Tuscan Chianti Classico

Sangiovese Grosso, Sangiovese Piccolo, Sangioveto…is to name just a few of the aliases for this grape and its closely related cultivars; providing the core body for most Tuscan red wine recipes, and still reigning as the most consumed Italian wine at home and abroad. Dark blue-skinned Sangiovese takes its name from the Latin term, Sanguis Jovis (‘blood of Jove’), which is an exalted reference to both the elixir’s colour and its place in Europe’s pantheon of great grape species: Vitis Vinifera. It’s also the most widely cultivated variety in central Italy, with prolific vineyards in Lazio, Umbria, Marche and Tuscany combining for 95% of the world’s plantings–a largely unrivalled dominance by a major grape sourced from a single country. Over several hundred years, growers have steadily built up their expertise with ‘San-joh-vay-say.’ In particular, the stewarding of these slow-ripening fruit clusters through to a balanced maturity is an agricultural art that Tuscans have diligently become very, very good at!

fiascoes

In the vinicultural history of many old world regions, the development of a distinctive wine style that becomes immensely popular, aided by large yields of grapes that are well-suited to the terroir, adds up to a mixed record of glory times and a fair share of winemaking folly. The sometimes too-voluminous output of Tuscany’s Chianti is no exception. Happily, the mid-20th-century decades during which large commercial producers let loose far too much unremarkable bulk wine dressed up in attractively rotund flasks swaddled with woven straw called fiascos, are long gone. In the 21st century, a re-invigoration of a different sort has taken hold in the baseline winemaking practices of these lands and culture that were the birthplace of the Italian Renaissance. This time, Tuscan vintners are focused on advancing the competitive quality across all grades of their wine; from everyday offerings such as charmingly simple Chianti through to premium production of Vino Nobile di Montepulciano and Brunello. At the core of this shift is the general reduction of harvest yields by the growers–who themselves were instrumental in redefining the guidelines of Italy’s highest classification of quality: DOCG (Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita). Too sad about the demise of the traditional straw wrapping, though, it was so rustically emblematic of Italian table wine for such a long time!

The 120 associated growers allied with the  Castelli del Grevepeas brand are focused on value-driven wines fashioned from the region’s indigenous grapes. This DéClassé feature of Castelgreve Chianti Classico 2016 is a delightful example of medium-bodied Chianti with an integrated character of vibrant fruit in among the savoury earth notes. Exercising restraint in the finishing process of wine demonstrates modern winemaking wisdom. In the case of this bottling, the straightforward recipe of 95% Sangiovese and 5% Merlot that’s fermented in Inox tanks before spending the 12 months in Slavonian oak casks, results in an unfettered and refreshing offering true to its pedigree. Add a $17.00 price-point, and you have a winner that will sell swiftly. I would buy as many as are required to fill the empty slots in your loose-straw-lined storage boxes!

CASTELGREVE CHIANTI CLASSICO 2016
VINTAGES/LCBO – Product #573485 | 750 mL bottle
Price $17.00
13.5% Alcohol/Vol.
Sugar Content Descriptor: XD

Made in Tuscany, Italy
By: Castelli Del Grevepesa
Release Date: September 1, 2018

Tasting Note
This medium-bodied Chianti demonstrates the expected combination of plum and cherry flavours and aromas blending with a restrained earthiness and the spice notes gained from its ageing in oak. Try serving as an apéritif with salty charcuterie and cheeses such as Pecorino or with heartier fare such as roast lamb with rosemary, rib eye steak with asparagus and mushroom risotto or Tuscan-style sausages and baked Fava beans.

Niagara Chardonnay

White Burgundy still ranks high among the wine world’s famed grape varieties, and the benchmark styles from its namesake terroir remain a gold standard. We’re of course referencing Chardonnay. It’s also done very well in California, where climate and drinking taste converged in the 20th century, providing a cornerstone for a young wine industry to develop. The widespread popularity of particular wine styles is subject to cycles. A rapid rise for Chardonnay as a staple table wine in North America was followed by a degree of consumer fatigue—expressed in a somewhat derisive and unfortunate acronym: ABC (‘anything but Chardonnay’). Within the broad range of finishing styles that includes sparkling and still wines, the world’s most planted white wine grape is enduring and defying fickle fashion.

Finished Chardonnay is a definitive winemaker’s wine in that the characteristics commonly associated with it: highly aromatic, a buttery mouthfeel, tropical or stone fruit flavours, notes of vanilla, etc.—are all methodically coaxed results from a relatively neutral grape. From time to time, the experimentation has translated into an individual characteristic overshadowing others. As Chardonnay is one rare example of a white wine being suitable for barrel ageing, overly oaked versions of less-select grape harvests contributed to the decline in reputation and desirability for more discerning drinkers. With the development of the grape in other cooler climate vineyards, fresh and vibrant expressions of Chardonnay are more common again, and arguably, more faithful to the originating style from Burgundy. The DéClassé recommended G. Marquis The Silver Line Chardonnay 2016, is a balanced reinterpretation—from the skilled winemakers in Canada’s Niagara Escarpment region.

Exclusively providing the fruit for this week’s selection, the Stone Road Vineyard is a 25-acre parcel that’s bordered by the climate tempering influence of Lake Ontario—one of the world’s largest freshwater bodies. Inland of the shoreline, deposits of loose sandy-loam soil promote vigorous growth of Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, and Chardonnay grapes, while the microclimate conditions allow these varieties a sufficiently long growing season. G. Marquis is the premium brand line offered by the Magnotta Winery, and it’s now available in greater stock levels at the LCBO in the Vintages section. The personal care of hand-picking, sorting and six months of ageing in French-American hybrid oak casks is self-evident, so if you’re uncertain of where Niagara wines are in their quality evolution at this price-point, this noteworthy example speaks volumes!

G. MARQUIS THE SILVER LINE CHARDONNAY 2016
VINTAGES/LCBO – Product #258681 | 750 mL bottle
Price $17.95
12.5 % Alcohol/Vol.
Sugar Content Descriptor: XD

Made in Niagara, Canada
By: Magnotta Winery
Release Date: April 3, 2018

Tasting Note
This soft, dry white wine falls into the mid-weight category of barrel-fermented Chardonnay with spice and herb-accented flavours of baked apple, melon, and ripe pear. Try serving alongside roasted or grilled pork loin, chicken, salmon steaks or pasta dishes and cream sauces.

Minervois Syrah/Carignan

Distinctively marking the labels of this terroir-specific wine line is a dramatic four-armed Visigoth symbol dating to the 7th century. Later known as the Languedoc Cross or Cross of the Cathars, the four elements and twelve points of the zodiac represent the perpetual rhythms of time and nature. The vintner’s apt emblem also includes two doves drinking from a single cup–expressing both sharing and communion. Begun by Georges Bertrand, a winemaking pioneer in the Languedoc region who diligently built a spirit of cooperation among the local growers of south-western France in the 1970’s, the Bertrand winery has consistently been at the forefront of quality development for an impressive range of regional wine styles. The multi-generational philosophy is being carried forward by the founder’s son, Gérard Bertrand, with an expanding portfolio of ten estates, 550 hectares of vineyard and production facilities based in Narbonne–the onetime capital of a prosperous Roman coastal province called Gallia Narbonensis.

languedoc-wine-region-1852

One of the world’s most extensive wine growing regions, Languedoc is a Mediterranean landscape of windswept scrubland with the geology of greyish-white, calcium-rich limestone. The eroded soils of this ancient seabed make for a rich base where wild lavender, thyme, and undulating rows of gnarled Carignan, Cinsault, Grenache Noir, Syrah and Mourvèdre grapevine thrive. As with the land’s nature, the AOC wine regulations of this free-spirited region are somewhat less stringent than in the neighbouring Burgundy or Bordeaux appellations to the north; allowing for the cultivation of a broader range of vine varieties and blending proportions.

The Minervois sub-region in Languedoc benefits from a relatively hot climate that’s bordered by the clay and schist soils around the Canal du Midi to the south and the stony limestone slopes of Montagne Noire to the north. These factors in the terroir infuse a distinctive flinty character into the finished wines. That’s very much the case for this DéClassé recommended Gérard Bertrand Minervois Syrah/Carignan 2015. To soften the steely edges, the Syrah and Carignan grapes had undergone a malolactic fermentation before the blended batch was aged in 225-litre Bordeaux oak barrels for eight months and then rested in bottle for another year.

Though you will find many offerings from this prolific vintner on the regular shelves of the LCBO, note that this particular release is only stocked in the Vintages section, in a limited volume that historically sells out quickly. During the warm months ahead, dare to try this ripe and fruit-forward red slightly chilled!

GÉRARD BERTRAND MINERVOIS SYRAH/CARIGNAN 2015
VINTAGES/LCBO – Product #952804 | 750 mL bottle
Price $16.95
14% Alcohol/Vol.
Sugar Content Descriptor: XD

Made in Midi, France
By: Gérard Bertrand
Release Date: August 4, 2018

Tasting Note
This somewhat earthy red wine, with its dark fruit flavours accented by olive and coffee notes, also has a robust body and structured tannins. Best with foods such as a marinated grilled brisket, basted ribs, veal meatballs in a piquant tomato and olive sauce, fire roasted vegetables or with stronger cheeses, Spanish Jamón Serrano and sausage appetizers.

Mendoza Tinto

Historically inspiring this bottling’s brand name, La Posta del Viñotero is a typical sort of wine tavern in Mendoza where the local growers congregate to sample the results of their harvest labours–while passionately exchanging opinions and insights into their working of soils, vine stock and wine styles. La Posta is also the Italian name for Post Office. Unsurprisingly, these became vital gathering places for many of the millions of Italians who immigrated to Argentina in the 19th and 20th century.

Fruit for this week’s DéClassé recommended offering is drawn from a collection of 3,000 foot, high-altitude vineyards in La Consulta, Rivadavia, Vista Flores and Altamira. The narrow band of alluvial soils in this renowned and prolific wine-producing province are ideally suited for the cultivation of Argentina’s signature Malbec grape. The growing conditions are an apparent agricultural contradiction whereby some of the most characterful wines are being extracted from mature, 30-year-old vine stock thriving in near-inhospitable geography. Just to the east is barren desert; to the west is the so-called ‘rain shadow’ created by the nearby chain of majestic Andean peaks.

Malbec is a thick-skinned grape variety that was first introduced to South America in the 1850’s by Frenchman Miguel Pouget, and has evolved through several cycles of being in and out of commercial favour. The spiced and fresh fruit elements that his variety lent to traditional Bordeaux blends have become calling cards for Argentinean Malbec–now often shining alone, on its own merits in varietal bottling form.

This opaque, purple-red blend is made up of 60% Malbec with 25% parts of Bonarda and 15% Syrah. It’s an inexpensive, well-made, fun, easy drinking wine intended to be enjoyed young. Barrel-aged for 10 months in second-use oak, it has sufficient depth for those who prefer more weight and mouthfeel in their reds. For palettes that lean toward bright, brambly fruit flavours, it has much to offer as well. Try this ‘summer red’ on the slightly cooler side of serving temperature.

LA POSTA TINTO 2016
VINTAGES/LCBO – Product #555789 | 750 mL bottle
Price $14.95
13.5% Alcohol/Vol.
Sugar Content Descriptor: XD

Made in Mendoza, Argentina
By: Puerto Ancona S.A.
Release Date: August 4, 2018

Tasting Note
La Posta has many of the typical Malbec aromas and flavour profiles of raspberry and cassis with some hints of cocoa and mocha, albeit on the slightly-muted side of the scale. An ample dose of fresh acidity lends balance to this fruit-driven blend. Try it as every day, apéritif wine or with herbed roast chicken, lamb, beef and grilled vegetables.