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Le monde du vin selon Nadia

Les cornichons

Nadia Fornier

Nadia Fornier

Comme nombre de jeunes Québécois une fois le cégep terminé, je suis partie avec mon sac à dos à la découverte de l’Europe. Je pensais y passer six mois, et de vignoble en vignoble, je me suis fait prendre au jeu. J’y suis restée près de deux ans.

À mon retour, j’avais 22 ans et je rêvais de la « grande Bourgogne ». Mais comme beaucoup de gens hélas, j’en parlais bien plus que j’avais l’occasion d’en boire.

Un jour, devinant mon intérêt pour le vin – j’en parlais sans cesse –, un collègue de la restauration m’a offert d’assister à une soirée de son club de dégustation. J’ai sauté sur l’occasion.

La thématique de la soirée portait sur la Bourgogne et le Jura. J’étais dans mon élément, tout allait bien, relativement bien. La gêne tombait peu à peu, mon syndrome de l’imposteur s’estompait. Puis, c’est arrivé…

L’un des derniers vins blancs de la soirée était un vin « naturel » du Jura issu de savagnin. Lorsque mon tour fut venu de prendre la parole, j’ai souligné la tenue en bouche et l’équilibre du vin, ajoutant que j’avais beaucoup aimé, même si a priori, j’avais été un peu déconcertée par son nez de cornichon à l’aneth.

Visiblement insulté, le propriétaire de ladite bouteille s’est lancé dans un discours aussi pompeux qu’interminable, au terme duquel j’avais perdu toute assurance. En résumé : j’aurais mieux fait de me taire. Peu lui importait que j’en aie vanté les nombreux mérites, que j’aie salué son équilibre et sa texture. En évoquant les cornichons à l’aneth, j’avais réduit son vin au statut de vinaigre…

À partir de cette soirée, j’ai commencé à me méfier de mes perceptions et cet épisode a continué de me hanter, même après plusieurs années à fréquenter le vin de façon professionnelle.

Puis, il y a deux ans, lors d’un séjour dans le Jura, j’ai eu la chance de rendre visite au vigneron-artiste qui était à l’origine de ce fameux vin. Incognito, jouant les touristes. Tout allait bien, merveilleusement bien, nous passions un agréable moment. Puis, c’est arrivé… Encore! Le nez dans le verre, j’ai redécouvert l’arôme du plus terrifiant des condiments.

J’étais encore à débattre en mon for intérieur quant à l’opportunité d’interroger ou non le vigneron à ce sujet, que je me suis entendu dire, du bout des lèvres, mais quand même.

–      Au risque de vous offusquer ou de paraître ridicule, est-il possible que je retrouve dans ce vin des parfums de cornichon à l’aneth?

J’ai fermé les yeux et serré les dents en attendant sa réponse.

–      C’est loin d’être ridicule, mademoiselle !

–      Ah bon ?

–      D’abord, les arômes d’aneth et de fenouil sont assez fréquents sur ce savagnin. Je ne sais pas pourquoi, mais c’est souvent comme ça. Et puis, le vin doit bien contenir près d’un gramme d’acide acétique, ce qui explique la notion de vinaigre…

–      Vous n’êtes pas fâché?

–      Pas du tout. Est-ce que le vin vous plaît ?

–      Absolument!

–      Alors, c’est tout ce qui compte !

Le savagnin, les cornichons et moiVoilà! Fin de la conversation. Neuf années d’incertitude balayées en deux minutes. Le savagnin, les cornichons et moi étions réconciliés. Enfin !

Si je vous raconte tout ça, c’est que je sais combien le monde du vin peut être intimidant. Surtout au début. Mais ce serait bien dommage de bouder son plaisir par peur du ridicule. Le vin ne devrait-il pas être une source de volupté et de découverte plutôt que d’angoisse ?

Certaines personnes de votre entourage donnent l’impression d’être plus calées que vous en matière de vin ? Et alors ?

Il y a une époque dans la vie de tout amateur de vin où l’on explore sans vraiment connaître. Et ce sont peut-être les moments les plus excitants. Ceux de l’éveil à des textures et à des saveurs nouvelles. Un plaisir purement sensoriel, zéro intellectuel.

Alors, allez-y, osez vous prononcer ! Votre appréciation d’un vin ne fera peut-être pas l’unanimité. Qu’importe. Nul ne détient le monopole du bon goût. C’est l’idée même de Chacun son vin : une pluralité d’opinions pour une pluralité de vins.

Car en plus de vous donner accès aux commentaires de chroniqueurs professionnels, Chacun son vin vous donne accès à un forum gratuit. Je me joins donc à Bill, Marc et Rémy, mes complices dans cette nouvelle aventure, pour vous convier à y participer, sans gêne et sans modération. Au plaisir de vous lire et d’échanger avec vous.

À propos des étoiles

Plutôt que d’adopter la notation sur cent points comme certains de mes collègues de Chacun son vin, j’ai préféré garder les mêmes barèmes que pour Le guide du vin, c’est-à-dire une séquence de zéro à cinq étoiles.

Chaque vin que je décris est donc noté dans sa catégorie et non pas dans l’absolu. Ainsi, un vin courant a autant de chances qu’un grand cru de se mériter une note de quatre étoiles, pour autant qu’il s’avère excellent dans sa catégorie.

Mais surtout, gardez en tête que ce sont les mots qui décrivent le vin, pas les étoiles ni les pourcentages…

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Vintages Preview April 12 Release (Part Two)

Wines on the Cusp of Spring, California and Boisset
by David Lawrason, with notes from Sara d’Amato and John Szabo

David Lawrason

David Lawrason

Easter is late this year, which is entirely fitting because spring has been late too. It is trying to break through, and yes we are in a rush, but there is still cool weather ahead, particularly in the evenings. Not much lolling about on the deck for dinner even though the sun is not setting until almost 8pm. This week’s VINTAGES release provides a fitting selection of wines for the cusp, from springy rieslings to mellow chardonnays and pinots, to a few warm and cuddly reds. Last week John Szabo and Sara d’Amato featured Veneto’s rich smooth ripassos and amarones, and I would add two thumbs up to Monte Del Fra 2010 Lena Di Mezzo Ripasso Valpolicella And Zenato 2009 Amarone Della Valpolicella Classico in particular. But there are many more good buys out there, and I had to do some serious editing of all the wines I wanted to mention. Thankfully John and Sara have included some of them.

Before launching in however, a word on the California Wine Fair in Toronto which saw yet another year of jam-packed trade and consumer portions. There is always such buzz at this event – but from all accounts the trade portion was uncomfortably crowded. But it does explain why California wine has become the leader at VINTAGES and is moving up in the ranks on the LCBO general list as well. There was lots of back slapping and congratulating going on as the Californians and the LCBO brass took turns at the podium at the annual Toast to California lunch – and indeed the sales numbers are something to celebrate. The only negative word was by the LCBO’s Nancy Cardinal who warned, gently, that California be cautious on pricing and value in the face of hot competition. To be more blunt, I think California owns the worst price quality ratio at the LCBO today. And I might have also added a warning to dial back on the creeping sweetness in their lower end red wines in particular. I love California as much as anybody else in that room, but what I was thinking, and what others were saying in the hallways, needs to be said aloud as well.

The dashing Jean Charles Boisset dashed through Toronto as part of the California Wine Fair – where he addressed the luncheon and explained why it is that a Frenchman is so infatuated with California, and how he is tuning California’s exuberant fruit to a more elegant French sensibility at the wineries he now owns – De Loach, Raymond and Buena Vista. Before the fair he gathered local scribes to taste through some of his California and Burgundy wines under the JCB label, and they were really very fine, polished and exacting. I particularly loved a new pinot noir called Maritus that is comprised of 47% Burgundy-grown pinot shipped to California where it was blended with 53% Sonoma pinot. Very, very fine indeed! About 20 cases will be offered in Ontario in the months ahead at $123.00.

The Stars Align
(Wines independently highlighted by two or more critics)

13th Street 2011 June’s Vineyard Riesling, Creek Shores, Niagara Peninsula ($19.95). John Szabo – 13th Street’s June Vineyard, planted in 1999 to the less common Riesling clone 49 from Alsace is particularly rich in decomposed yellow limestone, which one supposes contributes the wet rock/limestone minerality to complement a nice mix of citrus and orchard fruit. The overall impression is less of fruit and more of savoury-earthy flavours, while the off-dry palate lingers impressively. Fine concentration and depth overall – one of the finer June’s rieslings in recent memory. David Lawrason – Of a wide international selection of rieslings on this release, the “June” is the most intriguing. Sourced from a single, limestone strewn vineyard it offers lift, complexity and structure and a particular spice I am finding more often now as Niagara’s riesling sites mature.

Bachelder Oregon Chardonnay 2011 Rolf Binder Highness Riesling 2012 13th Street June's Vineyard Riesling 2012Rolf Binder 2012 Highness Riesling, Eden Valley, South Australia ($18.95). David Lawrason –This is a pretty, complete and bright wine. It was made by Christa Deans, daughter of founder Rolf Binder senior. She has worked in Champagne and is now focused solely on white wine making, bringing a soft touch (without resorting to exaggerated sweetness) to a genre more often displaying hard edged virility.  Sara d’Amato – The softer, more floral style of Australian riesling, in this case primarily sourced from the Eden Valley, is delightfully represented here. Certainly approachable but not a pushover, the wine delivers an abundance of nervy tension and excitement. Formerly known as “Veritus”, this well-respected house, steeped in history is now run by a dynamic duo of siblings and focuses on producing premium Barossa wines.

Bachelder 2011 Oregon Chardonnay, Willamette Valley, Oregon ($29.95). David Lawrason – As much as Oregonians like to see their wines as cooler and more Burgundian than California, many Oregon chards and pinots are still a bit blowsy in my books. It has taken a Canadian who has worked in Burgundy to create a wine that has some real leanness and tension. Nicely done Mr. Bachelder. Sara d’Amato – Bachelder’s Oregon chardonnay lacks immediate appeal – in fact, it is a bit of a head scratcher at first. It requires patience and an adventurous spirit to fully reap the rewards of this complex and slowly unveiling beauty. There is something quite reminiscent of Chablis in the wine’s verve and tautness along with its chalky and slightly lactic character. Be sure to sip this over the course of the evening as not to miss a moment of its quiet evolution.

Newton Johnson Pinot Noir 2012Domaine Drouhin Pinot Noir 2011Newton Johnson 2012 Pinot Noir, Upper Hemel en Aarde Valley, Walker Bay, South Africa ($26.95). David Lawrason – Excellent value here in an authentic cool climate, pale and almost lean pinot that will intrigue Burgundy fans. In March I spent two days in this serene “Heaven and Earth” Valley near Hermanus; a breeding ground for terrific, cool climate pinots and chardonnays, and I too am now convinced that the area down the coast southeast from Cape Town – and I include Elgin and Elim – is a bona fide pinot region. John Szabo – Newton Johnson crafts elegant and refined pinot noir from the light granitic-sandy soils of the upper Hemel-en-Aarde Valley, and this is a fine example of the house style. Don’t be deceived by the pale colour, however, as this packs in great length and depth for the price. The region clearly has another serious player to join the ranks of pioneers like Hamilton-Russell. Best now-2018.

Domaine Drouhin 2011 Pinot Noir, Dundee Hills, Willamette Valley, Oregon ($39.95). Sara D’Amato – Everything about this bottle looks French and one could easily both purchase and consume this wine without being the wiser. Inside and out it is elegant and refined and offers a highly complex palate. Long established for over a century in Burgundy, the house of Joseph Drouhin has become a critics’ darling. Its roots in Oregon go back to the mid-80s when current winemaker Veronique Drouhin (daughter of Robert Drouhin) touched down in the state after receiving her Masters in enology. Feeling a real sense of connectedness and appreciation of place, she and her brother Philippe (viticulturalist) manage this impressive US property. John Szabo – Drouhin’s 2011 Dundee Hills pinot is a pleasantly earthy, rustic, savoury and spicy wine in the classic old world style, complete with grippy, dusty tannins and saliva-inducing acidity and minerality. Length and depth are superior. In the end, this comes off as a very well made, woodsy, old world-inflected pinot, and should appeal to pinot noir lovers from both sides of the pond. Best after 2016.

Lawrason’s Take

JCB N° 21 Brut Crémant De Bourgogne ($27.95). The JCB brand involves both California and Burgundy wines. This excellent cremant could pass for Champagne, such is its tight core and generous, complex flavours. Jean Charles Boisset said they worked on finding the right balance for eight years before finally putting this wine on the market last year.

Aquinas Philospher's Blend 2009Perrin & Fils Réserve Côtes Du Rhône Blanc 2012J C B N° 21 Brut Crémant De BourgognePerrin & Fils Réserve 2012 Côtes Du Rhône Blanc ($14.95). Since tasting Perrin’s stunning white Châteauneuf-du-Pape a couple of years ago, then subsequently the white Coudelet and even the diminutive La Vieille Ferme blanc, it has become obvious this family is turning out some of the best whites of the Rhône. No exception here – great polish, fruit and balance. At a super price!

Aquinas 2009 Philospher’s Blend, Napa Valley, California ($32.95). I approach moderately priced Napa wines with skepticism. Often they are inferior wines trading up on the Napa name. This is an example of one that delivers quality on target – very much the philosophy of this winery. Winemaker Greg Kitchens has compiled a quite elegant, complex red based 79% on cabernet with merlot and 6% petit sirah that fills in the corners.

Dominio Del Plata 2012 Crios Malbec, Mendoza, Argentina ($13.95). It’s not hard to find inexpensive fruit-packed malbec nowadays but it is hard to find examples with some elegance, flair and fun drinkability. Susanna Balboa has found the secret in this straightforward, well priced “Crios” brand.

Crios De Susana Balbo Malbec 2012Concha Y Toro Marques De Casa Concha Carmenère 2008Jim Barry The Cover Drive Cabernet Sauvignon 2010Concha Y Toro 2008 Marques De Casa Concha Carmenère Peumo, Rapel Valley, Chile ($19.95). Carmenère, the late ripening cabernet-like grape that Chile has adopted as a speciality, is undervalued up and down the price spectrum. It is capable of wines of great structure, complexity and depth when it ripens well. And Peumo has turned out to be prime terroir. This wine borders on the majestic – very impressive indeed and almost sinfully cheap for the quality it delivers.

Jim Barry 2010 The Cover Drive Cabernet Sauvignon, Coonawarra, South Australia ($26.95). Jim Barry is based in the Clare Valley but the family purchased 14 acres of old cricket pitch within the Coonawarra appellation and planted it to cabernet. Under third generation winemaker Tom Barry the wines are showing great lustre and depth and this cabernet sourced both from Coonawarra and Clare is fine example at a very fair price.

Sara’s Sommelier Picks

Fielding Estate 2013 Sauvignon Blanc, Beamsville Bench, Ontario, ($18.95). An even-keeled sauvignon blanc that is just perfectly ripe without the green, overtly grassy character often associated with the varietal yet it still boasts a juicy, vibrant palate. Fielding has really struck a wonderful balance with this sauvignon blanc making it one of the best I have tasted from Niagara in recent memory (and at a price almost anyone can swallow).

Ulisse Unico 2012 Pecorino, Terre Di Chieti, Abruzzo, Italy ($19.95). Here is a wine that scores highly on everything from complexity to approachability and exhibits terrific energy and purity of fruit. Open, expressive and easy on the wallet. A romantic detail: “pecora” in Italian means “sheep” and the name of this varietal is attributed to the contribution of the sheep grazing the mountainsides where this varietal produces its most enticing berries.

Tawse 2011 Sketches Of Niagara Cabernet/Merlot, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada ($20.95). Classically styled but undeniably approachable, this Bordeaux blend from the careful hands of Tawse winery is a terrific value. The 2011 growing season in Niagara was a bit of a mixed bag with cool, rainy months followed by a hot and dry period and then a rainy harvest, which produced an unpredictable vintage of sorts. Tawse certainly seems to have managed well with this charming, harmonious and polished blend.

Fielding Estate Sauvignon Blanc 2013  Ulisse Unico Pecorino 2012  Tawse Sketches Of Niagara Cabernet Merlot 2011  Trivento Amado Sur Malbec Bonarda Syrah 2012  Château La Croix De Gay 2010

Trivento 2012 Amado Sur Malbec/Bonarda/Syrah, Mendoza, Argentina ($16.95). A fresh, modern wine that blends three red varieties that have found solid roots in Argentina. A memorable wine with wide appeal and plenty of grip and spunk – one of the top red values in this release.

Château La Croix De Gay 2010, Pomerol, Bordeaux, France ($47.00). Not to be missed – a stunner of a Pomerol that features impressive depth and complexity, even for the price. The wine is gracefully ageing and really beginning to reveal itself at this stage so can be consumed now or, happily, over the next 5 years. As is the right bank tradition, this is primarily a merlot based red with a relatively small dose of cabernet franc. Surprisingly, this is one of only two French reds in this release.

Szabo’s Smart Buys

L'Ecole No. 41 Red Wine 2011Godelia 2009 Red BierzoGodelia Red 2009, Spain ($20.95). In the last half decade, Bierzo has emerged as one of my favorite red wine appellations in Spain. Old vines, reasonable prices and a singular freshness rarely found in other parts of Spain contribute to the appeal. This is another fine, fragrant example of mencía, replete with dark berry fruit and violets, succulent and mouth filling palate with undeniable density and genuine old vine concentration (40-80 years old). It’s the sort of wine that makes you wonder why you would ever spend $20 for a basic commercial wine with barely half as much character. Best now-2021.

L’Ecole N° 41 2011 Red Wine, Columbia Valley ($29.95). This “Red Wine” (blend), sourced from several Columbia Valley vineyards as well as the press fractions of the L’Ecole Nº41’s estate fruit, is a maturing, evidently very rich and ripe red from this Washington State pioneer. The palate is dense and compact, firmly structured, and certainly as concentrated and deep as many Californian wines at twice the price. It will definitely appeal to fans of full bodied and powerful red wines. Best now-2023.

Julicher 99 Rows Pinot Noir 2010Cuvée Benkovac 2010Julicher 99 Rows 2010 Pinot Noir Te Muna Road, Martinborough, North Island ($24.95). This is a savoury, concentrated, generously extracted but balanced Martinborough pinot noir from a vineyard on the celebrated Te Muna Road Terrace and its alluvial gravel soils, purchased by Wim Julicher in 1996. I find this captures the savoury essence and wild fruit nature of the region accurately; this won’t be mistaken for Burgundy, but so much the better for its authentic regional character. Depth and concentration are well above the mean, and this should be taken seriously by pinot noir fans of all stripes. Best now-2020.

Cuvée Benkovac 2010 Croatia ($15.95). What an intriguing value this blend of cabernet sauvignon, merlot and syrah, grown in the coastal Dalmatian vineyards of northern Croatia is: savoury, spicy, resinous and potpourri scented, with a touch of leathery brettanomyces and volatile acidity to be sure, yet it seems to works well in the ensemble. Tannins are light and dusty, by now more or less fully integrated, while savoury dried fruit lingers. Well worth a look for fans of savoury, traditional old world wines done well.  Best now-2019.

That’s all for this week. See you over the next bottle.

David Lawrason
VP of Wine

From the April 12, 2014 VINTAGES release:

Lawrason’s Take
Szabo’s Smart Buys
Sara’s Sommelier Picks
All Reviews

Editors Note: You can find our Critic’s complete reviews by clicking on any of the wine names, bottle images or links highlighted. Paid subscribers to WineAlign see all critics reviews immediately. Non-paid users wait 30 days to see new reviews. Membership has its privileges; like first access to great wines!


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Château St. Jean Fumé Blanc 2011


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Championship Round: “So, You Think You Know Wine?”

Season 4 is a Wrap! Who will come out Victorious?

We have sadly come to the end of So, You Think You Know Wine? – Season 4.  This departure from the previous critic-against-critic challenge of past seasons was very exciting and full of energy. This time the competition had a game show/family feud feel with tasters battling against each other in teams, rather than individually.

Season 4 was certainly a big learning experience for us, as we had originally thought that working in teams would make it easier for the competitors to identify the wines. We soon discovered that teamwork is not always an advantage. We watched despairingly as the critics sometimes strayed from their first, and usually correct, instincts and wandered down a completely different path. But, we also saw teams almost perfectly guess certain wines, like in this, the final, episode.

Click here to watch The Final Round, as Raiders of the Lost AOC battle it out against Whole Bunch Press, or read on for highlights from the last round.

RaidersAOC

WholeBunch

Highlights and Score from Round #8

In the second semi-final round, the last-placed (or as Rhys reminds us, “4th place”) Whole Bunch Press faced The Inglorious Bitters, who were in first place. Whole Bunch Press were on the right track when they guessed California as the place the wine came from.  They said it had “the plush texture of California.”  Unfortunately, they guessed that the grape was Merlot, not Petite Sirah, and they thought it was from Sonoma, not Napa.

The Inglorious Bitters also had a tough time identifying Stags’ Leap Winery Petite Sirah.  Because of the high alcohol level, and very ripe, almost dried grape notes in the wine, they concluded that it was an Amarone from Veneto, Italy.

In the end, Whole Bunch Press won the round and went on to the Championship round against the Raiders of the Lost AOC.

The scoring remains the same as past episodes, with points for Variety, Country, Region, Appellation and Vintage, and a little less emphasis on Price this season. After 8 rounds the totals are in and the Semi Final match-ups have been set:

So, You Think You Know Wine? Scorecard

 

Season 4 For those of you new to our video series, “So, You Think You Know Wine?”, we have saved all previous episodes under the Video tab.

We hope that you found this new format entertaining and that you had as much fun watching as we did filming. As usual, please send your comments to feedback@winealign.com and feel free to share this video with your friends and family.

So, You Think You Know Wine?

Special thanks to our glassware sponsor, Schott Zwiesel, for their beautiful glasses and carafes used during filming.

Previously on “So, You Think You Know Wine?”

Espisode 4.1: California Square Russian River Chardonnay

Episode 4.2: Louis M Martini Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

Episode 4.3:  Travaglini Gattinara

Episode 4.4: Finca Decero Malbec

Episode 4.5 Paul Zinck Eichberg Riesling

Episode 4:6  Wolf Blass Gold Label Shiraz Viognier

Episode 4:7 Semi-final #1 The Chocolate Block

Episode 4:8 Semi-final#2 Stags’ Leap Winery Petite Sirah

 


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The Successful Collector, Julian Hitner – The new Gran Selezione Category of Chianti Classico

Raising the bar or raising prices?

Julian Hitner

Julian Hitner

Debuting this spring, the new ‘Gran Selezione’ category of Chianti Classico has the entire wine world abuzz. What exactly is this new premium wine category? What are the rules? And when might we expect to begin seeing bottles labelled as Gran Selezione in VINTAGES stores?

Such questions were uppermost on my mind when I attended the official launch of Gran Selezione in Florence last month. Held in the illustrious Throne Room of the Palazzo Vecchio, the excitement of participating producers (some of the best in the region) was palpable. For many, the creation of the Gran Selezione category had been a long time coming. With the widely recognized rise in the quality of Chianti Classico over the past several years, it was only natural that a new ranking be developed at the top level so as to reflect the calibre of the best bottlings. To most in attendance, this was at least the message the Consorzio del Vino Chianti Classico very much wished to convey.

Chianti LogoThe rules for Gran Selezione are reasonably simple. First and foremost, all grapes must be estate-grown. In other words, producers may not purchase grapes from other growers (such as bulk producers) for the purpose of adding them to the final blend. Second, the wine must be matured for at least 30 months in wood prior to release, including at least 3 months in bottle. Finally, the wine is to be strictly examined by an expert panel of impartial judges before release. As with Chianti Classico and Chianti Classico Riserva, all Gran Selezione must be produced from 80-100% Sangiovese. In addition to local grapes such as Canaiolo and/or Colorino, grapes such as Cabernet Sauvignon and/or Merlot may constitute up to 20% of the final blend.

The establishment of this new category has been met with considerable anticipation, though several issues remain. Of these, the most significant is how this new premium ranking will affect other existing categories of Chianti Classico. For instance, will the style of wines bottled as ‘Chianti Classico Riserva’ be changed? According to existing regulations, Riservas must be aged for at least 2 years in wood, including 3 months in bottle. They also do not have to be crafted exclusively from estate-grown fruit. But even already (and this should not come as a surprise), some producers have begun diverting their best estate-grown fruit from wines formerly destined to be labelled as Riserva to bottles destined to be labelled as Gran Selezione. As a whole, does this mean the quality of Chianti Classico Riserva is destined for a nosedive? Only time will tell.

Chianti Pyramid

 

Another issue is whether Gran Selezione wines (the grapes of which are not even obliged to come from single vineyards) will even be qualitatively superior to Chianti Classico Riserva or ‘standard’ Chianti Classico in the long run. Simply put, is the Gran Selezione category nothing but a price grab in the making? So far, this does not seem to be the case. From what I tasted during my time in Firenze, wines labelled as Gran Selezione almost always represented the finest, most qualitatively appreciable bottlings of any given estate, at least among Chianti Classico offerings. A good omen of things to come? Once again, only time will tell.

Indeed, the quality of initial offerings are truly impressive, with many possessing a much-welcomed extra degree of concentration and complexity that seem to definitively separate them from their ‘standard’ counterparts. But personal preference does play a role, as not everyone might appreciate their Chianti Classicos aged for so long in oak at the expense of fruit freshness and approachability. Hence the contradictorily positive effect(s) of the new Gran Selezione category: an expansion of styles and more diverse levels of quality than ever before.

Availability of Chianti Classico Gran Selezione:

At present, wines labelled as ‘Chianti Classico Gran Selezione’ are set to be released in VINTAGES stores over the next several years. At time of publication, we are uncertain if these wines will be featured in bi-weekly releases or if they will be offered exclusively through the VINTAGES Classics Collection. For now, all wines may only be purchased through the agent listed. They are truly worth seeking out.

My top choices:

Mazzei Castello di Fonterutoli 2010 Chianti Classico Gran Selezione ($75.00) surpasses a large number of expectations. For both its concentration and refinement, this is definitely one of the most powerful, most delicious versions I have ever tasted from this extraordinary establishment. Decanting is recommended. Available through Trialto Wine Group.

San Felice 2010 Il Grigio Chianti Classico Gran Selezione ($35.00) is a first-rate outing, representing one of the best buys of this premium new category. In addition to 80% Sangiovese, five other grape varietals made it into the final blend. Decanting is recommended. Available through John Hanna & Sons.

Fontodi 2010 Vigna del Sorbo Chianti Classico Gran Selezione ($95.00) is the finest version I have tasted thus far, hailing from one of the most accomplished producers in Tuscany. A potential legend in the making, the Manetti family has every reason to take pride in this incredible offering. Decanting is certainly warranted. Available through Rogers & Company.

Il Molino di Grace 2010 Il Margone Chianti Classico Gran Selezione ($75.00) is built for the very long-term, but may be consumed now with unbridled gusto. For those unfamiliar with this winery (launched in 1999), Frank Grace’s eponymous operation has developed quite a reputation for itself in a very short time. Decanting is recommended. Available through Connexion Oenophilia.

Antinori 2009 Badia a Passignano Chianti Classico Gran Selezione ($60.00) is to be commended on so many levels, not just for its sensational pedigree but also for its obvious superiority to a good number of its predecessors. An immensely rewarding wine. Decanting is recommended. Available through Halpern Enterprises.

Chianti Classico Riservas currently available:

Castello di Bossi 2008 Berardo Chianti Classico Riserva ($29.95) hails from an estate with which I am only just beginning to become familiar. Owned by the Bacci family, human activity appears to have taken place at Castello de Bossi since ancient Roman times. A very fascinating locale for winegrowing. Decanting is recommended.

Fontodi 2009 Vigna del Sorbo Chianti Classico Riserva ($75.00) represents one of the top offerings of its graduating class, and may very well be the last vintage of Vigna del Sorbo to be bottled as ‘Riserva.’ A wine of remarkable disposition and breed, this will keep for up to a dozen years. Decanting is recommended.

Castelgreve 2009 Chianti Classico Riserva ($29.95) provides an extremely solid introduction to wines crafted more in the ‘traditional style.’ This usually means greater emphasis placed on dried fruits and cedarwood, an approach that tends to lend itself well to all sorts of Italian foods. Decanting is recommended.

Castello San Sano 2008 Guarnellotto Chianti Classico Riserva ($19.25) was tasted a year ago and has since been reduced in price. Enjoyable over the medium term, this may not be the most complex wine, though the quality of its ingredients makes for a rather impressive experience. Decanting is recommended but not mandatory.

Click the links below for more Chianti Classico wines and reviews.

Cheers,

Julian Hitner

Editors Note: You can find our critics reviews by clicking on any of the links. Paid subscribers to WineAlign see all critics reviews immediately. Non-paid users wait 30 days to see new reviews. Membership has its privileges; like first access to great reviews.

Julian’s Chianti Classico Reviews
All Julian Hitner Reviews


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Anthony Gismondi; The Final Blend

The Nationals: Fourteen years of searching for Canada’s best wine.

Anthony Gismondi

Anthony Gismondi

When our judges sit down to evaluate this year’s crop of wines at the 2014 WineAlign National Wine Awards of Canada some in the room will have judged at all 13 preceding events. Since there is no way to convey to you how valuable that is in the tasting room we are including the chardonnay results gleaned from the first, 2001 Canadian Wine Awards held high above the Royal York Hotel in Toronto to compare with the latest 2013 chardonnay results from our stop in Niagara-on-the-Lake last summer. I think you will agree we have all come a long way.

You might say David Lawrason and I were dreamers back then, thinking that if we provided the perfect setting for an annual ‘Canadian Wine Awards’ competition, wineries would fall over themselves wanting to enter their wines and measure themselves against the opposition. Let’s just say we have learned a lot over the past 14 years.

It’s been a long process of building trust. First among ourselves to the do the job properly and then to convince Canadian producers what we are doing is worth their participation. Both David and I have worked extremely hard to hone our judges into the sharpest panels in the country. Many have cut their wine teeth judging in other shows around the world. Over the years we have worked with scores of judges looking for just the right combination of experience, tasting ability and the most important asset, the ability to work within a group, to make sure the best wines get moved forward.

Anthony Gismondi and David Lawrason - Lead Judges

Anthony Gismondi and David Lawrason

We don’t always get it right individually but with the right leadership and a room full of open minds what we try to do is make sure the group seldom, if ever, gets it wrong.

When we started the Canadian Wine Awards it was our goal to make sure the results were a three way win – for the wines, for the judges and for the awards organizers. I clearly remember returning from shows in Europe where I spent a week tasting and assessing wines for free never to be told which wines I had tasted. In Australia I learned the importance of the panel leader and the head judge and the need to develop younger apprentices. We use all this and more at The Nationals.

Over time the costs to put on the awards have crept up from some $80K to about $105K. I mention this because I have read so much about what a money grab wine awards are for the organisers. We don’t make any money on the first 1100 entries, which is why we lost money for most of the formative years and have barely balanced the budget in the remaining competitions. We always thought an iconic Canadian company would step in and sponsor the awards but so far that has yet to happen. We are not complaining or even contemplating quitting, because as Canadian hockey players would say, “It is what it is.”

That said, we remain committed to building something that will stand the test of time and celebrate the best of Canada wine. Even that in itself sounds, well, almost un-Canadian. We have other odd notions too.

NWAC13 Logo We pay our judges for a week’s work because we value their time and their input. We also fly them in and out from across the country and we feed them each day. Including the back room and volunteers, we look after 30 people for seven days. After moving about the country – Toronto, Lake Louise, Victoria and Calgary –  a few years ago we made the decision to hold the awards in wine country to shine a spotlight on various Canadian wine regions and so far we have spent some memorable weeks in Niagara-on-the-Lake, the Okanagan Valley and the Annapolis Valley. Could Vancouver Island or Prince Edward County be next?

But back to the three way win.

We have a lot of happy judges because they can taste a fabulous cross-section of local wines, blind, under ideal conditions (many they wouldn’t see in their own market) and before they walk out the door at the end of the week they receive all their notes and scores along with key sheets telling them which wines they tasted that week. They are immediately free to write about any of the hundreds of wines they tasted, using their personal notes no matter what the outcome of the awards.

From a winery’s point of view, their wines are put in front of a number of top commentators from across the country and we promise to publish a permanent online note at WineAlign for all wines receiving a bronze, silver, gold or platinum medal. Of course, winery entrants can also meet the judges throughout the week and they are welcome to inspect the back room of the competition as well. We have nothing to hide.

Volunteers and wines

Separate room for Volunteers and wines

By the way, unlike many competitions done with brown bags etc. to rightfully hide the labels from judges, we opted for a much more fail-proof system. We use separate rooms so that all bottles and labels are visible to the back room staff but never seen by the judges. This is in addition to several checks throughout the system from entry to physically pouring the wine into a tasting glass that prevents any wine from ending up in the wrong flight. We also have a wonderful sponsorship with Schott Zwiesel that puts each wine in a top quality restaurant style glass, versus a tiny ISO wine glass, giving the mostly young wines some room to breathe and show off.

That brings us to the wineries that don’t enter. To be frank we don’t dwell too much on their absence because in blind tastings we don’t really know who is missing in any given flight of wines. Post competition, when the names are revealed we may ponder their absence for a moment or two, but frankly if they weren’t involved there isn’t much we can discuss or compare. My sense is consumers are more confused and doubting when they don’t see a winery’s wines in the rankings. That said we have come to learn some wineries just “don’t do competitions” for whatever reasons and in the end we respect anyone’s decision not to compete.

We can all argue about what a medal is worth but at The Nationals please know that we fret over every gold and silver medal. In the minds of our judges each is a major achievement. We also award what we term a high bronze; to keep the number of medals to a meaningful amount we only recognise the top end of the traditional bronze range, in our case 86 and 87 points. And last year we implemented the concept of ‘virtual’ medals ensuring that all gold, silver and bronze medals appear on the WineAlign website whenever anyone is searching our database.

NWAC 2013 Platinum MedalIn keeping with our attempts to add extra value to a winery entering our awards we instituted platinum medals in 2013 – see our winners here – to recognise the very best wines in the competition. They represent only one percent of the total entries and are chosen based on the highest scoring wines. In the past we highlighted the Best White, Red, Sparkling and Dessert wines of Show, but often this would be at the expense of say five or ten wines that actually scored higher than the top wine in any single class. Under the new Platinum system if the top five wines of the year are syrahs or chardonnays they will be recognised as such and stand alone above individual category winners with slightly lower scores. This reflects the tasting room mantra and the raison d’être of The Nationals: find the best wines in each flight and push them forward to be eligible for the highest medal possible.

Speaking of flights, over the years we have trimmed our average flight size and daily wines tasted and find we get better results. Today our wine flights average eight or nine wines and we taste about 80 to 90 wines each day. There are no 50-wine flights at The Nationals and there are no 200-wine days for our judges. We keep our people fresh and engaged for the six hours they work each day.

Penticton, British Columbia

Penticton, British Columbia – Home of the 2014 ‘Nationals’

And finally, the win for the third party, the organizers, WineAlign. The awards give us a chance to feed our huge audience, now more than 1.5 million unique visitors each year, with the latest information on Canadian wine. The yearly results of The Nationals are yet another way we can engage with them on a regular basis. Our results aren’t just on the radar for a day in the newspaper, or a single press release. They are built into our website and remain there for all to see. And this year for the first time, the results will also be published in French.

David and I feel great responsibility for the awards, and after 14 years we believe we are finally gaining the trust of the judges, the wineries and consumers. I guess what we are saying is we don’t take anything for granted. All we ask is that everyone else do the same and help make this the most successful year yet. The 2014 WineAlign National Wine Awards of Canada takes place June 20-25 in Penticton, British Columbia and David Lawrason and I can’t wait to dream again.

2001 Canadian Wine Awards

CHARDONNAY

Gold

Hawthorne Mountain 2000 Gold Label Chardonnay BC, 24.95
Daniel Lenko 1999 Old Vines Chardonnay ON, 19.95

Silver

Henry of Pelham 1999 Reserve Chardonnay ON, 13.95
Inniskillin Okanagan 2000 Reserve Chardonnay BC, 14.95
Inniskillin 1999 Montague Vineyard Chardonnay ON, 16.95
Stoney Ridge 2000 Kew Vineyard Reserve Chardonnay ON, 18.95
Strewn 1999 Terroir Strewn Vineyard Chardonnay ON, 18.95
Peninsula Ridge 1999 Reserve Chardonnay ON, 24.95
Cilento 1999 Reserve Chardonnay ON, 29.95
Thirty Bench 1999 Reserve Reif Vineyard Chardonnay ON, 40.00

WineAlign 2013 National Wine Awards of Canada

CHARDONNAY

Platinum

Meyer Family Vineyards 2011 McLean Creek Chardonnay McLean Creek Vineyard $35 – $42
Quails’ Gate Winery 2011 Stewart Family Reserve Chardonnay $35

Gold

Mission Hill Family Estate 2010 Perpetua Osoyoos Vineyard Estate $35 – $41
Henry of Pelham 2011 Chardonnay Estate $20
Mission Hill Family Estate 2011 Reserve Chardonnay $17 – $20
Norman Hardie Winery 2010 Chardonnay Unfiltered $35

Silver

Meyer Family Vineyards 2011 Tribute Series Chardonnay Old Main Road Vineyard $35 – $42
Baillie-Grohman 2011 Chardonnay Baillie-Grohman Vineyard $25
Ravine Vineyard 2011 Chardonnay $24
Ganton & Larsen Prospect Winery 2011 The Census Count Chardonnay $13
Jackson-Triggs Niagara Estate 2011 Delaine Chardonnay $25
Exultet Estates 2011 Chardonnay The Blessed $40
JoieFarm 2011 En Famille Reserve Chardonnay $30
Road 13 Vineyards 2011 Chardonnay $24
Burrowing Owl 2011 Chardonnay $25 – $36
Hidden Bench 2011 Estate Chardonnay $29
Upper Bench Estate Winery 2011 Chardonnay $25
Closson Chase 2011 Chardonnay Closson Chase Vineyard $30
Mike Weir Wine 2012 Chardonnay $25
Tawse 2010 Estate Chardonnay $38
Tawse 2010 Member Select Chardonnay $50
Niagara College Teaching Winery 2010 Barrel Fermented Chardonnay Donald Ziraldo Vineyard $19
Privato Vineyard and Winery 2011 Chardonnay $30
Lailey 2011 Chardonnay, old vines $40
Tawse 2011 Robyn’s Block Chardonnay $46
Norman Hardie Winery 2011 County Chardonnay Unfiltered $35
Wayne Gretzky Okanagan 2012 Chardonnay $16
Trius Winery at Hillebrand 2011 Trius Chardonnay Barrel Fermented $20
Painted Rock Estate 2011 Chardonnay $30

The complete results of the National Wine Awards of Canada are posted on WineAlign at: NWAC 2013 Results. The results include all the Platinum, Gold, Silver and Bronze medal winners in several style and grape variety categories, plus a “performance report” on the Top 20 wineries in the country. 


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WineAlign’s First Wine Tour to the County: Terroir Wine Festival & More

Inaugural WineAlign Wine Tour

Saturday May 3rd, 2014, Prince Edward County

Please join us for a fun (and wine) filled day in the ‘County’. We’ve planned an excellent adventure to Terroir, the County’s premier wine festival, as well as several other stops. Terroir is an annual showcase for new County wines.

WineAlign BusIt’s a full day including:

Luxury coach travel from Toronto
Gourmet lunch at Huff Estates Winery
Terroir Wine Festival in Picton, Ontario
Wine tasting at Rosehall Run
Gourmet pizza dinner at Norm Hardie’s winery
David Lawrason providing colour commentary

Click here to Purchase tickets

Lunch at Huff Estates 

Buffet lunch at Huff Estates includes a sparkling wine on arrival and a glass of their Chardonnay or Pinot Gris to accompany your lunch.

Huff LogoSalads: Chef’s Caesar; Roasted vegetable pasta
Soup: Carrot, citrus and ginger
Sandwiches: Roast beef, tomatoes, mayo on a bagel ; Ham, brie & apple sandwich
Dessert: Chef’s choice

Huff Estates Winery

Terroir Wine Festival 

The Terroir Wine Festival is held annually in the historic Crystal Palace in Picton Ontario. Many County wineries will introduce their new spring releases and serve their own unique wines paired with delicious cheeses and other gourmet food tastings.  We’ll spend three hours enjoying and sampling the best wines the County has to offer.

Wine tasting at Rosehall Run

Enjoy more wines with an exclusive wine tasting in the winery. You can also visit the Greer Road Grocer. After Rosehall it’s literally a hop across the road to Norm Hardie’s for dinner.

Rosehall

Dinner at Norman Hardie Winery

Norm’s gourmet wood-oven pizzas are almost as famous as his Pinot Noir. As his guest you’ll get to enjoy a pizza, salad, wine (and Norm!) during our visit.

Norm Hardie

David Lawrason will be doing colour commentary during our travels. David lived in the County for several years and is one of the most knowledgeable individuals around regarding its history, wineries and wines.

We’ve put together a fantastic day. The cost of lunch, Terroir, tasting and dinner including all taxes and gratuities is about $130.00.  Add onto that a tank of gas for a round trip from Toronto and you’re north of $200.00. The price of our trip is $150.00 including all wine, taxes, fees and gratuities. On top of that you’ll have room on the bus to store any wine you purchased at our stops, not to mention the peace of mind of not having to drive.

Click here to purchase tickets

Itinerary:

9:15am depart Yorkdale shopping plaza
11:30am Lunch at Huff Estates; sparkling welcome and wine
1pm Terroir wine festival in Picton
4:30pm Rosehall Run wine tasting
5:00pm Gourmet pizza and wine at Norm Hardie’s
6:30pm Depart the County
8:30pm Arrive at Yorkdale

Please arrange a designated driver to and from Yorkdale, or take public transit.

This is our first foray into bus trips and we want to make it a great experience for everyone. The last thing we want to do is deal with anyone who has over-indulged.  So while there will be lots of wine to drink, we encourage our members to spit a lot in order to keep their palates sharp and enjoy the amazing wines available in the County.

WineAlign promotes the responsible legal and enjoyable consumption of wine to adults over 19 years of age. Please drink responsibly.

Note: We will be emailing a RELEASE, WAIVER OF LIABILITY, AND ASSUMPTION OF RISK AGREEMENT out to all participants that will have to be signed and collected when boarding in Toronto.

Click here to purchase tickets


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Vintages Preview for April 12th 2014 (Part One)

Dried Grape Wines Back in the Spotlight
by John Szabo, with notes by Sara d’Amato

Judging by the recent flurry of releases, first from Ontario (see the February 15th release) and now from Italy, appassimento wines – made from grapes partially dried before fermentation – are a hot commodity. April 12th puts the Veneto, the world’s reference region for dried grape wines, in the spotlight, with VINTAGES offering a competent selection of both traditional and modern styles of ripasso, Amarone and other IGT blends. I offer a half-dozen recommended wines, including three Amarones, loosely categorized by style. Sara d’Amato adds her picks, and we have dug up a handful of Ontario examples still in stock at VINTAGES. The rest of the highlights for the April 12th release will reach your inbox next Thursday.

John Szabo, MS

John Szabo, MS

The Veneto region in Italy’s northeastern corner is the epicenter of production of appassimento wine. The term, derived from the Italian verb appassire, to wither or dehydrate, refers to wines made from grapes that are partially dried before being pressed and fermented. Cassiodoro, minister to King Theodore of Ravenna (in today’s Emilia-Romagna), described the technique in meticulous detail in the early 6th century, and the wine he references, acinaticum, is the archetype for today’s Recioto della Valpolicella.

Cassiodoro recommended hanging grape bunches on metal hooks from the rafters in a draughty barn, ensuring that each bunch was kept separate and well ventilated, lest unwanted rot set in. But while this romantic image of withering grapes in old barns with open windows may still be conjured up by the mention of Amarone or Recioto, modern appassimento methods resemble more research laboratory than medieval farmhouse.

Appassimento from Sordato.it

Appassimento from Sordato.it

Speak to Amarone producers today and they’ll tell you about dehydration and metabolic kinetics, and the interaction of withering time and speed on wine composition. The metabolic changes that occur during drying – malic acid degradation, oxygen consumption and CO2 production, the formation of various alcohols, acetic acid and aromatic compounds like terpineol (floral, lilac perfume) are far better understood than Cassiodoro could have ever fathomed. Most estates have laboratory-like temperature and humidity controlled drying rooms, with ventilators that run continuously, not just when the evening breezes pick up, so that precise characteristics can be sought. Such a highly prescribed appassimento process yields a much cleaner, more reliable product than even just a few decades ago, with far less loss due to rot and other cryptogrammic diseases. Amarone drinkers rejoice, unless of course you had a penchant for the funky old days.

Here in Ontario, appassimento is gaining in popularity, with at least ten wineries now experimenting with dried grape wines, as well as one each in Nova Scotia and Québec. These numbers will surely swell when The Cool Climate Oenology and Viticulture Institute (CCOVI) at Brock University reveals the results of an ongoing, in-depth research project in partnership with industry to evaluate and compare different appassimento techniques, now in its 4th of five years. Ontario may be poised to become the second epicenter of appassimento.

CCOVI Greenhouse

CCOVI Greenhouse

Using cabernet franc from one vineyard, CCOVI is comparing the results of drying grapes (to 26º and 28º brix) in a barn with windows and fans (at Cave Spring), in a re-purposed tobacco kiln with a propane heater and fans (at Reif Estate), in a greenhouse (European Planters in Niagara-on-the-Lake) and using a specialized drying chamber developed by Vineland Research Station CEO Jim Brandle and bio-systems engineer Bernard Goyette in conjunction with Graham Rennie of Rennie Estates and John Young of Kew Vineyards and Angels’ gate.

A trial was also initiated this year to answer the age-old question of whether noble rot (botrytis), at least in small percentages (up to 10%), is desirable, while a promising yeast strain, isolated at Brock from the skin of Icewine grapes, is being tested to see if levels of acetic acid and acetone – two regular but unwanted features of appassimento wines – can be naturally reduced.

Sensory evaluation of the resulting wines is underway and will be compared to the wine made from control grapes left on the vine to ripen to the same level, as well as to wine made from the same fresh grapes.

“It’s already clear that each technique brings different results”, says research director Dr. Debbie Inglis. “Even grapes dried off the vine continue to undergo biochemical activity, meaning that there’s more than just dehydration (water loss) going on”. Glycerol increases and acids decrease at different rates according to treatment, and each variety will surely bring its own set of curves to the graphs.

In the end, CCOVI’s goal is simply to quantify the differences of the various techniques, not to say which makes better wine or which grapes to use. “We will give winemakers the information of what happens and how much it costs so they can decide which works best for them. It’ll be up to the industry to determine which style of wine they’d like to pursue” continues Inglis.

COVVI is also in discussions with the VQA technical committee, with the ultimate goal of assisting in developing industry standards, though anything formal is still years away.

In the meantime, get your appassimento fix with these recommended wines from the ancestral home, coming to you on April 12th at VINTAGES.

Traditional Style

Think of these as the more savoury, rustic, earthy styles, for fans of traditional European wines.

Bertani Villa Novare Ripasso Valpolicella Classico Superiore 2010 Michele Castellani Colle Cristi Amarone Della Valpolicella Classico 2008Brigaldara Amarone Della Valpolicella Classico 2009 2009 Brigaldara Amarone Della Valpolicella Classico ($49.95). The Cesari family purchased the villa and surrounding lands that is now Brigaldara in 1929, though wine has only been made here since 1979. The sensibility is, however, firmly old school, as this dried fruit, nuts, herbs and pot pourri-scented Amarone reveals. There’s even a pleasantly earthy, underbrush/dried peach note reminiscent of late harvest/botrytis affected wines (possible?), nicely balanced by the typical bitter dark chocolate flavours of classic Amarone. Not at peak yet to be sure, this should hit full stride within the next 5-7 years or so.

Michele Castellani 2008 Colle Cristi Amarone Della Valpolicella Classico ($45.95). This is a relatively light and delicate, savoury, old school example of Amarone from Castellani’s Cà del Pipa vineyard in the heart of the Classico appellation, with loads of charm and great balance. Tannins are fine and dusty, almost but not fully resolved, so tuck this away for another 2-4 years minimum for maximum enjoyment.

Bertani 2010 Villa Novare Ripasso Valpolicella Classico Superiore ($19.95). Bertani, formerly known as Villa Mosconi, is credited with labeling the first bottle of Amarone in 1940. It’s not surprising then that this storied house produces an arch-traditional example of ripasso, and all the more complex and interesting for it. The palate is firm and juicy, wonderfully balanced, coming across as neither excessively raisined nor simple and fruity – the way old school ripasso should be. Best 2014-2020.

Balancing Tradition with Modernity

These wines manage a fine balance of clean, bright fruit alongside more traditional savoury flavours in a style that should appeal broadly.

Zeni Costalago 2012 Tommasi Crearo Della Conca d'Oro 2010 Zenato Amarone Della Valpolicella Classico 2009 Zenato 2009 Amarone Della Valpolicella Classico ($49.95). Zenato’s Amarone offers substantial caramelized fruit, herbal liqueur, bitter chocolate and spent coffee ground type flavours – in other words, complexity comfortably above the average, while the palate is thick, rich and viscous, densely knit, with superior concentration and length. Overall this is a fine bottle of wine, which will continue to evolve and improve over the next 4-7 years no doubt, and hold into the late ’20s without a stretch.

Tommasi 2010 Crearo Della Conca d’Oro ($19.95). Though labeled as an IGT Veronese, this wine hails from the heart of the Valpolicella Classico zone in what’s referred to as the Conca d’Oro, the golden amphitheater with its volcanic clay soils referred to locally as crearo. It’s the addition of cabernet franc to classic corvina and local oseleta that takes this out of the traditional appellation. In any case, the wine is quite fine, fresh, supple, succulent and balanced, with a fine mix of both fresh and raisined fruit, dried herbs and flowers and gentle baking spice. Complexity is above the mean, and I’d say this will continue to evolve and gain interest over the next 2-4 years and beyond. Best 2014-2020.

Zeni 2012  Costalago, IGT Rosso Veronese ($15.95). Of the entry level appassimento wines on offer this release, this blend of corvina, corvinona, plus cabernet and merlot is the smartest buy. It’s a nice mix of modern and traditional, fresh and gently raisined fruit, retaining an inviting liveliness and juiciness. Length and depth are modest, though appeal is broad. Best 2014-2017.

Sara’s Appassi-Picks

Tenuta Sant’antonio 2010 Selezione Antonio Castagnedi Amarone Della Valpolicella ($43.95). Four brothers, 50 hectares of vineyards and a heck of a lot of experience are responsible for this very good value Amarone named after the late Castagnedi patriarch. Here is a wine with the structure, presence and intensity you would expect from a wine of this style. Put away for another 3-5 years for best enjoyment.

Monte Zovo 2011 Sa’ Solin Ripasso Valpolicella ($17.95). A polarizing wine – ripe and rich but with more depth that character than immediately meets the tongue. I absolutely loved the notes of cherry, bramble, sandalwood, dried leaf, tobacco, plum, and wild blackberry that came to life on the palate. Its long, smoky finish proved sensual and compelling. I’ve tasted this vintage twice now over the span of two years and continue to derive great enjoyment from its lush and penetrating flavours. At this price, it is worth a gamble.

Tenuta Sant'antonio Selezione Antonio Castagnedi Amarone Della Valpolicella 2010  Monte Zovo Sa' Solin Ripasso Valpolicella 2011 Tedeschi Amarone Della Valpolicella Classico 2009  Zenato Ripassa Valpolicella Superiore 2010

Tedeschi 2009 Amarone Della Valpolicella ($39.95). Tedeschi’s style has been on the thick and sweet side of the Amarone as of late and certainly modern. I tend to shy away from this overt and filling style and so I was delightfully surprised to taste this latest incarnation from the 2009 vintage. It is bold and appealing but also feminine, floral and with a plethora of distinct flavours that can be progressively discerned. Widely appealing and deservedly so.

Zenato 2010 Ripassa Valpolicella Superiore ($25.95). Finally, Zenato’s Ripassa struck a chord with me. This is an expensive Ripasso, as the style goes, but one which consistently over-delivers for the price. The elegant vintage showed some real restraint on the palate and a judicious use of oak that was quite welcome among many flaming examples in this feature. A smart buy.

Ontario’s Appassimentos

The following appassimento reds made in Ontario are also still in stock at VINTAGES. Click the links to read full reviews.

The Foreign Affair 2011 Dream, Niagara Peninsula ($28.95)

The Foreign Affair 2009 Temptress, Niagara Peninsula ($44.95)

The Foreign Affair 2012 The Conspiracy, Niagara Peninsula ($19.95)

Burning Kiln 2012 The Strip Room Merlot/Cabernet Franc, Ontario ($24.95)

Marco Piccoli, Jackson-Triggs

Marco Piccoli, Jackson-Triggs

Speaking of Ontario, you might want to buy one of the few remaining tickets for this week’s Winemaker’s dinner. David Lawrason and Jackson-Triggs winemaker Marco Piccoli will guide you through a select offering of Jackson-Triggs wines, each paired with a specially prepared gourmet dish at EPIC restaurant in Toronto. Marco will speak about the unique viticulture and terroir of the Niagara region and talk about some of the history behind one of Niagara’s most iconic wineries. Find out more here.

That’s all for this week. See you over the next bottle.

John Szabo MS

John Szabo, MS

From the April 12, 2014 Vintages release:

Wines of Veneto
All Reviews

Editors Note: You can find our Critic’s complete reviews by clicking on any of the wine names, bottle images or links highlighted. Paid subscribers to WineAlign see all critics reviews immediately. Non-paid users wait 30 days to see new reviews. Membership has its privileges; like first access to great wines!


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Château St. Jean Fumé Blanc 2011


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Chacun Son Vin: Welcome to the Conversation

Chacun Son Vin: Welcome to the Conversation
by Bill Zacharkiw

Bill Zacharkiw

Bill Zacharkiw

I have been writing about wine for over ten years, and have been involved in various aspects of the wine industry for over twenty. I owned a restaurant, was the head sommelier at a Relais Châteaux restaurant, and worked the floor at the SAQ.

Over that time I’ve seen a lot of changes. Wine styles have come and gone. The “New World” is not so new anymore, and wine from the four corners of the wine world have never been more accessible.

However, the most important change is you. Yes, you the wine lover.

There was a time when wine critics and sommeliers descended from their mountain tops to proclaim their verdict about wines. You were expected to shut up and drink.

You have levelled the playing field. You have your own tastes and opinions, and they are as worthy as ours. Critics, like myself and others on the team of CSV – Marc Chapleau, Nadia Fournier and Rémy Charest, and everyone who writes for WineAlign –  taste far more wine than most. We travel, meet winemakers and walk the vineyards. We taste back vintages so that we can better assess a terroir and the wine that it produces over time. This allows us to look at a wine in a larger context than most, and our job is to bring this information to you.

We’ll do that here.

But our palates are no more worthy than yours. The future of wine criticism is about a conversation. It is about an exchange of viewpoints. And what I love most about Chacun Son Vin is that it provides that link.

You’ll notice that we critics don’t always agree about wines. I’m virtually allergic to new oak; I prefer finesse over power, and firmly believe that the very best wines are not those which are technically perfect, rather those that reveal the imperfections of the land and the vintage in unique and tasty ways. Others have their own criteria.

Those that know me know that I don’t like scoring wines. There are too many variables at play which can change an appreciation of a wine. But a condition of becoming part of this team was that all wines had to be scored; which provides the unique ability of this site to let you “align” your tastes with various critics. And that is new, and a good thing. And in the end, having an opportunity to recommend wines that I love and to write about the wine industry to an even greater audience was more important than “the score.”

So I choose to use a five-star scale. Decoding my pleasure-ometer is as follows: two stars I consider drinkable yet unexciting; three stars is a good, solid wine; four stars and I’m running to the store to buy more, and for a wine to get five stars, I probably cried as I drained the last of the bottle.

I do factor in price, so value is a consideration. In my books, if a winery is going to be charging more than $30 a bottle, I hold them to a higher standard.  Conversely, if a winery can produce an inexpensive bottle that talks of a place and doesn’t taste like it came out of a laboratory, then they reach hero status with me.

But please read the tasting note, that’s what’s really important!

Notes & Stars

So follow the voice or voices that you feel best align with your tastes. But remember, you can also participate and I hope many of you use this site to further this conversation.

The SAQ releases hundreds of wines every two weeks. Many of these are new to the province, and new to us. We as a team will try and taste as many of them as we can. We will recommend what we like, and tell you why. And by leaving us your email and becoming a member, we will send you weekly emails with a list of what turned us on.

After that, it’s up to you.

Bill Zacharkiw

 

 

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Bienvenue chez Chacun son vin

Chacun Son Vin, un nouveau site web consacré au vin, voit le jour aujourd’hui au Québec! ChacunSonVin.com offrira le guide le plus complet au Québec en matière d’achats et d’appréciation des vins.

Montréal, Québec, le 3 avril 2014- WineAlign, le plus important service en ligne dédié à la découverte, au partage et à la critique des vins, autour d’une vaste communauté virtuelle, est fier d’annoncer le lancement de son site québécois, Chacun son vin. Avec la mise en ligne du site québécois, WineAlign/Chacun son vin devient la référence par excellence pour les achats de vin dans tous les principaux marchés canadiens.

Final_ChacunSonVinLes chroniqueurs québécois Marc Chapleau, Nadia Fournier, Bill Zacharkiw et Rémy Charest deviennent les principaux collaborateurs du nouveau site et se joignent ainsi à l’équipe de chroniqueurs de WineAlign, qui regroupe les meilleurs et les plus chevronnés de tout le Canada.

« Nous comprenons toute l’importance de créer un site véritablement québécois, et pas seulement une version française de WineAlign », explique Bryan McCaw, président de WineAlign. « Tout en suivant une approche similaire à celle qui a assuré notre succès en Ontario, Chacun son vin possède son propre nom, sa propre identité et sa propre équipe. En rassemblant une équipe de chroniqueurs parmi les plus respectés au Québec, nous croyons avoir établi les bases requises pour nous permettre de bâtir quelque chose de solide dans le principal marché du vin au Canada. »

« Pour les amateurs de vins francophones du Québec », poursuit-il, « Chacun son vin offre une gamme complète de services en français, y compris des notes de dégustation des plus récents arrivages, des articles informatifs et un espace où l’on peut échanger des idées et des opinions sur le vin. »

Les amateurs de vin auront la possibilité de choisir la ou les langues – et même les régions – qu’ils veulent utiliser sur le site : français seulement, français et anglais pour le Québec seulement, ou un accès complet à l’ensemble de la communauté et aux chroniqueurs de tout le Canada. Les utilisateurs pourront ainsi avoir accès à la communauté qui leur convient. »

Chacun son vin : comment ça marche

Chacun son vin offre des services exceptionnels pour aider les consommateurs à faire des achats bien informés en allant à la SAQ. Vous pouvez l’utiliser avant de vous rendre en succursale, en lisant les notes de dégustation des plus récents arrivages, ou encore en utilisant votre téléphone intelligent, quand vous êtes devant les rayons de votre succursale. Le site combine les inventaires à jour en succursale, les notes de dégustation de chroniqueurs professionnels et les avis de la communauté, afin de bien aligner les choix de vins avec votre budget, vos accords mets-vins préférés, vos gouts et ceux de vos amis.

Chacun son vin est aussi un site pratique, où l’on trouve des articles écrits par plusieurs des meilleurs chroniqueurs vins au Québec et au Canada, ainsi que des outils efficaces pour gérer votre cave. Il s’agit également d’un site social qui permet de partager de l’information et d’échanger sur les vins avec vos amis et avec l’ensemble des membres de Chacun son vin et  de WineAlign

 L’équipe québécoise

L’équipe - Chacun son vin

L’équipe – Chacun son vin

Chroniqueur vin et auteur, Marc Chapleau œuvre dans le monde du vin québécois depuis 1985. Il a écrit pour toute une gamme de publications, y compris le Guide Hachette des vins, Voir, Affaires Plus, Vins & Vignobles et Wine Tidings. Il a également été le rédacteur en chef de Cellier, un magazine qui a été récompensé de plusieurs prix.

« Le plaisir du vin, c’est de le partager et Chacun son vin est un lieu de partage, où les amateurs peuvent échanger leurs notes et recommandations », explique-t-il. « J’ai hâte de contribuer à mon tour à cette nouvelle communauté du vin. »

Nadia Fournier a récemment pris la relève de Michel Phaneuf à la tête du Guide du Vin Phaneuf, véritable référence au Québec, publiée depuis 1981. En plus du Guide du vin, elle écrit également une chronique mensuelle dans le magazine L’Actualité.

« Chacun son vin vise à rassembler des gens qui ont une grande diversité d’opinions, avec un but commun: guider le consommateur et l’aider à trouver le vin qui lui convient. Je suis très heureuse de me joindre à cette communauté d’amoureux du vin. »

Bill Zacharkiw tient une chronique vin hebdomadaire dans la Gazette de Montréal depuis 2007. Ses articles sont publiés partout au Canada via le réseau de quotidiens de Post Media. Avec 25 ans d’expérience dans le monde du vin, comme sommelier et comme chroniquer, Bill s’est fait connaître pour son regard irrévérencieux sur tout ce qui entoure le vin.

« C’est un honneur pour moi de faire partie d’une aussi belle équipe et, encore plus, de contribuer à ce que WineAlign a accompli : la création d’un site dynamique où l’on peut à la fois obtenir de l’information et partager son propre point de vue. L’avenir est à la conversation entre chroniqueurs et amateurs de vin, et Chacun son vin viendra certainement favoriser cette conversation. »

Rémy Charest écrit sur le vin et la gastronomie depuis 1997, dans des publications comme Le Devoir, Coup de Pouce, Châtelaine, Le Journal de Montréal et Cellier, entre autres. Il contribue régulièrement à Bien dans son assiette, une émission consacrée à l’alimentation à la radio de Radio-Canada. Il fait également partie de l’équipe de direction du magazine américain Palate Press. 

« Je suis très fier de contribuer à faire découvrir au Québec ce que WineAlign a réussi dans le reste du Canada et je serai particulièrement heureux de travailler du côté des médias sociaux, afin de contribuer à établir un dialogue fructueux autour du vin avec les amateurs québécois. »


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WineAlign Launches Chacun Son Vin in Quebec

Chacun Son Vin, a new website on wine is launched today in Quebec!
ChacunSonVin.com will be Quebec’s most comprehensive guide for purchasing and evaluating wines

Montreal, Quebec — (April 2nd,  2014) – WineAlign, Canada’s largest community based service for reviewing, sharing and discovering wine, is proud to announce the launch of its Quebec website under the name Chacun Son Vin. With the addition of Quebec, WineAlign/Chacun Son Vin will become the reference for wine purchases in Canada’s major wine markets.

Final_ChacunSonVinQuebec-based wine writers Marc Chapleau, Nadia Fournier, Bill Zacharkiw and Rémy Charest will be joining WineAlign’s team of Canada’s most respected wine critics as principle collaborators for the website.

“We understand how important it is to create a “made in Quebec” site, and not simply an extension of WineAlign.” says Bryan McCaw, President of WineAlign. “While it follows a similar formula that made us a success in Ontario, it has its own name, its own identity and its own writers. By creating a team of Quebec’s most respected wine writers, we feel we have created the right foundation to build upon in Canada’s top wine market.”

“For French speaking wine lovers of Quebec,” he continued, “Chacun Son Vin provides a comprehensive wine resource in their own language, including reviews of the latest wines, educational articles, and a place to exchange their thoughts on wine in their own language.”

Wine lovers will be able to choose which language or languages they wish to use on the site. French only, French/English Quebec only, or have access to the entire community and wine writers across Canada. The community will be as large as those using the site want to it to be.”

How Chacun Son Vin works

Chacun Son Vin is the ultimate service for making informed buying decisions at your local SAQ. Use it before you shop by reading reviews of the latest SAQ Cellier releases, or while standing in the store aisle with your mobile device. It aligns current store inventory, professional critical ratings and reviews, your budget, your food choices, your taste preferences and those of your friends.

It is also a practical site with articles written by Quebec and Canada’s top wine writers, and has available valuable tools to manage your own cellar and inventory. It is also a social site that enables you to share information and discuss wine recommendations with friends and other Chacun son vin members.

 The Quebec team

Chacun son vin Tema.

Chacun son vin Team

Bill Zacharkiw has been the weekly wine columnist at the Montreal Gazette since 2007. His articles are carried throughout Canada via the Post Media network of newspapers. Over his 25 years in the wine industry, from sommelier to critic, Bill has garnered a reputation for his irreverent take on the wine world.  “I was honoured to be asked to be part of such a great team. But even more, to be part of what WineAlign has achieved – a dynamic website where people can not only get information, but add their own opinions. The future of wine criticism is about a conversation, not simply wine critics telling others what to drink. Chacun Son Vin will hopefully enable this conversation.”

Nadia Fournier recently took over from Michel Phaneuf as lead writer for Le Guide du Vin Phaneuf, Quebec’s oldest and most trusted wine review guide which was first published in 1981. Aside from Le Guide du Vin, Fournier also has a monthly column in the French language news magazine L’Actualité.  “Chacun Son Vin is about bringing people together with a diversity of opinions, all working towards a common goal: helping others find the perfect wine for their tastes.” says Fournier. “I’m really excited to be joining this new community of wine lovers.”

Wine critic, author and editor, Marc Chapleau has been involved with the Quebec wine scene since 1985. He has written for a number of publications including le Guide Hachette des vins, Voir, Affaires Plus, Vins & Vignobles, Wine Tidings and most recently, was Editor in chief of the award winning magazine, Cellier.  “Wine is about sharing, and that is what Chacun Son Vin is all about – wine lovers sharing tasting notes and recommendations,” says Chapleau. I can’t wait to add my thoughts, and my recommendations to this new community.”

Rémy Charest has been writing about wine and food since 1997, for publications such as Le Devoir, Coup de Pouce, Châtelaine, Le Journal de Montréal and Cellier, among others. He is a regular contributor to Radio-Canada’s national radio show about food and wine, Bien dans son assiette, and is on the editorial board of US-based online magazine Palate Press.  “I’m very happy to help bring to Québec what WineAlign has accomplished in the rest of Canada, and I’ll be particularly glad to work on the social media side of things, which is a great way of creating a conversation around wine.”

 

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Coldstream Hills Pinot Noir 2008