkable as they come and a terrific effort for the challenging vintage. Drink 2017-2022.  Tasted September 2017

Bibbiano Chianti Classico Gran Selezione Vigne di Montornello 2014, Tuscany, Italy (AgentWineAlign)

The artist formerly known as Chianti Classico Riserva is now Vigne di Montornello beginning in 2014, from the northern side so not a single-vineyard so to speak but a collection of very specific vineyards. Spent 18 months in a mix of wood, the thread carried forward from the Riserva but with a more focused, intense and layered approach. Having already needed a reset of the compass to wrap my head around the Riserva now taking in some Capannino side fruit, the recalibration also involves moving upwards in pyramid quality. The plan is for the best of Montornello fruit to work with precocious acumen so that it may immediately transport this GS to a new plenary place for Bibbiano. It’s offer of gratification is fleeting in comparison because it’s a conceptual baby as compared to the Capannino, in this or any near future vintage really. Drink 2018-2024.  Tasted September 2017

Bibbiano Chianti Classico Gran Selezione Vigna Del Capannino 2013, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (AgentWineAlign)

The Chianti Classico Gran Selezione Vigna Del Capannino 2013 is monstrous, from ’58 and ’62 sangiovese grosso vines put in by Giulio Gambelli, then grafts from that material for masale propogation in 1999 and the 2000s. The departure from Brunello is here, a huge, muscular, dare it be said Bibbianaccio of the sangiovese Bibbiano family, in GS form, thick, tannic, brooding, exceptionally structured, robust and 15 years away from announcing its true plans. This bottle is subdued however slightly from a spot of TCA but not enough to warrant skipping on past. Wow. Drink 2021-2032.  Tasted September 2017

Bibbiano Chianti Classico Gran Selezione Vigna Del Capannino 2011, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (AgentWineAlign)

The vineyard “Del Capannino” was planted in the 1950’s by the late great Giulio Gambelli, assistant to Tancredi Biondi-Santi. Not surprisingly and in connection to Brunello di Montalcino it is a clonal planting of sangiovese grosso, with further propagation done in the 1990s. The rich Albarese soil of Del Capannino enjoys the finest exposure and microclimate on the estate and is considered the best expression of Bibbiano’s “genius loci,” the spirit of the place. The first single vineyard vintage was 1998 and the Riserva designation switched to Gran Selezione in 2014, retroactive to the 2010 vintage. Today Bibbiano uses Botti (di rovere) Grande and Tonneaux (beginning in 2008) after barriques had been used for years. Still and always has been 100 per cent grosso, the only producer to do so in Chianti Classico. And so theirs is a liqueur that of course takes your mind to Brunello but this is purely Castellina and Chianti Classico so don’t be confused or tempted to settle for idyll comparisons. This has freshness, purity and that enticing meets teasing acidity, certainly consistent with and of no divergence to Bibbiano style. Ties to CC and CCR are blatant, necessary and so very pleasing. There is great structure but you can think about drinking this in its youth. It wont let out all its secrets but it will begin to tell its story. A story of territory. Drink 2019-2028.  Tasted February and September 2017

Bibbiano Bibbianaccio 2011, Igt Toscana, Italy (AgentWineAlign)

Bibbianaccio comes to light in its inaugural vintage, “the bad boy of Bibbiano.” Who is this bad boy, wine or man, referring to Tomasso Marrocchesi Marzi perhaps, or is it something other? The 50 per cent sangiovese, (40) colorino and mixed varietal (including malvasia bianca) blend is an ode to a time before, when Chianti Classico regional wines were blends filled with whatever grew in the fields and men were men. This (mere production of 2,000 bottles) one is forged with extended battonage, malolactic is done in tonneaux and then the blend is assembled and sent to Slavonian oak. The bad more likely refers to a departure, a break from the stylistic and the the territorial approach. His purpose is “to show that we are capable of anything,” insists Tomasso. His rebel is floral and it reminds me of a northern Rhône syrah-viognier, in a sangiovese-colorino with white grape addendum body. Colorino brings the colour, but texture is also ushered in. The punch downs, the stalks mined in, the wood and the compression all give this a vivid, fleshy reality. It’s also much more tannic than the straight-shooting sangiovese. Bibbiannacio is yet another wine tasted in Chianti Classico with no frame of reference, or certainly not one that I have ever tasted before. It is drawn fruit on down from both sides of the Bibbiano plateau but I really taste the calcaire, liquid chalky and mixed with that tannin showing that some further bottle time is needed. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted February and September 2017

Castello di Fonterutoli

The Mazzei family lays claim to Chianti Classico’s origins in a document authored by Ser Lapo Mazzei in 1398. In correspondence from the 16th of December between “the keen notary” and Francesco Datini, “the merchant from Prato “Ser Lapo Mazzei made reference to “Chianti” as a production region and denomination. In 1435, when his granddaughter Madonna Smeralda Mazzei married Piero di Agnolo da Fonterutoli, the holding became part of the family’s estate. Since then, for 24 generations, the Mazzei family have produced wine at Castello di Fonterutoli.

Filippo Mazzei led us through a tasting of seven wines, including the experimental and visionary “Mix 36,” an IGT composed of 36 clones of Fonterutoli planted sangiovese. We then followed Filippo across the road from the estate and village to Osteria di Fonterutoli for lunch and some spirited discourse on sangiovese and the future of Chianti Classico.

Mazzei Badiola 2015, IGT Toscana, Italy (662197, $19.95, WineAlign)

Badiola is a sangiovese-merlot, 70-30 mix and its name comes from the tiny Roman times (circa 998) church set in one of the estate vineyard at 650m. This so happens to be the highest elevation in the area. Badiola sees 10 months in mainly used barriques for the intent to fashion a fruity, round, “everyday” Super Tuscan. It’s actually a bit lactic, dark berry dusty and with some solid grip. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted September 2017  marchesimazzei  profilewinegroup  @MarchesiMazzei  @ProfileWineGrp  Marchesi Mazzei – Castello di Fonterutoli  Profile Wine Group

Castello di Fonterutoli No. 10 2014, IGT Toscana, Italy (AgentWineAlign)

No. 10 is something akin to a lottery pick, chosen from a group of samples and this specific sample was number 10 in the testing. It’s a dusty, properly volatile, minor bretty young sangiovese (with some other varieties mixed in) and led by dark currant to black cherry fruit. It’s neither avant-garde nor a legend but it is very particular in style. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted September 2017

A week’s worth of sustenance in Toscana #5- Pici con ragu di cinghiale at Osteria Di Fonterutoli

Mazzei Chianti Classico Riserva Ser Lapo 2014, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (288530, $22.95, WineAlign)

Fonterutoli’s Chianti Classico Riserva Ser Lapo is named for Filippo Mazzei’s ancestor “Mr. or Signore Lapo,” the first to use the word “Chianti Classico” on a wine label, in December of 1398. This Riserva is 90 per cent sangiovese with 10 merlot and while it no longer fetches three florins, 26 soldi and 8 dinari for 6 barrels, it consistently represents one of the finest values for Riserva level on the CC pyramid. This 2014 spent 14-15 months in barriques and its classic, old time, rustica red tart fruit sangiovese with fine tannins wastes no time into the sidetracked distraction of unwanted meanderings. Walks the Chianti Classico line with classic distinction. Drink 2018-2022. Tasted September 2017

Mazzei Castello Di Fonterutoli Chianti Classico Gran Selezione 2013, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $75.00, WineAlign)

Some malvasia nera and colorino are blended in with the 92 per cent sangiovese, raised in 60 per cent new barriques plus tonneaux. The Mazzei GS is selected from the best parcels and finest quality grapes within those parcels. This is the fourth vintage, 2010 being the first and from a lineage for the wine known as Castello that began in 1995. Was not a Riserva before but just the Castello (IGT). It’s 2013 to be sure but with a deeper, nearly hematic and brooding character. Still the Fonterutoli dusty red fruit but with some iron fisted tannic management. It does carry this sexy feel and yet it’s so serious, so ’13. Drink 2018-2023.  Tasted September 2017

Filippo Mazzei in discussion with Brad Royale and Steven Robinson

Castello di Fonterutoli Mix 36 2013, Igt Toscana, Italy (AgentWineAlign)

Castello Fonterutoli’s Mix 36 IGT Toscana is a brilliant stroke of insular blending genius, from a plot with the 36 sangiovese biotypes planted together but all from the same rootstock, planted in 2003 and 2004. It’s from a very clay vineyard at 300m. An experimental wine to be sure, the commotion variegates layer upon strata, of multi-sangiovese personality interwoven with 35 more variations of its own distinct character self. The becoming may be muddled but it’s simply delicious, fruit juicy, high in acidity though the tannins seem tamed and rendered. Filippo Mazzei insists this to be considered at the top of the pyramid, on a Gran Selezione level. He’s more correct that even he might realize. Just bloody delicious multiplicity of sangiovese. Drink 2018-2024.  Tasted September 2017

Castello di Fonterutoli Concerto Di Fonterutoli 2015, IGT Toscana, Italy (AgentWineAlign)

Concerto di Fonterutoli is the Super Tuscan that started in 2001, originally with 20 per cent cabernet sauvignon. In the nineties there was only half a hectare, and so ’94 was then the last vintage. Over the last 20 years there has been a gradual migration to sangiovese and a restoration of this historical vineyard, but now there is a return or at least a mimic of what was done 20 years ago. So it’s a return to the 80-20 split, not a wine from Concerto Vineyard but a fantasy name, bringing two together, now sangiovese from Fonterutoli and cabernet sauvignon from Siepi. It’s deeply cakey, rich, tannic, very wooden sheathed, with almost a sweetness as a result, more like Napa than almost any wine from lands in Chianti Classico. It wells with big, sweet, grainy and chalky tannins. Huge monster of a wine. Drink 2019-2026.  Tasted September 2017

Castello di Fonterutoli Siepi 2015, IGT Toscana, Italy (AgentWineAlign)

Siepi is the 200m vineyard, west of Fonerutoli, a historical place that already had vineyards planted when the family arrived in the 1400s. This is the only exception to what is being done at the estate. Sangiovese (1995-2000) and merlot (1985) grown, picked and vinified separately. It’s essentially a single-vineyard blend, though on two sides of a road. A 50-50 split, separated and then brought together. It carries more tartness, high acidity and fine tannic structure. Very fine, less cake then Concerto and more of a seamless affair. Merlot in certain parts of Chianti Classico just seems to have this affinity, alone and in partnership with sangiovese, in ways that cabernet sauvignon just does not. Drink 2019-2027.  Tasted September 2017

Rocca delle Macie Estate, Castellina

Rocca delle Macie

Sometimes it just feels like Rocca delle Macie sits at the epicentre of not only Castellina in Chianti but the greater territory that is Chianti Classico. Consorzio President and estate proprietor Sergio Zingarelli is certainly a principal reason for the sentiment but it’s more than that. No other three-tiered pyramid set of examples for Chianti Classico, Chianti Classico Riserva and Chianti Classico Gran Selezione speak to the perseverance of presence and consistency of quality in the Ontario market (plus 40 other countries) and yet it feels as though Rocca delle Macie is just beginning to reinvent its oeuvre. Zingarelli’s late father Italo, a former boxer and producer of spaghetti westerns, bought Rocca delle Macìe in 1973 and today the company produces wines off of six estates, including Macie, Fizzano and Sant’Alphonso. Sergio and his wife Daniela, daughter Giulia, son Andrea and Marketing and Communication Manager Thomas Francioni welcomed us into the Zingarelli home for a comprehensive tasting and the most exceptional home cooking. Not to mention the finest gelato in Toscana and Andrea’s very special craft gin. I made notes on the following six wines.

ry  And in #castellinainchianti we taste @chianticlassico @roccadellemacie with The Presidential #sergiozingarelli

Rocca Delle Macìe Moonlite 2016, IGT Toscana, Italy (400879, $17.95, WineAlign)

Moonlite 2016 gathers vermentino, chardonnay and pinot grigio (40/40/20) from vineyards in southwest Toscana, not far from Grossetto. The lands are really, ostensibly, technically in the Morellino area. A white Super Tuscan so to speak, it’s fresh but also rich and funny in that it’s almost as wet stone smelling as it is pear fruity. There is this ubiquitous Italianate feel about it, not necessarily Tuscan but as a regional white (not sangiovese) it’s harder to define. The vermentino lends a saltiness and the nearby seaside a secondary note as such. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted September 2017  roccadellemacie  profilewinegroup  @roccadellemacie  @ProfileWineGrp  @roccadellemacie  Profile Wine Group

Rocca Delle Macìe Chianti Classico 2015, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (741769, $18.95, WineAlign)

This VINTAGES Essential in Ontario delivers a contiguous style continued since the brand switched to fresher, less brooding gears over the past five or six years. Sees 10-12 months in large Slavonian casks (5000L), from many estates and a selection of vineyards. Freshness is a virtue and depth of fruit as important as anything, in a consistent, well-mannered and fleshy experience, top to bottom. Carries a small amount or Bordeaux varieties.  Last tasted September 2017

Rocca delle Macie’s Chianti Classico 2015 makes the adjustment and will be perfect for the current market, now changing in style again, away from dark colour, with less cabernet sauvignon, to be so very sangiovese and to celebrate the vintage. The classic fresh, bright and righteously dusty red cherry is just so very subtle and refined for what sangiovese can be. You will be hard pressed to find a more amenable, reachable and commercially getable Chianti Classico from a vintage ready to roll. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted February 2017

A week’s worth of sustenance in Toscana #4- Ribollita da Daniela Zingarelli

Rocca Delle Macìe Chianti Classico Tenuta Sant’Alphonso 2015, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $22.95, WineAlign)

Tenuta Sant’Alphonso is the single vineyard Chianti Classico, from one of five estates, mostly clay and dictated by 100 per cent sangiovese. French oak of smaller size (25 hL mostly, up to 30) is employed because of the clay. The robust flesh and tannins need it and are coupled by it, but also refined by it. Aggressiveness only goes so far in sangiovese and then it hits you over the head so accepting the depth in espresso, dark chocolate and the eventuality of balsamic needs to be understood. The use of cement tanks (and less time in Inox tanks) helps to stave off reduction. This is one of the more Riserva like CCs on the market, carrying many characteristics that happen with more and smaller barrique aging. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted September 2017

Rocca Delle Macìe Chianti Classico Riserva 2013, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (930966, $23.95, WineAlign)

Rocca delle Macìe’s is a selection of the best grapes pulled from all four estates, but in different (separate) vinifications and vivifications, aged in French barrels, half new and half 2-plus year old. The methodology looks for consistency in every vintage, because it’s the gathering of best fruit, (including half the fruit from the Sergio Zingarelli Vineyard). Very round, fleshy, composed, integrated, a high acidity (more than many) vintage, dry and intense.  Last tasted September 2017

The vintage is not so much one for Gran Selezione but that category’s loss is the Riserva’s gain. This is a very balanced and structured Riserva with a healthy dose of oak and an even greater sense of the Zingarelli family style. It’s crucial and obvious, correct and loyal, so very modern. Why shouldn’t it be? Let is settle for one year. Drink 2017-2021.  Tasted September 2016

Rocca Delle Macìe Chianti Classico Fran Selezione Riserva Di Fizzano Single Vineyard 2013, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (699454, $33.95, WineAlign)

Fizzano is the historical single vineyard that Sergio’s father Italo purchased from The Bertoli family (who did not have any vines) in 1984. From 1985 to 2010 it was CC Riserva and moved to the category of Gran Selezione for the 2010 vintage, keeping the Fizzano name. Mostly (95 per cent) sangiovese with five merlot, only French oak (20 per cent barriques), from calcareous (with quite a mix of sandy) soil. iIt’s a silky affair, ripe in tannin and from fruit so much so. One of the oldest vineyards (planted in 1985 to 1990) but needing replanting, to a higher (5,000+ plants per hectare) density. Not so much exceptional length but now having evolved into a really round, balanced and amenable CC. More than almost any GS.  Last tasted September 2017

Certainly the most affordable Gran Selezione on the market, Rocca Delle Macie’s From Castellina in Chianti is remarkably defined and tannic. The (32nd) vintage prepares for another profitable possibility, with ripe fruit, solid structure and those formidable edges. The re-branded single-Fizaano vineyard Riserva to Grand Selezione is again worth every bit of that advantage. Big, balanced and in the end, still brooding, let this rest for another two years. Drink 2019-2026.  Tasted January 2017

Rocca Delle Macìe Roccato 2010, IGT Toscana, Italy (Agent, $51.95, WineAlign)

Roccato is the second Super Tuscan of the estate (along with Ser Gioveto), this beginning with the 1988 vintage. It’s a 50 per cent sangiovese and 50 cabernet sauvignon split and the reasons for pouring a not so current vintage will become clear. Aged only in barriques Roccato is rich beyond the pale and with the first (very apparent) volatility and bretty culpability, though remarkably not as tannic as expected. It’s quite a smooth, silky, velvet cupboard but filled with acidity. This seven year point of age is certainly part of the mystique and secondary character is beginning (or has well begun to take this next step). Most supple and round and then the finish goes into chocolate ganache, dark toffee and a feigned note of sweetness. Will likely carry more cabernet sauvignon in the future and conversely Ser Gioveto (not tasted) will likely become a Chianti Classico Riserva. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted September 2017

Gallo Nero of Rocca delle Macie in Castellina in Chianti

Good to go!

Godello

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

WineAlign

Caro Carobbio

Peaceful afternoon in February light at #carrobio #chianticlassico #panzano

Few wanderlust statements sound better than “I returned to Tuscany” and with the greatest of fortune smiling upon me I am able to utter the phrase again. Not just Toscana mind you, but Chianti Classico, in and out of February Anteprime tastings, to a pin on the map south from Firenze along the Chiantigiana, sidestepping for the Florentine view from Impruneta, then through Greve and into Panzano. The reason for my return begins as it always does, to adduce a lifelong pursuit deep into the meaning of sangiovese. It also fosters a fixation dug into the variegated soils of Chianti Classico and even further still, to the nurturing, sub-appellative specificity of sangiovese’s intaglio secrets. With each return it also ingrains a feeling of coming home.

Related – Grace in Chianti Classico

The most recent visit brought me back to Panzano, first to Il Molino di Grace and then to Tenuta Carobbio. Panzano in Chianti lies at the heart of Chianti Classico and below the hilltop town sits the “golden basin” of the Conca d’Oro, once a prized wheat producing area interspersed with grape vineyards and olive groves. Carobbio is not so easy to find. The tight twisting road from Panzano climbs and descends before turning off-road for the descent into the valley where tucked away and recondite Carobbio lies. It is no stretch to call Carobbio a hidden gem.

Conca d’Oro

Forza e Passione

E la sua passione describes the vision of Carlo Novarese’s decision to create Tenuta Carobbio. The Como silk king was born into a family from Monferrato and the childhood memories of wine production at Sannazaro Castle conspired to transfer passion into the estate’s Panzano ways. At 60, Novarese handed over the family textile company to his son and returned to Tuscany. “A spontaneous return, perhaps atavistic, which marked a new beginning.” With a “desire was to return to his roots and begin living close to the soil.” During a magical evening in June 1986, in a moment frozen in time, Carlo Novarese felt the certainty of having found “un angolo di paradiso in Toscana, “a little corner of paradise.”

Capiteto

A little slice of Eden in Tuscany

The southern facing Carobbio set between 350 and 400 metres of elevation stretches over 50 hectares, mostly forested, 10 of which are specialized vineyards and two are dedicated to olive cultivation. The Panzano hill and its houses protect the southern Conca d’Oro valley from the cold Apennine winds. The peaks of Monte Domini, Poggio Convento, Monte San Michele and Monte Querciabella in the east shelter the vineyards of Carobbio from the winds and damp air from the Arno.

The soils are characterized by a significant proportion of deep clay, sandstone, siltstone strata, marl and Alberese, the latter two most typical of Chianti Classico. The land is simply and emphatically “un territorio che vive graze alla forza e passione delle persone,” a land that lives through the strength and passion of its people. The 150 year-old farmhouse, ‘Capiteto’ is a great symbol of the estate’s history, a home at the edge of the Conca d’Oro, with views stretching from Rignana in San Donato to Tavarnelle.

Silvia Fiorentini and Dario Faccin

After walking the estate I sat down with Carobbio’s Director of Winemaking Dario Faccin and the Consorzio di Vino Chianti Classico’s Silvia Fiorentini for a tasting of current vintages and indelible memory etching bottles from the past. Dear Carobbio, thank you for taking me in, for sustaining me and for introducing me to the mysteries of the Conca d’Oro. Here are my notes on the nine wines tasted, with thanks to Dario, including selections from 1997, 1995 and 1991.

Single-vineyard, 100 per cent sangiovese, so mineral-spiced you would think it came from barrel #notachance #carrobio #toscana #panzano #terrarossa #rosato #rosé

Tenuta Carobbio Rosato Terrarossa 2015, Igt Toscana, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $32.95, WineAlign)

Carobbio’s is different, a rosato of its own accord from a hasty (24-28 hours) fermentation descried of 100 per cent sangiovese. After four to five months in stainless steel it asks to show the world what it has to offer from a specific, steep-terraced red clay soil vineyard, thus the moniker and only used for this wine. A mineral-saline aroma sears ahead of the fruit which is bright of light cherry and convincingly of an intent to celebrate sangiovese in a form not so often noted. Like a cross between Coonawarra of terra rossa for cabernet sauvignon and Swartland of schist for syrah but here with sangioivese, for Rosé. Much more fruit on the palate but still the light and lithe cherry. There is more colour from sangiovese, naturally, but not from pressing. A very distinguished and elegant Rosato. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted February 2017  @Tenuta_Carobbio  @apparitionwines  @chianticlassico  @ChiantiClassUSA

Tenuta Carobbio Chianti Classico 2014, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $37.95, WineAlign)

Chianti Classico 2014 is a Panzano in Chianti, Conca d’Oro sangiovese with five per cent merlot that takes just one whiff to gain an understanding of what’s going on with wine director Dario Faccin, Carobbio and where these wines are heading. From the start I would ask to leave vintage concern or controversy out of the equation and simply concentrate on the purity from a variegated sangiovese that is entirely specific to the vineyards here. The red to purple sangiovese, transversing a line from a classic to ultra modern without ever veering from what sangiovese must have been and quintessentially is, off of vines tendered into Carobbio’s soils. The only comparison thus far is the Radda in Chianti Colle Bereto from Bernardo Bianchi, here of course so different, but with perfect hue, avoidance of massive structure and bullish tannin, in a word or two, “molto elegante.” Precise. Drink 2017-2025.  Tasted February 2017

Tenuta Carobbio Chianti Classico Riserva 2013, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $58.95, WineAlign)

For Chianti Classico Riserva the solo performance is 100 per cent sangiovese and just as 2013 must be this grabs you by the olfactory senses with elegant inhalant immediacy. You are immersed straight away into a wine without reserve in the way that the only the purest of Riserva can be. Philanthropic, generous and kind. Even more so and because it is Carobbio, there is no fence to jump over, hoop to hurl through or great wall to climb. Not in aroma and then what follows is palate texture and finally fine-grained tannin. Not even acidity will lash out but rather support, with more kindness. Everything is presented from the start with a wisdom that doesn’t rely on oxidative or cured character. Just elegance. Rich and affirming, for sangiovese and life. Humour this CCR ’13 and wait just one more year, per il rispetto. Drink 2018-2027.  Tasted February 2017.

Tenuta Carobbio Leone 2013, IGT Toscana, Italy (Agent, $119.95, WineAlign)

Leone is Chianti Classico incarnate, a single-vineyard sangiovese and perhaps the artist of the future known as Gran Selezione. The aromatics are a force from fruit raised in front of the river (Pesa) on the border between Florence and Siena, a high-density (5,000-5,500 plants per hectare) vineyard. In the first week of June Dario says “I take all the leaves off of the stems,” executed with risk-reward abandon but on second thought, as a factual matter of personal volition and intuition. Then two weeks later the smaller leaves begin to grow. This allows the early phenolic process to work on the young skins and increase the early offerings of photosynthesis. The skins carry a natural protection against the sun (in June) but not in August. Voila, wine begins in the vineyard. Leone is incredibly young and perfumed with so much restraint. It gets neither more precise, elegant or wise, or even more important, as a vineyard representative or as such a mindful and consistently right expression as this. The tannins are the finest of any you are likely to taste in sangiovese. The fruit is so perfect, red and purple, living and loving together, and you don’t need to name them. Dario insists on the simple and the obvious. That you taste the grapes every day at harvest and when the bottom of the skins do not attack you with aggressive tannin and the brown seeds crunch, you are ready to pick. “If you want to produce a great wine, you have to walk in the vineyard every day.” Leone’s got soul and only 4,000 bottles are produced. Drink 2020-2033.  Tasted February 2017

Tenuta Carobbio Pietraforte 2013, IGT Toscana, Italy (Agent, $119.95, WineAlign)

Pietraforte is the Carobbio diversion into 95 per cent cabernet sauvignon (plus five cabernet franc) out of a 30 year-old vineyard that generally yields 3,500 kg per hectare or what Dario Faccin deems “niente.” Only 2,000 bottles are produced and 2013 is still a bambino, with wood more apparent on the nose than the sangiovese, quite spiced and then even spicier on the palate. Nothing vegetal takes any place at this international varietal table but the franc lends its must give current, of currants and even a little espresso. This has cool red soil savour that the cabs will inherit from the wind and the earth. But I have to say and say it with conviction, this is more varietally correct and obvious than most. More cabernet than Toscana. Needs five years, minimum. 2022-2030.  Tasted February 2017

What are you tasting right now? #carrobio @chianticlassico #1991 #1997

Tenuta Carobbio Chianti Classico 1997, Tuscany, Italy (AgentWineAlign)

Chianti Classico 1997 was made by then oenologist Gabriella Tani, the first pupil of Vittorio Fiore. With 20 beautiful years of slow development now in the past this has drifted into the smoky, opaque and cloudy future, elegant and elongated though its best days have only recently receded out of view. Plums mingle with raisins while the original cherries are now dehydrating sweet and turning to leather. There is this delicate acidity and silky mouthfeel that reminds you of what Chianti Classico once was (and for some continue to make), that curative, always knew what it was going to be in disposition for two years even before it has taken its first steps. In glass 15 minutes it now changes and becomes even more like its original self, minus the tannin. The old funk is in, quietly slipping into the room, lingering and taking a seat at the table. It is most welcome. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted February 2017

Tenuta Carobbio Chianti Classico Riserva 1991, Tuscany, Italy (AgentWineAlign)

Ranging back further to 1991, now this is something else, 26 year-old Chianti Classico (Riserva), but surely so like the normale, alive, singing and oh I bet it can tell some stories. From a Carobbio golden age, at a time when the wines were at one with grandfather’s pipe, when I and so many other children would sit on his lap and as the pipe-cleaner came out, we would take in a deep breath and this was the smell. He wasn’t Tuscan, never walked the Conca d’Oro, knew nothing of Panzano, but does it matter? Chianti Classico of no guru, no method, no teacher. Now the wine morphs into delicate, fine-spice, a moment’s travel on a magic carpet to somewhere exotic. Than back to sangiovese reality, with lavender, rosemary and wild cherry. The acidity in 1991 is kept, preserved alive so there will easily be five years left to repeatedly find this in a sound and gifting place. “We’ve got to go back. For the healing. Go on with the dreamers.” Drink 2017-2023.  Tasted February 2017

Tenuta Carobbio Leone 1995, IGT Toscana, Italy (Agent, $119.95, WineAlign)

Leone 1995 was made under the auspices of the Vittorio Fiore-Gabriella Tani oenology stylistic for Carlo Novarese. To say that this single-vineyard sangiovese is youthful would be the biggest IGT understatement of the century. From vines that at the time were 25 years-old, Leone is not just a survivor of a universally-declared incredible vintage, it is a singular expression from 1990’s Tuscany, in Chianti Classico and for Panzano. The violets, dried espresso and plum-amaretti semifreddo (savoury, not sweet) mixes with fennel frond, fresh rosemary and the 20-plus years lingering Carobbio tobacco. The acidity is fully intact, still travelling up and down the sides of the tongue, repeatedly and soliciting so much savour, sapidity, a desire for a mouthful of hematic, rare sear of Claudia’s beef filet and then more and more sipping. After 20 minutes the aromatics deliver a raspberry purée and even a black olive and mineral-saline, short of briny caper into the fray by stroke of some aromatic brush and bush in the light afternoon wind. That’s enough. I’m not sure my heart can take any more. Time for Vin Santo. Drink 2017-2029.  Tasted February 2017

A great honour to taste this 1995 #carobbio #leone and in memory of #carlonovarese Thank you Dario and Silvia. Would like the chance to do it again in 22 years #toscana #sangiovese

Tenuta Carobbio Vin Santo del Chianti Classico Occhio di Pernice 2010, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $49.95, WineAlign)

Vin Santo del Chianti Classico Occhio di Pernice, “The eyes of the partridge,” called as such because it adheres to the credo of Vin Santo, made from at least 80 per cent sangiovese. Here the number is 90, with (five) trebbiano and (five) malvasia bianca, a completely different take, with so much more fruit, red fruit, away from the stone-peach/apricot vein and grounded, back down to the earth. Long, created by time in barrel spice, with the accent in cinnamon and there is this lemon peel and ripe crabapple aroma too. The palate is all cherry blossom liqueur, soft, creamy, downy, silky and nearly gelid. But it’s warm and comfortable. The gentlest and most ethereal Vin Santo in which acidity tempers sweetness, connecting with each other and neither bleeding ego or control. Drink 2017-2035.  Tasted February 2017

#vinsantophilia #carobbio #pannacotta

Good to go!

Godello

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

WineAlign

16 mind-blowing wines of 2016

this-may-or-may-not-have-happened-raveneau-memory-monteedetonnerre

This may or may not have happened #raveneau #memory #monteedetonnerre

It has never been this difficult to narrow it down. This frenetic, fast and forward moving blur of a year has blistered the patterns of thought so much so that I seriously considered throwing the whole 16 in 16 down the drain and laying it all out there. “Here are the 42 mind-blowing wines of 2016…” and then this wave of clarity came over me like a cloudless afternoon in Chablis. I mean I tasted 50-plus Grand Cru Chablis this year. They could all be on this list.

I meant this just the way I wrote it. The simplicity of wine is a beautiful thing. A vine grows and produces grapes. That fruit is picked and ferments itself with help from yeast it just happens to carry in its luggage. Time passes and wine is made. No one had to invent it. The most basic example of shit happens.

Related – 15 Mind blowing wines of 2015

As if to presumptuously bookend 2016 before it even began, that first post was apropos. New year, 16 new VINTAGES releases were not mind-blowing by any stretch of the waxing rhapsodic imagination but white space was filled. Like growing grapes in warm climates where just about anything can complete a phenolic journey, the possibilities are endless. So that I may feel comfortable quoting Godello again and again, multeity is the name of the game.

Related – Around the Cape in 50 wines

South Africa continued to occupy Godello for the early part of 2016 and that will never cease and desist. Hosting Andrea Mullineux at Barque Butcher Bar was one of the true highlights of the year. The landscape of South African wine is demarcated by ancient geology and by the geographical diversity of its regions, sub-regions and micro-plots. Varietal placement is the key to success. As I mentioned in previous articles, South African winemakers can grow anything they want, to both their discretion and their whimsy. The choice of what grows best and where will determine the successes of the future.

A new riesling on my radar was released in February. Creekside Estate Riesling Marianne Hill Vineyard 2014, Beamsville Bench, Ontario (443572, $19.95, WineAlign) and it paired beautifully with more foreshadowing than I’d like to admit.

Such a showing of 12 from Langton's does @Wine_Australia proud. Formidable, exemplary #AussieWine #vintagewineconservatory

Such a showing of 12 from Langton’s does @Wine_Australia proud. Formidable, exemplary #AussieWine #vintagewineconservatory

The Langton’s Classification: Excellent, outstanding, exceptional could have, would have placed 16 wines on this best of list were the rest of the planet not so adept at making wine. Like Wynns Coonawarra Estate John Riddoch Cabernet Sauvignon Limited Release 2010, Coonawarra, South Australia (466748, $99.95, WineAlign). Such a gathering of Australian wine delivers the preponderance of form, with the incantatory capacity of narrative to bring truth to light and fulness out of pleasure. The mantra repeated with Savouring the new Australia.

The #napavalley mustard is something else @CalifWines_CA #napa #califwine

The #napavalley mustard is something else @CalifWines_CA #napa #califwine

California stars showed up in droves and like any high quality engrossing preoccupation, the trip to Napa and Sonoma this year changed everything. Whatever I thought I knew or felt about the California wine industry now needs to be rewritten. First, Napa Valley: Where ripeness happens, then Napa Valley two: A question of ageNapa Valley: The next generationChardonnay in the Napa luxurySonoma gaps and single vineyardsSeven Grothic tales and Old vines for the Zin.

Vintage to vintage nuance and the common thread of %22grothiness,%22 or, @GrothWines in essence @TheVine_RobGroh #suzannegroth #napavalley #oakville #cabernetsauvignon

Vintage to vintage nuance and the common thread of grothiness, or, @GrothWines in essence @TheVine_RobGroh #suzannegroth #napavalley #oakville #cabernetsauvignon

The most pertinent question now in my mind is this. Can European wine keep up with the fictionality of North American reality? Even these wines could not make this list, however great and exceptional they are. Anakota Helena Montana Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2013, California (181131, $158.95, WineAlign), Forman Cabernet Sauvignon 2012, Napa Valley, California (143925, $160.00, WineAlign) and Groth Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 1997, Oakville, Napa Valley, California (Agent, $179.95, WineAlign). Sometimes the answer still persists. All in the Primum Familiae Vini. And by the way, The LCBO keeps Kosher.

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Much of what I taste is in a lab with no windows. That is because VINTAGES is a mimetic project, which is a few projects too many. We wine trackers and writers are akin to Cricetinae, perpetually running in a wheel or like Sisyphus, forced to roll an immense boulder up a hill, only to watch it roll back down. We read the bi-weekly catalogue, pre-taste the newest offerings, make our lists and check them twice. In every batch there are 10-15 wines that stand out, as much about bell curve positioning as absence of singularity. That is why attending varietal-centric events like The dawning of the age of Austrian wine and travelling the world is so important. Not too mention in my dining room In the Campania of Vini Alois.

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To name a few excursions, I visited California in February, Vinho Verde in March, Chianti Classico in May, Chablis in July and Valpolicella in September. November in Paris I re-connected with Earth and sky. The take aways were extraordinary and flush with the relish of new discoveries and brand new days. Who can forget Ca’ La Bionda Vigneti Di Ravazzol Amarone Della Valpolicella Classico 1997? Italy in the fall reminded me that Franciacorta is the best kept sparkling secret on the planet. November is a sublime time to visit the province of Brescia and the cellars of Franciacorta. Meraviglioso! Meanwhile, Champagne has to be on the list, right? Lallier Cuvée Millésime Grand Cru Brut Champagne 2008, Champagne, France (Agent, $95.00, WineAlign) should be but again, space restrictions and there was this old bubble from the New World. Decisions, decisions.

Related – March of the Canadians

Which brings me back to Canadian and more parochioally, Ontario wine. The Canadian wine renaissance is attributed to high-end, artisan winemakers like Norman Hardie and Thomas Bachelder. That’s the cool factor. The truth of the matter is that Canadian winemakers have realized and capitalized on the significance and exceptionality of their terroirs in regions such as Niagara, Prince Edward County and the Okanagan Valley. Journalists and buyers from around the globe know it and have begun to spread the Canadian gospel.

And now #cuvee2016 @CCOVIBrockU #vqa @winecountryont #scotiabankconventioncentre

And now #cuvee2016 @CCOVIBrockU #vqa @winecountryont #scotiabankconventioncentre

And so I asked Where does the taste of Ontario go from here? At Cuvée, where was the Cabernet Franc? Where was the rest of Ontario’s Go Gamay Go arsenal? Varietal lampoonery I tell ya. Over the highway and across the hills, No County for old wines and then, “a celebrated indictment of suburban surrender,” Too late for May Two-Four.

Related – 16 Canadian wines that rocked in 2016

This 16-strong list has much to do with the beg, Drink now or save it for later? I have spent the last 30 years considering wine in some respect. The last 15 much more so. The tries, trials, errors, tricks, and tribulations have taught me one thing. I prefer and receive much more instant gratification from drinking wines young but nothing compares to the insight and the exhilaration of partaking in older wines.

You never forget your first hunk of #kimmeridgian love @BIVBChablis @vinsdebourgogne #chablis #cotedelechet

You never forget your first hunk of #kimmeridgian love @BIVBChablis @vinsdebourgogne #chablis #cotedelechet

The year’s greatest distraction came at the hands of Chablis and fair warning, twenty thousand words are coming soon. In 2016 I published three times, Chablis from Dauvissat to VocoretLooking for Chablis in Ontario?Enlightened Chablis of Château De Béru and Paradox in Chablis. Chablis as a varietal concept, as opposed to and unlike anywhere else in the world, seemingly unrelated to chardonnay. How could these extraordinary Chablis not make the list? Domaine Laroche Chablis Grand Cru Les Blanchots Réserve De L’obédience 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (AgentWineAlign) and Domaine William Fèvre Chablis Grand Cru Bougros Côte Bouguerots 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (AgentWineAlign). Perhaps because I will soon publish Grand Cru hyperbole next month? That must be it.

Mirror to classicism, history and tradition. Purity from @valerialosi #querciavalle @chianticlassico #agricolalosi #sangiovese #granselezione #pontiganello

Mirror to classicism, history and tradition. Purity from @valerialosi #querciavalle @chianticlassico #agricolalosi #sangiovese #granselezione #pontiganello

For the first time, I think ever, I gave some love to Rosé in the Days of wine and Rosés. I also fell for new dessert wines and these two tried hard but came up just a wee bit short for the list. Domaine Cauhapé Jurançon Symphonie De Novembre 2012, Southwest, France (470344, $38.95, WineAlign), Losi Querciavalle Vin Santo Del Chianti Classico 2000, Docg Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $95.00, WineAlign).

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@grahams_port insanity via @abnermallity #onceinalifetime #piratesonapicnic #piratesv4point0 #sharingiscaring #1948 #finestreserve

Graham’s Vintage Port Finest Reserve 1948 (with thanks to Peter Boyd) granted the year’s moment of providable history. Love in droves. Holiday season for the VINTAGES releases were split and categorized, from December 10th in VINTAGES: Canada through December 10th in VINTAGES: Old World and into December 10th in VINTAGES: New World.

Singolarità, qualità, diversità. Grazie di tutto @chianticlassico

Singolarità, qualità, diversità. Grazie di tutto @chianticlassico

In 2016, two words. Chianti Classico. The wines have embarked upon an ascension into their contemporary golden age. Image, perception and finalmente, reality, these are the truths all who feel the soul of Chianti Classico are in search of today. Today and moving forward, explaining to the world that Chianti Classico is not what you thought or think it to be. Colle Bereto Chianti Classico Gran Selezione 2011, Docg Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $67.50, WineAlign) was a side-revelation, as were so many others in Three days, eight estates, Chianti Classico and Gran Selezione, The most important red wine from Italy. And in a year when CC is all that seems to matter, Tenuta dell’Ornellaia Ornellaia 2012, Doc Bolgheri Superiore, Tuscany, Italy (722470, $195.50, WineAlign) and Fattoria Dei Barbi Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva 2004, Tuscany, Italy (Agent$100.00WineAlign) are but mere mentions in addendum.

DavidPpelletier, 'Le Sommelier Fou' and friends in Vinho Verde

David Pelletier, ‘Le Sommelier Fou’ and friends in Vinho Verde

It may seem irrelevant now but Changes to VINTAGES release recommendations and notes on Godello will translate to a revolution at WineAlign in 2017. Wait for it. Most of all, 2016 will remind me that I will always raise my glass of Vinho Verde to Le Sommelier Fou. Here are Godello’s 16 mind-blowing wines of 2016.

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200 yr old vines. 1300m above sea level @vignerietna @somesmartsomm #rosato #vinudilice 2008 #tastethelava #volcanic

I Vigneri Di Salvo Foti Vinudilice 2008, Igt Sicilia Rosè, Sicily, Italy (WineAlign)

So much about this introduction to volcanic Rosato falls under the category and melts into the realm of the impossible. Begin with Vigna Bosco planted to 10,000, (up to) 200 year-old bush-trained (Etnean alberello) vines per hectare in Bronte, Northern Etna. Consider the party goers, endemic alicante, grecanico, minnella and other minor if wholly obscure native varietals. Locate the vineyard at 1,300m above sea level. Tell me it’s not the highest in all of Europe. Go on, tell me. Tended by hand with the help of Ciccio the mule. No refrigeration, yeasts or filtration. Decanting and bottling follow the phases of the moon. Blush has never acted like this, suspended as if put into bottle yesterday, beautifully minutia funky, every detail in laser calm focus. There really is no reference point, not in the south of France or anywhere in Italy to prepare for such an intellection. Vinudilice is nestled in a wood filled with holly oak (quercus ilex or in Sicily, ilice) but in respect for its singularity I would hesitate to categorize or compartmentalize. In fact I would not use the term Rosé, or Orange or natural to realize a need for reason. I would simply taste the lava. Thank you SomeSmartSomm. Drink 2016-2018.  Tasted April 2016  @ivigneri  @somesmartsomm  @WinesOfSicily

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Not members Blasted Mechanism. With Chris Wilton and Vasco Croft, Aphros Wines, Vinho Verde

Aphros Phanus Pet-Nat 2015, Sub-Região Lima, Doc Vinho Verde, Portugal (Agent, $34.95, WineAlign)

Loureiro of a fashion so rare for Portugal and this region, from a concrete pétillant-naturel style, vinified in stainless steel with wild yeasts and initially no additional sugar, then bottled with 20 grams of natural residual sugar, to alight the single fermentation conclusion. An 11 per cent contrariety of méthode ancestrale dialectic, like a lime-grapefruit cordial housing a dissolving lemon tablet. A bowie cut, boning and dressing of loureiro. This here the whole new way to take the grape, to send it sky-high and bring it down to the rustic roots of glam, sparkling funk. “Like to take a cement fix, be a standing cinema. Dress my friends up just for show, see them as they really are.” Vasco (Andy) Croft walking and his hunky dory pet-nat spinning an original tale of a time and a place, or perhaps a myth, like the rustic deity of the forest riding shotgun to Dionysus and his native war. Drink 2016-2018.  Tasted March 2016    @LeSommelierWine

Oldest vines #barossavalley textures in #semillon and #grenache @cirillo1850wine @Wine_Australia #southaustralia #marcocirillo

Oldest vines #barossavalley textures in #semillon and #grenache @cirillo1850wine @Wine_Australia #southaustralia #marcocirillo

Cirillo 1850 Ancestor Sémillon 2011, Barossa Valley, South Australia (Agent, $36.00, WineAlign)

A sémillon revelation is found in this Barossa Valley ancient, a wine procured from vines dating back more than 150 years. To discount that prodigious bit of calculated fortuity would be wrong on so many levels. The Cirillo family are guardians of what may be the oldest continuously producing grenache and sémillon vineyards in Australia and by logical extension, the world. Here the combination of dry extract, mineral depth and straight-lined (unsalted) salinity is beyond special. While the Hunter Valley garners the most attention for aging immortal sémillon, this Barossan will likewise escape, somehow, to live another more complicated and mysterious life. I would wait three years for some extract meets tannic sweetness to begin its development and then take it slow for another six to 10. Incredible find here in Ontario from Marco Cirillo. Drink 2019-2029.  Tasted May 2016  @Cirillo1850wine  @bokkewines  @BarossaDirt

Brash Higgins Nero D’avola Amphorae Project 2015, McLaren Vale, South Australia (Winery, $55.00, WineAlign)

The renegade triumvirate of coagulation denotes the shock and awe of this outlier; McLaren Vale, Nero d’Avola and Amphora. Winemaker Brad Hickey and his nickname have taken the troika and created a beautiful monster. A non-oxidative, crunchy, spicy, toasty, chewy and tannic NdA in versicolour, mottled and florid in flavour. There is black and white pepper, cinnamon, zesty orange spritz and a clay influence (plus amphora) to waft one for the ages. The palate flaunts a tapenade of painfully brilliant chalky black olive. The swirl is chocolate and vanilla, mediterranean and meganesian. There should be zero attention paid to the unusual in its concept. This is both a pleasure to taste now and will evolve into something wholly other given enough time. At least 10 years to be sure. Drink 2016-2025.  Tasted May 2016  @BrashHiggins  @mclaren_vale  @TheLivingVine

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Rockpile Zinfandel Cemetery Vineyard 2013, Rockpile AVA, Sonoma County, California (Winery, US $47, WineAlign)

Look towards the other arm of Lake Sonoma and let your mind’s eye rest 250 feet higher than Jack’s Cabin Vineyard. The Cemetery plantation is a jagged, craggy outcropping with “a face uneven as a river jag and asperous as the mullein’s flannel.”  The Mauritsons are Los Campesinos of Cemetery Vineyard in Rockpile. The rocks below resemble giant headstones along the Rogers Creek fault and you just have to believe all this immensity of geology impacts the vines. It does but don’t ask how or why, just settle into the cimmerian depth of zinfandel touched by black fruit, spice and the akimbo savour of glutamate and amino acid. Three further months in barrel (85 French plus 15 American) accentuates the spice, smoulder and espresso con crema texture. Ripeness of fruit, tannin and acidity are simply stellar out of this dramatic place. “You know us by the way we crawl and you know us by our cemetery gaits.” Drink 2017-2025.  Tasted February 2016  @mauritsonwinery  @sonomavintners

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Domaine Weinbach Gewürztraminer Cuvée Laurence 2013, Alsace, France (581975, $64.00, WineAlign)

Though it may long ago have been considered the quintessential one, there may be no other Alsatian gewürztraminer more important than Weinbach’s Cuvée Laurence. The reasons are manyfold but begin and end with memory and legacy. This was daughter and sister Laurence Faller’s prized wine, the wine she put her name to, that defined her gracious winemaking in echo of the estate she worked. Her family has carried the torch and yet her touch is all over this wine. Calm, composed, balanced and ethereal. Laurence is a clear expression of the marly limestone soil beneath the lieu-dit of Altenbourg, located at the base of the great Grand Cru Furstentum vineyard. Where else do you find gewürztraminer of such delicasse, from which classic aromas (rose petal, creamy to boozy-syrupy tropical fruit) and impossible unction combine without ukase? Nowhere. The acidity does not act with impulse. No, it rings, supports and lingers. The extract is intense but out of mind. Exceptional vintage. Drink 2018-2033.  Tasted October 2016    @AlsaceWines  @drinkAlsace  @ACT_Alsace  @VinsAlsace

alessandro-your-grandfather-was-a-very-good-winemaker-luiluiano-chianticlassico-fattoriadiluiano-chianticlassicoriserva-1979-sangiovese-alessandropalombo-antoniopalombo-luiano

Luiano Chianti Classico 1979, Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

Alessandro Palombo is skeptical at first, one eyebrow raised but with the look of possibility on his face. Takes me very little time to acknowledge that this ’79 is very much alive, fruit not predominant (and surely some prune) but neither cooked nor bruised. The brown nose (earth and spice) purports a full concentration of anthocyanins, acidity still full in, dried fraises de bois, black liquorice, dirty leather and worth repeating, still very good acidity. Truffle, forest floor and then black olive tapenade on the palate. This is 70-80 per cent sangiovese with colorino and canaiolo and for 1979 it’s quite incredible. It should not have lasted this long.  Antonio says that up to 10 per cent could have been malvasia blanca and trebbiano because at the time it was a field blend, co-planted with the sangiovese, which could explain some of the variegation in the colour. This is a Chianti Classico to lend credence to the idea of using multiple fruit, vegetal and animale descriptors when assessing an old wine. It’s also the reason why you put them away and open them with friends who’s eyes are wide open. Thank you Alessandro for the opportunity and for the connection to your grandfather Alberto. He was a very good winemaker. Drink 2016.  Tasted May 2016  @LuiLuiano  @chianticlassico

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Château De Béru Chablis Clos Béru Monopole 2012, Ac Burgundy, France (Agent, $87.95, WineAlign)

In 2012, less density and iodine matchstick is on display in performance for the historic, south facing vineyard beyond the Château’s walls. From this her eighth vintage in the resurrection of the family’s estate wines, Athénaïs de Béru has assembled fruit from Kimmeridgian limestone in rapport with a vintage of portent and intent towards elegance. The acidity is much more linear (than 2013) and the limestone sensations less metallic. Here the feeling is more of a liquid chalk and the balance is much improved. Also less evolved, bright and a much more amenable of a bitter pith, more citrus (lemon and lime) and not as earthy. Longer finish too. What 2013 lacks this ’12 gains and vice versa. The comparative literature and parenthetical study is duly noted as apples to oranges so the wines are exempt of one another. Neither answer all the questions asked and both express their terroir from their time spent on it. This ’12 story will become clearer in another year or two. Drink 2017-2023.  Tasted July 2016       

remelluri

Granja Remelluri Rioja Gran Reserva 2009, Rioja, Spain (Agent, $89.99, WineAlign)

“What is Rioja?” asks Telmo Rodríguez. He notes that Lopez-Heredia still manages small vineyards, Grand Cru and Premier Cru plots, but most Rioja houses are industrial. Their wines age in barrels in 100-150 year old wineries but have no sense of place, of origins, of an amazing vineyard. “I want to be radical. I believe it (Rioja) can be one of the most beautiful places in the world but I told my brothers it needed to go in a very particular direction. My brothers agreed.” So costs went up 35 per cent. They bought no grapes. “If you want to work properly in Spain, you have to be a hero.” You have to work the most difficult vineyards, where production costs are five times that of Grand Vin Bordeaux but the price sells for 10 times less. And so Telmo Rodríguez produces this Gran Reserva, a wine that adheres to a Rioja systematic but does so from a blind-eye turned, high density field-blend planting of tempranillo, garnacha, graciano, muscatel, viura and malvasia. A field blend, unlike Bordeaux but a local village farmed gathering of the best fruit. The 2009 is showing no age but the difference between 2010 Reserva and 2009 Gran Reserva is night and day. This makes the ’10 seem fresh, alive, open, almost simple. Here the variegation is distilled down to laser focus, as if the varieties all become one and most people would simply say tempranillo, but who has ever tasted and been dealt such a tempranillo? This is oozing of a liqueur like no other, rich, viscous, natural and dry-extract sweet. An expression of the best microclimates and their vineyard kin. Wait another five years to allow it to remember and tell its tale. Drink 2022-2034.  Tasted September 2016    @TelmoRodriguez_  @Noble_Estates

dominus

Dominus 1998, Napa Valley, California (212381, $176.95, WineAlign)

When I tasted the 1990 in 2012, hanging on to every thread of oscillation from death to life and back again was exhausting. The 2008 tasted that same year could not have been more life affirming. This ’98 is such a zoetic Dominus beast with an embarrassment of resplendent riches. It is everything 1990 wished it could have been and yet the light-hearted George Hrab geological funk reminds me of that wine. The 1998 trips on a trebuchet and I weep at its aromatic reverie. It is hypnopompic, a state immediately preceding waking up, whiffing the most beautiful Brett there ever was or could ever imagined to be. Volatility in a bubble, circumstantial, lost in a dream. Get lost in the butcher shop, the natural cure here, there, everywhere, curative and comforting. Porcine and rapturous, fruit perfect and entitled, structure supprting every note. If 1998 was both a curious and concerning vintage this wine lays those worries to rest. The fretting may have swayed feelings and been difficult to glide fingers across but the harmonics extend with ease. Finishes with staccato calm, a palpable exhale of breath and silence. Five more years will be like this and five more without threat. Drink 2016-2026.  Tasted October 2016     @rogcowines  

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Ridge Vineyards Monte Bello 2013, Santa Cruz Mountains, California (405332, $191.95, WineAlign)

From a serious drought vintage, dry, warm and demanding, the 2013 Montebello’s Draper perfume is as heady as ever, to such effect that after one whiff this is where daydreaming takes over consciousness. Montebello gets inside the head, with allegory, radio frequency waves and platonic thought, as if inside a cave. An 80 per cent Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot (8), Cabernet Franc (7) and Merlot (5) classic, lithe and restrained blend of sheer, utter exceptionality. The balance in 2013 is impeccable but dont be fooled into thinking this is not a big wine. The acidity is dramatic, the tannins fine and demanding and the amount of pure extract whorled and revelling. All in dark red fruit and a coolness through the mid-palate that threads like silk through fine stainless steel fibre. “This goes beyond me, beyond you.” Drink 2018-2030.  Tasted May 2016  @RidgeVineyards  @rogcowines  @CalifWines_CA

Fino, Don P.X. '86 and '62 w: @sorgatoBTA @toroalbala @LeSommelierWine Magical, impossible, unchanging. Bucket list to revisit in 150 years #pedroximenez #bodegastoroalbala #montillamoriles #spain

Fino, Don P.X. ’86 and ’62 w: @sorgatoBTA @toroalbala @LeSommelierWine Magical, impossible, unchanging. Bucket list to revisit in 150 years #pedroximenez #bodegastoroalbala #montillamoriles #spain

Bodegas Toro Albalá Don P.X. Selección 1967, Do Montilla Moriles, Spain (491647, $199.95, WineAlign)

You know it’s a good month when you are afforded the opportunity to taste two Montilla-Moriles Pedro Ximenez oldies, first the Alvear Solera 1927 in Paris and now this Selección 1967 bottled in November of 2016. The vintage-dated PX are produced from sun-dried grapes fermented for two months to eight or nine per cent alcohol, at which point a distillate made from the same PX pressings is added to bring the wine up to 17 per cent. First in concrete vats and then a transfer into 50-150 year old American oak barrels. Only 630 bottles were filled in a PX of awakening and hope that finished at an indiscernible 17 per cent alcohol. Some dessert wines can be cloying Popskull but Bodegas Toro Albalá delivers yet another impossible and crazy dessert wine of heavy fuel, impeccable balance in the face of Lugduname breaching sweetness and aromas sin fronteras. The gamut glides through roasted nuts and dried fruits, from almonds and Van Gogh Museum memories of their abundant flowers plus pomegranate, apricot, peach, nectarine, damson plum and pistachio. So much pistachio!! In between there is orange marmalade, quince jelly and prune preserve. Plenty of acidity extends and narrows into a sharp, pointed tang. No matter how many times you try to empty the glass there is always more wine. Always another sip. Is it viscosity, a truco del ojo or trampantojo? Is there some kind of wizardry at play? Then finally, well, actually never, a finish with no end, or a pause in a never-ending 49 year-old (and counting) story. So where is the beginning? 1967. Drink 2016-2040.  Tasted November 2016  @toroalbala  @sorgatoBTA  @MontillaMoriles  @LeSommelierWine

schram

Schramsberg Sparkling J. Schram 50th Anniversary Late disgorged 1999, Napa Valley, California (Winery $175 US, WineAlign)

In celebration of Schramsberg’s golden anniversary, 50 years after Jack and Jamie Davies revived the historic Schramsberg estate for the purpose of making the nation’s first chardonnay and pinot noir based, bottle-fermented sparkling wines. A North Coast (57 per cent Napa, 25 Mendocino, 15 Monterey and 13 Sonoma) blend of 74 per cent chardonnay and 26 pinot noir. Seventeen years have come to ginger, cumin, coriander and galangal in laminous, oxidative ingenuity, wholly arid in kicking up the aromatic dust. Flavours of pressed lemon, bitter brioche and then tannin, yes tannin. From a protracted year, picked as late as October 19th, disgorged in August of 2014 at a dosage of (very necessary) 11.5 g/L RS. Blessed with high natural acidity of 9.8 tA. How can I not concur with Hugh Davies. “What we’re really showing here is Napa Valley Chardonnay.” Drink 2016-2031.  Tasted February 2016  @Schramsberg  @TheVine_RobGroh

Down by the river with #raveneau #grandcru #blanchot #chablis @lafolieauxerre #2009 #francoisraveneau #thankful

Down by the river with #raveneau #grandcru #blanchot #chablis @lafolieauxerre #2009 #francoisraveneau #thankful

Domaine François Raveneau Chablis Grand Cru Blanchot 2009, Burgundy, France (WineAlign)

It would be misleading to address Raveneau’s Blanchot as chardonnay even as we know it as such because Raveneau produces wines as unique as door keys. They are so inimitable and each will only open the gate to its own unique perception. Blanchot is the southernmost of the seven Chablis Grand Cru climats and blankets the southeastern side of Les Clos. The Raveneau narration does not convey the notion of manifest feeling but instead splits the axiomatic atom of the climat. A sip and you are inside the Blanchot, gliding and passing through rock as if you are the ethereal and the wine is the solid foundation of thought, pathos and avowal. There are aromas that combine citrus and umami with a sweetness that can’t be denied or defined. The wine is just a child, complex, shy and yet unable to express both its meaning and power. But you try to get inside its head, stumbling over kimmeridgian rock replete with the smithereen-crushed shells of ancient fossils. This is a calm young Blanchot and you melt away while under its spell. Three more years should render its hidden meaning. Drink 2019-2034.  Tasted July 2016

A great pleasure and exercize in humility to taste with #vincentdauvissat in his cellar @BIVBChablis #humanity #chablis

A great pleasure and exercize in humility to taste with #vincentdauvissat in his cellar @BIVBChablis #humanity #chablis

Domaine René et Vincent Dauvissat Chablis Grand Cru Les Clos 2001, Burgundy, France (WineAlign)

Tasted from a bottle opened five days prior which is nothing really for a wine that can age easily for 30 years. It resides in a perfect state. Vincent concedes “over 20 there is nothing to be gained” and yet the still terrifically raging acidity would suggest this 15 year-old specimen is only halfway there. The texture is nothing if not persuasive. In 1931 Vincent’s father began this journey. Here 70 years later is a wine so perfectly intact, the lemon-waxy aspect almost on the edge of the hive. But not quite because of the taut bracing and tight embracing. There is a chew to this and Dauvissat shrugs. “What’s to say?” Nothing but a great piece of his history and his father’s legacy. If this wine is a sentimental tribute to a childhood village, it is never uncomplicated. Drink 2016-2031.  Tasted July 2016

2016-12-28_19-42-19

Catena Adrianna Vineyard Mundus Bacillus Terrae Malbec 2011, Mendoza, Argentina (Agent, $325.00, WineAlign)

In this extremely specific malbec from a diagnosed block of the Adrianna Vineyard we are graced with the micro-science of wine. And if you feel that using the name of an aerobic bacteria in the nomenclature is an odd choice, consider the mind of Dr. Laura Catena and her biological approach to viticulture. If we can understand and differentiate the microbes in the soil we can make better wine. It’s as simple as that. When wine is broken down to the biological level it becomes something entirely different and this is the road travelled by the Mundus Bacillus. Catena’s usage of 70 parcel pits per hectare has unearthed this single parcel within the vineyard, again completely different and the pinpointed microbial discussion initiates right here. The soil stakes a claim for this malbec only, certainly not in any way that tends to funk but surely as an impresario of soil. Talk about eugenics in the MBT because that science is compelling and can be related to in this wine. It can offer keys towards improving genetic quality of the vinous population. Here we are faced with rich and dusty, a mean streak of malbec intensity made elegant by earthly microbes. This section draws parallels to the (chardonnay) White Bones soil from which there transfers an excess of dry extract and tannin. Patience please for a malbec that will be long lived. Drink 2019-2027.  Tasted November 2016

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WineAlign

Italian wines of the week

Wines of the week

Wines of the week

Fear not dear reader. This is not a top ten list or a call to promote the best of the worst. It is not, most thankfully, a post on what wines are being released at the LCBO through VINTAGES. No, a one or two-day break is being granted, mercifully, to explore some wines over at the SAQ in Quebec and others available, by the case, in consignment by way of Ontario agents.

WineAlign is ever so surely becoming the tasting office of choice. It offers the opportunity to explore that critic’s dream realm of “so many wines and so little time.” The home office checks in a close second, with samples ready and carefully kept under temperature control.  I tasted and scribbled with much verve last week and over the weekend. There will be more to follow, but for now, the Italian notes.

 

Torraccia Di Presura Leneo 2013, Chianti, Tuscany, Italy (Ontario Agent, $18.95, WineAlign)

Leneo is 100 per cent Sangiovese, half of which is matured in small oak French barrels for approximately six months. From vineyards near Greve in Chianti, this is the epitome of fresh. The strawberry and raspberry aromas are so very height of summer, the tension having long left the ferment. Fruit and buoyant acidity remain to lift and cut spirit. A late flavour of rosemary and olive adds a nice Mediterranean touch.  Tasted March 2015  @TorracciaPresur  @TheVine_RobGroh

Capoverso Cortona Syrah 2013, Tuscany, Italy (Ontario Agent, $18.95, WineAlign)

There is noticeable volatility in this Syrah though it strikes a congenial balance between fruit and alcohol. The wine is not hot but is currently unsettled. That comes through in the sooty sinew and tree sap aromas. Black raspberry fruit abounds, as does liquorice and black tea. The overall accord works the parts but some time will be required for reconciliation. Sweet and sour is accented by a savoury, though moderately lengthened finish.  Tasted March 2015  @TheVine_RobGroh

Cantina Roccafiore Rosato 2014, Umbria, Italy (Ontario Agent, $20.95, WineAlign)

A Sangiovese blush made from organic grapes, arid as the Corso Vannucci is long, linear and direct as la strada centrale leads to the Fontana Maggiore. Has a savoury flex and a salinity that central Italian Rosé almost always displays, a pull from two seas not hard to reach heading either east or west. The glycerin texture and tangy, just this side shy of reductive aromas are a propriety of pure yet driven fruit. Has the slant of Sangiovese, even in the absence of its sour edge and devitalizing tannin. A very fine example of Umbrian Rosé.  Tasted March 2015  @roccafiorewines  @TheVine_RobGroh

Cantina Roccafiore Fiordaliso Grechetto 2014, Umbria, Italy (Ontario Agent, $20.95, WineAlign)

Fashioned from organic (and specialized clones of) Grechetto di Todi and Trebbiano Spoletino. The ordinary is abutted with prejudice in this Roccafiore take, in full mineral action out of Umbria. This one speaks to me, never mind the current reductive accent. The organic vines exude healthy fruit and this fleur-de-lis is regal, royal and full of life. Wet stones, not flinty but certainly crouching on the rocky forefront. The balance between orchard fruit, the rocks and the load carrying acidity is spot on. This is an expertly crafted, intelligent and gratifying white.  Tasted March 2015  @roccafiorewines  @TheVine_RobGroh

Cantina Roccafiore ‘Melograno’ 2013, IGT Umbria, Italy (Ontario Agent, $20.95, WineAlign)

Sangiovese and Montepulciano combine forces in this organic Umbrian, the punica granatum or pomegranate. Like the uniquely variegated, sour, sweet and highly mineral fruit, this red mimics the savoury pleasures. It’s dry, possessive of natural salts and fruity, but not in a sugary way. The acids are citrusy, much like pomegranate, but void of true citrus. Very pure, penitent, clean and crisp, with mild tannins and a ferric touch. Very Umbrian, regal, Franciscan, Friars Minor to bigger, bolder Sangiovese. Tasted March 2015  @roccafiorewines  @TheVine_RobGroh

Brancaia Il Bianco 2013, Tuscany, Italy (SAQ 11797174,$21.35, WineAlign)

Sauvignon Blanc stands soprattutto to Viognier, Gewürztraminer and Sémillon in this tannic white wine from Castellina in Chianti, in the far south-east corner of Chianti Classico. Five months on yeasts has not only built breadth but also compensated for no oak or malolactic. The repercussion is a curtailment and a feigning of qualitative casting, as if from sea stones and ancient feelings. Pretty pleasures are a supraliminal by-product of the effect, in a leavening of lime and rock. This reminds me of a young, petite Stratus White, in which a mélange of grape varieties combine and effectively cancel one another out, with nary a dominant, alpha varietal limelight steal. This Bianco would create even more buzz with a 10-20 per cent barrel influence.  Tasted March 2015  Brancaia

Capoverso Rosso Di Montepulciano 2012, Montepulciano, Tuscany, Italy (Ontario Agent, $22.95, WineAlign)

Here is Prugnolo Gentile with a swagger and quite the attitude. Don’t be fooled by the new adventist-adventurist, retro-romantic label. This Rosso has a mean streak. Funky aromas of the barn and the compost heap may be secondary to red fruit but they are definitely there. High iron content, less so in botany and rich like a long braise of dark veal shank ragu. Complexity is in, basics are out and there is much to dwell on in this Rosso, event if its intent is to induce simple pleasures. This needs salty protein, like the aforementioned idea of ragu.  Tasted March 2015   @TheVine_RobGroh

Argiano Non Confunditur 2012, IGT Toscana, Tuscany, Italy (Ontario Agent 72397, $24.95, WineAlign)

The Argiano NC-IGT must be awarded points and applause for the sheer felicity it affords the discerning drinker who knows when they have been pleased. This is juicy stuff from a terrific vintage. A latin lover of voluptuous body and luscious-laden lips. A flirtatious Tuscan ragazza, outgoing, friendly, hand-holding and demonstrative. Liquid freshness, with layers of red fruit and circulating acidity. Very modern, in an Aussie Rhône-blend way, with liquorice, cocktail beginnings and Tawny Port ends. Quite a swirl of flavours and pulsations. Drink now and for another two years.  Tasted March 2015  @Argianowinery  @TrialtoON

Fontanafredda Barolo 2010, Piedmont, Italy (Ontario Agent 20214, $30.00, WineAlign)

Traditional Nebbiolo that is neither austere nor of such a hard shell to crack. Roses and street cover in summer give sweet and fume aromas. Has an elemental scent, like a science lab but with experiments that broadcast harmony, synthesis and balance. Glycerin and tannin revolve around in the Nebbiolo oscillator. Some late funk creeps in, indicating some time (five years) needed to see a proper fruition. Represents very good value at $30.  Tasted March 2015  @Fontanafredda_  @Noble_Estates

Tolaini Al Passo 2011, Tuscany, Italy (Ontario Agent $37.99, SAQ 11794344, $28.40, Manitoba Banville and Jones $34.99, WineAlign)

This IGT from Castelnuovo Berardenga blends Merlot into Sangiovese, a push and pull varietal relationship if ever there was one. The Sangiovese is Mary while the Merlot whispers. The sacred and the profane. The ancient and the modern. “Uh-will the wind ever remember the (Tuscan wine) names it has blown in the past?” A red house of aromas, a gypsy’s soul and balance are found in this whirling, flavour-filled glass of noise. This is wild Tuscan magic, if a bit disjointed and occupied by strange, though harmonious bedfellows. Rippling red wine, tannic and in need of a few years to soften. “After all the jacks are in their boxes and the clowns have all gone to bed.”  Tasted March 2015  @TolainiWines  @BanvilleJones  @bwwines

Capoverso Vino Nobile Di Montepulciano 2011, Montepulciano, Tuscany, Italy (Ontario Agent, $39.95, WineAlign)

In antithesis to the angular ’12 Rosso, this ’11 Vino Nobile is Prugnolo Gentile at its liquor-like most. This is a painted Sangiovese, with impasto, with style that is strong of colour and meaning. With very plush, oak-managed Caciotti brush stroke and thick creamy flavours. Intensely glycerin, polished and agreeable, especially considering the often tannic and ferric side of Vino Nobile. This will not be a 20-year Tuscan as it already exhibits signs of age, in dried fruit, velutinous toffee and baking blackberry pie. Oh but it will go beautifully with a rare slice of roast and a side of truffled spuds. Tasted March 2015   @TheVine_RobGroh

Tolaini Valdisanti Tenuta S. Giovanni 2009, Tuscany, Italy (Ontario Agent 137786, $49.00, Manitoba Banville and Jones $54.99, WineAlign)

The opposite, the antithesis, the polar paradox of to egregious IGT Tuscan blending is here in this delightful blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Sangiovese and Cabernet Franc. Oak plays a prominent, spicy and sandalwood barmy role, as does the (mere five per cent) CF, giving currant energy and savoury plug-in to the softer CS. The middle notes and flavours are all Sangiovese, which is a good thing and a wise winemaking decision. The request begs for more Cabernet Franc in Tuscan composites, please. The Castelnuovo Bereardenga and Tuscan climate as a whole agrees with the variety, fleshes it, embraces it, encourages it to support Sangiovese and the less animale Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. Here squares off a total package, in substance and in familiarity. Tasted March 2015  TolainiWines  @BanvilleJones  @bwwines

Good to Go!

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