Everything Wine And More

Marcia Hamm
 
February 3, 2020 | Marcia Hamm

Cooperatives: Not Always a Negative! Introducing Produttori del Barbaresco

Miriam-Webster describes Cooperation as:

1: the actions of someone who is being helpful by doing what is wanted or asked for: common effort. E.g We are asking for your full cooperation.

2: association of persons for common benefit established trade and economic cooperations. This is what we’re talking about with our #ItalianFWT!

 

In a nutshell, to cooperate, means to work together, pulling together your resources, knowledge and expertise to make the best possible outcome.

Barbaresco is a small village in Piemonte in Northern Italy. Like its famous sister town Barolo, it also is known for growing world class Nebbiolo, but the world might say it’s the ‘queen’ to Barolo’s ‘king. Although the wines might be more approachable due to vines growing at lower elevations, and its closer proximity to the Tanaro river to help regulate temperatures, there are some very fine examples of powerful, structured, fullbodied and age-worthy wines coming from Barbaresco. In their youth, Nebbiolo from Barbaresco may be easier to drink with softer tannins, delicate fruit and perfume; it doesn’t mean that they are by any means, less quality or not as important!

 

In small places like this, land is at a premium and producers who may want to make wine from their grapes might not be able to because they wouldn’t have enough to sell. So, why not join forces with other growers/producers around you and still make great wines, but in greater quantities? Thus the cooperative makes sense.

Produttori del Barbaresco was Founded in 1958, by the local village priest who recognized the fact that the only way small properties could survive was by joining their efforts. Previous to this, grape growers sold their grapes to producers in Barolo for their wines. The priest gathered together nineteen small growers and founded the Produttori del Barbaresco. From its humble beginnings making the first three vintages in the church basement, Produttori del Barbaresco has grown to a 52 member co-operative with 250 acres of Nebbiolo vineyards in the Barbaresco appellation and an annual production of over 500,000 bottles. Its vineyards amount to almost 1/6 of the vineyards of the area. The beauty of this arrangement is that each member is in full control of their land, growing Nebbiolo grapes with the skill and dedication they have honed over generations. I don’t know about you, but it sounds like win-win to me!

And the Cooperetiva has continued to be one of the greatest producers of the area

Unlike Barolo’s 11 villages, (and single vineyards within each), Barbaresco has four; the village of Barbaresco itself, along with Nieve, Treiso and San Rocco Seno d’Elvio. Within these villages are cru vineyards, and in the best years, the cooperative will make wine from nine premium sites: Asili, Rabajà, Pora, Montestefano, Ovello, Pajè, Montefico, Muncagota, and Rio Sordo. Keep in mind that all of these wines are only made from ONE grape. That’s pretty impressive in itself to have a cooperative dealing with only one grape, which speaks to the power of Nebbiolo.

 

Since I work in a retail wine store, I will speak to the wines that we have here: two cru wines and the Langhe Nebbiolo – all wines made by Produttori del Barbaresco, or what we affectionately know them as – PdB.

 

2013 was a great vintage in Piemonte with a very warm summer and a temperate fall, which resulted in full ripeness of the Nebbiolo grapes. Since 2013, some exceptional vintages have followed (both the 2015 & 2016 vintages were stellar) and as a result, if you are a points follower, these wines have traditionally garnered quite high scores.

 

I won’t get into all the single vineyard wines the PdB produces, but I will talk about two in particular: Produttori del Barbaresco Rabajà, and the Montestefano.

The Rabajà vineyard is 3.7 ha with a Southwest exposition (cool mornings, warm evenings) with a total of nine owners to the vineyard. No new oak on this, but 36 months in the large neutral oak barrels and one year in bottle. The total production is just over 17K total bottles, and they even bottle a few magnums too! And the price won’t break the bank either! In Canada, we sell single vineyard wines for around $C85

 

Loads of red cherry, and that beautiful red rose floral note that is so synonymous with Nebbiolo. Some lovely clove spice notes on the palate along with more red fruits and hints of licorice and leather even. The tannins are super smooth and that high, high acidity would lend itself to a number of local cuisine that the Piemontese are known for! Simply Outstanding! In my travels in Piemonte, I always look forward to my first dish of tajarin, (say Tah-yah-REEN) the long egg pasta served with ground meat (often veal or pork or a combination of the two), sometimes just mixed with sage and butter, and very often truffles grated on top, which as we know, famous in the region! Sooo good, and a dish that honestly, I never get tired of eating when I’m in Piemonte!

 

The Montestefano vineyard is 4.5 ha with a south facing exposure. Incidentally, the ageing protocol is the same for all the single vineyards. There is a total of six owners for this vineyard and production is around 6500 bottles. (Please note, I did not taste this wine, but the professional reviews are solid). If you’re looking to not spend that much money, for half the price (under $40 in Alberta) the Langhe Nebbiolo is also a good choice. The grapes in the bottle come from a selection of grapes from the estate owned vineyards inside the appellation. Still amazing quality, and the wine is juicy with red fruits and smooth tannins-2017 being another great vintage in the region.

 

Time Posted: Feb 3, 2020 at 12:26 PM
Marcia Hamm
 
January 13, 2020 | Marcia Hamm

Wines To Warm From the Inside Out


It seems every year about this time, we have a cold snap, and we are rendered immobile for a week or two at a time, usually between the dates of December 26-to around mid-February. We got lucky this year and enjoyed a mild December and even January started out relatively balmy…until Saturday. Temperatures fell to -26C (for my American friends who speak Fahrenheit, that’s -14.8F) That’s during the day. Tonight, it will plummet to -38C. I know that when we get to -40C, it’s the same in Fahrenheit! In other words... freaking cold. Schools are still in session, city transit still runs, and if our cars our “plugged in”, they start with ease. We learn to adapt here. Big hoods, long underwear, boots that come up to our knees especially made to withstand the harsh cold tundra, scarves, bulky mitts…you name it to wear to keep warm, we own it! It’s business as usual, and unless you CAN’T start your vehicle, you’re at work at the required time!


I don’t know about you, but when it’s this cold, I don’t want to go anywhere. As soon as the time clock dings after my eight hours, I’m heading home to change into my cozy jammy bottoms, and hunker down under a large, thick blanket with the TV on and a glass of my favourite full-bodied red. If I had a fireplace, that’d be stoked too! .


So what’s in your glass if you’re in a place that gets so cold your nose hairs freeze? Here are four recommended selections that are sure to warm you from the inside out!


2015 Tridente Tempranillo- Spain

From the Gil Family Estates, the Bodegas Tridente winery, located in the Castilla y Leon territory in Northwest Spain, makes this massive tempranillo from old vines cultivated on very sandy soils covered with gravel in a hot area of the Duero Valley. The grapes are small (old vines will eventually give smaller and smaller berries and/or yields), with loads of concentrated flavours of black cherry and black berry. It’s also aged in French oak for 15 months, so it also has huge aromas and flavours of cinnamon and nutmeg spice, along with dark chocolate. At a whopping 16%abv, it’s almost like drinking port, and sure to warm you up nicely!

SR $26CAD

 

 

2016 1000 Stories, Bourbon Barrel-Aged Zinfandel – United States

This Zinfandel is bursting with field berry fruit flavours, and then made more complex with the addition of ageing in ex American bourbon barrels. In order for a bourbon to be labelled as “Kentucky Straight”, it requires (among other things), to be aged in a NEW charred American white oak barrel, that is only used once. After the bourbon gets put into the bottle, the barrels are obsolete. But not to worry, used barrels are a great commodity to other areas of the liquor industry, specifically this winery, which in the past, used to neutralize the flavours before using the barrels, but now, they are used to add those complex flavour nuances that come from the bourbon itself previously aged inside the barrel. This 1000 Stories wines uses small lots Mendocino fruit with ageing first in traditional French and American Oak before being transitioned into the bourbon barrels. The charred, smoky vanilla from the bourbon barrel merges with the dried fig, dried cherry, plum and cigar box of the wine to create an overall warming sensation that is sure to have your senses tingling!

SR $26CAD

 

 

2014 Nugan Estate Alfredo Dried Grape Shiraz- Australia

Alfredo Nugan, originally from Spain, went to Australian in the late 1930’s with a vision to create a great new life for his family. Of course, the name Nugan Estates is now synonymous with successful enterprise Down Under. Now in its third generation, this Spanish family is maintaining family traditions and sharing passion for good wine. Like the amarone style of Italy, a portion of the Shiraz grapes were dried on specialized racks to increase flavour intensity and concentration. Maturation took place in both American and French oak for 18 months giving this wine further structure and intensity. Dense ruby colour, you’ll find warming aromas of cherry, plum, chocolate and herbaceous notes, while your palate will be enticed by further warm and rich flavours complemented by the velvety smooth tannins at the finish. This wine will no doubt put a fire (the good kind) in your belly!

SR $29CAD !

 

 

2010 Cantine due Palme Selvarossa- Italy

Salice Salentino is a region in Puglia, the heel of Italy’s boot that grows mostly Negro Amaro, a red grape that has multiple personalities – some of the best rosati is made with this grape, yet it also yields rich, dark red wine! This wine has “Terra” on the label, and only the best vintages of Selvarossa are marked with this. Ancient negro amaro vines are hand harvested from the red clay soils, and also like the amarone style, a portion are sent to the drying racks to increase flavour concentration. With the addition of malvasia nera to soften the harsh tannins, the combination of appassimento fruit and fresh fruit are blended together, with time first in French oak barriques, then finished in stainless steel to preserve freshness. The end result is a rich, thick, full bodied wine that is most assuredly able to warm you from the inside out with aromas and flavours of ripe cherries and plums, along with hints of vanilla, and the classic negro amaro spice and shoe polish!

SR $35CAD


Buy your wine on your way TO work, so you can go straight home after work to hunker down and enjoy your wine! Stay warm people!

Time Posted: Jan 13, 2020 at 6:45 PM
Marcia Hamm
 
January 3, 2020 | Marcia Hamm

The World of Italian Wine

Where Do I Begin?


Traditionally, other than pinot grigio, moscato and prosecco, the world of Italian wine is largely misunderstood and honestly, intimidating. Yes, those that follow scores will undoubtedly understand Brunello di Montalcino, Amarone and Barolo, but what about the unsung hero grapes like aglianico, verdicchio, negro amaro or nerello mascalese?


When I was studying Italian grapes, there was 690 registered grape varieties in Italy, with about another 470 identified but not yet registered, which totals over 1000 grape varieties in one country alone. To this point that number on both counts has likely risen. There is more than probably over 700 registered grapes now, and perhaps a few more identified, which still leaves us at that staggering number. No wonder Italy is confusing.


I often get asked by many, “I want to start trying Italian wine, where do I start?” This is a perfect topic to start the year off, and many new people to this group reading our posts/tweets will have a whole list of wines they’d like to try, made with Italian native grapes!


When I go the Vinitaly Trade Show in Verona every year, I make it my mission to try as many native grapes as possible, or to revisit some of the more rare ones that I can ONLY taste in Italy! Grapes like ortrugo, moscato rosa, pelaverga, durella and lagrein are not often seen in market, but are incredibly fun and educational to try when in Italy!


To start your foray into Italian wine, let’s start with something fun!


Brachetto – native to Piemonte, the grape grows mostly around the town of Acqui area and will have Brachetto d’Acqui on the label. This wine was never meant to be sparkling (the still, dry versions are spectacular) but the frizzante style has made it incredibly appealing and sellable. The frizzante style has also helped put Brachetto on the map, so to speak. One of the few aromatic red grapes, it’s like drinking red berry fruit cocktail, with rose aroma and fizz! Delightful! Perfect for those that want something besides moscato and as a dessert wine, it pairs beautifully with chocolate covered strawberries!


La Gironda is proud of their area of Monferatto/Nizza, where some of the best wines of the world are made! They are a completely sustainable vineyard with no herbicides/pesticides, hand harvesting, and reduced consumtion of environmental resources! That’s the whole package folks, and ALL the wines from their portfolio are simply amazing. If you have a chance to find them in your market, I highly recommend trying ALL of them!


White wine (other than those mentioned above J) from Italy is often a tough sell. I must confess that before I started really studying wine, all Italian white wine tasted like bitter almonds, but this was because I didn’t understand the grape and didn’t know what I was looking for! This is a myth. There are some white wines that offer a great deal of complexity in the glass the different flavour profiles. The other myth is that white wine doesn’t age. Period. I know this is a myth because I’ve had a LOT of Italian white wines with significant age on them and they were beautiful, complex and stunning. One such grape is Verdicchio


Verdicchio – from the Marche region on the Adriatic coast, labels will have Verdicchio di Castelli di Jesi or Verdicchio di Matelica. There is a difference in the flavour, with Jesi being closer to the sea and grown on hillsides, whereas Matelica is mountainous and cool, so the wines tend to be more mineral and austere with higher acidity. Both of these have lees ageing though, which is what sets Verdicchio apart. Lees is the dead yeast cells, and after the yeast has finished changing the sugars to alcohol, it falls to the bottom of the barrel as lees. The lees stays in the wine and stirred in to add texture and mouth feel to the final product. Verdicchio is one of the few wines that has the ability to age. No small feat for white wine. I have tasted Verdicchio back to 1998 and the acid structure is still incredibly high, but the typical flavours of pears, yellow apples (and yes, almond) have changed to a rich butterscotch and sponge toffee aroma and flavour. And like any white wine with age, dark in colour.


Lorenzo Marotti Campi of Marotti Campi wines, showcases several Verdicchio in the portfolio, but when I have chardonnay drinkers approach me for something different, Lorenzo’s Salmariano Verdicchio is always the first wine I think of! With 20 % aged in oak barrels and the other 80% done typically in stainless steel with lees contact, it’s got the best of both worlds in freshness and mouth feel. The stainless ageing keeps it fresh and lively, yet the small amount in oak gives it the warm, glycerol, full body, rich mouth feel that often comes from drinking full bodied white wines – a perfect foray for the chardonnay drinker to try something Italian!


Carricante – This, my friends, is another ageable Italian white grape! Carricante you say? Where the heck is this from? If you’ve heard of Mount Etna and have had either white or red from the region, you have most assuredly had Carricante! Labeled Etna Bianco, there can be an additional 30% of a grape called cataratto, but the best of Etna Bianco, are 100% carricante and a must try Italian wine! Normally I would talk about the red grape of Mt Etna (because it happens to be my favourite), but recent trip to Sicily and the Mt Etna area, gave me a view through the microscope of this fabulous region. Wines from Sicily are hot, hot, hot right now, but none moreso than the grapes of Mt. Etna. Carricante can grow up to 1000m, yet still ripen in these cool, mountainous temperatures.


Pietradolce is a winery on the northern slopes of Mt Etna, which as one might think, is cooler than other parts of the mountain. It’s also one of the more prestigious areas, so wines coming from the northern slopes seem to have a certain caché about them. Their 100% Etna Bianco wine is eye catching because it is the bottle with “scribbles on the label”, which represents the explosive energy of the volcano itself! (the red has red scribbles and the rosé, pink, making these bottles easily recognizable). Using a combination of rich local traditions and modern winemaking techniques, Pietradolce is making a name for itself in an area that is becoming a force to be reckoned with.

Time Posted: Jan 3, 2020 at 10:33 AM
Marcia Hamm
 
December 16, 2019 | Marcia Hamm

Tis The Season

Not all bubbles are created equal. Many come into any retail store and ask for Champagne, not really knowing what it means. Here’s the lowdown:


Champagne- Can only be called such if it’s made in the Champagne region by the Methode Champenois, or second fermentation in the bottle. Essentially that means the bottle you buy off the shelf is the very same bottle the wine did its second fermentation in. If you see Blanc de Blanc, it’s made with 100% chardonnay grapes. Blanc de Noir means there’s red grapes in it – pinot noir and Meunier. These are the classic Champagne grapes and each provides something tasty to the bottle. Champagne is expensive though, due to its extensive ageing (minimum 36 months) on the lees (the dead yeast cells that give texture and taste to wine)


Crémant – We’re still in France, but outside Champagne, it’s called Crémant. These beautiful sparkling wines are made in the Loire Valley, Alsace, Burgundy, Limoux and even Bordeaux (although rare) with grapes such as chenin blanc, pinot blanc, riesling and the indigenous grape mauzac (Limoux). These are typically great sparklers at great price points, but the toasty notes that are present in Champagne, may not necessarily be present in Crémant, because these are typically aged for less time before going to market. With that said, Crémant is a great alternative to Champagne – French without the price tag!


Cava – Welcome to Spain! Another great alternative to Champagne is Cava, coming from (mostly) the Penedes region of Spain, close to Barcelona. Traditionally, grapes used are macabeo, parellades and xa-rello, but more and more we see these wines being made with more international grapes like chardonnay and pinot noir. If you’re looking for something to drink on Christmas morning (a Mimosa maybe?), think Cava! The price points are reasonable, and the flavours are lean, bright and fresh!


Prosecco – The sparkling wine created by the grape glera, coming from the Veneto region or Northeast Italy, it’s taken the world by storm and is at the top of its game. Unlike their counterparts mentioned above, Prosecco is made via the tank method, which means the bubble tend to be bigger and rounder vs. the creamy, delicate mousse of the Champagne, Crémant and Cava. However, its versatility makes it a popular choice amongst consumers. Choose brut style for classic prosecco from the Valdobbiadene hills for a standalone solid sparkling. Choose extra dry from Treviso if you want to create your Aperol Spritz, Bellini or Mimosa. Check out the Prosecco Pyramid by the Prosecco wall, or talk to one of our knowledgeable staff to get in the know about Prosecco!


Methode Ancestrale- Based on the name Ancestrale, one can probably guess that this is an old method of making sparkling, but it is risky and difficult to control. While Champagnes are made with a blending of base wines to produce a house style, then the addition of yeast and sugar in the bottle to kick start the second fermentation, in the Ancestrale method, the primary fermentation process is stopped before completion. The secondary fermentation (still occurs in the bottle) will stop when the yeast has completely finished converting the sugar to alcohol. There’s no disgorgement and there’s no dosage (the extra sugar added AFTER the wine has sat on its lees to determine how sweet your finished product will be: brut, sec, and demi-sec). That’s all clear right? Usually not…there’s typically sediment in any bottle of Methode Ancestrale! J


Petillant Naturel - Pet-Nat for short, has taken the world by storm, and you’ll likely find it in any trendy wine or cocktail bar. It’s like the method Ancestrale mentioned above, but even more natural. It’s often not as sparkly as other sparkling wines, and tends have that certain “funk” to it. It can made with any grape and might even be considered “orange” – another on trend for the millennials!


Sparkling Wine – The truth of the matter is, all countries make sparkling wine, and from every grape imaginable! If you buy it from Canada or the USA, Chile, Argentina, Australia or New Zealand, it’s simply called Sparkling Wine. In fact, some of the Champagne Houses of France have set up shop in the USA, with their house names attached to the area of the USA where it’s made. An affordable option to the champagne name without the Champagne price! The good news is we have ALL of the above mentioned wines in our store! The holiday season is a great time to open a bottle of bubbly, by yourself while watching a cheesy Hallmark Christmas movie, or with family and friends around the table eating great food, playing fun games, or simply to put a smile on your face! Cheers!

Marcia Hamm

Time Posted: Dec 16, 2019 at 5:41 PM
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