The selection presented by the Vintages team this release is high calibre, but unfortunately reflects the elevated prices that good quality wines from high quality producers command: 39 wines in this release (out of a total of 123) are priced at over $30.00 per bottle. These are holiday season prices in October, but we have some noble cuvées in this release and my recommendations this week include some pricy value wines.
This weekend’s Vintages release featured wines from two of the storied regions of Italy: Piedmont and Tuscany. These are the two regions of sustained quality in all of Italy.
The grapes of these two regions define the wines of each. Nebbiolo is the best-known grape of Piedmont and is recognized for its classic qualities: medium ruby/amber colour, an intense, perfumed nose and a palate of tar and roses, with pronounced tannins and acid. The wines of Nebbiolo are best represented by Barolo, the King of Wines (and the Wine of Kings, reflecting the place of Barolo in the noble royal history of the kingdom of Savoy). This is a long-lived wine that has undergone stylistic changes in winemaking over the past that make the Barolos of today appealing with much less aging than in the past.
Other grapes are found in the wines of Piedmont, including Barbera and Dolcetto. These grapes make good quality wines but do not display the noble complexity of Nebbiolo.
Tuscany has historically been known for wines made from Sangiovese, a grape which produces wines of red cherry and edgy tannins and acid. Chianti and Chianti Classico are the everyday brands of Tuscany but the noble wines of Brunello, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano define the upper end of Sangiovese expression. The emergence in the 1970’s of super-Tuscans such as Ornellaia, Tignanello and Sassicaia, introduced blends of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc and raised Tuscany to a higher level of recognition for quality and price. This aspect of Tuscany – elevated prices across all the denominaziones – defines the region for many consumers.
There was a sub-feature in this release: Prime for Premium. This feature included 8 premium wines from the Mendoza region of Argentina. While the Malbec grape dominated the selection there were a couple of Cabernet Sauvignon blends and a Chardonnay. At prices ranging from $21.95 to $63.95 per bottle none of the wines offered were good values…
Nonetheless several feature wines from Italy did make my recommended list this week. Enjoy!
Ontario, Niagara – VQA Niagara Peninsula Lailey Vineyard Riesling 2010
Riesling is emerging quickly as a champion grape in Niagara. Riesling has vines of hardy wood that makes for minimal winter kill and the fruit ripens early – both important in a continental climate zone with a short growing season. These factors along with rapid improvements in winemaking are delivering some exceptional wines with generally very good ageing prospects. The Lailey Riesling wine shows concentration on both nose and palate: honey, white flowers, citrus and apple aromas and flavours with a solid mineral backbone and a crisp finish. This wine is ready to drink and will drink well for the next three years. Serve with grilled veal chops.
Medium-dry, white wine – $17.95 per bottle
France, Loire – AOC Pouilly-Fumé André & Edmond Figeat Les Chaumiennes 2010
Here we have another exemplar of Old World Sauvignon Blanc, in this case from a well-regarded Loire maker. This wine is pungent on the nose with citrus, gooseberry, honey and grassy vegetal notes. The palate has a medium+ weight and is dry and lean with grassy, citrus, melon and green apple notes. As is typical of this appellation, flinty minerals abound and the finish is long and crisp. This wine is a perfect match for scallops fried in butter.
Extra dry, white wine – $21.95 per bottle
Ontario, Niagara – VQA Twenty Mile Bench Le Clos Jordanne Le Clos Jordanne Vineyard Pinot Noir 2009
I continue to be impressed by the wines of Le Clos Jordanne and the distinct expressions of place that come from each of the four single vineyard climats under vine. In each vineyard the vines were planted in 2001 or 2002 so they are now starting to enter their best growing years and this shows in the bottle. Le Clos Jordanne vineyard is the warmest site and produces consistently ripe fruit as a result. This wine displays ripeness of fruit but is balanced and complex with crisp acidity and a velvet texture. You will find plenty of Old World character in the glass: spice, smoke, mushroom and savoury elements along with concentrated cranberry and cherry fruit. This is an excellent special-occasion wine at a very good price. Cellar for the next 5 to 7 years. It will be a worthwhile wait.
Extra dry, red wine – $45.00 per bottle
Italy, Tuscany – IGT Maremma Toscana Marchesi de’ Frescobaldi Terre More dell’ Ammiraglia 2009
The Maremma is the zone on the Tuscan coast known for its history of experimentation. Most wines from the region start classified as IGT wines and with time some become elevated to DOC or DOCG status (think DOC Bolgheri Sassicaia…). Terre More dell’ Ammiraglia is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Syrah. It is intense, tart and dusty. Sounds very Chianti-like in texture, don’t you think? …without a trace of Sangiovese. This is a perfect food wine to be enjoyed with grilled meats or pasta with tomato sauce.
Extra dry, red wine – $19.95 per bottle (Tuscany feature wine)
Italy, Tuscany – DOCG Vino Nobile di Montepulciano Poliziano 2007
This wine is made from Sangiovese grapes (known in this zone of Tuscany, near the town of Montepulciano, as Prugnolo Gentile – how’s this for a great trivia topic the next time the conversation dies?). Vino Nobile is generally powerful but structured and elegant. This wine is made by one of the best producers in the denominazione, known for its slick Vino Nobile (according to Bastianich and Lynch oinVino Italiano, The Regional Wines of Italy). The Poliziano is a classic with complex floral, spice and berry fruit aromas and flavours, dusty tannins, bright acid and a long finish. Match with a grilled rib steak.
Extra dry, red wine – $ 25.95 per bottle (Tuscany feature wine)
The runner-up this week is from Italy but is not from one of the feature regions…
Italy, Marche – DOC Rosso Conero Moroder 2007
To confuse us, the wines of the Rosso Conero denominazione are made primarily with the Montepulciano grape (a grape typically grown in central Italy and which has nothing to do with the town of the same name). This is a ripe and complex wine with intense flavours of stewed plum, cherry, herbs and wet earth. These wines are always reliable value wines and are best served with roasts – rack of pork or slow-cooked roast of beef – and root vegetables.
Extra dry, red wine – $17.95 per bottle
This week’s Collector’s Item is age able but can be also be enjoyed now. Buy a few bottles and open one of them for each of the next few years to see how the wine evolves.
Italy, Piedmont – DOCG Barolo Giacomo Fenocchio Bussia 2005
Bussia is a Barolo cru from the Monforte d’Alba township in the region of Barolo. The Giacomo Fenocchio is a traditional style Barolo offered at an attractive price for a cru. The wine is starting to evolve but will profit with more time in the cellar, up to another 10 years. All the elements of a traditional style Nebbiolo are here: cherry, tar, dried spice, rose petal, mushroom, forest floor, grainy tannins, crisp acidity and a long finish. This wine will be a perfect match with braised ribs of beef.
Extra dry, red wine – $42.95 per bottle (Piedmont feature wine)
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