Wine Maven: January February 2019

Richard Ellis of Greywacke, Hubert Weber of Bodega Y Cavas Weinert, plus James Sichel’s Bordeaux

by Mary Bailey

Richard Ellis from New Zealand’s Greywacke wines
Richard Ellis of New Zealand’s Greywacke

Richard Ellis, who makes wine with Kevin Judd at Greywacke (New Zealand) was in town briefly to talk new releases. Richard had two bottles of Sauvignon Blanc and one Pinot Noir with him. Yes, I am a massive fan of Greywacke, so talking about his job is cool. The interesting thing about their Sauv Blanc is that they make two styles, one a regular style (if I can say that, as it’s still pretty hands-off winemaking all round) crisp and flavourful, made in a tank with conventional yeasts, perhaps more typical of Marlborough SB. The Wild Sauvignon is barrel fermented using just the yeasts that come in on the grapes.

“Tank fermentation with wild yeasts is challenging,” says Richard, “whereas there is a bit of spontaneous malolactic in the barrels.” They don’t want too much as it makes the wines creamy, so they use temperature in both styles to control the malo, the bacterial fermentation that converts the wine’s malic acid to the softer lactic acid. Both are aromatic, beautiful handmade wines—if you were thinking New Zealand Savvy has nothing to offer anymore, try these.

Greywacke Pinot Noire and Sauvignon Blanc
Greywacke Pinot Noir and Wild Sauvignon

The Pinots are well-structured with lots of fruit and great acidity. “Our growing season in general is long and cool,” says Richard. “We had the wrong clones for our site at first. But now we have the right clones planted on both hillsides. It’s like a big baseball glove catching all the sun in the day, then it’s cool at night.”

Hubert Weber of Bodega Weinert
Hubert Weber of Bodega Weinert

Hubert Weber, the winemaker at Bodega Y Cavas Weinert, is reintroducing Albertans to the Argentinian producer’s exceptionally long-lived wines. Hubert favours extended aging in large neutral barrels before the wines are bottled. “Four years in casks shows better the fruit’s sweetness and allows the tannins to soften,” says Hubert. This means the wines come to us with some aging and are supremely drinkable right away. Of course, they can always be aged for longer too; how nice to have some choices.

Veneto wine producer Bertani is back to its former glory—old school Vapolicella and Amarone made with minimal intervention, long drying (appassimento) of the grapes by nature, then long aging of the wines.

Federico Polacco, Bertani
Federico Polacco of Bertani

No longer family owned, but in the care of thoughtful people who plan to steward the land and the vines. The new owners invested 90 million Euros to bring the property up to snuff. It’s now sustainable, and the grapes are certified organic.

Valpolicella Ripasso Tenuta Novare
Valpolicella Ripasso Tenuta Novare

Ripasso is made by refermenting the Valpolicella wine on Amarone skins—which can result in a heavy, syrupy wine. Not the single vineyard Valpolicella Ripasso Tenuta Novare. It has an elegance and depth of flavour that is bewitching, delicious and drinks well now. The Soave is no slouch—minerally, with a concentration of flavour due to skin contact and time spent in old big old Slovenian casks.

The 2009 Amarone is spectacular—elegant, so juicy, gorgeous floral and leather notes, fresh and dried cherries, finishes with chocolatey plum flavours and a subtle sour cherry note on the end. Beautiful.

Try some new Italian wines from sunny Basilicata and Campania.

Italian wines

Madonna delle Grazie grows the native Aglianico grape on 8.5 hectares near the town of Venosa, Basilicata. Aglianico thrives in the volcanic soils of Mount Vulture, creating wines of intense flavour and individuality. “The winery is tiny, they farm organically and make the wines with the indigenous yeasts,” says Susan Giacomin of WineQuest, the importer of Madonna delle Grazie.

“They are the only ones I know of who do an Aglianico in bianco,” says Susan, referring to the Leuconoe, the fresh white with its slightly pink colour and lovely herbaceous, lime and white peach notes. “And the rosato!” she says, referring to the Sagaris, with its bright strawberry and cherry aromas and slightly heavier weight. “It’s totally honest and has substance. It’s a meat or cold weather rosato,” she says.

The Messer Oto, named after the fountain in the centre of Venosa, is an intense ruby colour with spicy red fruit aromas, medium bodied with silky tannins and a long finish. These are lovely wines.

Silvia Imperato of Montevetrano in Campania is best known for her Colli di Salerno blend that inspired Robert Parker to call it the Sassacaia of the south. Her newest wines are a 100 per cent Aglianico from younger vines called Core Campania IGT and the Core Bianco IGT, a blend of Greco and Fiano, the white grapes of Campania. The white will be the biggest surprise for most wine drinkers. Medium bodied with an evanescent floral quality that keeps you going back for another inhale. It’s round-textured without being too rich, with a stunningly fine balance and savoury mineral notes. Drink with cheeses, roast chicken, cacio e pepe pasta. Drink the red with hearty and warming winter dishes.

Sichel's Château Trillol, Domaine de Pellehaut Rose and Sichel Margaux
Sichel’s Château Trillol, Domaine de Pellehaut Rose and Sichel Margaux

The Sichel family has been in the wine business in Bordeaux since 1883. They are probably best known for the two cru classé estates they own and operate in Margaux. “Palmer was very run down when my grandfather bought it. It was a risky business then, and we’re still partners with the same two families he partnered with,” says James Sichel, of the seventh generation in the business. In 1961 the family bought d’Angludet, also in bad shape. They own several other estates and have a significant negociant business, with a difference. They don’t buy finished wine which is the standard Bordeaux negociant practice. They buy the fruit and make wine at their own winery. “My father built Belair, our winemaking facility, in 1967,” says James, “in order to control the process and the quality.”

“There is a huge movement in all of Bordeaux to biodynamic, organic and sustainable production, he says. “We expect half the production to be so by 2025. Both d’Angludet and Palmer are biodynamic.”

Three wines stood out for their exceptional quality to price ratio, always important, especially after the holidays. Domaine de Pellehaut Rosé from Gascony is easy drinking and well-priced.

The Château Trillol, from a windy and rocky site in Cucugnan, Corbières. The site is forbidding. “There were 15 producers here 30 years ago. Now we are the only ones,” said James. The wine, a blend of Grenache, Syrah and Carignan is tasty—elegant, not hot, with some lively tension, and a bit of bacon and plummy fruit on the palate.

The Sichel Margaux continues to be one of the best value Bordeaux. “Bordeaux wines give value, always, even if they are not the least expensive wine on the shelf,” says James.“We don’t make every year, 2015 was considered an exceptional vintage in Margaux and St Emilion. Margaux is in our DNA,” says James. The blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Petit Verdot is elegant, aromatic, well-balanced and expressive.

Find these wines at Color de Vino, Jasper Wine Market, Hicks and other fine wine shops. Or, use the search feature at Liquor Connect:

Event Calendar

January 11-19
Tour d’Alsace Week
The Marc, 780-429-2828

Sunday, January 13
Sunday Supper Club, Alsace
The Marc, 780-429-2828

Wednesday, January 16
Culina Muttart Ukrainian New Year Buffet Pop Up

Saturday, January 19
Run & Brunch with the Running Room
XIX Terwillegar, 780-395-1119

Wednesday, January 23
Culina Muttart National Pie Day

Monday, January 28
Best Wines of 2018 Dinner
with Vines Wine Merchants
XIX Terwillegar, 780-395-1119

Tuesday, January 29
Best Wines of 2018 Dinner with Vines Wine Merchants
XIX St Albert, 780-569-1819

Wednesday, January 30
Best of Belgium Beer Dinner
Craft Beer Market,

Sunday, February 10
Sunday Supper Club, Bordeaux
The Marc, 780-429-282

Wednesday, February 13

Thursday, February 14 

Culina Muttart Hungry for Love Pop Up

Friday & Saturday February 15-16