After a month in Italy there is nothing much to do except complain (again, more) about wine in BC. The sheer misery of the options, the insane cost, the supply chain to the hospitality industry, and on and on.
What’s VAT in Italy? 22%. Twenty-two per-cent. And yet, and yet you can pick up phenomenal local wine for 12 Euros (approximately $18 CDN). Wine at a restaurant, really lovely drinkable wine ins the 14-18 Euros category. We found in Puglia that if you wanted to shell out the very grand amount of 20 Euros you were heading into 92 pointster categories. It was wow and wow and more wow and easy, easy, easy on the pocket book.
In the above (random) collage (much edited) I’ve pasted the two most expensive bottles at top that we decided to try along the way. The Michele Calo Spano Salento Rosso, which retails for close to 40 Euros, we scored for 35. It was excellent, absolutely hands down the best Negroamaro we drank (and we drank a lot) although given what’s available in the region it defied type; it seemed almost Californian in its clean modernity, the lack of acidity;, the abundance of fruit but without supreme depth made it seem a little too Robert Parker for us. As for liquor board controlled buying, I would say both BC and Ontario fail the consumer when it comes to Negroamaro. Fail.
Next to that you’re looking at a (random sample) of a truly wonderful local Primitivo, the Schola Sarmenti Cubardi Primitivo. At the wine store 12 Euros, in a restaurant we scored if for 22. And it was just all awesome; oodles of cherry and smoke and chicory and herby notes that define terroir. We’ve had the decent bottle or two of Primitivo in BC but nothing like the Cubardi range (for which there are a number of varietals and all are worth a sample). As for liquor board controlled buying, Ontario does a decent job with Primitivo; BC, however, is again a fail. In London (UK) you can find this monumentally satisfying red for 15 pounds (or less than $30 CDN) which is just ludicrous. What Okanagan plonk can a Canadian score in BC, taxes all in, under $30?
Lower left is a wine from a local masseria, the L’Astore Alberelli Negroamaro. Organic. Old vines. High in alcohol and not cheap and not easy to access, even in Lecce, but we found it, and we loved it, and we wanted more, and couldn’t get it, and that of course led to me on another BC wine rant. This was a juicier, rounder, plumper Negroamaro with tannins that sat up against red fruits with a challenge. Outstandingly food friendly, from stuffed zucchini blossoms to ragu orecchiette.
The whites down south were hit and miss. With temperatures in the mid to high 30s they needed to be cold, and outside they warmed up too quickly. (A red, however, refrigerated briefly, then served al fresco, that worked a dream.) Having said that, it was easy to access Friulano. Welcome to my newest favorite varietal. Full, assertive, nuanced, fleshy, like ripe nectarine juice running down your chin. Gorgeous with southern Italian cuisine. The Doro Princic is a relatively inexpensive white, 14 Euros, with nothing going against it except availability. Ontario and BC, our largest socialist fueled wine buyers, how ya doin’ with Friulano? Two and one. Fail and fail.
The last wine, also a pricey bottle, is from the Bastianich vineyard, deep down in the heel. And, if truth be told, the only reason I bought it was because of, you know, Lidia and Joe and how pompous Joe comes off on TV and how full of himself in respect to their wine he is which they “personally oversee” in Puglia and so on. They have a base model Friulano but in for a penny we got the Plus, a whopping 30 Euros (but, let’s be fair, that’s $45 CDN and plenty of BC top wines are more than that before onerous taxes). Gorgeous. Speechless I am in its appeal, from aroma to palate; the proverbial nectar from the gods. So, here I’m going to compare it with top whites from, you know, Culmina, Clos de Soleil, Meyer, and all I can say is they are lost in the dust (or, as things go in Europe, the diesel particulate). But so is BC when it comes to choice, diversity, and consumer appetites.
What’s next BC Liquor? One white and one red from a spigot? BC Liquor: It’s a fail, Herculaneum Pompeii style fail.