Pecorino Alert

Separating the Italian and the Balkan peninsulas, the turquoise and generally
calm waters of the Adriatic Sea lap up alluringly against the full length of Italy’s
eastern shore – from north of Venice to south of Brindisi. Roughly mid-way down,
20km or so inland of the balmy coast lies the town of Offida with its surrounding,
grape growing terroir. A part of Ascoli Piceno province, this is the southernmost
sub-region of Le Marche. Framed between the verdant foothills of the Apennine
mountains and the tempering influence of the sea, vintners are diligently tending
to a handful of resurgent, regionally distinctive, indigenous grape varieties and
finishing styles that range from the very dry through slightly sweeter, to frothy.

They also still proudly reference 1st-century writings by Roman historian and
naturalist, Pliny the Elder, who understatedly described Marche wines as being
generous. Well their red wines certainly are – but there’s also an array of novel
whites on offer here. Along with the stalwart grapes Verdicchio and Trebbiano
that flourish a little to the north, here in Piceno the various versions of Passerina
and Pecorino also have unique potential to impart nuanced and delicate layers
of flavour. The winemaking finesse shows itself in being able to deftly integrate
a fairly hefty 14% level of alcohol. Though at the very top end for dry white wine, somewhat elevated alcohol content reveals that fully ripe fruit was harvested
at its peak, generally providing the resulting wine with more body.

This week’s DéClassé featured Tenuta Messieri is a vintner deeply committed
to reviving the cultivation and varietal bottling of Pecorino. This grape variety,
offering low yields and primarily only used as a component in blended whites,
had fallen out of commercial favour and was near to extinction. With the vision
and 
daring by vintners to promote Pecorino as a stand-alone wine, it is now
being touted as one of the flagship varieties in the Offida DOC. Its strong suits
as a fragrant, fuller-bodied white with a sufficient counterbalance of acidity – is
finding an appreciative following and the necessary market.

I recommend you briskly walk past the familiar Pinot Grigio, Trebbiano, Soave and Verdicchio that’s largely available all year round, then dash with purpose toward
the time-limited, LCBO Vintages shelf-slot for this far more unusual and surprising
wine. It will hold up in your cellar for some time, so have no fear to buy enough
stock to see your dinner guests through the fall and deep into winter of 2016!

Pecorino

TENUTE MESSIERI VISIONI OFFIDA PECORINO 2012
VINTAGES – LCBO Product #414011| 750 mL bottle
Price $ 16.95
14% Alcohol/Vol.
Sugar Content Descriptor: XD

Made in: Marche, Italy
By: Cocci Grifoni
Release Date: July 25, 2015

Tasting Note
This medium-bodied, straw-yellow wine imparts a range of soft floral aromas
with melon, peach and restrained, tropical fruit flavours. Try this with poultry,
fresh fish, or as a classic pairing with Fava beans and shaved Pecorino cheese.

Rioja Alert

Hilltop monasteries and other now-tumbled stone fortifications built-up over the centuries, lie littered about and imbued into these richly historic lands of North
Central Spain. Sharing a border with the former Franco-Spanish, medieval
kingdom of Navarre, the regional identity of Rioja is equally distinct on its side
of the modern boundary. Apart from holding a unique place in the diverse Spanish
cultural patchwork, its vintners are among the visible leaders of competitive and progressive wineries in Iberia.

The larger, designated wine denomination of Rioja is actually comprised of three
sub-regions: Rioja Baja, Rioja Alta and the source of this week’s DéClassé focus:
Rioja Alavesa; which in turn, is considered a part of so-called Basque country. In
this zone, the Sierra Cantabria ridge of mountains provide sheltering geography
for 350 h. of vines either owned or directly managed by Bodegas Luis Cañas.
The vineyards are widely distributed over 870 small, individual plots, so drawing
fruit evermore discerningly has been both the challenge and the key strategy
pursued by the vintner toward producing an expanding range of premium wine.

Once focused only on less-remarkable, bulk winemaking, the steady process of
upscaling quality by employing advanced production techniques has also been
influenced by the agricultural reality of prolonged drought. In the current period
of the last 5 growing seasons or so, this stress is condensing yields but is also
bolstering the layered character of the smaller grape clusters. Nonetheless,
impressively, this irrepressible Bodega still remains capable of producing more
than167,000 cases of fruit yearly – in a virtual desert!

This modern Rioja style blends 95% Tempranillo grapes with a small splash of
Garnacha (Grenache) to top up its fruitiness. Making up fully ¾ of all rootstock
planted in this storied region’s vineyards, Tempranillo’s name is derived from
the Spanish temprano meaning early and it does reliably ripen quite early. The
designation as Crianza means that it’s spent one year in oak casks and another
in the bottle prior to release. The use of mellowed, 3-year-old French barrels
coupled with the star grape’s naturally soft tannins, translates into a pleasing
mouthfeel. Albeit still youthful, this lively, medium-bodied red is ready-to-go and
may become somewhat more velvety as it settles. Though not really destined
for long-term storage, you can certainly dare to hold this well-crafted example
of the excellent 2011 vintage for at least several years. For those with less will,
be encouraged in knowing that Rioja’s 2012 harvest, also anticipated as very
good, is almost on its way – to replenish the empty slots on your rack.

Luis Canas

LUIS CANAS CRIANZA 2011
VINTAGES – LCBO Product #336719 | 750 mL bottle
Price $ 17.95
14% Alcohol/Vol.
Sugar Content Descriptor: XD

Made in: Rioja, Spain
By: Bodegas Luis Canas S.A.
Release Date: July 11, 2015

Tasting Note
With a complex mix of dark, red fruit aromas and flavours that features cherry,
raspberries and fig, try serving this to keep up with most anything prepared on
a charcoal grill, including beef tenderloin brochettes, Chorizo sausages or as an
apéritif with semi-ripe cheeses and spicy tapas.

Vinho Verde Alert

Monção is the most northerly wine making sub-region of the Vinho Verde DOC,
which in turn is tucked into the most northern province of Portugal. Here on the
frontier with Spanish Galicia, the agricultural terroir is influenced by the damp
coastal climate of the eastern Atlantic. The white grapes growing among these
misty, forested hillsides that line the Rio Miño river valleys are necessarily fast
maturing varieties. The vines are often pruned into an overhead canopy style
that promotes better air circulation between both the leaves and around the
fruit clusters; guarding against fungal diseases that can be more prevalent with
elevated and prolonged moisture levels.

This week’s recommended vintner is Adega Cooperativa Regional de Monção,
based in the heart of Melgaço, a still-vibrant historical town whose intriguing
stone walls provide both the bottle’s namesake and graphic. Over the past half
century, the 25 original co-op visionaries have achieved an enviable reputation
as being consistent producers of quality wine. This despite numerous variables
involved in sourcing grapes from an additional 1,700 individual growers, each
of whom contributes from very small plots – typically only one hectare or less.

Becoming a seasonal tradition, spring sees DéClassé promoting a Vinho Verde,
though this year’s familiar LCBO Vintages release of Muralhas de Monção has
arrived somewhat later. This particular Loureiro blend of so-called green wine
(more likely to mean young) is built with 2 noble grape varieties: the indigenous,
Portuguese Trajadura paired with the aromatic and slightly spritzy Alvarinho.
The latter’s heritage lies across the border in Spain and contributes slightly
higher alcohol levels than is the DOC norm for this wine style, clocking in at
12%. Summer has finally come, so celebrate by uncorking some of this bright,
ebullient bottling of sunshine – to enjoy alongside lighter food fare offerings at
your next al fresco meal on the patio!

Muralhas

MURALHAS DE MONÇÃO VINHO VERDE 2014
VINTAGES – LCBO Product #80374 | 750 mL bottle
Price $ 15.95
12% Alcohol/Vol.
Sugar Content Descriptor: D

Made in: Monção e Melgaço, Portugal
By: Adega Coop. Regional de Monção
Release Date: July 11, 2015

Tasting Note
This divinely fresh wine has aromas of grapefruit and apricot mingling about
apple flavours. With a pleasing structure of acidity and minerality, it’s a natural
complement to seafood, white meats, pasta and light cream or pesto sauces.

Sylvaner Alert

Firmly part of territorial France in the 21st century, Alsace has been enriched by
its dual Frankish and Germanic cultural history, but has also experienced some
geopolitical upheaval due to the competing aspirations of its 2 parent nations:
Colonized by 1st century BC. Romans; then allied with the Medieval Holy Roman
Empire a millennium or so later; occupied by ambitious 16th century French Kings;
annexed by Germans in the late 19th century during the Franco-Prussian War;
ceded back to France in the terms of armistice following the First World War
and finally, after many areas were entirely destroyed in the second world war
bombing campaign by Allied forces – reaffirmed as French again. Throughout
all of this tumult, steadfast Alsatians have rebuilt and found many ways to keep producing fine grapes and a highly distinctive quality of wines.

Geographically bookended by the banks of the Rhine River to the east and the
Vosges Mountains westward, an undulating, fairytale-like landscape of verdant
vineyards is punctuated by castles on hilltops and half-timbered, half-plastered,
colourfully painted villages and towns such as ancient Sigolsheim. This is home
to this week’s DéClassé recommended, varietal bottling of a Sylvaner: Alsace’s
lesser-known, golden-yellow grape. As is often the case with once-popular styles,
in cycles, careless overproduction of a high-yielding grape to satisfy the market, can 
result in the making of unremarkable wine; thereby depressing demand or
eroding a producer’s reputation. Arguably, this is somewhat more Sylvaner’s
legacy across the border in Germany rather than in northern France. Here, the
AOC standards established in the1960’s, better ensure a judicious practise of pruning to tailor yields and traditional, hands-on harvesting to boost quality.

Bernard Sparr is the current vintner heading Maison Pierre Sparr Successeurs,
following in the lineage of 9 family generations that date to 1680 and the reign
of Louis X1V. Proud Alsatians, the House of Sparr has been tending to their 37
hectares of vineyard in the Haut-Rhin (upper Rhine) for a very long time. In the
modern age, they’ve expanded collaborations with a select group of regional
growers, drawing fruit from an additional 150h. With this increased output the
brand has evolved into one of the region’s more renowned and identifiable.

Sylvaner is a delicate and charming summer white, whose release onto shelves
here should be on your calendar of time-limited selections to be on the lookout
for; this time of year. Stock up and serve this dry wine chilled, though not cold,
or you’ll miss some of its subtle layering of citrus, apple and pear flavours.

Sylvaner

PIERRE SPARR RESERVE SYLVANER 2013
VINTAGES – LCBO Product #408179 | 750 mL bottle
Price $ 13.95
12% Alcohol/Vol.
Sugar Content Descriptor: D

Made in: Alsace, France
By: Cvb Maison Pierre Sparr Successeurs
Release Date: May 16, 2015

Tasting Note
Try serving this beguiling, light, white flower and lime-scented refresher with
salad and onion tarts, choucroute, smoked ham hock and sausages, all sorts
of freshwater fish dishes or as apéritif with pickled herring.