Tagged with 'italy'

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.

Arguably the greatest vintage of Brunello di Montalcino ever!

Brunello di Montalcino 2016: Arguably the greatest vintage of Brunello di Montalcino ever!

 I've received quite a few bottles of the magical 2016 vintage from Brunello di Montalcino.  This vintage leaves most people speechless, regardless of personal taste. Even if you are not sure which bottle (or bottles) to get, it would be hard to go wrong with any of these excellent wines. 2016 Stands out as the strongest vintage ever in Brunello di Montalcino, a legendary vintage, thanks to a textbook growing season!

 Argiano Brunello di Montalcino 2016: 

 Argiano's Brunello di Montalcino is distinguished by its elegance and its deep ruby red color. It presents a good concentration on the mid-palate and a persistent aftertaste, with a rounded and voluptuous body, and interesting, silky tannins. 97 Decanter. 

$74.99 per bottle plus tax. 

 

 Il Poggione Brunello di Montalcino 2016:  

 Incredible effort for one of the largest estates in Montalcino. This estate produces stunning wines vintage after vintage. Keep this one for at least a decade! 97 Vinous, 96 Wine Spectator. 

$84.98 per bottle plus tax. 

 

 Castiglion Del Bosco Brunello di Montalcino 2016: 

 Complexity, superb structure, and an inviting, mouth-filling palate are the hallmarks of this Sangiovese grown in the 42-hectare Capanna vineyard facing towards the Mediterranean Sea. A garnet-flecked ruby red, it releases generous, emphatic fragrances classic to Sangiovese, developing a near-endless progression notable for its beautiful balance. 97 Decanter, 99 JS. 

$95.98 per bottle plus tax. 

 We also have 6 magnums (1.5L) available of the 2016 vintage: $214.99 plus tax.

 Le Ragnaie Brunello di Montalcino 2016: 

Blended from Le Ragnaie's scattered vineyards, this provides a wide-angle snapshot of Montalcino’s varied territory, violets and Mediterranean scrub meeting wild strawberry, stone and an intriguing earthiness. It also encapsulates Sangiovese’s buoyancy, coming across as mid-weight at first then building with power as firm, dusty tannins wrap around a tangy core. The finish is energetic and uplifting - an elegantly sculpted Brunello. 

 $119.98 per bottle plus tax. 96 Wine Spectator 

 Sesti Brunello di Montalcino 2016: 

The Sesti estate's vineyards are in the enviable position of being on the southern slopes of Montalcino, where some of the most prestigious Brunello comes from. Giuseppe Sesti is considered the leading winemakers of the region. 94 Wine Advocate 

 $147.98 per bottle plus tax. 

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!