ALTA WINES AN AFTERNOON IN ITALY - SEPT 23, 2018
It has been a busy September thus far. Back to school and back to work. For many serious wine professionals, not only are we back in the restaurants planning for the fall and winter, we have also been busy at trade tastings, seminars, one-on-one meetings with regional market representative, wine makers and wine agents.
I am listening to Thelonious Monk LIGHT BLUE from the album ‘Les Liaisons Dangereuses 1960’ as I write.
Monday afternoon was a real cracker with 3 or 4 different events happening, I usually plan to make them all, but there comes a moment when you really need to pick and choose or you get caught up digging deep into the wines. At best portfolio tastings can often only be a ‘teaser / scratching the surface excercise’ versus the one-on-one in-depth sit down meeting…so I got caught up…!
Alta Wines is a relatively new agency specializing in wines of Italy from small producers in Piemonte all the way down to Calabria, with a strong focus on Puglia. A few standouts from the tasting include the following.
Cascina Tajvin. . The winery is run by wine maker Nadia Verrua, located in the hills of Monferrato outside of the town of Asti, Piemonte. A 30 to 40 minute drive from the town of Alba (the centre of Barolo and Barbaresco).
Ruché ‘Teresa’ 2018. This wine is a happy wine, floral and bright with clean and intense aroma of cherry and red forest berries. There is great mouth feel in that the wine has gently sweet fruit flavour with fine gripping tannin and an earthy mineral tone with moderate acid. Her philosophy of low intervention in the cellar and organic / biodynamic practices in the vineyards gives this wine a certain character and energy.
Barbera ‘Bandita’ 2016’. Asti is the natural home of Barbera, this wine is sweet and dangerous at the same time. with lifted black cherry to the expected blue fruit tones of Barbera. The palate hits with high acid, as it should, but then some intense tannin and mouthfeel which is not always expected of Barbera. The wine making here is meant to produce a serious product. I can’t help but wonder if there was a touch of mouse taint on the back palate…not enough to detract. Yes a fault in many a natural wine but I think here at a threshold that is like having your new lover drinking coffee out of your most favourite mug, but they didn’t know…!
Two other wines of note and good value from Puglia. Caiaffa Nero di Troia ‘Vibrans’ 2017. Puglia and the L’Archetipo Aglianico 2013. Puglia.
THAT’S LIFE SAKE + WINE PORTOLIO TASTING - 88+
I then bounced over to the That’s Life Sake and Wine Portfolio Tasting. This agency has been in Toronto a few years now. The HQ is based out of Vancouver. I learned that they have been holding it down out there in the wild west since 1997 amassing a large portfolio of mid-range to high end sake and a considerable amount of fine wines from around Europe. Along with a few other out of province agencies, they are here to shake things up with their first full showing of wicked liquid.
I have become a big fan of the grape Pineau d’Aunis from the Loire Valley. Up until recently an ‘outcast’ of a grape and not at all favoured in comparison to Cabernet Franc. It has a certain tone and character, so much so that for the uninitiated the wines of Pineau d’Aunis may come off as, dare I say, an earthier and grittier spinoff of Pinot Noir. Sommeliers, consumers and wine distributors have gradually realized that as the world has been obsessed with the privilege and space that Pinot Noir has occupied, we have overlooked all of the other great grapes that have as much finesse and beauty and with that a certain elegance, finesse we need from well made wines.
The wines of Guillaume Reynouard of Manoir de la Tête Rouge are entirely new to me. I did some light reading, rather I went down a shallow rabbit hole and found out that he was recently elected president of le Syndicat Vin de Saumur de Puy-Notre-Dame a special place in the heart of Anjou-Saumur , the winery has been practicing biodynamics since 2010, and is situated on limestone and clay soils, which all give way to terroir specific wines. Pineau d’Aunis produces a wine of bright red currant flavour, with a peppery spice akin to Syrah with an added earthy savoury character as if Cabernet Franc and Beaujolais were siblings with a Pinot Noir parent. I have had a few Pineau d’Aunis, in fact I list the wines of Domaine de Bellivière Pineau d’Aunis ‘Rouge Gorge’ Coteaux du Loir, Loire at both alo and alobar in Toronto. Ask about them the next time you are in.
Shift the Gaze
German Pinot Noir can be quite engaging and thought provoking. On a trip to Germany last summer I was exposed to the many historical and great producers of Spätburgunder, as Pinot Noir is called in Germany. These wines are naturally different and unique, even exotic given the climate, the terroir of Germany paired with the vision in winemaking, though no less Pinot Noir for the ‘true’ Pinot Noir lover. The ‘True Pinot Noir Lover’ doesn’t necessarily mean the individual who has a cellar full of decent to good Burgundy. Mind you, just like any other wine region of the world, there are lesser and greater wines, it would be a shame to assume that your first German Pinot is going to take you to Romanée-Conti or Russian River. Perhaps it will, but with anything new a little time and exploration will pay off. I did taste this Kesseler Pinot Noir, which did bring me back to my summer in Germany. This example was decidedly intense with ripe and full Pinot Noir fruit you know what that is, I don’t need to wax poetic with descriptors. Trust me it’s Pinot. The difference here is just like any other region compared to Burgundy be it Oregon or Russian River. I would say here the wine is earthy, dry and savoury with a freshness and energy the would make any Pinot lover smile.
Below you will find a few photos from my 2018 Summer's trip to Germany Wine School. Below a master class session on Pinot Noir given by Anne Krebiehl MW. Anne Krebiehl is a German born, London based Master of Wine and writer/educator on the wines of Alsace, Austria, Germany and more. She is a great story teller as she walked us through the history of German Spätburgunder.