British Columbia Critics’ Picks

by Treve Ring

Treve Ring

Treve Ring

In our January 20 Under $20 piece, I made the case against “dry January” and promoted drinking better wines instead. Unlike your resolution to hit the gym regularly, one way to keep up the positive momentum of the new year in a wine-wise way is to make a commitment to trying something new every month. Whether it’s a grape, region, style or producer, there is always something new to learn in this industry. Here are 12 wines to see you through 2016.

Of course I’m going to kick off with fizz. If you’re in the mood for Champagne, but haven’t a budget for it, try Italy’s best known metodo classico sparkling wine, Franciacorta. The Cavalleri Franciacorta Brut Blanc de Blancs utilizes chardonnay in the creation of a chiseled, finessed bubble.

From closer to home, The Hatch burst strong out of the gate last summer with wines and labels like Octobubble Brut Rosé. Crispy bright (swallowing up the 12 g/l RS), this brut rosé gamay from gloried Secrest Mountain Vineyard has spent twenty months on the lees and carries strawberry, cherry, red apple and meadow flowers though to the crisp and snappy finish.

In the same rosé hue, Codorníu Cuvée 1872 Barcelona rosé recalls traditional winemaking techniques in a tribute to the year that Josep Raventós crafted the first bottle of cava. Musts spend time in oak, amping up the body before spending nine months on the lees. Full notes of cherry, raspberry, red currant jam and brioche on a creamy, expansive palate.

Cavalleri Franciacorta Brut Blanc de Blancs The Hatch Octobubble Brut RoséCodorníu Cuvée 1872 Rosé Barcelona Binner Vignoble d’Ammerschwihr Riesling 2012Franc Arman Jano Malvasia 2012

Here’s a chance to taste pure, unadulterated Alsatian riesling, from a family who has been making wines from this terroir since 1770 (you have to trust they know what they’re doing). Naturally produced with no additives, the biodynamically farmed Binner Vignoble d’Ammerschwihr 2012 Riesling is with old vines from granitic slopes, vinified in large wooden barrels and left on the lees until bottling without fining or filtration. Stunner.

Franc Arman Jano Malvasia 2012 may well be a new wine experience on many levels for you: grape, region and style. Ample dried herbs, thyme, anise and meadow flowers stream through this malvasia istriana, a grape indigenous to the Istria Peninsula and a striking, light bodied but concentrated white that is a fantastic match to oysters or sashimi.

Haywire Switchback Wild Ferment Organic Vineyard 2014 BK Wines One Ball Chardonnay 2013Named in honour of the vineyard owner (yup), the striking upper altitude, organically farmed BK Keys One Ball Vineyard 2013 Chardonnay will cement Adelaide Hills in your mind for cool climate, concentrated and complexed Aussie wines.

One of the leading beacons of “natural wine” in Canada (watch for them at Raw London) is Haywire Winery, and Switchback Wild Ferment Organic Vineyard 2014 wine is an apt example: organically farmed, wild yeast, no additives (including sulphur). The pinot gris fermented and rested in an amphora on the skins for eight months before being pressed off and then left for two more months prior to bottling. The result is as pure an expression of site, and grape, that one could hope for.

Always a flag waving #GoGamayGo-er, I was pleased to come across Te Mata 2013 Gamay Noir, one of the rare New Zealand gamay on the market. There is less than 10 HA planted in the country, and this one has appeared on our shores. Seek out and snap it up for a youthful, juicy, quaffable red.

Fortunately we have more gamay here in BC, and wines like Samantha 2014 Gamay show the diversity in styles we produce. A deeper, more generous gamay, with ripe plum, black and red cherry and a plump cushion of strawberry jam are gently textured through time in concrete. Punchy acidity keeps this fresh and easy, while soft tannins and cinnamon spicing aid in gulpability.

Bodegas Ordonez Zerran 2011 Monsant is a savoury Montsant (Priorat’s neighbour) from mostly very old vine garnacha and mazuelo (aka carignan) with a splash of syrah. Big and concentrated, with dense black fruit, crushed stone, black flowers, kirsch, anise and cracked pepper covering a firm, muscular structure.

Vino Nobile de Montepulciano still struggles in Canada likely because drinkers confuse the label with the much simpler Montepulciano d ‘Abruzzo. Avignonesi 2011 Vino Nobile de Montepulciano comes from the vineyards surrounding the town of Montepulciano and is primarily from sangiovese (known locally as prugnolo gentile), blended with canaiolo nero and small amounts of other local varieties such as mammolo.

Te Mata Estate Gamay 2013 Samantha Gamay 2014 Bodegas Ordonez Zerran Monsant 2011 Avignonesi Vino Nobile di Montepulciano 2011 Fattoria di Magliano Heba Morellino di Scansano 2012

Another Sangiovese in disguise is Fattoria di Magliano 2012 Heba, from Morellino di Scansano DOCG, tucked in the Maremma region of coastal Tuscany. Here, sangiovese is expressed through dusty, worn leather, black cherry, black plum, wildflowers, and sweet, scrubby spices. Acidity is pomegranate bright while finely structured tannins carry quite the grip.


WineAlign in BC

In addition to our monthly Critics’ Picks report, we also publish the popular shortlist 20 Under $20, as well as the BC Wine Report, a look at all things in the BC Wine Industry. Lastly, Anthony Gismondi closes out each month with his Final Blend column – an expert insight into wine culture and trends, honed by more than 25 years experience as an influential and global critic.

Editors Note: You can find complete critic reviews by clicking on any of the highlighted wine names, bottle images or links. Paid subscribers to WineAlign see all critics reviews immediately. Non-paid members wait 60 days to see new reviews. Premium membership has its privileges; like first access to great wines!

Gabbiano Chianti Classico