Nouveau Alert

Beaujolais, one of the world’s oldest wine regions, has always produced a share
of unassuming young wines not destined for anyone’s cellar. Of the total output
of its regionally distinctive varietal wines, nearly 30% is exclusively finished and
marketed under the Nouveau designation. They invented the concept; they’re
arguably still the best at making it. Historically, the barely-off-the-vine, bright and
uncomplicated batches of wine were intended to be consumed as a celebration of
the current vintages harvest, Vin de l’année. Following on long summer months
spent waiting and praying for the season to be a bountiful one, came arduous
weeks of picking, hauling, destemming, sorting and a short fermenting period.
For the dedicated labourers, being gifted a few bottles of the freshly made juice
was a small and well-earned reward. The shipping of Beaujolais Nouveau abroad
as a major export, though, is a relatively contemporary concept that only became
widespread in the middle of the 1950’s; hitting its commercial peak around 1980.
This unique timed-release on the 3rd Thursday in November remains celebratory,
but perhaps has become misunderstood or misrepresented over time.

In general, over-production or indiscriminate winemaking by some of the largest
producers have given this specialty wine a mixed reputation; confusing ever-more
discerning drinkers with undue levels of aromatic character such as ‘bubblegum.’
and ‘twizzler’ (red licorice). No doubt, some of the opportunistic bottling that’s on
offer is fairly reflected by these descriptors. However, many of the small, and a
few large producers are capably fashioning a better balance in the quality of the
fruity and charmingly simple wines that are possible with the Gamay grape: the
region’s pleasingly tart, flagship variety also known as Gamay Noir à Jus Blanc.
Among the leading vintners is Joseph Drouhin, originally hailing from yet another
noteworthy wine region, Chablis. With a move to Burgundy in 1880, he founded
his new Maison in the wine capital city of Beaune. Building on his pioneering work,
four succeeding family generations have continued the refinement; progressively
becoming masters of both the Nouveau and regular Beaujolais wine styles.

In order to produce, bottle, and release the wine within a few weeks of picking,
vintners use carbonic maceration as an alternate method to accelerate the
finishing process. Unlike a more traditional practice of crushing the grapes and
allowing the juice to ferment alongside the skins, leeching out a deeper colour
and higher levels of tannin into the mash; in carbonic maceration, the fruit is left
whole, in closed vats that have been flushed with carbon dioxide to purge oxygen.
The grapes begin fermenting inside their skin before the combined pressure of
the fruit’s weight and the released gasses squeezes the alcoholized juice out.
Filtered and briefly aged in stainless steel tanks, the process yields a very lightly pigmented and almost tannin-free Nouveau wine.

For this week’s DéClassé feature Joseph Drouin Beaujolais Villages Nouveau,
note that the Villages designation represents a qualitatively better grade of the
terroir-specific source of the grapes. Along with some added care in processing,
these factors result in slightly higher pricing than the other standard fare. Dare
to invest a few extra dollars, to regain an appreciation for this iconic wine style.
For those that deride Nouveau, generally, as being immature wine lacking depth
and dimension; pay little attention, they’re truly missing the delightful point!

Joseph Drouhin

VINTAGES – Product #113266 | 750 mL bottle
Price $ 15.95
12.5% Alcohol/Vol.
Sugar Content: XD

Made in: Beaujolais, France
By: Joseph Drouhin S.A.
Release Date: November 19, 2015

Tasting Note
This light Garnet-coloured, easy drinking wine, has a zingy bouquet and flavours
of cherry and berries. Try serving very lightly chilled as an apéritif with pâté and
savoury hors d’oeuvre, Gruyère cheese and beef fondue or substantial main
dishes such as roasted poultry and herb stuffed pork.

Appassimento Alert

Still hard at work in the renowned and garden-like vineyards surrounding Verona,
an unbroken line of vignaiolo at Masi have built up, then diligently passed on their
wine-making knowledge. As of acquiring the Vaio dei Masi namesake property in
1772, these family vintners have steadily developed a largely unrivalled mastery
with the region’s indigenous grapes: Corvina, Rondinella and Molinara. Up until
the early medieval period, the desirable hillside tracts of fertile soil and prolific
vines, dependably fed by a lattice of brooks in the Adige River watershed, were
independently named valleys: Vallis Provinianensis; rolling out northwest of the
famed city and vallis Veriacus to the east. In time, the reference to these and an adjacent plain were combined, becoming vallis Pulicella. Modern Italians along
with the rest of an appreciative wine world, now succinctly call it Valpolicella.

Circa the 12th century and onwards, the ‘valley of many cellars’ has been under
the stewardship of the Veronese nobility and prosperous mercantile collaborators
who would follow in their footsteps. Multi-generational family oversight of long
standing estates while drawing on locally rooted agricultural expertise, has been
a guiding formula for consistently good winemaking. Since the glory days of the
Serenissima Republia (‘Serene Republic of Venice’), promoting distinctive quality
levels while also bolstering the export potential, has developed hand-in-hand. It
makes for very good business. It might also reveal that the process of becoming
a large and successful vintner doesn’t necessarily translate into production of
unremarkable wine. It is possible to output large amounts of well-made wine, so
long as basic cultivation balances are maintained: judicious pruning to compact
yields, optimal planting density and an indispensable hands-on tending to the fruit.

This week’s DéClassé featured Boscaini family are doing well at balancing scale
with the maintenance of quality–by continuing to explore innovation and applying
the updated techniques to traditional recipes. Among the host of noteworthy
wines from this globally recognized brand is a so-called ‘Super Venetian.’ Making
a relatively modern debut in the mid-1960’s, this wine’s finishing process is yet
another variant of the Greek grape drying technique called passito, then further
refined in Roman winemaking. Historically used to create sweet wine styles such
as Recioto della Valpolicella, it was gradually adapted under the umbrella term of Appassimento, yielding a range of drier, though still immensely rich wines such
as Amarone and various types of Doppio Passo or Ripasso: like the 2011 vintage
of Campofiorin, whose striking label bears a bold Latin subtitle and aspiration:
Nectar Angelorum Hominibus (‘Nectar of the angels for men’)!

When this bottling and it’s patented finishing process was introduced 50 years
ago, it was hailed as a new category of wine. The innovate use of freshly dried
grapes, as opposed to second-use of Amarone must, prompts a slightly more
second fermentation and enriching of the young base wine. Practiced
drinkers of Ripasso will nonetheless recognize its heritage, conveying a plummy,
plush and fulsome style; one which always seems more at home with the richer
food fare around Christmas. Usually selling just above the traditional DéClassé
price-point, the current $3-off sale makes it a bargain; as a robust dinner wine
addition. Remarkably, this 
has sufficient body to withstand several decades of
cellaring–buy plenty and see if you’re able to hold onto some!


LCBO Product #155051 | 750 mL bottle
Price $ 19.95
Sale $ 16.95
13% Alcohol/Vol.
Sugar Content Descriptor: D

Made in Veneto, Italy
By: Masi Agricola S.P.A.
Release Date: Sale through November 28, 2015

Tasting Note
This has a densely layered set of aromas and flavours including cherry and plum,
currants and sweet spices. As expected from a Ripasso wine, it’s velvety and
versatile; suitable to richer food fare. Try as apéritif with spicy meat-filled Phyllo
wraps, baked and well-aged cheeses, or to keep up with Bavette steak, grilled
lamb kabobs and suckling pork with fire-roasted vegetables.

Chenin Blanc Alert

In the 1650’s, while back-breakingly toiling to create fields at the end of a rutted
ox wagon trail; connecting with the small coastal outpost of Cape Town, farmers
also had to keep their ears tuned for a tell-tale shot ringing out from the heights
of Kanonkop (‘cannon hill’). Repeated by a string of relay-cannons, the booming
signal would eventually reach the remotest inland settlements; announcing the
arrival in port of a sailing ship requiring fresh provisions! Resupply and repair of
the Dutch East India Company’s Maritime fleet, at the southern outcrop of Africa,
was a compelling motivation in the 17th century for founding Cape of Good Hope
as a refueling station; critically positioned halfway between Atlantic home ports
in the Netherlands, and the Indonesian trade colonies of Batavia that lay across
the Indian Ocean and Java Sea. Included on the checklist of ships’ stores was a
need to replenish bottled spirits. The French Huguenot settlers–who had been
enlisted by the Dutch company recruiters–were quick to transplant grapevines
into this untapped agricultural paradise, then sell onboard the finished wines!

It was never an empty land, though; the fertile plains, valleys and microclimates
of Southern Africa have always been an alluring destination for migrant Peoples.
Up until roughly the 15th century, it was nomadic Swazi, Ndebele, Xhosa, Tswana
Zulu, and Sotho who had gradually moved themselves, their herds and cropping
expertise–from formerly traditional regions in central Africa into less-populated
areas further south. Despite a 350-year historical record of profound disparity
between these diverse African cultures and their German, Dutch, French and
English colonial counterparts, inflamed by dark periods of outright enslavement;
the 21st century is witnessing a profoundly revised and hopeful chapter unfold.

The Western Cape Province, including the colloquially titled Cape Winelands,
was one of the now-disreputable ‘white and coloured preferred’ zones during
the apartheid era. The heartland town and surrounding region of Stellenbosch
was no exception to this ethnic segregation; 25-years-on, it has blossomed into
the dynamic centre of the South African wine industry; hosts a world-renowned
university, and most importantly: is one of the leading examples of reconciliation
and ongoing redistribution of the benefits that this rich land offers. As for the
less-consequential pursuit of winemaking—don’t say that to the rightfully proud
local vintners—the homegrown and export market has never seemed brighter!

For this week’s DéClassé recommended winery DeMorgenzon (‘morning sun’),
the property’s name refers to its position on the crest of the high-altitude Kloof
Valley—so their vineyards are the first to see warming daylight. Enlightenment
abounds here, including the delightfully idiosyncratic practice of piping Baroque
music out over the grapes to stimulate development! Carl Van Der Merwe is
among a younger generation of SA winemakers whose modernized philosophy
also includes fostering vineyard biodiversity. The reintroduction of native flowers
and plants, while leaving select areas to flourish in a natural state, demonstrates
an eco-sensitive balance of land-use and a move away from sterile monoculture.
Though the DMZ sub-brand marks DeMorgenzon’s entry-level wines, the quality
of this Chenin Blanc bottling and its approachable price point is an auspicious
introduction that needs little more qualification than: it’s a freshly understated,
somewhat less-honeyed version; nonetheless flavourful, very well-crafted wine!


VINTAGES – LCBO Product #429522 | 750 mL bottle
Price $ 14.95
14% Alcohol/Vol.
Sugar Content Descriptor: XD

Made in Western Cape, South Africa
By: DeMorgenzon
Release Date: October 31, 2015

Tasting Note
This is a reasonably fulsome, bright style of Chenin with pear, apple, and light
citrus fruit aromas carried along into some subtle, honeyed-nut flavour notes.
Try serving with vegetable soufflé, butternut squash soup or Asian cuisine.