Agricola Tiberio : Cristiana Tiberio


this entry was composed listening to a mix by Joy Orbison  , no wine to accompany, just a glass of water first thing in the morning

I can think of few better ways to spend a Monday afternoon than a luncheon with a visiting wine maker.  Mr. Charles Baker of Cru Wine Merchants was hosting one of his producers, Agricola Tiberio of Abruzzo, Italy fame. Cristiana Tiberio the wine maker was here to present 6 wines ( 4 white, 1 'cerasuolo' and 1 red). 

Now the image and memory that most have of Abruzzo wines are simple, cheerful and fun wines to have with uncomplicated Italian cuisine. Long gone are the days of the 1/2 litre jugs of Montepulciano d'Abruzzo at your local Pizzeria….wait that is still happening isn't it? Aspetta! Cristiana Tiberio has been working hard to bring wines of 'terroir' and character to a thirsty public. The winery was started with her brother, Antonio in 1999, and they first vintages of their wines were released in 2004. A very interesting and critical component to this story is that Cristiana had spent several years making wine in Champagne and in the Mosel and admires the wines of Alsace and Burgundy. Combined with her vision of Abruzzo and what she has taken from a 'french' approach to wine its that it is more critical to 'follow the terroir, follow the vintage and to respect the vintage' if everything is done in a clear and focused way there is 'no need to force the wine' to be what it isn't. 

Fonte Canale 60year old Trebbiano and Cristiana Tiberio in the distance. 

Fonte Canale 60year old Trebbiano and Cristiana Tiberio in the distance. 


The wines and terroir she has chosen to work are selected with the aim to express freshness and acidity in the resulting wines. She works only with original massal selection vines of the original Abruzzo Trebbiano, 'The' Trebbiano Abruzzese.  Not to be confused with the Trebbiano d'Abruzzo DOC, which can be a combination of any of the many variations of Trebbiano - the Toscana, Emilia-Romagnese, Bombino and Malvasia. All have the capacity of making massive quantities of wine at variable quality levels either for simple table wine or for bulk blending. Cristiana has moved away from this history towards an original source. She is determined to only work with the original Trebbiano Abruzzese from a massal clone selection which originates in an old plot of vineyard she purchased in the mountains outside of the town of Cugnoli located in the province of Pescara. She spent 4 years zoning in on the original vines to propagate her 30 hectares of vines. She tells us that the Trebbiano Abruzzese is of sensitive skin, small berry and quite fleshy and is somewhat sensitive to the light of the sun, hence the traditional 'Pergola' Training with leaf canopy giving just enough radiation to ripen the grapes. The goal is to preserve the freshness of the Trebbiano. The vines are raised on calcarous soils with a subsoil of sand. The wine is made, all the wines are made, from free run juice and ferment in stainless steel. Any and all ageing is done in bottle.

Cristiana presented 2 Trebbiano the first, the 2014 Tiberio Trebbiano d'Abruzzo which was light and lean like a ray of sunlight, with subtle very subtle notes of celery, fennel and citrus and a touch of green apple skins. Compared with the second wine the 2014 Tiberio 'Fonte Canale' Trebbiano of 60 year old vines, the best vines from her winery raised on marl and clay soils with deeper roots. The fermentation here is spontaneous with indigenous yeasts creating a subtle and quite focused wine, only after letting the glass warm did we perceive it's real nature. The wine was mineral, citric, rich and fleshy with saline, olive, sage pine notes. the Fonte Canale is a real wine of the mountains overlooking the Adriatic. 


We then explored the wonderful world of Pecorino. My first experience with this grape was with those of Guido Cocci Grifone, nearly 10 years ago when I started my career as a Sommelier. The grape was revived to it's current status by the work of Cocci Grifone and a few other producers particularly of Le Marche (the neighbouring province to the north). We bantered about the origins and the natural home of Pecorino. The natural zones being Le Marche and Abruzzo, but both creating wines of different profiles. Cristiana professes and was clear in letting us understand that Pecorino of Abruzzo is meant to be a mountain wine somewhat different than the Pecorino of Offida DOC in Le Marche which is on lower plains and foothills thus producing 'warmer and richer' wines. In Abruzzo the Pecorino grape can take advantage of altitude and unique micro-climate to help accentuate it's aromatics properties with aroma's like that of orange citrus,  sage, fresh fig and rosemary. The first of the Pecorino line up was the 2014 Tiberio Pecorino which though lean and tart had sweet clementine, orange, apple and fresh peach aromas with an almost Assyrtiko minearality with honeysuckle. The wine was quite engaging and convincing. Now the 2006 Tiberio Pecorino was a treat, the wine is actually the 2nd vintage of Pecorino for Tiberio. It was bright, with fleshy creamed peach, this is a wine of texture and a rich profile. Though with lower acidity then expected, it made up for it in herbs and lemon and pleasing flavour.                           


As I am writing this I really can't recall the last time I encountered a Trebbiano or Montepulciano d'Abruzzo on a wine list or at any of the recent Italian focused trade tastings and perhaps there is a reason for that. I did ask Crisitiana to comment on the overriding mentality of the producers and growers in Abruzzo, her response was that 'first Abruzzo is an amazing region with amazing people and though many producers did not take the time to 'study' the region, there still is not such a 'high culture' of wine. Wine is business and not pleasure'. Outside of Valentini Emidio Pepe and Masciarelli there are few producers pushing the envelope, when in reality there is a lot of wine coming from this region. It is clear that Tiberio is investing and studying the region and charting a new style of wine in a rather cool-er climate terroir. I posed the question of vineyard practices and philosophy touching on the art of biodynamics. The response, as I have been receiving more and more lately is that the Philosophy of Biodynamics can be confused with a lifestyle versus how to make wines. There is a distinct difference. She does not practice biodynamics but works organically and as sustainable as possible, the fact that her mountain vineyards are as isolated as they are means there are not other vineyards to 'contaminate' the area. Her mentality is that the 'most important is the life of the vineyard' and that 'she would not risk the loss of her 'patrimony and heritage' by applying what would be extreme or minimal techniques. 

cerasuolo is not montepulciano rosé

The Montepulciano d'Abruzzo of Tiberio is a fresh as can be, no oak, 50 year old vines that are fermented in stainless steel, never over-ripe and never over-extracted. It is a modern style but taken from tradition. All sorting is done in the vineyard with the same team year in and out. Her process of vilification with the red wines starts with a Cerasuolo DOC from the Montepulciano red grape. A wine that is not rosé but indeed a DOC wine, that was born in the mountains, the historical zone of production. At the time the Montepulciano vine would not ripen as it would on the lower plains and the Pergola style training helped preserve the freshness of grapes and thus lent itself to a 'lighter' style of 'red' wine. The Tiberio Cerasoulo DOC is...

  1.  Vines/Grapes selected and treated as if they were to be made into a white wine, grape are specifically selected for freshness rather than ripeness.
  2. 'Salaso' = to make wine from the first free run juice as if it was a red wine. As she explained briefly,the first free run juice is removed from the main core of the pressed juice and this isolated juice is allowed to ferment as if it was a red wine. 

The 2014 Tiberio Cerasuolo d'Abruzzo was of a fresh red berry and candy cherry aroma, soft and plush with bright and lifted palate. It was very pleasing and screaming of tradition and the mountains air. 

The final wine for the afternoon was the 2013 Tiberio Montepulciano d'Abruzzo. It was rich and fresh, more red berry and a lining of blood orange and sour cherry and moving to the palate which was soft with pleasant red fruit, stewed plum and cherry with it's vibrant tannin and smooth finish. Certainly a wine that would stand on it's own and would confuse most Montepulciano drinkers with it's natural freshness and elegance. This was an everyday wine, a great companion for the dinner table or long lunch that will never disappoint with it charm and playfulness.  

Overall the wines were most certainly soundly and confidently made and with a distinct vision and profile that after tasting I could imagine the nature of the land with it's vast and rolling hills at the foot of the Appennine Mountains. 

Charles Baker, Cristiana Tiberio, and myself at Mercatto College Street

Charles Baker, Cristiana Tiberio, and myself at Mercatto College Street


CASA MARIN ::::::::::: Crazy for Cool Climate!

This entry was written and composed whilst enjoying a Rabl 2013 Gruner Veltliner 'Langenlois' Kamptal DAC Austria and listening to a Jay Dee aka J-Dilla interview with Gilles Peterson from Feb 2001 commemorating his death anniversary and birthday

the conversation: w/ Jamie Verbraak - commercial manager

Jamie Verbraak - Commercial Manager for Casa Marín

Jamie Verbraak - Commercial Manager for Casa Marín

It was nearly a year and half ago that I was introduced to the wines of Casa Marin. A colleague of mine, Mr. Ian Thresher had recently been on a wine tour of Chile and shortly after his return to Canada he placed a private order for several of their wines. The purchase Included a wine of remarquable character  this wine being 'the' Syrah from the Miramar Vineyards of Lo Abarca. The wine was enchanting. Along with their Sauvignon Blanc and the rare Sauvignon Gris these wines had a purity and brightness of fruit that is 'Chile' at its best, but these wines had a precision that reflected the passion and drive of their maker Maria Luz Marin. 

Maria Luz Marin is Chile's first Lady of wine, the nation's first female wine maker and the first female to own a winery in a rather male dominated industry. She was and still is at the vanguard of cool climate Chilean wines and boy do we love 'cool climate wines'! In fact shortly after her first vintage of 2003 under her Casa Marin label she received acclaime as the top producer of Chilean white wines!

She has accomplished all that she has in the face of a wine hierarchy that is dominated by massive brands and by companies that are not directly related to wine. I was informed that about 60% of the wineries in Chile are owned by approximately 40 large national or international companies. To clarify  - I can make no factual claim in this statement but I can understand the 'new world winery' business model and the investment that is needed in order to compete on the world market. Though private sector investment and corporate management is one way of doing things the Casa Marin story set's it apart from the rest. 

Maria Luz Marin, started her winemaking career in the 70's and into the 90's gathered momentum by building the 3rd largest producer of bulk wine in Chile, wines that would be used for blending and for supermarket brands in the domestic and european  markets. But....She had a higher calling and would be inspired to make 'great' wines with her talent and drive, but where? 

Lo Abarca in the 90's 

One of Maria's oldest childhood memories was of taking family vacations to the coast. The destination would be on the other side of the San Antonio Valley towards the ocean and the route would take them through an area called Lo Abarca. Lo Abarca is known for superior agriculture products and produce. As a child she would notice the temperature change and coolness as the family car travelled through various elevations towards their destination. As an adult knowing that she wanted to create unique wines, where would that be, and it was a childhood memory that would direct her back to Lo Abarca. Everyone thought she was crazy, it was too cold, the soils were too fertile. It would be folly, it would be financial suicide. Bah! She withdrew investments from her bulk wine company and bought, at auction, vineyard and land over various plots in Lo Abarca and set off to make her own wines as the first Chilean woman to found an independent winery. In 1999/2000 she planted vineyards and in 2003 she released her first wines that would prove to silence critics and nay-sayers.


  • 46 hectares.
  • planted to Riesling, Gewürztraminer, Sauvignon Blanc, Sauvignon Gris for white grapes and Syrah and Pinot Noir for red grapes ( with a new project focusing on Grenache).
  • wines are sourced from 63 different vineyard plots.
  • 80% of the vineyards are located in the hills of Lo Abarca on various micro-climates at elevations that range from 100 feet to 500 feet above sea level.
  • soils range from loam to granite with sand and limestone with marine deposits in the flatter vineyards. 
  • the maritime terroir is one of the coolest and closest to the coast,  though this cool the region benefits from a long season with an early and long spring and rather consistent and moderated temperature throughout the year.

Maria Luz is now assisted by her son Felipe, who has recently graduated from school of viticulture and oenology and has returned home from working in New Zealand. He is also spearheading a project focused on Grenache from vineyards that are farmed with biodynamic and natural applications. The results of which are fascinating and engaging the palates of some of the most astute critics and wine writers around the world.  

Casa Marin is the epitome of cool climate wines from the ever evolving wine world of Chile

the tasting:

Sauvignon Blanc 'Cartagena' 2013 : Cartagena is the Casa Marin entry level series of wines. They are most certainly pleasant and drinkable. Those who love Sauvignon in the riper fruit context and those studying Chilean Sauv Blanc will delight in the purity of flavour and complexity of expression. They are using a French Clone for this wine coming from one of their top vineyard sights, which helps explain certain complexity in flavour. From poor soils and a warm site this wine is a pleaser 

Sauvignon Blanc 'Cipresses' Casa Marin 2013: is the ultimate expression of the Casa Marin Sauvignon Blanc vision. The wines is made from smaller but better quantity of grapes per hectare coming from the vineyard. They are using a UC Davis 1 clone with cold maceration over 18hours with 3 weeks of lees contact. The wine sees 5% of oak but is barely felt if any on the palate. Think asparagus, sweet corn, and savoury and earthy notes with a sweet pea to creamy pea soup feel. Honestly Sauvignon Blanc is not my first choice but I find these wines to be precise, focused and made with the utmost care. 

Sauvignon Gris 'Estero' Casa Marin 2013 : is a unique creature indeed. Sourced from an old clone from Pessac Leognan in Bordeaux that never re-emerged after phylloxera as it was not considered profitable as a grape. Maria Luz felt this would be the exact grape to hold a place in her stable of white wines. The wine is made from spontaneous fermentation with 70% of the wine aged in 2/3 times used barrels with 30% rested in steel. To taste this wine think, grass, herbs, young green shoots, to leeks and chives, with texture and natural sweetness, though it is a dry wine. Lemon Thyme and Lemon Balm, but I may be reaching here. The palate is fresh and spiced with white pepper, round and pleasing. I fun wine for the student and the connoisseur. 

Pinot Noir 'Cartegena' 2013 : the first of their entry level Pinot Noir, think lean, fresh and spiced red berry. A pleasant balance of cool climate pinot character - fragrant, meaty, savoury with fruit that is dry versus sweet. Clocking in at 14% alcohol, it is impressive that the wine is so lean. 

Pinot Noir ' Litoral Vineyards' 2013 : is an example of their top tier production. The wine is high toned, peppered and savoury with nice red fruit. Really a balance of fruit and the savoury quality of Pinot Noir at it's best. Lush, Plush, mineral with a smokey and pleasant finish. A must have for PInot that should be ready to drink in the next 2-5 years. 

Viñedos Lo Abarca - a new series of wines  

Viñedos Lo Abarca - a new series of wines  

Garnacha/Syrah 'Viñedos Lo Abarca No. 3 2013 : this is the Casa Marin new generation of wines made by Felipe, Maria Luz's son. He represents the new generation of wine makers focusing on wines made closer to natural and biodynamic principles. They planted grenache in 2011 and this is first presentation of the wine. 1800 bottles, 2 years in  barrel. The wine is killer! Think North Rhone, think Gigondas with a 20-30% blend of Syrah that takes the wine into a whole new level. The wine is of a sweet berry profile, with freshness and vibrancy, white and black pepper, a textured and pleasant mouthfeel. Can you tell that I really enjoyed this wine. Get some when they get here! Please!

EARTH AND SKY….IS THE LIMIT - XINOMAVRO from Thymiopoulos Vineyards. Naoussa Greece

For the second time this year I had the opportunity to catch up with Apostolos Thymiopoulos, who is one of my favourite wine producers and quickly becoming a good friend in wine. On this market visit he was accompanied by his lovely wife Eleftheria, her first visit to the Toronto. The couple are the driving force behind the wines of Thymiopoulos Vineyards of Naoussa, Greece. They are the producers of amazing biodynamic wines based on the noble red grape called Xinomavro [sour -dark].  Why is Xinomavro fabulous and worthy of your attention? Well if you are a lover of Pinot Noir, an admirer of Nebbiolo then you will absolutely die for Xinomavro. The wines are bright fresh, savoury with red cherry fruit to sometimes olive sun dried tomato all wrapped up in firm tannin and a good dose of acidity. Sounds delicious doesn't it. The appellation of Naoussa is located in the northern part of Greece sitting a the foot of the Vermio Mountains. Naoussa is one of 4 appellations for the production of high quality Xinomavro,  the others being Rapsani, Amynteo and Goumenissa. The landscape here is of rolling and lush hills that remind you of the Langhe - Barolo and Barbaresco regions of Piemonte, Italy. In all truth and honesty my first visit to Greece in 2012 with New Wines of Greece was just after I had spent 6 days in Piemonte tasting Nebbiolo. When I encountered the Xinomavro of Thymiopoulos, I felt like I was tasting an original version of Nebbiolo! The experience was amazing. As soon as I returned to Toronto I contacted the 'brand new' agency of Victory Wine and Spirits owned/managed by  Nicole Artopolous and I had exclaimed that I had to have these wines. I could say with confidence that I was one of the first to pour these wines in Toronto and I've been an 'unofficial' ambassador for the brand and the wines ever since. But I digress.  The climate here is a combination of Continental and Mediterranean and many vineyards are situated at 300 to 500 metres above sea level. The grape of Xinomavro is one of Greeces vinous crown jewels and certainly impresses with it's charm. 

Thymiopoulos wines are farmed on 28 hectares of Biodynamic vineyards in the two prime  villages of Trifolos and Fytia. There are no subregions yet defined in Naoussa but they are moving closer to single vineyard designations. What I did learn is that within Naoussa there are 7 villages that are home to the best vineyards for Xinomavro production. The soils at these 7 villages are primarily a combination of schist, granite, red granite and quartz.

Starting in 2003 released their first vintage and have been running since, receiving critical acclaim and plaudits with every vintage. Apostolos truly believes in biodymanics in that it would be strange to have vines 'lined up like soldiers in the field' he prefers to have wild flower and grasses in between the vines, not only does this 'life in the vineyard' add complexity and aroma to the wines, there is a natural barrier and protection that the vines are afforded against the high temperatures here that can rise to 38degrees celsius in the heat of summer.    

Apostolos with his 'Nature' - near zero sulphur Xinomavro…soon to be available in Ontario. 

Apostolos with his 'Nature' - near zero sulphur Xinomavro…soon to be available in Ontario. 

First off we tasted the wines of his ATMA project. A white wine blend that is composed of  primarily Malagouzia, then followed by variable amounts ofs Assryrtiko, Aidani and Roditis. The vines for this wine are average age of 4years old from rocky schist and granitic soils. As 2014 was a rather cool year, the components of the blend will change based on vintage. We had the 2014 ATMA blend which had a very reduced amount of Malagouzia, a semi-aromatic varietal. Instead of ripe luscious fruit, there is lean and clean floral aroma to peach and pear and slight green apple. There was some flesh to the wine underlining the wines subtle and pleasant nature. The wine had been previously called 'The Boarding Pass' which I had purchased in 2011. The wine stylistically has come along way and will only get better with time. 

The Young Guns!

We then jumped into the main feature of the visit and that is the Xinomavro wines of Young Vine and Earth and Sky. I know that with every guest that I present this wine to they have been awestruck and amazed at it's quality and character. I gently remind them that Xinomavro and the terroir from which this grape comes from is some of the oldest wine growing regions in the world and that much of what we know about wine today originates here and before that in the Middle East. Amazing! I know. 

The 2013 Young Vines Xinomavro is composed of vines aged 7-9 years. Much of the fruit is coming from several villages in the area. Harvested in the end of September, the wine goes into maceration for 12-14 days and sometimes this is done in whole cluster to give depth and texture. I must say that this vintage was quite exceptional. A combined and stunning rich fruity and floral aroma with savoury earthiness to balance. To taste this wine is to taste silky red and black cherry, with sweet sundried tomato and tomato leaf with a lift that is like a fresh breeze in the northern hills of Greece. Apostolos has had a hard time keeping this wine in stock. So much so that he most recently bottled directly from the stainless steel vats! Believe me the wine is this good! 

Now to the big brother, 2013 Earth and Sky sourced from 9-11 vineyards with average age of 42 year old vines, natural fermentation and no controlled malolactic, 4 month on lees and continual ageing in large barrel for 18 months. Now words can't really describe the lovely rich and heady aroma of this wine, earthy pine needles with a creamed cherry tartness that lashes out images of Nebbiolo, then pushes fine and velvety tannin of Sangiovese then back flips back to the old world with a charm that is only Xinomavro!

Last but not least was the 2014 Rosé. The vines are on average 4 years old, harvested in November after the grapes for the reds are collected. A 10 hour overnight extractions results in a gorgeous candy cherry and raspberry delight. This is a wine with presence and me not being a 'massive' fan of rosé could not help but fall in love with this wine. 

If you haven't yet tried the wines of Thymiopoulos, I really do believe you might be missing out on a very exciting and engaging family of wines from Naoussa in Northern Greece. There are many great wine of the world and I think even fewer that provide sheer and pure drinking pleasure. 

Eleftheri and Apostolos Thymiopoulos, Me (int the Tie) and Nicole Artopolos of Victory Wines

Drink More Xinomavro