Nineteen Canadian wines that rocked in 2019

Love year-end lists? Stick around. Hate ’em? See ya. It is always a matter of great difficulty to contain the retrospective excitement in thinking about what happened over the previous 12 months with respect to Canadian wine. This while enjoying holiday down time, with December winding down. The exercise began on Godello in 2013 and this seventh instalment naturally not only includes six more than the first, it also happens to act as segue, transition and salvo to usher in a new decade.

Related – Eighteen Canadian wines that rocked in 2018

Unity opinions aside this nineteen as a number is but a fraction of what could, should or would be celebrated in this coast to coast entity we call Canadian wine.  Allow a quote to be used again, in unabashed redundancy of repetition. This curated list is “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.”

Fearless #ontariowineawards leaders @tony.aspler and Deborah Benoit running a tight #owa2919 ship @gbcchca ~ best quality work coming out of Ontario folks

Related – 17 Canadian wines that rocked in 2017

In 2019 the opportunities for tasting Canadian wine upped the ante and increased the possibilities hundreds fold. This despite doubling international travel over a year further afield and abroad which made it twice as difficult to keep up the Canadian pace of assessment. That said there were more than 1000 tasted once again. The WineAlign team never wavers in the relentless pursuit, often at the WineAlign headquarters and in 2019 in convene at the June WineAlign National Wine Awards of Canada in Prince Edward County, Ontario.  Ontario wines were judged as well thanks to Tony Aspler and also with David Lawrason at The Great Canadian Kitchen Party, the artist formerly known as Gold Medal Plates.

Aldé blending session day @ravinevineyard ~ Rosé 2018 looking stellar

Related – 16 Canadian wines that rocked in 2016

Over the past 12 months the little négoce project known as Interloper Wines with Scott Zebarth, Marty Werner and Ravine Vineyard Estate Winery continued the pursuit of Niagara Lakeshore and Niagara-on-the-Lake excellence with Aldé Rosé 2018, a 100 per cent cabernet franc. The third vintage of Interloper Cabernet Franc appeared with the 2018 release, as did the second incarnation of the As Is Field Blend 2018.

Oh hey @nicholaspearce_ thanks for making us look so good!

In 2017 there were 17 and in 2016 there were 16 noted. In 2015 that meant 15 and 14 for 2014, just as in 2013 the filtered list showed 13 as the number chosen to cant, recant and decant excellence in Canadian wine. Last year? You would be correct if you guessed 18. Roll out the 2019 red carpet. Whence comes the sense of wonder we perceive when we encounter certain bottles of art? Here are the 19 most exciting Canadian wines of 2019.

Avondale Sky Sparkling Rosé Méthode Traditionnelle 2017, Nova Scotia ($27.82)

Leon Millet like you’ve never experienced with red currants folded into tomatillo salsa from a traditional method upbringing and a recent disgorgement. Energy, excitement and then boom, black currants and a whoosh tidal wave of Fundy exhilaration. An entirely new look at bubbles and from a Nova Scotia class where the sky is the limit. Drink 2019-2020. Tasted September 2019

NWAC19 Gold Medal Winner

The 2014 vintage, labelled as Balance Blanc de Blanc Brut, marks the Teaching Winery’s first venture into the style of Sparkling made exclusively from Chardonnay grapes. It also marks the first product made 100 per cent from grapes grown on the College’s Niagara-on-the-Lake Campus vineyards. “It celebrates the balance of knowledge, passion and creativity of the winemakers, professors and students who all pursue excellence in the field of winemaking.”

Niagara College Balance Blanc De Blanc Brut 2014, VQA St. David’s Bench, Ontario ($26.95)

Gingered entry for blanc de blanc of stoic beauty, marbled bust focus. Lemon and a dustiness indicative first of low yields, but then, the obviousness of do not disturb winemaking. Toasty and preserved lemon richesse, elegant and cumulative. So good. Drink 2019-2026.  Tasted blind at NWAC19, June 2019

From a crown cap versus cork closure tasting with Flat Rock’s owner Ed Madronich and current winemaker David Sheppard. The two wines count as one for the purpose of this list.

Flat Rock Sparkling (Crown Cap Closure) 2006, Traditional Method, VQA Twenty Mile Bench, Niagara Escarpment, Ontario (383315, $34.95)

Wines were all under crown for 36 months, disgorged in January 2010, three quarters pinot noir plus chardonnay and then re-sealed under crown, Six cases were sealed under cork but otherwise both wines are exactly the same, same cellar conditions, same dosage, same everything. Less hue in this number two (crown), same but different, less oxidation, less caramelization and yet on par or near in terms of that ginger-miso tone. Lemon adds to the milder orange crème brûlee and the energy, spirit and lift is more pronounced. Greater vision in acidity and even some lingering reduction. Like the first it is in fact full of sensibility, reason, plenty of seasoning. Likewise and differently so much fun to behold and to drink. Certainly more heightened sensation created by mousse and carbonation that actually affect the mouthfeel and texture. Made by Marelise Beyers. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted September 2019

Flat Rock Sparkling (Cork Closure) 2006, Traditional Method, VQA Twenty Mile Bench, Niagara Escarpment, Ontario (383315, $34.95)

Wines were all under crown for 36 months, disgorged in January 2010, three quarters pinot noir plus chardonnay and then re-sealed under crown, “However,” explains Ed Madronich and the big raison d’etre for this tasting is that six cases were sealed under cork, complicit with or perhaps explicitly for Ed’s Mom. Both wines are exactly the same, same cellar conditions, same dosage, same everything. Just the seal on 72 bottles changes the nature of the game. The colour is deeper in this number one (cork), more oxidation, more caramelization and more deep ginger-miso tone. Quite orange crème brûlee as well. Acidity persists, wealthy, rising, more than intact. In fact it’s well-reasoned, seasoned and in tact. So much fun to behold and to drink. Made by Marelise Beyers. Drink 2019-2020.  Tasted September 2019

Charles Baker Picone Vineyard Riesling 2016, VQA Vinemount Ridge, Niagara Escarpment, Ontario (241182, $37.20)

Baker’s ’16 is the child of a great vintage’s phenolics and so without needing to concern oneself in wondering about ripeness or fruit quality it allows for a beeline straight to the tannic structure. That’s the crux of 2016, built upon a core that may as well be centred in the very heart of Colmar. Sugar may as well be nowhere and nothing because balance induces dreams utterly grounded in aridity. So reminded of Bernard Schoffit and The Rangen, austere yet entangled, lean, direct, sure, focused and precise. In the zone and will be for 12 blessedly slow developing years. Drink 2021-2030.  Tasted October 2019

Ravine Vineyard Chardonnay 2011, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (173377, $28.00)

Looking at this 2011 Chardonnay now and with learned imagination back through time this screams the vintage. Great Scott, cracker jack Chablis dressing up into Premier Cru status cloaked candidly in Ravine clothing. This eight year-old chardonnay shows off as one of then winemaker Shauna White’s great early moments, an achievement of planning through execution and clearly a success from a cool, austere and so very varietal vintage. Maybe even a legacy defining moment for what was and can continue to be. A purveyor of land, a youthful precociousness and all the local possibilities on offer. This is so pure and purposeful for the grape and for Ravine. Just great right now. Drink 2019-2021.  Tasted September 2019

Le Clos Jordanne Winemaker Thomas Bachelder

Le Clos Jordanne Le Grand Clos Chardonnay 2017, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (184549, $44.95)

Welcome back, to that grand vineyard place that we’ve talked about. Down on the farm near the water where chardonnay was purposed grown and put in the hands of a young Thomas Bachelder. The results were dramatic and now that unparalleled fruit is back in the monk’s world, he wiser and more experienced than ever. The transition is spooky seamless and the awe in hand providing breathtaking posits in moments more than fleeting. Behold the presence of orchards and their just ripened glow of fruit with sheen so fine. Let your glass allow the ease of the aromas and flavours to fall in and emit with conscious movement, without conscience or effort. That’s the 2017 Grand Clos. Chardonnay that is. Drink 2019-2026.  Tasted November 2019

Closson Chase Churchside Chardonnay 2017, VQA Prince Edward County, Ontario ($44.95)

Platinum hue and reserved aromatics indicate a reductive tendency so give it some air. Comes out and away clean and more expressive, with periodic mineral notes, not exactly saline but certainly from the table. Lovely fruit in the melon to orchard way and elevated by acidity plus fine grape tannin. Lovely and composed wine right here.  Last tasted blind at NWAC19, June 2019

Truth be submitted, discussed and told the 2017 Closson Chase Vineyard is a lovely, accessible, County for all chardonnay but this, this is something other. This Churchside ’17 from a block of vines at the prettiest little chapel around delivers the fullest fruit compliment of the times, in headline, lede and body of work. It does so with a posit tug of tension and spot on, pinpointed and precise attention to balance. States a case with best butter, better toast and even greater purpose. The ’17 Churchside undulates and circles, coming to rest in the moment where it all melts down, like a ball in place on the roulette wheel, always having known what number it would be.  Drink 2019-2026. Tasted June 2019

Meyer Micro Cuvée Chardonnay Old Main Rd Vineyard 2017, VQA Okanagan Valley, British Columbia ($65.00)

The Old Main Road is a Naramata Bench growing site of silt over clay loams at 350m. The northerly aspect links fruit to indirect sun for higher acid-driven chardonnay. This specialized plot-block-pick-separation of origin intensifies the citrus and the savoury strike of scintillant. It’s reductive and not redacted in that it’s protected by a shell of tannin but bursts with rumbles and shakes. This is singular and unique in ways most Okanagan chardonnay does not begin to touch. Great potential and possibility exist so expect so much from this wine now and for a half decade minimum more. Drink 2020-2028.  Tasted April 2019

Stratus White 2015, VQA Niagara Lakeshore, Ontario (660704, $38.20)

The latest incarnation of Stratus White is a gem-like one, part reductive and part honeyed. The dual attack is duly noted and doubly paid great attention. Warmth and this remarkable phenolic multiplicity add up to the most strikingly reserved White in quite some time. It will develop more secondary personality and less fade into lean, smoky, shadowy and unfruitful feelings than many that have come before. By many stretches of imagination this is a deeply curious blend and ultimately a beautiful one. So bloody didactic and interesting. A ten years forward retrospective will regard White 2015 as a benchmark for the locomotive Ontario appellative white locution. Drink 2020-2028.  Tasted February 2019

Congrats to Cliff and Colin @stannerswines for their The Narrow Rows Pinot Noir 2017 Gold Medal performance @judgement.of.kingston 2019. We the judges deliberated long and with great care to come to this well-deserved conclusion.

Stanners Vineyard Pinot Noir The Narrow Rows 2017, VQA Prince Edward County, Ontario ($45.00)

A super-saturated, honed and zeroed in upon place in a vineyard ripeness with a touch foxiness. Reality from limestone bled into fruit wavering on a spectrum where berry fruit sits on one end and earthy beetroot all the way over on the other. Touches both and then properly meets in the middle. Cherries are red, herbs are green and tension stretches a wire between two poles. Tomato water and tomato leaf with fresh basil. That’s just matter of fact and a good struck balance in combination. You almost feel it’s at once too ripe and then a bit green but those moments are fleeting and so the summation in accumulation is the thing; must, seeds, stems and the work of kind, nurturing and gentle hands add up to great delicacy. It’s local and it’s so bloody good. Delicious even. Unlike any pinot noir ever made previously in Ontario. Drink 2019-2023.  Tasted blind at the Judgement of Kingston, November 2019

Hidden Bench Pinot Noir Locust Lane Vineyard 2015, VQA Beamsville Bench, Ontario ($48.00)

Locust Lane is the one of greater tension and posit tug, holding court and keeping fruit on a short leash. The aromatics are not as sweetly floral but what you will note, if you wait for the fleshing is this glycerin texture and seamless weave of structure. This is the savoury, almost minty and surely cantilevering pinot noir, from the field and out over the length of the wine’s attention. Will linger, prosper and live long. Drink 2020-2027.  Tasted March 2019

NWAC19 Platinum Medal Winner

Howling Bluff Pinot Noir Century Block 2016, VQA Okanagan Valley, British Columbia ($35.00)

Wow. Now we’ve come into pinot of some curious, unusual and stand up to be noticed excitement. The aromatics are circling, rising, elemental, exaggerated and complex. There’s umami here that few others seem to find or are capable of seeking out. Fine if slightly tonic tannins and structure, texture, architecture and blessed complexity. This will morph into many things by way of many stages. Drink 2020-2027.  Tasted blind at NWAC19, June 2019

Thirty Bench Winemaker Emma Garner

Thirty Bench Small Lot Cabernet Franc 2016, VQA Beamsville Bench, Ontario ($75.00)

In many respects this is the flagship of all the Thirty Bench wines, a varietal exploration like no other, of direction, microcosm and intention. It’s an extracted and concentrated cabernet franc but stays free of encumbrance, hinderance or adulteration. It’s dramatically plush and yet shows nary a note of green or gritty, nor astringency neither. It’s a showpiece to be sure and even of an ambition not typical of its maker but as for structure, well that’s as impressive as the concentration. We’ll be tasting this at an Expert’s Tasting in the mid 20s. Drink 2021-2028.  Tasted August 2019

NWAC19 Platinum Medal Winner

Desert Hills Estate Winery Ursa Major Syrah Eagle’s Nest Vineyard 2016, VQA Okanagan Valley, British Columbia ($40.00)

Inky, ferric, serious, structured, regaling and ripping syrah. Full throttle, absolute ripeness, carefully extracted and utterly purposed. The acidity, tannin and overall structure seal all the deals and put this in a category of its own. Drink 2021-2026. Tasted blind at NWAC19, June 2019

Big Head Raw Syrah 2017, VQA Niagara Lakeshore, Ontario ($65.00)

Never before have we encountered syrah this way in Ontario. A wild ferment and use of concrete vats is one thing but the Brettanomyces off the charts is intonate of something wholly other. The exclamation is emotion both Andrzej and Jakub Lipiniski acknowledge and embrace. The thought and the recognition lights up their faces. It expresses itself in peppery jolts, with sultry, hematic, ferric and magical notation. It’s like liquorice on steroids, melting into a feral liqueur. “Wow that syrah is crazy,” tasters are heard to exclaim and yet you can see how much they relish the experience. As I do, without knowing why, except for the fact that in its big headedness this is a very balanced wine. Some way, somehow. Drink 2020-2026.  Tasted March and April 2019

Lawrason and Gismondi

NWAC19 Gold Medal Winner

Nk’mip Cellars, 51 percent owner by the Osoyoos Indian Band Cellars, part of the Arterra Wine Group, as per Anthony Gismondi is “ably guided by winemakers Randy Picton and Justin Hall. Nk’Mip Cellars took home one platinum, two gold, three silver and five bronze medals, adding to its legacy of consistent performances at the nationals. The unique, First Nations winery is well worth a visit, as is lunch on the patio.”

Nk’mip Cellars Winemakers Talon 2016, BC VQA Okanagan Valley, British Columbia ($23.99)

Really juicy shiraz based blend (44 per cent with cabernet sauvignon, merlot, malbec, cabernet franc and pinot noir) with rich, ropey, red berry and savoury tones. Big fruit and if oaked with generosity it’s a construct that seems more than capable of the handling. Big effort, personality and acidity to carry it high. Boozy to a degree and again capable of finding balance. Isn’t this what cool climate blends should strive to achieve? Forget the formulas. Look to great agriculture and a master blender to realize goals. This reaches a milestone and likely at a ridiculously affordable price. Drink 2020-2026.  Tasted blind at NWAC19, June 2019

Tawse winemaker Paul Pender

Tawse Meritage 2015, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (581165, $67.95)

That aromatic combination of dark plummy fruit and tangy blood orange is a straight give away for many more impending complexities to come. A three-pronged Bordeaux varietal mix of merlot (45 percent), cabernet sauvignon (28) and cabernet franc (27) with so much going on you might not understand what it’s trying to say. It’s like Glossolalia, a “fluid vocalizing of speech-like syllables that lack any readily comprehended meaning,” a.k.a. in tongues. Never mind the distractions and the madness but instead head straight to the intersection of structure and balance because that’s what matters. The fruit is bold, the woodwork finely chiseled and precise and the end result is the work of masters; agriculturalists, oenologists and winemaking hands. This will live on through epochs of Canadian Meritage notability and infamy. Drink 2021-2031.  Tasted blind at NWAC19, June 2019

With Phantom Creek’s Anne Vawter

Phantom Creek Phantom Creek Vineyard Cuvée 2016, BC VQA Okanagan Valley, British Columbia ($100.00)

Some of the estate’s finest cabernet sauvignon makes its way into the flagship red, also made up of the other four Bordeaux red grapes. There is a sweetness that comes through from layering so much quality fruit in a way that neither the Becker blend nor the varietal cabernet sauvignon seem capable to manage. There’s also a deep sense of tannin and an almost dark brooding character, but also a smoky, savouriness that adds to the mystery and the dimension. So stylish and composed, amalgamated of the finest fruit bred from great attention to agricultural detail. Incredible length too. One of the most professional wines in Canada. Drink 2021-2030.  Tasted February 2019

Southbrook winemaker Ann Sperling

Southbrook Organic Vidal Icewine 2015, VQA Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario (581165, 375ml, $49.95)

The most unusually brick red-orange hue makes this vidal Icewine a one-of-a-kind wonder and the best news of all is how complex the wine is to follow suit. Yes the curiosity factor runs high but so do the gamut of aromatics and flavours. Coffee, toffee, crème brûlée, apricot, guava and strangely enough the spongey filling of a Crunchie Bar. What a childhood memory that digs up. Acids are strong, relevant and still humming so the sugars are carried along with great companionship. Benchmark vidal usage and to no surprise. Ann Sperling’s work with varietal orange wine combined with her knowledge of Icewine make for a union divine. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted December 2019

Good to go!

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WineAlign

Nineteen mind-blowing wines of 2019

1964

Tout vient à son heure pour qui sait attendre, wrote Clément Marot, Renaissance poet. Everything comes at its appointed time. From Cahors to Turin. War, peace, hate, love, fruit, acid and tannin. Wine is all about the pauses and the balances. At its core the value is in that feeling of things being natural and equal. That’s the way it should be. When you drink you enjoy what you have, without competition. One sensation after another. You feel like you have more, even if you have less. Like consomée with just a chop of vegetables.

Welcome to Godello’s annual list of the most conspicuous, head-turning and psychotropic moments, better known as his 19 mind-blowing wines of 2019. Godello first initiated the concept for a year-end culminating evaluation in 2012 though did not actually coin the phrase until publishing his 14 mind-blowing wines of 2014. Call it the sixth or the eighth but who really cares because the wines are the crux and the heart of the matter.

Related – Eighteen mind-blowing wines of 2018

Related – Seventeen mind-blowing wines of 2017

Hard to know how many wines he actually tasted in 2019 but the best guesstimate would be 2,500 because that is how many reviews have been posted to WineAlign in this calendar year. A couple hundred were for wines tasted in 2018 but the editing and posting of at least that many for wines tasted in 2019 have yet to become permanent. So the number is pretty close, one way or another.

There were at least a few dozen stellar and jaw-dropping wines that should of, could of, would of made this list. For every one chosen another was left behind for no reason other than necessity and its relationship to the mother of invention. These images exhibited are but a few that had every reason to be one of 19’s 19.

Related – 16 mind-blowing wines of 2016

With thanks to everyone who poured a glass. The producers, winemakers, export managers, friends, colleagues and pirates, please be encouraged and read on. Godello’s 19 mind-blowing wines of 2019.

AB Wines Opçāo Avesso “A” Vinho Verde 2016, Portugal

From winemaker/oenologist António Sousa’s personal label (with partner Bernardo) and a vineyard planted in 2003, in Amarante. These are avesso grapes just a few years away from what António considers the optimum age, when they reach 18 years, 10 years older than the age from which they begin to deliver excellence. This A is in position A, from a perfect vantage point out of a very good vintage. This is the role model and exemplar for avesso, from a project that began in 2016, with all the adjunct components in line; lemon, lime, orange, ripe acidity, juicy nature and just a minor creamy, fleshy and boozy happiness. Great balance. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted October 2019

Marco Felluga Russiz Superiore Tocai Friulano Collio DOC 1997, Friuli, Italy

So remarkable, from the old messaging in the riesling/tocai bottle, stricken from the consorzio record. This is now a wine bottled in Bordeaux style but this look back 20-plus years shows freshness, spirit and only the beginnings of secondary character. Gassy and lemon intense, a near-perfect example of what was and could be, of how aged whites of Collio can keep freshness and the saltiness of place. All thjis and without crazy acidity. That is the conundrum and the magic of Collio. The persistence is romanticism incarnate with fruit oozing out of pores in great remain. Drink 2019-2021.  Tasted May 2019

Goisot Gulhem Et Jean Hugues 2015, Côtes D’auxerre AOC, Bourgogne, France ($36.00)

A soil of kimmeridgian and marl, of white and blue, with great layering of fruit and that is in fact what you feel from Gondonne. There is something rich and overtly expressive here and while it’s anything but simple it could be imagined that so many consumers would understand this chardonnay, love it and want to drink it with abandon. That said the structure, goût de terroir and joie de vivre are just exceptional. The wood and the land just melt right in. Drink 2020-2029.  Tasted November 2019

Ken Forrester Old Vine Reserve Chenin Blanc 2007, WO Stellenbosch, South Africa

These Helderberg vines would have been 33 years of age at the time and to think the wine would have cost $10 or so. Now 12 years later we’re graced with this hyperbole of toast, smoulder, lit paraffin and the edge of saffron honey. It’s hard to believe and this the from the tier-two, non-selected grapes at the back of the line behind a Forrester wine like the FMC. Nothing less than incredible. Drink 2019-2021. Tasted October 2019

Ornellaia Bianco 2016, IGT Toscana Bianco, Tuscany, Italy

The Bianco was first introduced in 2013, following fast forward to the original 1980s and 1990s work with Poggio alle Gazze dell’Ornellaia. That project had been abandoned because says Axel Heinz “stylistically it just wasn’t right.” That wine was mainly sauvignon blanc on one of Ornellaia’s great vineyard sites. What was wanted was something more than a varietal wine and a new age of finding vineyard sites that were more than merely good for white wine. That means making use of northern slopes and those blocks favourable to whites, including the use of (indigenous) vermentino and viognier. The practice had already been proven with success by colleagues. Bianco is the alter ego to the Rosso, priced as such “and reflects the spirit of Ornellaia, but it had to build itself up to that premium level. We intend to make one of the great white wines of the world,” explains Heinz. That may sound like bragging swagger but the reality is that experience, acumen and especially confidence breed the truth. I Bianci are aged for 12-15 months in (30 per cent new) barriques before bottling. I do dare you to find a wine that smells anything like this Bianco. They are flowers unnamed or perhaps not yet discovered. The flinty reductiveness is also truly and wholly unique. Though the way sauvignon is raised and the place are surely not the same, the Bordeaux styling and sensibility of affinities are more than uncanny and even served by purpose. The vintage brings great maturity, fruitiness and salinity. Fruit presence under the spell of fleur de sel. Nothing but a brilliant combination. Says Heinz without equivocation, “it’s a benchmark for us, ’16 that is.” Drink 2020-2031.  Tasted March 2019

Domaine Bouchard Père & Fils Chevalier Montrachet Grand Cru 2017, AOC Bourgogne, France

The couverture is all encompassing acting as a full sheathing tapestry in surround of a fruit core of sheer concentration and yet as a whole so understated. It’s hard to imagine more coaxing and less pronouncement. Relatively speaking there’s no estate equal to what has happened here. Great mineral crash into life and love, into fruit and impossible acidity. A magnificent chardonnay with 25 years of life ahead. Drink 2021-2039.  Tasted September 2019

Adelsheim Pinot Noir Boulder Bluff 2015, Chehalem Mountains AVA, Oregon

From a steep, southwest facing site and picked really early, especially in the warm 2015 vintage. Again the confluence of vineyard conflagration of more than one soil type leads to an estate stylistic but let’s face it one that is bent into shape by focus and precision. There is great generosity and freshness, again in spite of or despite the hot vintage. More floral from this bluff and bigger, albeit finer quality signature tannin from this neighbourhood, with more thanks to basaltic blocks. Long ageing surely ahead with fruit turning to bramble, at times. Drink 2021-2028.  Tasted April 2019

Tenute Bosco Etna Rosso DOC Vigna Vico Pre Phylloxera 2015, Sicily, Italy

The litheness of this nerello mascalese from Mount Etna off of 100-plus years of age pre-phylloxera vines cannot be over-stated or overstressed. The light, ethereal beauty of this wine may very well transport you to a place, to a vacuum within a bubble that is a hidden world inside a biodome. Few words are available when a wine speaks to you such as this Vico does to me at this time. This impossibility of such fruit concentration is also implausibly understated, as are the tannins and the acidity, yet all align and intertwine along a perfectly rendered line. You recognize the automatic brilliance, for the people and from the place. You just know it when you taste it. If you can find this wine, if you ever get the chance to purchase a bottle or two, you owe it to yourself to act, for you and for anyone you might happen to share it with. Drink 2019-2035.  Tasted May 2019

Donnafugata Mille E Una Notte 1996, DOC Contessa Entellina, Sicily, Italy

An arch classic from Sicilia sud Occidentale and more specifically Tenuta Contessa Entellina. Of the oldest wines this is one of the highest tonality, not unlike older and older schooled nebbiolo from Barbaresco, in a queen’s throne sort of way. There is siply no way to argue that this wine did not deserve to be aged this way and to be waited on for such a moment of appreciation. Age worthy and load management indeed, with every resolution hoped for and expected. Brilliance and a benchmark, with a half decade of life still ahead. Drink 2019-2026.  Tasted May 2019

Scarpa Barbera d’Asti DOC La Bogliona 1996, Piedmont, Italy

At 23 years you just have to launch yourself headfirst into the blood orange. That this piece of barbera wow factor happened before the year 2000 is the thing, especially because climate was very different. Rain fell often and slowly through the year, as opposed to the deluges of globally disaster-orchestrated today. Higher acidity simply speaking and this of the great lean, salty and direct-fitted pieces of barbera composure. Still fresh with dried fruits and low alcohol (at 13.0 per cent declared) but who knows which way the marketing directed labelling in those days? More than a lovely look back. Educational, instructional, cerebral and mind-bending from the lesser appreciated Piedmontese sector. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted December 2019

Maison Roche De Bellene Charmes Chambertin Grand Cru 2012, AOC Bourgogne, France

Do not adjust your set. The vintage brought everything to the table and while the foreground presents a picture crystalline and transparent the entirety of the frame is frozen clear. As for the aromatics this teases a meaty cure like few other and teases as if by the ambience of a cave, restricted of access, hiding what lurks, hangs and excites. Crunchy to say the least, layered to say more and complex to speak the ultimate truth. Magnifique and still twenty years away from the beginning of the end. Drink 2022-2037.  Tasted September 2019

Domaine De La Pousse D’or Pommard Premier Cru Les Jarollières 1964, Appellation Pommard Controlée, Bourgogne, France

Calling this 55 year-old Bourgogne Premier Cru a piece of history is not enough to do justice because family, lineage and the passing of the generational torch beyond domaine lines are everything that matters. Nicolas Potel pulled this one out of thin air and not merely by a human ability to disappear and reappear. No, Nico chose the way of disapparating and then apparating (in the wizard sense of “apparition,” a magical form of teleportation). His father Gérard’s ’64 was in his hands and a great big, merde-eating grin was posted all across his face. Les Jarollières is a 1.44 ha plot of marl and calcaire and even today half of the plantings are those that were fitted in 1925 and 1962. It was Gérard Potel who resurrected Domaine de la Pousse d’Or to its glory and in 1964 he acquired the domaine through a marriage to the then owner’s niece. Along with Henri Boillot this cru has been famous being meaty, earthy and owning an ability for supernatural integration. This 1964 had taken all that, everything and more, left nothing in the vineyard and had now become the epitome of the ethereal. The fruit was fully intact, so bloody strawberry, still with lightning quick reflexes and able to pour fresh glasses of spirit and energy over the course of a full hour. The experience was a once in a lifetime type, a shared moment and the kind to create a banked memory that will always be generous when a good one is needed. Thank you Nico. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted December 2019

 

I Fabbri Chianti Classico DOCG 2000, Tuscany, Italy

At the time it was labeled as an (Annata) Chianti Classico though it was really Riserva. Yes it has evolved but 18-plus years should have moved it much further along. Carries a spice like the exoticism in resemblance to 2006 but this is something other. Still some very fine, present and notable acidity. Amazing purity, honesty, luck, circumstance, place and gentile personality. The sapidity is there again and the age ability nothing short of remarkable. Drink 2019-2021.  Tasted February 2019

Volpaia Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG Il Puro 2015, Tuscany, Italy ($150.00)

Il Puro takes her purity to another level in 2015 with fruit so silky fine and chalky tannins integrated into liquid even finer than that fine. The accumulation is just impressive and the charm meeting grace even more so than that. The Mascheroni-Stianti family has really found a stride in this GS to explain why it exists and how it can make many people happy. The structure here will take this through two or three decades of unfolding. There is a house record to prove it, ironically regardless and in spite of the bottle’s name. This is sangiovese. Drink 2023-2037.  Tasted February 2019

Le Chiuse Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG Diecianni 2010, Tuscany, Italy

“A muscle vintage, of huge character,” tells Lorenzo Magnelli. The name of the wine is Diecianni to tell us that Lorenzo’s Riserva is not released until the 10th year. Brings about all the complexities that come from such an extended elévage. Tobacco, savour, forest floor, frutta di bosco and frutto secco but don’t be succumbing to depths and sottosuolo because the freshness persists. A wine so wise beyond its years, like its maker. Sure you can release a Riserva one year after Annata but when it has been protected and taken care of for you then it presents as it was intended to. We are thankful for the triage and the investment on our behalf. The fruit persists with great natural sweetness out of 2010. Drink 2019-2035.  Tasted October 2019

Conti Costanti Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Colle Al Matrichese 2015, Tuscany, Italy

Andrea Costanti is convinced this is a great vintage. “One of the best.” The weather was perfect following a beneficial cold winter. The harvest was early but not compromisingly so and it saw no hurdles, obstacles or intendments. The barrel use is bigger, older and wiser. This is the sort of concentrated Costanti that speaks to the 2019 philosophy, of acidity, ripeness and balance. Time on skins was about a month (including two weeks of fermentation and oxidation introducing délestage) and no protective sulphur. There is a control in this sangiovese, a powerful restraint but more than that, more so a calm, but not before storm. Finesse, grip and beauty, like a statue of a stag, in a courtyard, lit by moonlight. Tannins are all pervasive, fully stated, yet to feel a necessity for attack. They will and we will retreat, Then we will advance, with caution, further to find full pleasure for two decades. At the very minimum. Drink 2023-2039.  Tasted February 2019

Le Ragnaie Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Vigna Vecchia 2015, Tuscany, Italy ($177.00)

Planted in 1968 and from a warm vintage all the way to the end, into October. Riccardo Campinoti is smiling wryly, knowingly and confidently after he pours and begins to speak of it. “The longer you waited the riper it became” and the healthy grapes allowed for hanging to mid-October. Deeper and of more sponge-soaked earth in the old vines with a higher tone juxtaposed against the depth drawn by long vine roots. The aromatic complexities run, jump and ride off the proverbial charts and you may find yourself drunk and mystified just from the smells. Once you gain palate entry you are hooked and then you climb in, headfirst, unencumbered, no strings attached. A tour de force beloved of sangiovese, Montalcino and old vines. Vigna Vecchia is the epitome of a true structured wine, one which does not grow old, despite the passage of time. Drink 2023-2039.  Tasted October 2019

Antiche Cantine Dei Marchesi Di Barolo 1990, Barolo Riserva, Piemonte, Italy

A grande dame or marchesa in the parlance of these woods, a nebbiolo of persistence, resilience and strength of character. Initiates contact with the past and a contract with tradition by way of the things that matter most. Family for one, roots dug into the earth second and the vineyard’s tongue, if it were able to speak. The overall gist in the parlance is heard and even understood although the dialect is hard to decipher if you are not of this place. This 1990 is found to be of high though level tempered energy and then with an ear, a nose and a soul so close to the earth. Smells like the soils amalgamated, preserved and demonstrated through the tempered liquor of a wise old 29 year-old nebbiolo. So much more than a piece of the past, this is an auguri gathering of storytelling, kin, culture and DNA. You must pay thanks for a chance to taste a thing such as this. Drink 2019-2033.  Tasted December 2019

Gaja Sorì Tildìn 2016, Barbaresco DOP, Piemonte, Italy ($810.00)

Angelo Gaja sees 2016 as a perfect vintage in Barbaresco and the one from which climate change is viewed with great irony in the wink-wink guise of parenthetical thanks. That means the cosmic and astronomical alignment makes for wines that are both pleasant in their youth and also impossibly structured to age. Named for the sunny position of the slope and Mr. Gaja’s grandmother Clotilde. Now the clay and the calcaire have conspired, along with the purchased land of which Clotilde was custodian and in how she pushed her husband to make great wine. The vines are now on average 50 years-old and the composition meeting aspect bring a depth of complexity as poignant as it gets in this tiny part of nebbiolo production. All the flowers, rocks and elements are contained within the interior walls of this gently forceful Langhe red. It mimics the matriarch by the strongest power of suggestion and will not take no for an answer. Perhaps never will. Drink 2025-2045.  Tasted December 2019

Good to go!

godello

1964

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

WineAlign

The republic of Feudo Montoni

Fabio Sireci and Melissa Muller

“The republic of Montoni” as it is called because the wines here come from and represent all the small surrounding villages, where unemployment can be 70-80 per cent. Towns where more and more of the population is aging as all the young go away. Montoni as custodian of heritage, 550 years of grape-growing tradition, located 80 kilometres southeast of Palermo in Contrada Montoni Vecchi, Cammarata, Agrigento.

So good to be back at #feudomontoni with @SicilyMelissaM and @FabioSireci ~ My naive melody ~ feet on the ground, head in the sky, it’s ok I know nothing’s wrong. ~ #thismustbetheplace

Related – Notes from 2019 Sicilia en Primeur

“Today there is nothing you can think of as six centuries ago,” is how Fabio Sireci begins a narration on the history of family and land. After the fall of the local aristocracy is when his grandfather took over this farm. Today the surrounding fields of durum wheat are gone and resemblance is but a thing of mythology and tales set to memory. “If you see some it’s as if they were genetically born in a laboratory.” Though Fabio Sireci has little interest in wheat, he does have a master plan for grapes.

Nero d’Avola vine and propaginato in the Vrucara Vineyard

Vrucara is Fabio’s pre-phylloxera plot perpetuated to nero d’avola vines, some as old as 120 years. There they sit in their sandy soils, fit, stoic and regal. Their youngest children are already mature at 40 years. The babies are not yet plants of true concern, children of propaginato, propogated by the bending down of older canes buried into the sand from parents on either side of a missing vine. They will carry the torch one day and keep this storied vineyard alive. Sicily’s future depends upon it.

The dogs of Montoni

A turning point in the Feudo Montoni timeline involved a meeting with the oenologist Giacomo Tachis. The legend of Italian winemaking was most famous for bringing Bordeaux to Tuscany but he was also instrumental in helping Sireci understand the purest relationship between varietal and place. There was a clear idea of needing to meet him even while affording the consultant costs was still in question. But Montoni’s vines were known going five to six centuries back in time and in fact it was agronomist Andrea Bacci’s 15th century book published in Chianti Classico’s San Casciano in Val di Pesa that mentions the vines of this Sicilian place. “Vines large enough that you could wrap your arms around the trunk,” he wrote. Old vines, noted Tachis, as opposed to those in vineyards where humans do all they can to keep the vines short. “They are almost never trees.” And so he convinced Fabio to do as his father and his grandfather did. Propaginato.

Fabio Sireci in the wild

“The most important thing that makes our wines different or better than others is the richness of heritage,” explains Sireci. Genetics and altitude plus “we have 350 days of light.” It can be extremely hot but with the prevailing winds the days may be warm but the nights are cool, even in August. “Questi elementi,” he continues, “they stop the fermentation process. In Sicily the pH can be as high as 3.8 to 4.0 but in our hills it’s more like 2.8, giving us higher acidity, freshness but also longevity.”

Montoni

Varietally speaking

The grapes catarratto, grillo and inzolia form the basis of the white Montoni masala. They are planted higher and grown with greater fervour. “Our catarratto is greener and fresher. The high acidity and saturation is felt on the palate,” with thanks to that low pH. “We are organic,” he admits but sometimes shies away from the discussion because “it has become a complicated word. I’m afraid of farms that look manicured and perfect.”

A walk through Fabio’s vineyards is all you need to know about organics. Perfectly groomed and tidy rows? Not so much. At Montoni the proper reaction to perfection is wild legumes, grasses, weeds, herbs and all the salad ingredients you could pick growing wild and free. Elegante e selvaggia. Fields blessed by the pazza luna, the crazy moon.

Feudo Montoni Catarratto Masso Sicilia DOC 2018, Sicily, Italy ($22.95)

Masso is the cru, “conglomerate stone,” from the soil. Fermented in cement, locked in for and with freshness, sapid and ultra fresh. In 2018 it rained every 10 days, including during harvest so the aromatics are an about face from 2017, a vintage that saw no rain from March to October. What was a relative tropical 2017 is now an herbal, verdant 2018, with aromatics filled by wild finnocchio, fava, honeysuckle, chick pea and lentil. So to speak. Great freshness and so linear, with more age potential. More lime in ’18 and sapidity but only having tasted ’17 will you heed to that belief. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted May 2019.

Feudo Montoni Inzolia Dei Fornelli Sicilia DOC 2018, Sicily, Italy (539932, $22.95)

‘Tis a perfumed vintage for inzolia in Montoni’s world and while the length of time for its stay in stainless is not defined, it remains at service, ready when ready and different every year. If it’s floral so be it with thanks to the blooming heather or in this property’s case, the purple honeysuckle. Another indigenous wine extended from the pied de coup, wildly elegant and yet so simple. Will gain some honey and more flinty strike with a few years in bottle. “And we’ll all go together.” Drink 2019-2023.  Tasted May 2019

Feudo Montoni Grillo Timpa Sicilia DOC 2018, Sicily, Italy ($22.95)

Like the cattaratto and the inzolia the aromatics have turned 180 degrees in ’18 from the wet year, with linearity and direct to the senses notes. Still the fresh squeeze of lemon gets you quick, with smiling spirit. A wholly soulful grillo that will keep you woke and alive. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted May 2019

Feudo Montoni Nerello Mascalese Rosé Di Adele Sicilia DOC 2018, Sicily, Italy ($22.95)

“For you Adele I will pull out all the thorns and put in roses.” This from Fabio Sereci’s father to his mother. Also symbolic for bringing a vineyard back to life. The only wine not named after a cru, but after mama, the mama, the only mama. The “roses of Adele.” The most sapid, herbal, linear and did I mention sapid Rosé in the these parts and any nearby and far away. Take nerello mascalese, grow it in the wilds of Feudo Montoni and this is the result, elegant, lengthy and certainly piu sale. Drink 2019-2021.  Tasted May 2019

Feudo Montoni Nero D’avola Sicilia DOC Lagnusa 2018, Sicily, Italy (523738, $23.95)

The cru where the nero d’avola grows, the lazy one or better yet the smart one, intelligent one who is a late starter, but when he works he’s very good at what he does. Lagnusa. Also a grape gown in clay soils from which yields are low, once a negative now very positive in terms of quality. Some concrete aging and only a short contact with mostly (approximately 80 per cent) old barrels. Another factor of a vintage, herbal, dusty, so very fennel and aromatic enhancing legumes, non marmalata, far from dense, heavy or over the edge in any possible sense of reality. Just balanced in its slightly wild, feral, cured and elegant way. Drink 2019-2023.  Tasted May 2019

Feudo Montoni Nero d’Avola Vrucara Sicilia DOC 2015, Sicily, Italy ($58.00)

The en primeur nero d’avola, finished but so far from even hinting at a readiness. Wild strawberry and the dreams of aromatics to come; carob, liquorice, salumi and all the herbs. Grasses and magical things that grow in a Montoni natural world. Top quality acidity for 2015, reeling, supportive and wild. A truly structured wine and one that will resist growing old despite the passage of time. Drink 2020-2029.  Tasted May 2019

Feudo Montoni Nero d’Avola Vrucara 2010, IGT Sicilia, Sicily, Italy

From Fabio Sireci’s pre-phylloxera vineyard in which some heritage nero d’avola with unparalleled root structures find water six to eight metres below the sand and clay layers. Some are as old as 120 years and still others have been raised by the Sireci method of propaginato, the bending of a heritage vine cane into the earth and then brought up as a new vine. The savoury here is fed by so many surrounding native plants, aromatic oils and how they share the terroir with the Vrucara vines. It’s a great wine, singular, mature and mellowing but done with such confidence and lessons learned. One of Sicily’s greatest wines of confidence and humility. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted May 2019

Feudo Montoni Nero d’Avola Vrucara Sicilia DOC 2008, Sicily, Italy

Still just a baby, curative youthful, high acidity very much in charge with an uncanny at present aroma of wild strawberry. Impactful wild fennel and roses still in bloom. Just the first stages of secondary character are upon the aromatics but structure controls the rest, all of whom still lay in wait around the next decade. We visited the queen by pickup at night where she sits on her throne, as she has for 120 years, with her children born by propaginato, over the course of all that time. Like a cavallo indonato or, if you like, non manzito. Untrained, not wanting to be fenced in, needing time to civilize, habituate and domesticate. We’ll all be long gone.  Last tasted May 2019

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

Feudo Montoni Perricone Sicilia DOC Core 2008, Sicily, Italy ($22.95)

The most interesting of grapes, known as guernaccia in this part of Sicily, “the grape of the farmer,” thick-skinned, disease resistant and perfect for making home made wine. Full phenolic perricone still has a green pit, picked late (in November), so Fabio cuts/crimps the vine very hard, blocking the flow of sap from the rootstock to the clusters, ostensibly creating an appassimento technique but in the vineyard, one week before harvest. Intriguing from bitter cocoa, through tobacco, carob, bokser and liquorice. You absolutely need lignification, brown stems, for whole bunch fermentation and add all this up, the grape, the techniques and the result is almost singular for any red wine in the world. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted May 2019

Feudo Montoni Passito Rosso IGT Terre Siciliane, Sicily, Italy

From nero d’avola and perricone. Upwards of 200 g/L of RS. That nero liquorice and carob is magnified, hyperbolized and liquified. The acidity brings stability and re-introduces the varietal centrifuge and microcosmic sense of place to the wine. This is like the place itself, centre of some people’s necessary universe, where everything goes on and on.  Drink 2019-2029. Tasted May 2019

Feudo Montoni Passito Bianco IGT Terre Siciliane, Sicily, Italy
From grillo with some cattaratto to elevate and manage acidity in a passito that is upwards of 136 g/L of RS. So much fruit goings on; gelid orange, caramelized orange, burnt pineapple and apricot. Just faintly nutty, surely unctuous and fine. Drink 2019-2029.  Tasted May 2019

Good to go!

godello

Fabio Sireci and Melissa Muller

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

WineAlign

Tasting Ontario at Canada’s Great Kitchen Party

Congrats to the winners at Canada’s @greatkitchenparty in Toronto last night. Repeat for @cbriesling and couldn’t happen to a nicer guy. Quality at an all time high for all the wines in the competition.

Related – Gold Medal Plates Toronto 2017

The artist formerly known as Gold Medal Plates is deep into its second tour under the auspices of the new and improved moniker Canada’s Great Kitchen Party. Four weeks ago the launching port for the magical travelling culinary, wine and musical tour was Toronto’s Metro Convention Centre and 12 cities later the cross-cultural palooza will culminate at the Canadian Culinary Championships in Ottawa, January 31st and February 1st, 2020.

The plates at Canada’s @greatkitchenparty are always some of the year’s best. Three from last night.

Related – Eighteen Canadian wines that rocked in 2018

On October 3rd, 2019 over 550 guests enjoyed an evening of celebration and elevation of Canadian culture in food, sport and music. The chefs came both to compete for their chance to be on the podium and to share their creative talent with the guests. Over 45 athletes from amateur, para and pro sports shared their stories and guests were on the dance floor enjoying the performance of some of Canada’s greatest musicians! It was an inspiring and impactful experience as the city united to provide Canadian youth the opportunity to be extraordinary in food, music and sport. We are proud to support Community Food Centres Canada, MusiCounts and B2ten.

Gold – Chef Keith Pears, Executive Chef at Delta by Marriott Toronto

Silver – Chef Frank Parhizgar, FK Restaurant

Bronze – Chef Renée Bellefeuille, Art Gallery on Ontario

My WineAlign colleague David Lawrason requested that I join his merry band of judges for the sixth straight year to assess, deliberate and conclude on the three podium wines of the competition. That we did are these were the results.

Here are my notes on all the wines tasted that evening.

Flat Rock Riddled Sparkling 2017, Traditional Method, VQA Twenty Mile Bench, Niagara Escarpment, Ontario (383315, $34.95)

Riddled ’17 is so bloody young and fresh it’s hard to let it into your life but you should and you must. Bright, startling nearly, greatly aromatic, crispy and yet perspiring with the most humidity and sunshine from a Riddled to date. Tense and nervous, can’t relax. Toasty and just plain fun. Drink 2021-2028.  Tasted October 2019

Mission Hill Reserve Pinot Gris 2017, BC VQA Okanagan Valley, British Columbia (537076, $22.95)

Very gris, lush and fulsome, dripping with orchard fruit juices and so well integrated. A balanced and tangy mess of fruit and ease into acidity.  Last tasted October 2019

Always puts some time, effort and pleasure in reserve so the moniker continues to hold true to Mission Hill form. The pulse of energy persists and it is that tongue-tying freshness that stands still though will be moving forward soon, in time. Seemingly a bit less skin-contact but so heady in apple, pear and white peach, yet always returning to that green mango-apple bite. Better gris goes deeper and beats before, so kudos to the Hill for the work. Drink 2020-2023.  Tasted April 2019

Chef Keith Pears

Charles Baker Picone Vineyard Riesling 2016, VQA Vinemount Ridge, Niagara Escarpment, Ontario (241182, $37.20)

Baker’s ’16 is the child of a great vintage’s phenolics and so without needing to concern oneself in wondering about ripeness or fruit quality it allows for a beeline straight to the tannic structure. That’s the crux of 2016, built upon a core that may as well be centred in the very heart of Colmar. Sugar may as well be nowhere and nothing because balance induces dreams utterly grounded in aridity. So reminded of Bernard Schoffit and The Rangen, austere yet entangled, lean and direct of sure, focused and precise. In the zone and will be for 12 blessedly slow developing years. Drink 2021-2030.  Tasted October 2019

Flat Rock Nadja’s Vineyard Riesling 2017, VQA Twenty Mile Bench, Niagara Escarpment, Ontario (381251, $19.95)

Warmth from Nadja in 2017, not humidity mind you but certainly juiciness, citrus squeeze and real tart behaviour. Not the acidity of some vintages but enough action to counteract the flat out rocking expressiveness of the fruit. Now you can drink this early while other more tightly constructed and yet uncoiled Nadjas move through their paces.  Lasted October 2019

Nadja has taken the anomaly of an inverted vintage and founded a striking riesling with laser quick reflexes. It’s a lean, lightning flinty and lime-powered one, stark in its intensity and drier than I can ever remember it being. The levels of grape tannin and extract are amazing and it really needs time to settle in. Let’s look at it again in 2019. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted October 2018

Redstone Riesling Limestone Ridge South 2017, VQA Twenty Mile Bench, Ontario (381251, $19.95)

All about the lime, beneath the surface and above board. Juiced, filling up the flavours matched against the sugar. Well-balanced, tightly wound and grippy as you know what.  Last tasted October 2019

From the sizeable Limsetone Vineyard’s south portion, the 2017 does what good Bench riesling should. It delivers a gamut of citrus and orchard fruit, from apple to peach stone and yet communicates through a conduit of fine riesling acidity. This example cuts like a knife through creamy custard, in other words it drinks straightforward and with full calm at ease. Drink 2019-2021.  Tasted March 2019

Honsberger Chardonnay Schuele Vineyards 2017, VQA Lincoln Lakeshore, Ontario ($35.00)

Just four months has done the trick,. No simply fruitful with an ease of oak, little to less encumbrance from spice and very much having arrived, pitched and settled in the lovely to elegant camp. No longer overtly demanding in engagement or complexity and in this case all the better for it.  Last tasted October 2019

A mix of apple terpene and green pesto marks the nose before turning leesy, creamy and corn. Quite extracted, oaked and tannic so expect a chardonnay of ambition in request for settling time. That or some heady food to stand up and count together. Drink 2020-2023.  Tasted blind at NWAC19, June 2019

Domaine Queylus Chardonnay Reserve Du Domaine 2017, VQA Niagara Escarpment, Ontario ($34.95)

The Reserve is an impressive and bloody delicious chardonnay with all of its parts moving together and speaking straight from the Peninsula heart. Crunchy and luxe at once then the other, then synched, together. Ripe and developed but also green apple fresh, smart, in good humour and beautiful. This Queylus just has a glow about ‘er. Drink 2020-2025.  Tasted October 2019

Tawse Estate Vineyards Chardonnay 2013, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario ($38.15)

The toastiest and most reductive of the Tawse chardonnays, above Quarry Road and well beyond Robyn’s. It may have once been the smooth one but not any more. Expect sharp, pointed and angular juts and struts. A sharp varietal Tawse that speaks a more pointed Bench vernacular than the Peninsula labelling would say. No matter for time has done little to crack the safe.  Last tasted October 2019

The rock of the compos mentis Tawse chardonnay is the Estate, as consistently composed as any in the high end Ontario tier. The simple plan leads to something ultimately complex, first by charitable dispensation by a vintage like 2013 and then from fruit synchronically pulled off of four iconically developing vineyards; David’s Block (39 per cent), Quarry Road (35), Hillside (14) and Robyn’s Block (11). The balance of fruit, mineral and barrel is impeccable with many thanks due to Paul Pender’s recondite investigative barrel program. The Estate chardonnay owes a great deal to French forests and variegated toasts, all of which show tongue and teeth in this wine. The layering here (and really fine lees) brings creamy tropical as well as crisp Ontario fruit. This is the most soothing of Tawse’s chardonnays with a developing sense of tart candied flowers melting into caramel. In other words, delicious. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted April 2017

Hidden Bench Locust Lane Rosé 2018, VQA Beamsville Bench, Niagara Escarpment, Ontario (68833, $23.95)

What you want and need from Rosé out of Ontario or anywhere you might dream light, salty, richly fruitful and generously hued pink stuff. Dry and saline with a full gamut of rootsy and ripe fruit; strawberry, cranberry and pomegranate. So good.  Last tasted October 2019

Locust Lane is certainly one of Ontario’s top cru sites for Rosé and while that may sound like a wine style misnomer to some you’d better taste this before making any statements you’ll then want to retract. Winemaker Jay J. must thank his lucky Beamsville Bench stars to have the fortune to make Rosé with this fruit. He would also know not to screw it up so behold this saline, sapid, linear, natural, balanced and just bloody delicious wine. Along with Moira just a stone’s throw over a hill away there are some that just rise above and do so with great ease, like fruit fallen into the hand just before it had been plucked from the stem. That’s when you know Rosé had been grown, run and fermented just right. Drink 2019-2021.  Tasted June 2019

Thirty Bench Winemaker’s Blend Red 2017, VQA Beamsville Bench, Niagara Escarpment, Ontario (320986, $24.95)

Quite heady red here from Thirty Bench, full on dark red fruit in the raspberry merlot vein and just the right verdancy. It’s also sharp and spiced by botanicals that perk up your favourite amaro. Fun stuff from Emma Garner.  Last tasted October 2019

A plethora of mixed red fruits marks not just the entry but the entirety of the Red Blend. It’s a Bordeaux fashion in Beamsville clothing, of berries, plums and even a bit of fennel like addendum. Quite fruity, integrated and balanced, all in the name of amenability and drinkability. Drink 2019-2021.  Tasted August 2019

Mission Hill Reserve Merlot 2017, BC VQA Okanagan Valley, British Columbia (553313, $29.95)

Rich and heady to no surprise and plenty of instigating spice. Dives down and into the depths of dark fruit in the shroud of barrel where all sing along together. A bit of balsamic and the notion of impending umami. Drink 2020-2025.  Tasted October 2019

Trius Red (The Icon) 2017, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (303800, $24.95)

The Red Icon is everything Niagara can be in affordable red wine, magnified and hyperbolized to the nth degree. A huge icon if from a vintage in reverse and so the strawberry jam is right there, set up in the fruitiest way above the acids and the structure. Tannins won’t lie however and neither will 10 years of great drinking. Drink 2021-20230.  Tasted October 2019

Stratus Red 2015, VQA Niagara Lakeshore, Ontario (131037, $48.20)

Quite high-toned from a Stratus Red, fruit elevated and lifted by 2015 acids, trying to settle but not able to let gravity do its work. Crunchy and certainly grippy, firm and far from open. Last tasted October 2019.

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

Good to go!

godello

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

WineAlign

Glorious 2017s from Bouchard and Fèvre

I am persuaded, I am charmed, I am seduced. It begins with a deal made in kind to a region’s most consistent producer, by allowing a cross section of their wines to act as a teaching moment for the vintage. Submit to the truth and the circumstances. There are moments when you think “there’s really no point in doing anything in life, because it’s all over in the blink of an eye,” and then you taste through some Bourgogne 2017. But one never knows until the the contract is signed and the ink dry. Still we can dream. Kingdoms for an allocation.

Champagne Henriot is the parent distribution company at the head of the Bourgogne houses Domaine William Fèvre and Domaine Bouchard Père & Fils. Each year their Ontario agent Woodman Wines and Spirits puts out the call to media, buyers and sommeliers to taste the current vintage. There simply is no other event on the Toronto calendar that affords a comparable taste, assess and climb into the heart, mind and body of a Bourgogne vintage. Two dozen reds and whites from the region’s great villages are a sample size large enough to know that the 2017s bring quality to a modern day high with that rare combination of fruit and structure. These are chardonnay and pinot noir that tease, hypnotize and excite.

Related – Bourgogne in a word: Climat

The quality is noted through both the whites and the reds and while pricing is reflective of the vintage it’s really just about as fair as can be expected. There are in fact some exceptional deals to be had and at all appellative levels. Russell, Jason and Rachel Woodman laid out the Bourgogne red carpet at Montecito Restaurant hosted by Heather McDougall and staff on Thursday, September 12th. Please read on through my notes below to gain some insight, agreed upon or not with respect to these exceptional 17s.

Related – Three estates, 23 wines, one agent

Mysteries of climat, soil and orientation in Chablis and The Right Bank

Domaine William Fèvre Saint Bris 2017, AOC Bourgogne ($24.95, WineAlign)

Not that we wouldn’t expect flesh and unction from a Fèvre Saint-Bris but ’17 brings sauvignon blanc in Bourgogne next door to Auxerre into a whole new sun-shadowy light. It’s one of those dappled mornings, at once bright and cast effusive, then cool, greyscale, at calm respite. Terrific interplay of patience and energy, activity and rest. Does both and well done at that. Drink 2019-2021.  Tasted September 2019

Chablis

Domaine William Fèvre Chablis Premier Cru Fourchaume 2017, AOC Bourgogne ($76.00, WineAlign)

Fourchaume the most broad shouldered Premier Cru steps lightly into view from 2017 before offering up an aromatic bite into a just ripened basket full of yellow and green fruit. The fruit accumulation is impressive, variegated, crunchy and fulsome. There’s something suggestive, hidden, shadowy and yet unearthed about this one from the wide swath of a hill. Something two to three years away. Patience will reward that curiosity. Drink 2021-2027.  Tasted September 2019

Domaine William Fèvre Chablis Grand Cru Bougros 2017, AOC Bourgogne ($96.00, WineAlign)

Bougros the Grand Cru holds little back in a gone for broke style it should be suggested few other Cru Chablis will frame from the vintage. There’s dramatic foreshadowing of fruit exceedingly healthy, wealthy and destined to greatness. Truth be told the cumulative offer of sheer sustenance suggests no sneaking here but simply an advance and a leap into a pool of chardonnay exceptionality. Drink this with pleasure and confidence almost immediately and then for 10 further years of incremental bliss. Drink 2019-2028.  Tasted September 2019

The Reds

Domaine Bouchard Père & Fils Premier Cru Beaune Du Château 2017, AOC Bourgogne ($66.00, WineAlign)

A true estate expression and the first google result for a search of two words, Bouchard + Beaune. The Château de Beaune, the true estate vernacular and the spokesperson for its dialect. Higher toned, darkness of fruit, pure black cherry and then a silken, liquid limestone chalky palate. Here’s the introduction to pinot noir, Premier Cru and Beaune. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted September 2019

Domaine Bouchard Père & Fils Savigny Lès Beaune Premier Cru Les Lavières 2017, AOC Bourgogne ($71.00, WineAlign)

Lavières is silky smooth and stunning, gently if generously spiced and who would not want to think that the flat stones used on roofs would be found in this Bouchard sector of soil. From the word “lave,” not a volcanic reference but indeed in reference to those limestone slabs atop the old houses. The palate brings in some fine-matchstick sliced fennel and then good clean fun in healthy dark cherry fruit. Very ripe Savigny. Drink 2020-2027.  Tasted September 2019

Domaine Bouchard Père & Fils Nuits Saint Georges Premier Cru 2017, AOC Bourgogne ($73.00, WineAlign)

Quite bright and effulgent Nuits-Saint-Georges and showing more lithe ease and attitude than the Beaune labels. Here is a crossroads, not middle of the road but twain team building pinot noir. This is a glue for the Bouchard group in the reds, residing somewhere along a line between the light and the dark, the silken and the gripped, the beauty and the beast. It’s all of that and more, big red fruit, crunchy and intense. It’s all so very posh and polished. Drink 2020-2028.  Tasted September 2019

Bouchard Père & Fils Gevrey Chambertin Premier Cru 2017, AOC Bourgogne ($77.00, WineAlign)

Gevrey Chambertin is at once open, friendly, getable. It’s also sneaky structured, grippy, formidable even. The great Premier Cru chameleon giveth and taketh away. It teases and then pulls back. While it may at certain moments act like a pinot noir in love it is in fact looking for affection but not yet ready to accept. Wait a few turns of the calendar for this Romeo. Drink 2022-2030.  Tasted September 2019

Bouchard Père & Fils Chambolle Musigny Premier Cru 2017, AOC Bourgogne ($91.00, WineAlign)

Chambolle Musigny is constructed of a structure enabling its fruit and acids to tether along the frame for long, longer and longest aging. This may be the first of the ’17 Premier Crus to lash immediately back, to speak on its own behalf and say “back off” with emphatic hand gestures and voice. This as C-M is a cherry brick of limestone and marl, equipped with all the tools necessary for looking into the next decade, without equivocation and whether or not you are prepared to listen. Drink 2022-2032.  Tasted September 2019

Domaine Bouchard Père & Fils Beaune Clos De La Mousse Monopole 2017, AOC Bourgogne ($95.00, WineAlign)

The aromatic intensity of pure demure, depict and delight is the combed and combinative epitome of what Clos de la Mousse can be, whether probable or possible. This entry is confident, streamlined, crystal clear. The transitions are chord-constructed, seamless, effortless and executed with maximum efficiency. This fruit meets acid melting into and with fine tannin is a get on the same page affair. It grabs hold of nerve endings and hangs on for seemingly ever. Great Premier Cru. Drink 2021-2031.  Tasted September 2019

Bouchard Père & Fils Pommard Premier Cru 2017, AOC Bourgogne ($112.00, WineAlign)

Pommard 2017 brings the violets and florals en masse as the conduit and foil apposite its firm and grippy nature. This is truly an aromatic wonder, a gatherer of sunshine and a hunter of fine to finest acids and tannins. There is a silky component that settles the palate but it’s just a trick. There is pure limestone melt throughout this mouthfeel and structure is a matter of great demand. Look ahead towards seventeen years from 2017 I would imagine. Drink 2023-2034.  Tasted September 2019

Domaine Bouchard Père & Fils Volnay Premier Cru Ancienne Cuvée Carnot Caillerets 2017, AOC Bourgogne ($129.00, WineAlign)

It seems to me that for the first time since 2005 the artist known as Les Caillerets is want to act this way. Free, fruitful, humid and excitable yet built on rock ’n roll swagger. This sashays across the olfactory and the palate like nobody’s business. A mashup of 1970s star power; Mick strutting, torn and frayed. Rod in Faces mode stay with me, both pictures telling a story. Remarkable concentration, consistency throughout its components, always acting tough, cocky and cool. Drink 2021-2029.  Tasted September 2019

Domaine Bouchard Père & Fils Beaune Grèves Premier Cru Vigne De L’enfant Jésus 2017, AOC Bourgogne ($170.00, WineAlign)

Hard to believe how deep into its tenure this absolute iconic pinot noir has come but it is indeed the one, the expert, the consummate professional and never wavering traveller. Moves without impediment through time and space, in and out of consciousness, which is exactly what happens to us as we taste this 2017. Spice of the highest delectability and a seamless weave of impression meeting expression. What more can you say? Drink 2023-2035.  Tasted September 2019

Domaine Bouchard Père & Fils Le Corton Grand Cru 2017, AOC Bourgogne ($199.00, WineAlign)

A magical entry can only lead towards and into a land of great hope and expectation, a place where pinot noir is a rare gift, expensive mind you, but a true gift for the select few. This is the magic elixir indeed, pure, crystalline and of a fabric ethereal, alluring, luxe and pristine. This graces all buttons and notes for pleasure and longevity. It’s hard not too be seduced and if you are not you are simply not paying attention. Drink 2023-2038.  Tasted September 2019

Domaine Bouchard Père & Fils Echézeaux Grand Cru 2017, AOC Bourgogne ($391.00, WineAlign)

There is a next level concentration, glycerin texture and layering in seamless accord that few other 17s are capable of showing. There is also a bit more grip and tension that stands apart from that silky luxuriousness that Corton just seems to integrate with less pronouncement. This is a splitting hairs matter because Echézaux is everything imagination can conjure and more. Magnificent pinot noir. Drink 2024-2035.  Tasted September 2019

The Whites

Bouchard Père & Fils Montagny Premier Cru 2017, AOC Bourgogne ($43.00, WineAlign)

Montagny makes a quick and informative introduction into the zippy nature of the 17s mixed with fleshy substance and emotion. There’s a little bit of everything to go around and the world is a chardonnay oyster through the lens of Montagny. Good for all and all for one. Drink 2019-2023.  Tasted September 2019

Domaine Bouchard Père & Fils Beaune Du Château Premier Cru Domaine 2017, AOC Bourgogne ($65.00, WineAlign)

Bliss in chardonnay amenability with all the purity, necessity and accumulated estate culpability gathered to act out the epitome of Beaune capability. More flesh than Montagny but also increased bite. A bit reductive and certainly exuberant with grip in the bag and the bank. Drink 2021-2027.  Tasted September 2019

Bouchard Père & Fils Meursault Domaine 2017, AOC Bourgogne ($76.00, WineAlign)

There’s pure savour, lush fruit ascension and absolute Meursault movability unshaken, unstirred and just merely whetting the appetite and thirst. So tight and wound to thrill there’s Meursault coursing through arteries and itching to spill forth. Just wait three years for the honey to emit with emotive aromatic intensity and then to tell a next stage story. Drink 2021-2029.  Tasted September 2019

Bouchard Père & Fils Puligny Montrachet Premier Cru 2017, AOC Bourgogne ($77.00, WineAlign)

Puligny brings some power to the table with help from the glorious barrels, aiding and abetting the lush constitution. The quality is exceptional and this despite being the one that is non-specific, made of fruit from varied blocks and carrying no moniker such as Combettes or Champs-Gain. If you consider the purity and clarity, not to mention the rise from fresh through texture and into structure then you’ll see how this P-M is the affordable steal of the vintage. Drink 2022-2031.  Tasted September 2019

Domaine Bouchard Père & Fils Meursault Premier Cru Genevrières 2017, AOC Bourgogne ($140.00, WineAlign)

Toasty and integrated with exceptional ability, reductive in the ways of Meursault and how it’s protective custody of this particular parcel is unlike any other. Great strength and composure, purity and crystalline limestone exclamations. Exceptional toast and smoky, singsong voice. So worthy of its reputation. Drink 2021-2029.  Tasted September 2019

Domaine Bouchard Père & Fils Corton Charlemagne Grand Cru 2017, AOC Bourgogne ($283.00, WineAlign)

Boasts more outward behaviour then Chevalier-Montrachet and also a quicker knowing acceptance of flesh, texture and full attack. Great reduction, even greater smoky smoulder and a healthy pinch of rock salinity above and beyond. Wonderful work by the Cru, the vines and their uncompromising fruit. Drink 2021-2037.  Tasted September 2019

Domaine Bouchard Père & Fils Chevalier Montrachet Grand Cru 2017, AOC Bourgogne ($513.00, WineAlign)

The couverture is all encompassing acting as a full sheathing tapestry in surround of a fruit core of sheer concentration and yet as a whole so understated. It’s hard to imagine more coaxing and less pronouncement. Relatively speaking there’s no estate equal to what has happened here. Great mineral crash into life and love, into fruit and impossible acidity. A magnificent chardonnay with 25 years of life ahead. Drink 2021-2039.  Tasted September 2019

Good to go!

godello

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

WineAlign

Garage Wine Company redux

Derek Mossman Knapp – Garage Wine Co.

Sara d’Amato and I last caught up with and tasted the secrets of Chile’s deep interior with expatriate Etobican Derek Mossmnan Knapp three years ago yesterday, in September of 2016. I noted at the time that few have gone as deep and traced as far back “into the country’s heartland, oldest vines and ancestral traditions.” His wines from the Secano Interior are made by hand, naturally, in small lots parcel by parcel. Garage Wine Co. is still a matter of ploughs and manos en el suelo. Workers gain strength and energy from mugs of ulpo, toasted heirloom wheat flour with honey and water. This is a place where Derek tells us that one’s only real needs are “clippers, a hatchet, and a lifetime of experience to pass on.” Oxford commas sold separately.

Related – We take you now to garage wine in Chile

He continues to educate us. “Let’s make a mugrón” he says, a vine branch that is buried at the end so that a new plant is born. Like the Sicilian propaginare in Fabio Sereci’s Vrucara Vineyard. “This is regenerative agriculture. It’s not about finding a nice old man to support, but rather rolling your sleeves up and working elbow to elbow. The flavour is in the farming.” The work is relentless, essential, never-ending. “With seasonal cover-crops ploughed under no need for fertilizer,” he continues, “rastreando no es lo mismo y no incorpora nitrogeno de la misma manera.” Or, nitrogen will never incorporate as successfully by tracking. In Secano Interior there is only one way. The right way.

Contrary to common belief and heaps of marketing, the complexity of a wine most often comes from the farming.

Yes, the farming. A winemaker can aspire to creative angst and/or the never-ending and hopeless aspiration to attain the sublime but without the right, proper and tireless work ethic of agriculture there is no greatness. Tilling, hoeing, ploughing and straightening things out are the keys to the salvaes, the volleys, salutes, provisos and reservations for securing the possibility of making memorable wines.  Garage Wine Co. personnel are putting in the time.

País-Cariñena, Sémillon, Carignan Field Blend and Cabernet Franc. These are the four seminal bottles Derek brought along for Sara and I to taste at the WineAlign office. And it was good.

Garage Wine Co. País Cariñena Phoenix Ferment Single Ferment Series 2018, DO Secano Interior Cauquenes, Maule Valley, Chile (WineAlign)

“A wine that rose from the 2017 bush fires, quickly having ascended out of the ashes as something resurrected and reinvented.”We’ve gotta make a white from the reds,” tells Garage Wine Company founder Derek Mossman Knapp. A pressed whole with stems (like Champagne) field blend, or more succinctly a co-ferment of stacks, one on top of the other, país followed a few days later by cariñena. That said it was picked earlier, crisper and sharper in 2018. The acids are extraordinary and the melding of flowers, white and yellow are mimicked, extended and replayed by citrus and stone fruit flavours on repeat. Crazy smart and delicious, if never before tasted and understood. For interested parties, price would be 6.5 US ex-cellar. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted August 2019

Garage Wine Co. Sémillon Isidore Vineyard Lot # F1 2018, DO Maule Valley, Chile (WineAlign)

Single vineyard white off of lands shepherded by ancestral farming. Isidore is the patron saint of the worker and this is a wine not ordinarily made. Now the decades of urban legend, blue blood in the veins and perverso (perversity) replace bulk wine from places with no paved roads (and valid D.O. paperwork) left behind for such an exercise. It’s both rich for sémillon (thanks to skins) and its sessions but the acids keep it grounded, flint-struck, stone-driven. Certainly reminded of Chris Alheit a continent away. Old vines are meant to deliver a sting for sémillon and though just shy today of what it will bite with again, there is an intensity in feeling to make you wish for sea creatures of brine, fat, citrus and bitters. That’s the vernacular it speaks and seeks. Price would be 11 US ex-cellar. Drink 2020-2026.  Tasted August 2019

Garage Wine Co. Lot #77 Carignan Field Blend Truquilemu Vineyard 2016, DO Maule Valley, Chile (WineAlign)

Here getting into the usage of lignified stems, first with a run through the de-stemmer, after which the brown and ripe ones are put back in. Avoids the candy floss of carbonic maceration while conversely encouraging more integration and camaraderie. Violet floral and expressly ripe with thanks to a few plants of malbec, país, mataro and tintara negro. So youthful and high-toned, plenty of fruit, more so intrigue and an old vines in old vineyards brushy herb savoury notation that permeates while hiding in the shadows. Why does this wine, not driven by anything in its plot, arouse in us such a powerful emotion, containing the entirety of what the wines is between a set of ineffable parentheses? It’s a unique structure, one that takes breaths and inhibitions away, as will others that do so, though not in any exclusive or elitist way. Seems right, big, structured, proper and just. Drink 2021-2029.  Tasted August 2019

Garage Wine Co. Cabernet Franc La Higuera Vineyard Lot #62 2014, DO Maule Valley, Chile (WineAlign)

“Just wet it!” they say in how to make this cabernet franc, as in the dry Martini, Hawkeye Pearce way. Just a wave over the ferment, avoiding too much wood and keeping it real. The fruit is ostensibly dark as a cimmerian night, with minor keys played by iodine, soy and balsamic, though ultimately the settling over five plus years will reveal a more natural state. It’s chewy inside and crusted enough to make it crunchy on the outside, a perfectly textured red like a steak charred and cooked rare inside meeting a proper cookie but in cabernet franc clothing. As you nose and taste it continues to refine, come into balance and also elegance. Imagine what those five years in bottle will effect. Drink 2022-2029.  Tasted August 2019

Good to go!

godello

Derek Mossman Knapp – Garage Wine Co.

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

WineAlign

Varietal artistry of Collio Bianco

San Floriano Del Cóllio, Friuli-Venezia Giulia

If the wines of Collio are to be described and more specifically if we are to look at the white blends collectively known as Collio Bianco DOC, this is what we see. Collio Bianco are wines of performance without obstacles, fluid achievements free of interruption, representing the vital energy and élan of their territory. Unbeknownst to many they are filled with an unfamiliar blissfulness, for how all will be realized.

Enjoy Collio Experience 2019

I visited in late spring as days warmed and nights still played it cool. Collio sits one kilometre from the Adriatic coast and also Slovenia so it’s no wonder that its white wines are highly aromatic and unique to a shared concentration of mito and geography. They stand alone in European character from out of soils variegated by sand, clay and rock to give them their distinct personality. They are to be paid great attention. I for one have made new space for them.

Collio is in fact one of Europe’s most fascinating wine regions, a white wine specialist located in the Gorizia Hills of the Friuli-Venezia Giulia region. The amphitheatre of Collio vineyards follow a line along the western border of Slovenia in the northeastern corner of Italy. It is here where centuries of a mélange of multicultural histories meet in a venn diagram of multifarious Italian, Slovenian and Austro-Hungarian mythology. For introspective, historical and prospective perspective one only needs to walk the vineyards with the area’s director of connectivity, the one, the only Matteo Bellotto.

Matteo Bellotto

My trip to Collio in the last days of May was indeed an experience of territory, vineyard, cellar and people. Though the autochthonous varietal triumvirate of ribolla gialla, friulano and malvasia are the bones of Collio’s body politic, international grape varieties like pinot bianco, sauvignon and chardonnay add much to act as representatives of the heart, head, mind, body and soul of the producers. Ultimately it is the Collio Bianco that have emerged as front runners for spokes-wines of the place. The appellative white blends unite and really tie the territorial room together.

Collio Bianco

Richard Baudains of the Wine Scholar Guild speaks to a group of foreign journalists during what is the culmination of the wettest month of May since 1973. He is THE master Collio educator.

Collio Bianco is both business card and calligram, a Field Blend that speaks to the idea of co-fermented grapes, working together, for complexity and the possibility of aging, like the music and the story of the area. “Go inside the area and the tradition and don’t worry so much about the grapes,” tells Richard Baudains. Cuvées or field blends can fall within the DOC, or not. There are a total of 1,500 ha planted, as opposed to 1,700 in Soave and 1,900 in Macon and a production of 6.5 million bottles, as opposed to 10 in Soave. This is an indication to lower yields and significantly so. In fact it represents 11 per cent of Friuli-Venezia-Giulia and three per cent of total Italian production. There are 16 DOC mono-varietals and two DOC blends. More than 95 per cent are white wines, made by 350 growers, 180 bottlers and one cooperative on an average 4.0 ha of planted space. The lead is pinot grigio at 26 per cent, followed by sauvignon (19) and friulano (15). The latter endemic grape declined dramatically and was in fact at 50 per cent just a couple of decades ago. The rest include ribolla gialla (7.5), chardonnay (9), pinot bianco (4) and malvasia (2.5).

In 1966 the English author and journalist Cyril Ray remarked upon the pre-DOC “white wine made from a mixture of Tocai Friulano, German and Italian Rieslings, and a number of other varieties grown in the hills that encircle Gorizia.” The DOC was then created in 1968 with the suggestion to “drink young when it has a fresh taste and floral bouquet.” A vino contadino. In 1968 the numbers were more like ribolla gialla (45-55 per cent), malvasia istriana (20-30) and tocai friulano (25). Wines of “pale straw, neutral aroma, lightly sparkling, not for ageing, alcohol around 11 per cent.” Whereas all the mono-varietals came in at 12-13 per cent. So the concentration at the time was on indeed on mono-varietals, eventually leading to the evolution of the Bianco in the 1990s.

Marco Felluga Russiz Superiore

A proposal was made by then Consorzio President Marco Felluga, the idea being that Collio Bianco shouldn’t be the second or even last wine but rather the flagship of the estate. The most representative wine, top of the quality pyramid and to condense the total number of wines made in the area. He had to liberalize the blend, by taking away all restrictions. A carte blanche stylistic. Your best grapes go into the Bianco.

Wine villages in Collio form a half-moon shape around Slovenia though with not a lot of variety in the soils. Climate is highly variable however and if a line is drawn from east to west you go from warmer to cooler. Chardonnay and sauvignon are grown to the west, ribolla gialla to the east. The overall territory encourages for a connectivity that allows for producing blends. Aromatic grapes defined; including traminer and muller thurgau, “The whole is more important than the sum of the parts,” is what Marco Felluga thought. “These are wines that will keep because they maintain their freshness and won’t oxidize. The question is this. Are they long aging whites worth keeping and will they develop interesting tertiary aromas?”

The following Collio Bianco DOC were tasted blind.

Autochthonous Blends

Livon Collio Bianco DOC Solarco 2017, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Italy (WineAlign)

A blend of autochthonous varieties friulano and ribolla gialla, herbal, sweetly so and also dissolving lime tablet. Noses like white wine brought up in concrete with a wet stone character though somewhat grey and dullish. Simply rendered, fresh, quiet and quick. Improves with time and develops increased and variegated citrus notes. And he shall be Livon. Drink 2019-2020.  Tasted blind, May 2019

Terre Del Faet Collio Bianco DOC 2017, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Italy (WineAlign)

Gathers friulano and malvasia and if at first seems just a touch musty the lingering turns to dissipating, more than enough to move forward. Also a wet concrete nose and then more expressive on the palate with white peach juicy flavour and a bit of lime. Good persistence and fresh as required. Well-shouldered, spalla as they say and certainly necessary to elevate the Bianco ideal. Drink 2019-2021.  Tasted blind, May 2019

Keber Collio Bianco DOC Edi 2017, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Italy (WineAlign)

The mix is friulano, malvasia and ribolla gialla from stalwart producer Keber and a completely different stylistic. More extraction and if not a longer skin-contact time, at least a higher percentage of a grape variety that adds hue and flesh. A bit reductive with an uva-sulphury note and then again, more expressive on the palate. Perhaps a bit of wood here so a disjointed wine in youth, plus this petrol natural sensation in the oxymoronic way it just seems to want to be. I’d say the winemaker is perfectly happy with the result. Drink 2019-2021.  Tasted blind, May 2019

Muzic Collio Bianco DOC Stare Brajde 2016, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Italy (WineAlign)

Made from friulano, malvasia and ribolla gialla. Even just a year has aged this Bianco with some oxidative advancement, off of a warmer set of sites and one particular variety involved that moves forward quicker. Barrel certainly a catalyst, so malolactic too and all tolled acting like chardonnay, or a blend involving an endemic variety when subjected to barrel that turns out like chardonnay in that it acts this way. Terpenes in an apple motive, moving along pretty quick. Drink up. Drink 2019-2020.  Tasted blind, May 2019

Tenuta Baroni Del Mestri Collio Bianco DOC Monte Quarin 2016, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Italy (WineAlign)

Lovely combinations here from the holy Collio triumvirate of friulano, malvasia and ribolla gialla, of white flowers and sweet herbs, advancement and next level complexities. Brings together flowers and petrol, likely an aromatic variety mixed with one that has its own fruit flesh and then something with shoulders. Broad and punchy, with good acidity though not aggressively so. White pepper and a pinch of salt so properly seasoned. Like grüner or better yet gemischten satz, revivalist, so very interesting, of grasso, ciccia and glycerine. Drink 2019-2023.  Tasted blind, May 2019\

San Floriano Del Cóllio, Friuli-Venezia Giulia

Autochthonous plus International Blends

Gradis’ciutta Collio Bianco Riserva DOC 2015, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Italy (WineAlign)

The traditional triad of friulano, malvasia and ribolla gialla are here in a good advancement for a blend that has aged the way and in the timing it should. Quite gaseous and preserved lemon, plus aromatics that indicate potpourri. Certainly seen some time in barrel and gone through at least a partial level of malolactic. White caramel, vanilla and more lemon though mild acidity and in then end, a touch pine resinous, mild tonic, pith and bitters. All the while an effect created by 24 months of Riserva-level aging. Essentially a lone wolf of a Collio. Drink 2019-2021.  Tasted blind, May 2019

Cociancig Collio Bianco DOC 2018, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Italy (WineAlign)

A mix of endemic and expatriate varieties, of friulano, pinot grigio, sauvignon and traminer. Intensely fresh and fruit punchy, florals and fruit pectin up front and nigh gregarious. The presence of something gooseberry-passion fruit unctuous is very sauvignon blanc mixed with a lemon gelée sweetness that indicates malvasia mixed with pinot grigio. Very fresh and drinkable wine. Drink 2019-2021. Tasted blind, May 2019

Colle Duga Collio Bianco DOC 2018, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Italy (WineAlign)

Somewhat aromatically reserved or at least demurred, a touch of apple terpene and herbs in the basil world. A mix of friulano, malvasia, chardonnay and sauvignon that acts quite grigio and/or bianco by notation, ubiquitous, easy and properly dressed with grain acidity. Not overtly complicated or complex. Drink 2019-2021.  Tasted blind, May 2019

Raccaro Collio Bianco DOC 2018, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Italy (WineAlign)

The four-poster then and now gathering ying-yangs between friulano, sauvignon, ribolla gialla and pinot grigi. Reserved but indicative of something serious. Stone fruit on the nose with a minor addendum by mandarin though not overtly fruit sweet. A touch of petrol-alcohol but no advancement, just not fresh and spirited out of the gate. Great palate presence, fleshy and broad, unctuous and quite forward in mouthfeel clarity. Lingers and fleshes as it goes. This could get very interesting with a few years of age. A solid combination of richness and age. Drink 2020-2025.  Tasted blind, May 2019

Renato Keber Collio Bianco DOC Beli Grici 2017, Friuli-Venezia-Giulia (WineAlign)

A blend of autochtonous plus international grape varieties that includes friulano, pinot bianco, pinot grigio, ribolla gialla and sauvignon. My how things have changed in this aromatic ham. Lemon in every respect, squeezed, preserved and baking with hocks. Both earthy and candle-waxy. Uncanny note of beeswax really points to extended skin contact mixed with wood-aged Riserva character. Then a gas note mixed with grasso and glück on the palate and high acidity. This might be construed as a train wreck to some and still an amazing revelation for others. A wine that separates camps and instigates prejudices. Depth to be sure though wood is just a bit intrusive with or without enough terroir to back up the ambition. In a way reminds me of some alvarinho in the Minho. Drink 2019-2023.  Tasted blind, May 2019

Korsic Collio Bianco DOC 2017, Friuli-Venezia-Giulia (WineAlign)

Combines friulano and ribolla gialla with chardonnay. Solid if certainly unassuming and zero risk taking production. Juicy and tart, fruity and ultra clean. Really travels the apple to pear to white peach spectrum on repeat and in replay. Hue, aroma, taste and bones are all cut from the same cloth. In thats sense it’s perfectly balanced, amenable and fine. Poster child and ambassador for the DOC. Drink 2019-2021.  Tasted blind, May 2019

Bracco Collio Bianco DOC La Mont Brach 2016, Friuli-Venezia-Giulia (WineAlign)

The local friulano amd malvasia take on sauvignon with a slightly reserved nose and that’s seemingly unusual when you consider it is 2016 and has had time to come about. Terpenes and sweet herbs do emerge, along with a scrape of orange zest and then a gaseous note. Nicely complex within reason and seasoned with just a pinch of salt, pepper and fresh herbs. Pretty wine, field blend rich and exemplary. Very Collio. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted blind, May 2019

Collavini Collio Bianco DOC Broy 2016, Friuli-Venezia-Giulia (WineAlign)

Really pretty wine this modern combination of friulano, chardonnay and sauvignon, not so much aromatically floral but just enough to speak to elegance and balance. Some orchard fruit still quite fresh, with a high level of flesh, extract and unction. Almost crunchy and wealth simple in blended white wine defined. There may be a minor level of wood aging here. Drink 2019-2021.  Tasted blind, May 2019

Tenuta Di Angoris Collio Bianco Riserva DOC Giulio Locatelli 2016, Friuli-Venezia-Giulia, (WineAlign)

The blend is friulano, malvasia and sauvignon.A chewy, fleshy and broad shouldered Bianco with all the expected and necessary components present and then some. Highly focused and accomplished white blend, full of white flowers, mild seasonings, orchard and stone fruit, pectin, glycerin, grasso and acidity. It’s all here, clean, simple and straightforward. That said it’s certainly more on the perfectly understandable and less on the risk assessment, task-taking spectrum. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted blind, May 2019

Russiz Superiore Collio Bianco Riserva DOC Col Disore 2016, Friuli-Venezia-Giulia, (WineAlign)

The Felluga friulano, pinot bianco, sauvignon and ribolla gialla show an advancement because of the notable petrol immediacy crossed with more than obvious barrel addendum. A malolactic creaminess pervades and yet good acidity gives it drive and ambition. Vanilla and spice, sweetness and tinned fruit. A well made wine in the force a square peg into a round whole kind of way. Finishes with some resinous notes, in pine and eucalyptus. More cellar blend than field in execution. Drink 2019-2021.  Tasted blind, May 2019

Pascolo Collio Bianco Riserva DOC Agnul 2016, Friuli-Venezia-Giulia, (WineAlign)

Agnul from friulano, pinot bianco and sauvignon is lifted by this herbal, minty, orange scrape expressive nose. Rich, wood-influenced unctuous palate with mild acidity and definite character so rich, pork belly fatty and rendered. Good grape spirit and extract. Proper for the style, pungent and leaning to sauvignon blanc. Drink 2019-2022. Tasted blind, May 2019

Pascolo Collio Bianco DOC Studio Di Bianco 2016, Friuli-Venezia-Giulia, (WineAlign)

A different mix, of friulano, riesling and sauvignon. One of the more curious and complex aromatic profiles thus far. Perfunctory herbs and citrus rolls into perfectly sweet and and savoury profits, from chou pastry to profiterole. Gastronomic Collio blend at its best, with florals and gasses, fruit and acidity. Proper, focused, flinty, salty and fine. Will age with the best of them. Jumpy, spicy, gassy and in the riesling vein. Drink 2019-2026.  Tasted blind, May 2019

Ronco Blanchis Collio Bianco DOC 2015, Friuli-Venezia-Giulia, (WineAlign)

Four grape varieties contribute here, friulano, malvasia, sauvignon and chardonnay. Terpenes and metals meet dried herbs and alloys. Lemon and lime but more preserved than fresh. These grapes do Collio like riesling, traminer and pinot bianco do elsewhere. Strangely reminds more of Alsace than anything else. A bit sweet to near cloying as it accumulates to the honeyed, sweet tart finish. Seems there is some botrytis here though there is no residual sugar to speak of. Drink 2019.  Tasted blind, May 2019

Venica Collio Bianco DOC Tre Vignis 2015, Friuli-Venezia-Giulia, (WineAlign)

Three vines, friulano, chardonnay and sauvignon from which a little bit of age goes a long way as witnessed by this richly hued, gregariously aromatic and notably metallic Bianco. It’s all here in this ambitious and gregarious example. Plenty of orchard fruit, wood-induced texture and an overall creamy impression that suggest a whole lot of battonage. Vanilla, crème frâiche and almond paste. Rich, rich blend. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted blind, May 2019

Ca’Ronesca Collio Bianco DOC Marnà 2015, Friuli-Venezia-Giulia (WineAlign)

Only pinot bianco and malvasia. Metallic in the way of aromatic grapes like riesling and yet there’s also an herbal quality. Quite verdant actually, a pesto, a green goddess dressing and a blanch of legumes. Really fine acidity keeps everything lit and elevated. Quite fresh for 2015 and with impressive length. Not overtly fleshy and the extract is dry, not unctuous. Might just develop some salted honey or caramel in a year or so. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted blind, May 2019

La Rajade Collio Bianco DOC Caprizi 2015, Friuli-Venezia-Giulia (WineAlign)

The three varieties are malvasia, friulano and chardonnay in quite a developed white blend, in every respect, hue, flesh and structure. Deeply golden, some botrytis affectation and a floral-spicy spectrum breached. Apple custard, metals and all sorts of elemental activity, from pyrazines to thiols. Almost fresh, somewhat famous. In the end freshness without acidity. Curious. Drink 2019-2020.  Tasted blind, May 2019

Marco Felluga Collio Bianco DOC Molamatta 2015, Friuli-Venezia-Giulia (WineAlign)

The binding pinot bianco gets in between friulano and ribolla gialla in this blend of curiously reserved aromatics, especially for a twenty fifteen. Sweetly herbal though faintly so. Composed, confident, stoic and sure of a slow evolving self. A Bianco for bianco sake, as if pinot is elevated and the international addendum is just not that important, i.e. bianco without overtly necessary barrel time. The palate tells a different story and so the richness and ambition comes out. Tart, tangy and creamy, long and metal fine. Drink 2019-2022. Tasted blind, May 2019

Primosic Collio Bianco DOC Klin 2015, Friuli-Venezia-Giulia (WineAlign)

The blend in 2015 is the ideal autochthonous plus international mix, with friulano, sauvignon, chardonnay and ribolla gialla. Rich, juicy and complex, with full fruit compliment, extraction and heft. Orchards of every respect offer layers and layers of fruit substance and unction. Moment’s notices of salt and surety add to the layers of pure fruit. Nectarines are part of the mix. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted blind, May 2019

Primosic Collio Bianco DOC Klin 2013, Friuli-Venezia-Giulia (WineAlign)

Poured from magnum with friulano, sauvignon, chardonnay, and ribolla gialla. A metallic aromatic blend, namely friulano like, with glycerin, paraffin and now, a honeyed back half. Quite a special accumulation and a speciality of the whole Collio experience. Great spice on the tongue here, piqued and peppery, special in so many ways. Some botrytis like notation but the wood involved is either beautifully integrated or wasn’t that substantial in the first place. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted May 2019

Good to go!

godello

San Floriano Del Cóllio, Friuli-Venezia Giulia

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