British Columbia Critics’ Picks November 2016
Interesting by the Dozen
by Treve Ring
I’m writing this month’s Critics’ Picks from London, on a break from judging the International Wine Challenge. Tasting diverse flights of wines like Jordanian Viognier, white Burgundy, Demi-sec Champagne, Swartland Pinotage, Vermouth and many more is energizing and reviving, and reminds me that there’s so much more out there to taste. With that in mind, here are a dozen interesting wines that can refresh any jaded palate.
Our monthly BC Critics’ Picks is the place to find recent recommendations from our intrepid and curious BC critics – wines that cross geographical boundaries, toe traditional style lines and may push limits – without being tied to price or distribution. All are currently available for sale in BC – through BC Liquor Stores, private wine shops or direct from the wineries. Inventory is also available when linked to BCLDB stores.
Domaine Belluard 2011 Mont Blanc Brut Zero is the first, and probably only, 100 percent grignet you’ve tried. Dominique Belluard is credited with saving this nearly-extinct indigenous grape and more than half of the grignet in the world is found in their biodynamic vineyards. Fermented wild in clay egg and amphora, this traditional method sparkling is zero dosage and has spent three years on the lees.
Pino Flaibani owns five hectares of steep, terraced, hilltop vineyards, makes one wine, and this blush pinot grigio is it. As in the traditional Friulian way, Flaibani 2013 Pinot Grigio was left on the skins for a few hours, imparting the characterful copper blush hue. A silken palate brings light florals, gentle peach blossom and lifted acidity, with the extended skin contact providing a lick of texture and interest.
When the quality of their “entry-level” tiers are this good, I always take note. Heady white florals, petrol and pear skin lead off this cool, young, dry Reichsgraf von Kesselstatt 2015 RK Riesling Trocken, from a 600+ year old wine estate in Trier. Quince, mandarine and spiced yellow apple pick up on the medium bodied, bright and crunchy palate, one corseted with fine bones and lingering with a hum of minerality.
Soumah 2015 Single Vineyard Chardonnay is a sustainably farmed chardonnay is from the Warramate foothills of Victoria’s upper Yarra Valley, fermented wild and aged in a mix of oak barriques and puncheons (20 percent new) for a layover of eight months. Earthy throughout, this tight, driven and focused white has an alluring reductive edge, salty, wild herbs, and brisk white grapefruit pith brightening a leesy, green fig core.
Aged semillon can be a thing of remarkable beauty, especially when some of the vines are 100 years old. Boekenhoutskoof was established 1776, and have a long tradition of making quality semillon in Franschhoek. Boekenhoutskloof 2007 Semillon was fermented in cement before thirteen months in new French oak. The honeyed oilslick of semillon with some age is alluring here, along with quince paste, honeysuckle and tangerine pith. Not inexpensive, but a lovely opportunity to taste a rare wine that will continue to build with age.
Pouring the palest pink hue, Domaine Terre de Mistral 2015 Rosalie Rosé is a Côtes de Provence blend of syrah, grenache and rolle from 300-400m altitude. Striking the right combo of light and delicate with concentration, this is led by wild strawberries, Rainier cherries, pear skin and red currant fruits.
Crushed rock juice. That’s the simple way to describe Raats Family Wines 2012 Dolomite Cabernet Franc. But not just any rocks. Dolomite. Broken stones and alluring florals stream through this light-bodied cabernet franc, sourced from from dry farmed vineyards in Stellenbosch and Paarl.
Same grape, same hemisphere, entirely different expression. TintoNegro 2014 Uco Valley Cabernet Franc is from higher altitude vineyards in Uco Valley. Wild blackberry, smoked meats and streaky bacon fat lead this medium bodied red before a persistent perfumed violet floral takes over. Sueded, dusky tannins support the lifted and cherry-laden fruit to a mineral, limestone-spiked finish.
Winemaker Raúl Acha seeks out vineyards around Spain that best reflect the true essence of Garnacha. La Garnacha Salvaje del Moncayo 2014 is old bush vine garnacha at altitude, from the mountains of Moncayo, in Aragon and northern Navarre. Medium bodied and succulent, this is loaded with forest berries and earthy tobacco on a generous strawberry jam core.
Suvla SIR is a perfumed and black fruited blend of syrah, merlot, grenache, cabernet franc and karasakiz from Turkey’s Gallipoli Peninsula. Full bodied and densely potent, wild blackberry, leather, ink, black cherry, cassis, pomegranate jam, tobacco and cinnamon weigh the palate, one supported by ripe, sticky tannins and finishing with a lingering saltiness. A fist of acidity keeps this interesting, especially when poured alongside Moroccan or Turkish lamb tagine or kebobs.
Recioto originates in “recia”, meaning ear, and describing the the top part of the bunches that enjoy the best sun exposure. In the Zenato 2010 Recioto della Valpolicella Classico, corvina, rondinella and oseleta are dried over five months and pressed at the end of February before a three week ferment in horizontal stainless tanks prior to two years in oak barriques. Burnished brown sugar, carmelized plums, dried figs, tobacco, hints of reduced balsamic, cardamom and old wood in this very sweet-meets-savoury Recioto della Valpolicella.
Inspired by Marsala, Amaro Punico is named in homage to the city’s ancient seafaring origins. This sweet amaro entices with a nose of sweet Sicilian citrus, fresh thyme, oregano and cinnamon. The silken palate introduces sarsaparilla, figs, cola, mace and candied anise, with eucalyptus and marmalade ringing on the finish. At 30 percent alcohol, this makes for a lovely sipping amaro post dinner, perhaps with a cube of ice.
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