Tagged with 'Italian wines'

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!! 

Tenuta di Arceno Chianti Classico Riserva 2018

Mentions of the historic Arceno estate date back to the year 1000 when it was cited as a small independent community located in Siena, Italy. Over the next few decades, the estate passed through ownership of two historically prominent Italian families – the Del Taja family and the Piccolomini family. In the early 1500s, it was the Tajas that expanded the estate, building the first villas on the property. In 1829, the estate was purchased by the illustrious Piccolomins who added to the grandeur of the estate by building gardens, lakes and many of the villas that still stand today. Continuing on the legacy, Tenuta di Arceno was acquired by legendary California winemaker Jess Jackson and his wife Barbara Banke in 1994.

Tenuta di Arceno has a diverse portfolio which centers around the native Sangiovese grape in the Chianti Classico collection.

A word from our Director of Buying, Dave Smith:

"With a rich and storied history, this Tuscan estate is a must try. A very modern and forward style of Chianti with deep concentration and rich, ripe fruit balanced by great structure. I get drawn to this wine every time I taste it. With a couple of hours of decanting, this wine becomes more and more expressive! Pair this with wild boar ragu or osso buco and you won’t be disappointed. Time and time again this wine has been a staff favourite. A great gift wine or treat yourself!"

92 points, James Suckling

Purchase it here.

Hooray for Chardonnay Spring 2021

A collection of Chardonnays today from several points on the globe but with extra focus on the US and Italy. We begin: 

FRANCE 

Anne Gros Bourgogne Blanc 2019, Burgundy. Behold the wisest spell to escape the wand of the She-Wizard. To avoid confusion, this isn’t the same as the $70 Bourgogne Blanc of Anne’s that I offered back in October. This stunning Chardonnay – a blend of parcels from the Côte de Nuits and Hautes Côtes de Nuits – finds Anne wearing her rare Négocient hat, purchasing fruit from her biggest fans and working her magic for a civilized bottle price. All grapes should be so lucky; this is the grapey version of finding the Golden Ticket in the Wonka bar. Fresh pear, Golden Delicious apples and chalk on the nose, a gorgeous melange of chamomile, rainwater and lime on palate. Chablis seems to be the north star, here – I’m quite sure I’d flag it as such were I blind tasted on this, the crisp acidity can see through walls and focuses the finish like a magnifying glass. Outstanding value, a great introduction to Anne’s oeuvre, will make your deck shine like a grail. 3 6-packs available, $51.98 +tax 

ARGENTINA 

Bodegas Chacras “Mainqué” Chardonnay 2018, Patagonia. Meursault’s Jean-Marc Roulot made this pure, focused Chardonnay to answer the question: What if you tried to make a white Burgundy on Hoth? The tempestuous landscape in South America’s southern, wild point (the indigenous population, first thought by Magellan to be giants, were dubbed the Patagon) throws all manner of curveballs at a humble grape-grower: dramatic temperature shifts, hail and heat waves, and yet Roulot manages to wrest some sort of elegance out of chaos every year. Aged in both oak and concrete, this 2018 experienced partial malolactic fermentation (they never control it, they just roll with what happens), so there’s a balance between brioche and brioche-with-a-laser-sword laying just underneath the Granny Smith, pears and jasmine on this expressive nose. The medium-full body brings tension, salinity and more brioche in case you didn’t get enough brioche. A lovely collection of opposites that’s so different each vintage. 97 points James Suckling, 12 bottles available, $71.98 +tax 

SOUTH AFRICA 

Hamilton Russell Chardonnay 2019, Hemel-en-Aarde. We weren’t supposed to get any of the miniscule-but-glorious 2019 vintage from Anthony Hamilton Russell: the tragic South African fires in early 2019, though less world-famous than Australia’s subsequent blazes, made life miserable and curtailed viticulture dramatically. The production was so small they thought they could only serve local markets for that year, but then (gestures broadly at everything). South Africa imposed an outright ban on alcohol sales, and while that really sucks for them it means more yummy HR for Jordan, so let’s rinse off that guilt with some good Chardonnay. Although usually destemmed, Russell crushed from whole bunches for this vintage to avoid the risk of smoke taint and employed the least amount of malolactic fermentation ever (only 10%), resulting in the most elegant and bright Chardonnay he’s ever produced, light on its feet without sacrificing the embracing intensity he’s known for. Limeade and candied pears line the crushed rocks on the fragrant nose, ending with just a hint of lemon danish and peach. 95 points Tim Atkins, 93 points Decanter, 3 6-packs available, $67.98 +tax 

ITALY 

Antinori Cervaro della Sala 2017, Umbria. The Antinori’s flagship white wine is a relatively young enterprise, seeing as the family started winemaking in the 12th century (I think my ancestors had contemporaneously discovered the Pointed Stick). The inaugural 1985 vintage could have been spread on toast to make an open-faced oak sandwich, but the ensuing decades have seen Cervaro evolve into an elegant, layered and powerful expression of warm-climate Chardonnay (with about 8% contribution from the local Grechetto grape). The Saharan 2017 vintage gave a nitro-boost to the wine’s weight and intensity, but the balanced élèvage (a portion spends 6 months in French oak, the rest in stainless) turned out a Chardonnay with a foot on two continents: the nose swims with the rich apples, pralines, stones and vanilla of Sonoma while the body holds that essential tension and agility of modern Beaune. This 2017 commands your attention so thoroughly, you might not even look at your phone for a couple minutes. 99 points James Suckling, 3 6-packs available, $79.98 +tax 

Gaja Rossj-Bass Chardonnay 2018, Langhe. Since Angelo Gaja is one of the fathers of modern Piedmont and Rossana (Rossj for short) is his daughter, I guess Rossj is… modern Piedmont? Figuring that out might take some time and a couple glasses of this luminous Chardonnay, grown in lower-lying (Bass) vineyards in Barbaresco and Barolo. Melon and white flowers bathed in honey – it’s quite a lovely, sweet nose – flow into a surprisingly structured frame and an almost Sancerre-ish, bracing finish. Not sure if this wine has made it into BC before, this is the first time I’ve seen it. Not yet rated. 2 6-packs available, $128.98 +tax 

Cantina Toblino Trentodoc “Antares” Brut Nature 2016, Trentino. From a snappy little organic co-operative in Trentino comes a brilliant shooting star of sparkling Chardonnay and a possible energy source to power cities of the future (diodes not included). From vines grown on the south-facing hills of Valle dei Laghi, the Chardonnay goes through the Traditional Method (can’t call it the Champagne Method because if you do, French spirits will visit as you sleep to turn all your snacks into cigarettes), spending 36 months on the lees after secondary fermentation. Full disclosure: I’m not always on board with the whole Brut Nature movement (no final “dosage” of sugar before bottling), I find that the more extreme cases are out of balance - just balls of acid that Somms dare each other to drink to see who cries first – but Antares Brut Nature is beautifully balanced and super-fab. Pastry notes are met by lemon meringue and river stones, gorgeous citrus and savoury saline mouthfeel, the finish is energetically zippy and zingy with persistent bubbles. Not often available outside of Italy, Antares is only rated locally: 4 Stars Vinibuoni d’Italia, 2 6-packs available, $55.98 +tax 

USA 

Hartford Court Chardonnay 2018, Russian River Valley, Sonoma. I hope Don Hartford doesn’t travel with armed guards ‘cause if I met him I’d just hug him without saying hello first. Giving Don good vibes would be reciprocal: for nearly 3 decades his wines have quietly showcased Sonoma’s generous, positive disposition without falling into lushness or simplicity – these are real, classic wines with great structure and length, they just have various fruits and spices falling out of their pockets and they feel that you should have some too. If ever a wine could be called “optimistic” this entry-level (!) Russian River Chardonnay would be a prime candidate, exuding honeysuckle, brioche, cream, apple, peach and pepper notes before unfolding into a rich, full texture-fest, lifting up at the end with a touch of grapefruit. Great minerality on all levels, too. The premium buyers in this company periodically get together to blind taste wines; this one blew us away and we valued it at twice the price (this new price has actually come down from near $60). #44 – Wine Spectator Top 100 of 2020, 94 points Wine Enthusiast, 6 cases available, $46.98 +tax 

WALT Chardonnay 2018, Sonoma Coast. Decadence liquified. This is the perfectly normal thing that happens when a pear and a vanilla milkshake love each other very much. Made by Napa’s Kathryn Hall from the Bob’s Ranch and Sangiacomo vineyards, the opulent nose – no need to compare apples to oranges ‘cause this has both – leads into a medium-bodied palate that shines a bit brighter than the nose suggests, just enough to boost the length of the creamy, pear-laced finish. Quite beautiful, in a confected, naughty way, and underrated in my opinion. 92 points Wine Enthusiast, 2 cases available, $61.98 

Arnot-Roberts Trout Gulch Vineyard Chardonnay 2017, Santa Cruz Mountains. The Simon and Garfunkel of single-vineyard California Négoce wines have outdone themselves with this cabin-in-the-woods style Chardonnay that I’d never blindly identify (blindentify?) as Californian. The Trout Gulch vineyard lies in the heavily forested southern Santa Cruz mountains, the whole area looks like the Slocan valley or western Kootenays, and if you’re thinking “I’ve never seen any wines from Castlegar”, bingo. The site is at the edge of the ripening window, sitting 4 miles from the ocean at 600ft and regularly beset by fog; climate change has made recent vintages more reliable than when Bernard Turgeon planted the vineyard in 1980, but there’s perennially a chance you won’t get a usable harvest. The years the vineyard gives you, however, are racing powder kegs of energy and density, like a Chablis that cloned itself and then ate that clone. Citrus and flowers rule the roost, with a robust, saline mid-palate and long, chalky finish. Refreshing now but I’d like to check back in 5 years to see what happens. 95 points Vinous, 2 6-packs available, $99.98 +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. 

Nicolas Catena Zapata “White Stones” Chardonnay 2017, Mendoza, Argentina. 98 points James Suckling, 1 3-pack available, $133.98 +tax 

Nicolas Catena Zapata “White Bones” Chardonnay 2017, Mendoza, Argentina. 99 points James Suckling, 2 3-packs available, $156.98 +tax 

Shaw + Smith “M3” Chardonnay 2019, Adelaide Hills, Australia. 96 points Decanter, 96 points James Suckling, 12 bottles available, $56.98 

Ridge Vineyards Estate Chardonnay 2014, Santa Cruz Mountains, California. 95 points Decanter, 8 bottles available, $95.98 +tax 

Olivier Leflaive Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru Champ Gain 2015, Burgundy, France. 6 bottles available, $192.98 +tax 

Olivier Leflaive Puligny Montrachet 1er Cru Champ Gain 2016, Burgundy, France. 6 bottles available, $192.98 +tax 

Until next time, Happy Drinking!

Back Up The Truck! 99pt "Tuscan Amarone" for $60!

All technology looks like magic until you understand it. The act of turning grapes into wine pivots on the process of fermentation, a step that can happen spontaneously and looks exactly like a miracle when you can’t see the wee yeast beasties floating in the air that made it possible.  

Which isn’t to say that people didn’t use yeast, they did so obliviously all the time. The foam from fermenting beer was used to rise bread; crushed Roman grapes in an amphora eventually started to bubble in a way that resembled boiling – in fact the term fermentation comes from the Latin fevere: to boil. They knew the how but not the why, and wouldn’t truly understand until Louis Pasteur identified the mechanics of how yeast cells multiply in 1857. Until then: magic. 

The Renaissance-era Florentines were feeling mighty magical when they came up with a fix for inconsistent vintages in Tuscany. In the 1400s (when the world was cooler), using the crush-and-wait approach made your nascent wine vulnerable to the temperature swings of autumn, if you had a warm fall the yeasts would thrive and eat up all the yummy sugars, producing a drier wine (still a bit sweeter than today’s standards). A cool autumn made fermentation take way longer and could even make the yeasts go dormant, leaving elevated sugars in your accidentally sweet wine. To the entrepreneurial Florentines, who were making large coin exporting Chiantis to Europe with their new snazzy Sangiovese grape, this was a big marketing problem: how could your consumer trust your wine when they never knew how sweet it was gonna be? 

The fix they came up with was called the Governo method, and it would be used all over Tuscany and beyond until the advent of electricity. It goes like this: you do your regular vineyard harvest, but reserve a couple rows to let the fruit hang and ripen until it just about falls off the vine. You do your standard crush and ferment (but you don’t inoculate because you don’t know about yeast yet), but as the fermentation slows down (“stuck” in winemaker parlance) you pick and crush the remaining grapes (at this point semi-dried and hella sweet) and add the juice to the mix, reviving and strengthening the yeasts and resulting in a stronger, drier wine, lower in acid and consistent year after year. 

Modern Tuscan winemakers can control their ferments with a temperature dial, so the Governo method is nearly extinct, but there are a few renegade producers experimenting with it, particularly Andrea Valiani and his son Marco of Terrescure, a relatively young, upstart winery (although Andrea has been in the wine business his whole life). My “Back Up The Truck” wine today is their Lotto Unico 2016 Toscana IGT, a blend of Sangiovese and Merlot that I’ve been calling the “Tuscan Amarone”. 

To be clear: there’s no such thing as Tuscan Amarone. Amarone is only found further north in Valpolicella near Verona (and the Tuscans would argue that the Governo method predates Amarone by centuries). It is a helpful shorthand, though, to describe this rustic beast, a throwback to pre-industrial styles of Italian wine mixing raisinated grapes into the heady brew of roasted plums, mocha and caramel apple. Because the ancient Governo process is by nature oxidative, there’s also a soft basalmic quality on the nose, before unfolding into a full body (but not as heavy as Amarone) and a two-minute finish. The dried grape addition puts the sweetness slightly above Amarone levels (15g/l compared to 12g/l), drier than many Californian reds but sweeter than most bone-dry modern Tuscan wines; on average, wines have never been drier than they are today, and Lotto Unico is a nostalgic homage to a different age when sweetness, not ubiquitous as it is today, was considered a luxury. 

This is a wine for the end of the evening or the beginning of one, on a patio, with or without food (although I could destroy a burger with this, and great, now I’m hungry), and it’s a way-cool glimpse into the history of winemaking and the styles of yesteryear. I wish I had more...

Terrescure Lotto Unico 2016, Toscana I.G.T. 99 points Luca Maroni, 8 6-packs available, $59.98 +tax 

Until next time, have a great weekend, stay safe, and Happy Drinking! 

 

POSTSCRIPT: I know that the word “sweet” is the opposite of a safe-word for many wine drinkers, so I just wanted to give some context as to the residual sugar levels of a few popular wines. The antiquated 00-0-1-2-etc. dryness scale describes the impression of sweetness, which can be slewed by glycerine, acids and tannins (Coca-Cola famously hides its 39 grams of sugar per can behind a hefty dose of phosphoric acid – Apothic Red can appear dry to some because it balances its 19g with stemmy tannins), it is much more helpful to show the actual sugar content: 

Tignanello: 0.75g/l
Chateau de Beaucastel: 4g/l
Purple Angel: 4g/l
Kendall Jackson Chardonnay: 7g/l
The Prisoner: 8g/l
Caymus Cabernet Sauvignon: 9g/l
Belle Glos Pinot Noir: 10g/l
Masi Costasera Amarone: 10g/l
Brut Champagne: up to 12g/l
Lotto Unico: 15g/l
Apothic Red: 19g/l
Dr. Loosen “Dr. L” Riesling: 44g/l
Taylor Fladgate Tawny 10yr Port: 112g/l
Jackson-Triggs Vidal Icewine: 225g/l 

Staff Favourites - Antinori Tignanello

Asking a wine expert to choose their favourite wine is like asking a parent to choose their favourite child; in that, it’s probably (hopefully) a difficult choice… but we made Rob Frias, the manager of our Langford store, make the decision anyway, for the sake of our readers of course. So how do you narrow down the immense world of wine to one single bottle? In this case, it was a matter of always remembering your first.

When Rob launched his career at Everything Wine in 2007, he explains that “I didn’t have any formal wine knowledge, but my Portuguese descent meant that wine was always a part of mealtime. And from there, my passion was born.” he says. Upon being thrown into the Italian section of the store, he began learning the history of Super Tuscans, and naturally “had to dive into the Antinori Tignanello,” which he reveals, was “the first high end wine I ever purchased.” Hailing from the heart of the Chianti Classico region, the Tignanello was the first Sangiovese to be aged in barriques (or barrels) and was the first contemporary wine blended with untraditional varieties including Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Cabernet Franc.

Earning 93-points from Wine Spectator, this “tig” as it is affectionately nicknamed, is full-bodied with rich notes of blackcurrant, cherry, leather, and earth on the palate. It is described by Wine Spectator as “firm and fleshy, with fine balance and a long, expressive finish.” Rob, on the other hand, decides to keep his tasting notes short and sweet “One Word: Intense” he describes it, “just the way I like it.” While a wine of this caliber deserves a Prime grade steak seared to perfection, Rob’s favourite pairings for it include: “weekends, jobs well done, celebrations, and family.”

The most fascinating aspect of the Tignanello, however, is its long history spanning six centuries and 26 generations of the Antinori family. Winemaking has been paramount for the family since 1385, when Giovanni di Piero Antinori joined the Florentine Winemaker’s Guild and linked the name to excellence in winemaking. Centuries later, they are committed to the deep-rooted family values which influence their acclaimed winemaking process.

“This wine over delivers”, Rob says, “my customers love getting a taste of Old World wine that is still very approachable on the palate.” So go ahead, indulge and let us know what you think!

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