There must be 50 ways to remember Amarone

Memories of Verona

Buona Pasqua to everyone in the Veneto, Verona and as the title of this article indicates, a very Happy Easter to our friends and producers in Valpolicella. My last visit to the area was in October 2018 for a sidestep away from a Lake Garda focused journey west of the Adige River. Two years earlier I spent a September 2016 week in Verona and the Valpolicella Valleys. After that trip I published all my notes on the DOCs; Valpolicella (inclusive of Classico and Superiore) and Valpolicella Ripasso. The fact of the matter is on that week-long tasting through corvina, corvinone, rondinella, molinara, croetine and oseleta I also sipped, swirled and assessed a number of Amarone della Valpolicella DOCG and Recioto della Valpolicella DOCG. In between those two Veronese excursions there was a July 2017 Collisioni experience in Piemonte and during that festival a Progetto Vino Masterclass showed and poured the wines of eight Famiglie dell’Amarone producers. It just seems every trip to northern Italy must include Amarone.

Related – Valpolicella, Ripasso Valpolicella

Villa Moron, Negrar

Those collective tasting notes never made it to print, that is until now. Following those 2016, 2017 and 2018 voyages to northern Italian regions I published a host of articles and many notes, but as with every immensely immersive media trip there is always unfinished business. Each and every travel return to Canada requires the day to day of real world work detail; tasting through VINTAGES releases, consignment, private order and potential to market wines, followed by editing and publishing those reviews; restaurant buying and staff education too; most gratifying is wine education, sharing regional wine experiences and gained knowledge with sommeliers, other journalists and peers. The rigours of home and work life don’t always allow for every travel stone to be unturned.

Related – Barbera d’Asti Del Monferrato E Nizza Monferrato

Verona, September 2016

What can be attacked by retrospective means are notebooks scribbled by design and computer folders layered, pages and files filled with thoughts left to await their eventual fruition, temporarily resigned to the arena of “the never too late.”  This kind of post on Godello always comes accompanied by a huge sense of gratitude to the regional facilitators, logistical magicians and dozens of producers who share their life’s work, engage in conversation and give so generously of their time. These are the 50 wines tasted three, four and five years ago. Forty one Amarone and nine Recioto surveyed, evaluated, admired and yet consigned in those times, resigned to drafts, now unburdened, released and published.

Amarone della Valpolicella DOCG

Bertani Amarone Della Valpolicella Classico DOCG 2013

“You can like it or not but this is what Bertani Amarone Classico is supposed to be,” the words of host Michaela at the historic estate founded in 1857. The first vintage was 1959. Made the same way today. “This is a medication wine,” no sorry, “meditation.” Again, points are credited for the lack of jam, the shortness of breath and the heavy shaken oak restraint. But once again the charm needs to be coaxed. There is undeniable structure to look decades forward and to read the tea leaves for its past. Perhaps a virtual walk through a forest will ensue. Perhaps. Drink 2019-2029.  Tasted September 2016

Bertani Amarone Della Valpolicella Valpantena DOCG 2013

A 30 day drying period instead of 50, quite short for the region. Aged in Slavonian oak barrels, an earlier developing, made to drink with food early in life kind of Amarone. Sour cherry and dark chocolate. Quite young but I can’t see it getting much more interesting than this. Made for a consumer that has never tried an Amarone before and wants a gateway entry. Clocks in at 15.5 per cent, certainly not jammy though you feel the density and the weight. Drink 2016-2020.  Tasted September 2016

Brigaldara Amarone Della Valpolicella Classico DOCG Casa Vecie 2011

“At thirty three years old (1986) I came back to the family farm. It was the best decision of my life,” says Stefano Cesari. “I like this business. In my time the problem was the market. Now it is the cost of soil. You need big investment.” More elegance driven into this dusty, dried red fruit Amarone than most, with some frutta di bosco and fragola secco, heat on the nose in a slightly volatile way (or acetic) but plenty of equality abounds. Plenty of fruit and savoury character equals it all out. In Valpolicella west facing vineyards bring stronger wines and in the east more elegance. CCR, (40/40/20). Two years in barriques and two in 25 HL casks. The chocolate comes late. At 16.4 per cent this strikes an accord. Drink 2019-2029.  Tasted July 2017

Alfredo Buglioni

Buglioni Il Lussurioso Amarone Della Valpolicella Classico Riserva DOCG 2011

Alfredo Buglioni’s Riserva 2011 is a case study of 25 per cent in 50 hL barrel in a Valpolicella that bridges the old and the new school of Amarone. It notes less confiture and dried fig, negative reduction, inducement and decreasing hyperbole, from concentration, of facets and tents getting on one page together and of sugar levels. Palates of the Amarone are rarely so alive, sparked and again, as per the thread run through this house, electric. The properties of chalky and tannic will churn this through a ten year development wheel. Drink 2019-2027.  Tasted September 2016 and October 2017

Ca’ La Bionda Amarone Della Valpolicella Classico DOCG 2011

The bright, freshest Amarone, light as it can possibly be, with smoky limestone and volcanic influence mixed with clay. If you can’t see the forests (minerals) for the trees (soils) than you won’t get this Amarone. “If I am home I don’t drink Amarone,” says Alessandro Castellani, but you just know he sneaks some sips in the cellar. There is cherry in softly crushed ways and the silky palate with nary a chocolate moment. Just a baby, fleshing quickly so just imagine the feel in another 18 months. Drink 2018-2027.  Tasted September 2016

Ca’ La Bionda Amarone Della Valpolicella Classico DOCG Vigneti Di Ravazzòl 2012

A blend of 70 per cent corvina, (20) corvinone and (10) rondinella plus molinara from the renowned stony clay-limestone hill Ravazzòl. The vines average 50-70 years of age and in 2012 the Amarone is a lithe 16 per cent alcohol with necessary and alter-ego balancing acidity. Ca’ La Bionda acidity, singular, arisen from the mineral terroir to rise above most of the Classico territory. A wine that already sets about to linger almost before the first sip is taken, lending credence to the contemplative and meditative Valpolicella ideal. Even when a wine is so powerful it can elicit serenity and calm. Drink 2018-2032.  Tasted September 2016

Ca’ La Bionda Amarone Della Valpolicella Classico DOCG Vigneti Di Ravazzòl 2011

Generally speaking the Ravazzòl blend is 70 per cent corvina, (20) corvinone and (10) rondinella plus molinara. The clay-limestone soil is unequivocally the thing that changes the wine and with time the emerge is all about more mineral and spice. Much older vines (minimum 50 years old) bring about an increased richness but also a more lifted brightness. “This is my idea of Amarone, traditional but unusual,” tells Alessandro Castellani. “We’ve invented nothing.” Sapidity, acidity, supple peppery schisty-like, syrah-esque spice. Again a bite but no scathe. “It’s difficult to make an Amarone that is powerful with drinkability. You need a good terroir.” Drink 2019-2029.  Tasted September 2016

Ca’ La Bionda Amarone Della Valpolicella Classico DOC Vigneti Di Ravazzòl 2008

Just bottled one month ago after eight years in wood (Botti Grandi) so despite the age its just a baby. The wood is still quite up front. Here the most floral though the palate is thick and compressed, spice of course, as in all the wines but somehow there is evidence of what you have come to expect, despite the youth. The confusion and the conundrum align to cause your brain to say “too young to really know anything.” This is the beauty of complexity in Alessandro Castellani’s Amarone, specifically from the clay-limestone hill that is Ravazzòl. Drink 2020-2030.  Tasted September 2016

Ca’ La Bionda Amarone Della Valpolicella Classico DOC Vigneti Di Ravazzòl 2004

Opened two hours earlier, a cool vintage slowly fast-forwarded to today’s elegance. Is it mature? Of sorts as it carries the soil in its blood and whiffs like it was intended to be though I personally find it extreme youthful. A slight (as it used to be) sweetness (6 g/L of RS) and there is tobacco smouldering in a cedar box. Still not quite opening yet, spending an hour with it (or more) would be ideal. Undefined red citrus, exotica, florals, finesse, balance and elegance. Though it may have once been or at least acted-seemed greener, it has made it to this pretty stage. An integrated beauty. Drink 2016-2026.  Tasted September 2016

Locanda 800

Ca’Rugate Amarone Della Valpolicella DOCG 2013

Sees 32 months in barrel, of course there is richness and some very bright fruit but what is remarkable is the transparency, the claret consistency and the relative thin (and thankfully so) veneer. Finding this quite mineral, full of soil tang and with the barrel program here all new it’s quite an impossibility. As in Ca’Rugate’s whites, the barrel adds spice and some smoulder, not thick, glycerin and caky texture. This is Amarone you can drink, even if it’s a bit of smoke and mirror talk but it’s really done in the right way and for all the right reasons. At 16 per cent it fools with great acumen. Same vintage twice and yes, truly consistent. Drink 2017-2025.  Tasted September 2016

Cantina Di Negrar Amarone Della Valpolicella Classico DOCG 2013

A massive mouthful of Amarone with more varieties of chocolate than thought possible confined to one sweet and savoury bottle. Rich, extracted, caky and oozing with that aforementioned chocolate swirling in the machine, lathered like warm ganache and oozing out of a flourless torte’s every pore. Everything you might expect from Amarone in the developing Valpolicella world. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted September 2016

Cantine Negrar Domini Veneti Amarone Della Valpolicella Classico Superiore DOCG Verjago 2011

From grapes dried between five and six weeks, here the octane runs high, the sugars fully developed for a warm and generous Amarone. The spice cupboard is joined by tobacco and plenty of sweet Amaro bitters, with dusty espresso and a minimum 76 per cent chocolate all over the finish, still with massive tannin. A huge expression with an RS between seven and eight g/L. Drink 2018-2023.  Tasted September 2016

Cantine Negrar Domini Veneti Amarone Della Valpolicella Classico DOCG Vigneti Di Jago 2010

Now here, in my opinion, from a most excellent vintage, with more red fruit and less obvious splintering the freshness persists and the charm continues to draw emotive consideration. The impression brings some soil/terroir gifting, with aromas that suggest multi-stone (limestone and basalt) and freshness from clay. Though the sweetness seems elevated (an RS of 12 or more?) at least the red fruit, citrus expressed and thriving acidity is a match to the Amarone thing. Though massive again, with raging tannin, there is more honesty in this wine. Drink 2016-2022.  Tasted September 2016

Famiglia Pasqua Amarone Della Valpolicella Classico DOCG Villa Borghetti 2012

Comes in at 15 per cent, produced in Marano della Valpolicella, the drying process lasts up to four months (depending on the dates of harvest) for a 30-40 per cent loss of moisture into grape and sugars concentration. Sees 12 months in French barriques, is a fresher style of Amaraone, with quality red fruit but the flavours are directed by formula, cloyingly medicinal and acidified tart. Admittedly with its spice and its sweetness it loves the cheese and the dried fruit. Drink 2016-2019.  Tasted September 2016

Famiglia Pasqua Amarone Della Valpolicella Classico DOCG Mai Dire Mai 2010

Joint ventures between two families, a whopping 16.5 per cent, from corvina (65 per cent), corvinone (15), rondinella (10) and oseleta (10). The work of never say never, single-vineyard (Vignetti Montevegro val d’Illasi), up to four months appassimento, 44 days fermentation, mostly in new barriques for 24 months. The wood occupies the central square in the city centre, taking up residence with what seems to be exceptional fruit though its suppression hides what it might want to offer. Mocha chocolate big time, heat of the night and so much spice. Chalky clay dense and weighty. Intense Amarone. Cherries seeping in spirit water, over the top but for the right reasons where many would follow. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted September 2016

In motion at Fidora

Fidora Amarone Della Valpolicella Classico DOCG Monte Tabor 2010

A massive mouthful of Amarone with a boozy effect to make it seem as though it is quite sweet when in fact it’s an Amarone of extreme relative acidity. The RS level is oddly, curiously and impossibly low at 2.0 g/L with balancing thanks to massive dry extract and fierce, competitive and autocratic tannins. Not to mention 36-42 months in barrel that may as well have been 48, or more. Where else have you ever tasted such a thing? Needs a few to many more years to find its way. Drink 2020-2032.  Tasted September 2016

Masi Serego Alighieri Amarone Della Valpolicella Classico Vaio Armaron 2011

The descendants of San Pietro. Single Vineyard from the Serego Alighieri Estate, 70 corvina, 20 rondinella and 10 molinara, only in the best vintages. Use of cherry wood, brings more oxidation, but it’s only employed for four months. 15.5, illusion of sweetness, 6-7 g/L RS.  Last tasted July 2017

The Vaio Amaron is both highly polished and heavily composed Amarone with history, tradition and the way it has always been exuding out of every appassimento pore. Sourced from the eponymous vineyard which lays claim “it seems” to the name itself, this is Masi’s most iconic Amarone. The not quite reached prime time fig-centric red to black fruit is bright and alive but do not be fooled. The depths of plum and marly earth are plumbed, mined and excavated for full bore corvina, rondinella and molinara heavy exercize. From what I have come to recognize as a most excellent Amarone vintage (even though it is way too young to even begin to appreciate) you had better pull out the Monte Veronese for this dangerous and formidable Veneto. Drink 2019-2034.  Tasted September 2016

Nicolis Amarone Della Valpolicella Classico DOCG 2010

A blend of 65 corvina, 20 rondinella, 10 croatina and 5 molinara with a bit of SO2 that needs air to release. The reduction is consistent with the fresher Valpolicellas. Old school, deep red fruit, really fleshy, more than the price is drinkable, this has so much in common with similarly weighted reds, like sonoma cabernet sauvignon, Chianti classico Gran Selezione and Rhône Gigondas. Interesting comparisons aside (and stylistically they are valid) this is a rich, concentrated, high glycerin Amarone with a warm, sweet finish. Orange fleshy, summer patio melon liqueur cocktail. Very consumer friendly for a Keg Steakhouse red. Drink 2016-2021.  Tasted September 2016

Nicolis Amarone Della Valpolicella DOC Ambrosan 2008

Tallying in at 16 per cent alcohol which is par for the Amarone course and a number completely normal for the 2008 vintage. While it may be a bruiser it has barely walked out of its toddler shoes and is indeed a corvina blend of deepest intent. The eight year mark is where the layering begins to unfold and a glimpse variegates right here in this glass. A thick one, with a naturally funky porcine cure, humid and ideal for slices of ham in all iterations. Also perfect for the cuisine of Chef Diego Donatelli at Locanda 800 in Negrar. Drink 2018-2029.  Tasted September 2016

Nicolis Amarone Della Valpolicella DOC Ambrosan 2007

Single vineyard, current vintage available, sold in the LCBO, 70 corvina, 20 rondinella, 10 croatina, first made in 1990 (the normale was first made in 1978). This combines the rich extraction and big barrel impart of the Ripasso into a fortified, layered and deeply compressed Amarone. Sweetness seems magnified. The bretty voltility is part of the party. A mix of sweet, saline and savoury, not yet umami and still so young because it’s thick and taut. Will be late in 2017 before anything changes. Drink 2018-2028.  Tasted September 2016

Novaia Amarone Della Valpolicella Classico DOCG Le Balze 2011

Bottled in March and will likely be released in December. Single-vineyard aged three years in (some new and mostly old) barrels. Vines were planted in 1996, so now just entering right into the proverbial wheelhouse of exceptionality. It will have up to another 10 years or so before those vines will likely succumb to the Mal d’este wood disease. Richer, softer, gentle and amenable especially to taste, but that acidity, power and tannin does not relent. The aging adds to the density, the clay in this vineyard adds to the power and all tolled this is bigger and with more layered brawn than the Corte Vaona. Two different slices of Amarone pie. This one with a big chocolate espresso finale. Drink 2019-2028.  Tasted September 2016

Salvaterra Amarone Della Valpolicella Classico DOC 2009

Plenty of oak, including American, on the nose with the gamut run in kernel, nut and smoke. With Monte Veronese cheese aged 18 and 24 months the savoury and herbal aspects are foiled with reigned in agreement. This is modernity to the extreme, like some equally forged or a cross between Gran Selezione and Barolo, firm, concentrated but not shaken. Still quite youthful. Drink 2017-2027.  Tasted September 2016

Salvaterra Amarone Della Valpolicella Classico DOC 2007

Seems typical of the vintage, softer, rich and quite getable though there is heat and the aromatics of distraction; menthol, clove, vanilla, lavender, fennel and even cola. How this reminds me of high octane California pinot noir I’m not sure but it does. So thoroughly modern but without the same structure of 2009 and certainly not 2008, if that were tasted here as well. Drink 2016-2020.  Tasted September 2016

Santa Sofia Amarone Della Valpolicella Classico DOCG 2011

A representative of a best vintage, a specific vineyard and the addition of molinara (five per cent), stabilizer and a grape that has been ripped out to be omitted from the other wines. Quite remarkably perfumed with florals (roses and violets) that Amarone just does not often have. Except here it is, fresh and potpourri and then a mouthfeel that goes to velvet despite the dangerously intense acidity. The finish is dusted with espresso and shaved by bittersweet chocolate. Not as drinkable, with more structure and outright hedonism. Will live in infamy. Drink 2018-2033.  Tasted September 2016

Sartori Amarone Della Valpolicella DOCG 2012

The blend is 50 per cent corvina, (30) corvinone, (15) rondinella and (5) cabernet sauvignon. Comes in at 15 per cent abv, after a hot summer, four months drying process, raisin and plum with a baked fruit character. Fleshy and nearly though not entirely severe. Steeped tea of a few varieties, some forest floor, deep and brooding tannins. Sage and balsamic. Would not wait any longer. This should be consumed early. Drink 2016-2019.  Tasted September 2016

Sartori Amarone Della Valpolicella DOC I Saltari 2009

Old vines (some more than 40, average age of 20), low yields (1.5 tonnes per hectare), again quite secondary, almost into prune but certainly of a fig character. Though this wine and the Corte Bra have developed quite quickly their body and disposition are left off in the middle, leaning away from the overs of extraction, over-pressing and over oaking. You may not accuse the Sartori wines of over oaking. They are made with some restraint, against the rising norm, but they do brood with dark as night character. Drink 2016-2022.  Tasted September 2016

Sergio Zenato Amarone Della Valpolicella DOCG 2010

Founded in 1960, village near Lago Garda on the east side. Village of Santa Moggio, where the Valoplicella estate is located. Father was Sergio, now with sister and mother. CCR 60-20-20 plus oselata and croetine grown at 300masl, red clay with stones, difficult to retain water so irrigation is used. This is the dried fig and chocolate bomb, with soy, balsamic and five spice. So Mediterranean savoury, thick and shaken. Lots of French vanilla feel with 300L French tonneaux and 500L, plus 300L and 5000L French and Slavonian oak casks. This may never, ever fully integrate. It’s the thickest milkshake you will ever find. It’s a mess at this time and 17 per cent so wait 10 more years for it to get interesting. Drink 2027-2042.  Tasted July 2017

Speri Vigneto Amarone Della Valpolicella Classico DOCG Monte Sant’Urbano 2012

Family business in Valpolicella. Single-Vineyard, top of the hill in the Fumane Valley. Fume, as in hot, from its volcanic origins, especially for corvina. Soft soils (in texture, yellowish, friable but gets sticky when wet so over cover crops like fescue and clover are employed) and this will translate into the wine. Heavy in corvina (80 per cent) with reasoning because of its affiliation to volcanic soil and because winemaker (of 25 years) Alberto Speri simply thinks it’s the best grape. The grape that finds the most elegance. High percentage of drying (40 per cent), use of big oak, four years. Will go out on a limb and say this will indeed be the most elegant in a line up of eight formidable Amarone. Drink 2019-2032.  Tasted July 2017

Good morning @C_Valpolicella from @accordinilgino

Stefano Accordini Amarone Della Valpolicella Classico DOCG Acinatico 2013

The latin name of the wine is Acinatico, from ancient Rome, indicating the wines delineated from this place, produced from these specific berries. The vines were planted by grandfather Gaetano and are now up to 85 years old. Quite reductive and so very rushed into market young but this is the normale so perfectly understandable. A whack of tannin is met by acidity in the most rushing wave of red citrus. The wine is so taut and wound that the house style of secondary savoury character hasn’t even become a twinkle in its eye. Chocolate shavings cover everything, they cover everything. The chocolate of Accordini. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted September 2016

Stefano Accordini Amarone Della Valpolicella Classico DOCG Acinatico 2010

Has developed righteously, from a gritty and serious vintage, for which tannin was not at a premium. Plenty of expertly tempered chocolate works the mid-palate and the tart finish with a baker’s glaze. This is heavily wooded Amarone, sweet and custardy, mouth coating and really 90’s. Like Rioja or IGT from the same time period. Drink 2016-2020.  Tasted September 2016

Tedeschi Amarone della Valponicella Classico DOCG Monte Olmi 2011

Monte Olmi is a two and a half hectare parcel, southwest in the Classica area, where the winery is located. This archetypal Amarone was first produced in 1964 and is now an 8,000-10,000 bottle per year effort. The mix is classic Tedeschi corvina, corvinone and rondinella, in a one third of each plus minor percentages of oselata and several other endemic varieties (rossignola, negrara, dindarella, croatina and forselina), from the oldest parts of Monte Omi. This is the Amarone to celebrate tradition, keeping history alive and always remembering from where you’ve come. It spent four years in large casks and emerged at 17 per cent alcohol. The ceiling is reached, with balls, brash and no worries but is it balanced? Remarkably it is and also sour-edged, with tannin and the crazy, wild and free spirit of red fruit drawn off of morainic white and yellow limestone. But it will certainly improve and last as long as any. The acidity will see to that, even if the fruit fades. Drink 2021-2035.  Tasted July 2017

Tenuta Sant’Antonio Amarone Della Valpolicella DOCG Campo Dei Gigli 2012

Youngish winery, still essentially first generation, started in 1995. Armando Castagnedi is one of four brothers and Paolo is winemaker. They were born and worked in the vineyards but sold to cooperatives before. In the east (not in Classico), Montegarbi. The symbol of the flower of Sant’Antonio. White limestone chalky soil, lime and sand. Corvina (35), corvinone (35), rondinella (25) with croetina and oselata because of their elevation, wind, proximity to the sea with that wind in mind. Three years in tonneaux, not big barrels (young producer compromise). Clean and fruity with a syrupy pool in the middle, welling on the palate. Clocks in at 16 per cent, come out tonight. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted July 2017

Tenuta Santa Maria Amarone Della Valpolicella Classico DOCG 2010

Separated five years ago from the parent (Bertani) winery. Gaetano Bertani is the winemaker with the help of consulting oenologist Franco Bernabei. One 7th the size of the larger Bertani, 380,000 bottles vs. 2.5 million and no one from the family works with them at all. Amarone is corvina, corvinone and rondinella, reductive and young, in need of air and so much more. Plenty of acidity and a rage of tannin. The red fruit capacity is boundless and with all the rage around this whirls like a hurricane. Rocking Amarone, old-school, leathery and dry. Drier than the Ripasso. Fruit leather roll-up. Restrained at 15 per cent alcohol and acts like less. The number is 7.5 g/L RS. Drink 2016-2022.  Tasted September 2016

Tommasi Amarone Della Valpolicella Classico Riserva DOC Ca’ Florian 2009

Presented by PierAngelo Tommasi. Founded in 1902, the new generation is 1997, nine “kids” from four fathers. Only since 1990 has this vineyard been dedicated to a single-vineyard wine and since 2010 as a Riserva. “This wine tastes this way because of the vineyard,” says PierAngelo “and not because it is called a Riserva.” CCR, 75-20-5. Fermentation in wooden vats and the aging in 500L (French) tonneaux (in the first year) is a departure (for Tommasi) and the next three are in large Slavonian casks. This is the third vintage for Ca’ Florian and though it is massive, it is not volatile nor is it acetic. At 15.5 per cent and 4 g/L of RS it states the least obvious connotational expectation for the style and goes against its peers. This should be the top vintage of this SV wine, considering the integration, the level of fruit, the texture and the potential for aging. Drink 2019-2032.  Tasted June 2017

Valentina Cubi Morar Amarone Della Valpolicella Classico DOCG 2010

Valentina’s estate is now farmed certified organica though some older Amarones were not. From 1963, the estate dates back to the 18th century. At 16.5 it has to be a lie, again, not just because of colour but clearly its lightness of being is anti-Amarone. The grip and the grit of the aridity and tannin is the crux of this wine but there is plenty of fruit. That said it has chocolate and woody notes that give it some commonality so it is obvious that Amarone is almost impossible to change and to seek revolution. But this is 2010, before Valentina could write organic on the label and before the winemaking turned to its present motives. It was also the vintage. Structured and long. 2018-2025.  Tasted September 2016

Valentina Cubi Morar Amarone Della Valpolicella Classico DOC 2007

In ways that composition and result make for a dramatic difference, this is more traditional, darker and more extracted but also cooler, further into savour and with that umami prevalent throughout the region. This is not separate or antithetical, quite spicy and wholly tannic. and yet it is neither thick nor overdone. White chocolate is all in, This 2007 has more finesse but also real creaminess, sweet, savoury and blanketing. And that umami, mushroom and consomée. Drink 2016-2021.  Tasted September 2016

Valentina Cubi Morar Amarone Della Valpolicella Classico DOC 2005

Wholly, utterly, invisibly resolved, all umami, full truffle, dried forest floor and porcini mushroom. Something pine savoury but all vanilla and green tea ice cream. Spice and smoke all over the palate and the finish. Clocks in at 16 per cent alcohol. Very good vintage and showing well. Must have been a tannic beast in its time. Drink 2016-2019.  Tasted September 2016

Venturini Amarone Della Valpolicella Classico DOCG Campo Masua 2011

Centre of the Classica area southwest of Negrar. Vines in the 20-25 year range, rocky and clay under the topsoil. “Toar” as in volcanic, a very friable soil. A very clear strata separation between soil and rock. Hot and very dried fruit aromas which conspire to mask the florals aching to get out. A corvina (70 per cent), corvinone (10) and rondinalla (20) blend, dried for five months “in the natural way” and aged in 3000L big barrels for four years. Dried plum and apricot, roasted almond, charred onion and smoked meat. Spicy off the piquant charts. Sweetness follows. 16.5 and every bit of it. Drink 2019-2026.  Tasted July 2017

Vignetti Di Ettore Amarone Della Valpolicella Classico DOCG 2012

One of the more if not the most fragrant Amarone, of peppery plum and pomegranate fruit, richness, depth and plenty of dusty espresso. Acidity and tannin are equal and opposing, subduing fruit for the time being though three of four years down the road all should be in synch. This will develop umami. For now it lurks. Drink 2019-2026.  Tasted September 2016

Vignetti Di Ettore Amarone Della Valpolicella Classico DOC 2008

The 2008 is right where the 2012 projects to be in four years, carrying its peppery and stemmy spice into a secondary world inhabited by figs and still to be determined dried fruit. Tannins were tougher in 2008 and acidity higher so this remains just a baby. Plenty of espresso, again, but also some developed chocolate. A really well made Amarone from back in the day. Drink 2017-2025.  Tasted September 2016

Zonin Amarone Della Valpolicella DOCG 2011

Looking for freshness, fruit, that corvina punch. Plums again as are all the wines and grinds upon grinds of pepper. So much syrah is like this. New world syrah. Plenty of chocolate. A bit weighty but the acidity and tannin will drive this machine. It is a fruit first Amarone, that much is clear. The spice is everywhere though, which speaks to the wood as a major part of the impression. Very typical. How it was and many observe as should be. Hot finish detracts from the fruit freshness Drink 2017-2026.  Tasted September 2016

Recioto Della Valpolicella DOCG

Buglioni Recioto Della Valpolicella Classico DOCG ‘Il Narcisista’ (500 Ml) 2011

Like honey, with leesy, cheesy, red citrus and earthy notes mixed in. Gracious natural sweetness, use of sulphur to stop the fermentation, 140 g/L of rS (which is the maximum, can be as low as 110). The nose is remarkable, short on the sweetness despite the honey, so more like honeycomb. Good narcissist, if there is such a thing. Drink 2017-2027.  Tasted September 2016

Ca’ La Bionda Recioto Della Valpolicella Classico DOCG 2012

The drinkable Recioto with a level of sugar comparable to many producers’ Amarone. Aromas resemble the Amarone, as does the mouthfeel. Once you taste this “dessert” wine you can never go back. Plum, strawberry, beautiful. Caressing. Elegant. Finessed. Drink 2016-2028.  Tasted September 2016

Ca’ Rugate Recioto Della Valpolicella DOCG L’Eremita 2012

From a 500 mL bottle, a sweet disposition on a moderate (13.5 per cent) alcohol frame with Amaro liqueur bitterness. Liquorice and menthol on the nose, then plum pudding, black cherry dominant and mint jelly to taste. So much cooler than to what expectation would have made a commitment. Oh, it’s a Cherry Blossom, dark chocolate and when cracked open lets out the ooze of silky confection. Drink 2016-2021.  Tasted September 2016

Domini Veneti Amando Recioto Della Valpolicella Classico DOCG Amandorlato (Charmat Method Spumante Recioto) 2010

Charmat Method spumante Recioto, from one of last producers to do so, carrying on the home bottler’s accidental tradition. In the past apricot (or cherry) leaves or seeds were added to impart an almond flavour (Amandorlato) but today it’s developed leaving the Recioto in small cherry wood barriques with a low, slow and sugar burning fermentation. Naturally achieved 17 per cent alcohol without fortification, unique and meant for chocolate and cheese. “And a good cigar.” Less or more 25 euro retail or 19 ex-cellar or lets say $75-80 Canadian. Smells just like a Cherry Blossom, from the tree and out of the candy box. Sweet, bitter, drying and hot. An expensive acquired taste. Will drink for decades. Drink 2016-2046.  Tasted September 2016

Novaia Recioto Della Valpolicella DOCG 2013

From the oldest parcels in the oldest vineyard at La Novaia, the same process of the Amarone, using more ripe grapes, with an extended drying time to concentrate the juice. Fermentation arrested with cold temperature, registers 13.5 abv and spent one year in barrel. If it doesn’t happen the wine is filtered but that’s rarely needed. Full on black cherry syrup, runny raspberry confiture, sweet fennel tea and Chambord. Sweet but not milkshake thick. Great red chalky, spring maple bleed. A good Recioto ooze. Drink 2016-2026.  Tasted September 2016

Santa Sofia Recioto Della Valpolicella Classico DOC 2009

Same make-up as the Gioé Amarone, aged in Frenck oak for 14 months, plus 12 months in bottle. “A niche product that is hard to transmit its importance.” Of course no sugar adjustment, so to maximize the natural design, the fermentation is arrested naturally when the alcohol number is breached. Here at 14.5, higher on the Recioto scale but stlll well below the level of fortified. A balanced effort with acidity, tannin, bitters, tonic and plum essence sweetness. Dries out at then end with a pasty finish like salumi. Drink 2017-2028.  Tasted September 2016

Valentina Cubi Recioto Della Valpolicella Classico DOC Meliloto 2000

At 14.5 per cent and not produced every year, after this 2000 again in 2003 and 2010. Vanilla bean and ground espresso, cherry ooze or confiture. Dark chocolate, mint and orange zest. There is your pairing. Drink 2016-2026.  Tasted September 2016

Vignetti Di Ettore Recioto Della Valpolicella Classico DOCG 2013

Alcohol equitable to weight, acidity buoyant, dry extract elevated and residual sugar well-adjusted. Here we have typical and rich, balanced and ephemeral Recioto. What it needs to be. Drink 2016-2025.  Tasted September 2016

Zonin Recioto Di Gambellara Classico DOCG Il Giangio 2011

A 100 per cent garganega, aged in tonneaux, 24-36 months. “The typicity of this soil in garganega,” volcanic but dark basalt, apricot and pineapple with a minor herbal note and menthol cool, very sweet on the palate. Tart and sour, very pineapple, oil and mineral by basalt, not sticky but a salve, specific to Gambellara. There are 10-12 producers who make this wine (out of the 15-20 in the appellation). A very specific dessert wine. A 12-13 g/L RS number which seems impossible. Drink 2016-2025.  Tasted September 2016

Good to go!

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Memories of Verona

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WineAlign

16 mind-blowing wines of 2016

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

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

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

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

Related – 15 Mind blowing wines of 2015

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

Related – Around the Cape in 50 wines

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Related – March of the Canadians

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

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

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

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

Related – 16 Canadian wines that rocked in 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Singolarità, qualità, diversità. Grazie di tutto @chianticlassico

Singolarità, qualità, diversità. Grazie di tutto @chianticlassico

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

not-members-of-blasted-mechanism-with-magnuspim-and-vasco-croft-aphroswines-vinhoverde

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

what-is-rockpile-time-in-and-time-out-the-fun-stuff-keith-moon-of-zinfandel-mauritsonwinery-sonomacounty-jameswood

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

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

weinbach

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

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

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

Luiano Chianti Classico 1979, Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

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

thoroughly-enamoured-with-the-purechablis-made-by-athenais-at-chateau-de-beru-chablis-monopoleleclosberu

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

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

remelluri

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

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

dominus

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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