On a Rall in South Africa

Donovan Rall

When I returned from South Africa two months ago people immediately began to ask. What’s it like? What’s new, what’s changed, what’s hot? I asked myself the same questions and the most obvious answers forthcoming were charged with the notions of quality and especially confidence. Case in point, fact and controlled emotion regarding the man, the winemaker and the wines of Donovan Rall.

Related – Around the Cape in 50 wines

Three years ago I had the opportunity to taste two of Rall’s wines at Cape Wine 2015. I was impressed with the quiet swagger of the Rall White and Rall Red. The former was from old Swartland (Paardeberg) and Stellenbosch (Bottelary and Helderberg) fruit I noted as “pure white stone groove.” The latter of Swartland schist to cure what troubles and saps. This sourcing, grabbing and snapping up grapes from vineyards, blocks and plots spread across the Western Cape is the humanistic phenomena of an independent South African winemaker’s condition. It’s what they do and yet Donovan Rall has taken the art form to a whole new level.

For one thing he has found the last Mohican of Wellington cinsault blanc and kept it alive for a very small portion of the world to enjoy. He’s mainly a Swartland guy but he also climbs high into the Piekenierskloof and dips into the depths of Darling cinsault. Mostly Donovan Rall is a Schistosier, a man of the Schist, El Schistorino, the Schister. He likes vines grown in the coarse-grained metamorphic rock, especially syrah and it is his latest varietal effort that blew my mind. It is truly one of South Africa’s most impressive varietal syrah.

Rall wines was established in 2008 after Donovan graduated with a Viticulture and Oenology degree from Stellenbosch University in 2005. He set out to travel and then returned to South Africa in 2007 for a Swartland vintage. Mediterranean varietals under his own label from scattered old Cape vineyards was the natural next step. Cape Wine 2018 marked the release of his 10th and 11th vintages in bottle, quite significant to mark the inaugural culmination of his early life’s work.

Donovan and I made eye contact at this most recent Cape Wine and I was flattered that he remembered tasting with me three years before. And so he went out of his way to pull seven bottles, disappear behind a partition and away from the mayhem of the Swartland booth and taste these seven South African beauties with me. The quantities are small but the hearts so very big. Here are my notes.

Rall Wines Cinsault Blanc 2017, Wellington, Western Cape, South Africa (Winery, WineAlign)

The fruit comes from a 32 year-old, tiny 0.2 hectares of certified vines and the only remaining vineyard planted to the varietal. Like red cinsault this thing drops acid as fast as anything else. What you will taste is only the grape, on the skins three days for phenolic pulling and then straight into the clay. Seven months only, not too far and so freshness is preserved. Not just spirit but mouthfeel with the lightest frame and 10.5 per cent alcohol, with nice dry tannins. It’s like a shout out louds very loud matter of “nothing is hard cause something always comes out.” Lemon like you’ve never experienced before, leaning lime, like clairette and grenache blanc, but then again no. It’s just this. Donovan Rall managed 1005 bottles. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted September 2018  #Rallwines    @RallWines

Rall Wines Grenache Blanc 2017, Piekenierskloof, Western Cape, South Africa (Winery, WineAlign)

It would be hard to argue with Donovan Rall that in the Western Cape grenache blanc needs to be made in the freshest, anti-oxidative, anti-leesy way. Zippy, salty, driven by minerals and acidity. In the Piekenierskloof, at 650m plus, done in concrete egg after early-picked fruit, but some skin-contact (like red wine, done in open top vessels constantly punched down) for texture because it’s approached with early-picked acidity preservation. Has the texture but no melon flavours. Love the unique epsom saltiness, low pH and generous spicing. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted September 2018

Rall Wines White 2015, Swartland, South Africa (Winery, WineAlign)

Leaving out the chardonnay component, the signature Rall White is now chenin blanc (60ish per cent), verdelho (30ish) and viognier. Mostly old oak, five years being the youngest, with various sizes. Other than the chard omission it’s the earlier picking that makes the difference to…lets say three years ago. That and the increase of the verdelho, which brings acidity. Whatever Donovan thought he might have been looking for and doing then, well he’s really doing it now. This shows how proper wine is being made out of necessity, not from a recipe, but most importantly out of adaptation. Great saltiness, bite, drive and instruction. Drink 2018-2024.  Tasted September 2018

Rall Wines Chenin Blanc AVA 2017, Swartland, South Africa (Winery, WineAlign)

AVA is named after Donovan’s daughter. From an adjuvant site close to Riebeek-Kasteel off of 20 year-old vines that deliver great concentration by the impetus of decomposed shale, schist and quartz. There are two unique vineyards with rocks galore in the soil. Richly textured and so layered. The concentration delivered is ridiculous. It’s somehow stretched elastic and makes for this viscous, saline, briny and beautiful wine. Malo was done in a week, the pH low and then, nine months of beautiful fluidity and suppleness. While not exactly dry, the minor tough of sugar will help it go petrol, glück and oily over time. Drink 2019-2028.  Tasted September 2018

Rall Wines Cinsault 2017, WO Coastal Region, South Africa (Winery, WineAlign)

From two vineyards, one in Swartland and one in Darling. A direct, lithe and purposed red looking for freshness and the Darling light transparency this varietal storm has created. Really pure berry fruit. Delightful, chalky, traversing the new South African ethos into a realm occupied by the ethereal. Drink 2019-2024. Tasted September 2018

Rall Wines Red 2016, Swartland, South Africa (Winery, WineAlign)

Four poster blend, Rhône-related, deeply rendered with great transparency but also major tannins. The syrah is 18 months in barrels, the cinsault and carignan are 15 per cent 2017 vintage, allowed under Swartland regulations. They bring back freshness and nervousness into the wine. It helps to manage that tannin and injects some life and spirit into their grainy weight. The red fruit also balances the purple profile of the syrah. Good glycerin and length. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted September 2018

Rall Wines AVA 2016, Swartland, South Africa (Winery, WineAlign)

The red blend carrying his daughter’s name is Donovan Rall’s 2.5 hectares sourcing from the schistose section of 18 year-old planted vines. This is consistent with with many of the vineyards he works with, from dry land conditions, cause he’s the Schist Man. It’s varietal syrah of 1000 bottles, a true cimmerian beast, from struggling vines, between 50-60 whole bunch (as opposed to 100 in the RED). Pure ferric initiative, real hematic following. The glycerin, candied flower and aged balsamico is almost IGT, of Cortona but really more so in a mind’s eye memory of Cornas. Freshness is preserved and structure is infinite. Great, great acidity. One of the Cape’s greatest achievements in syrah. Drink 2020-2032.  Tasted September 2018

Donovan Rall

Good to go!

Twitter: @mgodello

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Important and impromptu study session at Stratus

It was planned as a big chill weekend, set aside months before because if you don’t dot the calendar you will never find the time. It was a meeting of old friends who rarely see one another, coming from different cities and countries to gather in Niagara for reasons unknown. It was more than an important impromptu tasting at Stratus Vineyards on a blustery October Sunday. Thanks so much Ben, for the hospitality and new revelations.

I pack my case, I check my face
I look a little bit older
I look a little bit colder
With one deep breath, and one big step
I move a little bit closer, I move a little bit closer
For reasons unknown

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TG5X4kOjEX8

Related – Chase food pairings with Stratus

I’ve written about Stratus Vineyards before, about Yoda of assemblage and varietal maître winemaker J-L Groux. Ben Nicks is the winery’s hospitality master, mentor and guiding light. It’s no coincidence that Ben set us up with six current releases in the tasting board room with a tease of three local cheeses and a morsel of Mario Pingue’s salumi. A subtle arrangement this micro-pairing, seemingly inconsequential but oh so very poignant and perfect. 

The Ozonator

Related – The Stratus-Momofuku continuum

Ben leads us through the inner workings of Stratus and you should know that this behind-the scenes tour is no ordinary junket nor is what goes on back there any accident. Sustainability is key, planned to a T, in particular with respect to water use. We pass by the hydrosieve, a simple stainless box used to aerate wines during fermentation and Ben explains the great ozonator, to clean and preserve sterility in the winery. When ozone gas is introduced to an environment with bacteria, mold or any other organic material, it readily donates one of the oxygen atoms to oxidize or destroy that material. The ozonator is highly effective in controlling Brettanomyces populations.

More than an important impromptu tasting @stratuswines on a blustery October Sunday. Thanks so much Ben, for the hospitality and new revelations.

Related – Select tasting through years of the Stratus Red and White

In the boardroom we set about tasting with the saturated vineyards as our backdrop. Grapes continue to hang though there is no surprise in that. Stratus is known to wait out the rest of the Peninsula in search of more phenolic ripeness and infinite aromatic possibilities. Here are the seven wines tasted on Sunday, October 28th.

Stratus Vineyards White 2014, VQA Niagara Lakeshore, Ontario (660704, $38.00, WineAlign)

So what is White ’14’s status in late October 2018? Still pronouncing struck flinty with a capital F and elevated into the air on a pillow of fine smoulder. What is duly noted at this stage is the pause, at calm, unaffected by gravity and then, the length. In other words, a perfectly drinkable state.  Last tasted October 2018

White assemblage under the Stratus label is not like spinning a single record, it’s like Rock ‘n Roll radio. Opening a bottle brings great excitement and anticipation, with a sense of wonder. What songs am I going to hear or more to the point, which grape varieties am I going to taste, in which percentages and in what order? In 2014 it’s a medley of chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, viognier, sémillon and gewürztraminer. The blend spent 21 months in (15 per cent) new oak. The fruits are varied and each one (or mélange of several) represented a hit in their own right. Tutti frutti, orange blossom special, little green apples, the lemon song, kiwi, peach, tangerine and forbidden fruit. In the end I heard it through the grapevine, by way of a conduit provided by great and necessary acidity. A top quality Stratus White, worthy of repeat plays. Drink 2018-2025.  Tasted twice, May and June 2018

Stratus Vineyards Chardonnay 2016, VQA Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario (Winery, $48.00, WineAlign)

This Stratus is the year of the utmost natural chardonnay, the one where knuckling down and waiting with great patience leads to the most ambient of varietal wines. Not that the indigenous yeast plan is new (it dates back to ’09) but it is unfiltered and the aromatics are wonderfully nostalgic. This too (like the White) has that uncanny and unmistakeable flinty smokiness but in the realm of chardonnay it’s surprisingly delicate and finessed. ’Twas a warm vintage and so there must be an initialization of richness and the lush contextual accession will continue to develop but for now its tighter and sitting in a pool of quietude. Revisits in two and three years will tell the wine’s story. Drink 2019-2026.  Tasted October 2018

Stratus Vineyards Gewürztraminer 2017, VQA Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario (Winery, $29.00, WineAlign)

The plantings are Clone 47, one of two from Alsace (along with 48) that are often used in Ontario. There are few regional equals like this one of subtle floral expression in lemon waxy spray, yellow rose fragrance and citrus oil incumbency. The acidity is buoyant, unaggressive and supportive and so the residual sugar number is probably higher than expected, perhaps in the mid to upper teens. Works the derivative volatile aroma compounds drawn from flowers, fruits, leaves, and stems to great aromatic effect. In any case it’s a health affirming gewürztraminer by essential oil and through the act of sumptuous behaviour. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted October 2018

Stratus Vineyards Red 2015, VQA Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario (131037, $48.00, WineAlign)

Harvested over a week’s time in mid to late November from a warm if unremarkable vintage that followed a polar vortex winter, the just released 2015 Red is the five-headed Bordelais made from cabernet sauvignon, merlot, cabernet franc, petit verdot and malbec. If indeed perception is conceived to occur through five senses then all are needed to feel the fingers and toes of this assemblage. It’s also a matter of mathematical relevance, especially if you’ve tasted a few vintages of this most consistent appellative blend. And so standard deviation is relevant in assessment. From one Stratus Red to another we are looking at two sets of five different numbers that have the same mean but different standard deviations and it can be argued (because of the methodology), the same standard deviation but different means. If only J-L Groux knows the answer to the mean and standard of each Red set we can still look at this ’15 and note how it’s quite dusty and high-toned in its youth, with a richness that will eventually bring it all down to earth. It’s a chewy Red with some dried, leathery fruit, as per the mean, equal and opposing to the fresh and friendly, as per the standard deviation. As a matter of assemblage it’s as classic and recognizable as any in the accumulative history and also reminiscent of the past, like ’07, ’10 and ’12, to name just a few. With cabernet sauvignon at the head it tells us that ripeness is the virtue and comfort the result. By the way, the varietal breakdown of 40, 24, 23, 11 and 2 equates to a mean of 20 and a standard deviation of 14.40. For what it’s worth. Drink 2019-2026.  Tasted October 2018

Stratus Vineyards Cabernet Franc 2015, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (412759, $38.65, WineAlign)

The 2015 cabernet franc of warmth and layering is wise in the ways of fruit. It’s an overt and resolute varietal wine picked at intervals and in succession with on the fly intent. The endeavour is worthy of the ideal and in turn, every moment of our consideration. Here is where you can begin any one of your carefully thought on handful of cabernet franc explorations, not just any mind you but from those that start at the top of the pyramid, from the top down. What is striking about 2015 is the sweet herbal quality, with a bushy tisane in place of hard to ascertain, high-toned pyrazine. What you will find is actually quite simple; cabernet franc grown, raised and fashioned by winemaker J-L Groux at Stratus. I just love this fruit. These chips have fallen where they may. Drink 2020-2038.  Tasted October 2018

Stratus Vineyards Syrah 2014, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (Winery, $48.00, WineAlign)

Stratus turns back time and into varietal subtleties so that sniffs and sips of this ’14 are met with pauses. This iambic syrah is indeed something other, with dusty peppery notes and an unforced extraction that does little (at first) to challenge or demand that you work for your sips. The floral aromas form the crux of the unstressed syllables and are followed by strong flavours, a.k.a. the stressed syllables. The poetic feel is one of clause, pause and punctuation, with acidity strong but also fine and the even ripening from the grapes is a matter of obvious clarity. I suggest that the winemaking is more hands off than before and the wine needed little to no clutter to reach this goal. The richness is subdued and the balance as bountiful as it is beautiful. The drinker must read-render this syrah stanza so that it is both comprehended and appreciated. There may be some potential tension in doing so because you need to know how to seek out the stressors but also where to find the metrical pauses. Unearthing all the elements will help to pair with food that reads the same, like a seared duck breast, rare and sliced, or a lean piece of beef, carved tagliata style. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted October 2018

Stratus Vineyards Sémillon Botrytis Affected 2016, VQA Niagara On The Lake (Winery, $38.00, WineAlign)

One of the most unique dessert wines in Ontario this is neither late-harvest nor Icewine in origin. Only the third time it has been made, the 2016 sémillon launches with a smoky beginning, as expected and yet, is always appreciated. Some of the fruit is harvested early, but other bunches in the same vineyard are some of the last to be harvested. This low alcohol anti-sticky is from the warm vintage and from the same spot in the vineyard, vintage in vintage out. Most interesting is how these pristine botrytis affected grapes are picked ahead of the rest of the clean fruit used for the dry sémillon. It’s a very vinous sém with distinct apricot and longan notes. Great acids in 2016. Has still retained some waxiness and found some tropical fruit despite the early pick. All of the counterintuitive ideals tell us that the warm vintages can make for top quality dessert wine. This is the masquerade party wine made by the Way Outs band. “That’s where the fun is, way out, WAY OUT!” Drink 2019-2028. Tasted October 2018

Good to go!

godello

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

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Going back to South Africa

In just a few more sleeps I’ll be back in South Africa. Since attending Cape Wine in 2015 I have had the great fortune to spend many mornings, evenings and excursions with several groups of South African producers here in Ontario. In the past year we entertained visits from the Premium Independent Winemakers (PIWOSA) and most recently this May Chris Mullineux led a masterclass on mostly Chenin Blanc at lbs. Restaurant. Chabrol Restaurant also held a tasting and lunch with representatives from seven outstanding South African wineries.

Related – Around the Cape in 50 wines

On my way to one of those events I was in the car and listening to the CBC. The DJ began talking about Handel as being the composer who could have become a hip hop artist. I’ll explain what he meant in a minute. When I think about South African wines it’s almost impossible to put your finger down to think of it as one thing, one style, or one type of music. You can apply this just about anywhere but in the Capelands there is so much diversity; there are rock n’ roll stars in the Swartland, R & B, soul & Motown in Stellenbosch, Jazz in Elgin, Classical music wherever you want to hear it. But what there is everywhere is flow. Reggae flow, soulful Stevie Wonder flow, hip-hop flow.  What the DJ was trying to say is that a composer who writes with this ease of ability, with an unconscious penning of notes coming from a place that was always there from the beginning, with a creativity that comes out of effortless ease, it just flows. South African wines, collectively, have flow.

Great soils, weather and a Mediterranean climate

When I returned from that 2015 Cape Wine congress I said that South African wine is not what we thought it was. This mantra can’t be repeated often enough. Introduce me to a winemaker who is not in tune with his or her terroir and I’ll show you a winemaker who is either faking it or blindly towing a company line. That breed is few and far between. In South Africa I met exactly none of that ilk.

Related – Once upon a time in the Western Cape

LK @wosa_ca introducing Chris @mullineuxwines for what will be a wild ride through the Western Cape ~ #winesofsouthafrica

I don’t feel the same way, not quite exactly the same way, three years later. Now I see the necessity of not planting whatever you feel like wherever you feel like, but specializing, picking out micro-plots of terroir for very specific grape varieties. Narrowing the focus, figuring out what works best and why. It’s the Burgundian way and indeed the way all great wine regions make their mark. I am also inclined to agree with the heritage seekers and protectors. Old vines, especially dry, bush-farmed vineyards are the backbone of South Africa’s diversity and possibility.

At the lbs gathering Chris Mullineux noted there was a time when chenin blanc tasted like sauvignon blanc, green and sharp, or creamy like chardonnay and sweet. There have been so many styles. Mullineux explained. “We’re no longer trying to make chenin taste like sauvignon blanc or chardonnay, or Huet for that matter.” The grape variety has been in the country for more the 350 years, since the 1650s and it can withstand warm and dry conditions and perform really well. No discourse on new versus old in South Africa can be addressed without first looking at the modish dialectal of Chenin Blanc. The combination of bush and old vines, coupled with indigenous ferments and skin contact addresses has elevated the stalwart, signature grape to its current reality. Sixteen wines were presented that morning, including eight by Andrea and Chris Mullineux.

Into the South African mystic ~ A formidable line-up led by @mullineuxwines with thanks to Chris, LK @WOSACanada JG @lbstoronto @wosa_za @NicholasPearce_

Simonsig Chenin Blanc 2017, WO Stellenbosch, South Africa (981167, $13.95, WineAlign)

From Stellenbosch, the pride and joy, the rainmaker, hay-maker, large volume wine. Decomposed shale provides perfume to chenin, picked over three passes, early acidity, middle palate savour and later harvest tropical fruit, namely guava. There is texture, something firm in its structure and a clear-cut ripeness of acidity. Drink 2018-2019.  Tasted twice, May 2018   simonsigwines  azureau  @SimonsigWines  @azureau  @SimonsigWines  @azureauwinesandspirits

MAN Family Wines Chenin Blanc Essay 2017, WO Western Cape, South Africa (Agent, $14.95, WineAlign)

‘Essay’ is MAN’s chenin blanc with more more stone and citrus fruit, crisp, almost crunchy, getting into texture and would really elevate the fish game. Drink 2018-2019.  Tasted May 2018   manfamilywines  vonterra  @MANVintners  @vonterrabev  @MANFamilyWines  @vonterra

Deetlefs Chenin Blanc 2016, WO Breedekloof, Western Cape, South Africa (465443, $16.95, WineAlign)

The youngest wine route in South Africa and just 90 km outside of Cape Town, the Breedekloof wine route lies in the Breede River Valley, which stretches from Gouda in the west, McGregor in the south, Montagu in the east and the Tankwa-Karoo National Park in the north. “We call it over the mountains,” explains Chris Mullineux, “around that bend from Cape Town.” It’s an area with a long history of chenin by the river bed. A place of fertile soils, where young vines have great vigour and then when they reach 35 years plus, deliver great concentration. Some green pepper and pyrazine here, a throwback to the sauvignon blanc ringer days and also more weight and laced up tightness. It’s a savoury but quite cool expression. Gets crunchy and chewy, one and then the other, like Napolitano pizza dough, in a way. Drink 2018-2020.  Tasted May 2018   deetlefswineestate  nicholaspearcewines  @Deetlefs_Wine  @Nicholaspearce_   @DeetlefsWineEstate  Nicholas Pearce

May 23rd, 2018 #lobsterroll by @lbstoronto ~ #lostinamoment ~ pairs beautifully with South African #cheninblanc

Pearce Predhomme Chenin Blanc Old Vine/Wild Ferment 2017, Clear Mountain, Stellenbosch, South Africa (Agent, $22.99, WineAlign)

The next chapter in the Nicholas Pearce-Will Predhomme chenin blanc joint is the richest to date, as a matter of unction without presumption. The great blended barrel and tank amalgamation dishes an orchard tone citrus smoothie with rigour, tension and then perhaps, yes, a posit tug of confident Stellenbosch belief. Presumption even, knowing that you will adore it. And you will. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted May 2018   pearcepredhomme  nicholaspearcewines  willpredhomme  @PearcePredhomme  @Nicholaspearce_   @WillPredhomme  Nicholas Pearce  willpredhomme

Ken Forrester Old Vine Reserve Chenin Blanc 2016, WO Stellenbosch, South Africa (Agent, $17.95, WineAlign)

Texture from old plants can never be underestimated and this number two of four tiers in the Forrester stable digs so much deeper. It’s more passionately meets seriously defined out of a labour of love so you have to pause and stay with it.  Last tasted May 2018

Reserve is a funny term for wines like this because it speaks to the idea that it should be put aside for further use. I don’t think that is Ken Forrester’s plan and here he once again raises his old vines game with the 2016 chenin blanc. Fruit and mineral are entrenched in this great posit tug of war, each shredding the twain and meeting at the trenchant median. Stellenbosch continues to dole out some of the planet’s most striking and finest whites with chenin blanc at the centre of it’s value universe. With major thanks to Ken Forrester. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted March 2017   fmcwine  noble_estates  @KFwines  @Noble_Estates  Ken Forrester  Ken Forrester  @NobleEstates

I want to eat the dishes chef wants to cook ~ @jwillcook killed it last night @lbstoronto with the wines of South Africa

Survivor Chenin Blanc 2017, WO Swartland, South Africa (Agent, $17.95, WineAlign)

Survivor is richer, deeper, creamier, the chardonnay chenin, in a way, with round and mild acidity. Very tropical, from guava and papaya to mango and ultimately, simple like a banana, with coconut and cream. Drink 2018-2019.  Tasted May 2018   survivorwines  kirkwooddiamondcanada  @SurvivorWines  @KDC_NATIONAL  @SurvivorWines  @KirkwoodDiamondCanada

Mullineux Kloof Street Chenin Blanc Old Vines 2017, Western Cape, South Africa (Agent, $27.26, WineAlign)

Still in the middle of drought, the 100 per cent chenin is so youthful right at this stage. Part Paardeberg, ancient granite decomposed into sand, plus rocky, shallow slate, better in the blend out of cooler years. Still a flint strike but also something verdant, smouldering too, like white tobacco, if there is such a thing.  Last tasted May 2018

You would think this came straight from the vines and into the glass because fresh was never this new, exciting and getable. In fact when thinking about tasting 2015, 2016 and now this 2017 there is no doubt this is the most immediate and gratification guaranteeing Kloof Street yet. It’s already in delivery of ripe citrus, orchard and tropical fruit, all three, fleshy, unctuous and divine. So juicy, unconsciously so and as drinkable as any chenin blanc on the planet. Drink 2018-2020.  Tasted January 2018   mullineuxwines  nicholaspearcewines  @MullineuxWines  @Nicholaspearce_  @MullineuxWines  @MullineuxWines  @MullineuxWines  @MullineuxWines

Mullineux Kloof Street Chenin Blanc Old Vines 2016, WO Western Cape, South Africa (Agent, $22.95, WineAlign)

From the very dry year this 100 per cent chenin is from 36 and 38 year old vines in two vineyards, so considered old vines because its certified (above 35, a labelling law that came into place this year). Natural ferment, freshness meets a terrific sense of place, with downy texture by one third barrel. Aging nicely.  Last tasted May 2018

Some older vines (in the 40 year range) combed off of variegated soil types from several Swartland vineyards combine for definitive Western Cape effect. Kloof Street is the poster child for the way in which Chris and Andrea Mullineux’s are taking South African by storm. Though they spend so much effort concentrating on specific soils with über specific wines, this chenin blanc is the multi-purpose white to teach a thing or two about the rest of their work. It’s exemplary of ripe and perfectly extracted, multi-sensory fruit and personality. Though this 2016 is a bit warmer and deeper than previous vintages (and the portion of barrel ferment is further felt), it continues the thread of honesty, decency and consumer educational necessity for the Cape wine oeuvre. It will also develop some peaches, herbs and honey with time. Drink 2017-2021.  Tasted March 2017

Mullineux Old Vines White 2016, Unfiltered & Unfined, WO Swartland, South Africa (Agent, $36.95, WineAlign)

The old vines are between 36 and 65 years old and the 60-65 per cent chenin blanc is blended with grenache blanc, clairette blanc and viognier. There is also a smidgen of sémillon gris, unique to sémillon, then mutated after 45-50 years, becoming like gewürztraminer. Really flinty, lightning across the sky moving with strikes through the glass, but somehow rich and grippy, then elastic, slippery, moving like an glacial ooze. Extraordinary really. Cryptic white blend, in the end.  Tasted again, May 2018

From French water mill to Swartland bread basket the Old Vines White continues to woo and sooth savages with its exceptional quality. From winemaker Andrea Mullineux this is equation building by chenin blanc (62 per cent) plus grenache blanc (15), viognier (11), clairette blanc (8) and sémillon. It may as well be Meursault Premier Cru Genevrières or Châteauneuf-du-Pape blanc transposed into the body of chenin-plus in South Africa. The combination of flinty strike and sun-fleshy body is perfectly tugged with posit force, stretching, flexing and relaxing with each effortless sway. The tease of lemon curd, sweet herbal pesto and creamy warm climate fruit never submit to the realities of ambition or extension. All remains calm, purposed and transfixed. As am I. Drink 2020-2028.  Tasted May 2018

Mullineux Old Vines White 2015, Unfiltered & Unfined, WO Swartland, South Africa (Agent, $36.95, WineAlign)

The Old Vine White 2015 is a revelation, built by 36-65 year-old vines, of 60ish per cent chenin blanc mixed with grenache blanch, clairette blanc, viognier and the mutated sémillon gris. A year adds almost nothing to the development save for a minor magnification of the flinty feeling but the linger, oh the linger. This is length unparalleled for South African white wine and how it is left to breathe in its broad expression is there forever. You can walk around the block and these old vines will be with you, by your side, in mind, body, spirit and never-ending flavour. Drink 2019-2028.  Tasted May 2018

Ken Forrester Chenin Blanc The FMC 2016, Stellenbosch, South Africa (37291, $64.95, WineAlign)

The straight-lined FMC is chenin blanc on a path of the shortest distance between two points from straight-shooting Ken Forrester. It’s ambitious and righteously so, a statement wine, no longer (if ever) Loire but now indelibly Stellenbosch stamped,. Not an off-dry, botrytis copying style but now from larger barrel and so minor oak and lack of noble rot addendum. It’s simply older vines from the same old vineyard and so comfortable in its own skin. Yes it has a honeyed note but it’s from the bees replete with a sexy, waxy feeling. The aging possibilities are long to endless. Drink 2019-2029.  Tasted May 2018

Varietal and single-vineyard wines are great but #cartology is forever ~ so pleased to get a chance at this today ~ another laser from @chrisalheit

Alheit Vineyards Cartology Bushvine Chenin Blanc Sémillon 2016, Western Cape, South Africa (Agent, $46.95, WineAlign)

Chris and SuzaanGroupe Soleil Fine WinesAlheit’s Cartology ’16 exhibits a citrus layering that separates it from other Western Cape white blends and an implosive intensity that is simply stunning, but also frightening. As a reminder the blend is a smaller amount of eighty year-old La Colline sémillon from Franschhoek running ambagious with 30-40 year old chenin blanc grown in Skurfberg, Perdeberg, Bottelary Hills and Kasteelberg. Few white wines anywhere in the world are even remotely positioned in this field where energy and light spin with infinite speed in the centrifuge of life. That doesn’t even speak to texture for a wine that is the topographical depiction of these nooks of the Western Cape. Needs two years to flesh out, evolve just a hair and bring another level of interest to the glass. Drink 2020-2028.  Tasted May 2018  chrisalheit  gsoleil123  @ChrisAlheit  @GroupeSoleilTO  Suzaan Alheit  Groupe Soleil Fine Wines

Mullineux Schist Chenin Blanc 2014, Swartland, South Africa (Agent, $89.95, WineAlign)

Mullineux’s Schist is a 100-120 case production (though only 72 in 2014), from schist, of course, not granite, which adds mid-palate weight and texture. Also from older (36 and 40 years) vines based from soils of the Kasteelberg. It’s a heartfelt message and cerebral pulling string from the 2014 density gifting vintage. Older barrels wrap like a blanket for fruit richer than you’d ever imagine, full-bodied, beautiful and robed in petticoat unction. It’s also dry as the farmland desert. Truly one of the finest chenin blancs from South Africa and beyond. Drink 2018-2027.  Tasted May 2018

Mullinuex Olerasay Straw Wine NV, WO Swartland, South Africa (Agent, $59.95, WineAlign)

Mullineux’s non-vintage Straw Wine is fashioned from grapes hung in trees for three weeks. The key is to concentrate the acidity which doubles from the pressing number, plus sweetness that is off the charts. No rain in the picking season means no fear of rot. The use is of chenin blanc from the same vineyard as Kloof Street and it’s amazing how the same grapes can deliver such a different expression from the same place but with the simplest adjustment of winemaking methodology. An amazing look from a healthy 14 barrels made, so distinct as a dessert wine, with pineapple, lemon preserve and apple purée. Bold and delicious. Drink 2019-2031.  Tasted May 2018

A little bit of this, a little bit of that. A little bit of schist, a little bit of granite. Amazing vintage variation, from ethereal to powerful. Singular @mullineuxwines

Mullineux Syrah 2016, Swartland, South Africa (Agent, $42.95, WineAlign)

The first drought vintage for the Swartland syrah and so the extract, concentration and density are all in compression mode. The change is felt with palpable impression, meatier, more char, even tar, and a little bit of dogma was necessary to bring in more granite-raised syrah to keep things swimmingly cool and savoury along. It’s a hematic one in 2016. To some this would be the bomb, the massive reason to believe and to others it might seem an impossible wall to scale. With a combination of love and patience the ’16 will please them all. Drink 2020-2028.  Tasted May 2018

Mullineux Syrah 2015, Swartland, South Africa (Agent, $42.95, WineAlign)

Mullineux’s Syrah is sourced from several different vineyards around the Swartland, from granite, schisty slate (structure and tannin), plus the mid-palate giver, from lighter, porous soil suited to arenicolous vines. Here is a complex weave of geology, barrel usage and ultimately textures. There is a meaty char but also a floral, violet potpourri. A wine with a lot of integrity and generosity. From a vintage widely considered fantastic everywhere, moderate in every respect; cool, rain, sun, wide picking window. Easy. Drink 2018-2024.  Tasted May 2018

Paul Cluver with Ken Forrester’s Chenin Blanc

A few wines from the PIWOSA visit, June 2017

Paul Cluver Riesling Close Encounter 2015, Elgin Valley, South Africa (Agent, $23.99, WineAlign)

Paul Cluver’s Close Encounter is a matter of remarkable contrast elevated by texture so that sugar and acidity are seamlessly meshed, gathering both apple orchard and mango grove into one sweet and sour package. Channels its inner Rheinhessen like no other southern hemisphere riesling but does so with pure Elgin elegance and individuality. Most excellent riesling.  Last Tasted June 2017

A more serious effort than the sibling ‘Dry Encounter’ because this riesling knows what it wants to be. On its left may be Alsace and on its right the Mosel but in truth this speaks to a Kabinett reasoning, with Elgin layering. At nine per cent alcohol, 36 g/L RS and 8.2 g/L TA it knows the difference and speaks the truth about off-dry riesling, with elevated and yet balancing acidity. It pretends to be nothing but what is of and for itself. Flint and an attainable stratosphere (between 300-500m above sea level) accept the airy drifts of oceans and the gathering returns to earth with the weight of wax and glade. If you think South African riesling is “a real nowhere man, sitting in his nowhere land,” taste Elgin and think again. The skeptical Nowhere man is ignorant to the new frontier for riesling and to him I say “please listen, you don’t know what you’re missing.” Drink 2015-2020.  Tasted September 2015  paulcluverwines  hobbsandcompany  @paulcluverwines  @amargarethobbs  @paulcluver  @HobbsandCo

De Grendel Op Die Berg Pinot Noir 2014, Elgin Valley, South Africa (Agent, WineAlign)

“The Latch” in Dutch it means, where once settlers used the hill as a beacon for navigation. A crunchy, chewy and soil driven pinot noir, so bloody terroir driven, as if the bleed of the earth wells in the bottle and glass. There is fineness to the tannin but more than this acidity that defines the structure, or drives it and leaves you sipping on repeat. Cool summer nights do the savoury, spicy accents. Clearly this piece of Elgin was meant to raise pinot noir. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted June 2017   degrendelwines  churchillcellars  @degrendelwines  @imbibersreport   @degrendelwines  @imbibersreport

Exceptional lads of South African wine take Toronto @chabrolto led by fearless leader Will ~ @WOSACanada @WOSA_Za

Seven producers, seven varietal wines

This tasting was led by master South African messenger Will Predhomme at Chabrol, Toronto’s smallest space and largest kept secret in the hands of Niall McCotter and Chef Doug Penfold.

First up was Sean Griffiths introducing Mulderbosch, based in Stellenbosch, “the centre of the universe,” He spoke of how South Africa has a long history of winemaking and Mulderbosch started in 1659. Looking forward to 2019 that is 360 years, a perfectly symmetrical number, of degrees, coming around full circle.

Mulderbosch Sauvignon Blanc 2017, WO Western Cape, South Africa (933424, $17.95, WineAlign)

The 2017 is the 25th vintage and “we’re always looking for cool-climate fruit.” notes Sean Griffiths. Fermented with its lees in the search for a fuller, richer style. It is surely round, rich and finish-able. A wine of great heritage, for itself and South Africa as a bigger entity but it’s not a replica of anything, least of all “old world.” Hints at a subtlety of weight, pungency, citrus, thiols, vegetation and flint. It’s 100 per cent sauvignon blanc, more passion than pamplemousse, more fruit than mousse. Touched but not bound by tradition. Maritime salinity finishes the spirit. Everything is under control. Drink 2018-2020.  Tasted May 2018   mulderboschvineyards  abconwine  @MulderboschV  @AbconWine  @Mulderbosch  Abcon Wine

Next up, Johannes De Wet from pioneering chardonnay specialist De Wetshof in Roberston, an area of limestone presence and the context of that rock is important. All estate work; farming, winemaking and bottling. First regional planting of chardonnay was in the late 1970s and then in the early 1980s. Johannes’ dad was a chardonnay smuggler.

De Wetshof Limestone Hill Unwooded Chardonnay 2017, WO Robertson, South Africa (419622, $16.95, WineAlign)

From four vineyards on clay with high limestone content, and high pH soils. Citrus abounds, all around, first lemon peel, and then grapefruit. Lots of lees (110 days) but unoaked with the end result being a desired weight. The source is 80 kms from the sea, a place of wind and cold nights, not surprisingly a great area for bubbly. Limestone Hill is a ridge, a step up to the mountain. This chardonnay is striking, sharp, full of energy and then calm, so drinkable. Crunchy and pure, honest, transparent and in its way, just perfect. Drink 2018-2020.  Tasted May 2018  dewetshofwines  glencairnwines    @glencairnwines  @dewetshofwines  @GCwines

Marthinus van der Vyver is Country Manager, North America, Ken Forrester Wines. Ken began with five restaurants in Stellenbosch and one day he saw an auction sign and three hours later, boom he walked away with a winery. If you have met or just heard of Ken Forrester, you know he is a force not just in wine, but a figure larger than life and hugely responsible for putting South African wines on the world’s stage. Partly because of his work to establish a premium level Chenin Blanc but also because of a tireless ethic, an entrepreneurial spirit and certainly his ambassadorial work. Forrester is a team player in the way a Football or Rugby captain rallies his teammates, his club and his country. I’ve had the pleasure of a four-hour tasting session with Ken in Stellenbosch and that interaction is indelibly stamped in my memory forever. Great guy whom Marthinus has the pleasure of calling Dad. He is Ken’s son-in-law and is responsible for taking care of the most important treasures in his life.

Ken Forrester Roussanne 2016, WO Stellenbosch, South Africa (Agent, WineAlign)

The 2016 is the third vintage of this wine, from 39 year-old vines. ‘Tis a risk-reward white held at bay, away from the safety of blending, of barref fermentation, and time spent in 80 per cent used 400L barrels. The vineyard is on the second last farm before you reach the Heldeberg, where hot days give way to late afternoon sea breezes. These are 15 of 60 roussanne hectares in Stellenbosch. Striking aromatics, a flinty, saline and pulsating white with presence and a stand up demand to be noticed. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted May 2018  fmcwine  noble_estates  @KFwines  @Noble_Estates  Ken Forrester  Ken Forrester  @NobleEstates

Stephen Joubert is viticulturalist at DGB. “My passion is to understand South African terroir and to figure out what grows best and where.” Ocean is the thing, heavy soils, cold winters, dry summers, sea breeze influence, to keep acidity and freshness. We happened to have been in Sicily at the same time back in May. I’m curious to see what grape varieties gave him ideas for what to do back home in The Cape.

Bellingham The Bernard Series Old Vine Chenin Blanc 2016, WO Stellenbosch, South Africa (12724, $29.95, WineAlign)

This Bellingham Estate chenin blanc from old vines watched over by viticulturist Stephen Joubert carries an indelible stamp of richness, from that vine age and the leesy style. From granite and weathered shales, a minor note of reduction climbs over top of the rich, chic, stylish and full fruit and while it seems like the wood is very much in play it’s really more lees than anything that terms the texture and renders the weight. Old vines provide the density and structure to allow wood to take part in an ambitious attempt to create longevity. The locked in    spirit will go a long way to seeing some developed fruition but there may be a bit too much extraction so an oxidative quality might creep in before the wood has fully settled and integrated. Should work out well in the mid-term. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted May 2018   bellingham_wines  dionysuswines  @Bellinghamwines  @DionysusWines   @bellinghamwines  @DionysusWinesTO

Danie de Kock presents Spier from Stellenbosch, going strong since 1692, always family owned, most recently purchased in 1993 and since 1996 Johannes Smith is the viticulturalist. Using the word “Signature” on their labels infers or might be what the chef wants to be known for. You should recognize varietal and get what you expect from that name on the bottle. In Spier’s case merlot should be a grape that gives you a great big hug.

Spier Signature Merlot 2016, WO Stellenbosch, South Africa (454827, $15.95, WineAlign)

Spier’s Signature Merlot 2016 is raised on alluvial soils, some estate, some purchased. “We’re trying to show a good solid wine.” Receives seven to eight months of dance floor wood for the fruit to express its moves, of 3rd and 4th passage. The best selling South African merlot in the LCBO happens to be the only one. Acidity and tartness at good height and level while reduction is lower than low. Breadth is a matter that is chalky, in chocolate guise and far from reduced, cooked out, even with just a touch of honest pyrazine. Drink 2018-2019.  Tasted May 2018   spierwinefarm  @SpierWineFarm  @SylvestreWSON  @spierwinefarm  Stephen Marentette

Francois Bezuidenhout from MAN family wines explains how the estate’s seven varietal wines are each equipped with an Afrikaans name. The vintner started out with three friends looking to make everyday varietal wines in 2001, as an anagram after their wives, Marie, Annette and Nicky. MAN. Chenin is the signature white.

Man Vintners Shiraz Skaapveld 2016, WO Coastal Region, South Africa (71332, $14.95, WineAlign)

Named Skaapveld, meaning “sheep’s field” this shiraz is a spicy, deep plum and raspberry red fruit red, a touch reductive and rusty-firm-grippy-transparent. Fruit is essentially from Paarl (with also some out of Stellenbosch), on decomposed granite and clay, dry-farmed and not the usual irrigation because of water retentive soils. Liquid chalky, talcy, oozing of chocolate and a shot of espresso but always returns to the red fruit. Mediterranean, black olive mixed with the chocolate. Peppery rotundo and lovely really. Drink 2018-2020.  Tasted May 2018   manfamilywines  vonterra  @MANVintners  @vonterrabev  @MANFamilyWines  @vonterra

Murray Barlow manages the winemaking at the 880 hectare property, larger than Pomerol, from an estate who’s first wine was made in 1692. In the early 1800s it was split in two, one purchased by John X Merriman. Rustenberg was one of the first to re-plant vineyards after phylloxera. The pioneer owned it until 1926 and was also the last Prime Minister previous to modern day South Africa. In 1941 Peter and Pamela Barlow bought the estate. Their son Simon took over the running of the farm in 1987. Winemaker Barlow represents the third generation of his family to make wine at Rustenberg wines on the foot of the Simonsberg Mountain in Stellenbosch, South Africa. Murray is the vini, father Simon is the viti. The Barlows have been at Rustenberg for 77 years: the longest period any one family has owned the farm during its well over 300 years old term. It’s a new world estate and like many others is  much older than the Boredelaise.”

Rustenberg John X Merriman 2014, WO Simonsberg-Stellenbosch, South Africa (707323, $24.95, WineAlign)

This is from altitudes between 250-500m, of deep rich red granite, high iron soils at the foot of the Simonsberg Mountains. Always 100 per cent estate fruit, merlot on south facing slopes which are cooler spots and then cabernet from those leading west (for afternoon sun). Fruit that thrives on cooling influences but no frost or hail and including beneficial breezes. A wet season preceding three successive drought vintages. Wow in that it’s so very Bordeaux and that’s saying alot because so many varietal or regional ode South African blends are not like their old world ancestors. Here all five Bordelais varieties work together, see plenty of barrel (20 months) and bottle time (one year) for it all to come together. Tobacco, olive, chocolate, classic Bordeaux stylistically and in the hands of a true South African pioneer, right along with the Meerlust Rubicon. Best at 10-15 years but can go 30. Drink 2020-2030.  Tasted May 2018   rustenbergwines  woodmanws  @RustenbergWines  @WoodmanWS  Rustenberg Wine Estate  @WoodmanWS

Good to go!

Godello

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

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Hamilton Russell three ways

Olive and Anthony Hamilton Russell at Ridley College

Anthony and Olive Hamilton Russell are tireless wanderers of this earth. When you consider the amount of time they spend travelling in support of one, their eponymous winery, two, their Hermanus friends and colleagues and three, Wines of South Africa, it’s amazing that they are able to find time to produce high quality wines. That they do with great consistency and though they are responsible for interpreting the Hemel-en-Aarde in three ways, in each case they do one or two things and they do it really well.

Hamilton Russell Vineyards works three appellations. The WO of Hemel-en-Aarde Valley is a geological wonder akin to Burgundian soils of 35-50 per cent top soil clay layered with exposed shale, closest to Walker Bay. It is here that Anthony and Olive pioneered the raising of chardonnay and pinot noir. Ashbourne red and white blends are fashioned in the Upper Hemel en Aarde Valley, on the eastern border of Hamilton Russell Vineyards, built of decomposed granite, with freer draining soils and more diurnal temperature fluctuations then the Hemel en Aarde Ridge. The property is named after Anthony’s great, great-grandfather Lord Ashbourne who was Lord Chancellor of Ireland in the late 1800’s. Southern Right is the line of pinotage and sauvignon blanc raised on the western border of Hamilton Russell Vineyards, on a 448 hectare property just behind the old fishing village of Hermanus.

In 1991 Hamilton Russell was the only one producing wines. Now there are 22 in the valley. They began running in 1991 and made full purchase in 1994. A cold current rises up from Antartica into the tip of South Africa’s (Western Cape) “making quality winemaking possible,” explains Anthony. “Our soils have been on the surface for more than 300,000,000 years. I like that you can taste ancient soils in every glass.” Hamilton Russell is what he refers to as their “immediate family.” Southern Right and Ashbourne are close relatives.”

As for varietal choices, there is little doubt that pinotage is (once again) booming while others are dropping. The plantings are very much on the rise. “What people thought was pinotage was badly made pinotage. It’s not a bad grape,” insists Hamilton Russell. We like to control what’s happening on both borders of Hamilton Russell.” So Southern Right (1994) and Ashbourne (1996) are more than just passion projects. “We also want to change people’s perception of pinotage,” he adds. There were no releases between 2011 and 2014, instead it was used as a re-thinking period and a chance to reflect on vineyard/agricultural culture, followed by the new age. “I don’t have a beard, I’m in my 50’s (plus) and I’m doing some pretty hipster stuff. We just don’t look the part.”

I have had numerous opportunities to taste, track, re-taste and follow the chardonnay and pinot noir over the past five years. I often add to my notes because theirs are highly organized, Burgundian powered structures that demand re-visits and respect. The Ashbourne and especially the Southern Right varietals and blends have seen less exposure but the notions of longevity (Ashbourne) and drink-ability (Southern Right) are fast gaining attention.

A few weeks back and post i4C Cool Chardonnay conference I sat down with Wines of South Africa’s Laurel Keenan, Angela Aiello and the South African Wine Society to listen in on Anthony Hamilton Russell’s dissertation and a tasting of eight wines. Here are the notes, plus two for their recently released ’17 chardonnay and pinot noir.

Southern Right Sauvignon Blanc 2016, WO Walker Bay, South Africa (512277, $21.95, WineAlign)

The Southern Right whale is a frequent visitor to Walker Bay and this sauvignon blanc should be a frequent visitor to your glass. It’s a white wine that acts as a messenger to its proximate location to a cold body of water. It’s a pure Western Cape fresh, flinty and smouldering sauvignon blanc so akin to a Bordeaux White. You could close your eyes and imagine Pessac-Leognan (perhaps even hoping for Sancerre or Chavignol) but there really isn’t any need. Six clones and six yeasts, multiple ripeness levels and some clay-grown vines deliver fat fruit to meet the linearity and tension of other shale grown fruit. In the end it’s a complex and rare chance to taste this kind of value. Drink 2018-2020.  Last tasted July 2018

The pungent nature of this sauvignon blanc brings a vigor sight and taste unseen. Classic herbal meets gooseberry and passionate notes are berry-derived and very floral. The palate confirms the notion and makes one a true believer in Walker Bay. Drink 2017-2020. Tasted July 2017   olive_hamilton_russell  noble_estates wosa_za  wosa_ca  @OliveHR  @Noble_Estates  @WOSA_ZA  @WOSACanada  Olive Hamilton Russell  @NobleEstates  @WOSACA

Southern Right Pinotage 2015, WO Hemel-en-Aarde Valley, South Africa (486167, $26.95, WineAlign)

Tasting ’15 while ’17 is already sold out back home. From an opulent and wide open vintage, the wine offers just those expressive attributes. Smokiness meets curative meaty notes and an umami sort of South African garrigue. From a vintage where phenolic ripeness occurred at a higher level of alcohol so it carries a 15 per cent volume, but does so with marked ease. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted July 2018

Hamilton Russell Ashbourne 2009, WO Hemel-en-Aarde Valley, South Africa (486167, $25.95, WineAlign)

The Ashbourne ’09 includes cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, malbec, petit verdot and syrah blended in, “which brings nothing really to the party,” says Anthony Hamilton Russell, “but at least it doesn’t compete with Southern Right.” It’s deeply savoury and smoky, continues to smell like chocolate and will always show its wood. The single-vineyard heavy clay block was always in delivery of fruit ripe but never over that edge, all the while telling its shepherds when to pick so that balance and structure can be had. The linger and length are exceptional. “The variety doesn’t suck.” Truth that. Drink 2018-2024.  Last tasted July 2018

Ashbourne is a 25 barrel cuvée and the outlier in the Hamilton Russell pinot noir-chardonnay stable. With more than enough time behind at eight years on it is essentially evolved and resolved, now a downy blanket of Bordeaux fibres woven, seamless and soft. The fruit dries a bit but like all great aging South African reds the candidly curated acidity is years from relinquishing its grip. Ashbourne is not a matter to blow one’s mind but it teaches some vinous life lessons about Hemel-en-Aarde and the greater good of aged South African reds. It can be enjoyed right now and left for another decade. Like Meerlust’s Rubicon it’s an easy on the pocketbook gift in kind to Ontario from proprietors Anthony and Olive Hamilton Russell. Drink 2017-2024.  Tasted October 2017

Hamilton Russell Ashbourne Pinotage 2015, WO Hemel-en-Aarde Valley, South Africa (486167, $25.95, WineAlign)

It could be expected that this 2015 pinotage blend would already act somewhat to quite advanced when in fact the evolution is virtually non-existent. A side-by-side revisit with 2009 is all that is needed to drive the point. The ’15 is still quite demurred, tightly wound, not in a fresh to reductive way but more in terms of its finely-crafted pyramids of Giza architecture. The acidity and the spice are up there on the crests of the upper steps, very near to the pinnacle. Again it is the way the wine stays with you like a slowly rendered demi-glacé made from the lightest roast of bones that keeps the karst of stone sublime in your mind and mouth. Drink 2018-2028.  Tasted July 2018

Hamilton Russell Ashbourne Pinotage/Cinsault 2018, WO Swartland, South Africa (486167, $25.95, WineAlign)

“We wanted to work with an unoaked pinotage, to mix with a lighter and brighter cinsault.” In fact the cinsault really shines with (by now) classic Western Cape lithe ability because the pinotage allows it to. Add to that a verdant, pyrazine and currant streak and in the end you get perfume but no impenetrability that an overly green and wooded forest would demand. Beautiful (1972 planted) Paardeberg on decomposed granite gifts a chic and classy, perfectly correct blend of these two made for each other varietals. Will settle into one another so effortlessly and with sleepy grace in another year or so. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted July 2018

Hamilton Russell Ashbourne Sauvignon Blanc/Chardonnay 2018, WO Walker Bay, South Africa (Agent, $25.95, WineAlign)

There can be no more fruit in a white blend than what bursts from this sauvignon blanc-chardonnay scene. Just released in South Africa and carried by Anthony and Olive (Hamilton Russell) on the plane. Chavignol is the reference point, with lightly structured sandstone soils bringing lightness, airiness and delicate fruit. Or think Jim Clendenen’s Au Bon Climat out of Santa Barbara. It’s democratically priced (a Hamilton Russell first) without gratuitous sugar and still dry, tart and direct. Also the first screw-cap for the company. Bottled just three weeks ago. Drink 2018-2020.  Tasted July 2018

Hamilton Russel Vineyard Chardonnay 2017, WO Hemel-en-Aarde Valley, South Africa (931006, $44.95, WineAlign)

A Hamilton Russell chardonnay must have its nuts, butter and über direct acidity. It just may remind of Bâtard perhaps because depth, richness and a ridges-straddling connection to the valley it comes from all work in this way. But what else brings that connection? In 2017 it’s elegance for sure, but also intensity. This 36th vintage is “a reflection, always of the same piece of ground, even if we are always insecure and trying to improve, it’s a far bigger thing than we are. We feel justice to serve it. We feel we have a duty to this.” This is what Anthony Hamilton Russell told me last year and it perfectly applies to this 2017. Back then he noted that “god made the 15s and winemakers watched. In ’16 winemakers made the wine.” So what about ’17? With heady attention paid to its eccentricities and idiosyncrasies, it’s really a matter of both. Drink 2019-2026. Tasted twice, July 2018

Hamilton Russel Vineyard Chardonnay 2016, WO Hemel-en-Aarde Valley, South Africa (931006, $44.95, WineAlign)

Says Anthony Hamilton Russell. “It took the French to teach me not to care about the colour of chardonnay, but to only worry about flavour and texture.” Fermented with a healthy amount of solids and introduced to oxidation in its youth. This helps and results in a chardonnay well-adjusted to adult life and to adults. “You cannot measure an aesthetic with a number,” meaning you can’t learn from a measured response. Literally speaking. The balance is as good as this archetype of an HR white has ever been. It is after all, the HR white.  Last tasted July 2018

No stone is left unturned in the Hamilton Russell 2016 chardonnay because it speaks with utmost Hemel-en-Aarde Valley clarity. There is less make-up in 2016 so the fruit, acidity and subtle salty quality all must have begun to speak from the word go. The first pressed, non-clarified must would have done nothing but made the maker’s smile, mimicking a foggy morning over Walker Bay and so they have allowed the wine to speak for itself. This is a beautifully restrained and go it alone rendered to be measured chardonnay, with beauty and grace. Drink 2017-2022.  Tasted September 2017

Hamilton Russel Vineyard Pinot Noir 2017, WO Hemel-en-Aarde Valley, South Africa (999516, $58.95, WineAlign)

’m not sure it can be stated often enough that when you continually do one thing well, without compromise or mutation, than you’re more likely to do it very well. This is the case with a Hamilton Russell pinot noir, the only one that is produced. From the best fruit available and swinging in the direction of the vintage, either into or away from the winds of vineyard or winemaking. The 2017 is like the chardonnay in that it’s a best of both worlds seasonal and acumen-focused display, neither one or the other dominant and in the end, so balanced. The fruit depth is exceptional, the acidity deeper still and the intensity wound around it all. It’s so precise and layered, like a pinot noir prism, like staring far inside the intricate and symmetrically patterned angles in a diamond. Drink 2019-2028.  Tasted July 2018

Hamilton Russel Vineyard Pinot Noir 2016, WO Hemel-en-Aarde Valley, South Africa (999516, $58.95, WineAlign)

“We believe in wines of consequence.” How pinot noir is capable of performing in South Africa can be defined right here, with a wink and a nod to Gevrey-Chambertin. Pure unbridled Hamilton Russell cerebral joy, nothing taken for granted and all possibilities celebrated.  Last tasted July 2018

This welcome ethereal return of Hamilton Russell’s Hermanus benchmark pinot noir follows on the heels of the early-picked, dense, muscular and compressed 2015. Comfortable alcohol meets optimum phenolic ripeness so lets think on it in terms of ’08 burgundy, though perhaps not as tight and classic. This is the second fully organic vintage, not certified but with no systemic use of chemicals. Young (just last year turned 30) winemaker Emul Ross from Chamonix and viticulturist Johan Montgomery have reverted to gentler pressing and travelled further away from hyper-reduction. Open fermenters handle the entire pinot noir harvest at once so there is nary a posit tug of war or movement at shock times. Thus the elegance and as mentioned, the ethereal. It should always be noted that all the HR grapes go into these wines, with no tactical moves and philosophical aberrations (any more), no reserve wines, no single-vineyard, no divergence from monopole, always staying the broad expression course. “We committed to this in 1981 and other than experiments, we’ve stayed this way,” says Anthony Hamilton-Russell. There is simply no plot, block, aspect, top, middle or bottom slope separation. It’s pinot all in for one purpose, fully conjoined and conspiring to make the Hamilton Russell expression. This expression, of pure fruit, no drudgery, clarity and exceptional length. Drink 2017-2029.  Tasted October 2017

Olive and Anthony Hamilton Russell at Ridley College

Good to Go!

Godello

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

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Tasting Ontario Part Three: Rosé

Do not adjust your set. Magnums of Rosé by @scottzebarth and godello ~ #aldé #cabernetfranc @ravinevineyard #vqa #niagaraonthelake

The first of the 2018 WineAlign National Wine Awards of Canada results are now live on site with the announcement of winners in the Rosé category. The global blush explosion has not passed Canada by as witnessed through the record number of entries at this year’s Nationals held in June at the Penticton Trade & Convention Centre.

Related – Tasting Ontario Part One: Riesling 

The Rosé romance is still in the honeymoon phase as sales have seemingly been rapidly rising every year for at least the last three and show no signs of slowing down. In the early part of 2018 my partner Scott Zebarth and I made 599 (sold out) magnums of 100 per cent cabernet franc with Marty Werner and Ben Minaker at Ravine Vineyard. We are officially part of the problem, I mean program.

Related – Tasting Ontario Part Two: Chardonnay

As part of an ongoing series in which I am publishing my most recent tasting notes of Ontario wines in any and all categories, here are 20 Rosés of local origin, including a half dozen tasted blind at NWAC18 last month.

Day 3 #nwac18 shades with Rosé nails by @heatherriley29 and a 50 for the judge from Nova Scotia.

Fielding Estate Rosé 2017, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (53421, $15.95, WineAlign)

Fielding’s latest Rosé is not only unlike the others but also unrecognizable from itself and the curiosity level is set real high. The sweetness is different, almost late harvest so perhaps Richie Roberts has taken a turn by adding a twist into experimentation and it really works. No compromise to sapidity or energy is noted and in the context of rich and ripe there is great pleasure. Nice departure here. Drink 2018-2020.  Tasted May 2018  fielding winery  richiewine  @FieldingWinery  @RichieWine  Fielding Estate Winery

13th Street Pink Palette Rosé 2017, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (275834, $15.95, WineAlign)

Pink palette is exactly as the nomenclature suggests, a painter’s tray with colours blending and layering in and out of one another. All the pink, red and orange fruits are represented here in aromas and flavours. It’s a bit of an abstract mess but it finds a way to work. Goes every way and returns to the starting point, then sets out again. Drink 2018-2019.  Tasted May 2018  13thstreetwinery  @13thStreetWines  13th Street Winery

Malivoire Wine Ladybug Rosé 2017, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (559088, $15.95, WineAlign)

The blend is cabernet franc (65 per cent), pinot noir (24) and gamay (11) for the most Malivoire forward, all fruit all the time, simply rosy Rosé. Name those red fruits in their collected bunches but don’t plan to come looking for citrus. As I said, it’s all about the red fruit. Drink 2018-2019.  Tasted twice, blind at NWAC18 and July 2018  malivoire  noble_estates  @MalivoireWine  @Noble_Estates  Malivoire Wine  Noble Estates Wine & Spirits

Tawse Rosé Sketches 2017, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (172643, $16.35, WineAlign)

Now that Tawse is making a 100 per cent pinot noir Rosé from the Quarry Road Vineyard it puts the Sketches into clearer perspective as a provident and judicious bet for easy and easier drinking. I’d say there is a good amount of gamay in this Rosé because it delivers softer, less rusty and coppery, more wild berry-scented and leafy savoury-accented fruit. It nicely straddles the line between fruity-candied and sapid-dry for maximum amenability. You can’t go wrong here with a warm day and a big chill. Drink 2018-2019.  Tasted June 2018  tawsewinery  @Tawse_Winery  @tawsewines

Westcott Vineyards Delphine Rosé 2017, VQA Vinemount Ridge, Ontario (498527, $16.95, WineAlign)

Delphine does not shy away from expressiveness, with a high level of Rosé complexity by Vinemount Ridge pinot noir. Sugar, tang and washed rind cheese get together with high tonality and quite the fleshy tang. Good food Rosé, especially with a vegetables accented by a smoky edge. Drink 2018-2019.  Tasted May 2018  westcottvineyards  @WestcottWines  @westcottwines

Kacaba Summer Series Rebecca Rosé 2017, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (227025, $17.95, WineAlign)

From gamay and an immediate response of that’s more like it. Smells just like gamay with a salt lick running through cranberry and raspberry fruit. Just enough pressing, good acidity and great persistence. Drink 2018-2020.  Tasted blind at NWAC18, June 2018   kacabavineyards  @KacabaVineyards  Kacaba Vineyards and Winery

Wildass Rosé 2017, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (71712, $18.95, WineAlign)

As per the plan Stratus will change direction and for the first time chooses the saignée method for varietal cabernet franc. As for Wildass it is a blend of sauvignon blanc, riesling, tempranillo and cabernet franc. It hints at the present and the future of Niagara Peninsula Rosé in a nutshell albeit with full-bled coverage, high level fruit phenolics and a little bump up in residual sugar. If the ’16 Wildass hovered in the five to six range this seems to be upwards of nine or ten. The fruit here is fantastic and the warmth of the vintage can be thanked, especially from the extended fall and the later picking hands of a Stratus managed wine. Drink 2018-2019.  Tasted May 2018   stratuswines  @StratusWines  @StratusWines

The Roost Rosé 2016, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (Winery, $18.95, WineAlign)

From pinot noir, rich, very pressed and quite tannic. Fleshy, full and a bit funky. Rhubarb leads the fruit in a two-dimensional, flat-patterned, if unusual texture. Drink 2018-2020.  Tasted blind at NWAC18, June 2018  theroostwineco  @TheRoostWineCo  @theroostwineco

Peller Estates Private Reserve Rosé 2017, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (Winery, $18.95, WineAlign)

A blend of pinot noir (88 per cent) with gamay and pinot meunier. Lovely in litheness, light, bright and briny blush, saline all the way through. Does the trick with fineness, tart and tight inner-vision Really lovely. Drink 2018-2020.  Tasted blind at NWAC18, June 2018

Huff Estates Rosé 2017, VQA Ontario (Winery, $19.00, WineAlign)

From cabernet franc, some florals, with agitative acidity and a good tartness in composure. Fruit meets salinity and a touch of currants in brine. Drink 2018-2020. Tasted blind at NWAC18, June 2018  huffestateswine  @HuffEstatesWine  @HuffEstates

80x Wine Company When Pigs Fly Pinot Noir Rosé Ridgepoint Vineyard 2017, VQA Twenty Mile Bench, Ontario (Winery, $19.95, WineAlign)

It’s a comedy moment reminder and also a temptation to invoke the Smithers question “will you be donating that million dollars now, sir?” The cheeky name “When Pigs Fly” is actually Rosé by pinot noir from André Proulx and (Kacaba winemaker) Vadim Chelekhov made with the help of David Stasiuk at Rockway Winery. It ain’t no big thing, nor adynaton, idiom of improbability, impractical nor rhetorical device as extreme exaggeration. And so When Pigs Fly is summer in September, harbinger of spring and varietal Twenty Mile Bench, single Ridgepoint Vineyard hyperbole captured with healthy, fresh, brackish and earthy estuary goodness. As promised, its verdant, crisp, delicate, sweet rose petal floral and rusty fruit gone down easy, on a deck, in the sun. Drink 2018-2019.  Tasted March 2018  andrewinereview  vadimwineguy  @andrewinereview  @Vadim_Chelekhov  André J Proulx  Vadim Chelekhov

Henry Of Pelham Rosé Three of Hearts 2017, VQA Ontario (552562, $19.95, WineAlign)

It’s a good card the three of hearts, played out in Rosé form though admittedly in sweet and sour ways. A salty cheese rind note filters in to the ubiquity of Rosé strawberry and grapefruit, that and some blanched, sweet herbs. This is a snazzy meets chic new label from the Speck brothers at Henry of Pelham and there is little doubt that the lithe and lean style is the right one to choose. From this particular bottle an overly aggressive mix of sugar and sulphur detracts from the overall impression and pleasure. Drink 2018-2019.  Tasted April 2018  henryofpelham  @HenryofPelham  Henry of Pelham Family Estate Winery

Southbrook Vineyards Organic Triomphe Cabernet Franc Rosé 2017, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (279117, $19.95, WineAlign)

Mostly cabernet franc (85 per cent) with merlot in this tart and rich blush. Currants and blackberries, good flow and integration, very solid if typical and correct, highly market saturate and soluble commercial Rosé. Drink 2018-2019.  Tasted blind at NWAC18, June 2018  southbrookvineyards  thelivingvine  @SouthbrookWine  @TheLivingVine  Southbrook Vineyards  The Living Vine inc.

Malivoire Rosé Bon Vivant 2017, VQA Beamsville Bench, Ontario (498535, $19.95, WineAlign)

C’est bon this Maliviore, from what is just the most perfect, antithetical, apposite Rosé vintage Niagara has perhaps ever seen. After the coolest of summers the great resurgent warmth of September delivered great ripeness into this Beamsville Bench fruit, even when picking for Rosé is completed before the full monty is reached. The result is nothing short of bring it on. Salt, brine, stone fruit, citrus and sonic, tonic injections had never gathered so collectively in synch at this price, from this place. This is brilliant Ontario blush and all should be so lucky to emulate and live as cohabitant with the Vivant. Drink 2018-2020. Tasted April 2018  malivoire  noble_estates  @MalivoireWine  @Noble_Estates  Malivoire Wine  Noble Estates Wine & Spirits

Southbrook Syrah Rosé 2017, VQA Four Mile Creek, Ontario (Winery, $22.25, WineAlign)

Ann Sperling’s small lot, organic and biodynamic syrah shows what the vintage is for Rosé, that being stellar and why did Ann make such a varietal Rosé? “It seemed like a good idea at the time.” It’s still a good idea. Great acidity, faint white peppery red fruit, namely raspberry and then that blush catalyst called texture. Salty, fruity, energetic and well-commanded. Proper. Drink 2018-2019.  Tasted April 2018 southbrookvineyards  thelivingvine  @SouthbrookWine  @TheLivingVine  Southbrook Vineyards  The Living Vine inc.

Malivoire Rosé Moira 2017, VQA Beamsville Bench, Ontario (Agent, $24.95, WineAlign)

Malivoire’s most important and benchmark Ontario Rosé is one of the first to the table from the 2017 vintage and why not because its quick soak and lightness of being takes no time at all to get ready. This is the antithetical beauty of Rosé and how it must be approached for best results. Malivoire does not take a step forward from the most perfect ’15 and ’16 wines but there is more fruit in this ’17. You can actually nose and taste strawberry plus a hint of tart raspberry. This will appeal to more of the general Rosé loving populace without any compromise for the provincial, provençal geeks everywhere else. It’s ostensibly a better wine in 2017 because it will attract that growing audience without having made any concessions or dis to authenticity. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted February 2018  malivoire  noble_estates  @MalivoireWine  @Noble_Estates  Malivoire Wine  Noble Estates Wine & Spirits

Hidden Bench Locust Lane Rosé 2017, VQA Beamsville Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (68833, $22.95, WineAlign)

Locust Lane is always in the echelon of premier Ontario Rosé and from a prized piece of real estate on the Beamsville Bench. This takes autumn warmth and bottles it as blush sunshine with zippy fraise cocktail essence and ever-berry flavour that goes on forever with an added good shake or two of maldon salt. Great quality right here and well worth the price of admission. Drink 2018-2020.  Tasted May 2018  hidden bench  markanthonyon  @HiddenBench @MarkAnthonyWine  Hidden Bench Estate Winery  Mark Anthony Wine & Spirits

Tawse Quarry Road Vineyard Rosé 2017, VQA Vinemount Ridge, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (Winery, $27.95, WineAlign)

The inaugural Tawse single-vineyard Rosé launches with a whisper, as Rosé should, from a saignée methodology in search of layering and structure. The way this pinot noir of Vinemount Ridge Quarry Road grapes lightly treads into this world means that it can build, layer and ultimately capture our attention. It’s decidedly dry and brings many fruit thoughts to the bowl but more than anything it’s lime-doused cherries, a shot of ginger bitters and the ever-proper feign of sweetness that really isn’t there. This is terrific varietal pinot noir in blush clothing, properly sour and briny to keep pace with similar renderings by cabernet franc. Drink 2018-2020.  Tasted June 2018   tawsewinery  @Tawse_Winery  Tawse Winery

Thirty Bench Small Lot Rosé 2017, VQA Beamsville Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (414227, $29.95, WineAlign)

“I am not in love, but I’m open to persuasion.” So tell me what a $30 Ontario Rosé can be. Here presents a next level of expectation from the Thirty Bench Small Lot and yes it obliges with a profile that begins in flavour bursts to supersedes its regional and price category. With open armed, elevated and trading hands this Small Lot at first offers pressed juicy fruit, then fresh picked strawberry and finally packets of fruity umami. The triumvirate workings of saignée cabernet sauvignon, cold-soaked pinot noir/pinot meunier and direct-pressed cabernet franc mean business. Rosé is meant to gift wrap an equation executed through chill, quaff and relax, which you can do with this example but it requires a little bit more attention. Give it that love if you’ve got the mind and the meditation, “but this time with a little dedication.” Sing it, sing it. Drink 2018-2020. Tasted May 2018  hirtybench  pellerwines  @ThirtyBench  @PellerVQA  @ThirtyBench  Andrew Peller(Andrew Peller Import)  Emma Garner

Pearl Morissette’s Svetlana Atcheva with Cuvée Roselana

Pearl Morissette Rosé Cuvée Roselana 2016, Ontario (Winery, $30.00, WineAlign)

Roselana is a gamay-pinot noir saignée blend that pulls no pleasure punches. “We like Rosé of colour, like Tavel,” notes Svetlana Atcheva, “but in a more accessible style.” Her name folds into a Rosé that was sold out as it was bottled, a blush of so much gifting flavour and unlimited pleasure. The specifics of aromatics, berry, citrus or otherwise defined tastes is not important. Just drink it. Next vintage. Drink 2018-2020. Tasted July 2017  pearlmorissette  @PearlMorissette  Pearl Morissette

Good to go!

Godello

Twitter: @mgodello

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WineAlign

Sicily in review

Nose deep at Baglio Christo di Campobello

Last week my first report from Sicilia en Primeur appeared over at WineAlign. I discussed the island’s amazing diversity of geography and how its producers have developed an uncanny ability in understanding of how to match their island’s multifarious and idiosyncratic varietal necessities to the über-specific demands of micro-climates and terroir. In that report 30 defining examples were explored and reviewed. In this Godello follow-up I offer up an expanded snapshot, with 45 additional tasting notes and dozens of images to highlight my eight days spent touring and tasting across bella Sicilia.

Related – Sicily’s varietal concentration: Measuring an island’s wealth in grape varieties, a journey through its winelands and tasting Sicilia en Primeur

~ ~ ~

As seen on WineAlign … Have you ever felt so at home or been so comfortable travelling as you have been in Sicily? If you’ve not been then you might not understand what I mean. Sicily is Casa quantu stai e tirrinu quantu viri, “home for as long as you need to be and land as far as the eye can see.” I always assumed it would be the water to captivate me, but from endless seas of wheat to grapevines covering plains, hills and terraces, it would always be about the land.

You might also think this island in the southern Mediterranean would ripen grapes with the sort of ease akin to some of the world’s warmest climates, like South Australia or the Western Cape of South Africa. Oh that it were so simple. In Sicily they say, Austu e riustu capu i mmennu, “after August, winter starts.” Growing grapes is truly a matter of place. You need to be specific with your grape varieties and match them to your micro-climate, but also your soils. This is a Sicilian necessity.

Inside the doorway there's me, endlessly thinking and working. ~ The author at Tenuta Regaleali

“Inside the doorway there’s me, endlessly thinking and working.” ~ The author at Tenuta Regaleali

A trip to Italy’s southern most wine region of a mere eight days is enough to be struck by the number of specificities Sicilian winemakers and producers have already figured out in order to make generational decisions. The success of any wine region depends on knowing where to denote qualitative probability so that it is possible to achieve the greatest results. This is the Burgundian model and yet Sicily’s vineyards are defined within a land of mono-estates, much like Tuscany in that its crus are single-owner farmed. This means that in order to qualify their best blocks and single-vineyards they must do so with ambition and ego. Unlike Tuscany the complication is much greater because they are not going at the exercise with just one grape. This might be looked at as a most difficult undertaking but if you own your problems and your decisions you can make it happen. In micro terms there are 23 DOCs and one DOCG. Go smaller and look at the hundreds upon hundreds of contrade, crus or small geographic areas defined in terms of soil types, including many layered volcanic lands. In macro terms this is also why the island has chosen to create an all encompassing category: Sicilia DOC. It is in fact the only DOC unanimously chosen to represent the region as a whole. In terms of size Sicily is equal to South Africa, Germany and three of New Zealand. Yes, it’s bigger than you would have thought.

Godello, Jessica Bordoni and Sharon van Minden

At Castellare di Castellina’s Niscemi outpost of Feudo di Pisciotto on the plain of Gela it is oenologist Marco Parisi who talks of their location six kilometres from the sea but even more about the specific micro-climate. He tells of a project called reliquendo, an investigative and experimental vineyard where they study 13 indigenous varieties nicknamed “relics” because they are cultivars that are no longer used. They continue to study these varieties just to check if some of them have the potential to become or return to be a variety good for wine production. The mixed plantings of red and white are then treated with micro-vinificatons. Parisi is also focused on nero d’avola. When he waxes about the island’s most important grape variety he refers to it as having a typical smell of straccio bagnato, the “air of wet cloth.”

Capo Milazzo, Sicily

Sicily is occupied by a variability of viticulture, rainfall, elevation and and soils. The diversity applies to nero d’avola as well, with so much variation in cluster and berry size, biotypes and clones. it’s just not the same grape everywhere it’s planted and grown; Menfi, Noto, Capo Milazzo, Vittoria and Etna. Noto has calcareous soils like Jerez and Champagne, not really comparable to anywhere else. Capo Milazzo is alluvial, deep soils, friables, out of rivers that came from the northern mountains. Menfi and the whole western side has energy and colour, violets, plum, chcolate and mint. Vittoria is red fruit in style, with bottle aging capacity, generally turning fruity to leafy and tobacco plus/minus chocolate. Noto is close by but it’s a mobile texture, silk and velvety tannins. Capo Milazzo’s proximity to the sea leads to salt, algae, black cherry and cypress. All this from Patricia Tóth of Planeta.

Feudo Principi Di Butera winemaker Antonio Paolo Froio

At Feudo Principi Di Butera winemaker Antonio Paolo Froio points out the mix of conditions just within the estate’s lands, eight kilometres from the sea and even greater, the importance of mountain influences. The variability of the calcareous soil provides very different results in (especially) nero d’avola. Three distinct parcels, Trapani in the west, the estate’s central plain and the “eastern theatre” are all planted to different clones. The west deals in fatter wines of lower acidities, the east in smaller, compact bunches and in the central plain, less compact bunches, bigger berries, high acidity and tannin. These revelations lead to correlations and being able to make desired blends in varietal wines. As a result Antonio’s wines are pre-emptive, planned with great foresight and always with a caution strike. They are focused, precise, clean, sophisticated, subtle and balanced.

Castello Falconara

At Baglio Del Cristo Di Campobello proprietor Carmello Bonetta delves deep into the highly specific and territorial chalky soils and a micro-climate of high day for night diurnal temperature fluctuations. The limestone/gypsum in this portion of Campobello di Licata is quartz-like though very fragmented and fragile and it is here where grillo, the child of zibibbo and cattarrato was born. Masseria del Feudo’s Carolina Cucurullo is a fourth generation farmer with two distinct vineyards in Caltasinetta and of the first producers to plant chardonnay, in 1991/1992.

Agronomist Davide Bacchiega, Tenuta Regaleali

Agronomist Davide Bacchiega, Tenuta Regaleali

You would have to search the island many times over to find an estate project with more research and experimentation behind it than that from Alberto Tasca of Tenuta Regaleali. There is no sea influence at Regaleali so higher diurnal temperature swings mean picking times are generally late September to late October. In Siciliy! Tasca tells us “you learn from the bees, to know if you are doing well.” And so the approach is sustainability, to measure impact, to grow regal varieties, use herbs and to create biodiversity in the vineyards. “Organic is too static,” says Tasca. “I prefer biodynamic. It’s more in touch with the land and the practices that associate with the land. Sustainability speaks the greatest to impact.” So he and agronomist Davide Bacchiega work with universities, learn about soil health, raise cover crops and sheep for ricotta.

Alberto Tasca, holding court at Tenuta Regaleali

The focus on syrah takes place at Moreale because it’s too cool and wet around the estate at Regaleali. There is experimentation with perricone, alberello bush vines for nero d’avola and cattarrato. Rain is collected in man made lakes, for use in arid vintages and for cleaning tanks. Rosemary and bay laurel grow everywhere. Inzolia is grown in the Barbabietole Vineyard and heritage vines are propagated by burying canes, waiting for budding, tying it down with an iron ring and then cutting a spur into the vines. This methodology and preservation helps to keeps the true nature and spirit of a wine like Rosso del Conte alive.

Melissa Muller and Fabio Sireci, Feudo Montoni

Which brings us to Feudo Montoni. Fabio Sireci’s secret world is found in the Contrada L’Homo Morto. This is the heart of Sicily, where provinces collide and in terms of elevation his estate is one of the highest (at 700m) and sits at the confluence of the winds, including the Sirocco that blows from North Africa.  There is also 350 days of sunlight, something the surrounding wheat fields quite enjoy. But in Sireci’s vineyards there is no search for heat and alcohol, only freshness, high acidity, low pH and long life. Fabio says “we do not have a marketing plan, we have only what the grapes give to us.” His pre-phylloxera nero d’avola Vrucara vineyard houses 100-plus year-old alberello bush vines. Just as they do at Regaleali, at Feudi Montoni they make use of propagine, the method of replacing spaces where century vines have passed on, by burying an arm, allowing it to take root and then splitting it to become it’s own ungrafted plant. It’s quite simple. You can’t graft onto vines so old. “Everything here is stopped in time.”

Feudi Montoni, L’Homo Morto, Siclia

Feudo Montoni’s history goes back 1500 years with Roman records indicating that in the sixth century there was a notation of this field as being a place where specific biotypes of vines thrived. If Fabio could ever get past his inferiority complex perhaps he’d celebrate such knowledge. His vineyard is that special, 30 of 80 hectares planted are all his, il nanismo, “the dwarf estate.” Fabio and his partner Melissa Muller make 25 vinifications of the same grape, every year. Talk about experimentation and dedication to varietal understanding. “I love my land and we choose the best areas to bring my wines to the world,” he says with no complex whatsoever. Whites (grillo, cattarrato and inzolia) are planted at the highest elevations, where the iron and the magnesium rule. The lower parts are sandy, from erosion, with the presence of fossils and shells from an ancient sea. There is also black soil, with humus, layered, stratified, above the argilo, clay and sand. This is where you find Vrucara. “It’s easy to make good wine, more or less” says Fabio, “but we need to transfer the soul of the vineyard into the wine. Please don’t take me for a crazy person.” No chance of that Fabio. What about nero d’avola? “It’s like a crazy horse,” he insists, “wild and crazy young, then slowly refines. It needs micro-oxygenation and producers shouldn’t look at it with the market in mind.” He finishes by asking “What is nero d’avola? Look at a map of Sicily,” is the answer.

Palermo

After visits to Feudi di Pisciotto, Feudo Principi Di Butera, Baglio Del Cristo Di Campobello, Masseria del Feudo, Tenuta Regaleali and Feudo Montoni I travelled to take part in the Sicilia En Primeur events. In Palermo I took part in a walking tour of the city. The original one day stroll through the city of Palermo concentrated on baroque and contemporary art. The tour highlighted the urban changes of the seventeenth century Palermo and the originality of Giacomo Serpotta’s sculptures together with contemporary works of art from both public and private collections: Palazzo Belmonte Riso – Regional Museum of Contemporary Art; Galleria Francesco Pantaleone at the Quattro Canti; Palazzo Butera – Massimo and Francesca Valsecchi Collection (a building site due to open on June 15th for Manifesta 12, the European biennial of contemporary art, opening in the city in mid June); Palazzo Torremuzza with the Bevilacqua collection of contemporary art (to be confirmed as it is a private house, normally not open to the public). Starting from the Quattro Canti, the baroque heart of the city, continuing to Piazza Bologni with Palazzo Belmonte Riso and ending at Palazzo Butera on the waterfront, art historian and contemporary art curator, Valentina Bruschi illustrated the most interesting antique and contemporary works of art.

#notthesame ~ #quattrocanti #palermo #siciliaep18 #siciliaenprimeur #fourcorners

In Palermo we listened intently to a panel discussing the current state of Sicily’s wine industry and its connection to the city. The presentations by Maurizio Gily, Mattia Filippi (Assovini Sicilia), Antonio Rallo (Sicila DOC), Planeta’s Alessio Planeta and Palermo Mayor Leoluca Orlando all looked to connect the island by the phrase stato stazione delle una perfetta, meaning the union is currently situated in a perfect state, working together for the common good.

Fountain of Shame, Palermo

More than 100 journalists representing a total of 22 countries took part in the recently concluded edition of Sicilia en Primeur, a preview of Sicilian wines organized by Assovini Sicilia. As Palermo is the Capital of Culture for 2018, the city’s Palazzo Riso, Museo d’Arte Contemporanea della Sicilia was chosen as the backdrop for the tastings, masterclasses and meetings with wine producers, confirming once again the increasing amount of attention that the island’s wine industry is attracting from all over the world. By the numbers 53 wineries participated in the event, 450 wines were presented for tasting in the wine producer halls (50 of which were en primeur tastings), 360 wines were presented in the tasting hall, 144 wines were on the wine list, 103 Magnums and five standing room only masterclasses.

Sicilia en Primeur Press Conference, Museo Riso, Palermo

Sicilia en Primeur Press Conference, Museo Riso, Palermo

Potential was also stressed by the mayor Orlando. In his speech he explained “this city, like the island’s wine industry, has managed to overcome its challenges and now, thanks to the commitment of many, it has become the Capital of Culture. In Palermo, we have witnessed a cultural change and the same applies to the world of wine: we know how to work together to use our Mediterranean origins to our best advantage. To draw an analogy between the experiences of Palermo and Sicilian wine, it is fair to say that we have managed to reconcile the roots and the wings of our existence. A metaphor indicating our respect for the past and commitment to the future.” The mayor summarized his message with three words about his city of Palermo. “Exciting, safe and inexpensive.”

Palazzo Butera Palermo

The decision to allow producers and bottlers across the island to bottle under the appellative umbrella code of Sicilia DOC has led to a 124 per cent increase in the number of bottles produced compared to the first two months of 2017. “Just reward for quality and control,” says Antonio Rallo, Chairman of the Sicilia DOC consortium, also known as Consorzio di Tutela Vini Doc Sicilia. “This growth data is no surprise to us and confirms the level of interest companies are showing in the Sicilia DOC designation. An important element is that all of the Sicilian DOCs showed a pattern of growth in the first two months of 2018, confirming, as in the rest of Italy, that our aim is increasingly focused on a designation system capable of guaranteeing greater quality and controls throughout the entire supply chain, both in Italy and abroad.”

Missed flight first order of business #espresso

Take nero d’avola and now grillo as great examples of how Sicily has wrapped their arms around native grape varieties to create market share. Both grillo and nero d’avola can only be sold under the Sicilia DOC label. Grillo’s achievement as a top 10 selling Italian white wine confirms the legitimacy of this decision and above all that consumers have greater confidence in a product that is protected and guaranteed. “We are very proud of the results obtained for our Sicilian Grillo wines, which further confirms the growth trend of the Sicilia DOC label,” remarked Rallo, “but in particular it highlights how safeguarding autochthonous vines can bring excellent results in terms of sales and induce greater confidence in a market that is increasingly aware of the importance of purchasing a traceable product. The adoption of monitoring and control activities highlights the value of our vine varieties and acknowledges the importance of a controlled and guaranteed supply chain.”

Sicila en Primeur, May 2018

Sicila en Primeur, May 2018

My tastings across the island engaged no less than nine important grape varieties, plus the region’s most celebrated blend and only DOCG, Cerasuolo di Vittoria. The opportunities to taste happened during visits to the six aforementioned properties and the three-day intensive gathering in Palermo for Sicilia en Primeur. The four-part opportunity was split between Sommelier service, Masterclasses, walk around producer one-on-ones and a private morning hotel tasting from bottles generously offered by several producers and graciously collected by the JustSicily and Sopexa staff. The week’s wines included the whites; grillo, inzolia, carricante and cattarrato, plus the reds; nero d’avola, nerello mascalese, syrah, frappato and perricone. Most of the island’s table wines fall directly under the all-encompassing and smartly organized denomination of DOC Sicilia, with notable exceptions labeled as IGT Terre Siciliane. Deeper investigations took in the volcanic specialities of DOC Etna Bianco, Rosso and Rosato. Then there were wines from characteristic locations (and communes) such as Sclafani Bagni, Noto, Campbello di Licata, Milazzo, Niscemi, Cammarata, Mozia, Caltanissetta, Menfi, Butera, Acate and Vittoria. Here are my reviews of 75 wines tasted in Sicily.

Tasting through the range of Planeta Winery with winemaker Patricia Tóth ~ Image (c) Pasquale Buffa

Tasting through the range of Planeta Winery with winemaker Patricia Tóth ~ Image (c) Pasquale Buffa

Inzolia, Grillo and Catarratto

Masseria del Feudo Inzolia Sicilia DOC 2017, Sicily, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

From vineyards in Caltasinetta at 450m, organic, picked in the third week of September. Wild ferment and done up in stainless steel. The inzolia with the most amount of lemon and orange peel to nose, it’s a very fruity and ripe rendition with the classic metallic tang and pith bitter finish. But it’s soft, amenable and gracious. Solid, non-agreesive inzolia. Drink 2018-2019.  Tasted May 2018  masseria.del.feudo  @fcucurullo  Masseria del Feudo

The lacquer of #polpo @ Baglio Cristo di Campobello

Feudo Principi Di Butera Insolia Sicilia DOC 2017, Sicily, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

Seró is 100 per cent insolia, a selection of finest limestone parcels subjected to a very cold and extended maceration. Table sorting selection eliminates the smallest and least effective berries and then, a soft crush. Certainly an increase in texture and ripeness with both phenolic and sugar/alcohol but still comes across as the leaner, less tangy and oxidative style typical of winemaker Antonio Paolo Froio’s directive. Also an increase in tropical fruit aromatics. The aim is for a certain amount of longevity and this should extend three to four years though more than five would be a stretch. It’s a trial and the curiosity factor is one full of intrigue. Drink 2018-2020.  Tasted May 2018  feudobutera  Zonin  francescozonin  Sebastien Ouellet  zonin1821  FeudoButera  Antonio Paolo Froio  Zonin  Francesco Zonin

Feudo Montoni Inzolia Dei Fornelli Sicilia DOC 2017, Sicily, Italy (539932, $22.95, WineAlign)

“Inzolia sometimes is afraid of Inzolia,” says Fabio Sireci, “so it is so often mixed with chardonnay, because it’s considered too neutral.” In Montoni’s hands it has been a varietal wine for a few years now, learning from micro-vinifications, practicing, seeing what it needs. Here it comes with a combination of peach and citrus, saline without tasting at all of salt and so, what is this? It’s the sedimentary rock and the varietal soul. How else to explain the magic? Come un lama, like a blade, cutting through fruit that came bled from stone. Implosive impressionistic tang, thriving in the mouth. Terrific texture, like a laser. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted May 2018  feudo_montoni  @FABIOSIRECI  Fabio Sireci Feudo Montoni (Fabio Sireci)  @feudomontoni

Masseria del Feudo Grillo Sicilia DOC 2017, Sicily, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

Also from the vineyards in Caltasinetta, similar to the inzolia but an earlier pick (third week of August), wild ferment, same altitude, a rich and even creamy grillo but with a clarity defined by the trace elemental-mineral push of the vineyard. Orange segmented and a touch of grapefruit, peach skin, a slight pith, no barrel but characterized by lees. Might develop a honeyed note in a year which can only elevate the sense of balance. Drink 2018-2020.  Tasted May 2018  masseria.del.feudo  @fcucurullo  Masseria del Feudo

Love me a little lean and focused #grillo in the morning

Feudo Principi Di Butera Grillo DOC Sicilia 2017, Sicily, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

The estate’s vineyards for grillo are upwards at 500m above sea level and the treatment is considered in many ways like what would be done for sauvignon blanc. A minor reduction means locked in freshness and grillo takes a turn towards snappy green apple fruit. It’s also terpenic, with white and yellow flowers, good persistence and the veering to the verdant side of the spectrum with a classic Butera lean strike. Drink 2018-2020.  Tasted May 2018  feudobutera  Zonin  francescozonin  Sebastien Ouellet  zonin1821  FeudoButera  Antonio Paolo Froio  Zonin  Francesco Zonin

Feudo Montoni Grillo Sicilia DOC Timpa 2017, Sicily, Italy (111252, $22.95, WineAlign)

Grillo here is warmer, fuller and more intense than 2016. This zibbibo and catarratto cross can’t help but see, feel, hear and sense all that it comes from, with a catarratto lucido heritage, more laser-like, with layered citrus, honest, clear and transparent but more aromatic and a minor note of akin to certain southern aromatic varieties. Orange zest and fennel broth mix with real fruit and the omnipresent stoniness. Drink 2018-2023.  Tasted May 2018  feudo_montoni  @FABIOSIRECI  Fabio Sireci Feudo Montoni (Fabio Sireci)  @feudomontoni

Feudo Montoni Grillo Sicilia DOC Timpa 2016, Sicily, Italy (111252, $22.95, WineAlign)

Fabio Sireci’s 2016 grillo carries the aromatics of sugary fruit with exceptional ripeness with thanks to long, slow and perfectly developed phenolics and of course, altitude in Sicily. The mouthfeel is magic with tropical lychee, mangosteen and green mango flavours. These are not aromas but actual flavours. From a member of “schizophrenic grapes that include it and vermentino,” personalities that split and divide depending on harvest time. This is picked early enough to avoid a terpene and gooseberry-figgy wine. Lemon, mint and musk all come in to play but it is the tropical fruit and pure acidity that take the reigns. The absolute level of elegant tart incarnate. So good. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted July 2017.  feudo_montoni  @FABIOSIRECI  Fabio Sireci Feudo Montoni (Fabio Sireci)  @feudomontoni

Carnage for two please, By Bye Blues @ Mondello Beach

Planeta Grillo Terebinto Menfi DOC 2017, Sicliy, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

Planeta’s varietal grillo is raised at Cantina Ulmo in Menfi, a western Sicilian outpost where pebbly-inlaid deep soils are found around Lake Arancio. The terebinth is a Sicilian shrub with glossy fronds. a.k.a. Pistacia Terebinthus or white pistachio, used as rootstock for pistachio production. The Menfi grillo is pulled from a low lying clay vineyard at 50m. Aromatics and texture are equally rich at maximum ripeness as bottled sunshine, pomelo sago unctuous and so consumable. Mango trees are actually in the same family as pistachio but of more interest is the fact that the female trees produce the nuts while the male produces the pollen. Sounds familiar, not to mention that male and female pistachio trees are often grafted together to bring about pollination. Drink 2018-2019.  Tasted May 2018  planetawinery  plant dependent  noble_estates   @PlanetaWinery  @Noble_Estates  @planetawinery  Tóth Patricia  @NobleEstates

Baglio Del Cristo Di Campobello Grillo Sicilia DOC Lalùci 2017, Sicily, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

Lalùci in Sicilian dialect means “the lights” or in terms of financial crisis, carry on, stay the course, “keep the lights on.” As a solo artist (100 per cent) grillo carries a lemony freshness that gets lost in bianco (blends) and along with this citrus there too is a pith bitterness. Herbs are also in play, mainly thyme and a faint but deliciously subtle rosemary. What trumps the bianco is the seamless transition to palate weight, with a move to more tropical flavours, almost mango but certainly peach. A taste of 2009 shows can girl can age so stash one or two away for some early twenties fun. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted May 2018  cristodicampobello  campobello_wine  cristodicampobello

Baglio Del Cristo Di Campobello Grillo Sicilia DOC Lalùci 2009, Sicily, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

The nine year-old grillo’s lemon is intensified, preserved, reduced to a curd’s flavour and consistency, now the light at the end of a dark tunnel. it’s a symbolic, if almost mythical bottle, only five Lalùci (now four) left in this world and certainly a romantic ideal. The lights are still on, the project still in operation and the family fully entrenched, exaggeratedly excited and carrying the torch from papa Bonetta. This is a lovely older wine, really well-aged, still alive, impressive in its longevity. Drink 2018-2020.  Tasted May 2018  cristodicampobello  campobello_wine  cristodicampobello

#pecore di Regaleali

Tasca D’Almerita Grillo Mozia DOC 2016, Sicily, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

This grape grows in particular among the salt flats of the Marsala Pond on the small island of Mozia, an environmental and archeological gem where the Phoenicians once passed through. There are 17 hectares of grillo di Mozia, with oenologist Giacomo Ansaldi at the fore, bush system (Alberello) planted vines on sandy soils and a pruning system with 10 buds on the cane to guarantee production but also to protect from wind, sun and heat. The grapes are sent over by boat to Regaleali for production. The grillo sees four months on the lees and while it was a challenging vintage with no rain from April to September, nature and the sea always bring temperature fluctuations. Excellent grillo here, sapid, rich and very mineral from vines deeply in search of trace elements. The marine influence in notable so this is like no other with a sémillon character but still with grillo fruit. Might develop some honey. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted May 2018  tascadalmerita  @TascaWine  Alberto Tasca  Tenuta Regaleali  Tasca d’Almerita

Tasca D’Almerita Catarratto Sicilia DOC Antisa 2017, Sicily, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

Antisa is planted in the highest part of the estate, is harvested late, after nero d’avola, as well as perricone. It’s a vine that deals with heat and aridity stress better than grillo. This from Tasca is deeply rendered catarratto, of metallics and orange blossom, sapid again but with a candied floral that transfers to the palate and with more persistence. Pure lemon all over the finish. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted May 2018  tascadalmerita  @TascaWine  Alberto Tasca  Tenuta Regaleali  Tasca d’Almerita

Feudo Montoni Catarratto Sicilia DOC Masso 2017, Sicily, Italy (111252, $22.95, WineAlign)

Catarratto by Fabio Sireci is salty and sapid of course, carrying the name of the vineyard in the Contrada L’Homo Morto, Masso meaning “hill of rock.” It is point of fact catarratto that is cultivated at the highest point on the estate. Brings a clean and bright clarity, clarified through inox and then into cement tank. Few catarratto will deliver this balance between fruit and stone, with a calm warmth that settles on your palate. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted May 2018  feudo_montoni  @FABIOSIRECI  Fabio Sireci Feudo Montoni (Fabio Sireci)  @feudomontoni

Mazzei Zisola Asiza Sicilia DOC 2017, Sicily, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

This is third vintage of Zisola’s Azisa, finding great success even though Filippo resisted planting white grapes. The blend is grillo and catarratto of balance and decadence, ripeness from vintage, rich, summery, full of fruit and just a hint of skin contact. Drink 2018-2019.  Tasted May 2018  marchesimazzei  profilewinegroup  @MarchesiMazzei  @ProfileWineGrp  Marchesi Mazzei – Castello di Fonterutoli  Profile Wine Group

Missed flight fourth order of business @byebyebluesPA #mondello

Nero d’Avola

Feudo Principi Di Butera Spumante Brut Sicilia DOC Neroluce, Sicily, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

This Charmat method sparkler is made from the dark-skinned nero d’avola and its impossibly pale hue makes the oxymoron that much more incredible. Picked mid August it smells like deep and dark red fruit and because it carries a naturally high number of natural sugar there is in no real need for dosage. Smooth, balanced, calm and fit with just the right amount of buoyant acidity. Drink 2018-2019.  Tasted May 2018  feudobutera  Zonin  francescozonin  Sebastien Ouellet  zonin1821  FeudoButera  Antonio Paolo Froio  Zonin  Francesco Zonin

Mazzei Zisola Noto Rosso Sicilia DOC 2016, Sicily, Italy (303925, $19.95, WineAlign)

Tasted with Filippo Mazzei in Palermo, Noto Rosso is nero d’avola from the Cantina in Sicily owned and operated by the Castellina in Chianti estate that produces Fonterutoli. A stainless ferment is followed by 50 per cent aging in stainless and 50 in 2nd and 3rd passage oak barrels, It’s a perfectly rich and plummy nero with great red liquorice tang and a distinction to celebrate pure, honest commerce. Very nero, very Noto. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted May 2018  marchesimazzei  profilewinegroup  @MarchesiMazzei  @ProfileWineGrp  Marchesi Mazzei – Castello di Fonterutoli  Profile Wine Group

Feudo Principi Di Butera Nero D’avola Sicilia DOC 2016, Sicily, Italy (Winery, $18.95, WineAlign)

Really complex perfume, jumping from the glass, fresh, vital, from large plantings that make up more than 50 per cent of the agriculture. It’s both dark red fruit expressive and also herbal, of fennel and then a territorial limestone impression running through the fruit. Quite chewy and expansive in the mouth, all a result of stainless fermentations followed by older, larger barrels, 30 and 50 hL. Gives a broad, soft, elasticized and stretched palate texture with no departure from varietal and place. Very focused, clean, modern interpretation with no excesses, attitude or conceit, nor ambition neither. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted May 2018  feudobutera  Zonin  francescozonin  Sebastien Ouellet  zonin1821  FeudoButera  Antonio Paolo Froio  Zonin  Francesco Zonin

Terre Di Giurfo Nero d’Avola Sicilia DOC Kuntari 2014, Sicily, Italy (Winery, $19.50, WineAlign)

Kuntari is where the classicism of soil meets barrel-driven nero d’avola is fixed at the twain so that high tonality raises the awareness of sun-worshipped fruit. While that is happening there is no love lost at the vortex of that union because it is blessed by tannin. Plum dusty and full of medicinal herbs this brings back the past and a most recent account of how nero d’avola arrived at this place and time. It’s a big nero, warm, grippy and powerful. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted May 2018  terredigiurfo  cavinonawine  @terredigiurfoIT   @Cavinona  Terre di Giurfo  Cavinona – Italian Wine Delivered

Pasta al Forno, by Melissa Muller

Feudo Montoni Nero d’Avola Sicilia DOC Lagnusa 2016, Sicily, Italy (523738, $22.95, WineAlign)

Lagnusa is a nickname though Fabio Sireci doesn’t clarify if its him, or perhaps his father, or a farmer on the property. These nero d’avola vines come from grafts taken off of the ancient Vrucara. Fabio’s “entry-level” nero is one of a younger, youthful maturity and a prune-cinnamon-salumi trilogy, with only a hint of wood, micro-oxidation by cement vats and ultimately fruit-earth-black sandy stone earth balance. Always the Cammarata comune in the Province of Agrigento Montoni sapidity, of grit, grip, strength and understanding. A double rainbow might just appear after a sip of this regional nero d’avola from the Montoni property. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted May 2018  feudo_montoni  @FABIOSIRECI  Fabio Sireci Feudo Montoni (Fabio Sireci)  @feudomontoni

Planeta Nero d’Avola Sicilia DOC Plumbago 2016, Sicily, Italy (Agent, $24.99, WineAlign)

Plumbago the nero d’avola from Menfi and the purple wildflower that grows in the woods and around the farmhouse at Planeta’s Ulmo estate. Lake Arancio is the vineyard location for the downiest nero in town. Soft in terms of fruit but high acidity full of pulse and energy, a tart intensity and a brushed swath of current, in every colour, crack-scented, tang-sapid and liquid chalky textured. The homes are 3rd and 4th passage barriques and tonneaux plus a year in bottle to market. Lovely balance on the high beams caught in the frame of the headlights. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted May 2018  planetawinery  plant dependent  noble_estates   @PlanetaWinery  @Noble_Estates  @planetawinery  Tóth Patricia  @NobleEstates

Baglio Del Cristo Di Campobello Nero d’Avola DOC Sicilia Lu Patri 2015, Sicily, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

In Sicilian dialect Lu Patri means “the father,” explains Carmello Bonetta, “which is really my father but also every father” and the variety is the father of them all. At Cristo Di Campobello nero d’avola plays the part of everyone’s father, including the evocation of the religious one, the most representative. Here the specific chalky limestone works with grape variety and peeks through despite the make up, bringing a zinging, ripping, tart and tangy nd’a with energy and that classic acidity. Also the classic amaro bitters, part burnt orange, part liquorice and part fennochio. This should age with stony ease. Drink 2020-2027.  Tasted May 2018  cristodicampobello  campobello_wine  cristodicampobello

Baglio Del Cristo Di Campobello Nero d’Avola Sicilia DOC Lu Patri 2009, Sicily, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

We tasted two bottles of Lu Patri 2009, the first being a bit muted, not very evolved, a character that could be described as one of slow micro-oxygenation. In the second a minute advancement and I agree with Carmelo that this is preferable, because by now it is clear that all of his wines get better with age. They are not that much fun when stuck inertia-like in their undeveloped youth. The evolution at this stage has brought wild cherry, part fresh (Yes!) and part dried. The acidity is linear up and down the sides of the mouth and the length exceptional. First wine with true chocolate and espresso ahead of the balsamico. The last supper nero d’avola. Truly. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted May 2018  cristodicampobello  campobello_wine  cristodicampobello

Tasca D’Almerita Nero d’Avola IGT Terre Siciliane Lamùri 2016, Sicily, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

Lamùri is 100 per cent nero d’avola from a 2002 initiated project where it was decided to do research and bring some quality love to the grape. “L’amour” (l’amore) in Sicilian, this selection is from two high altitude (450m) vineyards with time spent in some oak barriques of 2nd and 3rd use, to savour, flavour and spice, which it does, without make-up or cake baking. It’s all red fruit, some dried, with a fennel, bay laurel herb-crust. Florala, sapid as all these wines are, ropey and with fine acidity. Drink 2019-2023.  Tasted May 2018  tascadalmerita  @TascaWine  Alberto Tasca  Tenuta Regaleali  Tasca d’Almerita

A missed flight due to strike opens the door to more #degustazione now with the archetypes of @vdawinery ~ #cerasuolodivittoria

Valle dell’Acate Nero d’Avola Sicilia DOC Il Moro Limited Edition 2015, Sicily, Italy (Agent, $34.95, WineAlign)

This speciality of nero d’avola is labeled vendemmia da uva ultramatura, an understatement for the rich, black earth and steady Mediterranean sun that forms a crust and injects a voluminous, mineral liquid intensity to capture earth and sky. Il Moro could be the Moor, of Arabic identity, dark-haired or dark-skinned, certainly apropos for the grape and for the cimmerian yet transparent action of this wine. Let it breathe, settle and exhale. This will ready itself at just about the same time as the ’14 which makes it just a touch more amenable and in turn, beautiful. Drink 2021-2028.  Tasted May 2018  vdawineryValle dell’Acate  halpernwine  @VdaWinery  @HalpernWine  Valle dell’Acate  Halpern Wine

Valle dell’Acate Nero d’Avola Sicilia DOC Il Moro Limited Edition 2014, Sicily, Italy (Agent, $34.95, WineAlign)

Il Moro is a child of a wholly antithetical vintage and this particular brooding Moor of a nero d’avola is actually the reductive one as compared to 2015. The vintage will clearly deliver more age ability as the fruit is locked in tight behind an iron, black soil curtain. Sun is a factor but there is more understated wealth and probably balance here, though it’s not nearly as gregarious and open as ’15, which is saying alot. The fruit seems richer and the violets are everywhere. Drink 2021-2029.  Tasted May 2018  vdawineryValle dell’Acate  halpernwine  @VdaWinery  @HalpernWine  Valle dell’Acate  Halpern Wine

Azienda Agricola Cos Nero Di Lupo IGT Terre Siciliane 2016, Sicily, Italy (Agent, $36.95, WineAlign)

Nero di Lupo is the “black wolf,” a would be reference to the nero d’avola grape variety and specific to how it grows in this southern Sicilian clime. Perhaps a sheep in wolf’s clothing, pecore in abiti da lupo, there is this docile, domicile quality but with teeth and bite behind. Don’t poke this bear and don’t expect it to lay down, soften and play dead any time soon. It’s a tightly knit nero d’avola, spun with fine natural acidity and even finer tannin. The dark rooted, soil driven fruit is earthy but in a wholly sapid and structured way. Are there any other nero d’avola that taste like this? Methinks not. Drink 2019-2028.  Tasted May 2018  giustoocchipinti  thelivingvine  #COSwinery   @TheLivingVine  AZIENDA AGRICOLA COS  The Living Vine inc.

Valle dell’Acate Nero d’Avola Vittoria DOC Tané 2013, Sicily, Italy (Agent, WineAlign)

Tané is from the eastern part of the island in Bidini Contrada. Now falling under the auspices of the Vittoria DOC this 100 per cent nero d’Avola used to be labeled as IGT Sicilia Rosso (through 2011 and there was no production in 2012). Extremely low, not totally commercially viable yields deliver this intense, extracted, concentrated and grippy nero in the way of let’s say, Ruché but with deeply layered and furthered phenolics. A big wine with solid architecture and a wild, floral intensity needs time and a carefully selected Sicilian arrosto. The tanned one is certainly kissed by the Mediterranean sun and rendered deeply hematic by the dark red soil of Bidini. Drink 2021-2029.  Tasted May 2018  vdawineryValle dell’Acate  halpernwine  @VdaWinery  @HalpernWine  Valle dell’Acate  Halpern Wine

Mazzei Zisola Noto Rosso Sicilia DOC Doppiozeta 2015, Sicily, Italy (SAQ 11792138, $39.75, WineAlign)

Doppiozetta is from two single estate parcels in vineyards and a then selection of top grapes from there, while the name seems to denote double the Latin numeral septem, meaning seven. Not sure if this should be two sevens of two times seven or maybe even two (or twice) the decimal unit prefix in the metric system denoting a factor of 10 to the 21st power. Regardless, the mathematical concentration of this Sicilian iconic original and most important wine of the estate is impressive. It is made with a selection of endemic nero d’avola, rigorously bush trained, a self-professed “super nero,” and the real usage of Doppiozeta highlights the ZZ-top core of the Mazzei name. This nero d’avola is fresher and higher toned, more floral with a ferric push, mineral though as if by shells of the sea, full and Mazzei structured, needing some time. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted May 2018  marchesimazzei  profilewinegroup  @MarchesiMazzei  @ProfileWineGrp  Marchesi Mazzei – Castello di Fonterutoli  Profile Wine Group

Planeta Noto DOC Santa Cecilia 2015, Sicily, Italy (Agent, $54.99, WineAlign)

The first vintage was in the late 90s and the appellation eventually became DOC Noto, with the initial vintage of 2003 having been where it was fully done in Noto, but 2008 is the official DOC recognition. This is when both Noto and Sicilia are on the label for the DOC to be recognized as 100 per cent nero d’Avola. Comes by way of the white chalky soils of Noto and is deceptively rich, deeply rendered, of an incredible acidity, dark and viscous fruit. There is so much happening in violet florals and light. Did I mention the acidity, amazingly linear but waiting to circle and become ringing. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted May 2018  planetawinery  plant dependent  noble_estates   @PlanetaWinery  @Noble_Estates  @planetawinery  Tóth Patricia  @NobleEstates

Planeta Noto DOC Santa Cecilia 2014, Sicily, Italy (Agent, $54.99, WineAlign)

Didn’t think it would be the case but 2014 has just begun to accept a peak behind the curtain into the world of where it may be going. Just a minor Noto note of development, a first peeled layer, one strip of wood and veneer shed. So very strawberry, rolled up and compressed, from the wet vintage that followed a dry winter. It’s still a bit tight, with linear acids and a great concern of purpose and strength. Not the most structured Santa Cecila of all time but certainly built for a 10 year run. Drink 2018-2024.  Tasted May 2018  planetawinery  plant dependent  noble_estates   @PlanetaWinery  @Noble_Estates  @planetawinery  Tóth Patricia  @NobleEstates

Planeta Noto DOC Santa Cecilia 2011, Sicily, Italy (Agent, $54.99, WineAlign)

Santa Cecilia from 2011 is a special nero d’avola, balanced in silent but sweetly deadly acquiescence of Noto’s white chalky soils. Her tannins are abundant and smooth, running in one direction and so it’s a wonder how un-evolved and yet so involved this nero d’avola is equipped to believe about and with great kindred spirit with itself. That it presents this youthful and yet to advance is a thing magical and sincere. Inner strength is one thing but outward beauty is the real deal. Or is it the other way around? Either way they combine for one of Cecilia’s greatest acuity and remainder of structure. Drink 2018-2026.  Tasted May 2018  planetawinery  plant dependent  noble_estates   @PlanetaWinery  @Noble_Estates  @planetawinery  Tóth Patricia  @NobleEstates

Planeta Noto DOC Santa Cecilia 2007, Sicily, Italy (Agent, $54.99, WineAlign)

Time has been kind to Santa Cecilia Noto 2007, sidled along and preparing a path laid out with dried fruit, tobacco and black currant-Cassis development. There is this cool eucalyptus, menthol, chinese herbal medicine, cola and chocolate combing and combining that lingers for longer than the road to Noto. In just a two week span I was blessed to taste vintages ’07, ’08, ’11, ’14 and ’15 and I’ve come to a conclusion. No two Noto nero d’avola by Patricia Tóth are alike and the theories of relativity need not apply. They are snowflakes and children of singular personalities. But they all speak one of Sicily’s clearest and most transparent brands of nero d’avola vernacular. The language of 2007 is savoury, mild mannered Mediterranean and structured, but never grippy or too firm. It’s just right. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted May 2018  planetawinery  plant dependent  noble_estates   @PlanetaWinery  @Noble_Estates  @planetawinery  Tóth Patricia  @NobleEstates

Feudo Principi Di Butera Nero D’avola Sicilia DOC Deliella 2015, Sicily, Italy (Winery, $55.00, WineAlign)

Deliella is a selection in the vineyard, from edgy, prurient and analytical investigations in special vineyard blocks with maximum of five bunches per vine to find more concentration from each vine. It’s actually quite a taut and reserved nero d’avola with a slow release of aromatics and charm, dark liquid fruit chalky, structured and quite calm. Takes its time but the acidity carefully climbs up and down the sides of the mouth to stress its position in the overall architecture. Aged in 30 hL casks (and larger tonneaux) for 14 months. There will be some extended longevity here, not forever but likely five to seven years. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted May 2018  feudobutera  Zonin  francescozonin  Sebastien Ouellet  zonin1821  FeudoButera  Antonio Paolo Froio  Zonin  Francesco Zonin

Feudo Principi Di Butera Nero D’avola Sicilia DOC Deliella 2014, Sicily, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

Deliella for nero d’avola ’14 is clearly a different vintage but a year in bottle has helped to release the early aromatics, even if it’s a more savoury and herbal than fruit matter at this stage. The red berries and plums are studded by sprigs of rosemary, the calcari runs through chalky and flashes its committed comet-commute trail of fine tannin. Close your eyes and try to really enjoy the fruit that fills the mid-palate you don’t yet see from 2015 and will no longer come from vintages as old as 2005. Ultimately it is the integration and fineness of the moving parts recognized for greater harmony from this vintage. Drink 2018-2023.  Tasted May 2018  feudobutera  Zonin  francescozonin  Sebastien Ouellet  zonin1821  FeudoButera  Antonio Paolo Froio  Zonin  Francesco Zonin

Feudo Principi Di Butera Nero D’avola Sicilia DOC Deliella 2005, Sicily, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

At 13 years you can see how the time that has passed goes beyond what the grape is really capable of, though these tertiary aromas are more than curious and in fact they are charming to the point of fascinating. Figs and caramel-balsamico reduction but also dried red fruits, like a cross between plum and liquorice with accent by fennel, rosemary and mint. It’s interesting that the acidity is still a part of the Deliella effort, saying something real about this territory, the three-part vineyard harmony, these chosen clones and how age develops along with balancing nero d’avola energies. Finishes saline and you need to linger with it to see what will happen. Not quite time to close the book. Drink 2018-2019. Tasted May 2018  feudobutera  Zonin  francescozonin  Sebastien Ouellet  zonin1821  FeudoButera  Antonio Paolo Froio  Zonin  Francesco Zonin

Soils of Feudo Montoni

Feudo Montoni Nero d’Avola Sicilia DOC Vrucara 2014, Sicily, Italy (111286, $58.00, WineAlign)

Vrucara is labeled by cru on the front label and only as varietal on the back because the place is the most important ingredient, so that the grape can be separated from not only the rest of the estate but also from the rest of Sicilia. Only this cru does this for nero d’Avola. Only Vrucara and its ungrafted pre-phylloxera, European 100 plus year-old wisdom knows the soul of place to transfer into wine. It is a wine that has already developed the acumen it will carry through life. Freshness and acidity are a right from birth and need six or seven years to not move into secondary life but to begin at all. Acidity is upward of 8.2 g/L of tA and it lifts not just fruit but soul. Vrucara is wild grass that lives under the vine, in the words of Fabio Sireci “not a wine to make but a wine to protect.” A wine that carries the torch, flag, signature and emblem of estate, varietal and island. There are 4500 bottles produced Drink 2019-2031.  Tasted May 2018  feudo_montoni  @FABIOSIRECI  Fabio Sireci Feudo Montoni (Fabio Sireci)  @feudomontoni

Feudo Montoni Nero d’Avola DOC Sicilia Vrucara 2008, Sicily, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

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

Cerasuolo di Vittoria

Feudi Del Pisciotto Cerasuolo Di Vittoria DOCG Giambattista Valli 2016, Sicily, Italy (Agent, $36.95, WineAlign)

Giambattista Valli Cerasuolo di Vittoria is 60 per cent nero d’Avola and 40 frappato, in attest of 14 per cent alcohol, a terrific vintage and 10 months in barrique. Exceptionally aromatic, this is a perfume of great ambition as it almost smells like American oak but it’s only French, with creosote, vanilla, lavender and tarragon. Rich in mixed soil impart, from sand and clay. It’s a very deep impression, tasting like pomegranate concentrate, with plenty of acidity and fine, mild tannins. It’s so very purple, as in its phenolic fruit content and consistent, slow maturation. There was no speeding up of the polyphenolics from overly hot summer months. Made for whole cuts of beef, cooked rare and sliced, running bloody. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted May 2018  feudidelpisciottowinerelais  castellarewine  dionysuswines    @DionysusWines  Feudi del Pisciotto Wine Relais  Castellare di Castellina  Dionysus Wines & Spirits Ltd.

Terre Di Giurfo Cerasuolo Di Vittoria DOCG Maskarìa 2014, Sicily, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

Maskarìa is a top quality vintage for the only Sicilian DOCG in a red that captures the union between nero d’avola and frappato. This dark soil driven Cerasuolo di Vittoria suggests more nero dominance but with fruit forward assistance from the lighter soil raised frappato. Really hits both the high tones and low baritone notes, one and then the other, for maximum effect. Once again it is high acidity, not unlike some Aragonese garnacha or Monferrato barbera that sings the loudest in the chorus. Big wine indeed. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted May 2018  terredigiurfo  cavinonawine  @terredigiurfoIT   @Cavinona  Terre di Giurfo  Cavinona – Italian Wine Delivered

A missed flight due to strike opens the door to more #degustazione now with the archetypes of @vdawinery ~ #cerasuolodivittoria

Valle dell’Acate Cerasuolo di Vittoria DOCG 2014, Sicily, Italy (Agent, WineAlign)

The iconic blend is 60 per cent nero d’Avola and (40) frappato from vineyards located on the Bidini Soprano plateau. The frappato vines are planted in clear red soil while the dark red soil produces nero d’Avola. The Classico comes to market a year and a half (in this case 21 months) after the previous September harvest, a key ingredient to integration, harmony and ultimately success. This is part of the estate’s project known as seven terroirs for seven wines. The age ability here is strong, with high-toned acidity and the notable presence of firm, grippy tannin. Words like benchmark and traditional are two ways to look at it. Drink 2020-2027. Tasted May 2018  vdawinery  halpernwine  @VdaWinery  @HalpernWine  Valle dell’Acate  Halpern Wine

Planeta Cerasuolo Di Vittoria Classico DOCG Dorilli 2016, Sicily, Italy (Agent, $38.95, WineAlign)

Cerasuolo di Vittoria Classico is one thing, Dorilli 2016 is another matter altogether. The name of the estate marks the iconography of this Planeta blend, from a chosen vineyard carrying the dialectical tome of the river passing by. The old maps say Dirillo but through time this has changed, just like this Burgundian wine will draft through wake and evolve. There is a minor reduction here so it’s not as open as the normale though it’s offset by an extra year of aging for release 18 months after harvest. Blooming should happen some time in 2019 after the 70 per cent nero d’avola and (30) frappato begin to unfold out of itself for a full and layered Vittoria. Still there is the Cerasuolo fragrance from a guarantee by vintage and for texture. Drink 2019-2027.  Tasted May 2018  planetawinery  plant dependent  noble_estates   @PlanetaWinery  @Noble_Estates  @planetawinery  Tóth Patricia  @NobleEstates

Rosso del Conte

Tasca D’Almerita Rosso del Conte Monreale DOC 2007, Sicily, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

Rosso del Conte comes out of the DOC Monreale and the first vintage of this Sicilia original was 1970. It was the first single-vineyard wine in Sicily, was (back then) usually 65 per cent perricone and (35) nero d’avola done in 500L chestnut barrels but too much tannin meant a need to switch. Chestnut was abandoned and so experimentation led to change. The 2007 is really brought from soil, in this case the San Lucio Vineyard, with stony red fruit and wood spice. The ’07 blend is nero d’avola (54 per cent), perricone (26) and other red varieties (20). Drink 2018-2020.  Tasted May 2018  tascadalmerita  @TascaWine  Alberto Tasca  Tenuta Regaleali  Tasca d’Almerita

Tasca D’Almerita Rosso del Conte Monreale DOC 2000, Sicily, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

The 2000 “red wine of the count” is age apparent and so much more so than the 2007, so secondary character is really a matter of at least 12, if not 15 years plus with the supermarca Rosso di Conte. Now blessed by an aromatic potpourri of balsamico, tar and roses, like a sapid and warm mix of nebbiolo and sangiovese, with carob, bokser, rosemary, and bay laurel. All the important herbs of the Mediterranean world. Very territorial, impressive, constructive and intense. All about what grows in and out, the savoury pods known and unknown, almonds, metallics and trace elements. A terrific legacy wine once created through trial and error, of grape varieties (now perricone and nero d’avola) matched to terroir (S. Lucio Vineyard) by Conte Giuseppe Tasca d’Almerita. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted May 2018  tascadalmerita  @TascaWine  Alberto Tasca  Tenuta Regaleali  Tasca d’Almerita

eady for anything after having stormed that castle first thing in the morning ~ #siciliaenprimeur #siciliaep18

Frappato and Perricone

Feudo Montoni Perricone Sicilia DOC 2016, Sicily, Italy (Agent, $22.95, WineAlign)

Perricone, also called pignatello, from the land of clay soils, where they make clay pots called pignatelli, here called guarnaccio, perhaps related to grenache. Deeper and darker though not necessarily richer with fruit that thinks in terms of red and black currants. The grape is transparent despite its hue and there is a kinship with cabernet franc but again a reminder of grenache. Strong skin, big grape, with green seeds and 10 per cent green skin. Disease resistant but when it ferments the greenness can give bitter tannin. So Fabio Sireci was the first to mitigate this by waiting for the seeds to turn brown. It’s picked in November when the seeds taste like hazelnuts. It actually reminds of Kekfrankos in a way, with this depth and savoury smoulder. Kept in the cellar for a few days to brown in vintages of too much rain. These techniques are essential to deliver it as the soft, round wine it is. Will turn to chocolate and liquorice even though there was only cement involved in its elévage. The drying of stems before fermentation is almost appassimento in a way, albeit for just a few days or so. So interesting. A wine of very low (3.15) pH and high (7) tA. This and the rest of Montoni’s wines are two of Sicily’s greatest kept secrets. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted May 2018  feudo_montoni  @FABIOSIRECI  Fabio Sireci Feudo Montoni (Fabio Sireci)  @feudomontoni

Terre Di Giurfo Frappato Vittoria DOC Belsito 2016, Sicily, Italy (Winery, $19.50, WineAlign)

Belsito from Terre di Grufo’s is one of the more extracted and full-bodied frappatos out of Vittoria, leaning in the direction of dark, dusty plum and black cherry fruit. The ripeness has been pushed to the limit with high acidity to match and balance in the headlights of moderate alcohol. This is both ready to drink and also in dire search of a ragu of sorts, in stew, on pasta or in a bowl accompanied by sharp cheese. With this ripe ripper you could go west, southeast or far east to multi-faceted and spiced cuisine. Drink 2018-2020.  Tasted May 2018  terredigiurfo  cavinonawine  @terredigiurfoIT   @Cavinona  Terre di Giurfo  Cavinona – Italian Wine Delivered

Valle dell’Acate Frappato Sicilia DOC Il Frappato 2017, Sicily, Italy (Agent, $32.95, WineAlign)

I was first introduced to Valle dell’Acate’s frappato a few years back by Francesco Ferreri and at the time noted its off the beaten path uniqueness. The roots from this 100 per cent frappato go back at least six generations to pre-Phylloxera times. All organic and replanted using massal selection, the Vittoria is one of only five in the region. It hails from the Contrada of Bidini and just a kiss of barrel time (up to three months) determines a fresh and spirited frappato that smells like roses in early morning bloom. There is a quick to the point peppery kick to pique interest and to prepare the palate for a traditional and classic Sicilian meal. Drink 2018-2020.  Tasted May 2018  vdawinery  halpernwine  @VdaWinery  @HalpernWine  @ValleDellAcate  Halpern Wine

Anchovy on strawberry at Feudi del Pisciotto Wine Relais

Feudi Del Pisciotto Frappato IGT Terre di Siciliane Carolina Marengo 2015, Sicily, Italy (Agent, WineAlign)

Clocks in at 13.5 per cent alcohol and while frappato is generally considered to be a one or two winter wine, it is made here with structure and age ability in mind. A better year for frappato but still challenging because it starts budding early and hangs the longest so it is subjected to everything that happens in a vintage. But frappato is not as sensitive to disease like nero d’avola. Sees 10 months in first and second passage barriques. The natural freshness and energy is a bit blurred at this youthful stage, but frappato cannot run or hide. It will always be floral and yet here the wood brings out a volatility and a reductive tendency you wouldn’t normally associate with the grape variety. One of the most ambitious frappato just about ever, high in fruit quality and given plenty of attention, as if it were sangiovese or nebbiolo. Takes on tobacco and plenty of spice, mostly from the barrels but also out of some pretty string extraction satisfaction. Drink 2019-2023.  Tasted May 2018  feudidelpisciottowinerelais  castellarewine  dionysuswines    @DionysusWines  Feudi del Pisciotto Wine Relais  Castellare di Castellina  Dionysus Wines & Spirits Ltd

Two #Cos beat as one ~ #frappato #nerodilupo

Azienda Agricola Cos Frappato IGT Terre Siciliane 2015, Sicily, Italy (Agent, $36.95, WineAlign)

The Cos Frappato is in many ways the poster child, the entry point and portal into the singular oeuvre created by Giambattista Cilia e Giusto Occhipinti. Perhaps it’s because it parlays as the one wine straddling two worlds, the natural (sic) and the conventional, but also because it’s unadorned beauty is something everyone can appreciate. You may not need Chopin, Gaugin or Rodin for this frappato but you do need calm, time and no distraction. This open-minded and wide-eyed red is full of fruit both scraped of skin and sliced open in an outdoor market. It’s not so defined as to what those fruits may be so make some up, if you will. The purity of varietal from vineyards in Vittoria is delivered, without complaint or denial, just an expression of the extreme southern point of Sicily in north African violet aromatics and light. Lovely finesse yet quite magnified and concentrated. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted May 2018  #aziendaagricolacos  thelivingvine    @TheLivingVine  AZIENDA AGRICOLA COS  The Living Vine inc.

Varietal revelations in #sicilia at #tenutaregaleali @TascaWine ~ #perricone #guarnaccio #tascadalmerita

Tenuta Regaleali Perricone Sicilia DOC Tasca D’almerita Guarnaccio 2016, Sicily, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

Endemic perricone is the grape that has always existed at Regaleali, since 1954, in the historical San Lucio vineyard. The massal selection allowed for extending the vineyard, because believing in perricone (always known as Guarnaccio at the Estate) means respecting the winemaking past of western Sicily, which was rich in this grape. Because brother Rosso del Conte was always offering an age able wine, it was decided to bottle this varietal wine for freshness and possibility. It sees 12 months in 2nd and 3rd use barrique. The first vintage was 2012 and there is a sweet nuttiness about this grape made in this way, like marzipan or nougat, with currant red fruit and in a way, like cabernet franc but without any pyrazine intrusion. A note of carob or bokser joins in, advantageous acidity for buoyancy and a calmness without any real demand by tannin. So much pleasure and confidence. Too early in its tenure to know about aging solo but how can confidence not speak to an avowal of yes? Drink 2019-2026.  Tasted May 2018  tascadalmerita  @TascaWine  Alberto Tasca  Tenuta Regaleali  Tasca d’Almerita

Panelle chick pea fritters from Fud Off Catania ~ Sicilian street food

Syrah

Feudo Principi Di Butera Syrah Sicilia DOC 2016, Sicily, Italy (SAQ 10960161, $19.55, WineAlign)

An international variety perhaps and/or as old as Sicilian grape growing in Syracusa. Either way it’s well adapted to Sicilian soils, particularly here with plenty of calcari, maturing early at the end of August or latest early September. It must be managed for acidity, so expositions are very important. This is very rich but it has maintained its energy with a pulse that moves with the bigger bodied fruit. The freshness comes form east and west vineyard positions, balancing the north-south densities. There is a slightly dusty plum note but spice bookends the fruit, with some bitter amara notes at the end. Drink 2018-2020.  Tasted May 201  feudobutera  Zonin  francescozonin  Sebastien Ouellet  zonin1821  FeudoButera  Antonio Paolo Froio  Zonin  Francesco Zonin

Masseria del Feudo Syrah Sicilia DOC 2017, Sicily, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

From estate vineyards in Caltasinetta picked early in the third week of August. Raised by a wild ferment and the use of concrete vats. More freshness and bright fruit as compared to the nero d’avola and so as a result, less bitters. There is sweetness in the mid-palate and a silky consistency. The bitters do come forth at the finish. The most expressive and floral wine in the portfolio, though still those bitters and pressed personality but in the form of syrah, it’s both characterful and meaty. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted May 2018  masseria.del.feudo  @fcucurullo  Masseria del Feudo

Palermo’s multicultural streets

Mazzei Zisola IGP Terre Siciliane Achilles 2015, Sicily, Italy (AgentWineAlign)

This is Mazzei’s first bottling of syrah and before it was added to the Noto (Doppiozetta). Like the nero d’avola the syrah vines were also planted in 2004 and 2005 (though some additional nero was planted in 2007). Syrah was put in to experiment and for blending, even though they knew it was nero d’avola territory, but the syrah has impressed the most. This is big, meaty, structured syrah with classic Mazzei bones and acidity but simply Sicilan tannin. Kind of the sort to take your breath away, tangy, high in deep red citrus and chewy. Really chewy. For all the talk of syrah across the island this is one to say “you’re on it something” but with an undertone of “we’ve always known this unspoken truth.” Drink 2020-2026.  Tasted May 2018  marchesimazzei  profilewinegroup  @MarchesiMazzei  @ProfileWineGrp  Marchesi Mazzei – Castello di Fonterutoli  Profile Wine Group

Maroccoli Syrah Sicilia Menfi DOC 2014, Sicily, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

The name Maroccoli is local for “ideally situated vineyard” and syrah must find its spots to shine. An elevated hill between lake and sea is this Maroccoli’s place in the sun and the syrah it delivers is spicy, high tonal and indelibly stamped with firm grip. It’s both meaty and exotic, wildly berry filled and sharp as a tack. It seems syrah could use an extra year or two beyond the Bordolese out of Menfi. Drink 2019-2023.  Tasted May 2018  planetawinery  plant dependent  noble_estates   @PlanetaWinery  @Noble_Estates  @planetawinery  Tóth Patricia  @NobleEstates

Puro e modesto @tornatorewines #degustazione with Domenico d’Antoni at #siciliaenprimeur #siciliaep18 ~ @nicholaspearce_ ~ #etnadoc #etna #etnawine

Carricante and Etna Bianco

Tornatore Etna Bianco DOC 2017, Sicily, Italy (Agent, $23.95, WineAlign)

Tasted with the estate’s Domenico D’Antoni, the Bianco is 100 per cent carricante, on very little soil above the volcano’s basalt at 500-6500m. There are 25 hectares of bianco, 24 of which is carricante that shivers with this fresh, salty nasal inhalation, still so youthful and needs a little time away. The most important thing is that you respect and understand the simplicity of this noble but basic grape. No malo, high potassium and volcanic soil so the acidity is naturally preserved. Young vines with great room for improvement at 5-5.5 g/L acidity. Find a better value in Etna Bianco, I dare you. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted May 2018  tornatorewines  giuseppetornatore  nicholaspearcewines    @Nicholaspearce_  @tornatorewines  Nicholas Pearce

Planeta Etna Bianco DOC 2017, Sicliy, Italy (Agent, $33.99, WineAlign)

The Etna is 100 per cent carricante produced at the Feudo di Mezzo winery in the Contrada Taccione, in Montelaguardia. Now labeled simply as Etna, not as the artist formerly known as Bianco and apparently for no reason at all. Seventeen was a really warm year here in the 690-720m vineyard and so the quickest maceration was performed due to so much sun-developed colour on hand. Stayed on lees until February, also less than usual but again the hot season saw quick development. The quotient distilled is a plentiful one, a brocade like golden silk, full and full of everything it can be. Not the sapid, mineral and volcanic salty carricante of let’s say 2014 but sometimes “luxury is the opposite of vulgarity…and complication, a necessity that begins where necessity ends.” Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted May 2018  planetawinery  plant dependent  noble_estates   @PlanetaWinery  @Noble_Estates  @planetawinery  Tóth Patricia  @NobleEstates

Torre Mora Etna Bianco DOC Scalunera 2017, Sicily, Italy (Agent, WineAlign)

orre Mora is the Etna outpost of Tuscany’s Piccini, owners of Villa al Cortile in Montalcino and Valiano in Chianti Classico. Scalunera is the Contrada on the northeastern edge of the volcano and the Torre Mora (and Benanti) vineyard sites at 650-670m are the first just off the lava flow, planted to Albarello bush vines. Salty, of course, but quite ripe, full of fleshy fruit. It’s a body phenolic unexpected and quite the mouthful of Etna Bianco. A broad expression that gives it all. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted February 2018  picciniwines  @PicciniWinesUK  PICCINI WINES  

Godello @ Mondello ~ #italianstrike

Terra Costantino Etna Bianco DOC Deaetna 2014, Sicily, Italy (Agent, $33.99, WineAlign)

Terra Costantino’s is from Contrada Blandano in the Comune Viagrande, on soils sabbie di matrice vulcanica, a blend of carricante and catrarratto, three to one, at 500m, part bush vine and part spurred cordon. Intense aromatics for the two-varietal blend, with great concentration, so much sunlight and while lower in altitude, the palate softness is matched by great presence and high tonality to balance the opulence. Only 1900 bottles produced and though anything but a laser-focused Etna Bianco it speaks of place and opens awareness to the world. Perhaps acts a bit older than you would expect but it’s a terrific entry without too much linearity. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted May 2018  terracostantino  @TerraCostantino  TerraCostantino

Tenuta Di Fessina Etna Bianco DOC A’Puddara 2015, Sicily, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

A’Puddara is from Silvia Maestrelli out of Contrada Manzudda a Biancavilla, on scisto sabbioso e fine, presenza di pomice e lapilli, i.e. sandy and fine schist, pumice and lava. This 100 per cent carricante is farmed on Alberello (bush vines) at 900m. Starts an Etna tasting with a schisty fullness, tart and a minor oxidative accent, with plenty of acidity. It’s properly salty and mineral pushed. Very correct for varietal and place with lemon all over the place. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted May 2018  tenutadifessina  @tenutadifessina  TENUTA DI FESSINA

Cottanera Etna Bianco DOC 2017, Sicily, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

Here on the northern slopes near Randazzo it is Cottanera and its contiguous vineyard in blocks of Solicchiatta, Sotto Cantina, Sopra Cantina, Iannazzo, Fiume and Aurore. This is carricante of flint and citrus, from struck basalt to grapefruit and a remarkable absence of pith. It’s also fleshy and filling, with a minor blanched vegetal note but also with high quality, fine, laser-like acidity. So poised, composed and focused. Just an excellent bianco from adjoining contiguo lands, concentrato e completo. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted May 2018  cottanera   @Cottanera  Cottanera

Tornatore Etna Bianco DOC Pietrarizzo 2016, Sicily, Italy (AgentWineAlign)

The upwardly mobile Tornatore Etna Bianco is from a single-vineyard at 600m, in the Contrada Pietrarizzo. Aging is different, now carricante grapes and just a few percentage points of catarratto five months in big (grandi botti) of 5000L It’s somewhat of a field blend style, albeit with more stature standing taut and firm of a confident structure and texture. It’s found to be almost a bit creamy, with beautiful flavours and prolongated elasticty. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted May 2018  tornatorewines  giuseppetornatore  nicholaspearcewines    @Nicholaspearce_  @tornatorewines  Nicholas Pearce

Planeta Eruzione 1614 Carricante Sicilia DOC 2016, Sicliy, Italy (Agent, $42.99, WineAlign)

Passion projects are not for the faint of heart but they are perhaps reserved for winemakers too smart and too worthy for their own good. Eruzione is such an animal for Planeta’s winemaker Patricia Tóth, a varietal carricante ode (with 10 per cent riesling) to the great and tragic 1614 Etna eruption. If boys don’t cry I still shed a tear or two for history and for my love of this wine. It comes from the black volcanic soil of the Contrada Sciaranuova vineyard, next up the mountain from Contrada Santo Spirito. In ’16 it’s not measured by a low ’14-like pH, not quite as sharp, so therefore fuller and with more unction. It’s still an Etna-bled eruptive white, still beating raw by laser focus out of inspirational terroir. Readier too because it’s been held back a few more months for release. This wine will let you arrive at where you want to be. So many whites are mired in repeatable refrains. “Plastic passion is a Hyacinthe heart. Plastic passion is a transparent tart…Plastic passion is a gold guarantee. The plastic passion is murdering me.” Eruzione is life affirming and though other wines may pay the bills, this cariccante is the cure. Fill your prescription and drink up its passion. It’s the winemaker’s too. Drink 2018-2024.  Tasted May 2018    planetawinery  plant dependent  noble_estates   @PlanetaWinery  @Noble_Estates  @planetawinery  Tóth Patricia  @NobleEstates

#palermo

Nerello Mascalese and Etna Rosso

Feudo Montoni Nerello Mascalese Rosé Sicilia DOC 2017, Sicily, Italy (111252, $22.95, WineAlign)

Adele is roast of a 10 minute press, literally, then into inox tanks. Carries the name of the finest cru of life, not vineyard, but mama. Rosato of the most lithe possibility, remarkable in its varietal nerello mascalese obviousness, singularly fruity but certo to be more sapid than anything else. Where Rosé must go, into the air, from out of the land and the womb. Pure immediacy from the volcanic grape realized and enjoyed. Drink 2018-2020.  Tasted May 2018  feudo_montoni  @FABIOSIRECI  Fabio Sireci Feudo Montoni (Fabio Sireci)  @feudomontoni

Tornatore Etna Rosso DOC 2016, Sicily, Italy (487090, $23.95, WineAlign)

Just a small portion of nerello cappuccio joins the masacalese in Tornatore’s Etna Rosso and it’s not quite as warm as the ’15 tasted in Toronto a month later. Spent one year in 3000 and 5000L botti after a 10 day cement maceration, to ward of reduction. Domenico d’Antino also talks about trying to avoid malolactic, “but the wine will tell you,” and they use the same yeast strain in all the wines. This was just bottled in December and it’s already so clean, transparent and honest, not green but young. It is the epitome of modern, useful and works with a yeoman’s ability to be the teachable one, for consumers and restaurant drinkers, about what is Etna today. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted May 2018  tornatorewines  giuseppetornatore  nicholaspearcewines    @Nicholaspearce_  @tornatorewines  Nicholas Pearce

Barone Di Villagrande Etna Rosso DOC Vendemmia 2016, Sicily, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

A different northern Etna expression is a factor of chestnut barrels, lending a distinct nutty and ulterior earthy notation to nerello mascalese. As a result the fruit is emphasized but the umami is tenured, or at least relegated to another parallel universe. There is a wealth of flavour but also a deep sense of tradition and a world that once was. It’s a bit chalky albeit liquid and viscous with some gariga, leafy, evergreen savour and mountain tea tannin. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted May 2018  baronedivillagrande  katherine_mellin_  @Villagrandewine  @apparitionwines  Barone di Villagrande  Katherine Mellin Apparition Wines

Barone Di Villagrande Etna Rosso DOC Contrada Villagrande 2016, Sicily, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

The self-effacing Contrada is at 700m with a southeast exposure, warmer and mildly humid. This is Etna in purport of what it really is, a Rosso derived off of a volcano, with wild flowers, sweet balsamico drizzled red fruit and this blanched almond or chestnut nuttiness from you guessed it, chestnut barrels. This is using your terroir and what grows, coming from estate trees to mesh naturally with the nerello mascalese (including 20 per cent cappuccio and mantellato) grown here. The aging renders the baby fat and leads this through a portal into dried wild strawberry, white caramel and a slightly smoky beat. There is real texture here to celebrate the singularity of a contrada Rosso. Drink 2020-2027.  Tasted May 2018  baronedivillagrande  katherine_mellin_  @Villagrandewine  @apparitionwines  Barone di Villagrande  Katherine Mellin Apparition Wines

Pietradolce Etna Rosso DOC Solicchiata 2017, Sicily, Italy (538165, $25.95, WineAlign)

The Etna “normale” is one of the DOCs great umami entries into the mountain’s northern portal slope, taken from vines growing at 600m in Solicchiata, Bush (alberello) and espalier training on stony, light sandy loam soils produce this lithe version of the estate style. It’s slightly piqued and spicy, unencumbered and unadulterated. The dry, dusty, sun-soaked and rainless season is to me perfect for this entry-level Pietradolce, even if it turns out to be a challenge for the crus of certain Contrade. This wine does not always give away this much concentration and red berry fruit as it does in 2017. It’s warm but also lined by a cool, stony streak. Not sure the structure from 2017 is as strong as ’16 and I’d rather drink this in 2018 and 2019. This sample is labeled “Campione di Vasca,” not yet bottled but it is a finished wine. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted May 2018  pietradolce  woodmanws  #Pietradolce  @WoodmanWS  Pietradolce Vigneti in Solicchiata, Etna  Woodman Wines & Spirits

Tornatore Etna Rosso DOC Trimarchisa 2015, Sicily, Italy (Agent, WineAlign)

The Contrada Trimarchisa 2015 is fresher than 2014 and more complicated, simply vulcanica, of mainly nerello mascalese with some nerello cappuccio at 600m. The vineyard is close to the river and there was some vintage some rain with uneven ripening. More florals here, with layering and variegation, done up in 2nd passage barrels. The acidity and tannin are intertwined and the violets come out but true red fruit also wrapped in and with the structural components. This vintage is cooler and fresher, with age ability potential confirmed. Drink 2020-2027.  Tasted May 2018  tornatorewines  giuseppetornatore  nicholaspearcewines    @Nicholaspearce_  @tornatorewines  Nicholas Pearce

Benanti Etna Rosso DOC Rovittello 2013, Sicily, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

Benanti’s Rovittello is nerello mascalese (90-95 per cent) with nerello cappuccio grown at 750m from the Contrada of Dafara Galluzo in the area of “Vidalba,” in the Comune Castiglione di Sicilia. Soils are vulcanico, piuttosto sciotto con sabbie laviche e giusta presenza di pietre, or lava with sand and stones. It’s a Rosso of history, welled up into this studious and wise wine, almost perfectly aged, with wood, terroir and fruit in complex combinations. Small sites, older vines and a variegation of soil make this serious and intense. It’s fine and akin to the spoken realm of nebbiolo and sangiovese though also torched by tobacco, earth and ferric necessity. Has entered the early stages of secondary life. Drink 2018-2025.  Tasted May 2018  benantiwinery  lenotecadimorenodemarchi  @BenantiWines  @MorenoEnoteca  Benanti Viticoltori  L’Enoteca di Moreno De Marchi

Vivera Etna Rosso DOC Martinella 2012, Sicily, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

Vivera’s Martinella is mostly nerello mascalese (90 per cent) with nerello cappuccio from vineyards at 550-600m. Contrada Martinella’s soil is volcanic, ricco di scheletro a reazione subcaida, profondità 250 metri. Deep, brooding red fruit and still a touch reductive despite its age, from Irene Vaccaro, hers is a really structured wine with liquorice and tobacco, plums and a chocolate note, as by wood still working its way through the fruit and the vulcanico. Firm, complex and grippy. Very territorial Etna Rosso with spicy bite. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted May 2018  viverawinery  @viverawinery  Vivera Winery

Planeta Eruzione 1614 Nerello Mascalese Sicilia DOC 2016, Sicily, Italy (Agent, $42.99, WineAlign)

Like the yellow lorry carricante thriller it is Etna Rosso incarnate that is portrayed in this Eruzione red lorry nerello mascalese (with nine per cent nerello cappuccio) from up the mountain’s 890m vineyards of (Contrada) Sciaranuova, but with some fruit from lower altitude at 600m. The vine age is part 2008 and part 20 year-old vines and a small section going back 90 years but just a small spot. The higher you climb for nerello macalese the more finesse you acquire. This Eruzione is swimming through lava with it, smoothed by plenty of silky texture, raspberry and chalky liquid tannin. Nerello, “you ain’t nothing but a true embrace. You ain’t nothing but a hidden face.” Your Planeta edition gets neither more refined, elegant nor focused. You’ve been descried as the “alternative classic” or the new light pinot noir. Maybe frappato, but not you, nerello mascalese. Let’s leave you out of the discussion. Leave you alone. Talk about the weather. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted May 2018    planetawinery  plant dependent  noble_estates   @PlanetaWinery  @Noble_Estates  @planetawinery  Tóth Patricia  @NobleEstates

All in, all out Contrade comparative @pietradolce #etna degustazione from #michelefaro e #mariofaro

Pietradolce Etna Rosso DOC Archineri 2016, Sicily, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

Archineri is a trifecta Etna Rosso from the Contradas of Zottorinoto, Rampante and Solicchiata on Mt. Etna’s northen slopes, same soil as the ER DOC and at various altitudes, between 600-900m. The ideal here is aimed at layering and variegation, to take three blocks of similar topography and geology for what is a broad but focused northern expression. Archineri might mean “black bows” or better yet “black arches” and the label offers a whimsical, Beatles’ Yellow Submarine like iconography. This is nerello mascalese that flows like long raven hair, trailing behind beautiful fruit and the classic sweet stone umami of these subtle northern expressions. From a great vintage no doubt and ready to enjoy if need be but will morph and utter more mythologies as time goes by. This sample is Campione di Vasca, not yet bottled, but it is a finished wine. Drink 2020-2028.  Tasted May 2018  pietradolce  woodmanws  #Pietradolce  @WoodmanWS  Pietradolce Vigneti in Solicchiata, Etna  Woodman Wines & Spirits

Pietradolce Etna Rosso DOC Contrada Santo Spirito 2016, Sicily, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

Contrada Santo Spirito Etna Rosso is also on the northern slopes at approximately 850-900m. The Santo Spirito is less subversive than Rampante, more likely to please early but with higher tone and acidities. This really hits the high notes in opposition to the soprano of Rampante. A more mineral for sure if still umami based nerello mascalese with similar aging potential, albeit along a parallel graphing line. This sample is Campione di Vasca, not yet bottled, but it is a finished wine. Drink 2020-2028.  Tasted May 2018  2-3  pietradolce  woodmanws  #Pietradolce  @WoodmanWS  Pietradolce Vigneti in Solicchiata, Etna  Woodman Wines & Spirits

Pietradolce Etna Rosso DOC Contrada Rampante 2015, Sicily, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

Rampante is from Michele Faro’s nerello mascalese way up at 850m, off of prephylloxera alberello bush vines 80-90 years-old. Rampante is in Solcchiata, Comune Castiglione di Sicilia. The soil is franco sabbioso con abbondante presenza di scheletro, sandy loam with skeletal stone fragments. It’s a matter of rusticity and liquid chalk with a young curative meets medicinal perfume. Tannins are quite chalky, as is the acidity without a true integration (in its youth) for structure but it wants to take you there, so you’ll have to exercise extreme patience. Old vines and inherent wisdom are everything here in its purest and most honest form. Few other wines will develop any wilder and earthy secondary aromas than this. Not a wine for the uninitiated. Drink 2020-2028.  Tasted May 2018  pietradolce  woodmanws  #Pietradolce  @WoodmanWS  Pietradolce Vigneti in Solicchiata, Etna  Woodman Wines & Spirits

Pietradolce Etna Rosso DOC Barbagalli 2015, Sicily, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

The estate flagship Etna Rosso Barbagalli is taken from Contrada Rampante in the area that is known as “Barbagalli” in Solicchiata. This northern Etna 80 to 100 year-old pre-phylloxera vineyard delivers the most naturally earth-crusted, umami-laden expression in hyperbole, concentration and peak spiciness. There is a buzz about this nerello mascalese that the rest of the portfolio does not pulse with, neither outward through expressionistic energy nor inward, retracted and self-effacing by implosive feeling. The texture separates itself with multi-faceted tenor and a tremor of explosive potential that might strike at any time, anywhere, any place. This will turn into something ethereal, of that there can be little doubt. Drink 2022-2032.  Tasted May 2018  pietradolce  woodmanws  #Pietradolce  @WoodmanWS  Pietradolce Vigneti in Solicchiata, Etna  Woodman Wines & Spirits

Serious, call me in 20 years @etnadoc Rosso from @cottanera

Cottanera Etna Rosso DOC Dicittassetesalme 2016, Sicily, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

Dicittassetesalme could be translated as “seventeen corpses” but in this case it’s an ancient way of measuring a Sicilian vineyard. One “salme” essentially equals just over 17,000 square metres, or one and a half hectares, more or less. The Dicittassetesalme is nererello mascalese on lavico-argiloso soils, a mix of basalt, limestone and clay. It is structured for the long haul and filled to overflowing with intensities to distract, occupy and take over your senses. It’s a brooding affair while this young, standing firm and strong, raising the hairs on the back of the neck and in demand of full command attention. The future is wide open. Drink 2021-2030.  Tasted May 2018  cottanera   @Cottanera  Cottanera

Good to go!

Godello

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

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Planeta’s Sicily

Missed flight fifth order of business @planetawinery 2008 #santacecilia #docnoto

On a most recent trip to Sicily I tasted no less than 20 wines from Planeta’s five estates, most with winemaker Patricia Tóth and some all by my lonesome. I will be tasting more with the ethereally-worldy Tóth in just over an hour from now so what better time to share these notes than right now. There was a Chardonnay 2002, Eruzione Riesling and Santa Cecilia Noto 2008 as well but those notes need time, music and deeper thought.

Degustazione e bei tempi with the @planetawinery gang ~ #lookup #siciliaenprimeur #siciliaep18 #siciliaep2018

Planeta Grillo Terebinto Sicilia Menfi DOC 2017, Sicliy, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

Planeta’s varietal grillo is raised at Cantina Ulmo in Menfi, a western Sicilian outpost where pebbly-inlaid deep soils are found around Lake Arancio. The terebinth is a Sicilian shrub with glossy fronds. a.k.a. Pistacia Terebinthus or white pistachio, used as rootstock for pistachio production. The Menfi grillo is pulled from a low lying clay vineyard at 50m. Aromatics and texture are equally rich at maximum ripeness as bottled sunshine, pomelo sago unctuous and so consumable. Mango trees are actually in the same family as pistachio but of more interest is the fact that the female trees produce the nuts while the male produces the pollen. Sounds familiar, not to mention that male and female pistachio trees are often grafted together to bring about pollination. Drink 2018-2019.  Tasted May 2018  planetawinery  plant dependent  noble_estates   @PlanetaWinery  @Noble_Estates  @planetawinery  Tóth Patricia  @NobleEstates

Planeta Alastro Sicilia Menfi DOC 2017, Sicliy, Italy (Winery, SAQ 11034361, $22.00, WineAlign)

Alastro amalgamates 70 per cent grecanico with 15 each grillo and sauvignon blanc for one tart, intense, highly aromatic, mineral and striking western Sicilian white blend. It’s certainly got a tropical feel but not in any creamy or humid sense. Also known as the bush La Segreta, meaning “broom,” the horny plant was used for natural fences and as a general intruder deterrent. Take note of the locked in neoteric and floral aromatics from this early September harvested blend, wild as its name suggests and best when youthfully fresh. Grecanico can age but this blend screams immediate gratification. Drink 2018-2019.  Tasted May 2018

Carnage for two please

Planeta Etna Bianco 2017, Etna DOC, Sicliy, Italy (Agent, $33.99, WineAlign)

The Etna is 100 per cent carricante produced at the Feudo di Mezzo winery in the Contrada Taccione, in Montelaguardia. Now labeled simply as Etna, not as the artist formerly known as Bianco and apparently for no reason at all. Seventeen was a really warm year here in the 690-720m vineyard and so the quickest maceration was performed due to so much sun-developed colour on hand. Stayed on lees until February, also less than usual but again the hot season saw quick development. The quotient distilled is a plentiful one, a brocade like golden silk, full and full of everything it can be. Not the sapid, mineral and volcanic salty carricante of let’s say 2014 but sometimes “luxury is the opposite of vulgarity…and complication, a necessity that begins where necessity ends.” Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted May 2018

Planeta Eruzione 1614 Carricante 2016, Doc Sicily, Italy (Agent, $42.99, WineAlign)

Passion projects are not for the faint of heart but they are perhaps reserved for winemakers too smart and too worthy for their own good. Eruzione is such an animal for Planeta’s winemaker Patricia Tóth, a varietal carricante ode (with 10 per cent riesling) to the great and tragic 1614 Etna eruption. If boys don’t cry I still shed a tear or two for history and for my love of this wine. It comes from the black volcanic soil of the Contrada Sciaranuova vineyard, next up the mountain from Contrada Santo Spirito. In ’16 it’s not measured by a low ’14-like pH, not quite as sharp, so therefore fuller and with more unction. It’s still an Etna-bled eruptive white, still beating raw by laser focus out of inspirational terroir. Readier too because it’s been held back a few more months for release. This wine will let you arrive at where you want to be. So many whites are mired in repeatable refrains. “Plastic passion is a Hyacinthe heart. Plastic passion is a transparent tart…Plastic passion is a gold guarantee. The plastic passion is murdering me.” Eruzione is life affirming and though other wines may pay the bills, this cariccante is the cure. Fill your prescription and drink up its passion. It’s the winemaker’s too. Drink 2018-2024.  Tasted May 2018

Planeta Rosé Sicilia DOC 2017, Sicily, Italy (Agent, $16.95, WineAlign)

Planeta’s Rosé is half nero d’avola and half syrah, the nero coming from higher elevations. “We want something that we like to drink,” is the matter of fact explanation from winemaker Patricia Tóth. The first vintage was 2007 and it has evolved into this lithe and yet lush blush, the syrah bringing crisp verve and nerve. It is perhaps not as aromatic as some high level Planeta but that’s the life where odd bedfellows compliment one another in a modern world. Salty and sexy equals good combination. Drink 2018-2019.  Tasted May 2018

Planeta Cerasuolo Di Vittoria DOCG 2016, Sicily, Italy (Agent, $29.37, WineAlign)

The only Sicilian DOCG in Planeta’s hands is noticeable, contractable and notable for quality consistency, both for the denomination and the estate style. Rich but tangy with so much soil voce, it flows effortlessly across the palate with malleable texture. Like Bourgogne Villages it starts at fruity and two years forward will begin to morph, into tobacco, funghi and salts of the earth.  Last tasted May 2018

Planeta’s Cerasuolo di Vittoria brings together nero d’avola and endemic frappato with only a stainless steel ferment in an anti-oxidative and naturally anti-oxidant way. This is nothing but freshness in a bottle with its ubiquitous red berry verve. You can just feel the breaths in this radiant Planeta, of winemakers and coveters of Sicilian treasures. You just have to taste Cerasuolo to understand how generous and graceful it is, earthy but of lovely clarity and spice all over the finish. Drink 2017-2021. Tasted November 2017

Planeta Cerasuolo Di Vittoria Classico DOCG Dorilli 2016, Sicily, Italy (Agent, $38.95, WineAlign)

Cerasuolo di Vittoria Classico is one thing, Dorilli 2016 is another matter altogether. The name of the estate marks the iconography of this Planeta blend, from a chosen vineyard carrying the dialectical tome of the river passing by. The old maps say Dirillo but through time this has changed, just like this Burgundian wine will draft through wake and evolve. There is a minor reduction here so it’s not as open as the normale though it’s offset by an extra year of aging for release 18 months after harvest. Blooming should happen some time in 2019 after the 70 per cent nero d’avola and (30) frappato begin to unfold out of itself for a full and layered Vittoria. Still there is the Cerasuolo fragrance from a guarantee by vintage and for texture. Drink 2019-2027.  Tasted May 2018

Planeta Nocera Sicilia DOC 2016, Sicily, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

This is just the second vintage of Nocera, from the province of Messina and one of the most dramatic vineyard landscapes on the planet. La Baronia on Capo Milazzo is a long strip of a peninsula that looks out to the Aeolian islands. Nocera is by accounts an unusual variety made by approximately 15 producers, also in Faro and the total wines produced are from 28 hectares in total. The expectation is a marine wine of macchia, myrtle and garrigue. “It’s a beast,” says Patricia Tóth, especially in marine areas with huge clusters. It’s notable for its thickness and tannin, smelling of white pepper, maybe a note of geranium and it just might become a superstar. It’s like a child of cabernet franc and primitivo but with gamay plus pinot structure. Or like Bandol, with fleshy tannin and with time it will beocme a velvety version of its thick self. Don’t forget the salinity. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted May 2018

Planeta Eruzione 1614 Pinot Nero 2016, IGT Terre Siciliane, Sicily, Italy (Winery, $42.99, WineAlign)

Even within the erudite and super-investigative Eruzione 1614 series there is no internet or Planeta mention of the newest member Pinot Nero IGT Terre Siciliane 2016. It’s high volcanic mountain landscape time we talk about Etna and pinot noir. The symbiosis is a reality meeting necessity at a crossroads of potential. Not just any potential mind you but a Burgundian one. “We don’t want to talk about Bourgogne but Etna is the only Sicilian terroir where it can build a house,” says winemaker Patricia Tóth. The perfume, texture and tannic structure is all pinot noir, picked on a Saturday afternoon which was the moment of truth from green to spirit, the aha before moment the sun-dried plum is placed into the cognac. This is all heard in Sicily but it’s all true. There are now two terraces of fruit, so the current production of 1472 bottles may become 4000! Drink 2019-2027.  Tasted May 2018

Planeta Eruzione 1614 Nerello Mascalese Sicilia DOC 2016, Sicily, Italy (Winery, $42.99, WineAlign)

Like the yellow lorry carricante thriller it is Etna Rosso incarnate that is portrayed in this Eruzione red lorry nerello mascalese (with nine per cent nerello cappuccio) from up the mountain’s 890m vineyards of (Contrada) Sciaranuova, but with some fruit from lower altitude at 600m. The vine age is part 2008 and part 20 year-old vines and a small section going back 90 years but just a small spot. The higher you climb for nerello macalese the more finesse you acquire. This Eruzione is swimming through lava with it, smoothed by plenty of silky texture, raspberry and chalky liquid tannin. Nerello, “you ain’t nothing but a true embrace. You ain’t nothing but a hidden face.” Your Planeta edition gets neither more refined, elegant nor focused. You’ve been descried as the “alternative classic” or the new light pinot noir. Maybe frappato, but not you, nerello mascalese. Let’s leave you out of the discussion. Leave you alone. Talk about the weather. Drink 2019-2025. Tasted May 2018

Planeta Santa Cecilia Doc Noto 2015, Sicily, Italy (Winery, $54.99, WineAlign)

The first vintage was in the late 90s and the appellation eventually became DOC Noto, with the initial vintage of 2003 having been where it was fully done in Noto, but 2008 is the official DOC recognition. This is when both Noto and Sicilia are on the label for the DOC to be recognized as 100 per cent nero d’Avola. Comes by way of the white chalky soils of Noto and is deceptively rich, deeply rendered, of an incredible acidity, dark and viscous fruit. There is so much happening in violet florals and light. Did I mention the acidity, amazingly linear but waiting to circle and become ringing. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted May 2018

Allemanda Sicilia Noto DOC 2017, Sicily, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

Allemanda is made from 100 per cent moscato bianco and if you have not tried to sit on a beach in the shade with a bottle of this gently but forcefully aromatic farfalle of a Noto in Sicilia white then you have yet lived. The self-professed Baroque dance is truly an exotic reminder of jasmime blooms and tropical citrus. It’s actually a bit tannic and also extremely refreshing. Two hands in the air for Noto’s soils and sea-proximity to do what’s necessary and beautiful for moscato. Dangerously consumable. Drink 2018-2021. Tasted May 2018

Cometa Fiano Sicilia Menfi DOC 2017, Sicily, Italy (Winery, $49.99, WineAlign)

Cometa from Menfi is the other fiano, the somewhat rare and effusive fiano from Sicily. The elusive one is a Planeta speciality and one of winemaker Patricia Tòth’s great secret varietal weapons, a Mediterranean that pleases quickly, compliments all that is drawn from the sea and is capable of developing complexity with age. This is both floral and juicy, combining for this lychee meets honeysuckle into tropical territory. Streaks like a comet indeed, right across the palate and into your psyche. Not to mention your bleeding heart. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted May 2018

Burdese Sicilia Menfi DOC 2014, Sicily, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

Burdese is cabernet sauvignon (70 per cent) and cabernet franc as the playful Bordelais blend, dialectical in nomenclature and in style. It’s an adaptation from “Bordolese” and into the land. The trilogy of sun-ripened phenolics, rich texture and silky tannins make this quite easy to drink, especially with four years past and medium rare protein on the plate. All aspects of sun-reasoned votes play notes, of tomato, dusty plum and dark currants. Flavour abounds with no sign of impending decline. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted May 2018

Maroccoli Syrah Sicilia Menfi DOC 2014, Sicily, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

The name Maroccoli is local for “ideally situated vineyard” and syrah must find its spots to shine. An elevated hill between lake and sea is this Maroccoli’s place in the sun and the syrah it delivers is spicy, high tonal and indelibly stamped with firm grip. It’s both meaty and exotic, wildly berry filled and sharp as a tack. It seems syrah could use an extra year or two beyond the Bordolese out of Menfi. Drink 2019-2023.  Tasted May 2018

Sito Dell’umo Merlot Sicilia Menfi DOC 2014, Sicily, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

Here the biggest of the three Menfi reds and the varietal home from where the estate’s story really begins. No wood holds barred or lack of ripeness can keep this Bordolese down, not with such a firm grip by way of tannin derived off of sun-worshipping vines and generous barrels. On its own the merlot is more demanding than the Burdese and just as grippy-peppery as the syrah. It’s a wine best enjoyed when it reaches the balsamico-ganache-medicinal herbs stage. That has yet to happen. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted May 2018

Missed flight fifth order of business @planetawinery 2008 #santacecilia #docnoto

Good to go!

Godello

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

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