The theme of this weekend’s Vintages release is Only in Italy – 11 native grapes. This is an interesting idea that calls for exploration as Italy is the home of hundreds of native grapes, over 300 of which have been registered for winemaking by the Italian agricultural authorities.
The subject of Italian native grapes is vast and arcane. In fact it is the subject of a 13-year research study now published by Ian D’Agata in a 640 page book entitled Native Grapes of Italy. Ian is a Canadian medical doctor who has lived in Rome for many years. Ian is a prolific wine writer, educator and judge. He is considered to be one of the best wine writers anywhere and the leading expert on the wines of Italy. This book is for the wine wonk who wants to know everything about wine and its elements, including detailed coverage of some 500 of the unique grape varieties of Italy.
Given the diversity of the subject, it should not be a surprise that the Vintages team has not been able to scratch the surface of the topic and even with this the featured native grapes are mainly those that we see routinely on LCBO shelves: Nebbiolo, Primitivo, Sangiovese, Montepulciano… We shouldn’t be too surprised that the LCBO has highlighted grapes familiar to consumers: they have to sell the wine they buy.
One wine from the feature has made this week’s list – a list that features five wines all of which present classic correctness for the grape varieties they contain.
France, Loire – AOC Sancerre Domaine de Saint-Pierre 2013
Sancerre comes in different styles depending on the where the wine comes from in this small zone. The soils in the varied growing zones of the appellation have a profound influence on character. This wine displays a firm chalky mineral base which comes from the pebbly limestone soils in the area near the small village of Verdigny in the Sancerre zone. The fruit is bright and clean: lime, pear and melon flavours are precise and modest. The texture is lean and the acid is taut. This is a wonderful demonstration of Old World Sauvignon Blanc.
Extra dry, white wine – $26.95 per bottle
South Africa, Stellenbosch– WO Stellenbosch Simonsig Chenin Avec Chêne Chenin Blanc 2012
I recommended a fine bargain-basement Chenin Blanc two releases ago and with this wine we dramatically move up the price spectrum. Why the leap in price when you expect value wines from this critic? The answer is simple: the first wine was a classic, but simple, Chenin Blanc, which was showed varietal correctness, at a great price. Today’s wine shows the same correctness but with an enormous jump in complexity. It is a serious demonstration of the effects of intense vineyard management and quality winemaking. The result is a wine that is intense in every way: aromatics, flavour, texture, body and complexity. It has tons of tree – and tropical fruit aromas and flavours, a creamy mouth feel, toast and vanilla and spice. The acid is crisp and the finish is long with plenty of lingering fruit. Very fine!
Extra dry, white wine – $25.95 per bottle
France, Burgundy – AOC Mercurey Faiveley 2012
Mercurey is a village in the Côte Chalonnaise zone of Burgundy – an area known for modest wines that suffer in the shadow of wines from the more noble northern zones of the region. This is an entry level village wine that is a fabulous value, especially for readers who may want to explore Old World Pinot Noir after gulping volumes of Central Otago reds. Here you will find a lively wine with juicy acid, finely-grained tannins, bright cranberry and raspberry fruit, spice and a long finish. This is a gem and is great value.
Extra dry, red wine – $24.95 per bottle
South Africa– WO Stellenbosch Rustenberg Shiraz 2011
Here we have a New World wine made in an Old World style, a Shiraz that tastes like a Syrah. This is a proper Syrah with black fruit, black pepper, crisp acid, smooth tannins and structure that signals it has bones to develop further in your cellar. The fruit dominates on the nose and palate with no discernible wood and there are savoury notes that reflect the early stage development now underway. This is a Run, Don’t Walk beauty. Run, now!
Extra dry, red wine – $19.95 per bottle
Italy, Chianti – DOCG Chianti Classico Villa Cafaggio 2011
This is an amazing value for a well-made, classic Chianti Classico. There is red cherry fruit, dusty, fine-grained tannins, taut acid and a smooth, agreeable mouth feel. This is a perfect wine for a winter evening pasta dinner with friends. Buy lots!
Extra dry, red wine – $19.95 per bottle (Native Grape feature wine)
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