Calgary Wine Life: Technical Tasting with Barolo’s Claudio Viberti

26 05 2019

By Raymond Lamontagne

It all began when Cavalier Antonio Viberti purchased a restaurant, the Locanda del Buon Padre. In 1923, Antonio decided to start making wine in the basement, as many do in this region. The original intent was to keep things simple and just sell the wine to patrons in the restaurant. Well, Antonio’s son Giovanni had other ideas. Things began to expand. Eventually cement tanks for fermentation were installed, and in 1955 wines were sold in nearby markets for the first time. By the 1970s the operation had become a full scale winery, even if the family never forgot their roots as restauranteurs. Giovanni’s son Claudio Viberti, who was our host at this past week’s tasting event at Willow Park Wines & Spirits, took over management of winery and restaurant operations in 2008. He hasn’t looked back since. The man is a dynamo.

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Claudio tells a few of us early birds the story behind the rosé served before the beginning of the formal proceedings. First off, and much to our surprise, this rosé is 100% Nebbiolo. Secondly, the wine is made first as a white wine from Nebbiolo juice obtained via an extremely gentle press. Claudio also makes a small amount of red wine from the same batch, using this to fix the colour of the end product. No combined maceration on the skins was involved, à la pink Champagne. I start scribbling notes. This is dry as a bone but does yield a subtle candied character, with the robust illusion of a sweet finish after a rather dense midpalate. Fairy-like whispers of strawberry, raspberry leaf, and nectarine flit about a more solid core of Parmesan cheese and those pink wintergreen mints, a rather burly rosé with a shimmering coppery finish. This is a rare wine but seems unlikely to remain so. Read the rest of this entry »





12 Days of Vinebox: Day 6

30 12 2018

By Raymond Lamontagne

We are halfway through Vinebox. And back in Italy, albeit this time in the deep south, Sicily. Like its more northerly counterpart Puglia, Sicily grows tremendous quantities of grapes, most of which go into “IGT Terre di Sicilia” or “Terre Siciliane IGP” commodity wines. The heat and relatively flat, fertile land lend themselves to mass production of fruit-forward, easy-drinking and (most importantly) cheap wines, beverages to enjoy without need for much in the way of weighty analysis. And this is all well and good. There is a place for plonk, I suppose. Fortunately though, Sicily is like most Italian wine regions in that it is also a storehouse of unique, fascinating native grape varieties as well as some interesting terroir. In fact, Italy on the whole has more indigenous grape varieties than any other wine-producing country. The good news for wine nerds is that this heritage is being increasingly nurtured, protected, and celebrated. Enter the present grape, Frappato.

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Frappato is a Sicilian native and apparently enjoys a parent-child relationship with Sangiovese (although the specific direction of this relationship remains unknown). The grape is known for rather low acidity/high pH, low levels of delicate, soft tannins, low sugars, and (you guessed it) relatively low levels of colour compounds. This grape of diminutives was once rare as a varietal, instead used as a softening component in blends with heftier grapes such as the better-known Nero d’Avola. Although Frappato is challenging in the vineyard, it is rather forgiving in the winery. Its reductive nature does require exposure to enough oxygen during fermentation to avoid the production of sulphurous off-odors (for example, by frequently pumping of the must over the cap, a technique which also aids extraction of what few colour compounds and tannins are present in the grape). The resulting wines are typically light, fresh, aromatic, and meant to be drunk young. “Don’t expect the colour of Merlot”, says one viticulturist quoted by Ian D’Agata in his book Native Wine Grapes of Italy. (By the way, if you are any sort of wine nerd who is at all intrigued by Italy, this book is essential reading.) Read the rest of this entry »





Bricks Wine Advent Calendar 2018: Day 11

11 12 2018

By Raymond Lamontagne

As we approach the halfway point of this Advent campaign, I gingerly unwrap today’s offering and the bemusement arrives as if on cue: Another 2013! 2013 is the new 2018. Or something. And its a Barbera d’Asti with a lovely label. Hmmm. I begin recalling what I know about this grape. Barbera is a high acid low tannin variety, although it is also very darkly pigmented, containing roughly twice the color compounds of Nebbiolo. Although the grape does best in Piedmont, and in the Asti DOCG specifically, it is the third most widely planted black grape in Italy. Barbera is lauded as being easy to grow and rather tolerant of mistakes in the vineyard or cellar; it yields decent wines even at high yields in rich soil. Although historically such wines were quite austere and characterized by piercing acidity, they have evolved into an approachable, soft, rich style that is often permeated by the telltale chocolate and vanilla aromas of new oak. As is the case with most indulgences, moderation is everything. Some argue that the trend towards oak aging has gone too far. Regardless, Barbera could be a grape on the cusp of international superstardom. It does well outside of its native land and its pacific temperament lends itself to a whole range of styles, from crushable easy-going reds full of juicy red and black cherries to wines more regal and age-worthy.

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Not afraid of oak is La Spinetta, founded by Giuseppe and Lidia Rivetti in 1977. La Spinetta produced the first single vineyard Moscato in Italy, and the present wine, Ca’ Di Pian, was their inaugural red. La Spinetta eventually added holdings in both Barbarsco and Barolo, even spreading beyond Piedmont into Tuscany. Their philosophy is summarized as ” 90% of the work we do at La Spinetta is in the vineyards, with just 10% in the cellar”. 75% of their vineyards are farmed in accordance with biodynamic principles, and chemicals are used at a bare minimum in those that are not. Indigenous varieties are coveted, with La Spinetta seeking to let native grapes reflect local conditions as opposed to using international varieties to score points. Besides, Barbera is more than capable of providing colour. Vine ages range from 35 to 65 years old. Green harvesting is used to keep yields low. Cooperage is 80% new medium toast French oak barrels (225 liter barriques) and the cellar is constantly controlled for temperature and humidity. This is all well and good. My burning question is, why the rhino? Read the rest of this entry »





Calgary Wine Life: Tabarrini Montefalco Tasting Seminar @ Model Milk

12 03 2018

By Raymond Lamontagne and Dan Steeves

We have always been impressed by the selection of Austrian and German wines in Salivate Wines’ portfolio, so we were thrilled at the opportunity to sample wines from one of the importer’s Italian producers, Tabarrini.  Hailing from smack dab in the middle of Italy, in Montefalco within the Umbria region (the only wine region in Italy that does not have a coastline or border another country), Tabarrini is a well-respected winery known for its big, brooding single-vineyard reds based on the Sagrantino grape, as well as for an interesting white wine made from the little-known Trebbiano Spoletino. Although maybe not quite as famous as other Umbrians such as Saint Francis of Assisi, Monica Bellucci or black truffles (a full 60% of the world’s supply of the latter originates from the region), there is no doubt that Tabarrini is producing some serious wines that have rightfully been getting global attention.

Tabarrini’s director of sales and marketing, Daniele Sassi, led us through an informative (and entertaining – Daniele is a natural comedian, and the jokes are not always politically correct!) tasting of three of the winery’s offerings:  the Adarmando Bianco (a white Trebbiano Spoletino), the Boccatone Rosso (a Sangiovese and Sagrantino red blend), and the Colle Grimaldesco Sangrantino (one of the estate’s premium single-vineyard dry Sagrantinos).  Read on for our combined thoughts and notes on each bottle. 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.

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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: 2009 Gomba Barbera d’Alba Traifilari

31 05 2011

Long time no PnP!  One consequence of drinking almost 50 wines over 16 hours in 2 days is that it doesn’t necessarily make you want to come home and WRITE about wine.  Two thirds of my Intermediate WSET class is now in the books, with the last day and the exam next Saturday, and after a day off yesterday my palate’s rested up and I’m ready to get back in the saddle.

I will admit that Barbera doesn't often shine in the label category. Marketing minds have to be able to do better than this.

I went with another Barbera d’Alba tonight so soon after the Cogno Barbera I wrote up a couple reviews ago because I spent the first half of that review raving about how awesome Barbera was and then the second half of the review backpedalling because the wine wasn’t all that great, or at least not all that typical of the grape.  In order to make sure not to duplicate my mistake, this time I picked a wine that I’ve had in previous vintages, and one that might be one of the all-time great bottle bargains in the $20-or-less category.  I’ve tracked down the Gomba for the past two years, but this was my first crack at the 2009. Read the rest of this entry »





Wine Review: 2007 Cogno Barbera d’Alba Bricco Dei Merli

16 05 2011

So the label's beige, coral pink and orange? It HAS to be good!

I haven’t had a Barbera in awhile, but it’s one of my all-time favourite red grapes, so it’s high time to change that trend.  Barbera is mainly grown in the Piedmont region in northwest Italy, which is much (much much) more famous for the Nebbiolo-based wines from Barolo and Barbaresco, which are some of Italy’s most prestigious and expensive.  While Nebbiolo is the show-dog grape of the region, Barbera is the lovable mutt who sleeps beside your bed at night; Nebbiolo is deep, complex, layered and pedigreed, while Barbera is rustic, juicy, fun and earthy.  Although Nebbiolo is what generates the most cash for winemakers in Piedmont, Barbera is what they drink at night.  Barbera is a great intro grape for those people who want to start learning what European wines are all about but have been used to the overt fruitiness of California and Australia:  it features ripe red fruit flavours that are eminently drinkable but also has the underlying flavours of the land and the ground common in the Old World, all thrown together with a bit of wildness, some colouring outside the lines.  All this, usually, for $15-$25 a bottle. Read the rest of this entry »








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