Friday, April 1, 2016

Featured Wines: A Salad of Italians

If any of the wines in this week's Featured Wines column tickle your fancy, you can order them directly from Jordan by email ( or find him in the Vintage Room of Everything Wine's Morgan Crossing location in South Surrey.

A Salad of Italians

As I was trying to recommend a wine to someone last week, he told me something extraordinary: “I don’t really like Italian wine”. My mouth opened but I said nothing. It must have looked like I was blinking Morse code at him, because I had no response to a statement that broad, it’s like saying “I don’t like leaves”. Surely you like some leaves? If you think hard enough? Tea? Mint? The Maple leaf? There’s too broad an assortment of items to dismiss the group categorically, and in practice there’s really no such group as “Italian Wine”.

We can mistake Italy as a culturally homogeneous Super-Mario-Land, but in truth Italy has been a unified country for less time than our own. Before the late 19th century Risorgimento going back to the fall of Rome, the Italian peninsula was a quilt of city states, Duchies and little Empires, all of which were intermittently at war with each other. If you travel 200km in any direction, you will find different architecture, cuisine, dialect and entirely different styles of wine, made with different grapes. Amarone has as much in common with Barbaresco as a Slinky has with a Ford Explorer, even though the two regions are separated by less than the distance between Vancouver and Princeton.

From Tuscany to Piedmont to Trento, allow me to present 3 wildly different “Italian wines”:

Nada Giuseppe Casot 2008 Barbaresco Riserva (Piedmont)
A deliciously drinkable Barbaresco for an outstanding price, brand new to our fair province. A tiny winery from Treiso, one of the 4 villages within the Barbaresco boundaries, run by the Nada family, who will be here in the Vintage Room tomorrow (Sunday) at 1:30pm, pouring this and two other wines. Classic nose of flowers and red fruit over quite a full package, and the acidity is balanced and in check, which isn’t a given for a Barbaresco this young. 3 6-packs available, $60.49 +tax

Biondi-Santi 2009 Brunello di Montalcino (Tuscany)
We wouldn’t be talking about Brunello if it weren’t for Biondi-Santi, who was making world-class Sangiovese a century ago when everyone else in Montalcino was just making happy-juice. They led, the region followed, and it’s nice to finally be able to offer the (unofficial) First Growth of Montalcino after years of trying to obtain it. Traditionally austere (even in the ripe 2009 vintage), medium bodied and designed for the cellar, we get earthy licorice and restrained darker fruit in a serious frame. It drinks like history, and I’m super stoked to carry it. 93 points Robert Parker, $215.99 +tax

Giulio Ferrari 2004 “Riserva del Fondatore”  (Trento)
One of my favourite finds from the recent Wine Fest, this was one of the “buzz booths” of the floor tasting, always crowded and noisy. A sparkling wine made with Champagne grapes using the Champagne method that would easily cost twice as much if it were actually from Champagne. Made from Chardonnay vines imported by Giulio Ferrari when northern Trento was still part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, this is lush, layered bubble with stone fruit, minerals, smoke and brioche, both generous and focussed. So good, it’ll easily hijack any conversation you were previously having. 98 points Decanter, $109.99 +tax


Masterclass: Kings of California, Thursday April 7 6:30pm - 8pm, seats $50
Another horizontal tasting of sorts, this time focussing on the 2012 vintage in Napa and Sonoma, the first of 4 outstanding back-to-back vintages from California. Yasha makes the tasty nibbles, I make the bad jokes, the wines make everything awesome. What wines? Oh, these ones:

2012 Stonestreet Upper Barn Chardonnay, 97 points Robert Parker, $121.49
2012 Hartford Court Far Coast Pinot Noir, 96 points Robert Parker, $121.99
2012 Grgich Hills Cabernet Sauvignon, $107.99
2012 Vineyard 29 Cru Cabernet Sauvignon, 92 points Robert Parker, $51.99
2012 Clos Pegase Cabernet Sauvignon, $74.99
2012 Cade Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, 98 points Robert Parker, $282.99

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