Wine Maven

by Mary Bailey

Marcia J Hamm, Hicks Fine Wines; Lorenzo Scavino, Azelia de Luigi Scavino; Jeff Sparling, Liquor Select; Chris McKenna, Bin 104 at a tasting at The Marc.

Marcia J Hamm, Hicks Fine Wines; Lorenzo Scavino, Azelia de Luigi Scavino; Jeff Sparling, Liquor Select; Chris McKenna, Bin 104 at a tasting at The Marc.

Lovers of Barolo learn to be patient. The wine, often tight and unforgiving in its youth, needs time to develop its characteristic lushness and beauty. So, when a vintage like 2011 comes along, with its early approachability, Nebbiolo lovers rejoice. But, it’s a vintage with a lot of variability so it pays to look for estates that have unmistakable terroir, such as Azelia in Castiglione Falletto. “It’s very important for my father to pick ripe grapes, to wait until the tannins are fully ripe,” says Lorenzo Scavino, proprietor. “Then, my objective is fruit; we age in tanks, cement tanks, then in bottle. No oak at all.” Look for the cru Barolos Bricco Fiasco, Margheria and San Rocco at fine wine shops and some restaurants such as Corso 32. Back vintages and library wines will be available soon. For more everyday drinking, the deliciously fresh and fruity Dolcetto is widely available, around $20.

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Frans Smit, chief winemaker of Spier Wine Farm in Stellenbosch, spoke at a dinner at La Ronde and poured wines from three tiers, Spier, Creative Block and 21 Gables. “After 18 years, I am starting to understand the terroir much better. Our vineyard practices and winemaking have changed to better reflect that terroir. For example, our flagship, the 21 Gables Chenin Blanc, comes from an non-irrigated block where the vines are 45 years old. The yields are low and we come though several times picking only what’s ripe. We sort the bunches, it goes into the barrel and stays there for 14 months.

“We are reducing chemical use in general and copper in all the vineyards. The yields came down but the vineyards are in balance now. We don’t have to pick so super late to get the ripeness, we have good balance and natural acidity at lower alcohol levels and more oak integration. We’ve been organic for the past seven years and just made our first biodynamic wine. It’s all very exciting.”

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Hennessey 250

Hennessy ambassador Jean-Michel Cochet says it’s OK to drink cognac on the rocks. “The VS on one big ice cube is nice,” he says, “or in a cocktail, a stinger or a sidecar.”

But not the Hennessey 250. The special bottling was created in honour of the company’s 250th anniversary from selected eau de vie cellared in 250 specially built barrels. The 250 is as magical as you would expect, savoury rather than sweet, delicate, smoky with hints of ginger and saffron, with a lean and powerful palate hinting of lemony citrus rather than fleshy orange. Remarkable, unique, complex and concentrated.

Chartier Côtes du Rhône

Chartier Côtes du Rhône

Francois Chartier’s book Taste Buds and Molecules:The Art and Science of Food, published in 2010, was revolutionary. Here was a Quebec sommelier saying you could identify great food and wine pairings through similarities in their molecular signatures. Heady stuff. Since then Francois has consulted with the gastronomic elite and will publish a second book this summer. For his own wine project he went back to a trusted colleague, Bordeaux oenologist Pascal Chatonnet, “Pascal, I want the wines to go with this; I thought of the food first,” Francois said over dinner at Rge Rd. A lively communicator and all-round bonhomme, Francois makes it seem so simple. Find his wines at Sobey’s — you’ll recognize them as they have the pairings on the label.

Daniel Robillard photo

Daniel Robillard photo

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