Buyers Guide to VINTAGES – June 9th, 2018

Milestone moments, Bourgogne, the best of the rest and why no Sicily?
By Michael Godel, with notes by Sara d’Amato and David Lawrason

Michael Godel

Michael Godel

In this week’s Buyers’ Guide to VINTAGES I’ve got some bones to pick, not to be controversial or to cause a row but more as if to say, “Hey, what’s up?” The June 9th thematic presents a condensed history of landmark moments in wine history but somehow makes no mention of Bourgogne. More on that in a minute. Having recently returned from an eight-day sojourn to Sicily I am currently confounded by the number of VINTAGES release entries from that diverse, poly varietal and multifarious island. Zero.

Last week in his VINTAGES Preview John discussed Landmark Wines by exploring a broad range of smart buys from around the world arriving on LCBO shelves June 9th. John also connected with his assessment from a recent trip to Portugal, including his top twenty table wines tasted blind during the latest edition of the Wines of Portugal Challenge, the annual national wine competition, that took place in Lisbon in mid-May.

Now back to Sicily. My tastings through hundreds of wines across the island were indiscriminate and engaged no less than nine important grape varieties, plus the region’s most celebrated blend and only DOCG, Cerasuolo di Vittoria. The opportunities to taste happened during visits to six properties and a three-day intensive gathering in Palermo for Sicilia en Primeur. That opportunity was split into four parts; table side Sommelier service, Masterclasses, walk around producer one-on-ones and a private morning hotel tasting from generously offered bottles collected by the JustSicily and Sopexa staff. The whites were varietal grillo, inzolia, carricante, cattarrato blends. The reds were, nerello mascalese, syrah, frappato, perricone, plus the aforementioned Cerasuolo which brings nero d’avola and frappato together. Most of the island’s table wines fall directly under the all-encompassing and smartly organized denomination of DOC Sicilia, with notable exceptions labeled as IGT Terre Siciliane. Deeper investigations took in the volcanic specialities of DOC Etna Bianco, Rosso and Rosato. Then there were wines from characteristic locations (and communes) such as Sclafani Bagni, Noto, Campbello di Licata, Milazzo, Niscemi, Cammarata, Mozia, Caltanissetta, Menfi, Butera, Acate and Vittoria.

Capo Milazzo, Sicily

The VINTAGES release calendar is not consistently chock filled with Sicilian wines but most editions at least deliver one or two. The June 9th release has none. When you consider the bio, geological, varietal and stylistic diversity of the island’s wines it’s actually quite shocking that in releases featuring somewhere between 120 and 150 wines Sicily could ever be completely passed over. It’s time the VINTAGES buyers take a closer look at the quality, potential and range of possibility from bella Sicilia. To read my report titled Sicily’s varietal concentration, please slide over to that WineAlign page.

Taittinger Prestige Brut Rosé Champagne

“Milestone Moments” is ubiquitous phraseology usage coined by the VINTAGES team to graph seminal or epiphytic moments in wine history, with the 16th century acting as the beginning of recorded time. Says the team, “we explore seven wonders that shaped the modern wine world and 14 wines defined by these phenomena.” It begins with “The Birth of Bubbly,” first discovered in Limoux and then in Champagne nearly a century later. Next up “The Advent of Appellations,” citing the Chianti Classico model, first decreed in 1716 by Cosimo III de’ Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany. Then there are mentions of France’s Appellation Contrôlée system and Ontario’s Vintner’s Quality Alliance (VQA). Then we are introduced to “The Bordeaux Classification of 1855, “The 1976 Judgement of Paris,” “South Africa goes Global,” “Canada’s Sweet Ascension” and “A new Twist on an Old Favourite.”

My evaluation of the VINTAGES thematic can be scored out of seven. The accidental secondary fermentation discovery was a really big deal. One point scored for that. Appellations are what make the wine world go ’round and aside from wine scores they tell a consumer what to buy and from where. Yet there is no mention of Bourgogne, arguably the most recognizable, perfectly defined and drawn up system on the planet. This is cause for a deduction. Half a point awarded. The 1855 thing in Bordeaux gets a full point. The Paris-Bordeaux-California thing? Way overhyped, not relevant, still not buying in. No points! South Africa? I love, champion and can’t do without South African wines but a milestone moment? No point awarded. Icewine? I get the Ontario connection and it did put the country on the global wine map but calling it one of seven great achievements in wine history is a bit of a stretch. Half point. Screw caps? Absolutely huge. Full point. Final tally: Four out seven. Now let’s talk about Bourgogne.

Vins de Bourgogne

Vins de Bourgogne

There is the inclusion of a photograph showing Gevrey Chambertin but no mention of Bourgogne in the text. Surely the editors wanted to invoke a Bourgogne milestone but couldn’t quite figure out what to use. Let me be of some assistance. There is this really important work called Climat. Discussing milestone moments in wine history without Climat is like curing bacterial infections without Penicillin. Climats were first referenced as far back as the 7th century, including point of fact examples like Clos de Bèze in Gevrey. Bourgogne’s reputation of excellence was driven, protected and incited by the monks of Cîteaux, and then by the Dukes of Bourgogne. Clos Vougeot and Montrachet wore their Climat names on their sleeves to define site, place and the earth beneath their feet. The Vins de Bourgogne BIVB explains that “in 1935, the National Institute for Origins and Quality (INAO), made official the usage of the word Climat and began using it in legal texts applying to all Bourgogne appellations, whatever their level of hierarchy. Then on July 4, 2015 Climats were included on the UNESCO World Heritage List.” You could use 1935 or 2015, whichever you choose, but either way you would be invoking a reality that dates back as far as the 15th century and in some people’s minds, all the way back to the 4th century AD.

Les Climats are Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée (AOC) defined vineyards or rather the DNA of the vineyards and the official term is specific to wine while the reference lieux-dits is an administrative one. While there are some who consider Climats as also relating to things atmospheric, the pragmatic consensus keeps the discernment ground into dejection depressions, alluvial fans and geological anomalies in an otherwise south by southwest set of exposure slopes for the best of Bourgogne wines. Still others would argue that while dirt makes an impact it is climate that inflicts the most drama on a wine but even more important than climate and soil, it’s the people who give the terroir its cultural identity. The notions of accumulate knowledge that can be transmuted from generation to generation is how each village has managed to produce a specific style of wine from vintage to vintage.

Last Friday the The Bourgogne Wine Board (BIVB, or Bureau interprofessionnel des vins de Bourgognes) held a brilliant Villages tasting at Toronto’s George Restaurant led by Sommelière, WineAlign friend and master presenter Véronique Rivest. Remoissenet Père & Fils 2015 Givry gets into fruit depth, dug into earth and a meaty char with this Givry. It’s also notable for a drying rose petal florailty and gathered together all the parts make for a terrific set of complexities. The wood still stands, not surprising considering the 30 per cent new and 14 months élevage. Sharp, a bit sour and again the depth of moving and layered parts. Salty finish so thanks for all the rocks. Bouchard Père & Fils 2015 Savigny Lès Beaune 2015 shows a presence of Savigny limestone and marl savoury-seriousness and a richness of layered fruit are melded, one woven into the other. This so perfectly represents that classic Bourgogne cherry stereotype elevated by tannin and lightning acidity with a notable mention of pressed and compressed intensity. Broods a bit right now but the feel says it will ease up over time. I’ve decided to include these picks from that tasting, followed by some milestone moments, new twists, summer whites and the best of the rest.

Buyers Guide to VINTAGES June 9th:

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Michael’s Mix
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Lawrason’s Take
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