Sara’s Sommelier Selections – Aug 31, 2013
Sommeliers are inherently competitive, as you may have noticed from the past three seasons of “So, You Think You Know Wine?” They love to challenge each other with blind tastings, which can be a humbling experience as one can easily be stumped when presented with a wine that is a-typical of either a region or varietal. Often, in my notes I will describe such wines as being “indistinct”. More and more of these indistinct wines are populating wine store shelves, as globalization takes hold and wines become increasingly produced for broad markets and international appeal. Whether it is due to: the influence of the “flying winemaker”, the global mobilization of winemakers, or the increase in non-appellation wines or “super styles”, blind tasting is certainly more challenging than ever before. Therefore, in order to make it fair, wines chosen for competition and exams are most often classic examples of regions or varietals. If you can stump the expert with a truly classic example, than you can feel rewarded! For those that would like to try this at home, here are some classic examples that will fairly challenge the know-it-all oenophile in your life.
Fonterutoli Chianti Classico 2010
Tuscany, Italy – ON $24.95, BC $35.00, QC $25.70
A Chianti on the modern end of typical but nonetheless, distinctive of the region and the traditional varietal, sangiovese. Grapes for Chianti Classico must be grown within the original, classically delimited Chianti region between Florence and Sienna and must be composed of at least 80% sangiovese. Although technically the production methods and resulting Chianti Classico product are controlled for quality and regional/varietal consistency, the main tangible differences between a Classico and an ordinary Chianti are greater concentration (due to stricter minimum yields), ageabillity, alcohol levels and price. This particular Classico is composed of four distinct sangiovese clones, giving the wine’s complexity a boost, and features typical notes of cherry, leather, meat and wild herbs with fresh acids.
Calamus Riesling 2011
Niagara Peninsula, Ontario – ON $16.95
The fact that Ontario rieslings are world class is no longer debatable and their distinctiveness is becoming more and more apparent, as is featured in this example from Calamus Estate Winery. Complex and vibrant with nervy tension and a hint of petrol, green apple and mint characterize this altitude gifted riesling from the Vinemount Ridge appellation (well-suited for the interstellar observatory located atop the winery).
Inalto Barolo 2007
Piedmont, Italy, $39.95
The 2007 vintage was kind to Barolo with naturally diminished yields and an early start to the growing season. This example is a very characteristic expression of Piedmont’s heady star, nebbiolo. A bit of a contentious wine, this will not strike a chord with everyone, but the complexity of this gracefully maturing Barolo is impressive. Barolo regulations require significantly long ageing time before its release on the market – 38 months of which 18 must be in oak. Therefore, you will not see any Barolos on shelves less than four years old (in case you were wondering).
Antech Grande Réserve Brut Blanquette De Limoux 2011
Languedoc Roussillon, France, $16.95
This would be a toughie to nail blind, even for the experts – not because it is unrepresentative but because of its relative obscurity in our insular local market. The Limoux AOC is located at the base of the Pyrenees close the medieval village of Carcassonne in southwestern France. Its claim to fame is that Limoux is the birthplace of sparkling wine – claiming that Limoux is the ‘Brut Original’ all thanks to those notorious Benedictine monks. It is produced almost entirely from a varietal called mauzac (with up to 10% chardonnay or chenin blanc allowed). It uses the traditional Champenoise method, and must be aged at least 9 months prior to disgorgement. The wine is characteristically fresh, nervy with notes of lemon, green apple, honey and with a delicate floral perfume. Due to the length of time on the lees and the method of production, there is often a hint of yeasty/bready notes. Certainly a wine that is likely to legitimately stump the winos in your life.
Perrin Peyre Blanche Cairanne Côtes Du Rhône Villages 2011
Rhône, France – ON $17.95, QC $19.20
This is a polished, complex and representative example of a charming, rustic and sunny village appellation of the southern Rhône. Produced primarily of grenache (of which the appellation requires a minimum of 50% in the blend), which grows best on Cairanne’s flatter terrain. Generally speaking, the wines from this appellation are often quite accessible and ready for enjoyment. They are juicy, sometimes meaty with notes of wild herbs and a touch of pepper from its syrah component.
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From the Aug 31, 2013 Vintages release: