Bill’s Best Bets – March 2016

The March Cellier release
by Bill Zacharkiw

Bill Zacharkiw

Bill Zacharkiw

Spring is around the corner and while we still have at least another month of winter before us, the SAQ seems to already be there. Over the past month I have been tasting a number of lighter reds, many whites and even a few rosés.

And that’s fine with me. While many folks prefer this style of wines in the summer, these are the wines I drink year round. So what’s new? Here are a number of suggestions from the recent Cellier New Arrivals, which put the accent on Italian wines.

Let’s start with the exceptional. Two wines from the opposite ends of Italy caught my attention, both made with grapes I’m sure few have heard about. From Sicily, grown in the volcanic soils of Etna, is Tenuta della Terre’s 2014 Etna Rosso. Nerello mascalese is the grape and fans of nebbiolo-styled elegance will rejoice. From the northern region of Trentino Alto Adige, Foradori’s 2013 Teroldego Rotaliano is one again, and the wine is a marvel of complexity. So mineral, and so drinkable at 12% alcohol.

Tenuta Della Terre Nere Etna 2014 Azienda Agricola Foradori Teroldego 2013 Mascarello Giuseppe E Figlio Toetto 2007 Albino Piona Bardolino 2012

Staying in the north, for those of you who love lighter styled reds, try the 2007 Mascarello Toetta. Made with the freisa grape, this shows a profile similar to nebbiolo – great acid and florals though less tannin. While most Valpolicella Superiore can be a bit bland, in the neighbouring appellation of Bardolino, Albino Pinoa raises the bar of what corvina and rondinella can achieve. Beautiful fruit without resorting to drying the grapes in a ripasso style.

If you want a ripasso, then look no further than Pra’s 2013 Ripsasso. Incredible elegance and finesse and a wine that will keep and age beautifully over the next 10 years. In many ways it shows as much depth and complexity as an Amarone. In a similar vein, the Tenuta Sant’Antonio 2013 Telos il Rosso will please Ripasso fans with a mid-weight wine that shows beautiful fruit.

Pra Valpolicella Superiore 2013 Tenuta S Antonio Telos Il Rosso 2013 Lungarotti L'U 2012 Tua Rita Palazzetto 2013 Borgo Scopeto E Carpazo Borgonero 2011

While Ripasso styled wines are more a modern version of Italian winemaking, Veneto is not the only place where one finds a hint of modernity. Under $20, both Lungarotti’s 2012 L’U and Tua Rita’s 2013 Palazzetto show how cabernet sauvignon and sangiovese can produce a wine that despite its international leanings, can still “drink” very  Italian. Equally interesting is the 2011 Borgonero from Borgo Scopeto E Carpazo. A blend of sangiovese, cab and syrah.

But nothing replaces the classics and two of my favourite wines were Cantina Zaccagnini 2013 Montepulciano d’Abruzzo and Fontodi 2012 Chianti Classico. Just enough fruit and brilliant acidities. These two have power and will sing best at the table.

Zaccagnini dal Tralcetto Montepulciano d'Abruzzo 2013 Fontodi Chianti Classico 2012 Marco De Bartoli Vignaverde 2014 Domaine Cazes Le Canon Du Maréchal 2015 Alternatus Fiano 2015

If you are a fan of white wines, then one of the most unique whites I have tasted in a while comes from Marco de Bartoli. His 2014 Vignaverde is made 100% with the grape grillo and shows melony fruit with a solid mineral streak. Well worth the $26 price tag.

Looking for a great aperitif wine that will work well with lighter seafood. Then look no further than the 2015 Canon de Marechal from Domaine Cazes. Hard to find wine this much fun to drink at $17. One white that blew me away was Angove’s 2015 Fiano. Taken from its native growing zone in southern Italy, in Australia’s McLaren Vale it seems equally at home. Great texture and minerality, that’s what fiano brings and more Australian wineries should be growing it.

Bonny Doon Vin Gris De Cigare Rosé 2015 Château La Tour De L'evêque Pétale De Rose Rosé 2015 Le Pive Gris Vin Rosé 2015And as we are getting some warmer days, I have already started drinking rosé on my porch in the sun. There are three SAQ classics that in 2015 are showing why they are consistently, year after year, part of my drinking repertory. The Pive Gris, Petale de Rose and Vin Gris De Cigare are all up to the high standards they have set for themselves. So no need to wait until May to start drinking great pink wine, they are already here.

Spring is coming folks!


“There’s enjoyment to be had of a glass of wine without making it a fetish.” – Frank Prial

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Castello di Gabbiano Riserva Chianti Classico 2012