Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Italian Wines and Grappa – November 5, 2007 ... Roy Thompson Hall

So I find myself at Roy Thompson Hall for the 12th Annual Italian Wine and Grappa Show. Holy cow! I knew Italy likes their wine (and make some very good stuff at that), but not like I saw on this day. Only those who have been to Roy Thompson will understand this: the entire lobby around the auditorium was full. Hundreds of producers/agents vying for your palate’s affection – a sea of mostly reds and proseccos (sparkling wines) were available for the tasting. How does one taste then all? (You don’t). And where does one begin? (Anywhere). From my limited amount of tastings (maybe 10-20% of all there) here is what I found of interest.

All told, and from my count of the producers listed in the bible-sized booklet handed to me at the front door, 91 producers were in attendance bringing with them, on average, 5 wines apiece … that’s 455 wines – and of those I tried 50 to 100. You can see how selective you have to be, and how hit and miss finding a good one can get. If you walk up to any table and say “Pour me your best” you’re asking for trouble, because they’ll start you low end and work you up to the big guns – and if you say the wrong thing you could end up offending a whole region, not just a single producer. So you learn the fine art of pick-and-point, and sadly, sometimes it’s the most attractive label that wins out.

Producers like Ampeleia were welcome additions, they brought only their best: Maremma Toscana IGT Ampeleia 2004 a blend of Cab Franc (50%), Sangiovese (20%), Mouvrede (30%) along with splashes of other regional grapes. This one had a nose of floral and cherry blossom with a soft elegant mouthfeel that had good fruit, namely cherry, with a touch of pomegranate. (Kylix Wines)

Caldora had 2 wines that interested my palate: the 100% Pecorina (white) that is incredibly aromatic (melon and peach) with a bit of sweetness: Terra di Chieti IGT Percorina Colle Dei Venti 2006 (private order $15) and their red Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Yume 2004 ($25) with its dark fruit elegance on the nose, fresh lively fruity flavours and cherry-wood finish. (Appelation Wines)

I tried something from Castell’in Villa, a Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 1986 made from 100% Sangiovese – it was browning along the outside rim (as an old wine is apt to do) but still had some good dried fruit characteristics and an almost sweet taste … very interesting and still quite tasty after all these years.

If you like Sangiovese wines there’s one about to depart the LCBO shelves that you should stock up before the axe falls. Luigi Cecchi & Figli Maremma Toscana IGT Sangiovese Bonizio 2005 ($11.95 - #613299) has wonderful red and black fruit on both the nose and taste, and is well worth the few bucks you’ll spend.

A little more weight and finesse can be found in the Farnese Edizione 7 Cinque Autoctoni … 5 grapes make up this blend (Montepulciano, Primitivo, Sangiovese, Negroamaro and Malvasia) that is given an “Edizione” (edition) name as oppose to a vintage year designation. Smooth dark fruit, lush chocolate and dark cherries make up both its nose and flavour profile. (Barrique Wine Imports)

Prosecco is Italian Champagne and there was plenty to be had on this day – finding the flees amongst the fur (as one might say) was more difficult, but Le Tenuta di Genagricola had a beauty: Spumante Tenuta S. Anna which was very fruity and refreshing on the palate with citrus, pears and peaches all fighting for supremacy in the mouth. ($15.95 – Regazzi Wines & Spirits Selection)

Another Prosecco, this time from Masottina, Spumante di Conegliano e Valdobbiadene Extra Dry 2006, a great citrus lift to the nose right alongside the apples … it foams up upon entering the mouth, but once there it mellows into a toasty, yeasty appley enjoyment. (TWC Imports)

Pinino Capston Italia has a very nice 59 dollar Brunello di Montalcino 2003 … dark fruit and black cherry are followed by cranberry and a sweet fruit-like mid palate – good acid and tannin showcase a longevity that could easily see it sitting on your cellar shelf for another 10 years or more. (Ruby Wines)

Being in Toronto it only seemed fitting to try a wine with Spadina in the name – Nero d’Avola Spadina Uma Rosa 2002 … this very nice fruit forward red not only had chewy black fruit, but the chocolate-mocha notes added to the enjoyment … the tannins and acidity which adds to its shelf life. (Regazzi Wines and Spirits)

Proving that the Italians can also have fun with wine, Ugo Chiola brings this delicious rosé called Amour 2006 – a blend of Dolcetto d’Alba, Freisa, and Malvasia … is totally red fruit dominated: strawberry, cherry and raspberry with a touch of sweetness, along with the cutest throbbing heart in the middle of the bottle – a perfect Valentine’s day addition … if the LCBO decides to pick it up. Sure it’s a little gimmicky but the wine inside is nice enough to deserve a try, and gimmicks is what Valentine’s Day gifts are all about.

A light and fruity Nebbiolo d’Alba 2005 from Veglio Michelino and Figlio also deserves some representation here in the province – its red licorice flavour was a delight in a sea of black fruit.

Odd Meeting of the Day …

Grape Guy meets Wine Guy (Stephen Belyea of Wine Guy Imports) – just for the name I had to try the whole line, of which all were pleasant and worthy of shelf space, if not at the LCBO then on yours. From Istituto Enologico Italiano comes the vanilla tinge Soave Bassanella 2004; or better yet the Soave Capital Al Pigno 2006 ($18.19) – it has fruity pineapple and peach nose and finish with a touch of floral to boot. Reds included a dark fruit and black cherry Valpolicella Ripasso Bixio 2004 ($21.99); a 100% merlot Riserva Desmonta 2003, with an earthy leathery pot pourri like nose, and dark fruit smoothness in the mouth (no earthy-leatheryness on the tongue) - $23.99. And finally the Amarone Bixio 2004 with rich chocolate, black fruit (black cherry) good mouthfeel with ageworthy acidity and tannins. They decanted this one just so it would show better with a little air … and it was worth it.

The great thing about most Italian wine is that it can sit and age – there’s no rush to drink this stuff … and that’s a good thing, especially if you’re slightly absent minded and forget a bottle here and there on your racks for a few years.

I found myself missing a whole lot that I will probably be able to try next year, because at the Italian Show there were so many wines yet so little time … I’m out.

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