On the Road with the Grape Guy

On the Road with the Grape Guy is a on-going feature that follows me from event to event ... I post my thoughts, feelings and reviews of what happened and what I tasted ... basically it is here that I review the events I attend and the things that thrilled me.

Milano Wine Week - "Digital Wine Week" (part 1)

10 Dec 2021

(October 2021) ... Trust the Italians to come roaring out of the gate to create a wine “event” virtually during a pandemic that is the “first wine event in history to connect the city of Milan with 11 metropolises worldwide in seven key export markets - the USA, Canada, the UK, Russia, China, Hong Kong and Japan.”
For the Toronto market six “Masterclasses” we're arranged, three on the Monday (October 4th) and three on the Tuesday (October 5th) simulcast from Milan to a room at the Dymon Wine Cellar bracket which is a beautiful place unto itself - and Canada's largest wine storage facility.

The three classes set for the Monday we're on Chianti, Prosecco and ended with a native grape seminar ... Sadly the first event: A Chianti DOCG 2019 seven sub-zone comparative tasting was plagued by a pouring error - the wines poured on one side of the world (in Milan) we're not the same wines in the same order poured on the other (in Toronto) - so the comparative was lost on us; and while the informational portion was up to snuff it was not backed up by the tasting portion.

Chianti Map & GlassesChianti Facts and Figures ...

- 100 million bottles made annually - 800,000 hectoliters of wine
- 70% of the production is exported
- There are approximately 3,000 producers
- 15,000 plus hectares of vineyards
- The region lies between 200 and 400 m above sea level
- The blend can be 70 to 100% Sangiovese with the addition of 30% indigenous varieties, 15% Cabernet or 10% white grapes
- Release dates are the first of March in most sub-regions except: Montespertoli (June 1st) - Fiorentini / Ruffina / Superiore (September 1st)

Our speaker for the event was Luca Alves (Chianti Wine Ambassador) who said “Chianti is never boring” ... I can certainly attest to that.

Due to the wine mix up I can't be sure what I tried matches my notes so I'll leave the wine tasting part blank here.


Masterclass II : Prosecco DOC Dreamland: Inspiration, Innovation and Tradition

This was another let down class - not because the wines did not match, but because the wines did not arrive on time / or were stopped at the border - either way the Canadian system of controlling alcohol failed us once again. Instead of six wines we got four and one was a substitute.

Let's talk Prosecco...

- 24,000 plus hectares of vineyards planted
- Approximately 1100 producers
- Glera is the signature grape variety of these wines (and the region)
- The popularity continues to grow: 2009 saw 120 million bottles produced; in 2020 that has risen to 500 million bottles produced

The newest Prosecco category is “Prosecco Rosé” which is a new level of production brought into existence due to an amendment of the rules in 2020 allowing up to 15% Pinot Noir into the blend, plus Prosecco DOC rosé also needs to be vintage dated (another change in the rules).

The Wines Tasted ...

La Marca Prosecco DOC Extra Dry
Delicate on sweetness with notes of orange blossoms, floral and beeswax.  (*** ½)

White vs RosePiera 1899 Prosecco DOC Frizzante "Blue Giovello"
Name reportedly translates to “young and beautiful”: floral, lemon drop, peach, pineapple with subtle sweetness that borders on a Moscato-like character - quite easy sipping.  (***)

Valdo 2020 Prosecco Rosé DOC “Oro Puro”
There's a little raspberry and orange peel-like note, plus there's complexity not expected in Prosecco and there's even a texture across the palate that's quite welcoming. This is going to be an interesting style going forward.  (*** ½+)


Masterclass III : Native Grapes: Italian Regional Specialties By The GlassNative grapes

Native grapes are always fascinating to me ... Tasting wines made from grapes that (for the most part) grow nowhere else on the planet. There are 76 DOCGs based on native grape varieties and 322 DOCs - there are 608 registered varieties of which 550 are native. 8 wines were tried under this umbrella.

Antonin Facchin e Figli DOCG Treviso Prosecco Rosé
This is made by someone who is both a grower and producer. Having tasted this style of product (earlier in the day) I was interested to get a better look at this style. A blend of Glera and Pinot Noir that's quite dry and fresh: subtle raspberry, fresh fruit focused with some texture on the back end and even a slight tannic note, which comes across as apple skin.  (*** ½)

Tenuta Amadio Agricola Rech Simone Asolo Prosecco Superior DOCG
Another look at Glera, this time it's fresh and lively with a lovely hit of lemon and lime, plus touch of orange peel, some Mac Apple and a gentle yeasty quality all made in a brut style.  (*** ½)

Azienda Vinacola Talamonti 2020 Pecorino Abruzzo DOC Superiore "Trabocchetto"
Pecorino is one of those funny named wines, but there's a good backstory as to why it is named as such and usually makes for a pretty good pairing wine for seafood: salty and lemony with notes of pineapple, grapefruit pith and delicate white flowers. Good texture and acidity with a lovely dry finish. (*** ½+)

Giacomo Vico 2020 Roero Arneis DOCG
Arneis seems to need help in the acidity department; here is yet another that makes for a nice summer sipper because it's soft and easy to consume with notes of apple and orange blossoms - there's also a nice saltiness to the finish.  (***+)

Giacomo Vico 2018 Langhe DOC
It's Nebbiolo, the grape of Piedmont and the grape of Barolo, but here it's used as a simple red wine (that's not so simple) - big on acidity and freshness with notes of sour cherry, raspberry, cranberry and red currants; this iteration is a little on the lean side, but still quite food friendly.  (*** ½)

Azienda Agricola Calafe di Petrillo Benito 2019 Irpinia Aglianico DOC
There's a richness of plum and black cherry right from the get-go; then comes a smoky note with a touch of vanilla - there's also a bit of chalky-gritty texture to the finish with subtle oak notes. Nicely layered wine.  (****)


Le Potazzine Visit : An Eye-Opening Surprise

03 Dec 2021

Life's Too Short(September 2021) … Another of those “last minute” editions to my travels, but what a find. Not only a wonderful story to tell but they may have poured me my favorite wine of the trip. Let's dive in and learn a little more about this young winery that's doing things the right way when it comes to Brunello.

The winery is owned by Gigliola, and her two daughters Viola and Sofia work by her side. The winery’s name comes from a word Gigliola's mother used to call her granddaughters “potazzine” meaning chickadee in a Montalcino dialect.

The winery vineyards make up a total of 5.5 hectares of land: three on the property, two in Sant'Angelo in Colle, and the final half hectare is located 100m away from the winery; and the home vineyard site rests at 510m above sea level - one of the highest in Montalcino. They produce a miniscule 30,000 bottles of quality wines.

First WineThere is always a gentle wind blowing through the vineyard at this higher elevation, or so I am told, and that helps dry out the bunches and create better harvesting conditions, plus fresher wines. The winery was established in 1993 with their first vintage being in 1997... And the entire whole was planted with Sangiovese, is picked all by hand, and the entire harvest process is finished in about a week.

Gigliola proved to be quite the entrepreneur. At age 19 she started in the offices of Biondi-Santi (this will prove to be important as we shall find out later) ... In 1987 she opened the first wine shop in Montalcino and in 2000 (after she started the winery) she opened a restaurant (I guess she wasn't busy enough).

Barrel CellarIn the winery the grapes are all hand sorted and fermentation happens using wild yeast, and both barrels AND tanks as vessels to ferment in. As with any quality producer, this winery claims 90% of the work is done in the vineyard, so that when harvest is complete there is limited interference during winemaking process. The winery also prides itself on its use of no barrique (barrels) or French wood ... It's all Slavonian oak, large cask barrels, and all by the same Cooper: Garbellotto.

Now ... A quick note about “Riserva” wines. As mentioned Gigliola worked for Biondi-Santi , and their philosophy of “riserva" wines must have made an impression: Riserva is not for every year, and should only be made in special vintages, not just great vintages – Le Potazzine is looking for a “different expression” and then only 3,000 bottles will be made (and 500 magnums). Using this philosophy of reserve wines, Le Potazzine have made “Riserva” wines in 2004, 2006, 2011 and 2015.

They export to 26 countries with top markets being the United States, the United Kingdom, and Asia ... And finally, half of the production of this winery is in Brunello wines.

The Wines ...

Potazzine 2 wines2019 Potazzine Sangiovese
This no oak Sangiovese is a very fresh and fruit-forward with the red fruit showing on its sleeve in the form of cherry with a little floral backing - the acidity is totally on point making this a delightful everyday drinker ... Which will have the added benefit of making everyday seem a little more special ... It's just that good.  (****)

2019 Rosso di Montalcino
With 10 to 11 months of aging this wine retains its lively freshness and fruity nature. There's a slightly smoky note with good acidity plus cherry, strawberry and raspberry fruit at its core all wrapped up with a medium length finish.  (****)

2016 Brunello di Montalcino
This wine just shows both a feminine and masculine side ... Which is a feat unto itself. It's well-rounded and full-bodied while still puffing out its chest and being bold and brazen. Lots of red fruit: currants and cherries with a slightly smoky elegance and floral charisma ... There's also some subtle rhubarb, brash tannins and yet also shows an earthy side - yet nothing overpowers, nothing overwhelms, everything has its place and is in its place. It has time on its side yet can easily find its way into a glass now. Absolutely lovely.  (**** ½)

2015 Brunello di Montalcino
A very fruit forward wine with both red and black fruit on the nose - there's a powerful edge with mocha, black cherry, earthy, smoky and even some ballsy tannins. It's a deep, rich wine that seems almost out of place amongst the more elegant styles I tasted from this winery - sure there is a potential for elegance here in a few years, but at this time...  (*** ½+)

2014 Brunello di Montalcino
At less than stellar vintage, yet the wine has an elegance to it, though it is beginning to show its age. Earthy notes dominate with fruit leathers taking a backseat plus notes of graphite, cedar and even some floral dominating. Also look for hints of balsamic on the mid-palate to the finish.  (*** ½)

Riserva Potazzine 20112011 Brunello di Montalcino Riserva
First things first, this is a thinking man's (woman's) Brunello. It's fresh and elegant with a style all its own. Floral and red fruit lead things off with subtle notes of earthy, black and sour cherry, raspberry, strawberry, cocoa / mocha with good acid backbone and seemingly chalky tannins that turn silky on the finish. It's not powerful, but it's no shrinking violet either - it's a wine in its own class: very well made, very well balanced, pretty yet with so much more to offer - it's layered, it's lovely and it's a bottle I'd want on my table every night (if I could).  (**** ½+)


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