Find the right wine at the right price, right now.

Italy – a special place for both wine and food

Gismondi’s Final Blend
by Anthony Gismondi

Anthony Gismondi

Anthony Gismondi

There’s already a buzz in Vancouver about the massive contingent of Italian wine producers headed for the west coast in late February to headline the 38th Vancouver International Wine Festival. The city will host some 60 producers that make wine in just about every important region of the vine land they call Enotria. But are we ready?

Whenever I’m lucky enough to be in Italy I take my watch off. It’s not so much that time stands still, but rather that it moves at its own pace and that rarely includes 60 beats per minute. Italians can be gregarious talkers and use a whirlwind of gestures when doing so, but when it comes to food and wine there is a calmness and a sense of purpose in their choices that few other cultures can match.

It’s not that they spend a lot of time thinking about pairing wine and food as much as they serve what comes naturally, or might I say historically, in the region where they live. What we can say is there is a simplicity and a clarity of flavours on the plate that make Italy a special place for both wine and food. Often only one or two flavours are present in any dish and rarely more than three and it is this reliance on simplicity and uncluttered flavours that gives Italian cuisine its wide appeal.

When you think about it, the Italian way is probably a good road map for where we need to go in Canada. Certainly there could be some relevance between modern-day high end Canadian wine and the mostly lean, fresh style of Italian white and red wines. Freshness and minerality are the hallmarks of many Italian whites and when paired with equally fresh seafood dishes they can move to another level, revealing finesse and character from the front of the glass to the back.

Pasta and Italian wine is an easy match and if you think like an Italian and add perhaps only one or two ingredients the results can be stunning. In the case of verdicchio, a crisp white with plenty of minerality and acid, it is a quick match for tossed fresh pasta, available at most specialty markets, with a variety of pesto. In Canada, pasta, some fresh clams in a butter sauce, and a steely chardonnay could result in a perfect match.

Map of Italy - Vancouver International Wine Festival

Pinot grigio is probably the best know Italian white wine but often the light-bodied, dry, crisp wine is overwhelmed by the food we serve with it in North America. A case in point is squid. It is almost always breaded, spiced and served as an appetizer when in Italy, pan-seared squid with a little olive oil, salt and pepper is the perfect match for a refreshing pinot grigio.

Red wines with vital acidity, like barbera, nebbiolo and sangiovese, are incredibly versatile food wines working with mushrooms, tomatoes, wild boar, raw beef and more. I can think of many local Canadian gamay, cabernet franc, grenache and pinot noir that fit that bill.

Enter Italy. There is something about Italian cuisine that simply does not intimidate the average food and wine aficionado in the way French food and wine traditions do. Perhaps it’s the Italian propensity for showing up late and staying late that sets a tone for informality. This month as the Canadian dollar heads south faster than a snowbird, I suggest you consider organizing an in-house dinner party and end a hectic day, Italian-style, at home, with friends.

It’s easy enough to pull together a no fuss menu and share it before hand with your guests and then suggest they bring along some of their favourite Italian labels to accompany one of the courses. With no restaurant mark-ups to double the price consider spending a bit more at retail and bring along a great bottle of wine for the night.

Friulano Tenuta di Angoris Villa Locatelli 2013 Adami Bosco di Gica Brut Valdobbiadene Prosecco SuperioreTo get the party underway think about serving a selection of antipasti and your favourite Prosecco. The best Prosecco, the DOCG, are made from the glera grape and grown in the Conegliano and Valdobbiadene regions of Veneto, just north of Treviso. It’s a softer style bubble, with ripe fruit and a brisk finish, well-suited to all types of antipastos and pre-dinner bites. Think marinated artichoke hearts, roasted red peppers, a selection of olives, and some thinly sliced sopressata, capicola and Genoa salumis. I recommend the Adami Bosco di Gica Brut Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore.

Make pasta your secondi or second course and keep it simple. You can pick up a variety of fresh pastas at most specialty markets. Simply decide on the saucing and you are ready-to go. Linguine with pesto is both satisfying and easy to prepare and it’s relatively wine friendly. All you have to do is boil some water, cook the pasta al dente and then toss with the pesto.

To accompany the pasta, think about the cooler, fresher style Italian whites from the north or those grown near the sea, or at altitude. A current favourite is Tenuta di Angoris Villa Locatelli Friulano 2014 from Friuli-Venezia Giulia. Fragrant wildflowers, honeysuckle, nectarine and fennel set the stage for a white wine that will cut through the pasta.

The main course sounds impossibly challenging but grilled Florentine steak or Bistecca alla Fiorentina could not be simpler to prepare. Rub the steak with a good olive oil and generously season it with salt and pepper. Then simply toss it on a pre-heated grill and prepare it to order for your guest. Grill some vegetables ahead of time – they taste sensational as the dry heat concentrates natural sugars and gives them a bold and rustic look. Now you have a main course built for big reds.

Tuscan sangiovese or Super-Tuscan reds are perfect match or you could look to the south of Italy for slightly more rustic reds that are big on value. Begin with Rocca della Macie Roccato 2009, a super Tuscan bled made by Sergio Zingarelli. Roccato is a 50/50 mix of sangiovese and cabernet sauvignon all picked by hand and vinified separately aged in French oak barriques. It easily has the heft to handle any grilled meats.

Similarly, fans of big reds will enjoy the Barone Ricasoli Colledilà Chianti Classico Gran Selezione 2010.  Colledilà has been a part of the Brolio estate for centuries, and is the cru that stands above all others. Expect a rich, round, smooth, juicy palate with a long but warm, meaty finish.

Rocca Delle Macìe Roccato 2009 Barone Ricasoli Colledilà Chianti Classico Gran Selezione 2010 Il Passo Nerello Mascalese E Nero D'avola Vigneti Zabu 2013 Batasiolo Bosc Dla Rei Moscato D'asti 2014

The ultra bargain steak wine comes from Sicily: Il Passo Nerello Mascalese e Nero d’Avola Vigneti Zabu 2013, Sicily. An 85/15 mix of nerello mascalese and néro d’avola whose canes are cut allowing the grapes to naturally dry out on the vines. The nose and palate is a savoury mix of baked fruit including plums, figs and black currants flecked with a peppery, cherry, chocolate finish.

If you have paced yourself through this multi-course marathon you can easily cap off the evening with an array of chocolate truffles from your favourite local purveyor and a lightly frizzante fruity ending based on the aromatic moscato grape. The fruity, orange ginger notes of the lightly sparkling moscato will all but set off the chocolate and send your guests home smiling.

The Batasiolo Bosc Dla Rei Moscato d’Asti 2014, as reviewed by Sara d’Amato, will suit.

Now all you need do is add music (Italian of course), and lively guests (Italians not a prerequisite) and you’ve yourself una serata perfetta – a perfect evening.


Castello Di Gabbiano Riserva Chianti Classico 2012


Filed under: News, Wine, , , , , , , , , ,

Enologica Bologna Fat and Happy

In this month’s Final Blend, Anthony Gismondi reports on Enologica Bologna, discovering a wealth of wine and food that speaks to the heart of Emilia-Romagna.

Gismondi’s Final Blend
by Anthony Gismondi

Anthony Gismondi

Anthony Gismondi

The administrative district of Emilia-Romagna spreads across Northern Italy encompassing the historically significant regions of Emilia and Romagna, roughly halfway between Piemonte and Tuscany. Bologna is the capital of what is surely one of wealthiest and most developed regions in Europe and while Vancouverites like to brag about the quality of life on the West Coast it pales by comparison to what Bologna has to offer its citizens. The locals refer to the city as la grassa, ‘the fat’ for its rich culinary history.

In the year 2000, Bologna was named the cultural capital of Europe for a year, an easy choice given its first settlements date back to at least 1000 BC. From the Etruscans to the Celts and the Romans Bologna’s history is as rich as its food and wine. It is also home to the oldest university in the world – the University of Bologna founded in 1088. The centre of the city has been largely restored and conserved since the 1970s and it is a delight to walk the city center rich in monuments, medieval towers, churches, shops and some amazing restaurants.

I recently spent a weekend in Bologna and environs attending the 2nd Enologica Bologna discovering a wealth of wine and food that speaks to the heart of Emilia-Romagna: things like Prosciutto di Parma and Parmigiano Reggiano, Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale, Mortadella and Culatello di Zibello and well, the list goes on and on. The wines are equally charming, and ancient, involving a score of DOPs, DOCGs and IGTs. You need a handbook to navigate some of the labels, names like gutturnio – a blend of barbera and croatina (aka bonarda). Lambrusco salamino, lambrusco sobara, albana, bombino bianco, pignoletto, centesimino, malvasia and trebbiano are but a few of the names you are likely to encounter. Perhaps the best known is the resurging Sangiovese di Romagna.

Enologica 2015

It’s the same sangiovese that made its way to Tuscany. Historically the grapes were planted to the hillsides of the Apennines, a ridge that neatly divides Tuscany from Emilia-Romagna. Over time it made its way down to the flat lands and lost its purpose. There was a notion back then that the sangiovese clones of Romagna weren’t the best, but more diligent grape growing and vastly improved winemaking suggests the clones of Sangiovese di Romagna are among the best grown in Italy.

It’s not an easy grape to grow or even to come to know in the glass. According to Giorgio Melandri, a local journalist and true expert on most wine and food matters in Emilia-Romagna, the local sangiovese can be challenging. “It is always austere, moody and disrespectful (as well as relatively pale in colour), but as he correctly points out, “At the same time [it’s] able to maintain the ability to be elegant and profoundly interpret its territory.”

Fattoria ZerbinaThe final point is key. If a grape can express its terroir, and as a grower you know that, then you are well down the road to making the best wine you can. This is the story of the Sangiovese di Romagna in 2015. Throw in younger winemakers, a return to natural yeast fermentations by many, organic grape growing, older barrels, larger barrels, gentle winemaking and you have a story of growers in search of nuances that will set their wines apart from their famous neighbours to the south.

According to Melandri, “When the sangiovese grape grows on the clay soil of the first hills going in the direction of Romagna, the resulting wine has distinct floral characteristics, becoming more mineral the higher, less fertile and less compact the terrain becomes. Romagna is a true representation of mosaic terroirs and the sangiovese is able to express all of its potential as an interpreter of both the soil and microclimate.”

Knowing how slowly any changes in regulations move in Europe I admit to being shocked and exhilarated to learn that the growers of Emilia Romagna are working hard to develop a series of subzones within the existing DOCs and DOCGs to better differentiate their soils and wines. Most of these zones lie south of the historic Via Emilia, first constructed by the Romans in 187 BC, along the northern Italian plain, stretching from modern-day Rimini on the Adriatic coast, to Piacenza on the river Po.

This sense of place, something you might think is embedded in all of Europe’s wine, is all new in 2015 Emilia-Romagna where sub-regions are actively being identified to better tell the story of Sangiovese di Romagna. It’s a theme I experienced throughout the tasting room at Enologica where scores of wineries from all across the region gathered to showcase their latest bottles. While I was seeking to learn more about the Sangiovese di Romagna, after wandering the tasting room only a short distance it became clear there is so much more to discover in Emilia-Romagna.

Bologna streetBologna street 1

Moving from the plains to the hills, sangiovese and so many other indigenous grapes are going back to where they began. The sites are tougher to manage, the sloping, shallow soils poor and hard to work but the resulting grapes are so much more interesting. Couple that with the region’s waning fascination with international wines and the signs all point to a new authenticity in the region. Less oak, more acid, clean wines that taste different than the rest of the world are becoming the hallmark of the new Emilia-Romagna. That and seemingly endless and energetic supply of young people forming the next vision of this ancient region.

Today there are 87 different grapes varieties growing in the region. They range from red sangiovese to sparkling pignoletto and lambrusco. Throw in a few well-known ‘international’ varieties, albeit planted during the Napoleon era, along with various indigenous grapes with curious names and stories, like albano famoso, pagadebiti, centesimino, sgavetta, spergola, burson and uva ruggine and you still have barely scratched the depth of the region’s vineyards.

Here in Canada the region of Emilia-Romagna is better known for its specialty food like Prosciutto di Parma and Parmigiano Reggiano than most any of its wines. And like most markets, our wine buyers tend to specialise in the easy to sell wines of Tuscany and Piedmont long before they would even consider a label from Emilia-Romagna.

Too bad I say. Eventually, just maybe, consumers will push back and force buyers everywhere to consider abandoning the ‘lowland’ brands for the ‘hillside’ labels and wines that matter.

Emilia-Romagna has found its way, can it only be a matter time before we do.


Fattoria Zerbina Ceregio Sangiovese di Romagna 2013, Emilia-Romagna, Italy
Villa Papiano i Probi, Sangiovese di Romagna Superiore Riserva 2011, Emilia-Romagna, Italy
Il Nespoli Sangiovese di Romagna Superiore Riserva 2012, Emilia-Romagna, Italy

Fattoria Zerbina Ceregio 2013Villa Papiano I Probi Di Papiano Sangiovese Di Romagna Riserva 2011Il Nespoli Sangiovese Di Romagna Superiore Riserva 2012

Wolf Blass - Here's to the Chase






Filed under: News, Wine, , , , ,

Buyers’ Guide to VINTAGES June 13 – Part One

Repetitive Wine Lists, Italian Whites & Reds, Sparkling
By John Szabo MS, with notes from Sara d’Amato

John Szabo, MS

John Szabo, Master Sommelier

The mid-June VINTAGES release has mini-features on sparkling wines, Italian whites, rosé and father’s day suggestions. This week Sara and I will cover the first two (and we’ve added our top Italian reds of the release for balance) while David is down in the schist in Priorat and the Douro Valley (he’ll be back next week for part two).

Although the selection of Italian whites is predictably repetitive, rather than a focused effort to showcase Italy’s best, there are at least several commendable wines. Ditto for the sparkling selection, in which wines from outside of Champagne (and France) really shine, showing the breadth of options that the 21st century offers.

Same Old Same Old

You could be forgiven for thinking that the Italian whites offered on June 13th look as though they were selected out of a random (very large) pile of submissions, based on a whole bunch of criteria that supersede any logical reasons for being included in a feature on Italian whites.

You’d be forgiven because that’s essentially how it works. A high score plucked at random from the vast worldwide sea of wine reviews, the reputation of the agent who made the submission to the LCBO, the willingness of the winery or agent to “support” the sale of the wine through LCBO stores, the agreement of the winery to wait many, many months for payment and risk a discount if sales don’t meet quota, and a host of other, often opaque, criteria are used to put these features together.

A wine’s contribution to the breadth and completeness of the LCBO’s offering comes far down the list, if at all. “Theme” is rather a grand word. It seems instead that these themes – and not just Italian whites but so many other of the LCBO thematics – is retrofitted to a group of wines that made it through.

Consider that of the seven wines under this banner, only two are new to the province, all are from the north, all but one are stainless steel fermented, and two are from the same grape and nearly the same price. Italy’s greatest, most distinctive white grapes, like fiano, greco, verdicchio or carricante, to name but a few, are nowhere to be found. Instead, we have more pinot grigio, like we have every release. Ah, it’s because pinot grigio sells, you say. Well of course it does if that’s all that’s offered. Where’s the discovery? Where’s the expertise of the buyers? If a sommelier student were to hand me this list of Italian whites, presented as even a small representative collection of what Italy has to offer, they’d flunk on the spot. In a country that’s positively fermenting with innovation, none of it is even hinted at here.

So much for choice…

I frequently see parallels on restaurant wine lists. It’s very obvious when a sommelier has been “bought” (or is plain lazy or inept). The list will contain a number of wines that have no real business being there. Picture, for instance, a short list with, say, five similarly-styled chardonnays out of fifteen whites. Or a list on which half the wines are from the same country or region (without any obvious ethic or regional theme to the restaurant). Or a half-dozen wines from the same winery, or twelve versions of the same jammy, heavily oaked, or zesty, tart berry fruit-flavoured red. Such overlaps don’t add anything to a wine program, in fact they take away from it. Each repetitive selection takes up dollars and space that could be reserved for a different grape/style/category of wine, broadening the selection without increasing inventory costs, offering more choice to customers, while at the same time lessening the tyranny of having to choose between a bunch of wines that all taste the same.

But such is invariably the list compiled by a sommelier who sits back and waits for wine agents to show up at the door. They’ll just buy what they’re told to, what’s convenient, or rely solely on the supplier who bought the umbrellas on the patio.

The best lists, on the other hand, are assembled by a sommelier who actively pre-determines what the list should contain, establish his/her own selection criteria, and then does the leg work to go out and find the best wines to fill each category.

Now, it’s not a perfect parallel, and I’m not suggesting that the LCBO has been bought, or is even lazy or inept. I know category buyers are hamstrung by a tangle of rules that often precludes them from being the true “architects” of a really useful, representative collection of wines under any theme. I do not envy them. Send each of the category managers on research trips to see what’s really happening on the ground, who’s making the best wines, the best values, what are the classic and innovative styles? No question of it. Instead, they’re treated as little more than administrative clerks passively sending out tenders then shuffling though files and sorting data by “Score: highest to lowest”.

It’s frustrating to know that so much more ground could be covered, literally. Our monopoly system limits Ontarians’ wine choice. Period. It’s like a repetitive restaurant wine list, only it’s the only restaurant in the province. Or rather, chain of restaurants.

On the Bright Side…

On the bright side, at least the wines in the thematic are strong, even within a very narrow band of style. I’m not griping about quality, just selection. So read on below for the best.

Buyers Guide for Italian Whites

Pieropan 2011 La Rocca Soave Classico DOC, Veneto, Italy ($39.95)

Alois Lageder Porer Pinot Grigio 2013 Zenato Sergio Zenato Lugana Riserva 2012 Pieropan La Rocca Soave Classico 2011John Szabo  This is the single best white in the release, from any country, and a steal in the premium white wine category. La Rocca is Pieropan’s steeply terraced, calcareous-limestone vineyard on Monte Rochetta, within sight of Soave’s medieval castle, one of the oldest “cru” white wines in Italy, first bottled in the 1970s. It has a distinctively chalky smell, not dissimilar to top Chablis, along with substantial depth and complexity, seamless texture and marvellously mineral, non-fruit complexity. It should age beautifully over at least another decade.
Sara d’Amato – Anything but your basic Soave, in case the price wasn’t a giveaway. Complex and quite traditional with a very pleasant evolved character beginning to show.

Sergio Zenato 2012 Riserva Lugana, Veneto, Italy ($30.95)

John Szabo – Zenato’s Lugana Riserva is often one of my favourites from the company’s portfolio, and a fine expression of trebbiano di Lugana. 2012 yielded a particularly generous and mouth-filling wine, with the faintly sweet tinge of wood-derived caramel flavour lingering alongside ripe tropical fruit; in a blind tasting I might be fooled into guessing barrel fermented sauvignon blanc.

Alois Lageder 2013 Pinot Grigio DOC Südtirol – Alto Adige, Italy ($21.95) 

John Szabo – A premium, biodynamically-grown pinot grigio far above the oceans of innocuous PG that flood northern Italy. This is somewhere between the leaner Italian style and richer Alsatian versions. Marked minerality adds interest. Drink or hold short-term.

Le Monde 2013 Pinot Bianco DOC Friuli Grave Italy ($16.95) 

Villanova Traminer Aromatico 2014 Masera Gavi 2013 Le Monde Pinot Bianco 2012John Szabo – Vigneti Le Monde has vineyards in a particularly chalky district of northern Friuli, off of the more common gravelly soils, which accounts perhaps for the finesse and fragrance exhibited here. It’s a gentle and fragrant, spring blossom-scented pinot blanc, light-mid-weight, neither tart nor flabby, just well-balanced.

Masera 2013 Gavi, Piedmont, Italy ($18.95)

Sara d’Amato – So many Gavis that make it to the shelves of VINTAGES are unfortunately dilute and very simple, certainly not representative of the elegant but appealing and playful nature of cortese. In this example from Masera, the vibrant acids take center stage along with concentrated citrus and tree fruit.

Villanova 2014 Traminer Aromatico, Friuli, Italy ($13.95)

Sara d’Amato – All that is wonderfully fragrant about spring is captured in the nose of this easy-breezy, elegant, ethereal white. Lovely as an aperitif or for brunch with friends.

Buyers Guide for Italian Reds

Batasiolo 2012 Sabri Barbera d’Asti, Piedmont, Italy  ($15.95) 

John Szabo – For the money, this is a polished and fruity, zesty and juicy barbera that over-delivers. This would make a great restaurant by-the-glass pour, full of joyful fruit and bright acids.
Sara d’Amato – A juicy, fleshy, well-made and easy-drinking barbera under $16 – a great summer house red to pull out for barbeques and unexpected guests.

Castello Di Ama 2009 Riserva Chianti Classico DOCG, Tuscany, Italy ($34.95) 

John Szabo – Beautifully evolved at this point, yet still bold and full, like a mouthful of warm gravel, neither austere nor hard, this is a fine example of mature Chianti. Best with the tempering of food – roasted or grilled protein ideally.

Batasiolo Sabri Barbera d'Asti 2012 Castello Di Ama Chianti Classico Riserva 2009 Feudo Arancio Nero d'Avola 2013 Quercia Al Poggio Chianti Classico 2009

Feudo Arancio 2013 Nero d’Avola DOC Sicilia, Italy ($13.95) 

John Szabo – A terrific little wine for casual BBQs and the like, honest, firm and dusty in the Italian style, an essence of the herbally fragrant Sicilian countryside.

Quercia Al Poggio 2009 Chianti Classico, Tuscany, Italy ($21.95)

Sara d’Amato – An unexpectedly concentrated and age-worthy find at a steal of a price. Produced from organically farmed sangiovese and a small percentage of indigenous varieties fermented in cement, the wine sees very little oak and offers a great deal of pure but balanced fruit.

Buyers Guide for Sparkling

Showcase 5 Blanc De Noirs 2009, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Canada ($55.00) 

John Szabo – “This wine is journey into the unknown for me. A rare glimpse into what Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier can evolve to when tiraged for 5 years in the cellar. We just kept pushing it and it just kept getting better and better over time”, says winemaker Craig McDonald of the inaugural release of the Trius “Showcase 5”. I say fantastic. Not a wine for sipping, mind you, this should be a centerpiece at the table; it’s a fine value in the context.
Sara d’Amato – Trius’ handcrafted, small-lot Showcase series allows veteran winemaker Craig McDonald to show his true colours. This succulent and substantial traditional method vintage Blanc de Noirs will make you an instant fan.

Josef Chromy Tasmanian Cuvée Méthode Traditionnelle, Tasmania, Australia ($28.95) 

John Szabo – Chromy is a reliable name in Tassie, and Australian, sparkling wine. The style is quite dry with highly chiseled acids – some might find them jarring, but I appreciate the no-compromise cut and sharpness. The balance of toasty-yeasty character and citrus-green apple fruit is spot on. A perfect aperitif style.
Sara d’Amato – Tasmania’s cool climate is ideal for the high acid grape growing that is needed to produce great sparkling wines. This very appealing traditional method cuvée is a blend of two of the island’s most widely planted varietals: chardonnay and pinot noir.

Showcase 5 Blanc De Noirs 2009 Josef Chromy Tasmanian CuvéeTawse 2013 Spark Limestone Ridge Riesling SparklingBollinger Special Cuvée Brut Champagne

Tawse 2013 Spark Limestone Ridge Riesling Sparkling, VQA Twenty Mile Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Canada ($19.95) 

John Szabo – A crisp, off-dry, apple-scented bubbly, indeed very much like riesling with bubbles, which of course it is. This fits nicely into the sipping category.

Bollinger Special Cuvée Brut Champagne, Champagne, France ($73.95) (384529)

Sara d’Amato – Bollinger’s Special Cuvée is a premium non-vintage offering resulting from a blend of new wine and reserve wines including some that have been aged in Bollinger’s library cellar for over 15 years in magnum. The outcome is an incredibly complex Champagne with ample body, length and a yeasty, biscuity flavour.

Wines of Portugal, A World of Difference.

Taste the Soul of Portugal - June 9th - TorontoOn Tuesday, June 9th, you’re invited to discover the exceptional diversity of Portuguese wines – with yours truly along as your guide. Here’s your chance to kick the varietal habit and come to terms with regional identity instead. Portugal has 200+ grapes, and all old vineyards (and there are many in Portugal) are field blends, like the wines. It’s the region that makes the style difference. This is the way wine has always been made, and understood. We should get back there. Find out more and save $10 on your ticket with WineAlign’s access code.

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

John Szabo, MS

John Szabo, MS

From VINTAGES June 13th, 2015

Szabo’s Smart Buys
Sara’s Sommelier Selections
All Reviews

Editors Note: You can find complete critic reviews by clicking on any of the highlighted wine names, bottle images or links. Paid subscribers to WineAlign see all critics reviews immediately. Non-paid members wait 60 days to see new reviews. Premium membership has its privileges; like first access to great wines!

Castello Di Gabbiano Chianti Classico Riserva 2011

Wines of Portugal, A World of Difference.

Filed under: News, Wine, , , , , , , , , ,

Bill’s Best Bets – March 19th Cellier Arrivals

The Riches of Italy – Part Two
by Bill Zacharkiw

Bill Zacharkiw

Bill Zacharkiw

Italy is the focus of the March CELLIER magazine and I must congratulate the SAQ for having put together a really good selection of wines. Of the 30 wines from either March 5th or March 19th, I found the large majority to be highly recommendable. Normally at a tasting such as this, if I can find 10 of 30 that stoke me, then that’s pretty good.

And to add to the fun the vast majority of the wines are in the $20-$30 range making them very accessibly priced. What do you want? Nebbiolo? Aglianico? Grecanico? You might as well go for all of them. I have already posted my top picks from the March 5th selection in Part One, now here’s Part Two with the wines that I really loved from the March 19th group.  (Please note that you may not see all of the store inventory until the release date, but you can still plan ahead!)

CELLIER March 19 release

To kick things off, Paolo Scavino’s 2013 Vino Rosso is a remarkable wine for under $20. Light, bright but with remarkable complexity that is made with grapes harvested from the estate’s younger vines.

Another very reasonably priced Piedmont wine is Castello di Neive’s 2010 Barbaresco. While it should properly be called a Langhe as it doesn’t show the complexity of many more expensive Barbarescos, it nicely shows the finesse and aromatic joy that is the nebbiolo grape.

Paolo Scavino Vino Rosso 2013 Castello Di Neive Barbaresco 2010 Silvano Piacentini Valpolicella Superiore Ripasso 2012 Gerardo Cesari Jema Veronese 2010

If you are a fan of Ripassos, then Silvano Piacentini’s 2012 is a must try. Without going sweet, the wine is textured, complex and with admirable tannins that grip but don’t dry. For a twist on the theme, Cesari’s 2010 Jema is made with 100% corvina, and shows a touch of sweetness which ramps up the aromatics of dried fig and dates. Great wine for cheese.

Di Majo’s 2011 Norante is made with organically grown grapes from the Molise DOC, which is located in the southern part of the Abruzzo. Ripe and so wonderfully rustic, for $18, you can’t go wrong.

Di Majo Norante Algianico 2011 Prà Otto Soave Classico 2013Cos Rami Sicilia 2012

For you fans of Soave, one of the region’s best producers Prà, has an entry-level Soave that hits all the right notes. While they work on a riper style, the signature pulsing minerality drives this wine nicely.

And to finish, perhaps my favourite wine from the tasting is the 2012 Cos Rami. This Sicilian white, made grecanico and inzolia and vinified with extended skin contact which gives it a darker hue, is best drunk after a few hours in a carafe and at 10-16C. With lobster season around the corner, it makes a really interesting pairing. Incredible complexity and so much fun to drink.

CELLIER Premium Feature

Cellier New ArrivalsFor Chacun son Vin Premium members, we have added something new to the site to make your CELLIER shopping even easier. Now if you look under the Wine tab in the menu bar, you will see an option for <<CELLIER New Arrivals>>. By clicking here, you will be brought to a new page where we have grouped all of the new release wines and reviews together by date.

So you can check out my tasting notes on all the wines in one place.



“There’s enjoyment to be had of a glass of wine without making it a fetish.” – Frank Prial

From CELLIER March 19, 2015:

Bill’s Best Bets
All Reviews
Part One – March 5th

Editors Note: You can find Bill’s complete reviews by clicking on any of the highlighted wine names or bottle images above. Premium subscribers to Chacun son vin see all critic reviews immediately. Non-paid members wait 60 days to see newly posted reviews. Premium membership has its privileges; like first access to great wines!

Gabbiano - Take me to Tuscany

Filed under: News, Wine, , , , , , ,

Buyers’ Guide to VINTAGES March 7th – Part Two

The Tuscan Tapestry
By David Lawrason with notes from John Szabo and Sara d’Amato

David Lawrason

David Lawrason

VINTAGES has entitled its March 7 release: The Tuscan Renaissance. Tuscan wine has been reborn so many times – even within the span of my 30 year career – that the word renaissance hardly applies anymore. It must be in the genome of the place to always be evolving, and nowadays Tuscan wine has become a blur of all its various eras, grape varieties, climates, altitudes and winemaking philosophies. Starting out, one still needs to learn the main appellations (or DOCs) and their authorized grape varieties, with sangiovese as its soul, but you then need to embrace all the variations as well.

It’s easiest in the end to try to define Tuscan wine as a whole – as it manifests in the glass. What is it? Is there a hook, a mood, a signature? Well I am looking for wines that are linear, trim, tucked in (like a well made bed), with aromas and flavours that are detailed, nuanced and finely interwoven – like a finely embroidered tapestry. Tuscan wines should not be loud, brash, aggressive or – god forbid – sweet or mochafied. They always seem to be aiming for sophistication even if some don’t achieve it.

The 15 Tuscan wines in this release offer a decent cross-section of regions, prices and styles with very good to excellent quality, and we three critics cover most of the selection here.

Nipozzano 2011 Vecchie Viti Riserva Chianti Rúfina, Tuscany ($29.95)

Il Grigio Da San Felice Gran Selezione Chianti Classico 2010 Fattoria Carpineta Fontalpino Do ut des 2011 Nipozzano Vecchie Viti Riserva Chianti Rúfina 2011David Lawrason – This lovely Chianti best expresses the sophisticated weave I was trying describe above. It has real charm and very good depth with classic, modern Chianti attributes.
John Szabo – Made from the oldest vines on Frescobaldi’s Nipozzano estate (age not specified), this clearly has better depth, structure and complexity than the average. I like the firm and dusty structure and the balanced-lively acids typical from this, the coolest and highest elevation Chianti subzone. It will certainly gain in complexity over the next 2-4 years in the bottle and hold even beyond that.
Sara d’Amato A premium bottling from the Nipozzano estate, this spicy, bold and exotic Chianti Rufina is undeniably compelling. I was enamored with the complex tapestry of cool spices, licorice and juicy cherry. Top notch!

Fattoria Carpineta 2011 Fontalpino Do ut des, Tuscany ($39.95)

David Lawrason – Vintages matter in Tuscany, and 2011 was not one of the greats. But this is one of the better 2011s I have had – showing better depth and power than most.  It is still young and sinewy with vibrancy and energy.
John Szabo – I’ve admired the Do ut des for several vintages now from Carpineta Fontalpino, a blend of equal parts sangiovese, merlot and cabernet sauvignon grown in the heart of the Classico zone of Chianti. I like the dark and smoky fruit profile, the abundant spice, the integrated barrel influence and the clear concentration and density. It’s enjoyable now, but better after 2017.

Il Grigio Da San Felice 2010 Gran Selezione Chianti Classico, Tuscany ($46.95)

Sara d’Amato – The Il Grigio carries the Gran Selezione designation, only two years old now, which demands a longer ageing period than a riserva, a panel tasting and requires the use of highest quality fruit of the estate. Certainly living up to its top quality rank, the wine exhibits exquisite complexity, great harmony and impressive length.
David Lawrason –  I first encountered this wine while tasting the range from San Felice, one of the grand wineries and hotel properties of Tuscany. It was clearly the most structured and deepest wine, and the longer ageing had clearly – and by design – removed fruit as a flavour focus. Yet there is great complexity. It is a wine from a great vintage destined to be drunk around 2020.

Castelli Del Grevepesa Panzano Chianti Classico, Tuscany ($23.95)

Tenuta Di Trecciano Chianti Colli Senesi 2013 Rocca Di Frassinello Le Sughere Di Frassinello 2011 Panzano Chianti Classico 2008John Szabo – Castelli del Grevepesa is an association of 150 winegrowers throughout central Tuscany, and this is a selection from the village of Panzano in the Classico zone. It’s an ambitious style, which, at 6 years of age, has entered a nice stage of evolution with its dried plum, dried cherry and freshly-turned damp earth character. Acids and tannins are still firm and structure-giving – the cooler vintage shows through – making this a lively and balanced wine.
Sara d’Amato – This Chianti has been perfectly held back and is ready for immediate enjoyment. Fig, cherry and leathery notes are boosted by acidity from a cooler vintage.

Rocca Di Frassinello 2011 Le Sughere Di Frassinello, Maremma, Tuscany ($24.95)

David Lawrason – The southern, more coastal Maremma region is in one sense the new wild west of Tuscany, where sangiovese opens its arms to cabernet, merlot and other varieties. This is the ‘second’ wine of a large joint venture between Castellare di Castellina and Domain Baron de Rothschild. This is a quite ripe, fairly opulent, fleshy yet dense and very warming. Delicious yet still Tuscan.

Tenuta Di Trecciano 2013 Chianti Colli Senesi ($15.95)
David Lawrason – Another allure of Tuscany is its lively, fresh young sangioveses. Minimum oak, lighter structure and exuberant sour red fruit aromas. This is a fine and easily affordable example.

A Nod to BC

Mission Hill 2012 Reserve Shiraz

Gray Monk Pinot Gris 2013Four wines from British Columbia are grouped as a mini-feature in this release. Wines from Canada’s left coast are vastly under-represented by the LCBO – this is our country after all – so it’s somewhat encouraging to see this grouping. There should be many, many more. Of course the best way to appreciate what’s happening in the Okanagan, which is bursting with innovations and new wineries, is to plan a week wine touring this summer. Get to know your favourites personally then begin to order them direct. The LCBO says you can’t do that, but the federal government says you can, and many in Ontario are already doing just that. It is entirely legal, by the way, for British Columbians to order Ontario wines direct.

Gray Monk 2013 Pinot Gris, BC VQA Okanagan Valley ($19.95)

David Lawrason – Gray Monk Pinot Gris is a benchmark for a variety that is almost the white signature of the Okanagan. It’s bright and tender and full of peachy fruit.

Mission Hill 2012 Reserve Shiraz, BC VQA Okanagan Valley ($26.95)

David Lawrason – Mission Hill has been working hard to up its game with the red grape that has taken the southern Okanagan by storm in recent years.  From an excellent vintage, this catches classic blackberry/cherry fruit, chocolate and peppery notes, finishing with that earthy desert sand and sage finish common in BC reds from Oliver-Osoyoos.


Who’s the best Sommelier in Canada?
by Sara d’Amato

If you happen to find yourself in Toronto this weekend, the Best Sommelier of Canada Competition 2015 will be taking place on March 8th at Montecito Restaurant presented by CAPS and Wine Country Ontario.

CAPS Best Sommelier of Canada Competition

Top Sommeliers from across the country will compete in front of a live audience beginning at 10 AM.

It is free to attend the viewing, however purchasing a Day Pass ticket will get you into two Master Classes: Wines of Chile with WineAlign’s John Szabo MS and that of the BC Wine Institute lead by Kurtis Kolt and Véronique Rivest. In addition, Day Pass holders will have the option to attend an exclusive afternoon tasting and lunch as well as a sparkling reception and dinner.

Tickets can be purchased at : Best Sommelier of Canada Competition.




From VINTAGES March 7, 2015:

Lawrason’s Take
Sara’s Sommelier Selections
John Szabo’s Smart Buys
All Reviews

Editors Note: You can find complete critic reviews by clicking on any of the highlighted wine names, bottle images or links. Paid subscribers to WineAlign see all critics reviews immediately. Non-paid members wait 60 days to see new reviews. Premium membership has its privileges; like first access to great wines!

AdvertisementPenfolds Bin 28 Kalimna Shiraz 2011

California Wine Fair - Canadian Tour 2015

Filed under: News, Wine, , , , , , , , , ,

Bill’s Best Bets – March 5th CELLIER Preview

The Riches of Italy – Part One
by Bill Zacharkiw

Bill Zacharkiw

Bill Zacharkiw

Italy is the focus of the next CELLIER magazine release and I must congratulate the SAQ for having put together a really good selection of wines. Of the 30 wines which will be put on sale in stores either March 5th or March 19th, I found the large majority to be highly recommendable. Normally at a tasting such as this, if I can find 10 of 30 that stoke me, then that’s pretty good.

And to add to the fun the vast majority of the wines are in the $20-$30 range making them very accessibly priced. What do you want? Nebbiolo? Aglianico? Grecanico? You might as well go for all of them. I have lots to recommend, so let’s get right to it.

These are the wines that I really loved from the March 5th group, and I’ll post Part Two in time for the March 19th release. (Please note that you won’t see any store inventory until the release date, but you can still plan ahead!)

Bill’s Best Bets from March 5th

While Dolcetto is considered by many as a secondary grape in Piedmont, or even third after nebbiolo and barbera, in Dogliani it can produce some exceptional wines. The 2011 Chionetti San Luigi is a great example of the complexity that can arise from the grape – and at under $20, a great deal as well.

On a similar style is Pelissero’s 2012 Langhe nebbiolo. Made with younger vines, this offers up a great introduction to the nebbiolo grape at a fraction of the price of a Barolo or Barbaresco. Delicate aromatics and fine tannins await.

Chionetti San Luigi Dogliani 2011Pelissero Langhe Nebbiolo 2012Andrea Oberto Barolo 2010

But if you want the real taste of Barolo, traditionally grown and made, then try the 2010 from Andrea Oberto. Very elegant and ready to drink wine and at $42, nicely priced.

On the opposite end of the flavour spectrum is the 2013 Thesys Isola dei Nuraghi from Pala. This Sardinian winery’s blend of old vine bovale with syrah is a meaty and richly flavoured red that is absolutely unique and will do honour to any red meat. And at $20, a great deal.

One of my favourite Italian grapes is aglianico and the 2011 Rubrato from Feudi di San Gregorio is a “Tootsie Roll” of intensity. Tightly wound, full of dark fruits and tannin. Got a T-Bone? This is your wine.

Pala Thesys Isola Dei Nuraghi 2013Rubrato Aglianico Feudi Di San Gregorio 2011Fattoria Viticcio Beatrice Gran Selezione Chianti Classico 2011Bianco Maggiore Cantine Rallo 2012

In Chianti, there is a new style and category of wine called Gran Selezione. Most examples I have tasted are simply too concentrated and oak ridden for my tastes and essentially kill the subtle qualities of the sangiovese grape. While they can be impressive, the wines tend to speak more about the winemaking than the terroir. But Fattoria Viticcio’s 2011 Beatrice is an extraordinary wine which highlights the fruit and earthy components of the sangiovese grape without overpowering it with oak. Really good.

White wine fans have an option as well with the 2012 Bianco Maggiore from Cantine Rallo. This organically grown wine made with the grillo grape is low alcohol, full of tropical fruit, and a perfect aperitif.

Introducing the CELLIER Premium Feature

Cellier New ArrivalsFor Chacun son Vin Premium members, we have added something new to the site to make your CELLIER shopping even easier. Now if you look under the Wine tab in the menu bar, you will see an option for <CELLIER New Arrivals>.

Click there, or the links below, and you will land on a new page where we have grouped all of the new release wines and reviews together by date.

So you can check out my tasting notes on all the wines in one place.



“There’s enjoyment to be had of a glass of wine without making it a fetish.” – Frank Prial

From CELLIER March 5, 2015:

Bill’s Best Bets
All March 5th Reviews

Editors Note: You can find Bill’s complete reviews by clicking on any of the highlighted wine names or bottle images above. Premium subscribers to Chacun son Vin see all critic reviews immediately. Non-paid members wait 60 days to see newly posted reviews. Membership has its privileges; like first access to great wines!

Gabbiano - Take me to Tuscany

Filed under: News, Wine, , , , , , ,

Buyers’ Guide to VINTAGES February 7th – Part One

Native Wine Grapes of Italy and Sundry Whites
By John Szabo MS with notes from David Lawrason and Sara d’Amato

John Szabo, MS

John Szabo, MS

The spotlight this week shines on the native grapes of Italy, or at least a handful of them. Despite the promising billing of the thematic, the February 7th release will disappoint anyone hoping for a real chance to discover some of the more obscure, unique regional treasures of this implausibly wine-rich nation. Considering that Italy is home to more native wine grapes than any other country – a staggering one-quarter of the world’s known commercial varieties (anywhere from 377 to around 2,000, depending on who’s counting and how you define “native”) – the selection proffered by the LCBO is, well, dissatisfying to say the least.

There are some fine wines from already familiar friends like sangiovese and dolcetto which we’ve highlighted below in the Buyer’s Guide, but I can’t shake the feeling that this is a hopelessly corporate release, playing it ultra, ultra-safe. To build a feature around barely ten grapes, all of which Ontarians have seen countless times before, and from producers already well drilled on the LCBO shipping and payment process (there’s not a single new producer included in the feature) seems to me a huge opportunity lost. But it’s a reality of the monopoly world, you’ll say.

The selection in Ontario is of course much broader if you’re keen enough to search for wines in the private import/consignment program, where you’ll find an impressively comprehensive range of unique, native Italian grapes if you look hard enough. But you’ll have to buy them a case at a time. Otherwise, I’d suggest a stop at one of the more enlightened restaurants and wine bars across the province, where the chances of expanding your horizons are much greater.

Native Wine Grapes of ItalyFor anyone looking to learn about, if not taste, Italian wines, I couldn’t recommend more strongly the monumental, magnum opus by Italian-Canadian wine authority Ian D’Agata entitled Native Wine Grapes of Italy. D’Agata spent no fewer than thirteen years researching the work (not counting the other dozen and a half years that he’s been covering the world of wine for publications like Gambero Rosso, Tanzer’s International Wine Cellar, The World of Fine Wine, Decanter and others), and has compiled the most complete, accurate and detailed work on Italy’s native grapes imaginable. Each of the hundreds of entries includes details on where the grape is found, its history, etymological origins, synonyms, and general style/flavor profile, and which specific wines to choose and why. Curious about pelaverga, timorasso or frappatto? You’ll find everything you need to know, and much more besides, in the book.

With the author’s permission, I’ve quoted some interesting tidbits on a few of the varieties mentioned below to give you a bit of the flavor of the work. Anyone seriously studying wine should have this classic reference book in their library.

Also in this week’s report is a collection of sundry whites, including some memorable wines from central Europe and a pair of west coast chardonnays.

Buyers Guide: Native Italian Wine Grapes

Volpaia 2011 Chianti Classico, Tuscany, Italy ($27.95)

Feudi Salentini Luporano Primitivo Del Tarantino 2012Salcheto Vino Nobile Di Montepulciano 2011Volpaia Chianti Classico 2011D’Agata on Sangiovese: “One of the etymological possibilities includes a mythological reference to the blood of Jupiter (sanguis jovis), unsurprisingly given the wine’s longtime association with myths, symbols, and sacrifices to the Gods. Another possibility is that the monks in Santarcangelo di Romagna, at the foot of the Monte Giove near Rimini, chose the name sanguis jovis when forced to call the wine they made by a name other than vino”.

John Szabo – Admittedly I love the classic style of Volpaia, representing the finessed side of sangiovese, grown in some of the highest elevation vineyards in Tuscany. The 2011 is a wine for fans of lighter, more elegant Chianti Classico, which should really hit ideal drinking in another year or two, at which point succulent savoury flavours will lead the way.

Salcheto 2011 Vino Nobile Di Montepulciano, Tuscany, Italy ($29.95)

John Szabo – 2011 was the first experiment with wild yeast fermentation at Salcheto, an organic estate. The result, as fine as past vintages, is an earthy, savoury vino nobile, still a year or two away from prime drinking, but with an attractive range of resinous herbal notes to encourage additional sips.
Sara d’Amato – This generous Tuscan red of the prugnolo gentile varietal (sangiovese) is concentrated, musky, compelling and organically produced. A well-known sustainable producer, Salcheto was named Gambero Rosso’s “Sustainable Winery of the Year” in 2014.

Feudi Salentini Luporano 2012 Primitivo Del Tarantino, Puglia, Italy ($17.95)

D’Agata on Primitivo: “Puglia is Primitivo’s home in Italy, and at 11,133 hectares it is one of the country’s ten most planted red varieties…. When very good, Primitivo is creamy-rich and heady, usually not shy in alcohol (16 percent is common) and awash with aromas and flavours of ripe red cherry, strawberry jam, and plums macerated in alcohol”.

John Szabo – Like D’Agata’s description above, I often find primitivo to be overly sweet, alcoholic and raisined. This example, on the other hand, has rare balance and freshness. You might say it’s not “classic”, but I find it pleasant and highly drinkable. No fork and knife required.

Abbona 2013 Papà Celso Dogliani, Piemonte ($24.95)

Beni Di Batasiolo Riserva Barolo 2006Resta Salice Salentino 2011Abbona Papà Celso 2013D’Agata on Dolcetto: “The Dolcetto di Dogliani… can also be the most powerful. This is because in the Dogliani area Dolcetto has always been viewed as the most important grape and the best sites have been reserved for it.”

John Szabo – Abbona’s dolcetto supports the above description of Dogliani’s more powerful versions. This is made from 50-60 year old vines in the Bricco di Doriolo, a prime hilltop sight. Fruit is ripe and in the dark berry plum spectrum, with considerable density and length on the palate.
David Lawrason – As I have always been a fan of fruit-first reds like gamay (Beaujolais) I have also had a soft spot for dolcetto. An eyebrow raises that it has hit $25, but not unexpected now that it has its own Dogliani appellation. This is a lovely fresh and fruity, and even substantial – estate grown old vine example from a producer I admire.
Sara d’Amato – A consistent over-performer, this dolcetto from the relatively recent Dogliani DOCG once again proves a terrific value. Exotic spice, violets and pepper dominate the soft, round palate. Although dolcetto’s name means, “the little sweet one”, it is rarely sweet but rather low in acid (making the wine feel less than dry) and high in tannins. Thankfully, in this example from Abbona, the tannins are rather supple, balanced and allow for immediate enjoyment.

Resta 2011 Salice Salentino, Puglia, Italy ($15.95)
David Lawrason – Italy’s deep south is a gamble, with all kinds of modern, soft, fruity/jammy pleasing but often not very interesting reds (as on this release). Then again there are gems from another era (or at least a traditional mindset) that are very complex, edgy and powerful. Go to school on this imperfect, slightly volatile classic. Great winter fare.

Beni Di Batasiolo 2006 Riserva Barolo, Piedmont, Italy ($39.95)
David Lawrason – Ok, this doesn’t have the heft and structure you might expect from great Barolo. But it has exact aromatics that are wonderfully complex, and I have often said that scents are what make Barolo really fascinating. And the fact that it is a mature wine, from a great vintage, at $40 makes it all the more appealing. Go to school here.

Ocone 2012 Flora Taburno Falanghina del Sannio, Campania, Italy ($18.95)

Eco Pecorino D'abruzzo Superiore 2013Michele Chiarlo Le Marne Gavi 2013Ocone Flora Falanghina 2012D’Agata on Falanghina: “Along with Aglianico, this is believed to be Campania’s oldest variety… Today we know that there are at least two genetically distinct Falanghinas, Falanghina Flegrea and Falanghina Beneventana… Falanghina Flegrea wines (especially those from Sannio where Falanghina Flegrea will ripen up to three weeks earlier), tend to be less complex but more fruity, with flavours and aromas of unripe peach, golden delicious apple, apricot kernel, and cherry pit.

John Szabo – I can’t say that Ocone’s version is particularly fruity, in fact it offers more organic oil, rock and earth than fruit flavour, but there’s a point of bitterness on the palate that is indeed reminiscent of cherry pit and apricot kernel. In any case the flavour intensity is impressive for the price category. Drink this at the table with white meats, pork and poultry, heavily herb-flavoured.
Sara d’Amato – Ocone is a certified organic winery practicing minimalist intervention with grapes from seriously old vines. Falaghina is the winery’s star white varietal, a grape almost exclusively planted in the southern, coastal region of Campania on the volcanic soils surrounding Mt. Vesuvius. This version shows off the varietal’s distinctive floral characteristic and has a good dose of succulent citrus balanced with a decadent, mouth-filling texture.

Michele Chiarlo 2013 Le Marne Gavi, Piedmont, Italy ($16.95)

D’Agata on cortese: “One romantic legend has it that the name of Cortese’s most famous wine, Gavi, derives from the golden-haired, beautiful, and gentle-natured Princess Gavia, daughter of Clodomiro, King of the Franks, who eloped to get married against the wishes of her family.” “Cortese wines, when well made, have many selling points: high acidity, real minerality, and even ageworthiness

John Szabo – Chiarlo’s version fits into the mould of pleasantly fresh and fruity, with balanced acids and light alcohol, for current enjoyment, chilled, without excessive contemplation.

Eco 2013 Pecorino d’Abruzzo Superiore, Abruzzo, Italy, $17.95
Sara d’Amato – An organically produced wine from Italy’s eastern coast – home to the fresh, exotically floral and mineral pecorino variety. Eco’s very characteristic interpretation is dry, zesty and lightly peppery with notes of jasmine and apple blossom.

Buyer’s Guide: Sundry Whites

Reichsgraf Von Kesselstatt RK Riesling 2008Weingut Zahel Riedencuvée Grüner Veltliner 2013Wieninger Nussberg Alte Reben Wiener Gemischter Satz 20122012 Wieninger Nussberg Alte Reben Wiener Gemischter Satz, Wien DAC, Austria ($37.00)
John Szabo – This may seem pricey for a wine you’ve likely never heard of, but it’s a marvellous old vines (“alte reben”) field blend (“gemischte satz”) from one of the greats of Viennese winegrowing. Nine different varieties, grown biodynamically in a stunning limestone vineyard overlooking downtown Vienna, converge to yield a powerful and complex wine with fleshy white and yellow fruit. Just picture yourself in Wieninger’s heurige as you sip – pleasure guaranteed. Wieninger on the ’12 vintage: “Unfortunately, there was a very small quantity due to the damages caused by hailstorms and hungry wild boars.“ Ahh, the perils of growing grapes in a major European capital…

Weingut Zahel 2013 Riedencuvée Grüner Veltliner, Wiener Lagen, Austria ($16.95)
David Lawrason – This wine slowly reeled me in. At first glance it presented the basics – a fresh, firm and balanced grüner. Then it hooked me with its very fine structure, depth and subtlety. If you have not yet ventured into Austrian grüner here is a very well-priced example you can’t afford not to try.

Reichsgraf Von Kesselstatt 2008 RK Riesling, Mosel, Germany ($15.95)
David Lawrason – From one of the great estates of the Mosel, this is a clinic and fine value in a mature riesling. I really can’t believe it has landed here, six years later, at $16. So there is no excuse not to see why mature Mosel riesling is the darling of so many aficionados. It’s off dry but tender, elegant and impeccably balanced.

Girard Chardonnay 2012Caves Orsat Fendant 2013Poplar Grove Chardonnay 2012Poplar Grove 2012 Chardonnay, Okanagan Valley, B.C. ($29.95)
David Lawrason – Poplar Grove has long been one of BC’s boutique wineries doing a better job of getting beyond BC’s borders. It has improved with new ownership in recent years, and importantly the quality consistency has evened out. This is a quite complex, well balanced and firm chardonnay.

Caves Orsat 2013 Fendant, Valais, Switzerland ($19.95)
Sara d’Amato – Fendant or chasselas is Switzerland’s second most planted grape variety after pinot noir. Although chasselas is found throughout Europe, it is most celebrated in Switzerland. An adaptable varietal, it is generally subtle and nuanced but in the best cases can exhibit a rich mouthfeel. This fresh version from Caves Orsat is nicely representative of a Swiss chasselas (rarely seen here on our shelves) and exhibits a creamy, delicate nature with a touch of white pepper spice.

Girard 2012 Chardonnay, Russian River Valley, Sonoma County, California, USA ($26.95)
Sara d’Amato – A slightly creamy but bright Russian River chardonnay that displays impressive refinement, balance and restraint. The Girard winery is currently owned by former Pump Room sommelier, Pat Roney, who is very much inspired by the cool climate chardonnays of Burgundy.

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

John Szabo, MS

John Szabo MS

From VINTAGES February 7, 2015:

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

Editors Note: You can find complete critic reviews by clicking on any of the highlighted wine names, bottle images or links. Paid subscribers to WineAlign see all critics reviews immediately. Non-paid members wait 60 days to see new reviews. Premium membership has its privileges; like first access to great wines!

AdvertisementStags' Leap Winery Chardonnay 2012

Filed under: News, Wine, , , , , , , , ,

Rare Grapes and an Unknown Land

Sardinia – An Italian island eager to join the international wine sceneJanuary 21, 2015

by Steve Thurlow

Steve Thurlow

Steve Thurlow

Given that it is the second-largest island in the Mediterranean, it is remarkable that Sardinia is relatively unknown to most Canadians. Even among those Canadians who can trace their origins to Italy, there are few who have a past that includes Sardegna, as the island is called by the inhabitants. So it is not surprising that its wines are equally obscure to us. In fact it was the only wine producing region in Italy that I had never visited in nearly 40 years of global wine travel. So I was pleased to be invited to join a group of eight wine writers from Canada to spend three days last November on this large island that lies about 250km southwest of Rome.

It is not clear why Sardegna has been slow to join the international wine scene. It is distinct from the rest of Italy in that it was ruled for around 400 years until 1708 by Aragon, now part of modern Spain. This probably explains why its most widely planted red grape is cannonau (known as garnacha in Spain or grenache in the rest of the world). Cannonau is rare on the nearby Italian mainland despite, I am told, being the most widely planted red grape in the world. Moreover vermentino, the island’s most popular white grape, is supposedly a form of malvasia that also came from Spain.

Rare grapes and an unknown land made for an exciting three days in the northern part of the island.

The best vermentino comes from the northeastern corner, Gallura. So it was there that we started our exploration at the Cantina Gallura in Tempio Pausania. This is clearly a very poor part of the country with many small homes that stood in sharp contrast to the opulence of the Costa Smeralda, but more about that later.

The cantina makes several wines from vermentino and its wine shop displays the dozens of prizes it has received from wine competitions all over the world.

Cantina Gallura

My favourite was the Cantina di Gallura 2013 Canayli Vermentino di Gallura Superiore. It has a dry floral peachy nose, a rich minerally palate and very good length. A great seafood wine. It is not available at present in Canada but can be found in the USA for around $20.

After tasting wines at the winery we were whisked away in the fog to the nearby Ristorante Il Melograna da Claudio in Nuchis for one of the best seafood meals I have ever had. The menu consisted of the freshest seafood and delicious combinations of Sardegnan cuisine carefully prepared by chef Claudio. The service and atmosphere were superb, such that it could have been a fantastic eating experience matched to the wines of the Cantina. Unfortunately we were all exhausted from the travel, trying to stay awake having crossed the Atlantic with little sleep for 36 hours. It was frustrating that the trip planners timed this meal just after our arrival from Canada.

Pedres - Wine DispenserThe next day after a good sleep, there was a visit to a couple of wineries – Piero Mancini and Cantina Pedres. Piero Mancini makes a delightful sparkling Vermentino di Gallura Spumante Brut which has a fresh floral, mineral, lemon, baked pear nose with a soft elegant palate and long pure finish; a good reception wine. They have hopes of sales in Newfoundland.

We had an excellent buffet lunch at Pedres where, while tasting their wines, I noticed this wine dispensing apparatus.

It looks a bit like a gas station pump. Locals arrive with a plastic can, like one does for gas in Canada, and you purchase by the litre. It is €2 per litre for red or white, that’s about C$2 per bottle, tax included.

After lunch we went to visit the millionaire’s playground of the Costa Smeralda. The area was developed in the 1960s by an investment consortium led by Prince Karim Aga Khan. With white sand beaches, golf clubs, private jet and helicopter services and exclusive hotels, the area has drawn celebrities, business leaders and other affluent visitors.

Costa Smeralda is now the most expensive location in Europe for real estate. House prices of over $400,000 per square meter have been reported.

If you are just visiting, the Presidential suite at the Hotel Cala di Volpe can be yours for C$37,000 for the night. There are discounts for longer stays.

Porto Cervo, the largest community, has a resident population of 421 very wealthy inhabitants. It was created to resemble a fishing village on the shores of a  natural harbour. To me, it felt like touring a very large film set; a sort of make-believe village that could occupy part of Disneyland.

Porto Cervo

Anyway after hearing stories of billionaires and film stars it was time to get back on mission and taste some more local wines.

The Surrau winery is close to all this splendour and it fits right in. It is a stunning modern winery built by three brothers who are all active in the local construction industry.

It is built on the site of their grandfather’s farm and is called Surrau after the name of the valley in which it is located.

Surrau Winery Visitors Centre

The visitor area is opulent and the winery is modern and  splendidly equipped with the latest that technology can deliver. The wines are also very impressive.

Surrau 2012 Cannonau di Sargenga Sincaru is a deep ruby red with a rich fruity nose and palate with white pepper, raspberry and strawberry fruit. It sells in the USA for around $30.

Surrau Isola Dei Nuraghi Rosso 2012 Surrau Sciala Vermentino Di Gallura 2013The single vineyard Surrau Sciala 2013 Vermentino di Gallura has a floral nose of white peach and baked lemon with a minerally firm rich fruity palate. Most impressive was Surrau 2012 Isola dei Nuraghi Rosso. This is a blend of cannonau, carignano and cabernet sauvignon with 10% of the local grape muristellu. It is a lively, fruity, fresh well-structured cool climate red with smoky, savoury, cherry and cranberry jelly aromas and flavours and excellent length. Both are available in Ontario for $27.95 through After supper at the winery we left our hosts for the hotel. It had been another very long day.

Our final day was spent driving back across the north of the island to Alghero, where we had landed two days before, to visit the Sella & Mosca winery. The trip organizers had left the best to last. This winery was established in 1899 and was initially planted with over 1600 different grape varieties. Experimentation over the years has reduced this to less than 20 today. The estate has around 520 hectares planted  making it the largest on the island.

The soil is still incredibly rocky. Even after over a hundred years of cultivation and rock removal, rocks still keep appearing out of the ground.

Altogether they have 1200 hectares of vines on the island making Sella & Mosca one of Italy’s largest wineries.

Sella & Mosca became part of the Campari group in 2002. Subsequent investment in the property and equipment is starting to show in the quality of the wines.

Campari also has a vast distribution network which means that wines from the property are widely available throughout the world. In Canada, Quebec has been their most successful market in terms of numbers of wines but Ontario is important from a volume perspective, with Sella & Mosca 2010 Riserva Cannonau Di Sardegna as a VINTAGES Essentials for many years.

Sella & Mosca Riserva Cannonau Di Sardegna 2010 Sella & Mosca Marchese Di Villamarina Alghero 2009 Sella & Mosca Terre Rare Carignano Del Sulcis Riserva 2009 Sella & Mosca Capocaccia 2010

The flagship wine is Sella & Mosca Marchese Di Villamarina. The 2009 vintage of this cabernet sauvignon would not be out of place in a line-up of top quality Bordeaux.

They also produce a wine from carignan, Sella & Mosca 2009 Terre Rare Carignano del Sulcis Riserva, that is in the stores in Quebec, as is the Sella & Mosca 2010 Capocaccia, Alghero Rosso.

The latter is a beautiful blend of cannonau with cabernet sauvignon. It is elegant and well balanced with excellent length.

The winery is a delight to visit with massive underground cellars and a fascinating museum of artifacts that have been found on the estate. The remains of a stone-age necropolis have yielded many interesting finds, copies of which can be seen at the winery.

Sella & Mosca winerySella & Mosca winery

We packed a lot into the three days spent in the north of Sardinia. I enjoyed the fresh, pure, rich Vermentino do Gallura whites and the island’s reds, mostly based on cannonau. I hope to return one day to see the southern part of the island better known for reds wines from the Cagliari and Sulcis areas.

Thanks are due to the Italian Trade Commission for organizing the trip and to our many hosts on the island. The welcome we received, the hospitality, the meals and the wines were exceptional. I wish them every success as they strive to market their wines in Canada.

Editors Note: You can find our complete critic reviews by clicking on any of the wine names, bottle images or links highlighted. Paid subscribers to WineAlign see all critic reviews immediately. Non-paid users wait 60 days to see new reviews. Membership has its privileges; like first access to great value wines!

AdvertisementsGuardian Reserva Red 2012

Filed under: News, Wine, , , , , , ,

Courrier vinicole – Grandes richesses d’Italie

Soif d’ailleurs avec Nadia
par Nadia Fournier

Nadia Fournier - New - Cropped

Nadia Fournier

Ce vendredi 7 novembre, la SAQ mettra en vente par le truchement de son Courrier vinicole une vaste sélection de vins italiens de renom, provenant de la plupart des régions du pays — avec une préférence marquée, comme toujours, pour le Piémont et la Toscane. Parmi les belles bouteilles proposées, voici quelques vins dégustés au cours des dernières semaines. La liste est concise, car je n’ai pu goûter à tous les vins du catalogue. Ainsi, j’ai pris la liberté d’ajouter une liste de valeurs sûres, offertes à des prix (relativement) abordables.

À Barolo, plus que nulle part ailleurs en Italie ou dans le monde, les producteurs sont divisés en deux camps : les traditionalistes et les modernistes. Les premiers privilégient de longues macérations dans des foudres, les seconds de courtes macérations, souvent en barrique. Pour flirter avec le style traditionnel, rien de mieux que le Barolo Monprivato 2009 élaboré par Mauro Mascarello. Éminemment racé, digeste et drôlement accessible pour un barolo si jeune.

La famille Scavino appartient certainement aux camps des modernistes, et elle le revendique avec brio. Son Barolo 2008, Riserva Rocche dell’Annunziata est musclé, mais sa puissance s’accompagne de saveurs intenses et persistantes. À apprécier tout au long de la prochaine décennie.

Mascarello Monprivato Barolo 2009 Paolo Scavino Rocche Dell'annunziata Riserva Barolo 2008 Ceretto Bricco Asili Barbaresco 2009 Quintarelli Amarone Della Valpolicella Classico Superiore 2004

Asili est l’un des plus grands terroirs de Barbaresco et certainement le triomphe de Ceretto. Je tombe rarement dans les superlatifs, mais j’oserais dire que le Barbaresco 2009 Bricco Asili est plus grand que nature ! Un pur bijou d’élégance; très séduisant, éthéré et d’une classe inimitable.

Figure légendaire de la Vénétie, le vigneron-artiste Giuseppe « Bepi » Quintarelli s’est éteint en 2012. Sa fille et ses petits-enfants ont pris la relève et n’ont rien changé à la façon de faire ultra-traditionaliste qui a contribué à la réputation de la maison. Sans surprise, l’Amarone della Valpolicella 2004 est sublime ! Une seule gorgée suffit pour comprendre pourquoi une légion de fidèles accepte de payer des sommes folles pour les vins confectionnés par ce grand maître.

Fondé en 1984, Tua Rita fut le premier domaine à s’établir dans le secteur de Suvereto, dans la province de Livourne. Il s’est fait connaître sur les marchés internationaux notamment grâce au Redigaffi, une cuvée issue exclusivement de merlot et vendue à un prix astronomique. Le 2010 se situe dans une classe à part, ample, élégant et doté d’une profondeur certaine.

De la même trempe, mais composé de syrah, le Per sempre 2011 (« Pour Toujours ») est une autre belle réussite que les amateurs de ce cépage rhodanien – au portefeuille très bien garni – voudront découvrir.

Tua Rita Redigaffi 2010 Tua Rita Syrah 2011 Duemani Altrovino 2011 Duemani Suisassi 2010 Falesco Montiano 2008

L’œnologue Luca D’Attoma est un adepte de la biodynamie. Sur son domaine Duemani, à Riparbella, une vingtaine de kilomètres au nord de Bolgheri, il produit le Altrovino, un vin particulièrement complet, issu de cabernet franc et de merlot. Saveurs pénétrantes, texture velours et excellent potentiel de garde.

Du même producteur, le très bon Suisassi 2010 est composé à 100 % de syrah, cépage que l’on devine au nez, avec ses tonalités animales qui rappellent la viande fumée. Servi frais autour de 17°C, le vin était particulièrement engageant et faisait preuve d’une fermeté caractéristique du cépage. À revoir dans cinq ans.

Plus au sud, les frères Riccardo et Renzo Cotarellla ont développé la marque Falesco, sous laquelle ils commercialisent des vins d’Ombrie et du Latium. Dans cette dernière région, ils élaborent le Montiano 2008, un merlot très séduisant, qui a de quoi rivaliser avec bien des cuvées plus coûteuses produites en Toscane. Pas spécialement profond, mais flatteur et finement boisé.

Sans les avoir tous goûtés récemment, je vous suggère de porter une attention particulière aux vins suivants comme autant de valeurs sûres :


Gini, Contrada Salvarenza 2010Italy  38 $

Jermann, Vintage Tunina 2011  74 $

Masciarelli, Marina Cvetic 2010  45 $

COS, Pithos Bianco 2012  42 $

Benanti, Pietra Marina 2009  52 $


Aldo Conterno, Langhe 2010  37 $

Fèlsina Rancia 2010  49 $

Fontodi, Vigna del Sorbo 2010  65 $

Montevertine, Le Pergole Torte 2010  138 $

Masciarelli, Villa Gemma 2006  69 $

Occhipinti, Siccagno 2011  45 $

Occhipinti, Grotte Alte 2008  69 $

Feudo di Mezzo Il Quadro delle Rose 2011  54 $

Argiolas, Turriga 2009  69 $


Quelques vins de Toscane

Même si ces vins sont moins étoffés et moins intenses que les « grands vins », leur qualité est loin d’être négligeable. Et surtout, ce n’est pas parce qu’ils coûtent deux – sinon cinq ou dix – fois moins cher, qu’ils sont deux fois moins bons.

Personne ne nous oblige à dépenser une fortune pour les gros canons vendus ponctuellement. Les Solaia, Ornellaia, Redigaffi sont très bien, mais on peut aussi acheter les Vistorta, San Felice, Vigna del Sorbo et combien d’autres beaucoup moins coûteux.

Grâce aux efforts conjugués des œnologues Enzo Morganti et Leonardo Bellacini, San Felice, une vaste propriété située au sud-est de l’appellation Chianti Classico, a grandement contribué à la réhabilitation de variétés autochtones de Toscane. Chaque année, le Il Grigio est à retenir parmi les meilleurs chianti classico de facture classique; sans artifices, mais non moins savoureux.

San Felice Il Grigio Chianti Classico Riserva 2010 Capezzana Ghiaie Della Furba 2008 San Fabiano Calcinaia Cellole Gran Selezione Di Chianti Classico 2010 Castello Di Ama Chianti Classico Riserva 2009

Créé en 1804 au coeur de la Toscane, Capezzana est l’un des plus vieux vignobles d’Italie. Malgré son âge vénérable, la propriété des Bonacossi conserve tout son dynamisme et demeure une force motrice de Carmignano, situé à l’est de Florence, à l’écart de la zone de Chianti Classico. Chaque année,  le Ghiaie della Furba étonne par sa fibre très toscane, malgré qu’il soit issu de cabernet, de merlot et de syrah. Chaleureux, sans jamais sacrifier l’élégance.

La dénomination Gran Selezione n’a été approuvée qu’en 2014, mais les vins de millésimes antérieurs qui respectaient les critères de cette nouvelle appellation de chianti classico peuvent aussi être commercialisés comme tels. Loin de miser sur la puissance brute, le Cellole de San Fabiano Calcinaia brille par son large spectre aromatique; intense et complexe. Un excellent vin de garde.
Depuis plus d’un quart de siècle, dans les hauteurs de Gaiole in Chianti, Marco Pallanti veille sur Castello di Ama, domaine appartenant à la famille de son épouse, Lorenza. Du plus modeste au plus grand, tous ont en commun un équilibre et un raffinement exemplaires. Lorsque goûté en août dernier, le Chianti Classico Riserva 2009 était dans une forme exceptionnelle. À apprécier tout au long de la décennie.

Et du Piémont

À leur meilleur, les nebbiolos d’Alba peuvent constituer d’excellentes solutions de rechange – parfois économiques – aux vins de Barolo et Barbaresco. Le Nebbiolo 2012 dai Vigneti di Proprietà du domaine Mascarello (Giuseppe e Figlio) n’a pas d’égal. Substantiellement plus cher que la plupart des nebbiolos, mais sa qualité égale celle de bien des vins de Barolo et Barbaresco.

Plus chaleureux que le 2010 commenté l’année dernière et faisant bien sentir ses 14 % d’alcool, le Nebbiolo 2011 de Pio Cesare n’était pas très volubile lorsque goûté en septembre dernier. Néanmoins recommandable pour son équilibre et ses saveurs franches.

Sans surprise, le Nebbiolo 2012 des Produttori del Barbaresco propose une interprétation juteuse et friande du cépage nebbiolo, davantage reconnu pour la charpente et l’ossature tannique qu’il confère aux Barolo et Barbaresco. Authentique et vibrant. Bravo !

Scudetto 2010, c’est la barbera en mode majeur, interprétée avec brio par Mauro Mascarello. L’attaque en bouche est très mûre, laissant presque une sensation de sucrosité, mais le tout forme un ensemble parfaitement harmonieux, racé et haut en couleur.

Pio Cesare Nebbiolo Langhe 2011 Produttori Del Barbaresco Langhe Nebbiolo 2012 Mascarello Giuseppe E Figlio Scudetto Barbera d'Aalba 2010 Bava Stradivario 2001, Barbera d'Asti Poderi Colla Pian Balbo Dolcetto d'Alba 2012

Fidèle au style classique du domaine de la famille Bava, tout en subtilité et en finesse, le Stradivario 2001 est encore incroyablement jeune pour un vin âgé de près de 12 ans. Pas donné, mais il y a un prix à payer pour avoir dans son verre un vin à parfaite maturité.

Les vins de Poderi Colla, vénérable maison piémontaise, ne donnent jamais dans la facilité racoleuse. Loin de miser sur le seul potentiel fruité du cépage, le Dolcetto 2012 Pian Balbo fait preuve d’une certaine sève et de beaucoup d’authenticité.

À votre santé!  Salute!

Nadia Fournier

Note de la rédaction: vous pouvez lire les commentaires de dégustation complets en cliquant sur les noms de vins, les photos de bouteilles ou les liens mis en surbrillance. Les abonnés payants à Chacun son vin ont accès à toutes les critiques dès leur mise en ligne. Les utilisateurs inscrits doivent attendre 60 jours après leur parution pour les lire. L’adhésion a ses privilèges ; parmi ceux-ci, un accès direct à de bons vins !



Filed under: News, Wine, , , , , , , , ,

Lawrason’s Take on Vintages August 17 Release

Alt-Italy, Wines of Place, 90 Point Reds Under $20, Emmanuel Giboulot

David Lawrason

David Lawrason

Every year at this time I comment on the patchy quality of VINTAGES August releases – less well known and sometimes less well made wines that need to get out on the shelf at some point. And in some cases perhaps best when fewer are watching. We are still watching at WineAlign although I admit less than full scrutiny this time as I too have missed a tasting opportunity in order to take a week by a lake. I have tasted 83 of the 139 products – missing a swath of inexpensive Ontario wines that were curiously not presented for preview to media or product consultants, as well as several from South America in particular.

Alt-Italy (aka not Tuscany, Piedmont, Veneto)

Here in the thick of summer you may not want to be drinking many of the southern Italian reds that dominate this alt-Italy selection. There are a couple of northern reds and some intriguing whites, but the bulk assembled for this dog days release are heavy sledding southern reds – some of them intellectually interesting – but in general they are thick, hot, sour-edged and unbalanced. They need lasagna and grilled Italian sausage on a chilly autumn eve.

Taurino Riserva Salice Salentino 2009Ippolito 1845 Liber Pater Cirò Rosso Classico Superiore 2010Bastianich Adriatico Friulano 2011Bastianich 2011 Adriatico Friulano ($19.95) is a very classy, sumptuous yet refined white for a mellow summer evening. It is from a winery founded in 1997 and owned by Lidia and Joseph Bastianich – a mother & son team who are movers and shakers in the culinary world (owning 20 restaurants). Their goal is to give the best modern expression to the potential exotic native white varieties of Colli Orientali del Friuli in the far northeast. Friulano is one of the most well known grapes (formerly called Tocai Friulano).

Ippolito 1845 Liber Pater 2010 Cirò Rosso Classico Superiore ($14.95) from Calabrese is a big yet balanced red from one of the most rugged and isolated parts of Italy. The Ciro DOC is set in sparsely vegetated hills overlooking the Ionian Sea. It is made 100% from a grape called gaggliopo. Liber Pater is ‘an Italic wine god’. To lose you in a Google translation: “His (the wine’s) character reminds the strength of the earth from where it is said that Liber Pater, Italic god of wine and vineyard, would stretch the delicate aroma with which intoxicated the festivals in his honour”.

Taurino 2009 Riserva Salice Salentino ($14.95) is my favourite wine of the group. I have always admired the traditional wines of Taurino, based in Salento – the heartland of the Puglian wine. This is 85% negroamaro “the bitter black grape”. More importantly it is made in a traditional style that envokes all kinds of nutty, leathery character; that flirts with volatility; that overwhelms the senses and leaves most modern reds at this price in the dust in terms of its homerun length. Will you like it? Maybe. But at $14.95 you can’t afford not to find out.

Fine Whites of Place

One of the great joys and benefits of this work is visiting the places where the wines are made. It establishes such an important connection. When you go to a place, and taste heavily, you create a mental, sensorial blueprint. I have recently been to each of the locations represented by the whites and red wines below and I can personally vouch that they are prime examples of how the wines of the appellations can, should and do taste. It is the winemaker’s job to translate it well; and these all excel. At very good prices.

Blind River Sauvignon Blanc 2012ANDRÉ BLANCK & SES FILS ROSENBOURG PINOT BLANCJosé Pariente Verdejo 2012Blind River 2012 Sauvignon Blanc ($19.95) is from Marlborough, NZ, but more importantly it is from a cooler sub-region called the Awatere Valley. The winery has rightly added this information on the label, but Awatere – along with many obvious sub-regions in NZ – is not yet an official appellation. When there is such distinctive character as shown here – with a cooler region accentuating sauvignon’s greener/herbal element – the foot-dragging authorities don’t have a leg to stand on. This is Awatere sauvignon – pure, simple and very nicely balanced. Move over marketers, and let the wine speak.

André Blanck & Ses Fils 2011 Rosenbourg Pinot Blanc from Alsace, France ($14.95) shares a similar story, and demonstrates the evolution of a new site. Rosenbourg is not a “Grand Cru” classified vineyard, but as recently as the 1980s the growers near the village of Wettolsheim just south of Colmar realized that this clay limestone based hillside was producing different wines with “exotic aromas”. Indeed! This is a pinot blanc of impressive fragrance and richness. It’s hard to believe this unsung grape can achieve fruit like this. And for $15 here in Ontario!

José Pariente 2012 Verdejo ($16.95) is from a winery whose roots in the region go back to the 1960s when Jose Pariente began making 100% verdejo wines on the limestone-based soils of this high plateau of north central Spain. His daughter Victoria took over after his death in 1998. The winery is now modernized and still very focused on this grape with its “extraordinary aromatic balance of fruity and herbaceous tones”. If you have not yet ventured into verdejo you will not find a better value entrée.

Fine Reds of Place

In recent dispatches I have featured European reds, often of less well known appellations, that express a sense of purity and place. This time I highlight some very fine New World reds. New World regions are places too, and though their details may be less well evolved and defined, they are totally legit. And they are working on it!

Jules Taylor Pinot Noir 2011Elk Cove Pinot Noir 2011Kenwood Jack London Vineyard CabernetKenwood 2010 Jack London Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon ($37.95) is among the top wines of this release. I have written before about this single-vineyard cabernet from a hilltop site in Sonoma where the famed American author lived in a cabin while writing some of his best works, like Call of the Wild, White Fang and The Sea-Wolf, at the turn of the 20th Century. The lava soils of this site were first planted in the 1800s. Since 1976 (the early days of California’s renaissance) the site has been owned by, and the wines made by, Kenwood. The eucalypt and fruit purity here is enthralling.

Elk Cove 2011 Pinot Noir ($37.95) is from one of Oregon’s pioneering properties founded in 1974. This is very early days for Oregon pinot folks. It has been in and out of Ontario over the years, but the Adams clan, now with its second generation at the helm, has been in command all the way. This is a wine with a fine sense of proportion and balance. It is from south facing slopes on four different estate sites. That makes the vines pushing 40 years of age.

Jules Taylor 2011 Pinot Noir ($24.95) from Marlborough, NZ, is the product of the person and her place. Jules Taylor was born in Marlborough the year the vines were first planted. She’s not saying, but I am guessing 1973. She launched her own wines in 2001, with the local insight to be searching out not just certain vineyards, but nooks and crannies of certain vineyards. She is making classy, natural ferment wines with all kinds of complexity and context.

More Fine 90 Point Reds – Now Under $20

Emiliana Winemaker's Selection Syrah 2011Paxton MV Shiraz 2011Boutari Naoussa 2008Emiliana 2011 Winemaker’s Selection Syrah from Chile’s Casablanca Valley ($19.95) is one of the first syrahs I can recall from this coastal region. It hails from a vineyard high in the hills above the valley floor. And it’s a winner. Emiliana is among the leading green producers of Chile, with legendary winemaker Álvaro Espinoza Durán as a consultant. Their range includes the first biodynamic wines made in South America, and if not entirely organic their whole portfolio claims to be made with “integrated management practices”. As important, I like what this $20 syrah says about the potential of this grape in Chile.

Paxton MV Shiraz 2011 ($17.95) is another winner. Ben Paxton is a low key but focused winemaker who has set out to make his Landcross Farm one of the leading properties of McLaren Vale – all through biodynamic viticulture. I can’t establish whether this was made from his fruit but I suspect so, if only because it has a depth and energy I have come to equate with biodynamic wines. It is really remarkable to find this kind of structure and depth under $20.

Boutari 2008 Naoussa ($12.95) is a curio from Greece. You need to be a fan of traditional Euro reds to get your head around this nutty nugget, but it has quite amazing complexity, and firm structure, especially at $13. As mentioned in my tasting note, it would not be out of place in a line-up of older Barolos. It is made from the xinomavro grape grown on mixed soils in hills above the plain of Macedonia in northern Greece.

Best of the Bunch

Brochet Hervieux Premier Cru Brut Champagne 1997Brochet-Hervieux 1997 Premier Cru Brut Champagne ($72.95) is a masterpiece in mature Champagne. It is from a family property established in 1945 as the Second World War ended. Whereas so many Champagnes are made from grapes gathered throughout the region, this growers Champagne is about 80% pinot noir, from premier cru sites in the hills around Ecuil. About 45% of the final blend is of reserve or aged wine, perhaps resulting in the complexity here. But most of all I love the acidity in this outstanding Champagne – riveting stuff that is remarkably alive at over 15 years of age. And a great buy under $100.

Tasting with Emmanuel Giboulet – An i4c treat

In the hours after the chardonnay inundation at the International Cool Climate Chardonnay Celebration the winemakers dispersed hither and yon – some going to the USA, some straight home to get back to work, some taking in the local wineries and exploring Toronto. I was pleased to spend an hour tasting with Emmanuel Giboulot who dropped by the palatial WineAlign offices on Dundas Street West en route to the airport, along with agent Martine-Garaguel O’Brien of MCO Wines. I had briefly tasted Giboulot’s steely chardonnays at i4c and was delighted to have a much more structured tête-a-tête.

Giboulot makes wines from small parcels totalling 10 hectares around the appellation of Beaune, with most of his biodynamically farmed (since 1996) parcels being from non-premier cru sites near the top of the hill on thinner, very rocky soils. (Thus their Côte de Beaune appellation). They are fermented in old oak using natural yeast and minimal sulphur dioxide. As a result they are chardonnays of scintillating tautness and minerality. I can understand how those who love generous, rich chardonnays, might find them difficult. But they certainly enforce the argument underlying i4c that chardonnay can also be very much a wine of place.

We tasted two chardonnays 2011 Pierres Blanches (92 points) and 2011 Combe d’Eve (93 points) then finished with a very fine red, Beaune 2010 La Lulune (93 Points) from a small hillside parcel facing onto Volnay. It’s hard to imagine a more terroir driven, unplugged pinot noir. I have posted my complete reviews on WineAlign. These wines are available through private order by contacting MCO.


David Lawrason
VP of Wine

We invite our Premium Subscription members to use these links for immediate access to all of David Lawrason’s reviews. Paid membership to WineAlign has its privileges – this is one of them. Enjoy!

From the Aug 17, 2013 Vintages release:

David’s Featured Wines
All Reviews

Stags' Leap Winery Viognier 2012

Filed under: News, Wine, , , ,


WineAlign Reviews

Coldstream Hills Pinot Noir 2008