You say you want a Barbera d’Asti revolution

Vineyards in Santo Stefano Belbo

rev·o·lu·tion /ˌrevəˈlo͞oSH(ə)n/ noun

  1. a dramatic and wide-reaching change in the way something works or is organized or in people’s ideas about it
  2. an instance of revolving.

To make a revolution you have to bring about change. You need to evolve and revolve. You can’t just keep doing the same things over and over again. To take part in a revolution you have to keep an open mind and seek out the subtleties. You have to get down to what is really real. Revolution is not always fast or dramatic, in fact it’s sometimes barely audible, visible or easily noted in smell or taste. It is perceptible if you can find a way to feel it, especially when it comes down to wine.

Sometimes, there’s a grape, well, it’s the grape for the time and place. It fits right in there. That grape is barbera and the place is Asti, if more specifically in the Monferrato hills. Those hills are the source of the “Barbera Revolution” where farming and winemaking are changing the way we think about the wines of Barbera d’Asti and Monferrato. The revolution is happening now, in the late stages of the second decade of the 21st century because an epiphany is taking place. A new age of understanding, of altitude, solar radiation, heliophany and how to capture the essential tenets of phenolic ripeness and acidity. Knowledge and understanding are zeroing in on growing areas, plant phytochemisry and the sensorial characteristics of Barbera d’Asti.

Acidity is the key to barbera, just as it is with grapes of a similar ilk, grapes like sangiovese and malbec. If you would like to capture the essence of these grape varieties you have to preserve and elevate their natural acidities and you have to do so with a supporting cast of freshness, ripeness and structure. This is the crux of the new revolution in Asti. Never before have we seen farming practices and a scaling back of oak aging getting together to make sure that the grape, that barbera is given the spotlight to be the centre of attention.

Masterclass “Barbera Revolution” guided by Kerin O’Keefe and President Filippo Mobrici, Consorzio Tutela Barbera d’Asti e Vini del Monferrato.

Related – Barbera d’Asti Del Monferrato E Nizza Monferrato

Barbera d’Asti 2.0 is a scientific study that began in 2017, iniated by the Conzorzio Barbera d’Asti e Vini del Monferrato in partnership with the Università di Torino – Disafa and supported by the Regione Piemonte. The goal of the project is to create a sensory map of the Barbera d’Asti DOCG appellation. To define the 5300 hectares of the appellation across 67 municipalities in the provinces of Asti and Alessandria. To connect the characteristics of Barbera d’Asti with the varied geological and climatic conditions of the growing areas. The research involves measuring, quantifying and qualifying precipitation, thermal excursion, soil structures, pH, phenolics, sugar and acidity. Micro-harvests and micro-vinifications have been conducted, 111 samples of DOCG wines have been collected, tested and evaluated by enologists and researchers from the University. In the end a sensory map has been created.

Well, you know
You better free you mind instead

In July of 2017 I spent a week in the hills where Barbera d’Asti grows. I returned in December of 2018 and spent another eye-opening and mind-blowing stretch of time in the varietal home. My attitude has officially evolved, changed and revolved, now resting in affirmation of consideration, to emerge with revolution firmly entrenched, personal and up close to me, of sound body and mind. It was in Canelli at Gancia Castle, at Enoteca Regionale Acqui “Terme e Vino” and Ristorante Nuovo Paradiso in Acqui Terme, at Castello di Costigliole d’Asti and the Italian Culinary Institute for Foreigners in Costigiole d’Asti, at Relais San Maurizio in Santo Stefano Belbo and finally, at Foro Boario di Nizza Monferrato, for the Masterclass “Barbera Revolution” guided by Kerin O’Keefe and organized by Consorzio Tutela Barbera d’Asti e Vini del Monferrato.

The following are 33 examples of barbera d’asti tasted at these events in Piemonte back in December 2018.

Araldica Castelvero Barbera d’Asti Superiore DOCG Rive 2016, Piedmont, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

Acqui Terme is the source for a darker, slightly brooding and richly, almost chocolate endowed barbera. Acidity is clearly still in charge and there are more grains, chains and presently grisly tannins keeping fruit in check. Will age well but time is needed before the begin. Drink 2021-2026.  Tasted December 2018  araldicavini  @araldicavini  Araldica Castelvero

Family Winery Berta Paolo 1842 Barbera d’Asti DOCG Belmon 2017, Piedmont, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

The vintage will not always deliver what you expect so never get too complacent with barbera and always pay attention. Paolo Berta turns the plan on its head and brings freshness in the face of jammy potential in a lovely act of balance. Fruit picked on acidity while perfectly positioned at sugar plus phenolic ripeness means this got it all right. It’s a connection between forethought and development that hits the proverbial barbera nail on the head. Never-ending acidity is the fairy tale and the reason for the story. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted December 2018  vinifamigliaberta  @wineBerta  @viniberta

Family Winery Berta Paolo 1842 Barbera d’Asti Superiore DOCG 175 Vendmmie 2016, Piedmont, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

In classic Berta Paolo form there is a protective and reductive element plus untapped potential in a barbera from Nizza Monferrato that wraps itself up in layers upon layers of red fruit, white soil and blanketing richness. The terroir is truly all over this wine, in and out of every oozing red fruit pore. It’s complex in so many ways and in time will only improve its interest. Drink 2020-2025.  Tasted December 2018

Bersano Barbera d’Asti DOCG Cremosina 2016, Piedmont, Italy (Agent, WineAlign)

“Cremisona is our history. We believe in this kind of barbera, not just about quality, because that is not enough these days. It must be recognized as barbera.” White pepper, red cherry and so young. Really peppery, tart, tight, taut and so very, very Nizza Monferrato. Place, pace, place. Drink 2020-2026.  Tasted December 2018 bersano1907  profilewinegroup  @BERSANO1907  @ProfileWineGrp  @Bersanowine  Profile Wine Group

Tenuta Bricco San Gregorio Di Laiolo Barbera d’Asti Superiore DOCG Rossomora, Piedmont, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

Vinchio’s soil can only mean high toned, high alcohol, Amarone like grip and power. The fruit is up to the task and though we accept this as Vinchio, RossoMora and Barbera d’Asti it pulls no punches nor shies away from advanced solicitation. Screams at you and at the same time asks you to call for time. Huge wine and needing a little humility in the name of balance. Drink 2019-2021.  Tasted December 2018  tenutabriccosangiorgio  Tenuta Bricco San Giorgio

Cascina Castlet Barbera d’Asti Superiore DOCG Passum 2016, Piedmont, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

Costigiole d’Asti is the source for a barbera that stands like a stick in the thick consistency of the varietal stew, with lightning bolts of acidity followed by grippy shudders of structured thunder. Such a big wine of larger than life personality with white peppery piques and properly spiced, mild dark chocolate bitterness. Will age without trepidation or any true concern. Drink 2021-2029.  Tasted December 2018  cascinacastlet  @cascinacastlet  Cascina Castlèt

Coppo Barbera d’Asti DOCG L’Avvocata 2014, Piedmont, Italy (Agent, $19.95, WineAlign)

Luigi Coppo’s L’Avvocata is his fresh, come and drink me first red, clearly meant for the here and now. Dedicated to the original owner of this recently purchased vineyard, described as a tough woman, known to all as “the lawyer.” It’s quite floral and shows beautiful acidity. Effusive and rising, this is barbera as part of the shift to recognize quality at the entry level. Successful in that regard in spite of or perhaps as a result of the warmth and concentration.  Drink 2018-2019. Tasted December 2018 coppo1892  maitredechai_ca  @COPPO1892  @maitredechai  @COPPO1892  Le Maître de Chai

Luigi Coppo and Pomorosso

Coppo Barbera d’Asti Nizza DOCG Pomorosso 2014, Piedmont, Italy (Agent, $74.95, WineAlign)

If ever a vintage were going to give the Coppo Pomorosso a most sincere gift of its terroir than 2016 would be the one. In fact Luigi Coppo says uncle Roberto compares it to 1990 and he confirms the connection, if only by way of lab tests and results. The real reason is out there, in three vineyards located in Agliano Terme. “The balance was in place, even before we picked the grapes,” tells Coppo. This Pomorosso speaks young but is of course so very structured and only produced in exceptional vintages. The soil is marine sediment rich in minerals and the name is for the red apple tree on top of the hill. It’s an icon red by nature and design, with 2016 top finesse and the key to barbera’s ability of longevity. Drink 2019-2027.  Tasted December 2018

Coppo Barbera d’Asti DOCG Camp du Rouss 2016, Piedmont, Italy (Agent, $25.95, WineAlign)

Luigi Coppo’s barbera is a calcareous Castelnuovo Calcea striker with clay richness and spice brought on by some time in barrel. It’s deeply rendered into a well that pools with cherry liqueur and melted liquorice. Needs some time for the parts to mingle, match and melt into one another. A highly polished wine with plenty of possibility. Drink 2020-2026.  Tasted December 2018

Franco Roero Barbera d’Asti Superiore DOCG Sichei 2016, Piedmont, Italy (Agent, WineAlign)

Just a huge barbera out of Montegrosso d’Asti, with acidity and grip, through the roof and got a hold on you. Volatility is certainly at the top edge of the straddled ridge but neither extraction nor concentration dip into and up over the top. It’s a matter of making what place and vintage demand, with swagger, confidence and direct messaging. Truly white limestone screaming which incidentally keeps the concentration in check. Drink 2021-2028.  Tasted December 2018  franco_roero_winery  cottonwoodwineagency  @FrancoRoeroVini   @Cottonwood@franco.roero  Cottonwood Agency Wines & Spirits

Az. Agr. Garrone Evasio & Figlio Barbera d’Asti DOCG 2016, Piedmont, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

A different sort of deeper clay, moisture retentive for red cherry generosity and because there is a sidle into strawberry but of the drying, concentrated one. It’s a Montemagno matter, picked later and macerated to a greater degree though really fine acidity keeps it very much alive. Drink 2019-2020.  Tasted December 2018  #garroneevasioefiglio  @vinigarrone

Davide Ghiga

Azienda Agricola Ghiga Enrico Barbera d’Asti DOCG 2016, Piedmont, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

Young Davide Ghiga’s barbera is the azienda’s normale but it’s certainly a child of selezione. Bright, fresh and tenably intense. Solid would be a good descriptor for the honesty and varietal morality exhibited by this stand up barbera. The fruit is dark in a black cherry way but it’s clearly a matter of Costigliole d’Asti terroir more than winemaking. The high tones confirm this assessment and the way in which the wine is 100 per cent a matter of fruit. So much fruit. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted December 2018  ghigaaziendaagricola   Davide Ghiga  Azienda Agricola Ghiga Fratelli

Azienda Agricola Ghiga Enrico Barbera d’Asti Superiore DOCG 2016, Piedmont, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

The Ghiga brothers’ Superiore from Costigliole d’Asti takes the sweetness of dark and hematic fruit, gives it time in new grandi botti then sees it emerge with loads of chocolate and hyper intensity. Young is an understatement and time the declaration for development ahead of a deeper understanding. The vineyard is 22 years-old at this stage and the upside for terroir and winemaking reeks of potential. You just feel the earliest of beginnings involving a special relationship between viticulture and viniculture so we’re “gonna see what them racket boys can do.” This ’16 and coming vintages will likely turn out to be classics someday. So “put your makeup on, fix your hair up pretty and meet me tonight in Atlantic City.” Ghiga, a.k.a. The Boss of barbera, based in Castiglione Tinella-Cuneo. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted December 2018

Gianni Doglia Barbera d’Asti Superiore DOCG Genio 2016, Piedmont, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

Genio is Piemontese for Gianni’s grandfather “Eugenio” and these ’16 startling aromatics are like genies escaping from the bottle. Some extra altitude up to 350m in Castagnole Lanze brings an expression of solar radiated, polyphenolic aromatics that set this bold and structured barbera apart. There is a presence and a personality of energy despite the weight and the bold attack. It’s really juicy, fresh, high in acidity and just plain exciting. Drink 2021-2029.  Tasted December 2018  gianni_doglia_wines  Gianni Doglia Azienda vitivinicola Gianni Doglia  Paola Doglia

Gianni Doglia Barbera d’Asti Superiore Nizza DOCG Viti Vecchie 2016, Piedmont, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

Doglia’s old vines are an average of 50 years for barbera from Nizza Monferrato that travels the emotional gamut from freshness through structure and into softness. Gianni’s reminds me of 90s St. Émilion and 2000s Napa merlot but with barbera’s lightning acidity. If it is possible for a red to offer a big hug while scratching your back then this would be the one. The soils may be different than Castagnole Lanze but the treatment in the cellar is virtually the same, with small barrels and 30 per cent new. Twenty-five kilometres separate the Nizza from the Genio and here you get more texture and dark, rich chocolate. Also mint, a salty vein and very ripe cherries. Drink 2019-2023.  Tasted December 2018

Gozzelino Barbera d’Asti Superiore DOCG Ciabot d’la Mandorla 2015, Piedmont, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

This traditional barbera is a well-pressed one from Costigliole d’Asti and spent 24 months in large (30hL) format grandi botti. Very rich, lots of chocolate, some shots of tonic and high acidity intensity. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted December 2018   Azienda Agricola Gozzelino Sergio

Tenuta Il Falchetto Barbera d’Asti Superiore DOCG Bricco Paradiso 2016, Piedmont, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

A really rich, fully fruit realized, intensely tangy, plum meets currants and pomegranate barbera with density, structure and purpose. The numbers are big and the personality boisterous but there is more than enough fruit to keep the booze and the bones from dominating. Pretty good vitality and energy within the big framework. Drink 2021-2028.  Tasted December 2018  tenutailfalchetto  @ilfalchettovini  @tenutailfalchetto

With Andrea Ivaldi

Azienda Agricola Ivaldi Dario Barbera d’Asti Superiore Nizza DOCG “1613” 2015, Piedmont, Italy (Agent, $31.78, WineAlign)

From Andrea Ivaldi comes the next and generous vintage of Nizza barbera, with an initial waft of intensity on the nose that speaks with volatility, then blows off with just a minute or two of swirl. The calcaire speaks next with lightning quickness while the black cherry spiked by anise fruit hurries to keep pace. There is great peppery presence and a keen sense of place in this Nizza, rich and fluid, ripe and full of classic barbera acidity. Understated chic and real class come forth, take a bow of humility, turn around and go back to work. Tasted again the next day and the day after that it only revealed further complexities. Drink 2019-2024. Tasted May and December 2018  andrea.ivaldi  devonmasciangelo  @ivaldidario  @vinidelmonferrato  Devon Masciangelo

You say you wanna @barberadasti revolution? Well you know, a Masterclass with 19 examples led by @kerinokeefe is a fine place to begin ~ #barberarevolution

La Caudrina Barbera d’Asti DOCG La Solista 2016, Piedmont, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

From Nizza Monferrato Caudrina’s is blessed of the kind of sweet fruit barbera is so capable of delivering. It’s a white lightning example though off of sandy soils but it’s so transparent, lightly tonal in high spoken voice and just bloody beautiful. Drink 2019-2021.  Tasted December 2018  #lacaudrina  @LaCaudrina

Manfredi Barbera d’Asti DOCG 2015, Piedmont, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

The confidence oozes from this barbera and it goes to show that the delayed release is truly a matter of planning ahead rather than some sort of reactive response. Three vineyards make up the concerted assemblage and while the levels of Brett and volatility are up there with the funkier barbera they are well beneath the threshold. In that sense this is a wine of stylistic choice more than flawed or not flawed. It’s up to you to decide if the leathery cherry earthiness is up your alley but regardless the juicy nature and exquisite acidity ride up and down everyone’s preferred slope. A very expressive wine this is and if you are a fan of post-funk beats than you will find this very special. Drink 2018-2023.  Tasted December 2018  manfredicantine  Manfredi Cantine

Marchesi Alfieri Barbera d’Asti Superiore DOCG Alfiera 2016, Piedmont, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

San Martino Alfieri is a calcareous limestone and clay terroir, not unusual for the territory but here there is a combination of juicy, generous fruit in a darker realm though still moderate in grip and power. This certainly takes barbera to another level and though it initiates the idea of strength it’s really quite balanced and potentially, holding cards to become magically ethereal. Just a touch overripe but really beautiful for the short to mid term. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted December 2018  marchesialfieri  univinsetspiritueux    @UNIVINS  Marchesi Alfieri – Cantine e Locanda Univins et Spiritueux / Univins & Spirits

Marenco Barbera d’Asti Superiore DOCG Ciresa 2016, Piedmont, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

The moscato d’asti specialist out of Strevi makes a plum meets sharply tangy cherry (Ciresa) barbera with high acidity and a liquid chalky texture. It’s different, harder to pinpoint and to get. It needs time, now, in the glass, and for a few years to understand its nuance and speciality. Must be Strevi. Drink 2020-2025.  Tasted December 2018  marencovini  @MARENCOVINI  Marenco

Michele Chiarlo Barbera d’Asti DOCG Le Orme 2016, Piedmont, Italy (265413, $15.95, WineAlign)

The three terroir gathering is by now a barbera institution, from fruit gathered out of Castelnuovo Calcea, Montaldo Scarampi and Agliano Terme. As expected it is 2016 that becomes tbe perfect playground for an archetypal barbera made by Michelle and Stefano Chiarlo. The acids are spot on in this ubiquitous bd’a, with fruit at the sparked cherry forefront as well as any in the category. Try to find better value at the price. Really, go ahead and try. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted December 2018 michelechiarlo  univinscanada  @michelechiarlo  @UNIVINS  Michele Chiarlo  @UnivinsCanada

Tenuta Olim Bauda Barbera d’Asti Superiore DOCG Le Rocchette 2016, Piedmont, Italy (434258, $32.95, WineAlign)

Though Gianni Bertolino’s is a high octane, high alcohol and high tonal Incisa Scapaccino barbera the balance here is virtually spot on, with acidity and tannin sending shots of structure like steel straws through sand, clay, limestone and concrete. So young, lightning quick and needing a pause for several years to gain flesh, texture and fruit pulp succulence. This will act just like a dried persimmon/plum/cherry fruit leather in five plus years time. Poured from magnum so do the age waiting game math. Drink 2021-2029.  Tasted December 2018  tenuta_olimbauda hobbsandcompany  @tenutaolimbauda  @hobbsandco  @tenutaolimbauda.it  hobbsandcompany

Tenuta Olim Bauda Barbera d’Asti Superiore DOCG Le Rocchette 2011, Piedmont, Italy (434258, $32.95, WineAlign)

Tasting this with Gianni Bertolino he notes how ’11 is really a bridge year, between the classic ’10 and the massive ’12. At seven years on the evolution is on and the revolution begun. It has brought barbera to a new place, still possessive of high phenolics and higher acidity though with the sweetly rendered resolution of ripe red fruit. Though it seems less characteristic of the big and the brooding barbera there is firm grip in its stance. Now beginning to shed its second skin so ready and willing to reveal its honest and forthcoming nature. The probability meeting possibility is now found, not vice versa and so welcome to the best of its times. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted December 2018

Tenuta Olim Bauda Barbera d’Asti Superiore Nizza DOCG 2015, Piedmont, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

Gianni Bertolino’s Nizza ’15 is barbera at a precise axis where fruit and acidity work, meet, mix and play. They may at first get into an old time Monferrato tussle and a big time Piemontese hassle but get on the same page before too long. In fact with thanks to a generous and amenable 2015 vintage they find a quick and easy way to kiss, make-up and shake hands. On the edge of sour the message gets through, from fruit so sweet and acidity so fine. Ripeness tangles with tangy and soil drive pushes the structure too. Perfectly representative of territory, man and place. Drink 2019-2023.  Tasted December 2018

Pico Maccario Barbera d’Asti Superiore DOCG Epico 2016, Piedmont, Italy (AgentWineAlign)

Plum pudding, chocolate caramel and baking spice are the barrique-influenced order in the very ripe Mombaruzzo 2016 Epico. It’s very generous, tenebrous and deep into its clay soil origins. High acids keep up the energy. Drink 2019-2021.  Tasted December 2018  picomaccario  @PicoMaccario  @PicoMaccario

Ricossa Antica Barbera d’Asti DOCG 2016, Piedmont, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

From calcareous Nizza Monferrato – Agliano Terme soils, vinified in stainless steel only. The naked grape, cherries upon cherries and more cherries. Simplicity with no approach to any sort of crossroads where any great decisions or soul selling are required. Juicy and forward. Drink 2019-2021.  Tasted December 2018  ricossawine  selectwinemoments  @ricossawine   @SelectWinePros Ricossa Wine  Select Wines

Scarpa Barbera d’Asti DOCG Casa Scarpa 2015, Piedmont, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

From Nizza Monferrato vineyards where Poderi Bricchi is elevated to heights between 410 and 480 meters. The youngest fruit is pulled from lower elevations (250m) for Casa Scarpa, the freshest of the estate’s barbera that sees a minimum one year in stainless steel only, followed by another in bottle before release. It’s a magnesium salty barbera, bright, tart, striking and blessed with great acidity. In your face striking, real and immediately promising. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted December 2018  scarpawine  @Scarpawines  Scarpa Wine

Scarpa Barbera d’Asti DOCG La Bogliona 2010, Piedmont, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

From the eestate with one foot in the Monferrato Astigiano and the other in the Monferrato Alessandrino, the fruit for La Bogliona is drawn from one of two estate cru, which along with Poderi Bricchi are the reason Scarpa exists. This 2010 has certainly advanced and is a formidable if severe combination of secondary fruit character and exceptional acidity. The maceration time was 14-16 days, followed by 30-36 months in 15 hL grandi botti of various French ages and origins. Silky pure with a note like shoe polish on leather, variegated of high quality red fruit. So alive but also so lived. Impressive and instinctive you can only imagine the things it’s been and seen. Drink 2018-2024.  Tasted December 2018

Cantina Terre Artisane Barbera d’Asti DOCG Anno Domini 2016, Piedmont, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

From Mombercelli this small production barbera is of the old school’s high acid-driven way, with tonality shooting through the roof and to the stars. It’s ripe and light, effulgent and finishing on a note of bitters. Drink 2019-2020.  Tasted December 2018  cantinaterreastesane  Cantina Terre Astesane Mombercelli

Tojo Barbera d’Asti DOCG Delianna 2016, Piedmont, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

DeliAnna exhibits more concentration, phenolics and glycerin than so many barbera, probably because the yields are one grappolo per vine, in other words, after the greening one bunch is left to mature and produce highest quality fruit. The noted sense of accomplishment is palpable, felt through the purple flower-scented and sweet red berry fruit. The chiming in of fine acidity elevates and oak is but a dream undreamt. If there is any it’s hidden with 100 per cent deception. Here folks is 21st century barbera d’asti. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted December 2018  tojo_vino  Tojo Azienda Agricola Bocchino Vittorio

Viticoltori Associati Vinchio e Vaglio Serra Barbera d’Asti DOCG Vigne Vecchie 50 2016, Piedmont, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

From white calcaire and sandy soils these Nizza Monferrato – Agliano Terme old vines bring depth and some acid-tannin structure not noted in the more straightforward, juicy and high acid examples. The vine age seems to tame the acids and fruit is concentrated, expressed and up front. Really long and perfectly wise, even developed for the first few years of drinking. One of the worlds wonderful cooperatives with an eye to pinpointing grape and place. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted December 2018  vinchiovaglioserra  @vinchiovaglio  @VinchioVaglioSerra

Good to go!

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Vineyards in Santo Stefano Belbo

 

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WineAlign

Eighteen Canadian wines that rocked in 2018

2017 Aldé Rosé, Interloper and As Is

The inaugural year-end summary of Canadian wine excitement posted to godello.ca was in 2013 and this sixth instalment naturally includes five more than the first. The necessity begs of the process to expand because five years later even the paltry number 18 is but a fraction of what could or should be noted, publicized and celebrated. This exercise is one of the most arduous writing assignments of the calendar year, difficult to pin down, even harder to leave wonder out in omission. As I’ve said before “it’s biased, exclusive and decisive but it is meant to celebrate a select few with a mandate to elevate and exult the rest. It’s also a proclamation read to many who remain ignorant to an ideal of great wine being made in Canada, to tell the insolent they are not welcome here anyway. The winemakers in this country are in full command of their acumen, craft and future. They own it.”

Related – 17 Canadian wines that rocked in 2017

Another year of tasting Canadian wine, another year of thousands of examples shared my way. Even more international travel made it difficult to keep up the pace but I’m sure I tasted more than 1000 wines once again. We are relentless in our attention paid to Canadian wines at the WineAlign office. The WineAlign National Wine Awards of Canada convened in June at the convention centre in Penticton B.C. and judging Ontario wines happened with David Lawrason at The Great Canadian Kitchen Party, the artist formerly known as Gold Medal Plates.

Related – 16 Canadian wines that rocked in 2016

Over the past 12 months my partner Scott Zebarth and I have upped our little négoce game with the fine folks at Ravine Vineyard Estate Winery. With the help of Marty Werner, Ben Minaker and Eden Garry we managed to crush, ferment, blend and bottle three new wines. In April there were 594 magnums of Aldé Rosé 2017, a 100 per cent VQA Niagara-on-the-Lake cabernet franc. Then in September we released the second vintage of Interloper Cabernet Franc 2017, VQA Niagara-on-the-Lake and our newest wine, As Is Field Blend 2017, VQA Niagara Lakeshore.

As Is Field Blend 2017, VQA Niagara Lakeshore, Ontario ($19.95)

The third wine in the little project with partner Scott Zebarth and Ravine Vineyard Estate Winery’s Marty Werner, Ben Minaker and Eden Garry A dream of fields, single-vineyard one-third each blend of pinot noir, merlot and cabernet franc, co-fermented with ambient yeasts. As Is.  scottzebarth  marty_werner  benminaker23  ravinevineyard  @Scottsomm  @marty_werner  @BMinaker23  @RavineVineyard  Scott Zebarth  Martin Werner  Ben Minaker  @RavineVineyardEstateWinery

In 2016 there were 16 wines noted. In 2015 I counted 15 on the filtered list. In 2014 the highlights numbered 14, just as in 2013 the number chosen to cant, recant and decant excellence in Canadian wine was 13. Last year you are correct, the list held 17 spots. Roll out the 2018 red carpet. Here are the 18 most exciting Canadian wines of 2018.

Back up the truck, glug glug Gamay Rosé Flipping the Bird by @hatchwines and where’s J-do?

The Hatch Wines Gobsmacked Flipping The Bird Pink 2017, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia (Winery, $21.99, WineAlign)

We pulled this Rosé from the ice and were utterly astonished and astounded at this particular bird. It was Jason Parkes, “he named you the bird. It’s how you were generally referred. We never really understood, never really thought about much.” So we tasted again and we raised a brow, got excited and then were utterly gobsmacked. Sometimes, there’s a wine. And I’m talkin’ about the Bird here. Sometimes, there’s a wine, well, he’s the Rosé for his time and place. Mostly go gamay go with some cabernet sauvignon, utterly fresh at the peak of perfect natural volatility, red berries and grapefruit. No salve texture nor trans fat feeling left in mouth behind neither. Crushable by any amount desired. A portion of the profits from the sale of this wine are donated to Parrot Island, a non-profit sanctuary for abandoned and abused exotic birds in Peachland BC. “With time, it only made more sense, As time went by, it just made more sense. You are the bird. You are the bird.” Thank you Jason, thank you Dude. Thank you Gord. Drink 2018-2019.  Tasted June 2018  hatchwines  @HatchWines  @hatchwines

Two years in a row. Well-deserved and just because.

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

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

Fitzpatrick Fitz Rosé 2014, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia (Winery, $48.98, WineAlign)

Long lasting flavours of impression. Candied ginger, dried strawberry, every fruit shade of red, for redheads everywhere.  Last tasted December 2018  fitzwine  @FitzWine  @FitzWine

This pinot noir is lovely, quiet and mild, a lemon-strawberry aromatic blush of the faintest noir. Fine spun, wild yeasty, truly wound tight, so focused and persistent. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted blind at NWAC18, June 2018

Trail Estate Riesling Foxcroft Vineyard Unfiltered 2016, VQA Twenty Mile Bench, Ontario (Winery, $35.00, WineAlign)

In 2016 the next wrinkle is a wild ferment (as opposed to the inoculated ’15), unfined and unfiltered, because as time progressed “I liked it more and more,” says winemaker Mackenzie Brisbois. No coarse filtration means some minor sediment will settle in the bottle. Smashed layers of tote-filled grapes are brought to the crushpad, in lieu of the crusher, to extract from the skins and stems, making use of the punchdown tool, while waiting before pressing. Recently bottled in December 2017 the BFR is something completely other and if 2015 was considered not, this follow-up is markedly fruity now, because it always was, all the way through during just more than a year in really old barrels. It’s a blonde riesling as per M. Gustave, if you will. “Why blonde? Because they all were.” This is the wisest of Mack Brisbois’ rieslings, calm, confident, collected and shining brightly from the word go. You don’t have to wait on this one, it’s riper, it’s unfiltered, made with a lot less sulphur than the skin contacts and those “dirty” 15s. “I like to see how little (sulphur) I can get away with,” notes Brisbois. The most accomplished riesling that she has made to date, the 16’s balance is spot on now and you will not have to wait for it to come into its cinematic stage. Drink it now and keep it longer. Drink 2018-2024. Tasted April 2018  trailestatewine  mackbrisbois  @TrailEstateWine  @MackBrisbois  Trail Estate Winery  Mackenzie Brisbois

Hard not to put the 1991 Cave Spring on the list but is there any good reason to not place the CSV on the list every single year?

Cave Spring CSV Riesling 2016, Cave Spring Vineyard, VQA Beamsville Bench, Niagara Escarpment, Ontario (566026, $29.95, WineAlign)

The CSV from a warm 2016 really expresses the vintage on the nose with a heavy dose of wet stone and every part of a ripe peach. You have to get past the early sulphur but once you do you take a good bite into the flesh of this riesling and the juices will run with accents and angles fit by tonic, pith, tangy, nervy acidity and a hidden sweetness. The sugars are surely more elevated than realized or will ever be felt because the combination of acidity and pith are covers that will never peel back. Size matters and this CSV is built with great Escarpment architecture, stepping out of the paradigmatic 2015 shadow and into another age. This 2016 begins an epoch of structural expressionism and should easily carry its construct through to the next decade. That consequently, is when this CSV will really be ready to rock and roll for a full decade more. Drink 2020-2030.  Tasted March 2018  cavespringcellars  thevineagency  @CaveSpring  @TheVine_RobGroh  Cave Spring Cellars  The Vine

Godello and Paul Pender of Tawse
PHOTO: Steven Elphick & Associates

Tawse South Bay Vineyard Chardonnay 2015, VQA Prince Edward County, Ontario (Winery, $35.15, WineAlign)

The South Bay Prince Edward County fruit from Huff Estates lands is simply exceptional produce, from where winds blow-dry leaning vines perched aboard a passel of solid limestone sliding into Lake Ontario. Tawse has always coveted this fruit and when Paul Pender is allowed to play with it he does so with great mindfulness in search of greater apogee. Methinks Pender both picked a few days to a week earlier and also worked the most mineral meets Ceres toast his barrels can afford. There is a deep, sonorous and resounding regard about this chardonnay. It’s both sumptuous and serious, with a flinty-mineral meets toasted hazelnut interplay. It is perhaps an Ontario nod to Les Caillerets, or just a far away coincidence, but regardless you just have to know that it’s a very special wine. Drink 2019-2026.  Tasted December 2018  tawsewinery  @Tawse_Winery  @tawsewines

Domaine Queylus Chardonnay Réserve Du Domaine 2016, VQA Niagara Escarpment, Ontario (Agent, $37.95, WineAlign)

Still in the vein of the Queylus chardonnay tradition where a winemaker is always on the watch, meaning you never take your eyes off the child or the prize. The Réserve is a matter gathered from the best barrel selections but says Kelly Mason “the treatment and the worry are the same.” Slides easily away from the tropical and sidles up the the rocky places from whence it came. Chardonnay is often round and liked that way but Queylus is direct, linear, angled and also far from angular. When the Escarpment rule is followed and traced along the lines of a malolactic ruler marked by clones (in this case 76 as opposed to 95) then structure is assured. The ambition is real, the intention serious and there is no roaming far to the west or the east. All that and richness is found through every bright sip. Drink 2018-2024.  Tasted July 2018  queylus  @Queylus  Domaine Queylus Winery

Hidden Bench Chardonnay Tête De Cuvée 2011, VQA Beamsville Bench, Ontario (278812, $45.20, WineAlign)

Still so youthful, now noted by smoked quince with a shot of peppermint schnapps where no sugar lives save for the sweetness of nature.  Last tasted December 2018  hiddenbench  markanthonyon  @HiddenBench @MarkAnthonyWine  Hidden Bench Estate Winery  Mark Anthony Wine & Spirits

Tête De Cuvée by Hidden Bench, like a Champagne best of the best abstraction, makes an appeal to self-esteem and esteem for others, to consumers who have come to recognize Niagara and even more specifically, the Beamsville Bench for head of the class, cool climate Chardonnay. That mouthful congregates and works in congruence with the quality in the Tête’s composition; full-on freshness, density, weeping cerate texture, toasted and popping kernel, fine-grained localization, utterly integrated barrel. There was scant quantity (32.5 hL/h) from some very old and wise vines, pronounced like others but louder than most, from the bullhorn of a stentorian vintage. What is felt and spoken about the quality inherent from out of the finest parcels in the Locust Lane and Rosomel Vineyards Chardonnay fruit is more than a patent observation. The ability to take on toast cuts to the nougat and the synoptic rises to the ethereal ozone. Not to mention gross minerality. On the shortlist for best Niagara Chardonnay to date. Drink now and beyond 2025. Tasted twice, September and October 2014

Roche Wines Pinot Noir 2016, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia (Winery, $24.90, WineAlign)

The 2016 is purchased pinot noir fruit by Dylan and Pénélope Roche from Kozier organic vineyard on the Naramata Bench. Hand harvested and fermented in stainless steel tanks with regular pumping over and pressed after three weeks on skins. The press wine was separated from the free run and aged for 10 months in stainless steel and neutral French oak. Knowing what I know after the first blind assessment it now turns this love of love into inspiration, away from the soulless, blind pinot noir love and to something real. If there is a more honest and crushable one I’d be shocked. So exciting and new.  Also tasted at Bench 1775, June 2018  rochewines  @RocheWines  @rochewines

Really ripe, I mean really ripe, a hematic liqueur that few others in the flight can match. From a warm site to be sure, full and thick as pinot nor  thieves. Not as structured but so very, bloody and reasonably drinkable. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted blind at NWAC18, June 2018

Rosehall Run Pinot Noir JCR Rosehall Vineyard 2016, VQA Prince Edward County, Ontario (Winery, $39.00, WineAlign)

Though statements of monadical hyperbole should very much be avoided, a taste of Dan Sullivan’s ’16 JCR makes one think it has all come to this. The glycerin fruit endowed with so much natural sweetness and magnificently low alcohol feels like an impossibility. In a way it is but it’s also a County reality. This may just be the least astringent PEC pinot noir ever produced and at the same time seems entirely void of tension. Yet there is structure and cohesion, two functors so very necessary to see it drink well for 10 years, with great charm and further curiosity for five more after that. Drink 2018-2028.  Last tasted July 2018  rosehall_run  sullywine  profilewinegroup  @Rosehall_Run  @sullywine  @ProfileWineGrp  @RosehallRun  Dan Sullivan  @ProfileWineGroup

Bright, red raspberry, light and effusive with a simple, liquid chalky feel. Really drinkable. The tart is part of a delight in composition. A good chew.  Tasted blind at NWAC18, June 2018

Lightfoot & Wolfville Ancienne Pinot Noir 2016, Nova Scotia, Canada (Winery, $40.00, WineAlign)

Driest year on record with nary a moment of disease pressure. Spent 18 months in older French oak, less one barrel. This is the richest Ancienne and Nova Scotian pinot noir to date, with firm grip, structure and outright intensity. Welcome to the pinnacle of the first L & W pinot wave, the culmination of the first epoch, after which nothing will be the same and so much learning will have been achieved. Begs the question of what happens next? The vines get better is what, in fact I walked the 2018 pinot noir vines today. Their maturity and contiguous consistency will be the answer to future questions and debate. They will speak for and on behalf of themselves. Drink 2019-2026.  Tasted October 2018  lwwines  rachhlightfoot  jhortonns  korilightfoot  @rachel_hope  @lwwines  @lightfootandwolfvillewines  Rachel Lightfoot  

Two Sisters Cabernet Franc 2014, VQA Niagara River, Ontario (Winery, $54.80, WineAlign)

Released on Monday July 16th and now a Platinum Award winner at NWAC18. “This has everything that ’13 had but just a bit more weight, structure and complexity, plus volume, those last three meaning on the palate,” explains winemaker Adam Pearce. Down in volumes (30 per cent), beautifully aromatic, low-cropped, (1.25 tonnes per acre), 15 per cent new wood, 32 months in barrel, in bottle for an additional 10 months. The focus, presence and confidence of this wine stand apart, all worked specific to place and the uniqueness of the appellation. Benefits from a double-lake effect and different soils. Chalk and river stone liquidity running as a river of its own right through. Drives the point of patience, to allow a vineyard the chance to speak of its singular phraseology. The 2014 Niagara River cabernet franc may still be a ways from reaching its full potential but it has certainly hit its stride. Drink 2019-2027.  Tasted July 2018  twosisters_vineyards  apearcevino  @TwoSisters_wine  @apearcevino  Two Sisters Vineyards  Adam Pearce  

Benjamin Bridge Cabernet Franc Small Lot 2016, Nova Scotia, Canada (Winery, $57.95, WineAlign)

Still from the Kingsport farm fruit, a whole cluster ferment, no messing with stems, fully oxygenated, no carbonic maceration, 30-40 per cent whole bunch. Total output is “a barrel and a bit.” An infused aromatic ferment, green spice and a char of tobacco, utter intensity, compelling and a phenolic reality. “A myth buster incarnate,” says Jean-Benoit Deslauriers, ripened beyond the sensory borders, miles away from other territories, with generosity and juicy ripe legs. From a warm vintage, nine months in neutral oak plus nine in the bottle. Then a decant and oh how the florals open up, furthered, blooming and intoxicating. More than just a fun little experiment so please wake up and smell the Gaspereau Valley. So lively, a wee salty and all energy. Drink 2018-2024.  Tasted October 2018  benjaminbridge  caveman__jones  scott.savoy  @Benjamin_Bridge  @benjaminbridgevineyards  Jean-Benoit Deslauriers  Scott Savoy  

Vineland Estates Cabernet Franc Reserve 2015, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (Winery, $50.00, WineAlign)

Winemaker Brian Schmidt’s investigations into cabernet franc border on obsession but truth be told it’s not rocket science that makes so many fine varietal tiers. There are the six growers combed from six Niagara sub-appellations that add up to one entry-level, over-delivering cabernet franc. Then there is Bo Teek, the large estate vineyard planted in 1996 to clone 327 in the south and in 2006, to clone 214 in the north. Not to be forgotten in the cabernet franc make-up is the limestone substratum, highly significant for the trace mineral, elemental push up into these vines ensuring that no over-the top make up is required for varietal elevation, explanation and consummation. Vineland’s Reserve spends 16 months in barrel, none of which are any newer than from 2009. Fermentation, barrel, bottle, repeat. That’s it. No racking. This Reserve is the marriage of north and south, 60 and 40 per cent respectively, a combinative attack both phenolic and aromatic. The northern fruit sings some blues with crooning volatility whilst in delivery of sweet blackberry fruit. The south is all about stretched, nimble and elastic tones, elegant, more fragrance, black to red berries and less brooding. As one it’s a deeper and more intense wine than Bo Teek or Elevation, bottled in November, with higher acidity. The corollary variegation expands above what Bo Teek seems capable of executing solo. The structure here tells us it will not switch gears as early and live longer. Look for some secondary notes in the vein of black truffle, sweet balsam and dried lavender to show up after the turn of the decade. Drink 2020-2027.  Tasted April 2018  vinelanestates  benchwineguy  @VinelandEstates  @benchwineguy  @winery.vinelandestates  Brian Schmidt


Mission Hill Terroir Series Vista’s Edge Cabernet Franc 2015, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia (Winery, $50,00, WineAlign)

You have to wonder why Mission Hill had not kicked at the can before because the Vista’s Edge is one of British Columbia’s brightest cabernet francs. It’s an important and exciting first effort from East Osoyoos fruit pulled from one of the Okanagan Valley’s farthest southern plantings. It’s a top three per cent single-vineyard, special terroir series edition that smells, tastes, feels and acts like cabernet franc. Nothing about this, not by barrel nor like varietal reminds of cabernet sauvignon. There are currant and peppery reductive meets pyrazine notes as red, bright and fresh as you’d hope they would be. The pitchy darkness of structure and hue falls because night must always follow the day and that’s what happens when cabernet franc is made this way. A long life ahead is conformed by the diphthong finish. Drink 2019-2026.  Tasted June 2018  missionhillwinery  @MissionHillWine  @MissionHillWine

Leaning Post Syrah Keczan Vineyard 2016, VQA Lincoln Lakeshore, Ontario (Agent, $45.00, WineAlign)

The eureka moment for syrah, Lincoln Lakeshore, Keczan and Leaning Post came years ago, for it, that, they, them and I. Not together mind you but passion knows no limits and opens doors to transcend time and space. This pinpointed farm on that flat expanse so perfectly proximate to the lake is where syrah can express itself without hindrance or opposition. Here the lake is like the Mediterranean and the river like the Rhône. Together they address the clay, create a moisture gathering effect, ship out the cold fronts and usher in the warm. They make syrah like this, rich in humus, hummus and hubris, olive tapenade and sweet brine. Fruit is fruit, also sweet, but savoury, acidulated and fine. Acidity is perfect in this vintage. Length is exceptional. A new benchmark, bred from passion with the intendment to inspire commitment. One of Ontario’s best red wines. Drink 2020-2032.  Tasted September 2018  leaningpostwine  nicholaspearcewines  @LeaningPostWine  @Nicholaspearce_  Leaning Post Wines  Nicholas Pearce

Kacaba Signature Series Reserve Syrah 2015, VQA Niagara Escarpment, Ontario (Winery, $44.95, WineAlign)

It’s about time we get something straight. Kacaba knows Syrah, in fact they should receive serious consideration for the title of Ontario’s top Syrah specialist. Two vineyards (with plantings that date back to 1997) provide fruit for several tiers, including the syrah from Terrace and Silver Bridge Vineyards and the highest quality chosen, hand-harvested fruit for this Signature Series Reserve. An escarpment’s dolomite limestone effect plays into these hands from fruit that arrives into glass through the body of arguably Ontario’s finest current syrah. The aromatic waft of a warm pastry crust is laden with red and blue berries that also fill the cool flavour centre of a pastille. The savoury candy gives way to a peppery kick before featuring a cure of salumi and a return full circle to that serious fruit. The apposite and complimentary smells and tastes are only intensified with a bottle’s decant so just imagine the possibilities that age will bestow. This is special work from Michael Kacaba with winemakers John Tummon and Vadim Chelekhov.  Last tasted February 2018  kacabavineyards  vadimwineguy  @KacabaVineyards    Kacaba Vineyards and Winery  Vadim Chelekhov

Oh what a beautiful peppery syrah, ripe and floral, all of its aspects, angles and components agreed upon, all in. When Canadian (and in this case, somewhere in Ontario) syrah gets down to business, gets straight to the meaty and smoky point it does so tart, tight and coiled around your tongue and finger. This, right here just nails it. It is the best of times. This is the man. Drink 2019-2027.  Tasted blind at #NWAC17, June 2017

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

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

Good to go!

godello

2017 Aldé Rosé, Interloper and As Is

Twitter: @mgodello

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Sottimano a Sottimano

It was back in April when Bernard asked John and I to meet for a quick tasting because Elena Sottimano was in town. Several decades ago her father Rino Sottimano began his nebbiolo journey with just a few hectares but those precious blocks were in the Cottá Cru. It suffices to say that it was more than luck but also the Piemontese version of land meeting human intervention that have brought these wines to the pinnacle they are found to be at today.

Sottimano is the 18 hectare, Neive in Barbaresco project of Rino Sottimano, his wife Anna and children, Andrea and Elena. These are some of the most human, understood, necessary, gratifying and satisfying Piemontese wines you are ever going to taste. They make you think, smile, wink, cry and sigh. They speak of the vineyard and how properly they are treated. The nebbioli get under your skin, teach you what you need to know and tell you that everything is alright. They are good friends, therapists and if need be, they can be festaioli.

Elena led us through delightful dolcetto, ante-brooding barbera, worth twice the price Langhe and then six Barbaresco from four outstanding Cru; Pajoré, Fausoni, Cottà and Currá. Thanks to Le Sommelier, Sottimano’s Ontario agent and Taverna Mercatto, for hosting. Here are my notes on the nine wines.

John Szabo M.S., Godello and Elena Sottimano

Sottimano Dolcetto d’Alba DOC Bric Del Salto 2016, Piemonte, Italy (330738, $22.95, WineAlign)

From a vintage certified as classical for a modern and grounded dolcetto style in the vein of 2004 and 2010. This from the first vineyard planted by Elena’s father in 1975 and 41 years later turns out a purity of fruit for one of the most important modern vintages in Piemonte. Warm days, cold nights, easy and simple work in the winery, so overall just perfect conditions. Simply put this is found to be rich, salty, fresh and bright. Bric del Salto is a fantasy name, the “jump or peak of the hill,” made up for this combing of three vineyards. It’s curative, made ideal with hard crumbly cheese and a bowl of red sauce pasta plus a slice of pizza. And this bottle. Rendered only in stainless steel, fresh and perfect. Drink 2018-2020.  Tasted April 2018  az.agr.sottimano ElenaSottimano  @AzAgrSottimano  @LeSommelierWine  @AziendaAgricolaSottimano  Elena Sottimano  @LeSommelierWine</

Sottimano Barbera d’Alba DOC Superiore Pairolero 2015, Piemonte, Italy (Agent, $33.95, WineAlign)

Barbera’s is a similar vinification, 25 days like Barbareso, a long maceration, bringing the magical, natural cure and understated barbera skin affection. Sees a small (10) per cent of new French wood plus second, third and fourth passage barrels, eight to 10 months sur lie and natural malolactic. There is nothing so wound, tart, tang and gently sour like this, in fact it’s perfect for barbera. Red fruit perfect, no darkness and no brooding. Vines are in San Cristoforo and Basarin, on sandy clay soil, keeping it mineral, salty, long and ultimately classic. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted April 2018

Sottimano Langhe Nebbiolo DOC 2015, Piemonte, Italy (454017, $32.95, WineAlign)

Langhe Nebbiolo is from the Basarin Vineyard, not used for single-vineyard Barbaresco because the vines are only 15-20 years old, planted in 2000. It is aged for one year in oak, eight to 10 months sur lie. Elena Sottimano admits that perhaps their fruit will be committed to Basarin as they age, but for now they are separated or if you will, de-classified. There is a cool, mentholated streak running through, with a particular spice and though it used to be 25 per cent new barrel, starting in 2015, it’s a mere 10 per cent new. The lees is so apparent, in texture but also in the way the wine knows itself from birth and doesn’t need time to announce who and what it is. Chalky and tannic in a greater ionic way, prosodic of two short followed by two long syllables, architectural in the way nebbiolo must be. At this price and labeled Langhe this from Sottimano slings more pleasure and as much structure as at least half af all Barbaresco twice its cost. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted April 2018

John Szabo M.S. and Elena Sottimano at Tavrena Mercatto

Sottimano Barbaresco Pajoré DOC 2015, Piemonte, Italy (Agent, $103.95, WineAlign)

Pajoré materializes off pure limestone soil at a hovering 380m of altitude. It’s really just a name this Cru, dialectical, as is its nebbiolo. Sees two years in 220L barrels made by François Frères, La Tonnellerie who receive a sample of your wines before deciding what barrels to send, if any. Time on lees is 20 months and there is no racking. This is pure nebbiolo in requiem of zero to next to no sulphur. It gets neither more natural nor more understated and exacting as this. The wine knows itself like a great human perfectly comfortable in its own skin and it might live to 2040 without experiencing one single moment of stress. It is truly a remarkable condition of the human meeting vine equating to wine spirit. Pajoré is a Cru worthy of a word to describe what you would get by combining ambiente with intervento umano. As in Climat, but Italian. Tannins are as formidable and elegant as there can dialectically be. Drink 2021-2035.  Tasted April 2018

Sottimano Barbaresco Fausoni DOC 2015, Piemonte, Italy (Agent, $103.95, WineAlign)

Fausoni is a small one point five hectare plot of sand and clay only six kilometres away from Pajoré. The vines range in age from 50 to 70 years old and there is certainly more depth and richness though contrastively speaking, more freshness and open aromatic perfume. There is also a verdant note and then this taut fixture of body and architecture in structure through the overall feeling. Deeper and more pressing, an antithetical nebbiolo, intense and perhaps not what you would expect. Likely a matter of sub-strata, of mystery and enigma. Pajoré just seems to intuit its character while Fausoni will need to feel, shift and oscillate its way through life. As with Pajoré the wood is retrofitted by La Tonnellerie François Frères, surfeiting Fausoni for a life more passionate and hard-lived if not quite as calm and relaxing as the one enjoyed by Pajoré. Top quality nebbiolo irregardless of style or fashion. Drink 2019-2032.  Tasted April 2018

Cottá Azienda Agricola Sottimano cru spoiled by Elena Sottimano and Le Sommelier, Wine Agency ~ going vertical with Barbaresco and John Szabo — at Taverna Mercatto.

Sottimano Barbaresco Cottà DOC 2015, Piemonte, Italy (Agent, $103.95, WineAlign)

From the two point eight hectare vineyard with 45 year-old vines, Cottà receives the same élévage as Pajoré and Fausoni, on skins for 25 days and in Tonnellerie François Frères for 24 months. Fifteen per cent are new and the remainder of the barrels have been used up to four times. It’s like a combination of the other Cru, their best of both worlds in symbiosis, deep and exacting, comfortable and with a structure that never quits or breaks down. It’s unrelenting, with aromatic exoticism, power, precision, more fragrance and balance. The tannic building blocks are exceptional, verging into unparalleled. Drink 2022-2045.  Tasted April 2018

Sottimano Barbaresco Cottà DOC 2013, Piemonte, Italy (Agent, $178.95, WineAlign)

A confounding vintage for thinking about drinking in 2018 because it is simply too young but there can be no discounting the acumen of restraint and the wisdom imparted. This from a Cru that knows full well what it will give. The 1970s planted vines add up to a shade under three hectares, southwest facing, in delivery of energetic red fruit, sweet herbs and that always present Sottimano cure. Cottà is the estate’s great constant, with the most layers needing to be husked for its kernels of wisdom and pearls of pulchritude to be revealed. Patience will be your virtue if you can just wait for the reward. Drink 2021-2033.  Tasted April 2018

Sottimano Barbaresco Cottà DOC 2010, Piemonte, Italy (Agent, $234.95, WineAlign)

While tasting through Pajoré, Fausoni, Currá and a mini-vertical of Cottá with Elena Sottimano it is here for the first time that some development appears in a wine. This glimpse into what might happen with their Barbaresco may only be a minor crack in the oasis but it begins to fall away from the curative, tannic intensity into something stretching its limbs towards the ethereal. I can ruminate with this nebbiolo swirling around in my mouth while I wonder how far along we are or have come. But it comes with knowing that no matter how much distance we walk there is still a marathon to run. There is this perfect wonderwall of wild cherry spinning like vinyl liqueur over the cheeks, tongue and gums, refreshing and working its magical fruit dance up to the edges of my nerves. “I said maybe, you’re gonna be the one that saves me. And after all,” you’re Sottimano. Drink 2019-2035.  Tasted April 2018

Sottimano Barbaresco Currá DOC 2013, Piemonte, Italy (Agent, $178.95, WineAlign)

Only 200 bottles produced from this single hectare Cru of vines edging beyond 55 years-old. The vinification process mimics that of Pajoré, Fausoni and Cottà but Currá remains in bottle for an additional six months because it is special and asks for this. There is humour in that minor extension because opening this Cru from such a recent vintage any earlier than seven or eight years into its life will deprive you of its magic and potential charms. The smell of the sea is in Currá, fossil shells briny and salty, certainly mineral. It’s measurable, quantifiable and verifiable. It’s there in the taste. The reaction is more than one of epiphany, it’s a revelation. No, in fact it’s more than that. If for a moment it is explainable it then moves on and flees, remaining out of grasp. Damn you Currá. Drink 2021-2045.  Tasted April 2018

Good to go!

Godello

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

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Into the Castelnuovo Berardenga great wide open

Rancia Vineyard at Fèlsina, Castelnuovo Berardenga, Chianti Classico

Two weeks from today I will make my way back to Toscana for another week-long immersion into all things sangiovese. More to the apposite point is a furthered plan for thorough if recondite excavations into the stone-cold secrets of Galestro, Alberese and other stratified limestone soils in Chianti Classico’s sub-zones. The preoccupation concerns communes, an instinct to break down the greater territory into its parts and a continued look at fissures and faults underfoot. It’s a matter of deeper understanding and meaning.

Related – Because the night in Gaiole

Once again I am proud to be a messenger on a subject that continues to write itself. This is the fourth edition in an ongoing series meant to encompass and expand upon definable territories in the municipalities of Castellina in Chianti, Gaiole in Chianti, Greve in Chianti and Radda in Chianti, Barberino Val d’Elsa, Castelnuovo Berardenga, Poggibonsi, San Casciano Val di Pesa and Tavarnelle Val di Pesa. This report is a by-product of the generous work and spirit of Chianti Classico’s producers and with unwavering guidance from the Consorzio Vino Chianti Classico: President Sergio Zingarelli, PR & Communications Manager Silvia Fiorentini, Event Manager Christine Lechner and Caterina Mori, Marketing and Communications.

Look Ma, I’m on top of the #chianticlassico #albarese at Tenuta Mocenni, Bindi Sergardi

I’ve come to consider Castelnuovo Berardenga the outlier for Chianti Classico, not for being so unlike the other constituents but because of its location and size. As the largest of the communes it covers 177 square kilometres while only Greve and its 169 square kilometres comes close in total area. When you drive out from Siena or Castellina the approach is most efficiently taken along highways and larger roads. This in great contrast to the switchback and zig-zagging over winding roads connecting proximate sub-zones like Radda, Gaiole, Greve, Panzano and Castellina. Castelnuovo Berardenga also forms much of Chianti Classico’s southern border and there is this particularly striking contrast between its hills and soils in opposition to the ulterior geography and geology of Chianti Colli Senesi below. There is also a feeling of the great wide open, of vast expanses and a great big sky.

All aboard the Alberese with the intrepid Brad Royale

Related – Castellina in golden light

A little bit of history. Berardenga took its district name from the noble Frankish Berardo who lived in the second half of the 10th century. His lineage follows that of Guinigi, Count of Sienna. The family Berardenga reigned over a vast area of the eastern part of the territories of Sienna (Terra Berardinga) between the 10th and 13th centuries. In 1366 the government of Sienna decided to construct the castle of Castelnuovo in the centre in this important territory. It was soon assaulted by the Florentine army but not successful until 1554 with the annexation of all the Sienna territories to the Duchy of the Medici. Montaperti in the municipality of Castelnuovo was the theatre of the battle of  September 4th, 1260 which saw the victory of the Sienna Ghibellines over the Florentine troops and their Guelph allies.

Related – Get Radda for Chianti Classico

John Szabo M.S. at Villa a Sesta. The Italian job or TJ Hooker?

Today there are 54 estates (out of 580 total members) in the district, a number that is surprisingly small when you consider the vastness of the territory. Castelnuovo Berardenga is the commune with sweeping vistas, views of Siena’s towers in the distance and with crests of hills that on some mornings sit perched above the clouds. It’s a very powerful landscape with a tremendous amount of wind, less shelter than most and a place you often feel small and vulnerable to the elements and the power of the place. It’s also home to some of the most impressive Galestro and Alberese soils in all of Chianti Classico. In Castelnuovo Berardenga, even the size of these limestone variant boulders seem bigger.

Related – Three days, eight estates, Chianti Classico

I’ve been extremely fortunate to pay some unforgettable visits to estates in Castelnuovo Berardenga in the recent past, including Losi Querciavalle with Valeria and Pietro Losi and twice with Andrea Bianchi Bandinelli at Villa di Geggiano. On my most recent trip back in September 2017 I was joined by John Szabo M.S., Brad Royale and Steven Robinson for three calls within the district. I tasted and reviewed 21 wines at Bindi Sergardi, Fèlsina and Villa a Sesta. Here are the notes.

Alessandra Casini Bindi Sergardi introduces the Mocceni Estate

Bindi Sergardi

A family run business for 23 generations, the estate has long been in the hands of Nicolò Casini, grandson of Elisabetta Bindi Sergardi. It is his daughter Alessandra Casini Bindi Sergardi’s turn, after joining in 2005, she now leads the company into the future. The Mocenni Estate near Vagliagli is without exception one of the most beautiful spots in Castelnuovo Berardenga but there are so many others reasons to say it too occupies a place at the breathtaking locus pinnacle for all of Chianti Classico. What transpires in the aura and sphere of a Bindi Sergardi visit is memorable. First a pause on the road to stand amidst the wild fennel, above the clouds and gaze out towards Siena’s spires in the deep distance. Then a walk in La Ghirlanda Vineyard with the Alberese, Galestro and the sirenic Bindi Sergardi in disssertative delivery on history, change and expectation. Finally a tasting through these wines of fineness, harmony and passion with Alessandra and Giulia Bernini.

Alessandra Casini Bindi Sergardi

Bindi Sergardi Chianti Classico La Ghirlanda 2015, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

La Ghirlanda makes reference to the woods “the shape of a garland,” in a CC of 100 per cent sangiovese (and the first as such for the estate). This is a form of the purest vineyard expression, a vintage “da manuale,” a vineyard in the amphitheatre, from part organic and part inorganic plots, halfway up the slopes above the Riserva and below the Gran Selezione. Serves memory with clarity in vision, impossibly old school but bright as a passage through the portico into the future could possibly be. These cherries are not only ripe, they are in phenolic harmony. Tannins are so refined on the heels of just as fine acidity. In terms of élévage it was 50 per cent in third passage barriques, plus 50 per cent in cement and/or stainless steel. Only botti grandi will be employed going forward. La Ghirlanda is highly composed, cultured and of calm demeanour in Chianti Classico. The price is approximately $20 US. Drink 2017-2021.  Tasted September 2017  @BindiSergardi  Alessandra Casini Bindi Sergardi  @bindisergardi  bindisergardi

Bindi Sergardi Chianti Classico La Ghirlanda 2014, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

The dark fruit and ripe black cherry with fine acidity and now more vibrant than memory serves from February. Really juicy and forward, a modern sangiovese in retro clothing. It has brightened and improved so will likely age much longer than previously thought. Drink 2017-2022.  Last tasted September 2017

The Castelnuovo Berardenga Ghirlanda vineyard is found on the Mocenni estate, near Vagliagli. The modern palate in search of Riserva in Chianti Classico will want this, of extraction and compression, not to mention density and a sweeping vat of deep black cherry liqueur. A nice mineral streak comes from soil rich in galestro and alberese at 450 meters. in the shadow of Monteriggioni. It’s tart and tannic but of tannins that are already fully engaged, chalky and established in their grip. It’s all in there now. Drink 2017-2018.  Tasted February 2017

Bindi Sergardi Chianti Classico Riserva Calidonia 2014, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

Calidonia is Castelnuovo Berardenga CCR from the Vigneto della Signora Chiara on the Mocenni estate near Vagliagli.
The terrain is rich in galestro and albarese stones at an altitude of 450m, a room with a view of the towers and spires of Siena in the distance. The Albarese and Galestro stones variegated into one-third each sand, clay and silt keep the sangiovese faith from what was one of the coldest vintages of the past 20 years. So much rain, especially in June and so this carries higher acidity and tough, fresh tannins, especially for Riserva quality. Here the truer originality of older schooling shows through but again with forward thinking clarity and understanding of a plant’s vegetative cycle. The south exposition and southerly location was a help in 2014. Remarkably a dark cherry from 2014, with depth of fruit and fineness of tannin. Some warmth for sure. Not as much of a departure from the Classica as many CC to CCRs can be. Drink this raven-haired beauty early. Would be approximately $28-32 US. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted September 2017

Szabo and Alberese

Bindi Sergardi Chianti Classico Riserva Calidonia 2012, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

Chianti Classico Riserva Calidonia refers to the marriage of Calidonia Bindi to Sergardi, in a way to say thank you to the people who came before. This expression is so different from what’s to come later on, not quite acetic but much older schooled, with the red citrus sting and dried fruit, the tartness from acidity and the bleed from Albarese and Galestro so obvious, present and accounted for. From a low yielding vintage (which will replay in 2017), and then a real maturation shows up, with very developed grape flavours. This has entered into its drinking window. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted September 2017

Bindi Sergardi Chianti Classico Riserva Calidonia 2011, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

Calidonia 2011 is the child of a vintage of few surprises, easy and regular in harvest, with some rains and cooler temperatures in September, helping to elongate maturation. Not as mature or advanced as 2011 mind you, still a bit reductive and even showing some volatility but it really opens with some proper agitation. Quite smooth and yet bright, even tight, tannins present and speaking with an authoritative voice. This will live much longer. Very composed Chianti Classico of terrific structure. Drink 2017-2024.  Tasted September 2017

Bindi Sergardi Chianti Classico Gran Selezione Numero “1989” 2013, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

The Gran Selezione Numero ‘1989’ is consistently 100 per cent sangiovese and here we are in wholly, truly, inexorably inorganic, fully stony soil, from vines planted in 1998. There is this composure and this understanding in Gran Selezione that is at the top of the pyramid chart, a fineness of tannic structure, a roundness of acidity and a perpetual motive and emotive fruit that will not give up or in. This is the Bindi Sergardi expression, sultry and offers up every reason to believe in the category. This is the GS that tells us why and how the top of the quality pyramid begins to be explained, with intrinsic value and great confidence from this 2013 vintage. Approx. $58-62 US. Drink 2019-2031.  Tasted September 2017

Bindi Sergardi Chianti Classico Gran Selezione Numero “1989” 2011, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

Bindi Sergardi’s Numero ‘1989’ 2011 is a statuesque sangiovese, cemented in stone, built upon a foundation of Galestro and Albarese. When the possibility of the Gran Selezione category came along it became the perfect dress for a wine that used to be an IGT. The age is a part of it but there is more red citrus, high acidity and rusticity in this sangiovese. The tannin structure is consistent with the later 2013 but this certainly feels like it’s from another era. The window is now and will persist for another three to five years. Drink 2017-2022.  Tasted September 2017

Bella mattina @felsinawines

Fèlsina

In the spectrum of “winery tours” there are few that can match the breadth of Fèlsina. In May of 2017 I was fortunate to break bread in Toronto with Fèlsina’s Giovanni Poggiali, oldest of Giuseppe’s three sons and current leader of the thousand year-old estate. Arguably the most famous and influential of Castelnuovo Berardenga’s wineries, it is here that many sangiovese clones and rootstocks have been developed, allowing them “to have an infinite palette of nuances and possibilities, much like a painter has infinite shades to work with.” Fèlsina is one of Chianti Classico’s great sangiovese innovators and champions. As Fèlsina goes, so goes Castelnuovo Berardenga and Chianti Classico. Our visit was led by Export Manager Chiara Leonini. A four-wheel trek through the vineyards up to Rancia. A walk through the appassitoio where grapes lay drying to make Vin Santo. A tasting through sparkling, chardonnay, Chianti Classico, Riserva, Gran Selezione and Fontalloro IGT.

Fèlsina Vino Spumante Di Qualità Brut Metodo Classico, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, WineAlign)

The zone of production is Chianti Classico, in the commune of Castelnuovo Berardenga southeast of Siena. Blended from 60 per cent sangiovese with 20 each chardonnay and pinot noir, Fèlsina’s is a gingery, yeasty, rich and textured sparkling wine, definitely not Franciacorta or anything remotely Lombardic. The time wait is 24 months on the lees and not labeled millesimato but rather non-vintage despite indeed being 100 per cent 2014 fruit. A little direct and green with early harvested sangiovese the reason but it’s been transformed in conjunction with the Champagne varietals. The fantasy to make quality sparkling wine, especially in this furthest southerly Chianti area is made into reality by the Fèlsina risk taking, culminating in such delicious and textured reward. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted September 2017

Fèlsina Chardonnay I Sistri 2015, IGT Toscana, Italy (Agent, $41.99, WineAlign)

The sisters is IGT Toscana chardonnay that was first made in 1997. “This is our white wine, with a little bit of history,” says Chiara Leonini, from the ancient instrument sistro, shaken with a sound dedicated to agriculture. Quite a sunshine, golden hue, buttery, almond marzipan-laden chardonnay for the undisputed lover of such a phenomenon. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted September 2017

Fèlsina Chianti Classico Berardenga 2015, Docg Tuscany, Italy (730788, $29.95, WineAlign)

Chianti Classico 2015 is forged from a selection drawn off of the eleven parcels on the estate with many soils, clones, expositions and slopes. I can’t help but look at the commune’s name Berardenga and see Fèlsina’s estate plot swept gathering as a grazing sangiovese, from the Italian “radere” or “radente.” Big and medium oak casks are used, mostly Slavonian and eight-ish months in mainly used barriques. This CC is 210 of 480,000 total bottles produced on the estate. It’s certainly not too serious, fresh as need be but still with a thick consistency and a pure, rustic edge. Carries some cure, char and corporeal reality though it’s got its number pointed towards elegance. It was not hard to make great wine in 2015 and yet so many missed the point. Not Fèlsina. This is classic and I mean classico Chianti. Drink 2017-2021.  Tasted September 2017

Fèlsina Chianti Classico Berardenga 2014, Docg Tuscany, Italy (730788, $29.95, WineAlign)

Still in a closed state of restraint, demure and only now gifting dried herbs, dusty fennel and a bit of char. The time is not yet but much further away for the challenged 2014. The acidity and structure are exceptionally intertwined and it should not be forgotten that with no Rancia made in ’14 the best grapes are here and much dedication is afforded this not oft so serious wine. It’s quite serious in 2014. Drink 2018-2024.  Tasted September 2017

Fèlsina Chianti Classico Riserva Rancia 2013, Docg Tuscany, Italy (82362, $55.75, WineAlign)

The vineyard takes its name from the historic Rancia farmhouse, once a Benedictine monastery and few if any vineyards in Chianti Classico are equipped with vines as genetically predisposed as here. More recent plantings utilize DNA from massal selections gathered from the old vineyard, a decision not lost on the perpetuation of vine ancestry and classic ability. Rancia is the true Riserva, solely entrenched as such, kept safe from the temptations of Gran Selezione and always antithetical to sangiovese IGT. It’s all good in 2013 and from the stellar season comes one of CC’s most storied Riservas replete with layers of fruit from great parcels, in more wood than almost any brethren or sistren could handle and it amalgamates, integrates and ultimately transcends the sangiovese-Riserva continuum with seamless ease. The curative, hung long for slow development style brings such restrained power, exercised finesse and unbridled energy. This will live 20 years easy. These are wines of acumen and of a deep and pure understanding of sangiovese, Alberese and Galestro soil. Bravo Giovanni. Drink 2019-2029.  Tasted September 2017

Fèlsina Chianti Classico Riserva Rancia 2005, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (82362, $55.75, WineAlign)

Rancia 2005 is an astute choice to follow-up the exceptional 2013, here from a warm year and it shows but it’s just as if everything has drawn further in, the fruit drying but keeping its flavour, its charm and its delicasse. The acid-tannin structure has not really changed, or so it seems because its composition was simply right and nothing seemingly can break it down. There is the secondary notion that imagines compressed and condensed balsamico but it has not yet even come close to syrup or liqueur. These sangiovese clones do not go there. It’s a special biotype and the farmers who have worked it surely have known what to do with it. “It was an ethical choice.” Drink 2017-2024.  Tasted September 2017

Fèlsina Chianti Classico Gran Selezione Colonia 2011, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $208.99, WineAlign)

Chianti Classico Gran Selezione Colonia 2011 is clearly designed to be different and unlike 99 per cent of the other wines in the category. Fèlsina’s shows the most restraint meets elegance in power shown by a 2011 GS, a year where big, grand, brooding and robust is usually the name of the game, order and direction. Not at Fèlsina where melting, integrating and implosive intensification is wrapped inside the great sangiovese enigma. Here the dusty, curative, floral and herbal aromas are expressive but the flavours, tannins and acidity are a kept group. The energy is controlled and the length is outstanding. “Our idea of Gran Selezione is this one,” tells Chiara Leonini. Was an IGT in 2006 and then GS in 2009. There are 3000 bottles produced, in wooden cases, kept separate and special. Drink 2019-2031.  Tasted September 2017

Fèlsina Fontalloro 2013, IGT Toscana, Italy (Agent, $89.99, WineAlign)

Fontalloro 2013 is not as much of a departure as most IGT, here the consistency of biotype and what you do with your exceptional grapes is followed with the same clarity, finesse and detailed instruction. The grapes come from vineyards straddling the border between Chianti Classico and the Chianti Colli Senesi denomination, bringing sandy, loamy, silty with pebbles and marine sediments into the calcareous Alberese and Galestro make-up. The variegation means the broadest of sangiovese expression for Fèlsina. Marvellously rendered and structured, no holes, seamless transitions and the ease with which fine acidity and even more fineness of tannin work as one. When understanding comes freely and easy like this you know there are reasons why the sangiovese universe does sometimes align. Drink 2018-2026.  Tasted September 2017

Tasting at Fèlsina

Villa A Sesta

Villa a Sesta, the name of the ancient Castelnuovo Berardenga village and also the winery owned by Riccardo Tattoni, Founder of CIGP Group. The hamlet lies along the provincial road that leads to Brolio in Gaiole. Until the mid ninth century it belonged to the Berardenga counts and in 1882 their estate was assigned to the San Salvatore Abbey in Campi, known as ‘della Berardenga’. Written evidence regarding the Church of Santa Maria in Villa a Sesta dates as far back as the eight century and it was once a subsidiary of the hamlet of San Felice. Our visit began with one of the greatest meals in my life time at L’Asinello Ristorante in the village of Villa a Sesta. Sales Director Franco Russo led us through mini verticals of Il Palei CC, CC Riserva and VAS IGT Toscana. We then followed to the winery for some barrel sample tastings with Technical Director Roberto Ciani.

Tasting through Villa a Sesta

Villa A Sesta Chianti Classico Il Palei 2014, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $23.99, WineAlign)

Il Palei, perhaps translated as the “ancient geological one” is 100 per cent sangiovese and nosing it side by side with ’13 the similarity is quite striking. Dusty fennel pollen and also the earth and stone, friable, crumbled in the air. Tart and black cherry flavours dominate. Shows off the work of the enologist Marco Mazzarrini from Alto Adige who toiled in the Bolgheri and began working with Villa a Sesta in 2011, so now there is a lighter, less pressed, more floral (here violets) perfume. Here in the southeast butterfly wing of the Castelnuovo Beradenga territory. Opens with time and develops more charm, character and length. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted September 2017

A week’s worth of sustenance in Toscana # 7- L’Asinello Ristorante’s Tarragon pesto risotto con funghi porcini

Villa A Sesta Chianti Classico Il Palei 2013, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $23.99, WineAlign)

Chianti Classico Il Palei 2013 shows the same dusty reserve as ’14 and is not so giving, especially for the vintage. A bit more compressed, even a bit more pressed and intense, from sites at 450m with Galestro in the soil. There is a calm about it even while the intensity climbs but there is not much fruit because of so many early immovable parts. Plenty of stone and earth but the fruit is hidden away. Yet there is a lightness and a brightness, hard to explain but there. Also like ’14 opens after some time, with near secondary notes on the precipice. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted September 2017

Villa A Sesta Chianti Classico Riserva 2013, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $33.99, WineAlign)

Villa a Sesta’s Chianti Classico Riserva 2013 is a great example of the conundrum in some 13s, acting quite reserved (as per the house style) but also quite dramatic and volatile, yet miles from reductive. Tart red citrus meets currants and pomegranate on the direct attitude of the palate, with etches of dark black fruit and yet there are these hidden aromatic violets hiding in the wings. Waiting on integration and fleshing would be a smart move. Drink 2018-2023.  Tasted September 2017

A week’s worth of sustenance in Toscana #8 – L’Asinello Ristorante’s Nastri di cioccolato, gel di zafferano e mango

Villa A Sesta Chianti Classico Riserva 2012, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $33.99, WineAlign)

Chianti Classico Riserva 2012 is the richer of the two (tasted side by side with 2013) for sure. Still there is the dark black cherry fruit and violet aromatic undertones, also the one pressed deeper and with the wood felt stronger, though with less vintage-determined volatile behaviour it comes by this character honestly. Drink 2017-2021.  Tasted September 2017

Godello with L’Asinello Chef Senio Venturi and Elisa Bianchini

Villa A Sesta VAS 2013, IGT Toscana, Italy (WineAlign)

Vas Toscana IGT 2013, as in Villa a Sesta, here clearly modern, with what just has to be cabernet sauvignon and merlot. It’s flat-out juicy, Cassis and mulberry laden, yeah, so juicy from wild berry flavours. Just a touch more cabernet is would seem (maybe 60 per cent), internationally styled and really clean, transparent even and did I say juicy? Spent 18 months in barriques but it’s not woody whatsoever. Turns on an about-face dime away from the sangiovese as much as any estate thus far but in the finest possible way. It is not possible not to find some enjoyment in this wine, even while it sheds or celebrates any regional character. Drink 2017-2021.  Tasted September 2017

Villa a Sesta

Villa A Sesta VAS 2012, IGT Toscana, Italy (WineAlign)

Vas Toscana IGT 2012 is quite similar to ’13 but with a slightly higher acidity and consequently more località or sense of place. It would seem that ’13 is purely a sangiovese vintage while ’12 finds a way to elevate the Bordeaux. A bit of roasted or braised meat flavour, with spice. Hard to say but that is what this wine tells us. Really shows the step up in quality with ’13. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted September 2017

Rancia Vineyard at Fèlsina, Castelnuovo Berardenga, Chianti Classico

Good to go!

Godello

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

WineAlign

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

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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

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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

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Quick link to Michael’s WineAlign Mix