Saturday, March 1, 2008

Vancouver International Wine Festival - Round 1

This weekend I attended the Vancouver International Wine Festival - a rather large event with over 700 wines poured. Amazingly I managed to taste 100 of those. The theme this year was Italian wine, which was a fantastic treat for those of us into old world flavour and style. There were a lot of great showings this year and in the next series of posts I will be providing my impressions on the top 40-50 or so wines I tasted, concluding with my top picks of the festival. Also, I don't have prices for many of these since only some are available right now in the BC market. Let the craziness begin!

Given the sheer quantity of wine I tasted, I am going to try and organize my notes by country, beginning with Italy. Since there were so many Italian wines I will be organizing my Italian notes by region. A nice map of the Italian wine regions is below:

I propose to begin with the Veneto, an old favourite.

The Veneto

Bertani Amarone 2000

The nose was typical, but rich, raisinated fruit. The palate was very nicely structured and built with notes of pitted fruit like plums. The wine was still a bit closed, but Bertani's are built to age and I think this one will do so beautifully.

Very Good+ to Excellent (with age) - ~$100 CAD

Bertani Amarone 1990

I was also lucky enough to taste the 1990 Bertani, which had a nose of some sort of coffee like liqueure, maybe kalhua. The palate was very heavy on the over-ripe raisin flavours with smoke and barnyard. I was a bit disappointed with this - it just seemed unbalanced a bit too sickly sweet or something. Still enjoyable, but not so much for the price.

Very Good - $120+ CAD

Bertani Villa Novare Valpolicella Ripasso 2003

My notes for this are sparse, but to the point: Fruity and raisinated with classic berry aroma.

Very Good


Tignanello 2004

The first super tuscan. I'd been wanting to try this for some time. A blackberry nose revealed, upon sipping, a very dry and tannic youthful wine that was slightly gamey, but still closed. Excellent to superb structure. Needs time.

Very Good+ to Excellent (with age) $96 CAD at BCLDB

Ruffino Tenuta Greppone mazzi Brunello Di Montalcino 2003

The best way to describe this wine is "refined barnyard". What a beautiful nose - just remarkably evocative of terroir, and gamey, earthy fruit. This wine is structured amazingly on the front end and the mid-palate and is a sheer joy to drink. The finish drops off a bit early, but I can't fault the wine too much for that given its beautiful flavours of hay-tea-like red berries.


Ruffino Chianti Classico Riserva Ducale "Oro" 2004

I've had and loved the 2003 version of this wine. 2004 is regarded as a superior vintage and generally as a fantastic vintage in Tuscany generally. This was very intense and tannic and had an incredibly amount of body, especially compared to the '03. This is not drinking super great now, but it has the ability to age for quite some time. The 2003 on the other hand is drinking great right now, but won't age for long. Good job, but needs time.

Very Good+ $50 CAD at BCLDB

Banfi Barrel Sample - Janus Clone 10

I was lucky enough to taste several barrel samples from Banfi for their upcoming 2005 brunello. This clone was very mouth-forward and incredibly tannic in the finish. It was a bit barny and definitely had the suggestion of brunello, but this is obviously meant to develop the structure of the wine.

Banfi Barrel Sample - Janus Clone 50

This was very fruity in the nose and in the forward palate. However, it dropped off quickly. I suspect that the right blending of this and the last clone will produce an excellent wine. Quite a fun experience.

Carpineto Chianti Classico 2005

Wooh! Manure. At least that's what I got. It was pleasant in a strange way and I think it will drink fantastically well with the right kind of food. This is earthy, fungal and rustic. These guys made one of the first Chianti Classico's ever made and they clearly still know what they are doing. Great value.

Very Good+ - $22 CAD at BCLDB

La Braccessa Vino Nobile Di Montepulciano 2004

You don't see too many Vino Nobile Di Montepulciano's around Vancouver, so this was a treat. The nose was subdued fruit and earth. The palate had a fantastic development of plum and very smooth tannins. This tastes like the countryside - just a fabulous sense of terrior.

Excellent - $40 CAD

Marchese Antinori Chianti Classico Riserva 2003

This was quite surprising because the nose revealed the intensity of a new world minty and fruity cab sauv, even though this is made from Sangiovese. The palate was fruity and long and had very lovely smooth fruit and earth.

Very Good+

Altesino "Montosoli" Brunello Di Montalcino 2003

This single vineyard Brunello was a knockout. It will also kock you out with its price tag - which is around $150 CAD. Fungus and mushroom on the nose - this had great style and complexity. It was really earthy and had tremendous depth of flavour and the finish lasted ages. If only I could afford such things!

Excellent+ - $150 CAD

Altesino Brunello Di Montalcino 2003

This is basically a toned down version of the last wine, at less than half the price. It's got character and a nice smooth style, but the loss in structure and finesse really hurt this.

Very Good+ - $70 CAD

La Vite Lucente 2005

Luce is run jointly by Frescobaldi and Mondavi and is trying to position itself as a sort of Opus One of Italy. Another Super Tuscan - but a good one. The nose was very mocha and the palate, while tannic, was nice and chewy and dense and had tremendous potential, especially for the price. Given the value on this wine, I think it deserves a hefty rating.

Excellent - $40 CAD

Luce 2004

This blend is 60% merlot and 40% sangiovese. The nose gives up dusty earth, but the palate is, as my notes say, "pucker pucker". Way to young right now - needs a lot of time and as such I don't feel I can judge this completley accurately. Not sure if it has the potential to turn into something great.

Very Good - $90 CAD

PHEW! Well, that's it for today. In the next installment I will be touring Piedemonte, including a host of Barolo's. I hope this post gave you the sense that there are some fantastic wines coming out of Italy these days. Clearly Tuscany as a region was a higlight of the show, but there is oh so much more to come.

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