Wine Review: Modern Italian Traditionalists

11 10 2017

[These bottles were provided as samples for review purposes.]

IMG_6926

Reunited with Italy.

I don’t know why, but before yesterday I hadn’t had a bottle of Italian wine for a long, long time.  I’m not a hater or a New World purist; I have a bunch of Italy in my cellar and rank certain Italian bottles and regions among my favourites in the world.  I’ve just been through a phase where nothing has drawn me to that corner of my wine racks in a number of months…there has always been something more enticing to my senses that has kept the country in the press box.  Well, no more:  in order to restore equilibrium to my wine world and reacquaint myself with one of the two traditional cornerstone nations of viniculture, I cracked a pair of Italian bottles last night and reminded myself of why Italy is viewed so loftily by grape lovers everywhere.

On the surface, the two bottles seemed to have very little in common:  one was playful pink bubbles, while the other was a legacy Chianti crafted to centuries-old founder’s standards.  But both in their own way were asserting their place in the often-calcified lore of Italian wine history.  The pink bubbles hailed from the province of Treviso in northeastern Italy, just north of Venice, the world home of Prosecco; but it couldn’t be called Prosecco by virtue of its hue and its choice to forego the region’s Glera grape (which was previously also called “Prosecco” in an attempt to be as confusing as possible), which took the wine out of the threshold criteria of the Prosecco classification. Even though it was produced by a generations-old Prosecco house, it wasn’t Prosecco, and it was OK with that, ambling on its merry mission to bring joy to those who opened it.  The Chianti was a modern take on a wine made to the recipe of a 19th century legendary figure, the one who first set down what it legally meant for a wine to be a Chianti.  While the first bottle gleefully acknowledged its place on the parallel track from history, the second not only embraced its history but walked in its footsteps.  In their own way, I admire each for their paths taken. Read the rest of this entry »

Advertisements




Wine Review: 2011 Barone Ricasoli Brolio Chianti Classico Riserva

30 09 2015

[This bottle was provided as a sample for review purposes.]

Modern Traditional Chianti.

Modern Traditional Chianti.

Barone Ricasoli holds itself out as the oldest winery in Italy.  Its history certainly marches in lockstep with that of its region, Chianti:  the winery’s eponymous founder was the man who first suggested the modern “recipe” for the standard Chianti blend — largely Sangiovese, blended with indigenous varieties Canaiolo, Trebbiano and Colorino — in a letter in 1872.  That mix has expanded and adapted since then, but Ricasoli has remained a constant in the area, producing Chianti at all price and quality points, from the entry level to the sublime.

This particular bottle is from the sub-zone of Chianti Classico, the traditional Chianti heartland at the centre of the region encompassing the original lands upon which that name was bestowed.  Chianti has now expanded significantly beyond that area, some might say for largely economic reasons and to the detriment of its reputation, as the lands surrounding Classico often do not quite live up to its hallmarks of quality.  The symbol of Chianti Classico, emblazoned proudly on this bottle in multiple places, is the black rooster, the gallo nero.  Why?  Legend has it that, back when the provinces of Florence (in the north) and Siena (in the south) were fighting over the territory of Chianti (right in the middle), they settled on a contest to determine their mutual border:  they would each pick their best knight, who would ride from his city towards his opponent as fast as his horse could take him once the rooster crowed, and wherever they met would mark the new edge of each province’s lands.  The Florentines had a black rooster, and before the date of the contest they kept it locked up in a box with no food, so that when it was finally released on the day of the race, it crowed much, much earlier than dawn, giving Florence’s knight a massive head start.  The Florentine met the Sienese knight just outside of Siena’s walls and thus scooped all of Chianti for Florence, giving the black rooster mythical status in the process.  This is the best part about wine:  everything has a story.  You just have to find it. Read the rest of this entry »





Calgary Wine Life: Taste With Piero Lanza of Poggerino

17 02 2013

[Cross-posted at www.calgaryisawesome.com]

There’s nothing quite like listening to winemakers talk about their own wines.  You can learn a lot about a wine by reading labels, going to websites, talking to shopkeepers and (of course) reading blogs and online reviews, but nothing gets you inside the soul of a wine faster than hearing the person who created it talk about what led up to its birth.  On Valentine’s Day, a few of us were treated to this rarefied experience at Vine Arts on 1st Street and 13th Avenue SW, where Wine Boy Imports presented an interactive tasting with Piero Lanza, co-owner and winemaker at Fattoria Poggerino in Tuscany, Italy.  Lanza led us through his entire lineup of classically inspired wines and made most of us mentally pencil in a trip to central Italy at some point in the future.

Photo1-157

Poggerino is first and foremost a family venture:  it was purchased by Piero’s grandfather in 1940, and he and his sister are the third generation of Lanzas to work on the property.  The estate is comprised of 43 hectares of land, although only 12 hectares are planted to vines (11 to Sangiovese, 1 to Merlot), with the rest largely covered in forest.  Lanza described the relatively narrow spread of the vineyards as “human-sized”, stating that he preferred to keep the operation on a scale that allowed him to personally work on all the crops and “speak to my vines”.  His passion for maintaining, preserving and expressing the essence of the land is powerfully sincere and has led Poggerino to be both organic and biodynamic in its vineyard practices.  “This land is mine on a piece of paper, but it’s really for everybody”, Lanza explains; many of his decisions with respect to the handling of his crops paint him as a steward for future generations.  He is focused on ensuring that the soils where his vines grow are constantly teeming with life and that the grapes themselves are merely one part of a thriving ecosystem instead of a single disruptive force that creates imbalance with its surroundings.  Given Lanza’s dedication to the land, it is not surprising that his winemaking style is devoted to reflecting the unique footprint of the soil through its grapes.  He keeps any intervention in the cellar to a minimum and aims to produce wines of elegance and intensity without excess concentration, keeping them fresh and food-friendly.  In his words, “I work hard to produce simple wines.”  We were lucky enough to try 5 of them, each somewhat different from the others, but all reflecting a common origin. Read the rest of this entry »





Wine Review: 2008 Rocca Delle Macie Confini Chianti DOCG

20 06 2011

Before I get into tonight’s wine, if you read my review of the 2007 Amavi Cellars Syrah from Friday, you’ll know that I was musing about why the 2005 Amavi Syrah tasted so different from the 2007 when so many of the variables going into it were the same, and I vowed to take to Twitter to get some answers right from the source.  Lo and behold, the Information Age is a wonderful place to be, and the good people at Amavi have posted a tremendous and thorough response to my Syrah-related queries in the comments section of the review.  So to recap, I had a bottle of wine in Calgary and then posted a blog article and a Twitter question, and then someone in Washington State who I’ve never met went and personally asked the head winemaker at Amavi Cellars what the difference was between his 2005 and 2007 Syrahs!!  There is very little cooler than that.  Thanks Amavi!

Warning: drink with food or face the consequences.

I wish I could say that tonight’s bottle has spawned Amavi levels of inquisitiveness and interest, but not quite.  I’ll get to that in a moment.  Chianti is a well-known wine region located in Tuscany, in west-central Italy, that has seen its share of ups and downs in recent decades.  Once regarded as one of the cream of the crop of Italian vinicultural areas, it then became the victim of shoddy production and overplanting and lost its reputation for quality, which it is only now starting to regain.  The problem with Chianti is that a lot of it is still pretty bland, although some of the higher-end renditions from the Chianti Classico region (the historic heartland of Chianti, which forms a smaller sub-zone within the larger area of Chianti) definitely can make you stop and take notice.  The main thing you need to know about wines labelled as Chianti is that they will be predominantly made using the Sangiovese grape, a varietal that shows best in Tuscany and isn’t usually seen that much elsewhere (though it WAS in the 2009 Abbot’s Table from Washington State, if you’ll recall…I doubt you’ll recall). Read the rest of this entry »