Archive for ‘Italy’

April 29, 2020

Colle Stefano Verdicchio di Matelia, 2018

Colle Stefano Verdicchio di Matelia, 2018

Bartlett pear, clover honey, and a good hit of stone with a dry, abrupt finish, but an acidity that breaks through cured meats, olives and firm cheese.  Wait: this isn’t a wine review.  This is the saga of the sorry state of affairs when it comes to wine in BC.

 

Let’s start here: Some good memories, years ago, drinking decent everyday Italian wines, some Corvo, Frascati, Verdicchio.  Then let’s jump forward and try to find those working horse wines in BC.  Good luck.

 

True story: I went into a well stocked private wine store and asked if they had any Verdicchio.  The proprietor said “Verdicchio?  I wish.”  That really says it all.

 

So when a local distributor had some organic bottles available we decided to get a case.  Not because we wanted a case, because short of driving all over the city, from store to store to store, trying to find a single bottle, the only way to order through the distributor is by the case.

 

Wait, you say.  It’s 2020.  Search online.  Oh, you’re hysterical.  Let me know which nights you do standup.  Search online indeed.  [Note for another post: The three wine stores in the province with search friendly online databases.]

 

Get this: After you order you wait a month.  Even though the wine is here, even though you’ve specified where you want to pick it up, it takes three or more weeks to cross the city.  Then the local store calls you and, you go, and you pay.  And you have a case of wine to drink.

 

There could be a better way.  Gismondi has written widely on the price point of BC wine, on a lethargic and unwieldy government system, on barriers to wine trade.  But really, we live in a modern democracy.  We should have wine clubs like the New York Times and Wall St Journal and umpteen other American versions.  But we don’t.

 

The online databases for most stores are poor, inaccurate or nonexistent.  The best of the online databases, Everything Wine, is even a little clunky and can be awkward when they run lower than a case at any given store.  In other words often.

 

So, in short, if you are passionate about wine, the system is set up to ensure your passion is quelled and you drink at the mercy of higher ups that have a grander notion than personal taste.

 

Price: Is it relevant?  In the grand scheme of things?

 

Market Liquidity: A lot of work to spend a lot of money for what was, last time I checked, a pleasure of adulthood, not a penalty.

March 27, 2020

Altesino Rosso di Montalcino, 2016

Altesino Rosso di Montalcino, 2016

Reviewers love this wine.  We were mildly satisfied.  Out of the bottle it has no new world charm; it needs a minimum of 20 minutes decanted to bloom—and then it rewards.  Decanted or even aerated, whatever you’ve got.  More subtle than the Vajra we’ve been addicted to of late, the smoky, earthy, coolness of it with just tinges of berry and plum, come on lovely.  Not a long finish.  It might have legs, and we have a few laid down to find out, but for food friendliness and to please company, you’d actually be better off with something like the Celestiale.  It was a slog to source, then of course we wanted to try it out to see if it fit our palate, then  a double slog to find it again to lie some down.  Work equals force times distance and there was too much of it all; thanks BCL.  I think Gismondi referenced it as a lesser Brunello which, I think, is disingenuous.

 

Price: $29 at BC Liquor (when and if you can find it).

 

Market Liquidity: Well worth it, but not worth the effort to source.

February 21, 2020

GD Vajra Langhe Rosso, 2017

GD Vajra Langhe Rosso, 2017

If you go below the base Nebbiolo, which we really liked (see here), if you go down, down, down beneath that to the Barbera, which quite frankly we love, so incredibly generous at the dinner table, if you go right down to the screw cap, you will end up at the Rosso.

 

And here, at the bottom of the barrel, a base model blend, you will have a juicy, fruity, slightly acidic and maybe a tad thin red, that is overflowing in simple joy.  Put on Beethoven’s Ninth and dance around the room with a glass.  Or just have dinner with it.  We couldn’t see the downside, especially in the US where you can score it for an unfrigging-believable $14 USD.

 

Can you hear my lips smacking?

 

Price: Around $30 at private wine shops in Vancouver.

 

Market Liquidity: Sharon Stone wearing Gap to the Oscars: It’s no Versace, but it does the trick.

January 5, 2020

Giovanni Rosso Langhe Nebbiolo, 2016

Giovanni Rosso Langhe Nebbiolo, 2016

I think Anthony Gismondi said that Cab Sauv drinkers should navigate towards Nebbiolo.  That was a Doh! moment for me; of course they should–why I’ve never said that myself is a conundrum…  I think, however, the acidity and tannins are not so similar, and while the average California Cab Sauv is “remarkable” from first sip, the average Nebbiolo is a wait and see and, if decent, an ooh-la-la.

 

This is a red that opens up.  There is no James Bond caper on the first sip; it’s more of a subtle start, Arvo Part minimal leading to a Handel’s Fireworks halfway through.  This is a two-bottle wine; at the last sip you will simply want some more.

 

There is a lot to be grateful for here in the New Year that you can still source a wine of this calibre (IN BC, at the BC government stores) for under $30.  When we started this blog x-teen years ago the bar was $20.  Tax has done us in on that score.

 

Although not as 100% food friendly as the Vajra Barbera we’ve waxed on about here previously, or as assertively Italian as the Vajra Nebbiolo, the Langhe is value, comfort, balances the acidity delicately and has a lighter, more Pinot-ish flair than the Vajra.

 

Price: $29 at BC Liquor stores.

 

Market Liquidity: The ultimate fireside winter sipper.

December 19, 2019

GD Vajra Langhe Nebbiolo, 2017

Vajra Nebbiolo

If we drank one Vajra Barbera this fall we drank 100.  See us falling in love all over again here.  There is no more flexible red at the dinner table.

 

This, the Nebbiolo, is more expensive.  So, let’s call it what it is: The Nebbiolo is better, smoother, has fewer tannins, is gorgeously juicy, refined, elegant, a little suave, and also a little too polished perhaps.  While you can score it for $30 in QC, it will set you back over $40 in BC.  If you can find it.

 

This is a wonderful wine; serve it to guests; impress them.  No one will complain.  But for our tastes, for the glorious slightly rough around the edges hugely food friendly Barbera, we’ll stick with the common cousin, despite the measly 89 points awarded by Gismondi.

 

Price: $43 at Kits Wine Cellar but with a 10% half case discount a better price than many proud BC reds.

 

Market Liquidity: A stellar older sister to a more in your face kid brother, we’ll take the Barbera thanks.

August 25, 2019

GD Vajra Barbera D’Alba, 2016

GC Vajra Barbera D’Alba, 2016

Pizza for dinner.  Home-made thin crust with Oyama chorizo.  Didn’t want a “special” wine that would shout “hey, I’m better than pizza” or something too plonk-y and brash.  Happened upon a reasonably priced bottle of Vajda (which, to be fair, hits the stratosphere in some varietals).  And wow.  What a spectacular pair.  All the heft and strength you need with tomato sauce but none of the rough edges.  Deeply evocative of Barbera, fruity, currant and red berry top notes with a muscular, sinewy finish that sips wonderfully then crushes it at the dinner table. The oak is milder than an Irish backstop.

 

The last time we bought this wine (post here, March 2017), a 2013 vintage, we had a similar reaction: Superb with food, why don’t we drink this all the time?

 

Same day we corked this beauty a friend sent me a wonderful label, shown below, which pretty much nails it: We want to drink good wine with food.  We don’t want it to fuck up the taste of our cheeseburger.  Note to Robert P: We want to drink wine with food.  How about a 10 point system that starts at 86 and rates wine with food?

 

Price: $34 at BC Liquor.

 

Market Liquidity: Love at first bite.

cheeseburger

August 8, 2019

Rocca Bernarda Friulano, 2016

Rocca Bernarda Friulano, 2016

From a July post after nearly a month in Italy we raved about Friulano, a sort of Sauvignon hybrid positively perfect with antipasti and, in Italy’s south, more on the money than not.  But alas our socialized liquor board failed the consumer; yet again.  It’s what I call a “dry run” when you can’t find what you’re looking for in BC but find it in abundance anywhere else (outside Canada).  We found a straggler, the Villa Locatelli, much reviewed by Gismondi but totally a non-starter for us, not even in the curiosity category.  We decided not to post.

Villa Locatelli Friulano

“..a non-starter for us…”

Then a fellow wine geek, sensing my desperation, sourced the Rocca Bernarda at EW.  What a revelation.  Hearty, husky, a red wine in white wine’s clothing, next to the Locatelli, the former like a badminton player, the RB like a rugby forward.

 

Regular old wine descriptors aren’t particularly useful with Friulano–especially if you’ve never drunk it.  It needs some regular language (citrus and stone fruit), it needs some exotica (apricot kernels and toasted clove), it needs some standard bearers like melon, and then it needs to be rated on mouth feel. It should have a texture somewhere between the greenest virgin olive oil and pear nectar. As with our July note, if you can hit it out of the park, like the Bastianich Plus, you are up in the majors; but if you don’t, this is an inconsequential varietal.

Price: Gifted but $30 at Everything Wine in the oddbins.

 

Market Liquidity: Grand but not grandiose.

July 10, 2019

Drinking Wine in Italy

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.

February 27, 2019

Planeta Cerasuolo di Vittoria, 2016

Maybe the lightest and most delicate red you’ll taste in a year; like raspberry soda.  Ethereal on the fruit front.  Tannins in spades, flowing like Niagara, but fruity and juicy and like a lure: take another sip.

 

Without any heft, it’s a wash against substance.  Try it as an aperitif or with nothing stronger than buffalo mozzarella or Gouda.

 

As a hot weather red, in the shad of vines spread across a pergola, probably divine.  But in the middle of winter a novelty.  Does not compare to their astounding Chardonnays.

 

Price: A rather hefty $38 at Kitsilano Wine Cellar.

 

Market Liquidity: Novelty makes a nice diversion, but that’s about the extent of it.

February 24, 2019

Fuiedo Maccari Grillo, 2016

Fuedo Maccari bottles some more than worthwhile reds.  Why not give the Grillo a go?  Crisp, light, sometimes sharp like grapefruit pith, our nominal experience with Grillo is it’s the arch enemy of Riesling.  But it’s a fine line between refreshingly appealing and innocuous.  This teeters towards the latter.

 

Like a whisper of breeze on a humid day, this wine has no staying power.  Not on the nose, not on the palate.  It’s simple, it’s one note, there is only a nuance of tropical fruit, and if there’s anything exceptional it’s how refreshing it could be eating fritto misto on a terrace in Sicily with a view of Malta in the distance where, truth be told, the wine doesn’t have to be very good to make the day especial.

 

James Suckling gave this a 90 and called it full body.  Wow, what planet was he on?  Full body? This couldn’t pass as a limbless bust in the ruins of Pompeii.

 

Price: $27 at Kitsilano Wine.

 

Market Liquidity: Like the rat at the end of The Departed: not necessary.