Everything Wine blog

Food and wine pairing: is it personal or science?

Finding the perfect food pairing is an art of itself—do you meticulously match your meals with a specific wine or do you prefer to let chance decide your food and drink combo? Maybe you’ve happened upon a tuna poke and Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc pairing that blew your mind, or a French fry and Champagne ensemble that really knocked your socks off. However you happen upon them, these perfect pairings can really elevate an entire meal not to mention impress your dinner guests!

So are there really techniques to help decide what to match up together or is it just up to personal preference? Well, it might be a little bit of both… Everyone has their own unique palate so something that you find exceptional might not be the case for someone else. For most people, most food and wine pairings will be just fine (even red wine and fish can be paired successfully when paired carefully…we’re thinking Pinot Noir and salmon!) but there are actually some key indicators to help you understand why some work better together than others. Just remember, the intensity of the flavours in a dish play a major role in pairing because you don’t want to overwhelm the flavours of the wine.

Classics exist for a reason, but there is nothing to say that a new classic can’t be born! So let this be your guide the next time you find yourself searching for the perfect pair but don’t be afraid to experiment, you might just find the next inseparable steak and Cabernet Sauvignon duo!

Food is…

Wine Seems…

This means…

Sweet

More drying and bitter, more acidic

Less sweet and fruity

Be careful pairing with wines with less sweetness than the food or with high tannins.

Savoury

More drying and bitter, more acidic

Less sweet and fruity

Be careful pairing with wines with high levels of tannins or oak flavours.

Salty

Less drying and bitter, less acidic

Smoother and richer

Salt can make tannic wines seem more enjoyable.

Acidic

Less bitter and acidic

Fruitier, sweeter and richer

Be careful pairing with wines with less acidity than the food.

Highly Flavoured

Overwhelmed by the food flavours

Pair with wines of similar intensity of flavours.

Fatty/Oily

Less acidic

Pair with wines with high levels of acidity.

Hot (spicy)

More drying and bitter, less sweet and less fruity

Increases spiciness

Pair with wines that are light in alcohol, are fruity and have some sweetness.

*information credited to the Wine and Spirits Education Trust

The Quaran-Vine Papers #4: Pinots of Privilege

Like many “essential” workers, I have come to know quite a bit about masks and gloves, lately. Gloves are a complex topic that we talk a lot about, here, with different pros and cons:

THINGS GLOVES MAKE EASIER
- Not touching my face (prime directive, 90% success rate)
- Picking up boxes of wine (omg so much better, I’m like Spiderman)
- Protecting against an angry cat (see below)

THINGS GLOVES MAKE HARDER
- Picking up a pen (why can’t they be bigger?)
- Taking a piece of @#*% paper out of a @#*% envelope (@#&% #$)
- Petting a cat (see above)

But our topic for today’s read is Pinot Noir, and the access I temporarily have to some wines that were reserved only for restaurants. PLEASE understand that I would trade back this access in a nanosecond if it meant that my restaurant brethren could fully return to work, but for now I can offer some amazing Pinots to you:

B.C.

Blue Mountain Block Series, Okanagan Falls. The Mavety family has spent the last few years identifying which areas of their original vineyard near OK Falls (one of the only own-rooted, ungrafted sites in the province) made the most distinct statements of Pinot Noir, and this is the maiden vintage of those terroir-driven bottlings. I have long been a fan of Blue Mountain, and I’m unsurprised to see them leading the charge towards a more Burgundian, geographic designation concept for BC (Oregon is already largely there).

Blue Mountain Pinot Noir Block 23 River Flow 2017. The prettiest Pinot from the top of the hill, light and graceful from a sandy block with almost northern exposure. Red fruited and elegant with soft tannins, lovely. 12 bottles available, $54.98 +tax

Blue Mountain Pinot Noir Block 14 Gravel Force 2017. As the name suggests, this is rocky soil with bits of clay acting as a sauce. Southwestern exposure means deeper everything: colour, body and tannin, with tangible strength and lots of layers. 12 bottles available, $54.98 +tax

Blue Mountain Pinot Noir Block 9 Wild Terrain 2017. The wild card with the most diverse aspects, steepest slopes, windiest area and sunniest part of the vineyard. This collection of extremes offers a gorgeously savoury, racy Pinot with herbs and flowers. 12 bottles available, $54.98 +tax.

 

Little Engine Pinot Noir Silver 2018, Naramata. A bunch of us “Wine Types” went up to a special tasting at the French Family’s Naramata winery a couple years ago (so gorgeous up there, sigh), where we were treated to a blind comparison of Little Engine Pinots vs. Oregonian and Californian offerings. Two things crossed my mind, 1) wow, even the cheapest tier (silver) of this house really holds up against the Yanks and 2) the contrasting choice was fairly revealing as to where Little Engine’s compass is oriented. Almost every premium BC Pinot mentions Burgundy in their marketing, either as a North Star or (more incredulously) as an analog; Little Engine is admirably happy being a West Coast Pinot, full of fruit and fun and occasional punches to the face. This 2018 is vibrant and loud with cherry and dried strawberry notes, hints of fig and herbs toward a pretty darn satisfying medium-full mouthfeel with supportive (not racy) acidity. 2 cases (of 12) available, $41.98 +tax

Martin’s Lane Pinot Noir Simes Vineyard 2015, Kelowna. Martin’s Lane has come a long way since this little offshoot of Mission Hill won its Pinot category at the Decanter World Wine Awards. Now its own winery with its own winemaker (New Zealander Shane Munn), Martin’s Lane has wisely narrowed their focus to perfecting two varieties: Riesling and Pinot Noir. Planted in 2008 and named after Mission Hill’s Wine Wiz John Simes, this vineyard near Kelowna boasts a rare northern aspect with Pinot at the top of the hill, allowing a long hang time for phenolic ripeness whilst keeping that bracing acidity that helped it beat its competitors years ago. Ripe cherries, cola and flint notes dive into a soft bath of plums and flowers. The bottle says 14% alcohol but it drinks like 12%. Quite lovely indeed. 12 bottles available, $100.98 +tax

FRANCE

Gerard Raphet Clos de la Roche Grand Cru 2016, Burgundy. The perfect way to tell 10-years-from-now you that you’re special and deserving of love. The 100-year-old rows near the top of this Grand Cru near Morey-Saint-Denis make very little juice, but what is produced is deep and earthen with hues of licorice and baking spice amongst the black cherries, the tannins are still at fighting weight but should soften enough to slip into a supporting role in a few years. Raphet is the Burgundian winemaker that other Burgundian winemakers drink, I’m discovering. 3 bottles available, $306.98 +tax

Domaine Faiveley Corton-Clos-des-Cortons-Faiveley Grand Cru Monopole 2017, Burgundy. One of the precious few Grand Cru Monopoles (whole appellation owned by one house) in existence, the Faiveley family has farmed this patch since 1873, and besides being a blessed, east-facing terroir with a reputation for making Cellar Stars, it’s also one of only two Grand Cru Monopoles that bear the name of the family (the other is DRC). The 2017 vintage was one of those rare nothing-horrible-happened years that the family calls “classic” in style, spicy cherries constrained by bracing minerality that’ll develop amazingly over the coming decade but with enough fruit to drink earlier – unlike many vintages from this cru it doesn’t drink like a wolverine who stubbed his toe. Energetic but generous. 3 bottles available, $330.98 +tax

Marquis d’Angerville Volnay 1er Cru Taillepieds 2016, Burgundy. So synonymous are the d’Angervilles with the village of Volnay that 1) you’d need to go back several centuries to find a time when they weren’t there, and 2) they’ve been farming these same vineyards so long that the grapes are now their own recognized clone of Pinot Noir, Pinot d’Angerville. The current Marquis is Guillaume d’Angerville, who took over after his father’s premature passing in 2003, and he makes the kind of Volnay that reaffirms why this is pretty much my favourite village: gorgeously textured, silken delivery with just the right balance of perfume and stank. The gamey, herbal notes are countered by opulent deep blackberry and licorice, I think we’re 5 years away from the Golden Years here but the universe wouldn’t retaliate if you gave in to your urges now. 3 bottles available, $270.98 +tax

Butterfield Corton Grand Cru 2008, Burgundy. I’ve introduced David Butterfield to you before – he’s the Canadian who trained under Jadot’s crazy druid Jacques Lardières – but I kind of hit the jackpot in both vintage and value with this amazeballs 2008 Corton, $156 would be peanuts for this Grand Cru in a new release let alone a library one (this is straight from his cellar). Taken from the tiny Pugets lieu-dit in Corton, this is an elegant, perfumed expression of the Cru with black cherries and leather taking centre stage – one need not wait for this, all engines are engaged. Doubtful that I’ll be able to get this again. 2 6-packs available, $156.98 +tax

Maison Roche de Bellene “Collection Bellenum” Beaune 1er Cru Les Grèves 2002, Burgundy. I tucked this one near the end to reward diligent readers: Bellene’s Nicolas Potel recently embarked on a new project: to liberate the cellars of his colleagues (as well as his own) and sell back-vintaged Burgundy for reasonable prices (in context, naturally). This 2002 Beaune Grèves exudes red fruits and flowers over spice and forest floor, and drinks like a dream as long as your dream involves dried cherries. I don’t expect to be able to get this again either. 9 bottles available, $119.98 +tax

USA

Lindstrom Pinot Noir Dutton Ranch 2016, Russian River Valley, Sonoma. Greg and Carol Lindstrom only produce two wines, a Napa Cab and this Sonoma Pinot, both of which are made by Celia Welch – the winemaker of Screaming Eagle peers Scarecrow and Staglin (and she was 2008 Winemaker Of The Year) – which seems like hiring Spielberg to direct your Tik Tok video but she loves the fruit these vineyards produce, the collab was her idea. Only 200 cases were made of the Dutton Ranch 2016 Pinot (in the US you can only get this at the winery) and we have the only ones that came into BC because we are very clever (usually goes to restaurants). Cherry cola and cinnamon swirl around soft cedar notes and blackberry jam with plum and pomegranate. Remarkable intensity, smooth delivery. 2 6-packs available, $118.98 +tax

Until next time, Happy Drinking!

The Quaran-Vine Papers #3: Shooting Blancs - French Whites in Small Batches

As the weather gets warmer and we continue to find ourselves with time on our hands, I thought I’d shoot out some suggestions for some amazing French white wines to enjoy on your patio, with, of course, some contemporary precautions:

FROM THE LEGAL DEPARTMENT – April 16th, 2020. Wine Product may be consumed in outdoor areas if consumers adhere to the following restrictions:

1a. All consumers of Wine Product must stay 2m apart from each other on patio.

1b. Patio must be 2m apart from neighboring patio.

1c. If two neighboring patios are occupied, eye contact between patios is forbidden.

1d. If accidental eye contact between neighboring patios does occur, eyes must be washed for 20 seconds before returning to patio.

Well, now that we’re safe, let’s get to the yums:

PRODUCER SPOTLIGHTS

Domaine Marius Delarche, Burgundy. Simply put, this is some of the best Burgundian value I have seen in a few years, from a tiny producer who should change their name to When Mice Roar. When Etienne Delarche took over after his father passed in 2007, there was every reason to expect that he would continue his family’s tradition of making passable, agreeable wines from the vineyards they’d owned for generations on and around the hill of Corton. Having apprenticed in a series of forward-thinking Burgundy houses, he set about reducing the oak treatment and the yields and stunned the region with pure, focused Chardonnays that shed new light on the unassuming hamlet of Pernand Vergelesses (or as I call it: Shadow Corton). Etienne now plays with the big boys but charges the kiddie rate: Delarche hasn’t increased their prices since 2010, putting them starkly in contrast with… France. I have 2 wines by Etienne:

Domaine Marius Delarche Pernand-Vergelesses AOC Les Boutières 2017. From vineyards literally around the corner (other side of the hill) from Corton-Charlemagne (that’s why I call it Shadow Corton, clever Jordan!). Wet stones and spicy apples with zing and tenacity, finishes with lemon zest and a drum fill. Truly amazing value, you will want more than you buy. 4 6-packs available, $52.98 +tax

Domaine Marius Delarche Corton-Charlemagne Grand Cru AOC 2017. A creamy whopper of a Corton-Charlie, full, rich, loud and solid, like a lemon-cream-pie with rocks in it. Delicious now, delicious in the future second term of President Joe Exotic. I don’t mean to blow the “value” horn too much but just look at this pricing compared to anything else from this Grand Cru and you’ll see why I’m so stoked on this house. 2017 not yet rated, previous 2 vintages scored 94 with Wine Spectator. 1 6-pack left (this horse is partially out of the barn) $161.98 +tax

 

Nicolas Joly, Loire. The Godfather of Biodynamic viticulture. This dude’s book has almost too many chapters in it: born in France, educated in New York and a former investment banker at J.P. Morgan, Joly returned to his family’s estate in the Loire Valley after reading a book of biodynamic viticulture, and he became a pioneer of organic winemaking in France during a time when pesticides and herbicides were liberally used as seasonings. He effectively put the small appellation of Savennières on the map, working exclusively with Chenin Blanc and elevating both grape and region to a level where one of his crus, Coulée de Serrant, was awarded its own appellation, becoming a monopole (entire AOC under one proprietor) and joining the tiny club of Romanée-Conti and Chateau-Grillet. (In contrast, I just learned how to work our Moneris machine, huzzah!). I have 2 Chenin Blancs by Mr. Joly:

Nicolas Joly Coulée de Serrant Savennières-Coulée-de-Serrant AOC 2016. If you wash your hands long enough to speak this wine’s whole name, you should be fine. Like Corton and Vougeot, this hallowed land has been under vine since monks first planted it in 1130. Harvested in 5 different passes and fermented with indigenous yeasts, aged in old oak, showing crushed rocks and grapefruit over dried white flowers and mild green herbs. Probably 5 years out from Prime Yum, age it like a dry Riesling. Not yet rated, 12 bottles available, $135.99 +tax

Nicolas Joly Les Vieux Clos, Savennières AOC 2016. The estates youngest vines (20 years, ancient in BC context) are in this east-facing vineyard of schist and quartz, severely harvested so that only the ripest berries get used. This is Joly’s earliest drinking wine, golden and rich with flinty lemon and lemongrass and a faint saline note. 12 bottles available, $79.99 +tax

 

OTHER YUMS

Domaine aux Moines Savennières-Roche-aux-Moines AOC 1999, Loire Valley. Mother-and-Daughter team Monique and Tessa Laroche run this absolutely crackerjack, under-the-radar biodynamic neighbour to Joly, next door to Coulée de Serrant. This organic Chenin is aged to perfection, still showing dried pear and honey over tertiary notes of menthol and pineapple. Medium bodied, firm with a persistent finish. Still has the acidity to go another decade, but you’re in quarantine now, so… 12 bottles available, $59.98 +tax

Gerard Duplessis Chablis 1er Cru Montmains AOC 2017, Chablis, Burgundy. Gerard’s son Lilian now runs this organic, classic Chablis estate in the heart of the appellation, and the Montmains cru (means “medium mountain” because it’s on a medium mountain) is his favourite. Flint and smoke surround the citrus notes, it takes a bit to coax the snail out of the shell, here, so decant and re-chill would be my M.O. or a 3-years nap would work as well. So many hazards befell Chablis in 2017 – hail and frost above all – that it’s wondrous we got anything, and accordingly the quantities are tiny. I have one 6-pack. $69.98 +tax

Domaine Oratoire St Martin Cairanne Blanc AOC “Haut-Coustias” 2017, Cairanne, Rhône Valley. Continues to be one of the best values in White Rhône, but the world is slowly catching on. Clairette-led with Grenache Blanc, Marsanne and Roussanne doing dishes, this is an opulent, rich white, made by the Alary brothers from 90-year-old vines on the geologically unique hill of Haut-Coustias, which like the village of Cairanne is largely planted to red wines. Intense tropical fruits and a massive body are all tied up in a zing on the luxurious finish. 94 points Robert Parker, 12 bottles available, $52.98 +tax

Domaine de Beaurenard Chateauneuf-du-Pape Blanc AOC 2017, Chateauneuf-du-Pape, Rhône Valley. It seems like a lifetime ago but we had Victor Coulon from Beaurenard here for a Collectors Tasting in late February (omg time is folding on itself) and this was one of the hits, a rare white CDP that uses an unusually large (25%) portion of the ancient grape Bourboulenc in the blend. White flowers, almond and apricot control the nose, and although quite crisp, it drinks like silk. This wine will give you the hugs your friends cannot. 12 bottles available, $77.98 +tax

Until next time, stay safe and Happy Drinking!

The Quaran-vine papers #2: Bella Italia

We honour the wines of Italy today with empathy and optimism: soon the cafes will reopen, the wine will flow and the music will start again. The things that make Italy one of the world’s hearts will return as vibrant and vital as ever - I will be at the front of the line to drink it all in.

Salute. We begin with the Italian Red Wine Of The Year, as chosen by Italians:

Piaggia Carmignano Riserva 2016, Carmignano, Tuscany. Boasting roughly the same Sangiovese-to-Cab/Merlot blend as Tignanello, the wines from the village of Carmignano are still Terra Incognita to many Canadian wine collectors but by rights they shouldn’t be: the true Tuscan values are in the hinterlands and this 2016 Riserva by Piaggia is an elegant, nearly-perfect tribute to that northern terroir. Carmignano’s Cabernet Sauvignon plantings go back to the 1500s when one of the Medicis became queen of France, and she imported her favourite French grapes to these hills that overlook Florence from the north-west; It’s weird that so many Tuscan traditionalists freaked out in the 1970s when the Antinoris blended Sangiovese with Cab – that same so-called Super Tuscan formula had been baked into the Carmignano cake for centuries. Dried and fresh cherries sing lead on this track but they let others take solos: blood orange, mint, plum and lavender all get to belt out a line or two. Repressed intensity follows on the layered palate, the structure is dense but not angry, a good deal of fruit comes back onto the long finish, accompanied by its fondue-friend Chocolate. This is actually pretty tasty now but I suspect a future legend – 20 years cellaring time is possible, 4 years is advisable. Remember when you saw the ads for The King’s Speech and you thought “Oh that’s obviously going to win the Oscar”? This. Red Wine Of The Year: Gambero Rosso. 5 6-packs available, $65.98 +tax

Salcheto Vino Nobile di Montepulciano 2015, Montepulciano, Tuscany. A wolf in sheep’s clothing. Because of Michele Manelli’s dedication to sustainable everything, the wines are packaged in diminutive, unassuming bottles that don’t even look like they could hold 750ml (they do) so as to decrease the carbon footprint needed to ship them. We carry wimpy little White Zins with more imposing bottles than this. It’s all a trick, however: like a hand grenade wrapped in a pink scrunchie, the wine trapped inside is a beast of many claws – I can’t believe it hasn’t already escaped given that the bottle’s so thin. Deep notes of iron and smoke hover above the black fruits and violets, you can almost smell the sunburnt soil through the plums. Carries the same body and structure as a Saint-Estephe, or maybe a tractor… This Sangiovese needs further imprisonment – 2 years should do the trick – but will be quite stunning on the other side of that. #11 – Top 100 of 2019, Wine Enthusiast, 94 points Wine Spectator, 4 6-packs available, $44.98 +tax

Tenuta San Jacopo Caprilius 2015, Valdarno, Tuscany. Remember how “Montepulciano” is the name of a grape and the name of a Tuscan wine village, but the Montepulciano village grows Sangiovese and the Montepulciano grape is never grown in Tuscany? Ok, forget all of that because this is a Tuscan wine made out of Montepulciano, oopsy. Besides being a fish-out-of-water, oh-no-the-Ghostbusters-crossed-the-beams kind of specimen, Caprilius is actually quite delicious, and certainly pushes the pleasure buttons earlier and more frequently than the last two wines. Big, round and loveable with spiced blueberries and blackberries, this is a rich, opulent wine from just outside the Chianti appellation, bursting with body and just generally in a good mood. Didn’t know the Montepulciano grape could get this large. Sheer concentration will allow aging but there’s no waiting period, this is a way-tasty little paradox already. 97 points (Platinum) Decanter, 3 6-packs available, $64.99

Trinoro Le Cupole 2017, Val d’Orcia, Tuscany. What’s the name of that thing that always stands back up with a smile after it gets punched? Oh, right: Trinoro. The 2017 growing season was so hot and dry in southwestern Tuscany that proprietor Andrea Franchetti said that the “Val d’Orcia became the Sahara, the grapes were all skins!” As a result, the 2017 red wines from Trinoro are denser, deeper and darker than Goth eyeliner, and the hydric pressure on the vines led Andrea to let Merlot drive the bus in Le Cupole, instead of the usual leader Cabernet Franc, whose berries looked like Voldemort after all the Horcruxes were broken. Le Cupole 2017 is a rich, ripe affair despite the drought, the velvety Merlot brings the love and the co-stars Cab Franc and Petit Verdot bring the brisk balance. Leathery plums and blackberries rule the roost. This has been a super popular wine in my Vintage Room for years, I’m sure many of you have older vintages in your cellars, but I guarantee you’ve never had one quite like this. 93 points Robert Parker, 2 cases available, $57.98 +tax

Dal Forno Romano Amarone della Valpolicella 2012, Valpolicella, Veneto. I keep telling people that I’ve never been run over by an Italian sports car, but I’ve drank Dal Forno so maybe that’s not true. The apprentice to Giuseppe Quintarelli has emerged as the King of Precision and Munitions: Romano Dal Forno’s chromed drying rooms (called Fruttaios) look like NASA test chambers, and his wines taste like the universe - vast and unending. Romano took the rustic, local Amarone practices and used new tech to refine each of them to maximum effect. In fact, “maximum” is the word that applies to every aspect of his winery and wines, soup to nuts. This is the maximum extraction, power, pigment, intensity and longevity that humans can wrest from the local grape varieties Corvina, Rondinella and Molinara. If Romano were permitted to start with a heavier grape like Cab, our known universe would fold in on itself. Sweet spice, brandied cherries and charcoal dominate the nose, the body and finish both scream “Ozymandias!” for hours. The sheer concentration and price preclude it from being a Wednesday Wine (but oh, what a Wednesday), as does the fact that he makes hardly any wine – I was allocated one six-pack and already sold one bottle. 97 points James Suckling, 96 points Robert Parker, 96 points Decanter, 5 bottles available, $534.98 +tax

Domini Veneti Vigneti di Jago Amarone della Valpolicella 2013, Valpolicella, Veneto. The Jago hamlet overlooking Negrar, north of Verona, supplies the Corvina-led fruit salad that comprises this friendly dragon. Started in 1989 by an established co-op (co-ops are owned by grape growers) called Cantina di Negrar, Domini Veneti’s mission was to start making amazing wines, standing apart from the starkly functional wines that the co-op was famous for (some co-ops make really good wine but they are often Purveyors of Meh). You can’t just “decide” to make great wines, can you? It doesn’t work like that, does it? Evidently it can work exactly like that because the wines from Domini Veneti have been stellar pretty much since the starting pistol. Their emphasis on terroir – not a priority of even some of the best Amarones – has been a calling card, and this wine from Jago sings. The expected dark fruits are balanced by citrus rind astringency and a truly exotic nose tied together by tobacco and vanillin. They don’t submit to American reviewers but they’ve racked up some European awards: Gold – Mundus Vini, Platinum/Best In Show Decanter World Wine Awards, 97 points Decanter, 2 6-packs available, $91.98 +tax

Pieropan Calvarino Soave Classico 2016, Soave, Veneto. An intensely perfumed, balanced white wine grown in volcanic soil (the Calvarino vineyard), and one of the last wines made by Leonildo 'Nino' Pieropan, considered by most to be the Father of Soave. Nature gave Leonildo a gift for Pieropan’s 45th anniversary harvest: a long, mild, dry autumn where the thick skins of Garganega got extra hang time to soften and collect knowledge and wisdom; the nose is teeming with lime zest, marzipan and stone fruit, accompanied by smoke, stones and spice. Big, dry footprint in the mouth, balanced by elegant acidity, amaze-balls. #6 – Top 100 of 2019 Wine Enthusiast, 96 points Wine Enthusiast, 94 points Robert Parker, 3 6-packs available, $41.98 +tax

 

BACK VINTAGES

I’ve lucked into a few library releases lately, I share these with you now:

Carpineto Vino Nobile di Montepulciano Riserva 1989 and 2007, Montepulciano, Tuscany. One of the leading names in Vino Nobile has released a few glimpses into the past (or into the future, if you scored some of the famous 2013s and want to taste what’s in store). The 1989 is astounding, showing dried violets and forest floor with fresh berries poking up ever so faintly, a good amount of anise on both nose and palate, the acidity is almost intact although the tannins are minimal. A shade peppery on the finish also. The 2007 is a teenager and can’t be told what to do. Red currant and green peppercorn abound, pushing slightly past the espresso and cherry. A nice head start on aging, here, but there’s certainly an argument to be made that it could use a couple more spins in the cellar, the body and acidity are nicely balanced but you can see the tannins from space. My money is on the 2007 being astounding in 2023. Neither vintage was reviewed insofar as I could find.
1989: 1 wooden 6-pack available, $87.98 +tax
2007: 2 wooden 6-packs available, $150.98 +tax

Brancaia Ilatraia Toscana I.G.T. 2007, Maremma, Tuscany. A generous, gorgeously layered Toscana directly in the downtown of Awesomeville, timing-wise. Cabernet Sauvignon with Sangiovese and Petit Verdot all get together to sing songs about how amazing you are, and how they loved spending a year and a half in French Oak (“it was so toasty” they sing) and how they used to be really angry but then they spent a long time in a bottle thinking about life and now they just want to spread joy. Then blueberries and vanilla beans show up and dance really inappropriately but it’s ok because things were different in 2007 and they don’t know better. You’re welcome. 96 points Wine Spectator, 2 6-packs available, $100.98 +tax

Antinori Tignanello Toscana I.G.T. 2007, Chianti Classico, Tuscany. We had Alessandro from Antinori here for a tasting in November and it was great and he was dreamy and we all had a good time but the wines didn’t get here on time for the tasting. “No problem” I said, “just fill out the order forms and we’ll order you all the back-vintaged Tignanello that you could possibly desire”. Sigh. Those were simpler times and I was a different man, so full of hope and faith. Then I went through the experience of trying to procure specific vintages of the same wine, refracted through two separate but equally opaque bureaucracies, and now I’ve grown my beard out and I only wear T-shirts of Che Guevara getting eaten by a lizard-person. It was a mess, nearly nobody got what they wanted, but I did seem to come out the other side with 4 bottles of the 2007 that aren’t spoken for. It’s a classic vintage, one of my favourites, very much drinking like a million bucks. Have at ‘er, folks. 95 points Robert Parker, 4 bottles available, $229.98 +tax

Until next time, Happy Drinking!

Spanish Magic

Adorado de Menade Magnum (1.5L), Rueda. I know the most projected activity associated with time-travel is Hero Stuff (preventing wars, stopping Smirnoff Ice from being invented), but – on the off chance that you aren’t Harrison Ford – what if you went back in time to taste what people drank back then? If you travelled to 1900 in the small, dusty hamlet of La Seca in Rueda and hung out with the grizzled farmers and labourers, you’d be drinking this rustic brew of old Verdejo and Palomino, and you wouldn’t ask the vintage because there ain’t one. Each new vintage goes into the top of a stack of barrels, which is transferred over the many years into the bottom barrels (called Solera, or “on the Ground” in Spanish) from which the wine is drawn, slowly blending each year’s harvest into each other in a consistent style. The “mother” Solera for Adorado, this gorgeous, striking wine from the Menade family, dates back to 1968 and there really aren’t any relatable signposts to guide you towards a description because we are in uncharted territory. At once fresh and vibrant but oxidative – having been subjected to the “flor” method used on Sherry – with notes of almond crisps and dried fruits, this golden wine is full and fortified but not sweet, unctuous and powerful. This is a new thing, you haven’t tasted anything quite like it. I tried it at Top Drop last year and insisted they import it for me (they weren’t going to because they thought it was too weird for North America), they only make a handful of magnums each year (no regular sizes are produced) and I got 6 of ‘em.  Come step back in time. 93 points Robert Parker, 6 Magnums available, $179.98 +tax

Bodegas Franco-Espanolas Rioja Bordon Gran Reserva 1999, Rioja. Started in Logroño in 1890 when a desperate Bordeaux vigneron came to Spain seeking to make wine again after decades of phylloxera ravaged his home town (Rioja wasn’t affected until years later), the French-Spanish Bodega became famous in the first half of the 20th century with fans like Ernest Hemmingway singing their praises before fascism closed Spain down for business for 40 years. Resurgent in the last couple of decades, the flagship Rioja Bordon is made in that pre-WW1 style, with American white oak and a hella-long bottle aging. Herbaceous and savoury notes battle with the dried cherries and vanilla on this well-deep nose, the palate is still amazingly fresh. Perfectly in the zone, quite delicious. 92 points Wine Spectator, 2 cases available, $50.98 +tax

Mas Rodo Macabeu 2016, Penedes. I love Viura, with its dichotomy of decadent, oily textures and linear, focused acidity. The folks along the Ebro River love it so much that it forms the back bone of white Riojas. The folks in Penedes love it so much that they plant it on the slopes of the mountains around Barcelona, but they love being Catalans so much that they had to rename it Macabeo so that it didn’t sound too Spanish. When Macabeo comes from old vines, like these gobelet-trained 50-year-old ones in Penedes, the concentration warrants the type of winemaking usually reserved for white Bordeaux, with extended French Oak aging and lees-stirring, offering texture and complexity to the natural melon, citrus and herbal notes. This is powerful stuff, capable of aging – but not too long because the subtle aromatics are so very sexy right now. Nutso value, this. Gold – International Wine Awards, 12 bottles available, $43.98 +tax

Contino Gran Reserva 2012, Rioja. Given how classically statuesque its wines are, you’d think that Contino has been around since the beginning of time, but in fact the estate was started in 1973 and is distinguished by becoming Rioja’s first “Chateau”, or single vineyard estate. The Ebro curves around the estate, moderating the hot summer temperatures and keeping sugar levels from spiking too early: this is a serious, Bordeaux-like affair, with a bulletproof structure under the intense black and red fruits competing with the wood – we’re about 3-4 years from the window opening here, but this is (like most premium Spanish wines) great value for a Cellar Star. 97 points James Suckling, 12 bottles available, $80.98 +tax

Cosmic Vinyaters “Valentia” Carinyena Blanca 2018, Alt Emporda. I’m throwing a bunch of new stuff at you here, so let’s slow down and chew our food: 1) this is white Carignan, an ultra-rare mutation of the more commonplace red Carignan variety, and I was also unaware of it before finding this wine. 2) Alt Emporda is a Mediterranean region between Barcelona and the French Border, heavily influenced by both the sea and the Tramontana, a cold wind that makes more delicate wines possible in such a warm climate. 3) Cosmic is the work of Salvador Batlle, who practices organic/biodynamic/voodoo viticulture, intervening as little as possible and probably doing sacred dances and stuff to ward off bad grape-moods. Or something. 4) Take all of these factors and then age them in traditional amphorae and chestnut barrels, and you have Valentia, an illuminating white wine with competing savoury and tropical fruit notes, big, chewy and viscous with a finish longer than this email. Far more delicious and less weird than I made it sound, no need to cautiously poke it with a stick before drinking lots and lots of it. 12 bottles available, $49.98 +tax

Bodega Lanzaga 2012, Rioja. Telmo Rodriguez, winemaker, terroir purist and allegorical bomb-thrower, came to town last year for what was advertised as a tasting but ended up being an exquisitely-accented rant against the B.C. wine market, castigating us for treating Spain as a Wine Ghetto that delivers only cheap juice with no sense of place (he accordingly removed his wines from BC for a few years). After adjusting the hairs on my back to stand down again, I had to concede that he may have a point – even some of my favourite Riojas, amazing wines all, are more producer driven than place driven, and even a sophisticated market like ours knows far more about the minutia regarding different Burgundian villages than even the macro-geology of Rioja. Telmo seeks to change that with Lanzaga, farmed on 14 hectares in Lanciego, a village in Rioja Alavesa. Lanzaga is reserved and sublime with cherry plum and cumin hints, over an austere but balanced frame – this will likely age like a Burgundy, which is precisely what Telmo intended, I think. 94 points James Suckling, 93 points Robert Parker, 10 bottles available (I bought some), $48.98

1 2 3 4 5 ... 21 >