Everything Wine blog

Sulphites in wine

You Probably Aren’t Allergic to Sulphites, Don’t Hurt Me 

 

A good friend posted a video of an ad for this magic device that “removed sulphites” from wine and thus “prevented hangovers”. This is like suggesting you can prevent car crashes by removing the car doors. I have no clue whether this funnel-with-stuff-in-it can truly alter a wine’s chemical composition by quickly pouring wine through the magic wine hole, but it doesn’t matter. Sulphites don’t cause hangovers. Alcohol does. 

 

Ok, just…. No,…stop yelling at me. Yes, I know that sulphite allergies are real, yes I know that the reaction you had to that Chilean Cab was real, yes I know that the bottle said “contains sulphites” on it and you then logically declared war. All I’m saying is that there are MANY components in wine that you could react to, and - statistically speaking - sulphites probably aren’t the culprit.  

 

I’ll readily admit that sulphites have suffered from terrible PR. Out of all the allowable additives in wine, it’s the only thing the label warns you about (besides booze, more on that below), and it’s far from the worst thing you can do to a wine, in fact, it’s something that wine does to itself:  

The heroic yeast that turns (meh) grape juice into (yay) wine produces sulphites during fermentation to prevent other kinds of bacteria from joining the party and stealing all this awesome sugar it’s eating. You won’t find wine without sulphites because they are inextricably part of its Origin Story. You can find wine with no added sulphites, but you’d best drink it quick (or hope it wasn’t sitting long) lest you discover why they were added in the first place:  

 

In the 1600s, the Dutch – tired of buying great wine down in Bordeaux only to find it smelled like donkey once it got back to Holland – figured out that if you dropped a sulphur candle down into a barrel and let it burn a bit before filling it, the wine wouldn’t spoil. In this age, when we think of additives we picture an Autobot from The Matrix injecting robo-serum into frightened, screaming grapes (if you’re drinking Factory Wine this might be the case, who knows, the factories have no windows), but sulphites can be introduced quite naturally, and in small administrations can help keep the wine stable and ageable. Many organic wine certifiers allow some sulphites in organic winemaking; indeed many Natural or Low Intervention winemakers administer some sulphites because they want the wine you buy to taste like the wine they made. 

 

If you can eat dried fruit, store-bought jam, dried nuts, canned tomatoes or a plate of French fries without reaction, then sulphites aren’t your nemesis. Maybe you could be friends. Maybe you could swap recipes. Histamines in red wine, often blamed if not mentioned on the bottles, share a similarly unfair scarlet letter – some people react to them, but they’re far more prevalent in many of the foods we eat and if you don’t react to cheese, fish or meat (which contain 10 times the histamine count), then they aren’t your suspect either.  

 

Yes.. for sure I understand that I’m not really helping. There’s no easy answer to why people react to certain wines and not others. Wine is a living thing, and largely an accurate portrait of the place it was born into, including the potential allergens surrounding it. Since red wines use skin contact after crush, there’s more environmental character: the skins interacted with those surroundings for months. If you find a wine that causes no reaction, continue to drink it and from the estates surrounding it, and try if possible to stick to the same vintage, because different things can happen to that vineyard from year to year. 

 

Although sulphites and other things like yeast, acid and tannins can be problematic for some, the likely culprit is the reason we all came here to begin with: Alcohol. Alcohol sensitivity is a thing, the best way to handle it is to drink less and drink better. We can help. 

Cabs Ahoy

A tasty spin ‘round the globe of Cabernet – (Sauvignon and Franc) - based wines. Put your trays upright and hold on tight: 

USA 

Enfield Wine Co. Waterhorse Ridge Cabernet Sauvignon 2017, Fort Ross Seaview, Sonoma Coast. New to BC. We don’t see much Cab coming from Fort Ross Seaview, as the ocean proximity (5 miles from the Pacific) and diurnal shifts favour the widely planted Pinot and Chardonnay grapes. Based on this drop-dead gorgeous Cab from John Lockwood and Amy Seese, though, holy amaze-balls we have been missing out, because this 2017 Cab from Waterhorse Ridge, a dry-farmed organic vineyard, is a revelation. The Pacific fog brings enough cooling effect to prolong sugar ripening but burns off midday to amp up the bright currant notes and allow the phenolics to ripen in balance with the sugar – even with the bizzarro heat spikes of 2017, Enfield achieved the perfect ratio of power and elegance that’s becoming more rare in a warming world. Plum, dust and lavender (a touch more graphite and it’d be a dead ringer for Margaux) over a full frame with a chalk-laced, silken finish. One of my missions this year is to find more Cali Cabs like this. Not submitted for review, 12 bottles available, $115.98 +tax 

Ashes + Diamonds Rouge #3 2019, Yountville, Napa Valley. Oh hey, look, I found another Cali Cab like that! From a production so tiny it’s not even on their website (it was destined for restaurants but I’m sneaky), Steve Matthiasson and Diana Snowden Seysses take Cabernet Franc from the Nord Trio vineyard in Yountville and temper it with about 10% Merlot, kind of like a photo-negative Saint-Emillon. A soft red pepper vibe supports the gravelly currant and pencil aromas, the intense medium body leaves a footprint of stone and cocoa powder. Killer Franc from ascendant rock stars. Not submitted for review. 2 6-packs available, $96.98 +tax 

Neal Howell Mountain Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2016, Howell Mountain, Napa. A statuesque classic from a banner year. The Neals are Mountain Bears, happier staying up the hill playing with their leaves and berries rather than spending time on the valley floor, over-ripening and getting stuck in above-ground pools. Papa Bear Mark Neal let the rocky soils of his Howell Mountain plot build a rugged, playoff-ready Cab, with mocha and dried raspberries crushed with gravel on the dusty nose. The structure, just starting to soften, commands a considerable footprint but is now cohesive with the medium-full body, I’d still like 3 more years on it but there are no longer sharks in the water if you want to dive in. Only 800 cases made, and I got one of them because I’m medium-important. Not submitted for review, 6 bottles available, $166.98 +tax 

 

FRANCE 

Domaine de Trevallon Rouge 2011, Alpilles IGP. First let me say how insane it is that I can offer this. I’m rarely impressed with myself, but hey. Good job, buddy. One of France’s most sought-after cult wines (and that’s saying something), Trevallon sits in a kind of wine-no-man’s-land between the Rhone valley and Provence (the Alpilles IGT was unofficially created for them when they got famous), and quietly cranked out small batches of ethereal Cabernet/Syrah blends until Aubert de Villaine (head of DRC in Burgundy) discovered them accidentally, and spread the gospel of Trevallon to all his friends – indeed Trevallon was popular with French winemakers well before the public even knew about them. Returning home to the land his dad René (sculptor and friend of Picasso) owned, Eloi Dürrbach started to research the history of Alpilles and discovered that the area was historically planted to Cabernet Sauvignon before Phylloxera wiped it all out, to be replaced entirely by Grenache a generation later. Seeking to make the wines of yore (despite zero viticultural experience), Eloi replanted to Cab in 1973 and blended it with Syrah (50/50) and the results were bonkers. This 2011 is a richly layered, savoury millefeuille of dried rosemary, thyme, violets, blackberry, pine and mint, with tertiary elements of leather and barn around the fringe. Gloriously French, very much a love child of Bordeaux and Hermitage. The current vintage at the winery is 2018 but I managed to nab these 2011s, which drink well now but will go another 10-15 years easily. I don’t know what else you were going to buy, but buy this instead. Not submitted for review, but Jancis Robinson found some and gave it 17+/20, which is her version of a Happy Dance. 3 wooden 6-packs available, $209.98 +tax 

Chateau Pontet Canet 2000, Pauillac, Bordeaux. Nothing not to like, here. An essential vintage captures a criminally under-classed 5th growth just as the changes Alfred Tesseron made to the winery (he modernized by un-modernizing) were starting to bear fruit. Many Bordeaux nerds place Pontet Canet as a Second Growth in their fantasy-football-like re-imaginings of the 1855 Classification (do ya like rabbit holes? You’ll never find your way out of this one). I get a lot of offers for Pontet Canet and refuse most of them, but I think this shows really good value. A slight ferrous note lurks beneath the cedar, blackberry and currant aromas, some secondary vanilla lingers with a touch of earth on the finish. Structure is silky but ever-present. 94+ points Robert Parker, 1 wooden case available, $499.98 +tax 

L'Orme de Rauzan-Gassies 2016, Haut-Medoc, Bordeaux. An unofficial Third Wine to Second Growth Ch. Rauzan-Gassies, grown just outside the Margaux delineation in Haut-Medoc, and a rompin’ stompin’ deal. A blend of Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, there’s a generous helping of cassis and lavender, restrained by a sandalwood-laced structure with lingering red fruits on the ripe, grippy finish. Drinks now but I’d like to see what 3-4 years can do. 97 points Decanter, 3 6-packs available, $59.98 +tax 

 

CHILE 

Don Melchor Cabernet Sauvignon 2018, Puente Alto, Chile. Concha Y Toro’s Enrique Tirado and Bordeaux consultant Eric Boissenot (who works on four out of the five 1st Growths and a whack of Seconds) have crafted the most complex Don Melchor in years for this 2018 vintage, replacing brute force with understated elegance and perfume and blending in small percentages of Merlot and Petit Verdot for the first time in a long while. Zippy red cherry lifts the black currant notes, with violet and Provençale herbs following through the savoury palate towards a long, generous finish. Delicious now, a glorious dragon with wings of victory and song in 5 years. 100 points James Suckling, 98 points Tim Atkin, 95 points Wine Spectator, 2 wooden 6-packs available, $179.98 +tax.  

 

ARGENTINA 

El Enemigo “Gran Enemigo” 2017, Gualtallary, Mendoza. Ok, you caught me, this is not a straight Cab, in fact it’s half Malbec, but there’s lots of Cab Sauv and Cab Franc in there and it’s my party so I’ll cheat if I want to. An homage of sorts to the pre-phylloxera Malbec-driven Bordeaux of the mid-1800s (Ch. Haut-Brion, for instance, was Malbec-dominant before the 1870s), the Gran Enemigo pulls off classical permanence despite the hotter 2017 vintage in Mendoza. Peppercorn and cedar notes underscore the chocolate, lavender, plum and mint. Earlier drinking than other Gran Enemigos but every inch as statuesque, Alejandro Vigil and Adrianna Catena justify their seats at the vanguard of Argentinian innovation; as I’ve often said before, these wines will not remain at these prices. 97 points James Suckling, 97 points Vinous, 2 wooden 6-packs available, $131.98 +tax 

 

SOUTH AFRICA 

Anthonij Rupert Cabernet Sauvignon 2016, Franschhoek, Western Cape. Off the market for a couple years, re-imported at my request (I asked a year and a half ago, such is the world today). A stunning overlap of Old and New World aesthetics, the Rupert family worked closely with Barons de Rothschild (Lafite) to propagate vines clipped from Lafite, and took special biodynamic measures to ensure that the new plants didn’t fall prey to Leaf Roll Virus, which had for decades had created smoky notes in South African red wines (for years I thought I didn’t like SA reds, turns out I don’t like viruses). Carrying on after his brother Anthonij’s untimely death in 2001, Johann Rupert carried on the family winery with Dawie Botha, a winemaker who studied in both Bordeaux and Napa, and his learnings show loudly in this gorgeously balanced 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon: cherry-stuffed cigar box with blackberry and blueberry over a licorice/vanilla body with firm but silky tannins. A gravelly minerality lurks from front to back. Everything is in its right place. Outrageous. No ratings found. 3 6-packs available, $103.98 +tax 

 

CANADA 

Tawse Laundry Vineyard Cabernet Franc 2016, Lincoln Lakeshore, Ontario. Tasting this Franc – the very best Canadian Franc I’ve ever tasted and yes, even better than the amazing BC Francs I’ve tried – is laced with sadness because of Paul Pender’s passing just a couple weeks ago. Winemaker at Tawse since 2006, he oversaw a stunning run of accolades, having earned Winery of the Year four times between 2010 and 2016. I never met Paul but his influence was widely felt on this side of the Rockies, his absence leaves a big hole. This 2016 Franc from the Laundry Vineyard has an intensity seldom seen in the variety – often extracted at the risk of also pulling harsh tannins and pyrazines – but Mr. Pender somehow lands the plane with perfect balance and grace. Leafy raspberry and jasmine notes swirl with dusty white pepper towards a savoury ripe blackberry palate, medium bodied, with a beautifully concentrated, focused finish. I’ve long been a fan of Niagara Francs but this shifted the paradigm. No ratings found. 12 bottles available, $55.98 +tax 

Black Hills Nota Bene 2019, Black Sage Bench, BC. Judging from the amount of phone calls we’ve been getting, this 2019 chapter of one of BC’s top cult wines is rabidly anticipated, perhaps because of its rarity: this is only the 3rd vintage since inception where Merlot is the dominant grape (Cab Sauv is a close second) and it’s the first vintage to use 100% wild yeasts for fermentation. The result is a more complex, layered Nota Bene, with savoury elements like dried sage twisting alongside the blackberry, plum and tobacco leaf notes. The Merlot lends a roundness to the mid-palate and the finish keeps those toasty baking spice vibes that we’ve come to expect from Black Hills’ flagship wine. To be perfectly candid: it has been a tough 2020/2021 on the Okanagan and we will see a scarcity of premium BC reds over the next couple years, especially in retail; smoke, fires, heat domes and, this year, extreme cold around Kelowna and points north, these have all taken their toll on the fragile vinifera plants that are genetically accustomed to more temperate weather (if they were poodles we’d put sweaters on them). Small quantities of very good wines will be made, but they’re more likely to be sold exclusively at the wineries, and Black Hills has notified us accordingly. We might get a smattering of Nota Bene from 2020/2021, or we might not, so if this is your jam act swiftly and decisively because you’re gonna run out of jam. No ratings found. 6 cases arriving tomorrow (Friday), $69.99 +tax 

 

AUSTRALIA 

Leeuwin Estate Art Series Cabernet Sauvignon 2017, Margaret River. James Suckling called this the “Mouton Rothschild of Australia”, and although the aromatics are different, the shape of this Cab, born of a maritime climate (just like Pauillac), does share a lot of Mouton’s broader qualities. Deep dark fruit, some bramble, with Mediterranean streaks of olive and sage over an underlying cocoa nibs base. Still a tad tight, 4 years should loosen the finish up a bit, I just want the acid to integrate on the finish. Slight lavender hue on the finish. 97 points James Halliday, 94 points Wine Spectator, 12 bottles available, 78.98 +tax. 

 

NON-STOP CLASSIC HITS 

What follows is a brief listing of some wines that fit this theme and have previously been written about, but featured again for the benefit of those who’ve recently joined my Collectors List and may have missed ‘em the first time. If anyone requires more info, I’m happy to send over the original blurb to you. 

Nickel & Nickel John C. Sullenger Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2018, Oakville, Napa. 95 points Wine Enthusiast, 2 6-packs available, $206.98 +tax 

Carruades de Lafite 2018, Pauillac, Bordeaux. 97 points James Suckling, 94 points Robert Parker, 6 bottles available, $575.00 +tax - One Magnum (1.5L) available, $1150.00 +tax 

Yarra Yering Dry Red #1 2017, Yarra Valley, Australia. 98 points James Halliday, 12 bottles available, $106.98 +tax 

Senegal Details Cabernet Sauvignon 2019, Sonoma. 95 points Vinous, 8 cases available, $59.99 +tax 

Pinot Gris vs Grigio

Ever wonder what the difference is between Pinot Grigio and Pinot Gris?

Well, they are the same grape variety, made in different climates and into different styles. It is a white grape, with a greyish/brownish pink skin (hence the name “gris”, in French or “grigio” in Italian). Producers outside France and Italy can use these names to indicate a particular style of wine. What’s surprising is that this greyish-purple grape is also a mutation of Pinot Noir. The classic region for Pinot Gris in France is Alsace, while Pinot Grigio is grown throughout Italy.

• Pinot Gris wine is produced with riper grapes with a long exposure to the sun, whereas Pinot Grigio isn’t exposed to the sun for a long period of time.

• Pinot Gris has a very fruity and tropical character, whereas Pinot Grigio is fresh and citrus.

• Pinot Gris is a full-bodied wine with a viscous texture, whereas Pinot Grigio is very light-bodied.

Today Pinot Gris/Pinot Grigio grapes are planted all over the world in almost every wine-growing region. For the most part, these countries are making the more fashionable Pinot Grigio style, which is typically easy-drinking and destined for early consumption. That said, there are also regions that focus more on the Pinot Gris style, such as BC, and parts of New Zealand.

One of my Italian, everyday go-to wines is Cavaliere d'Oro Campanile Pinot Grigio which is a great value at $12.99. Enticing aromas of flowers with sweet fresh citrus and hints of almonds. Vibrant with fresh acidity and fresh tropical fruit leads to a pleasant and long finish.

If you are looking for a real treat and are willing to spend the money then try Jermann Pinot Grigio $41.98 - It has an intense straw-yellow colour; its aroma is intense, full, and fruity, with excellent persistence. Its taste is dry, velvety, and particularly well-orchestrated for its full body.

One of my favourite BC wines is made in the Italian Pinot Grigio style – Bonamici Cellars Pinot Grigio - $22.98. A refreshingly crisp Pinot Grigio with delicious bouquet of mango, pear and spartan apple.  On the palate, crisp and dry with flavours of with just a touch of citrus grapefruit for a beautifully balanced finish with nice acidity.  It pairs well with Mediterranean tapas, seafood salads and Asian fusion cuisine.

A favourite from New Zealand’s Waihopai Valley - Marlborough, is Marisco Vineyards The Ned Pinot Gris - $18.99. A portion of the fruit was given skin contact to help enhance a salmon pink colour into the wine, thereby endorsing the signature style.

This wine has been crafted as an everyday glass of wine that can be appreciated as much on its own as it can when paired with food.

If you are looking to learn more about a grape varietal then a good reference point is Wine Folly.

Whatever your wine favourite is why not venture into Everything Wine and maybe give something new a try.

Caduceus Cellars and Merkin Vineyards

First time in BC since 2012, Everything Wine River District is proud to offer Caduceus and Merkin Vineyards, the premium Arizona winery owned and operated by Maynard James Keenan, also known as the lead singer of Tool and A Perfect Circle. Far from a vanity project, Keenan gets his hands dirty, managing the vineyards and making the wine himself in an exciting emerging American wine region. We have: Caduceus Cellars “Sancha” Tempranillo 2017, Yavapai County. The Sancha Tempranillo, modelled after wines from the Rioja Alta, is sourced from the Buhl Memorial vineyard, a south-facing bed of clay and limestone that sits at 4300ft, with a diurnal swing that can reach up to 50 degrees. The harsh conditions manage to wrest elegance out of Tempranillo, and the structured finish lifts everything up, like the red cherry, licorice, cinnamon and vanilla notes that float above the stones and tilled earth. Robustly bodied with a long, bracing coda, this Spanish grape is right at home in the desert. Wicked stuff. 3 cases available, $82.98 +tax Merkin Vineyards “Shinola” 2020, Yavapai County. Treating the Merkin label as his entry tier, Keenan does a rustic Italian blend of Sangiovese, Montepulciano, Dolcetto and Barbera with a smidge of Primitivo, all from the Buhl site. Aged in minimal neutral oak, this reminds me of the Tuscan table wines in every restaurant there, where you didn’t ask what it was because it was just good. Medium bodied with a fresh, citrusy acidity and mineral elements, with bright cherry, black pepper and a lot more complexity on palate than the nose suggests. 3 cases available, $44.98 +tax Merkin Vineyards “Shinola Orancia” 2020, Yavapai County. The Italian white grape Malvasia Bianca done with a measure of skin contact, but despite the name it’s not really all that orange, more of a deep gold. From the Buhl Memorial vineyard, the grapes are fermented on skins for 10 days in stainless steel, and that process adds a complex, layered shape with a bit of astringency on the finish. Honeyed melon, honeysuckle and orange peel with citrus oil and lilac. Gorgeous and substantial. 3 cases available, $41.98 +tax

River District Piedmont Offer 2021

We don’t often see two whizz-bang vintages happen back-to-back (the 2009/2010 combo in Bordeaux and 2015/2016 in Tuscany come to mind) but that very abnormality has happened recently in Piedmont. We saw 2016 coming for miles: outstanding quality up and down the Italian peninsula (in most of Western Europe, truthfully), a classic, put-it-on-the-shelf-and-admire-it kind of vintage that produced exquisitely built, ageable wines, there was no doubt that these Barolos and Barbarescos would be crazy good. 2017, however, is more of a surprise: hotter than Adam Driver in a bad mood, 2017 had mixed results in the rest of Italy, stealing elegance in exchange for oomph, not always welcome in more finessed wines. As the Italian 2017s were released over the last two years, there was good reason to expect that the northern Italian Nebbiolos, always released a little later, would be flat and cooked. 

But then the 2017 Barolos and Barbarescos started to be released, and reviewers and collectors alike exclaimed a very green-eggs-and-ham-like “Saaaaaaaaaay!”. There’s a little more fruit present, but not over-ripeness or cooked notes, notably because growers have had to figure out how to cope with a hot year (they’re not as surprising anymore), and they’re way better at producing elegant, classic Nebbiolo despite the added challenge. Vinous’ Antonio Galloni says “the wines challenge preconceived ideas of what wines from hot years can be”, and although he and Parker slightly favour the 2016s, James Suckling actually favours the 2017 vintage. 

So, needless to say, I’ve been busy. I’ve been collecting small batches of 2016s and 2017s, and just like with Burgundy, I buy wide but not deep, so there’s often only a few bottles of each selection. Start your engines. 

Visit Jordan in the Vintages Room at our River District location.

  • 8570 River District Crossing
  • 604 416 1672
  • jcarrier@everythingwine.ca

We begin: 

Figli Luigi Oddero. Odderos have been Odderoing in Barolo since the 1800s, and were part of the first wave of producers to sell wines straight to consumers, rather than to their local church. Seeking a different path than his brother Giacomo, Luigi Oddero split with his family’s winery in 2006 to start this eponymous house, which was going great until he passed in 2010. His wife Lena and their two kids carried on his work, but without Luigi’s generational wisdom in the cellar they were lost, until Lena made the best decision possible: she hired Dante Scaglioni—a local who had worked for 25 years as the winemaker for the legendary Bruno Giacosa, and the fireworks went off. Neither firmly in the Trad nor Modern camp, Dante makes clean, precise wines using older methods (long ferments, old oak Botti). I have: 

Luigi Oddero Barbaresco Rombone 2016. From a 2 ½ hectare plot of 30yr-old vines in Rombone cru in Barbaresco’s Treisa region. Great purity of fruit: rose-covered strawberries and sweet cherries, held together by a firm but kind structure. Herbal and forest floor notes linger. 95 points Wine Enthusiast, 6 bottles available, $99.98 +tax 

Luigi Oddero Barolo 2016. A gorgeous swirl of high-toned spices and deep red fruits, culled from several of the family’s holdings in various crus. Good tension between fruit and structure. Generous and fresh, a nice statement of vintage. 96 points Wine Enthusiast, 6 bottles available, $106.98 +tax 

Luigi Oddero Barolo Rocche Rivera 2008. Blast from the past from a cru in a cru – adjacent to the Rocche di Castiglione in the Scaronne cru in the commune of Castiglione Faletto, Rocche Rivera boasts the best exposure in the whole cru. Built like a racehorse, it has only just entered the don’t-bite-me window and will remain here for two decades. Mentholated cherries, crushed stones and herbs. Conservate and elegant. 95 points Wine Enthusiast, 6 bottles available, $193.98 +tax 

 

Pico Maccario. Long-time growers but recent winemakers (founded in 1997), Pico and Vitaliano Maccario’s first love was Barbera, but the brothers have grown their forward-looking winery in Mombaruzzo to include small releases of Nebbiolos as well. Quick ferments and modest barrel-aging in both Barrique and Botti make bold, direct wines of purpose. 

Pico Maccario “Tre Roveri” Nizza 2018. The Smart Italian Party Wine. 100% Barbera from their family’s vineyard in Nizza (the only DOCG where Barbera rules the roost). Loud and proud with unapologetic heft and oaky notes of vanilla supporting the spicy dark berries. Coffee and anise dance throughout. This Barbera never got pushed around in the schoolyard. Quite untraditional and outstanding, drinks like twice the price. Tre- Bicchieri (3 glasses = top score) Gambero Rosso, 5 6-packs available, $51.98 +tax 

Pico Maccario Barolo 2017. Nebbiolo mostly from the feisty commune of Serralunga d’Alba, bold and balanced with strong fruit and a surprising level of drinkability and concentration. Lavender and strawberry lead the nose, licorice and rich cherry glide from palate to finish. Well-integrated even this young, featuring high levels of Deliciosity™. Not yet rated, 3 6-packs available, $62.98 +tax 

 

Elio Sandri. I’ve never met Elio Sandri – I’m not sure I could, as he’s known to chase wine press off his property with a rake – but based on his wines I’m guessing I could outrun him because he’s probably too traditional to wear shoes. This is the Barolo of yore, vinified by basically waiting, with months-long whole-cluster ferments, minimal extraction and ancient oak. Tiny productions from the wee Perno cru and a haphazard approach to marketing and exports (and answering the phone) have only increased his legend; far more markets want his wines than get his wines, which is why it’s nearly miraculous that I can offer the following: 

Elio Sandri Barolo Perno 2016. A future epic. Earth and tobacco surround the bright cherry notes, with plum, olives and leather falling into place. A portal to the past that won’t open for another 5 years. Mint and cedar on the statuesque finish. 96 points Wine Enthusiast, 3 6-packs available, $111.98 +tax 

Elio Sandri Barolo Perno Riserva 2015. Roses and orange zest open the festivities, with violets and saline-tinged berries rounding out the middle and end. Unusually for a Sandri wine, this one is aaaaalmost there – it’s rounder than much of his work – but a couple more years would be ideal. 96 points Wine Enthusiast, 95 points Vinous, 3 6-packs available, $123.98 +tax 

 

Domenico Clerico. An unabashed modernist, Domenico Clerico has caught flak for his use of Barriques and Burgundian casks, but his critics forget that when he inherited his family’s plots in 1977, his approach was traditional – it was only his decades-long relationship with the few vineyards he farmed that led him to micro-focus on the unique fruit footprints of each site, seeking clean, transparent Burgundian expressions of place. These 2016 Barolos are the last ones Domenico made before his passing in 2017. 

Domenico Clerico Barolo Pajana 2016. From the Pajana vineyard in the Ginestra cru in Monforte d’Alba, named after an ancient path that bisects it, and planted by Domenico’s dad in 1971. Intense and concentrated with game, forest floor and blood orange underscoring the cassis and plums. Quite full, about 3 years out from paydirt. 96 points Robert Parker, 96 points James Suckling, 6 bottles available, $166.98 +tax 

Domenico Clerico Barolo Ciabot Mentin 2016. Also in the Ginestra cru at the top of the hill, the east-facing vineyard named Ciabot Mentin (after the previous owner’s tool shed) produces a dynamic balance of grace and oomph. Densely structured but nearly in the drinking window, orange and mint give way to layers of cassis and violets – a huge body but a wonderfully elegant landing. 97+ points Robert Parker, 95 points Wine Spectator, 6 bottles available, $166.98 +tax 

Domenico Clerico Barolo Aeroplan Servaj 2016. His father, out of admiration and concern, called free-spirited young Domenico “little airplane”, a nickname that the adult Domenico gave to this west-facing vineyard in the Baudana cru of Serralunga d’Alba. A study of how richness and energy play off of each other, with lurking ferrous notes beneath the linear cherry and garrigue. More high-toned and savoury than his other Barolos, this gorgeous beast was Domenico’s definitive statement. 97+ points Robert Parker, 6 bottles available, $192.98 +tax 

 

Produttori del Barbaresco. Although Angelo Gaja is primarily responsible for initially putting Barbaresco in people’s minds, this superlative co-operative helped put Barbaresco on the map by putting it in people’s hands. Started in the 1890s, dissolved in 1930 because, you know, Fascism, then rebirthed in the 1950s, Produttori gathered enough quality growers together to export great Barbaresco to the wine-drinking world, creating an amazing first impression and cementing the village’s status as a worthy partner to Barolo. Avoiding the stratospheric price jumps of most of their contemporaries, Produttori is nonetheless considered a benchmark of traditional Barbaresco, farming choice plots in the best crus, such as: 

Produttori del Barbaresco Paje Riserva 2016. A south-west facing natural amphitheatre whose collected heat is tempered by the nearby Tanaro river. Slightly brandied cherry notes surrounded by tar and smoke, quite dense with broad shoulders, long anise-laced finish. Best in 5 years. 96 points Vinous, 95 points Robert Parker, 95 points Wine Spectator, 18 bottles available, $80.98 +tax 

Produttori del Barbaresco Muncagota Riserva 2016. South-east facing, collecting the morning sun. Accordingly, Muncagota is more delicate on the nose (not the body, yowsers), with heightened floral aspects and characteristic mint vibes over the earth-driven iron and gravel notes. Full and bold on palate with considerable structure. 96 points Robert Parker, 95 points Wine Spectator, 18 bottles available, $80.98 +tax 

Produttori del Barbaresco Rio Sordo Riserva 2016. A long hill with south-west exposure, known for softer structures and hidden power. A burst of licorice and eucalypt over a medium body of plums and salinity. 96 points Robert Parker, 95 points Wine Spectator, 18 bottles available, $80.98 +tax 

 

Michele Chiarlo. For four generations, the Chiarlos have been delicious pragmatists, farming all over the Langhe, never putting all their chips on one village or one grape, and focusing on balanced, terroir-correct, ultimately drinkable wines. Even in off-vintages (which these are not), they excel in putting a wine in your glass that will perfectly show the grape and region with no caveats (and no bells or whistles). We have: 

Michele Chiarlo “Palas” Barolo 2016. A multi-commune cuvée, with fruit from Monforte, Verduno, and La Morra. A drinker’s Barolo, with soft(ish) integrated tannins supporting the balsamic strawberry and vanilla notes. Not super pigmented but quite powerful, my colleagues and I tasted this blind and put it closer to $100 – wonderful value, exclusive to Everything Wine. 94 points James Suckling, 6 cases available, Reg price $59.99, Sale Price $54.99 +tax 

Michele Chiarlo “Cipressi” Nizza 2018. 100% Barbera from Chiarlo’s La Court estate in Nizza, using only the sunniest parcels. Sweet spices lift the fresh raspberry and blackberry compote over a full-bodied bed of violets. Less acidic than most Nizza, a soft landing with more lingering cinnamon and nutmeg. Not yet rated, 18 bottles available, $39.99 +tax 

 

GAJA. Angelo Gaja, besides revolutionizing and modernizing what was once an unknown, backwards wine village, put Barbaresco into world-wine-consciousness by sheer force of personality. Now semi-retired, the estate is run by his daughter Gaia (never thought of it before, but I’m grateful that my parents didn’t name me Jordan Giordan), but the family strengths live on in the wine and personality (Gaia is no fading flower). Global shipping awesomeness prevented me from grabbing more, but I’m grateful to have: 

GAJA “DaGromis” Barolo 2016. Back in 1995, Gaja acquired the vineyards adjacent to their Sperss and Contesia sites from the Gromis family (DaGromis literally means “at home with the Gromisses”), and they vinify each vineyard separately before ultimately blending them into this deeply rich cuvée with fresh overtones. Aged in Barriques for 2 ½  years, the nose shows intense orange and red grapefruit over cassis, crushed rocks and cinnamon. Racy and powerful. Not submitted for review, 12 bottles available, $169.98 +tax 

 

Giacomo Fenocchio. When Claudio Fenocchio took over winemaking duties after his dad passed in 1989, he was the fifth Fenocchio to make wine in the Barolo commune of Monforte d’Alba, but the first to scale back his methods to adopt a non-interventionist approach (as much as one can in a colder climate), seeking to return to pre-industrial expressions of his ancient crus. He farms organically and favours long, spontaneous ferments, aging only in large, Slavonian casks, producing Barolos of precise terroir and purpose. The New York Times rated Fenocchio second place in a tasting of 2010 Barolos – coming behind only Elio Altare and ahead of Elio Grasso, Massolino, and Vietti, and his wines sell out quickly. I’m stoked to have: 

Giacomo Fenocchio Barolo Villero 2017. Hints of mint, white pepper and sandalwood float over the classic traditional Barolo notes of blood orange and morello cherry. A subterranean note of asphalt lurks with lavender on the finish. Ideal in 3 years. 97 points James Suckling, 2 6-packs available, $102.98 +tax 

Giacomo Fenocchio Barolo Bussia Riserva “90 di” 2015. Way cool, Barolo á la Druid. Fruit from the family’s holdings in the mighty Bussia cru is left to ferment with ambient yeasts after crush and then… nothing. They do nothing. Claudio leaves the juice alone for 90 days, no pump-overs, no punching the cap, just the ancient act of allowing the skins to fully influence the ensuing wine. Fruit leather and game notes hold the black cherry and juniper just above the earthy tannins, this is a complex Nebbiolo that, although inscrutable now, will grow into a layered, gorgeous Barolo. 6 bottles available, $163.98 +tax 

 

Musso. Although there was a Musso mayor of Barbaresco in the early 1600s, the family didn’t get into the wine game until 1929 when Sebastiano Musso started the winery that his father could only dream of – just in time to see the world economy crash and Fascism take hold. Wheeee!! Inch by inch the Mussos grew the operation until in 1966 the village got its DOC status and their wine saw export. Today Valter Musso and his sons tend to the estate, crossing traditional and modern methods to build big, beautiful Barbarescos like these: 

Musso Barbaresco Pora 2017. A full-throated expression of the Pora Cru, near the village of Barbaresco. Blue flowers and raspberries open to a full, generous brew of cinnamon, vanilla and cherry. Still youthful and tannic, but the fruit weight nearly balances. Not yet rated, 12 bottles available, $69.98 +tax 

Musso Barbaresco Pora Riserva 2015. Large and in charge. Mentholated espresso beans dance with drunken cherries holding orange peels like a whip. A strong argument to be made for this 2015 already being in the window. 95 points Wine Enthusiast, 94 points Wine Spectator, $89.98 +tax 

 

Nada Fiorenzo. The Nada story is more like a cycle. Since Carlo Nada started the business by selling garage-brewed Nebbiolo to local restaurants, every subsequent Nada son swore off the wine biz and sought fame an fortune in nearby Torino, only to be disenchanted by the big city and return home to fall in love with the land anew. It’s like watching 3 Hallmark movies back to back. The Nada style is pragmatic, using long, wild ferments but employing a mixed media of barrels for aging (although 4th Gen Danilo Nada has been slowly steering away from Barriques). First time in BC, I have: 

Nada Fiorenzo Barbaresco Rombone 2016. The Rombone cru is the first site the Nada family ever vinified; they know that terroir like my kids know the Skip the Dishes site. An éclair of kirsch, fennel and herbs greets the nose, gliding towards a mid-weight, quite velvety palate. The acidity on the close speaks louder than the tannins right now, everything else is a go but I’d like to drink this in 2025. 96 points Vinous, 95 points Wine Spectator, 6 bottles available, $112.98 

 

Tenute Guardasole. This is where Nebbiolo goes skiing. Boasting the highest vines in Alta Piemonte, the subalpine town of Boca experiences drastic swings from day to night, and the steep slopes make it tough to farm here, which explains all the abandoned vineyards around the village (decades ago when Piemontese wine was dirt cheap, producers favoured moderate, flatter sites that could be farmed mechanically to save money). Marco Bui of Tenute Guardasole is one of a handful of winemakers who have begun rehabilitating those ancient vineyards, making gorgeous high-altitude reds like this: 

Guardasole Boca 2016. A burst of friendly energy. Dried flowers, tar and white pepper all surrounding the Tesseract. Clean, transparent and feisty, 80% Nebbiolo, 20% Vespolina, medium bodied and laser focused. The finish is still a bit feral, give this one 3 years at least. 95 points Vinous, 6 bottles available, $84.98 +tax 

 

Poderi Marcarini. 6 generations strong, the Marcarini family is still doing what they do best: overserving me because their wines are so deceptively gulpable. Honest, contemporary Barolos are their calling card, “intervening” just enough to let the vineyard character shine through, using quick ferments but large casks that preserve purity of fruit. I have: 

Marcarini Barolo del Comune di La Morra 2017. New skin for the old ceremony. Only its third year on the market, this is a co-ferment of several crus with Tortonian soils within the La Morra commune. Gloriously floral and perfumed, with light cherry and forest floor serving a tangy body, full of orange peel and star anise. 95 points James Suckling, 10 bottles available, $66.99 +tax 

Marcarini Barolo La Serra 2017. From the rugged, southwest facing La Serra cru in Serralunga d’Alba. Strawberries rolled in ash with black tea and ferrous notes. A very serious customer. Linear in shape with great intensity and mineral components from front to back, built to withstand a plane crash, needs 4+ years. 97 points James Suckling, 5 bottles available, $84.99 +tax 

 

Francesco Rinaldi & Figli. The Rinaldi name in wine dates back to the 1870s, and in 1922, like many houses in Piedmont (and Burgundy), the family splintered into separate wineries: Giuseppe and Francesco. More traditional than a sharpened stick, current cellar master Luciano Rinaldi employs month-long ferments and exclusively large, old Slavonian casks. These wines became available in BC for the first time this year. 

Francesco Rinaldi Barolo Brunate 2016. Straddling the border of the Barolo and La Morra communes, the Brunate cru hides a lot of magnesium and potassium amongst its reams of limestone, building complex phenolic concentrations in this dark and dense Nebbiolo. All manner of green herbs trip up the rosewater, raspberry and cinnamon on the nose, with pomegranate and smoke in faint hints. Layered and in no hurry, medium bodied, almost in balance (the acidity is a little hey-how-ya-doin’ right now). 94 points Vinous, 6 bottles available, $111.98 +tax 

Francesco Rinaldi Barolo 2007. From La Morra, Barolo and Castiglione Faletto communes. A spicy thread from front to back, black tea and worn wood are a platform for dried red fruits and dried blackberry, medium-bodied, intact finish – this could still go another decade without breaking a sweat. 6 bottles available, $197.98 +tax 

 

Poderi Colla. The first family to include cru names on a Barolo bottle in 1961, the Colla family – now headed by Tino Colla, practices mostly traditional winemaking, with a few modern tweaks for clarity of terroir. Tino is known for organizing a stratified harvest, with different altitudes being picked on widely different days, and then added to the ferment as they come in over several weeks – approximating the approach that Barolo houses had to use decades ago when there wasn’t enough money to pay pickers to get all the grapes at once. This allows the tannins from the first grapes to polymerize (bind to form solids) as the others are added, softening the profile a tad. I have: 

Poderi Colla Barbaresco Roncaglie 2016. Intense but not heavy, in fact it’s light enough to dance around the rhubarb, truffle and mint notes before dropping on the palate with a kaboom. Roncaglie is an amphitheatre-esque, south-facing steep hill that will likely go up in price and prestige once Vietti starts releasing the Barbarescos from their recently purchased plot there. Deliciously long finish, great value (for now). 95 points Vinous, 95 points Wine Enthusiast, 8 bottles available, $80.98 +tax 

 

Cappellano. One of Barolo’s most renowned (and feared) traditionalists, Augusto Cappellano carries on his father Theobaldo’s commitment to terroir expression and minimal cellar interference, as well as his father’s tendency to shoo away wine reviewers who might possibly assign a numbered score to his wines. His wines reward patience, and they sleep like dragons. 

Cappellano “Otin Fiorin” Pie Rupestris 2016. This will cellar like wines 4 times its price. Quite Burgundian in nature, there are subtle hints of dried fruit, herbs and spices, but the finish is disjointed and spiky. Collectors will be highly rewarded for keeping this at least 10 years, but right now it drinks like a misunderstanding. Once integrated, the 2016 Rupestris will match power with delicacy and drink like a halo, this will be a remarkable Barolo. 6 bottles available, $151.98 +tax 

 

Azienda Agricola Azelia di Luigi Scavino. This famously innovative house celebrated its centennial with the release of their 2016s, which threatens to compromise their best-kept-secret-under-the-radar status. Organically farmed and using a pragmatic blend of old/new methods, The Scavino family (Luigi and his son Lorenzo) sources fruit from some of the regions best crus: 

Azelia Barolo Bricco Fiasco 2016. The first cru owned by the Scavino family, Bricco Fiasco (hill shaped like a flask, or fiasco) sits in the Castiglione Faletto commune, and the Azelia vines were planted by Luigi’s grandfather in 1940. Brilliant blue fruit with chalk and cassis notes, a medium-full body and a gorgeously floral finish. Aaaalllmost in the drinking window, 2 more years should do the trick. 96 points Wine Spectator, 96 points Robert Parker, 4 bottles available, $169.99 

 

Cesare Bussolo. When he’s not working with cult Barolo producer Roberto Voerzio, Cesare Bussolo quietly makes a few cases of wine under his own label. Did I say quietly? No chance of that now, as Cesare’s wines have blown up in Europe with long waiting lists, and they make their first appearance in BC this year. Like his mentor Roberto, everything is done on a super small scale with ambient yeasts and small barrels. I can offer: 

Cesare Bussolo Barolo del Comune di La Morra 2017. Compact, vibrant fruit on the nose: cherries, roses, sage – this is built like a 1er Cru Volnay, medium-bodied and long. Elegant and super-fine tannins, everything is arguably in balance now, but there’s no doubt that it’ll improve in 4-5 years. Not submitted for review, 6 bottles available, $156.98 +tax 

 

Poderi Aldo Conterno. The Modernist Who Wouldn’t Be. When Aldo, the second son of Barolo legend Giacomo Conterno, came of age, he did what many young Italians did: he got as far away from Italy as possible. Seeing that a post-prohibition Napa Valley was ascendant, Aldo emigrated to the US to start a winery with a few uncles when – oopsy! – he was drafted into the Korean war, where he served two years before an honorable discharge. Finding himself back in Barolo wondering what happened, he joined his brother Giovanni at his ailing father’s estate, and was soon fighting with his family about how they made wine. Inspired by the modern moves that Angelo Gaja was making in Barbaresco (although let’s be real: a “Modern” technique in 1961 Langhe was cleaning your cellar a bit), Aldo struck out on his own to become the blasphemous “Modernist” of the family. But was he? He only really tweaked his family’s ancestral methods, his stuff was – and still is, after his 2021 passing and his sons in charge – pretty old school, as well as gorgeous and iconic. I have: 

Aldo Conterno Barolo Cicala 2012. From 50-yr-old vines, this 2012 from the Cicala vineyard in the Bussia cru (in Monforte d’Alba commune – these really are Russian dolls) is just entering the zone. Leather is starting to move into the nose of nutmeg and mint, with ferrous tobacco notes and cherry holding strong. Lots of yums. 95 points James Suckling, 6 bottles available, $289.98 +tax 

 

NON-STOP CLASSIC HITS 

What follows is a brief listing of some wines that fit this theme and have previously been written about, but featured again for the benefit of those who’ve recently joined my Collectors List and may have missed ‘em the first time. If anyone requires more info, I’m happy to send over the original blurb to you.  

Pelissero “The Long Now” (Nebbiolo/Barbera) 2015. 95 points Vinous, 12 bottles available, $65.98 +tax 

La Ca’ Nova Barbaresco Montefico Vigna Bric Mentina 2017. 96 points Wine Enthusiast, 18 bottles available, $67.98 +tax 

La Ca’ Nova Barbaresco Montestefano 2017. 96 points Wine Enthusiast, 18 bottles available, $67.98 +tax 

Coming Soon: Bordeaux and Rhone offers!! 

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