Thörle Riesling, Truly Rheinhessen

Some of Germany’s finest #riesling coming to @TerroirTalk May 29th #thorle #Terroir2017 #christophthorle #saulheim #rheinhessen #terroirsymposium #holle #agotoronto

I first met Christoph Thörle when Wines of Germany rolled their Next Generation Germany roadshow through Toronto in May of 2014. I know that he knew based on my reactions to his Rheinhessen rieslings that we would need to rekindle the relationship at a later date. That opportunity came again in May of 2015, albeit briefly but it was this past March of 2017 that the true immersion took place. Even then it was too quick and too short. But that’s OK because Christoph and his brother Johannes have really only just begun their lifelong journey of winemaking and understanding in Saulheim.

Related – Godello’s March through Prowein, The Ahr Valley and The Rheinhessen

On day three of ProWein I jumped on the großer Magie Bus with 17 international journalists and headed for the Ahr Valley, followed by the Rheinhessen. We stopped in for a visit with Christoph Thörle at Weingut Thörle in Saulheim, the most progressive winery he started with his brother in 2006 after taking over from their parents. Thörle concentrates on natural ferments and they farm organically without certification. The vineyards are planted to 50 per cent riesling, 25 pinot noir and 25 mixed varietals; including silvaner and pinot blanc. The estate structures are narrow and long, mimicked in the vineyards, a leftover from Napoleonic times. This history must be kept in mind because there are so many different terroirs that all need to be kept separate. Fossilized oysters and mussel shells are found in the limestone, plus there is clay, iron-oxide, loam and yellow sands. The blocks roll out on wave-like, hilly landscapes over land that was once submerged beneath an ocean.

Godello with Christoph Thörle at Ball’s Falls, Ontario

The Thörle brothers make full use of their mixed vines ages and variegated terroir qualities to craft a range of riesling from Villages through Premier Cru and into Grand Cru level wines; Trocken, Feinherb, Kabinett, Spätlese and single-vineyard GGs from Hölle and Schlossberg. Their bottles of Weissburgunder and Spätburgunder are anything but afterthoughts and with climate change gaining speed, pinot noir will only increase in importance, not just at Thörle but across the Rheinhessen.

Two class @terroirtalk #riesling fellas, @RavineVineyard Sultan of St. David’s @marty_werner and the Rheinhessen’s Souverän of Saulheim #christophthorle #terroir2017 #terroirsymposium

Christoph came back to Ontario this past May as a special guest speaker of the Terroir Talk Symposium. In advance of that Monday congress we spent a day in Niagara tasting at Flat Rock Cellars with cellar master Allison Findlay and then at Henry of Pelham with Daniel Speck, Ryan Corrigan of Rosewood Estates and Suzanne Janke of Stratus Vineyards. Terroir afforded the opportunity to revisit two of Christoph’s rieslings, the Kabinett and the Schlossberg GG. Back in March I tasted 11 wines at Thörle. Here are the notes.

The mythology of #thorle #riesling in Beerenauslese and Trockenbetenauslese #weingutthörle #gabsheim #rheinhessen #holle

Thörle Riesling Feinherb 2016, Rheinhessen, Germany (420091, Agent, $18.95, WineAlign)

Off-dry riesling does not always have to be bottled as such but in the Rheinhessen and at Thörle the category of Feinherb is anything but an afterthought. This started as a side fermentation in its first years but is now an important wine in the estate’s multi-tiered processes. The cuvée is gathered from younger vines plus one barrel of premier cru Saulheim fruit. A slight skin maceration (12-18 hours) is employed which helps to temper the tartaric acid though this will be swapped for whole bunch fermentation in warmer years. Hides some of its sugar, especially on the nose which is quite floral, of white flowers and honeysuckle. Honey and wax with sweet herbs bring all into playful light to taste, with plenty of sweet lime and lik-a-maid sour touches. For every Indian Food list in the world. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted March 2017  thorle_c  thorleestatewinery  univinscanada  @thoerle  @UNIVINS  @germanwineca  @gen_riesling  

Thörle Riesling Saulheim 2015, Rheinhessen, Germany (WineAlign)

The Trocken and Feinherb bottles aside, this riesling denoted as Saulheim is the signature Thörle product and with succinct style represents this corner of the Rheinhessen, a renaissance region in west-central Germany, due south of Rheingau and southwest of Frankfurt. The fruit sources are several parcels and soils around the village, from vines 28-37 years old and an élèvage in 50 per cent old oak barrels. The avoidance of oaked flavours is part of the ultimate goal, that and balance in a riesling seemingly quite dry. A slight petrol aroma (perceived, or not, towards its future) submits to pure, crisp orchard fruit. Some glycerin and a mineral saltiness will aid in developing these notes over time. As opposed to other regions in Germany and their four levels of quality definitions, the Saulheim here sits between a villages and a Premier Cru, as it is written on the label and as it is defined by its soils. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted March 2017

Thörle Weissburgunder Saulheim 2015, Rheinhessen, Germany (WineAlign)

Weissburgunder from Saulheim is dubious here as a very dry pinot blanc, presented in that between villages and cru level. The Thörle oeuvre is all about combing and combining soils, “to show the other grapes of Germany,” and expressly important for Rheinhessen. The ’15 went into 500L French Beaune (Allier) Tonneaux. A hot summer so clearly lifts ripeness but says Christoph, “we left it a little bit shorter under the flame.” The oak is 30 per cent new and it really hides it, despite the lower acidity but the wood helps to usher it along and replace the tannins not always originally there. The net function is one third naturally unforced malolactic and good crisp orchard fruit with crunch and persistence. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted March 2017

Thörle Riesling Hölle 2015, Rheinhessen, Germany (WineAlign)

Hölle is a single-vineyard of high limestone at 35 degree steepness and housing 42 year-old vines, planted by Christoph’s grandfather. Minimal air flow in this valley during the day makes for a warm, still place. So dried fruit results; peach, apricot and plum. I find this streaking in liquid limestone chalk, glistening in glycerin consistency, nearly bone dry and popping in pearls of fine acidity. So focused and precise. This shows precocious acumen, wisdom and patience. Both the fruit and the mineral are never shadowed or will one defeat the other. Let it rest a year or two because the secondary notes will blow you away. Drink 2018-2026.  Tasted March 2017

Thörle Riesling Schlossberg 2013, Rheinhessen, Germany (WineAlign)

Schlossberg is a vineyard in the north of the (Saulheim) village, closer to the Rhine, on clay, iron-oxide and further down, limestone. With converse effect (in relation to Hölle) this higher and cooler spot carries with it more wind and airflow. This and the tenet of a cool 2013 vintage results in quite the floral riesling but it’s also noted by the hint of smoke, flint and therefore, great potential development. The nose is full of flowers to suggest glycerin and petrol even if it’s not quite yet in tune. The body is graced by more structure and variegated soil tang. It’s not dry but it acts dry without austerity or unnecessary intensity. More roundness, body and soul. Drink 2019-2028.  Tasted March 2017

Thörle Spätburgunder Saulheim 2015, Rheinhessen, Germany (WineAlign)

Spätburgunder Saulheim is villages level, aged in 20 per cent (225L) barriques and 80 per cent old barrels for 12 months. It’s a blend of three vineyards, 30 year old and 15 year old vines. Typical for northern Rheinhessen pinot noir, with no stem inclusion, done in open top fermenters and with no added yeast. It’s a palpable mouthful of glycerin fruit, morello cherry, raspberry and a touch of sweet orange. Made in a reductive style, in avoidance of volatile acidity. Quite silky with a liquid limestone, dusty chalk feel. Much prettier and brighter than most and just enough fine grain tannin to make it last five plus years. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted March 2017

Thörle Spätburgunder Hölle 2014, Rheinhessen, Germany (WineAlign)

Hölle is pinot noir at the Grand Cru (Grosses Gewächs, Großes Gewächs, or GG) level, from the middle part of the slope where plantings owe their history to the 1971 German clone. The élèvage is 20 months in 50 per cent new barrels, similar to the Saulheim but fortified by an extra year in respect to the single vineyard. The cherries and the raspberry repeat but in a deeper liqueur with bigger grains of tannin. Though a comparison is fruitless this is the most NSG of the German pinot noir. Smoky, meaty, and blessed with full on density in structure that will allow it to travel long. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted March 2017

Thörle Riesling Kabinett 2015, Rheinhessen, Germany (WineAlign)

Thörle’s estate level Riesling Kabinett 2015 comes from young vineyards and is harvested at the beginning of October. It’s a matter of natural fermentation in the cold cellar (at a maximum 22 degrees) and takes 8-10 weeks, then cooled further at seven to eight per cent alcohol. Green tinged, green citrus, crisp and fresh like a bite out of both a green apple and a ripe peach. Pure and refreshing Kabinett to drink by the bucketful, on the beach or wherever works, from now through its 10th birthday. Drink 2018-2024.  Tasted March 2017

Thörle Riesling Spätlese 2015, Rheinhessen, Germany (WineAlign)

The Spätlese was harvested two to three weeks after the Kabinett and with no botrytis, in other worlds, fully healthy grapes. Looking at it now it shines lucent in a yellow-orange hue. The aromatics and flavours repeat what the colour tells them to. A bit less gregarious than the Kabinett, the nose hints at stone fruit and also a smoky, flinty note. More citrus to taste than you’d expect but this added complexity goes along with ripe peach, apricot, passion fruit and even methinks some guava. So focused, of clean lines, pure, precise, linear and inwardly intense. Drink 2019-2027.  Tasted March 2017

Thörle Riesling Beerenauslese Hölle 2011, Rheinhessen, Germany (WineAlign)

Only 350 bottles were produced of the 2011 Riesling Hölle BA (Beerenauslese), an intense Rheinhessen late harvest with “not only a little botrytis but the perfect weather for sweet wine.” Rain in September and the intangible brought on the botrytis and then warm weather persisted through the harvest. The residual number 150 is the minus for sugar but this reached 186 g/L. So much stone fruit with good acidity. Apricot, longan and mangosteen but also this sweet basil note. A wine of clarity, the freshest botrytis, so juicy and as clean a BA as you are ever going to taste. A bit of spice at the end shows further complexity. I’d like to see three years of development so that these notes all contrive to morph and begin anew. Drink 2020-2036.  Tasted March 2017

Thörle Riesling Trockenbeerenauslese Hölle 2011, Rheinhessen, Germany (WineAlign)

The Hölle TBA 2011 is a minuscule 180 bottle single-vineyard production and the vintage was simply perfect for the effort. The process involved the collection of a few berries at a time over the course of three weeks, started in the fridge and was then pressed when the amount of approximately 100L could be obtained. “This is the king’s discipline for creating such a riesling” explains Christoph Thörle. Thick like honey, full of unctuousness and viscosity. It is expressly noticed how the colour and the development have not advanced considering the six year mean. The exoticism is what separates this, with fruits far east, creamy and perfectly easy to assimilate, in flavour, consistency and understanding. Sweet herbology, of thai basil and thyme and candied mandarin rind. Here, a piece of history and legacy from Christoph and Johannes. Drink 2021-2041.  Tasted March 2017

Good to go!

Godello

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

WineAlign

A Chianti Classico return to Villa Trasqua

I had been to Villa Trasqua once before, in May of 2016. Proprietor Sven Hulsbergen was more than kind and generous to say I would always be welcome back, so I took him up on that offer and returned in February 2017. I joined Sven and Villa Trasqua’s Export Manager Giorgia Casadio for dinner and to taste through the estate’s current releases, not to mention some spirited conversation and debate.

Related – The most important red wine from Italy

The following day in Florence inside Stazione Leopolda at Anteprime’s Chianti Classico Collection 2017 Sven and I run through the wines again with two Villa Trasqua associates, Francesca and Guilia. It is nearly impossible to gain a true sense of an estate’s Chianti Classico through the nadir scope of a single 12-hour window, even by tasting each bottle twice, yet such an ascent towards conceptualization and visualization leads to a higher probability of ken. I could not do this with just any Chianti Classico but Villa Trasqua’s wines are both encouraging and enabling. When sangiovese opportunity knocks, Godello walks through the varietal door.

A restful return and new visit with the #chianticlassico of #villatrasqua #castellinainchianti Thank you Sven. Thank you Giorgia. #graziemille

Related – Three days, eight estates, Chianti Classico

Located north of Siena in Castellina in Chianti with Monteriggioni rising majestically above the estate, Villa Trasqua is built around the ancient and exceptional vineyard known as Nerento. The estate dates back to 1965 and cultivates its 120 hectares and 10 vineyards in the oldest part of Castellina in Chianti. Trasqua is owned by Swiss brothers Sven and Alan Hulsbergen. Organically farmed vines and the gravity fed winery built on several levels are overseen by oenologist Franco Bernabei and Director Armand Metalla. The estate is represented in Ontario by Frontier Wine Merchants.

I tasted four new releases from Villa Trasqua, all from earlier vintages than the norm shown at the Chianti Classico Collection and held back because time in bottle is your ally and your friend. This is one of the ways that Bernabei refuses to let the estate’s wines melt into a puddle of conformity. The wines are not merely executed on behalf of comfort’s sake or stylized to emulate wherever the sangiovese grass is greener. They are specific to the soils with Nerento at the epicentre of it all.

The team at Trasqua takes what the land gives and allows each vintage to speak on its behalf. There are no forcing square pegs into round holes or the stealing of phrasing from other regional, or even more parochially, Castellina in Chianti micro-locales. Like love, sangiovese from Chianti Classico can’t be owned because no two are the same and Villa Trasqua’s are no exception but, they are becoming increasingly exceptional and each are their own emotive exemption. Here are the notes.

Annata, Fanatico, Nerento and Trasgaia

Villa Trasqua Chianti Classico 2013, Docg Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $19.95, WineAlign)

Trasqua’s from the Hulsbergen brothers (Alan and Sven) out of an idyllic, naturally rippling and undulating Castellina in Chianti bowl is 100 per cent sangiovese. I have to admit to fully agreeing with Sven when he tells me “you can drink this with red sauce.” I did in fact retroactively follow-up on this and tasted it alongside one prepared by him at the estate. The round, soft yet structured CC was, for the vintage and the pasta a perfect match. It’s that simple and you should try it, on a Monday night, as we did, in Chianti Classico, or anywhere else. This is traditional (perhaps even more so that their 2012) with its tart and edgy red fruit and some tannin. More than that is its smoke and smoulder, coming as it has from eight months in big barrels, eight more in concrete and finally, steel. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted twice, February 2017     Villa Trasqua  @HULSI_II  Frontier Wine Merchants

Villa Trasqua Chianti Classico Riserva Fanatico 2011, Docg Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $29.95, WineAlign)

Though not declared on the label Fanatico is 100 per cent sangiovese in 2011 and very much in line, vein and style to the Annata Chianti Classico. The Bernabei entusiasta/amatore/appassionato for Trasqua’s exceptional Castellina in Chianti terroir comes across with CC amplifications so this does by its nomenclature in attitude, acidity and big red fruit. To stay clear of hyperbole balance was key to the vintage and here struck with firm, grippy and almost gritty amplitude. As a result it’s nearly atypical to traditional but it speaks to the specificity of Trasqua grown sangiovese. Drink 2018-2023.  Tasted twice, February 2017

Villa Trasqua Chianti Classico Gran Selezione Nerento 2011, Docg Tuscany, Italy (459685, $39.95, WineAlign)

Nerento lies at the heart of the Trasqua Vineyards and the vines take root in the deep red soil. The name might be mythical, a tree of life reference or from the Latin “nerent,” meaning courting. This is Gran Selezione that courts like a suitor, charming and suave but built on power and a deep liqueur, like at the bottom of a pure well. The sangiovese is still very kissed by wood and locked shut. The first bottle (over dinner) needed more than one hour to open, eventually releasing fresh florals (violets especially), herbs, savour and forest floor. The second bottle next day was not so eager to do the same. This is compact, woven, textured and refined sangiovese with forceful (and the promise of) delicate tannins. Drink 2019-2026.  Tasted twice, February 2017

Villa Trasqua IGT Toscana Trasgaia 2012, Tuscany, Italy (AgentWineAlign)

The IGT foray takes half sangiovese to mingle with two cabernets (35-40 per cent sauvignon and 10-15 franc) from the sandy Trasqua soils abutting Nerento. The name also combines and returns the estate to the earth. The conscious life of this blend centres around a currant crunch and a current of simplicity to solicit early and repetitive consumption with meals. This was bottled in May of 2016 so is now just coming into its window. There is a peaty, smoky note from the oak and this is one instance where sangiovese does not dominate, control or reign. It’s both rich and firm, typically Bernabei in style and with a tannic, beneficially bitter finish. IGT of a democratic and discreet kind. Drink 2017-2019. Tasted twice, February 2017

Good to go!

Godello

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

WineAlign

VINTAGES preview April 1st

When you see one grand cru you’ve seen another grand cru #nierstein #rheinhessen #rhein

Globe-trekking critics, be a fool for value, plug in to musical Ontario and align with new world pioneers

as seen on WineAlign

Last Thursday I flew home from Germany after attending Prowein 2017, a massive wine fair in Düsseldorf that has to be seen to be believed. Picture nine immense convention halls each the size, depth and breadth of a Canadian football field, connected to one another and circling a courtyard like hangars in surround of incoming and outgoing flights at a major airport. The sheer quantity of human power and logistical planning required to facilitate and execute such a congress is in fact not unlike what happens every day at Frankfurt International. There may not be 100,000 employed to run Prowein, but at least that many wine stems are engaged.

It’s also hard to believe that this time yesterday I was standing on the crest of the red sandstone Grand Cru Neirstein vineyards overlooking the Rhein River. In advance of my trip to Germany I had the chance to taste through next weekend’s VINTAGES April 1st release and you will be pleased to find no shortage of quality wines under $20, many of which will solve your in advance of Easter needs. A token pinot noir with an anything but token twist and two hopping chardonnays are included for classic holiday food and wine association but I dig deeper into soils, varietal diversification and terroir for holiday pairing perfection.

There is no secret that Spain and Portugal sit at or near the pinnacle of Ontario consumer go to picks in the genre occupied by bargain reds. While the two recommendations below will certainly pair well with a feast of festive proportions, they also resurrect some grape varieties you might not automatically consider. Alentejo in Portugal and Castilla Y Léon in Spain offer great opportunities to discover local, endemic, world-class red wines. This early spring Ontario cold snap will soon be a thing of 2017’s winter past so I would suggest to get that BBQ tune-up completed because these wines are perfect foils for anything you can throw on the grill.

Travelling brings us together with the leaders and pioneers of fast-tracking and emerging wine regions and it is the global nature of this industry that through their own travels, they are brought to us. In September of 2015 I had the great fortune to spend a night and better part of a day with South Africa’s Ken Forrester. You will have noticed that Western Cape chenin blanc has taken the world by value storm over the last three to four years. There are several reasons for the varietal explosion, two of which are geology and climate. The third worth mentioning is Ken Forrester himself. When I tasted with Ken in Stellenbosch we travelled through half a dozen or more blocks, plots, vineyards and stylistically framed steen. Each and every year his Old Vines Reserve passes through VINTAGES. It is perfectly consistent and sets the benchmark for inexpensive and excellent South African chenin blanc genius.

Nicolás Zapata Catena and his daughter Dr. Laura Catena have pioneered similar if even deeper industry-leading work in Mendoza, Argentina. The father-daughter dream team have crafted terroir-focused Malbec and other well suited to time and place varietal wines. Over the past few years the Catena brand has expanded their portfolio by narrowing their focus into micro-terroirs in highly specific spots all over Mendoza. It’s not just Catena that has taken this brilliant South American approach to branding and this April 1st VINTAGES release is chock full of such precise varietal wines. Though I of course would be thrilled to offer up credit to the power brokers and buyers that be I’m not sure I’d give in to the idea that the grouping was executed with any preconceived plan. The patterning, by coincidence or not is nevertheless highly welcomed and I’m pleased to share these wines with you.

The Ontario presence is strong, as it should be, on the heels of a terrific Taste Ontario that was as promising as it was not surprisingly expected. Stratus hits the riesling mark with Wildass abandon, Flat Rock plays its annual MTV chardonnay tune and Thirty Bench does a varietal two-step that may just blow your mind. We should all be thankful for our local talent and in constant awe of Ontario’s wine ability to step out of its comfort zone, consistently improve on what it already does best and find ways to re-invent the wheel.

With the incantevole @chianticlassico hills fading from view, thank you #toscana #anteprime2017 #anteprimeditoscana #chianticlassico #vinonobiledimontepulciano #brunellodimontalcino

Speaking of Ontario, David Lawrason and I are still reeling from three days spent with an impressive Canadian ambassadorship contingent stationed in Düsseldorf’s Messe Prowein centre, sent there to spread the cool climate wine gospel to the world. The enthusiastic demands on our collective time were great. We will expand on the success of Canada’s presence on this important world stage in the coming weeks. John and Sara have also been on the road, globetrotting to the far reaches of the wine diaspora. It’s getting hard to track who might be where at any given time but in the first three months of 2017 we’ve had at least California, Oregon, Uruguay, Chianti Classico, Montepulciano, Montalcino, Lazio, The Ahr Valley, The Rheinhessen and every corner of New Zealand covered.

Through the course of our travels we are granted the opportunity to meet producers and winemakers, taste their wines and we often come across exciting products not seen before in Ontario. These discoveries are becoming increasingly important because the agents in Ontario receive an assisted head start on finding new wines. With the WineAlign Exchange inching closer and closer to bringing the reality of expert curation to wine buying and purchasing in Ontario, the connections we forge to these values and gems may soon see to finding their way into your cellars and your glass.

Godello’s Buyer’s Guide to VINTAGES April 1st:

Musical Ontario

Stratus Vineyards Riesling Wildass 2015, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (129700, $16.95, WineAlign)

It’s really hard to say whether Stratus Vineyards’ J.L Groux is more adept as a varietal impresario or as a master of assemblage so we’ll just call it a tie. Here into the riesling game he goes in the mere mortal affordable Wildass range and in 2015 he plays a smart varietal tune. You’ve just got to get some Wildass.  @StratusWines

Flat Rock Chardonnay Unplugged 2015, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (68015, $16.95, WineAlign)

The record keeps playing in rotation and the string remains unbroken with yet another quality vintage for the unoaked from Flat Rock. The crunchy apple and righteous waves of pertinence make this perennial best buy a required spin without any wonder why.  @Winemakersboots  @brightlighter1  @UnfilteredEd  @wine_gems

Thirty Bench Winemaker’s Blend Double Noir 2015, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (493973, $18.95, WineAlign)

The nomenclature is just so perfectly chosen and as you will find, this is a seamless joint between pinot and gamay noir. Double Noir performs the passe tout grains oeuvre from Ontario in combining two expatriate Burgundy grapes. I’ve long ago agreed these two make anything but strange bedfellows and the two grapes work seamlessly in Emma Garner’s new and idealistic red. Well done Thirty Bench. Pass the two grapes over, SVP.  @ThirtyBench

Align with new world pioneers

Ken Forrester Chenin Blanc Old Vine Reserve 2016, WO Stellenbosch, South Africa (231282, $17.95, WineAlign)

Reserve is a funny term for wines like this because it speaks to the idea that it should be put aside fore 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. 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.  @KFwines  @WOSACanada  @WOSA_ZA  @Noble_Estates

In Situ Reserva Carmenère 2015, Aconcagua Valley, Chile (37952, $16.95, WineAlign)

In case you were wondering too, “In Situ is crafted from grapes that ripen on steep slopes alongside mysterious rock drawings from ages past.” The only expansion on that bit of ambiguity I can share is the purity and clarity levels of carmenère are fully explained in this Reserva. Another fine BBQ wine for April flowers and showers.  @InSituWine  @WinesOfChile_CA  @WinesofChile

Echeverria Cabernet Sauvignon Limited Edition 2011, Central Valley, Chile (389221, $24.95, WineAlign)

Though labeled as cabernet sauvignon the Limited Edition is generously supported by syrah and carmenère, resulting in a layered and grossly rich red blend. The individual varieties don’t really stake any obvious claim and while their integration is not exactly seamless, the layering back and forth over one another does work some Central Valley magic. Complexity wins points.  @VinaEcheverria  @LiffordON  @WinesOfChile_CA  @WinesofChile

Catena Malbec Appellation Paraje 2014, Mendoza, Argentina (492413, $22.95, WineAlign)

Last November Dr. Laura Catena told a small Ontario press audience “it’s a fact. Different soils give different flavours.” The WineAlign team had previously sat down with winemaker Ernesto Badja for a full-on, wide-scale investigation into a climat-precise and compendious look at the proselytism of Catena culture. Paraje Altamira was one of these such looks into single-vineyard terroir.  @CatenaMalbec  @LauraCatena  @Noble_Estates  @ArgentinaWineCA  @winesofarg

Trapiche Malbec Perfiles Calcareous 2015, Mendoza, Argentina (482083, $18.95, WineAlign)

The savvy marketed Trapiche foray into soil matters with malbec divines the intention that calcaire (calcareo) brings speciality to these Uco Valley vines. It’s not a huge stretch to sense some limestone in this malbec’s make-up and I am wholly impressed by its countenance, its continuity from nose to tail and yes, its mineral feeling. So glad Trapiche is onside. @TrapicheWines  @Dandurandwines  @ArgentinaWineCA  @winesofarg

The best of the rest

Paulo Laureano Reserve Tinto 2014, Vidigueira, DOC Alentejo, Portugal (488775, $19.95, WineAlign)

From the still somewhat unheralded and rising to stardom Alentejo the grape expectation here from vidigueira is no shrinking Reserve. This would make for a curious consumer side step into something different but at the same time so obvious and comfortable. At this price you can’t afford to do neither.    @winesportugalCA  @wines_portugal  @Nicholaspearce_

Senorio de la Antigua Mencía 2012, IGP Castilla y Léon, Spain (481549, $13.95, WineAlign)

Some solid and in some circles, very old estate vines (30-50 years) in Villafranca del Bierzo gift mencia for a pittance. Rarely does a $14 old world red give so much for so little. Great round acidity and length off the cuff of a vibrant tune. Simply great value. One of the best you will find all year.  @WinesofSpainSL  @Wines_fromSpain

Groth Chardonnay Hillview Vineyard 2014, Napa Valley, California (225672, $57.95, WineAlign)

From a 44-acre Yountville vineyard founded in 1982 and (mostly) re-planted in 1996. This is a perfect and prime example of all the right directions Napa Chardonnay has taken in the last 10 years, with kudos to Suzanne Groth for embracing the ideal, from restraint, for elegance and in balance.  @GrothWines  @suzgroth  @CalifWines_CA  @CalifWines_US  @NapaVintners  @TheVine_RobGroh

Dutschke Shiraz GHR Neigbours 2013, Lyndoch, Barossa Valley, South Australia (247296, $26.95, WineAlign)

You just have to let go and find the fun in this Gods Hill Road shiraz, a wine of deep-rooted flavour. The utter deliciousness and unctuousness of Barossa is capitulated and catapulted into Lyndoch space. To say that charred meats hot of the grill would work perfectly right now would be utterly correct. To see this age for up to 10 years and eke out more elegance is also true. I would suggest endeavouring in both.  @DutschkeWines  @Wine_Australia

Glaetzer Shiraz Bishop 2015, Barossa Valley, South Australia (627869, $39.95, WineAlign)

Ben Glaetzer’s incredible value Heartland cabernet sauvignon from this same release is not to be missed but I’ve chosen to focus on his flagship shiraz. From son Ben in ode to mother Judith, Bishop the maternal maiden name is the rock of the estate’s Barossa Valley reds. Bishop is a serious wine to be sure and this really leaves so much behind in the mouth long after it’s been sipped.  @GlaetzerWines  @Wine_Australia  @TheVine_RobGroh

Louis Moreau Chablis Domaine de Biéville 2015, Burgundy, France (106161, $27.95, WineAlign)

Just last week I stood in Moreau’s booth at Prowein and I talked with Frédérique Chamoy. She noted how excited buyers are about the 2015 Chablis. If you were ever to take the kimmeridgian plunge this quintessential Moreau and this vintage are the place to start, Pure, classic mineral Chablis with more fruit than I’ve ever seen.  @MoreauLouis1  @vinsdechablis  

Brancaia Chianti Classico Riserva 2013, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (260802, $36.95, WineAlign)

Brancaia goes all in to exploit sangiovese and the for broke style solicits some patience to wait out in extra time. Though 16 months in barrel is nothing to call nothing it is not the wood that dominates these gregarious 2013 grapes. With time this swirls into a grosso sangiovese like liqueur with plums, cherries and spice. Really Riserva in style but not of the recent past, more like the older ways but translated to modern times.  @CasaBrancaia  @chianticlassico  @ChiantiClassUSA  @Noble_Estates

La Lecciaia Brunello di Montalcino Riserva 2010, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (241307, $69.95, WineAlign)

From the giving 2010 vintage and so beautifully so gifted here with La Lecciaia’s 2010 Riserva. Sangiovese that rests in such an ethereal nether-land will evolve with decades long grace. Classic would be one way of looking at it, heart-warming another and it’s remarkably ready to drink.      

It’s been a whirlwind of a start to 2017 and I am personally glad to be home, for now, even if it’s only for a short time. After all, there are too many wine discoveries out there and if were to let them pass me by I would not be Godello. So before too long I will head back out on the road, join the fairs, searches, digs and bring some love back home. As for now it is the April 1st release that deserves our full attention. Sara will bring best buys and new finds next week. Looking forward to April 15th David and John will return with your first in line VINTAGES picks. Until then, good luck with the hunt, have a Happy Easter and an equally happy Passover.

Good to go!

Godello

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

WineAlign

Quick link to Michael’s WineAlign Mix

Mannella from heaven

la-mannella-riserva-2010

Cortonesi La Mannella Brunello di Montalcino Riserva 2010

Having just recently (two weeks ago) participated in Benveunto Brunello 2017 held at the Chiostro del Museo di Montalcino from the 17th to the 20th of February, I’m feeling the sangiovese groove, in multiple clones and tones. Less than a week after my return to Canada one of the prodigal sons of Montalcino arrived in Toronto for a presentation of his wines with local omnipresent agent/négoce Nicholas Pearce. Jonathan MacCalder hosted the get together at the cozy Yorkville haunt he calls work, affectionately known as Kasa Moto.

tommaso-crtonesi-holds-brunello-court-at-kasa-moto

Tommaso Crtonesi holds Brunello court at Kasa Moto

A team of over-achieving and wild bunch sommeliers gave up the better part of a morning and early afternoon to talk sangiovese, Rosso di Toscana and the Rosso-Brunello idiom with the precocious and serenely wise Tommaso, a winemaker from Montalcino with an old soul, uncanny slash conscious ability and powers of concentration to bely his youth. With Nicholas Pearce, Michelle Ratzlaff, Krystina Roman, Christopher Sealy, Ian Thresher, Madeleine Hayles, Courtney Stebbings, Lauren Hall and the aforementioned Lenny Bruce of wine, we delved deep into the heart of the Montalcino matter. Sometime soon I will publish 100-plus tasting notes from the Benvenuto tasting but for now it’s all Mannella from heaven.

the-future-of-montalcino-is-in-good-hands-lamannella-cortonesi-nicholaspearce_-tommasocortonesi-ilpoggiarelli-sangiovese-brunellodimontalcino

The future of Montalcino is in good hands @LaMannella #cortonesi @nicholaspearce_ #tommasocortonesi #ilpoggiarelli #sangiovese #brunellodimontalcino

Cortonesi La Mannella Lèonus Igt Toscana Rosso 2015, Docg Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $22.95, WineAlign)

Lèonus is sangiovese of natural and effortless appeal. With pocketed thoughts of Rosso and Brunello di Montalcino in mind you can extrapolate with elastic, proverbial stretch and easily wind up here. It’s simple really, straightforward and noted as a gulpable mouthful of rocks tumbling in wet concrete. The great round acidity equalizer acts for mostly northern Montalcino fruit plus 20 percent from the south. Tommaso Cortonesi comes at it with a threefold selection; at harvest, in fermentation and from élevage. It’s entry level so just drink it. The fruit is darker and deprived of firm astringency, spent four months in 3000L Slavonian oak and three months in bottle. For every day, especially with antipasti. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted February 2017

Cortonesi La Mannella Rosso Di Montalcino 2015, Docg Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $29.95, WineAlign)

The advance is a young winemaker’s approach, using fruit from the youngest vines but from the same vineyards used for Brunello production. Clonal selection permits early success from the fourth to fifth leaf for precocious wines off vines so young. Others may use vineyards dedicated to Rosso, so farmed with ulterior motive and expectation, neither better nor worse, but different. The old way was simply a matter in selection of grapes, something young winemakers are abandoning for now one or the other ways of making Rosso. Tommaso Cortonesi’s is luminous and bright within a frame of ascension in reference to the darker cherry sangiovese point spectrum, with three levels of variegated hue and aromatic profile. Char, fennel and fruit. Great structure, agreeable and yes, drinkable now Rosso. Drink 2017-2021.  Tasted February 2017

Cortonesi La Mannella Brunello Di Montalcino 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $70.95, WineAlign)

La Mannella, meaning the manna from heaven is a five hectare, five block vineyard in surround of the winery at the centre of the Cortonesi universe. A vineyard that is used exclusively for the production of the estate’s Rosso and La Mannella Brunelli. La Mannella (as opposed to I Poggiarelli) is a single block Brunello but not a “single-vineyard,” planted in 1985 and 1998 in a relative Montalcino colder northern clime. This emits and represents the epitome for floral sangiovese, a bouquet that speaks to violets and elegant, light purple fruit. The penetrability and explicability of purlieu is an act of focus and the cynosure of assessment. Brunello should be exacting, something you get and it must define itself in clear sangiovese-speak. Large slavonian oak for 36 months maintains and celebrates the perfume. The wood shows up late, in white peppery spice and that just have to lay on your tongue and swallow with sublime delight, liquid chalky finish. Drink 2019-2027.  Tasted February 2017

Cortonesi La Mannella Brunello Di Montalcino I Poggiarelli 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $95.95, WineAlign)

This is Cortonesi’s single-vineyard sangiovese from the warmer, southern part of Montalcino at 420m of elevation. Expectation allows for deeper, and darker yet the display comes without the La Mannella block crimson and cimmerian variegation, perhaps instead more like the single-brushstroke, dark side of dusk angle created by a fuzzy, warm blend of fiery colours. More Galestro soil influence here as opposed to clay at La Mannella and two years in part new French tonneaux followed by stainless steel vats. A deferential élevage to the one exercised with La Mannella and one to encourage depth and structure without too much power. Classic, modern, elegant and an apple to La Mannella’s orange. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted February 2017

Cortonesi La Mannella Brunello Di Montalcino I Poggiarelli 2011, Docg Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $95.95, WineAlign)

Looking rearward into the recent past what comes into near focus is the combination of liqueur and firmness, a handful for sure and yet it seems that time (even just an extra year or two in bottle) brings out that specific Cortonesi perfume. The tang and richness of concentrated acidity really elevates at this stage so that tannin begin its resultion so young and impressively so. This is not the big, bad Brunello but the one to make enjoyment haste. The length is exceptional with pretty tonic and bitter moments that pop in and out. Drink 2018-2029.  Tasted February 2017

Cortonesi La Mannella Brunello Di Montalcino I Poggiarelli 2008, Docg Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $95.95, WineAlign)

If the argument was ever made to sway in the “yes it was and is” direction, this Cortonesi example from the exceptional vintage leads the parade with aromatics that go exotic and then return domestic. A spirit of the east, of bougainvillea and hibiscus plus a Montalcino gustatory aromatic spice. Then that return to fennel, a walk through flora Montalcino brush and sweet French tonneau spice. The liquorice is one bred out of aromatic acidity, like a fine chalky dusting of red crimson and ochre to purple powder on a plate next to a perfect charred slice of beef. Elegant sangiovese cuisine in a glass, deconstructed and all obvious in their parts but when you taste you pause and it all comes together. The flavours mingle and weave, of cherries and fruit leather, more mellowed spice, still lingering fresh, persistent and remarkably bright. Southern vineyard be damned, this is a cool, elegant and lithe drop. Harkens back to a mind’s eye and nose in memory of Brunello 1998, maybe a bit of 1999, but more like 1998. Drink 2018-2030.  Tasted February 2017

Cortonesi La Mannella Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva 2010, Docg Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $202.95, WineAlign)

There are few Brunello vintages afforded more attention in the last 10-plus, certainly ’04 and ’06, increasingly better even from ’08 and looking forward towards what greatness will come in 2015. Yes but not solely magnified through the lens of patience and bottle time, from 2010 La Mannella has coupled upon and layered over itself like compressed fruit and puff pastry. Though it begs for drink now attention, another seven years will be needed before it can safely be labeled as uncoiled and to reveal all that is wrapped so tight. Rich is not the operative but unmistakeable as Cortonesi it is; that natural clay soil funk of resolution and fully hydrated chalk. This is to sangiovese as Les Preuses Grand Cru Chablis or Rangen Grand Cru Alsace are to Riesling. It carries in its pocket the absolute meaning and genetic responsibility of where it comes from, with a curative and restorative ability to get you lost. Drink 2019-2031.  Tasted February 2017

Good to go!

Godello

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

WineAlign

Grace in Chianti Classico

Panzano, Toscana

Panzano, Toscana

I first visited Il Molino di Grace in May 2016 and was graciously welcomed into the family’s estate by Director Iacopo Morganti. In the months leading up to that first visit I had opportunities to assess Chianti Classico, Chianti Classico Riserva and Chianti Classico Gran Selezione at LCBO media lab tastings in Toronto. I became an instant convert and a buyer even before I stepped foot onto Il Molino di Grace’s sloping Galèstro soil-driven vineyards in Panzano. After that May visit I was transformed into a life-long friend.

Later that May I was handed the keys to Chianti Classico’s Gran Selezione Masterclass presentation at The Four Seasons Hotel in Toronto. My role was to open the door to sangiovese perception before a crowd of Toronto sommeliers, agents, buyers and media. It was the Gallo Nero’s 300 year anniversary and its Ontario reputation was entrusted to me by the consorzio braintrust of President Sergio Zingarelli, Director Giuseppe Liberatore, Silvia Fiorentini and Christine Lechner. At that Toronto event I had the pleasure to meet and sit on the panel with Tim Grace. Last week I followed that up and made my way back to Tuscany to have a go at 400-plus Chianti Classico at Anteprima 2017.  When the two-day sangiovese adventure was done I returned with Iacopo back to Il Molino di Grace.

the-vineyard-at-il-molino-di-grace

The vineyard at Il Molino di Grace

Frank and Judy Grace purchased the vineyards in the mid 1990’s and restored an abandoned 19th century ruin into what is now the cantina of Il Molino di Grace, named for the centuries-old historic water-mill. The first vintage out of the new winery was in 1999. MdG became a certified organic winery in 2013, something they and indeed the entire 20 viticultural Panzano-in-Chianti producers are extremely proud of, all together as one. It took 20 years to get this way, with no spraying and even the workers who work the roads will cut, but never spray.

Related – Three days, eight estates, Chianti Classico

Tim Grace runs Il Molino di Grace along with Iacopo Morganti. Their consulting oenologist is none other than Franco Bernabei. To say that Il Molino di Grace is an authentic producer of terroir-driven Chianti Classico would be an understatement. Their vineyards are set upon some of the finest Galèstro soil in all of Chianti Classico. The permeations and permutations from that soil have separated this estate from so many others with a portfolio of wines constructed with power, finesse and yes, grace.

Related – The most important red wine from Italy

Iacopo poured a very strategic retrospective of the estate’s wines in an artfully designed schematic so that I was able to literally pick up where I left off last May. We travelled retrospectively astern through CC’14, CCR ’13, GS ’12 and IGT ’11 with prudent stops at intervals to re-visit previously tasted wines. The exercise never wavered from the safekeeping of sangiovese as the heart of the matter and the vintage interval play showed both the progression and the consistency of the estate. Here are the notes.

my-valentines-chianticlassico-of-ilmolinodigrace-and-of-course-iacopo

My valentines, @chianticlassico of @ilmolinodigrace and of course, Iacopo

Il Molino Di Grace Chianti Classico 2014, Docg Tuscany, Italy (85209, $19.95, WineAlign)

Incidentally the first vintage on which the label reads organic, 2014 captures the freshness and the true Chianti Classico, its nature and its truth. No mask, nothing to hide behind, nowhere to run. “In some ways 2014 is more typical a vintage,” suggests Iacopo Morganti, because like other passed over and quickly assessed ones of the recent past (such as 1996, 1998 and 2008) the intrepid purity of sangiovese is decisive and built to last. This is deeply hued Chianti Classico, refreshing, spirited and crafted with a very specific type of actionable drinkability. With pasta, with filetto, with friends. Will not change course for four years and drink comfortably for four more. Sangiovese accented with canaiolo, colorino and malvasia nero. Drink 2017-2025.  Tasted February 2017  @Ilmolinodigrace

Il Molino Di Grace Chianti Classico 2013, Docg Tuscany, Italy (85209, $19.95, WineAlign)

Nine months later so provocative and round, still imbued of the deep pulpier purple Il Molino di Grace hue with ruby tinges. Floral but not bursting, warm, in control and easy. Manages fruit purity and then by extension, the grip from 100 per cent sangiovese. Now gelling into a liqueur typical of ’13, smooth and rapidly developing into a multi-faceted sip. A drink earlier in full enjoyment vintage.  Last tasted February 2017

The 2013 point blank sangiovese Chianti Classico is a softer, rounder version of its normale self, with less spice and dust and as a matter of course, from double the output. A dreamy downy growing season saw to 100,000 bottles and each are so eminently drinkable. There is a soil in there that seeps through because of the vintage, that combination of marl and limestone known locally as galestro and so while the concentration is wontedly in measure to 2012, it is ultimately just a matter of differing result. One wine’s pale is another one’s edge. This ’13 will present for immediate pleasure while ’12 spends one more year coming into view. Drink 2016-2019.  Tasted May 2016

Il Molino Di Grace Chianti Classico Riserva 2014, Docg Tuscany, Italy (382945, $23.95, WineAlign)

Riserva 2014 is certainly positioned further down that democratic line from the Chianti Classico, its hue more variegated with three to four variations of shade and fruit still popping fresh. These two pronto pieces of personality are the hallmarks of the Il Molino di Grace style and singularity. To employ such darker fruit without any compromise to freshness, this is the magic of this place. Iacopo Morganti says there is no magic. “I like to see the colour of the vintage.” It is true, 2014 is one of purple violet fruit so it speaks of a time. As a Riserva it demonstrates guts and creates a shell of protection for itself, sufferable to whoever thinks it may fail to validate the idea of a classic vintage, which it most certainly will turn out to be. Drink 2019-2029.  Tasted February 2017

2013-and-2014

Il Molino Di Grace Chianti Classico Riserva 2013, Docg Tuscany, Italy (382945, $23.95, WineAlign)

A better vintage for Riserva (as it is in Chianti Classico for merlot) because of the warmth and highest available poly-phenolic qualities. A return here to deep purple, Il Molino di Grace’s ’13 Riserva is akin to 2009 (though seemingly more in control of its fruit) and also with thanks somewhat like ’14 Chianti Classico, popping, fresh and with its stark moments. It is necessary to stick around, keep checking the glass and it too will lead you down a sexy, sultry, sumptuous road. Shows signs of 2010 in these flaunting ways, with a forward and upwards trajectory through the notions drawn from its very specific Panzano territory. There is chocolatey richness mixed with driving acidity, because “this is the vintage.” Will live long enough, perhaps developing some exoticism and balsamic and/or mushroom notes after seven or eight years time. Drink 2019-2027.  Tasted February 2017

Il Molino Di Grace Chianti Classico Gran Selezione Il Margone 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (435115, $39.95, WineAlign)

Chianti Classico Gran Selezione Il Margone 2012 comes structured from a vintage with frost in May that compromised 50 per cent of the crop and as a result, bestowed lowest of low yields and concentrated berries. After that happenstance of natural selection the vintage turned to hot and dry, with great weather at harvest. This is and could only have developed into a fleshy and magnanimous Gran Selezione with acidity equivocal and anti-acrimonious to bones draped with the ripest of fruit. And it’s a good thing the acidity is set to high because that fruit and richness will need it going forward. Such a GS had to be crafted this way, with compound aggression and aggressive behaviour. Ultimately defines what it means to be affirmative action Gran Selezione. Drink 2021-2030.  Tasted February 2017

Il Molino Di Grace Gratius 2011, Docg Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $49.95, WineAlign)

“The ’11 Gratius is like a bomb,” says Iacopo Morganti with a shrug and a gesture of hands. The vintage parlays sangiovese that clocks in cresting and swimmingly close to breaching 15 degrees in alcohol, because it just had to be, like 2000, heavy and brooding. The aromatics are distended, bloated, full of over-exceptional life. Sangiovese in warm, mediterranean tones, black olive, sun-dried tomato and surfeited with bloody good chocolate. Sangiovese so big and youthfully musty-dusty must be accompanyed by and is in fact supported by the Il Molino di Grace acidity to carry this Gratius forward five years but not necessarily much more. In 2011 the composition is 95 per cent sangiovese with stabilizing colorino and canaiolo. Tasting this in 2017 is a gift that never stops giving. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted February 2017

Il Molino Di Grace Gratius 2010, Docg Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $49.95, WineAlign)

Again, as before and going forward, Gratius is 95 per cent sangiovese with the supporting bits of canaiolo and colorino, In contrast to ’11 all the weight falls away with wistful pleasure. “Here you have fantasy,” smiles Iacopo Morganti. Your mind is taken places by the exotica and the clouds of perfume. Elegance derived from sangiovese so deep is possible when balance is struck and at 13.5 per cent alcohol, just what you want from such a wine. Contemplate the blades of acidity sharpening their teeth on the back sides of your tongue and know that the subsidies won’t begin their wane until 2022 or beyond. Yes Gratius, you are indeed elegant and long. Last tasted February 2017.

Gratius, meaning more pleasing, the author of a poem on hunting, opponent of the poet Archias and a contemporary of Ovid. The other sangiovese from Il Molino di Grace whose first vintage was 1999, of “a nose incredible,” says a wistful Iacopo Morganti and he is not wrong. From the Panzano-Greve in Chianti slopes of Montefili, at 500 meters, a 2.2 hectare single vineyard of old vines (70 years) co-planted with some colorino and canaiolo. So in that sense it’s a field blend but essentially sangiovese. Tuscan climat of rock and poor soil, where the wind blows and grapes whose fate is two weeks later maturation. Aromatics and elegance are in a calm struggle and like two brothers, rolling but not fighting. Such a wine of clean, pristine purity does not exist just anywhere. The inviting perfume solicits readiness and a willingness to be generous. No need to wait. Drink 2016-2022.  Tasted May 2016

Il Molino Di Grace Gratius 2005, Docg Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $49.95, WineAlign)

A next look nine months later confirms what Iacopo insists. “The acidity’s finished for me. It’s ready to drink now.” At this juncture Gratius 2005 has abandoned its fantasy in concession to a drink now reality. Last tasted February 2017

The Gratius 2005 shares DNA with 2009 aromatically speaking but in texture and expression the litheness is pinot noir like, with a bit of bretty volatility as an impression that is vineyard funk derived. Just now beginning a drinking window in performance for the art of perfect timing but why not imagine the installation persisting for 10-12 more years? Here the Montefili Galestro vineyard is clearly iterated in a funk-soil-chalk-liquid rubies way. A brilliant peek back because the tart is just so right. Ask the question, “what was the old wine like?” The answer is “it was like old wine, that is to say, like all old wines.” Drink 2016-2022.  Tasted May 2016

Good to go!

Godello

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

WineAlign

Seventeen in VINTAGES February 4th, 2017

breakfast

as seen on WineAlign

Familiar and not so familiar Europe, always cool chardonnay, seeing South African red (and a white)

These past two weeks have been difficult, bizarre and disturbing to say the least. No one is immune to thinking about the twists, turns and horrors of recent world events. With no disrespect to activism, especially on a personal level, at WineAlign our job as critics is to find ways to keep the machine running, in other words, to focus on wine. In 1975 Saturday Night Live did a skit in which Paul Simon played one-on-one basketball against one-time Harlem Globetrotter and NBA legend Connie Hawkins. Just before the game sports reporter Marv Albert asks Simon about his strategy in going up against The Hawk. “Uh, but I’ll just have to play my game, as I usually play it,” says Simon. “I mean, I’m not gonna change anything, I’ve gotta stay with my strengths… basically, singing and songwriting.” At WineAlign we’ll simply do the same.

Wines across the Mediterranean are a primary focus of the VINTAGES February 4th release. A great number of them will coax a feeling of familiarity and there are others that may not ring a bell. In any particular wine purchasing scheme it is always best to strike a balance between the poles of available options so best approached by looking to one and then the other. While France, Spain and Italy will always deliver the tried and true, a gem of a geeky or otherwise deferential varietal can be unearthed if your mind and your heart are open. Get into the corners and alleys of habituated Europe but also a place like Greece. You will marvel at how it can change your outlook to usher in the most interesting of times, in life and in wine.

Related – Only one in VINTAGES January 21st, a writer’s defence and nine more

A view through Vouraikos Canyon from Mega Spileo Vineyard

A view through Vouraikos Canyon from Mega Spileo Vineyard

Don’t worry. I’m not going to run off and wax rhapsodic about wines found “off the beaten path,” argue on the semantics of what exactly that means or how it should be defined. But I will tell you a little story. In July of 2016 I visited one of Europe’s most extraordinary vineyards, found in Achaia, located in the northern Peloponnese. At the top of this incredible canyon you stand at the foot of another even more imposing and massive rock face that is home to the 11th century Mega Spileo monastery. Gazing north through the cracks in the mountain cragges you can see the azure blue waters of the Gulf of Corinth. Looking straight down you see the greenery of the healthy Mega Spileo vineyard. The entire footage leaves an indelible mark. What’s the point? The point is to get out there and make discoveries. This also applies to what can be found in the VINTAGES catalogue.

Related – Seventeen for January 7, 2017

#cool

Chardonnay is always in the spotlight so why should February 4th be any different? This past summer at Niagara’s Cool Chardonnay conference I found out that we have to look at organoleptics and ask a very important question. Is your expectation of a Chablis going to be the same as chardonnay made from anywhere else? More important, who are we putting this wine in front of? Ian D’agata’s take struck a Canadian chord. He talked of “a welcome astringency characterized by piercing flavours. These are cool-climate wines. Cool climate chardonnay is not about a long litany of fruit descriptors. If you have a cool-climate viticultural area it behooves you to give the people what they are looking for.” More cool chardonnay examples available on this release are worthy of your time and your dollars.

Bush vines, Groot Drakenstein Mountains @AnthonijRupert Wyne @WOSACanada #lormarins #franschhoek #southafrica #winesofsouthafrica #mesmerizing

Bush vines, Groot Drakenstein Mountains @AnthonijRupert Wyne @WOSACanada #lormarins #franschhoek #southafrica #winesofsouthafrica #mesmerizing

South Africa is a geographical and geological land of wonder, of ancient soils and picturesque intrusions. Extreme examples include the shale and schist of Swartland that turns into dust and the granite domes of Paarl, which are 30 million years old. We are talking about beginning of time stuff, but how does it impart into wine? Taste more than just a few South African reds and you will get a sense.

I’ve said it before and will repeat myself. South African wine is not what we thought it was. This mantra can’t be repeated often enough. Ventures into the Cape wine lands, tastings and zealous immersion into Stellenbosch, Paarl, Franschhoek, Swartland and Hemel-En-Aarde see to that. If you’ve not visited you can’t possibly know what revelations lurk but you can get a glimpse by drinking South African wines here in Ontario.

Familiar Europe

sierra

Sierra Cantabria Selección 2014, Doca Rioja, Spain (Agent190520$14.95, WineAlign)
@RiojaWine  @azureau

nimes

Château d’Or et de Gueules Les Cimels 2013, AC Costières de Nîmes, France (Agent480301, $15.95, WineAlign)
  @RhoneWine  @VINSRHONE  @NaturalVines

Grand Cru Riesling, Alsace

Grand Cru Riesling, Alsace

Jean Biecher & Fils Schoenenbourg Riesling 2014, AC Alsace Grand Cru, France (Agent, 469767, $23.95, WineAlign)
  @AlsaceWines  @drinkAlsace  @VinsAlsace

not-all-terroir-is-created-equal-cinque-cru-barone_ricasoli-granselezione-castellodibrolio-chianticlassico-massimilianobiagi-francescoricasoli-stefanocapurso

Five terroirs of Ricasoli

Barone Ricasoli Castello di Brolio Gran Selezione Chianti Classico 2013, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (Agent, 942607, $59.95, WineAlign)
@barone_ricasoli  @chianticlassico  @imbibersreport

Not-so familiar Europe

There's a new obsession in town- #campania @vinalois #falanghina #greco #fiano #aglianico #pallagrello #pallagrellonero #palagrellobianco #cassavecchia #pontepellegrino #therealcampania #massimoalois #vinialois #brandnewdaywines #bndwines

There’s a new obsession in town- #campania @vinalois #falanghina #greco #fiano #aglianico #pallagrello #pallagrellonero #palagrellobianco #cassavecchia #pontepellegrino #therealcampania #massimoalois #vinialois #brandnewdaywines #bndwines

Ponte Pellegrino Greco di Tufo 2015, IGT Campania, Italy (Agent477760, $13.95, WineAlign)
@vinialois

prunotto

Prunotto Mompertone 2015, DOC Monferrato, Piedmont, Italy (Agent, 388587, $18.95, WineAlign)
  @HalpernWine  

alicante

Tommasi Poggio Al Tufo Alicante 2013, IGT Toscana, Italy (Agent, 70797, $22.95, WineAlign)
@UNIVINS  @Tommasiwine

Mega Spileo Monastery

Mega Spileo Monastery

Domain Mega Spileo Red 2010, Peloponnese, Greece (Agent, 466110, $29.95, WineAlign)
@DrinkGreekWine  

chenin

Domaine F L Savennières Chenin 2012, AC Loire, France (Agent470971, $33.95, WineAlign)
@DomaineFL  @vinsdeloire

spatlese

Maximin Grünhäuser Abtsberg Riesling Spätlese 2014, Pradikätswein, Germany (Agent, 481374, $39.95, WineAlign)
  @germanwineca  @WinesofGermany

More cool chardonnay

citry

Simonnet Febvre Bourgogne Chitry 2014, AC Bourgogne, France (Agent, 479667, $19.95, WineAlign)
@SimonnetFebvre  @LouisLatour1797  @ImportWineMAFWM  @BourgogneWines  @vinsdebourgogne

Blue Mountain Vineyards Phoo: (c) www.bluemountainwinery.com

Blue Mountain Vineyards
Phoo: (c) http://www.bluemountainwinery.com

Blue Mountain Gold Label Brut Sparkling, Traditional Method, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia (Agent, 206326, $28.95, WineAlign)
@BlueMtnWinery @rogcowines  @winebcdotcom

Time to taste at Domaine Queylus

Time to taste at Domaine Queylus

Domaine Queylus Tradition Chardonnay 2014, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (Agent, 489591, $24.95, WineAlign)
@QueylusVin  @Dandurandwines

luminous

Beringer Luminus Chardonnay 2014, Oak Knoll District, Napa Valley (Agent, 395699, $39.95, WineAlign)
@beringervyds    @NapaVintners

South African reds (and a white)

Rustenberg R.M. Nicholson 2013

Rustenberg RM Nicholson 2014, Wo Stellenbosch, South Africa (Agent, 278390, $19.95, WineAlign)
@RustenbergWines  @WoodmanWS  @WOSACanada  @WOSA_ZA

mentors

The Mentors Shiraz 2012, Wo Paarl, South Africa (Agent, 403618, $29.95, WineAlign)
@KWVwines  @Dandurandwines  @WOSACanada  @WOSA_ZA

Avondale_Wines_Jonty_s_Ducks_Pekin_White_web

Avondale Jonty’s Ducks Pekin White 2015, Wo Paarl, South Africa (Agent, 439554, $15.95, WineAlign)
@Avondalewine  @RareEarth_Wines  @WOSACanada  @WOSA_ZA

 

I would like to wish you all great February release wine hunting and gathering. The WineAlign team is in travel mode these days but rest assured the reviews from upcoming VINTAGES releases will be dutifully covered. I’m off to Antiprime Toscane next week and will be back in time for everything March. The February 18th release will find a focus on Australia and March 4th, well, it’s anyone’s guess!

Good to go!

Godello

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

WineAlign

December 10th in VINTAGES: Canada

#squash

#squash

If you’ve landed here and are wondering where the tasting notes are, please track over to WineAlign and read this.

Related – Changes to VINTAGES release recommendations and notes

I’m splitting up the teaser for the VINTAGES December 10th release into three sections; Canada, New World and Old World, if only for the old-school, nostalgic and compartmentalized way of things. First up are wines that stretch across the great Canadian divide, from all the way west to east, by way of Ontario, of course. Eight up, right now.

cvineland

Vineland Estates Elevation St. Urban Vineyard Riesling 2015, VQA Twenty Mile Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (38117, $19.95, WineAlign)

@VinelandEstates  @benchwineguy

charmes

Château Des Charmes Old Vines Cabernet/Merlot 2012, VQA Niagara On The Lake, Ontario (222372, $21.95, WineAlign)

@MBosc  @AmelBoury

tawse

Tawse Limestone Ridge North Riesling 2014, VQA Twenty Mile Bench, Niagara Escarpment, Ontario (431593, $23.95, WineAlign)

@Tawse_Winery  @DanielatTawse  @Paul_Pender

nova

Benjamin Bridge Nova 7 Sparkling 2014, Nova Scotia (256289, $24.95, WineAlign)

@Benjamin_Bridge  @jbdeslauriers  @LiffordON

pelham

Henry Of Pelham Estate Cabernet/Merlot 2012, VQA Short Hills Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (395855, $24.95, WineAlign)

@HenryofPelham  @SpeckBros

creekside

Creekside Reserve Sauvignon Blanc Creekside Estate Vineyard 2013, VQA Creek Shores, Ontario (53371, $26.95, WineAlign)

@CreeksideWine  @hobbsandco  @AMH_hobbsandco

stratus

Stratus White 2013, VQA Niagara On The Lake, Ontario (660704, $38.20, WineAlign)

@StratusWines

owl

Burrowing Owl Meritage 2013, BC VQA Okanagan Valley, British Columbia (343038, $58.95, WineAlign)

@BurrowingOwlBC

Good to go!

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

WineAlign