Ask Chuck

Location: Whitby, Ontario, Canada

Born in Malta but in Canada since age 5. Has written three books and presently does several columns about wine and food for various magazines.

Monday, July 24, 2023

 Should I OR Should I Not?  
Aging Wine
Believe it or not, there has been a controversy about letting wine age. Many believe that aside from the major (and very expensive) domains most wines do not or should not be aged any further. I had one friend whose opinion I respected loved his wine "young"--- including major wine chateaux! He basically believed in drinking wine that had all the vitality and power of  "youth".  One cannot argue with personal taste and in fact, many wines are consumed well after their prime! 
However, my "take" on this subject is that wine----especially a powerhouse, full of tannin and fruit among many descriptors should be enjoyed at various stages of existence. Many a youthful wine can be quite hard on the palate with time to soften. The other point is that many a wine does take on different evolutions as it develops through time. A Latour can be even harsh and tough in its youth only to mold with one's tongue---wrapping itself like velvet as it ages.
Certain foods also have an amenity for a particular style of grape. Turkey or Duck but would taste superb with a young pinot noir but would go better with an older Bordeaux.
I have aged a number of "minor" wines and found them, while great when young, to develop nicely as they age. This does not mean that every wine needs aging or that aged wine is better. It just means that for those who want to see how some wine develop, putting a bottle or two away may reek surprises.
Raiding My Cellar 
Cellar contains a host of red and white wines that go as far back as the 1960's and 1970's. For example, My German wines go back to 1971 while my Burgundies go back to 1969. Every so often I raid my Bordeaux section. Last night was such an event. I chose a 1989 Chateau Latour Martillac.
Latour-Martillac: History      
Anyone who knows me realizes that tasting is just one aspect of wine that I enjoy. I love the science behind wine. History is what attracted me to it! Geography is what solidified it and of course People is what rounded it out. Chateau Latour Martillac is steeped in history---going back to the 12 Century as a small fortress. The fortress was destroyed in the French Revolution but left a Tower from which the chateau gets its name. 
Charles the Second of Montesquieu acquired the land, located just five kilometres from the town of Leognan, via his marriage in 1715. He later added the land to his estate called Chateau de la Brede.
The land was later acquired by lawyer Monsieur Charropin in 1853. Merchant Edouard Kressman began distribution of the wine in 1871 and took charge of the vines by 1884. 
The estate came under the ownership of a Pierre Langlois until 1929 when Alfred Kressman, son of Edouard, purchased the chateau and later gave it the name of Chateau Latour-Martillac! The property has been in Kressman hands ever since.
 Many vines were planted by the senior Kressman in and around 1884.  Through various purchases the vineyards were extended to now hold about 42 hectares which comes out as 100 acres. The breakdown is about 80% red to 20% white grapes. 
Chateau Latour-Martillac 1989  Pessac-Leognan (Graves)  93.5/100 points 
Grape Varieties: Cabernet Sauvignon 60%, Merlot 35%, Petit Verdot 5%
Colour: Red
Nose: Floral, Tobacco, Red Fruit, Earth, Mushroom, Hint of Chocolate, 
Palate: Medium Body,  Dry, Berry Fruit, Smooth finish, Pleasant
Pairing: Roast Turkey, Roast Beef, Pork Loin, Duck
Comments: Classified in the 1953 Graves Classification. High reputation for aging ability and from an area that has produced some highly reputed wines such as Chateau Haut Brion  and Chateau Pape Clement. 
When To Open That Special Bottle 
I guess that this whole exercise has been to discuss the fact that ageing a wine to see how it evolves is not a bad thing. In the ideal world, one can obtain at least six bottles of a certain bottle of wine and have one every so often. In that case, tasting the wine initially as a young interest item  is not a bat idea. 
However, if only one bottle is available and the obtaining of a second one is out of the question, one is left with the temptation to either drink the wine to enjoy it as a young wine or give it time to further develop. What does one do.        
I was given a superb Bodegas Benegas Lynch 2019 which probably is drinking well now but I know that it will develop well over the next two years. Unfortunately there, is no other available to experiment with a la ageing!  Hmmm! I will keep you posted. 


Wednesday, July 12, 2023

Good Wine Just Keeps on Coming

 Tuscany, Spain, Chile, Argentina Quality Coming Up!
It is getting harder and harder to affix a mark on any wine these days since the quality of wine passing this writer seems to be getting increasingly better. The difference between wine quality is becoming so nebulous-----especially when wine makers are becoming so skilled at their trade and----we can't leave out technology and passion. It is becoming harder to judge.
Castello del Trebbio   Chianti Superiore 2021 DOCG, Tuscany            95/100  $18.95
Colour: Red
Nose: Red Fruit (Cherry, Currants, Raspberry), floral blossom notes, vanilla spice, anise
Palate: Medium body, very elegant, forward tannin with evolving anise finish
Comments: A superior product from a small (46 Hectare) winery. I was puzzled at the style of oak used and for a while suspected two types of oak but on researching the product I found that my quandary was that Slovenian Oak was used in conjunction with stainless steel (six months each) after the initial fermentation in stainless steel tanks using indigenous (wild) yeasts. Vineyard practices natural, organic, biodynamic agriculture. Owners Anna Baj Macario/Sefano Casadei are in a partnership with Cline in California. Wine is nicely integrated. Excellent purchase.  13 % alcohol
Grapes: Sangiovese (85%), Colorino (10%) and Ciliegiolo (5%)
Pairing: Risotto, Roasts, Antipasti, Aged Hard Cheese.

Magus Crianza 2020 "6 Meses",  Extremadura  Ribera del Guadiana    93/100**   $14.95
Colour: Dark Red
Nose: Dark Fruit (ripe blackberry, black cherry, mulberry), bubble gum, strawberry jam, pepper spice
Palate: Medium to full body, dry, accessible tannin, licorice and pleasant finish.
Comment: A good wine for all purpose meal. The 6 Meses means lightly passed over 6 month old barrels ( French and American Oak) which produces wine that can be consumed younger and casually. 14 % alcohol.
Grapes: 100% Tempranillo
Pairing: cold cuts, beef, lamb and pasta   
**: Rating based on price and easy accessibility of wine. Great unpretentious addition for everyday!  

Upcoming: Benegas Lynch and Corazon del Indio!

Thursday, July 6, 2023

Part Two: Wineries To Watch For In 2023

 Part Two of my wineries to watch for list includes more wineries from Argentina, Brazil, Romania and Portugal with additional wineries from the United States!

Virginia, USA
Virginia's Blue Ridge Mountains are so beautiful that I had to include more than one picture to capture the sheer loveliness of this region. Two wineries that impressed me so very much are Ankida Ridge and historic Barboursville.    

        Christine Wells Vrooman with Winemaker Son, Nathan

Ankida Ridge Vineyards and Winery  (Amherst County, Blue Ridge Mountains Va.) 
The caption on its home page reads "where Heaven and Earth join" and when I pass on, Ankida Ridge located on Chestnut Ridge, Virginia, would be my choice of Heaven! Purchased in 1999 by Dennis and Christine Vrooman, this stunning property with a backdrop that requires three pictures to do it justice, is only equaled by its great wine and altitude (1800 feet)! Their son Nathan is the talented winemaker! 
The superb six acre vineyard produces some of the finest Pinots that I have ever tasted. Chardonnay, Gamay are also grown on the property. Ankida produces a great "Pinot Noir Vintage Reserve", "Blanc de Noir" (Pinot Noir) and "Blanc de Blanc" (Chardonnay) sparkling wine as well!  
Ankida wine is made by natural methods with the least amount of intervention. It is no surprise that Ankida Ridge Wine expresses the best that this lovey terroir has to offer.  My only complaint is that this wine is not available in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. 
Barboursville (Winery Road, Barboursville, Virginia) 

                  Barboursville Winemaker Luis Paschina

                                         Barboursville Winery

Politician James Barbour (1775-1842) held many posts within the young United States including that of Virginia Governor. He encouraged and over saw the development of sustainable agriculture on the property. His friend, Thomas Jefferson, designed him a mansion which was built in 1814. The mansion tragically burned down on Christmas Day 1864 but its ruins, along with the Barbour family cemetery,  remains on the winery property.
In 1976, Italian Gianni Zonin of Veneto winery fame, purchased the property with the intent of founding a vineyard, The rest is history with Barboursville being recognized as an outstanding winery making fine wine such as a Bordeaux style(Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot), Nebbiolo, Sangiovese, Barbara, Viognier, Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio,  Sauvignon Blanc, Moscato Ottonel and Vidal. Winemaker Luis Paschina has been with the winery since 1990 and continues to produce superb wine that reflects the Zonin commitment to excellence!   
 Bodegas .
Bodegas Benegas (Mendoza)
                                                  Bodegas Benegas
                              Picking The Grapes
Outstanding quality of this winery goes back over 100 years and has its original cellars from 1901! The history of the Benegas family goes far further and included the signing of an 1820 independence peace treaty at its farm as well as having many of the family members involved in important political posts. Family patriarch Don Tiburico scoured wine regions for vine cuttings---giving many to any who wanted to grow vines. He founded El Trapiche winery in 1883 but sold it in 1970. 
Frederico Benegas Lynch was born in 1951 and after spending a number of years working in the El Trapiche vineyards and tasting wines with his father, came under the influence Trapiche winemaker Angel Mendoza. He then decided to make wines under the Benegas name.
He repurchased the family vineyard 'Finca Libertad", purchased a 19th century winery and added the Benegas name over all! Top wine consultant Michel Rolland and famed Napa winemaker Paul Hobbs were contracted. 
He enlisted the assistance of top French wine consultant Michel Rolland and Napa winemaker Paul Hobbs. The grapes are carefully cultivated and selected during Harvest.  Fermentation and Maceration are strictly controlled!
The wines from Benegas vineyards, Finca Libertad and Finca Incerrada,  are exceptional and highly rated by wine critics and in my opinion can only become highly in demand.
With vine ages from 70 to 128 years and from heights of 850 to 2800 metres the quality can only be very high. Presently the Malbec Single Vineyard is available in Ontario.
Portugal (Estremoz, Alentejo Wine Region)
Howard's Folly 

                     David Baverstock Winemaker 

                                Pedro Furriel Winemaker
A superb region for wine is the Alentejo Region of Portugal. Howard's Folly is new on the scene but has an outstanding winemaker who has carved a name for himself worldwide! Businessman Howard Bilton and esteemed winemaker David Baverstock, Australian who is noted for his avant-garde wines and many accolades from such people as the President of Portugal founded the above winery in 2002.
Bilton has a love for Portugal and its wine----especially the Alentejo Region. He became a driving force with the idea of creating a winery that exhibited not only the love of Alentejo wine but also as a contributor to the Art Community. Along with vineyard manager, Christina Francisquinho and winemaker Pedro Furriel, they are producing first rate wine that are being sought for all over the globe!
While I have not tasted Howard's Folly wine yet, top critics give the varietal and blended wines top marks. The likes of Jancis Robinson and Robert Parker have consistently give excellent scores to Folly wine!  
Vincola Suzin ( Sao Jaoquim, Santa Catarina)
                          Everson Suzin Winemaker/Owner
High up (1200 metres) in the little village, temperatures reach a daytime high of 28 degrees centigrade but fall to a low of 5 degrees during the night. Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Montepulciano, Malbec, Petit Verdot, Rebo, Pinto Noir and Sauvignon Blanc are grown in small batches thus enabling differentiated treatment of each variety and a concentration on quality products. Using the latest ecological techniques eliminates the use of herbicides and vineyard defensives. The result is exceptional wine. My favourite has always been Suzin Pinot Noir which is cultivated with tender loving hands. 
Suzin products are not available in Canada at the moment.
Romania has come out of its "wine shell" and is making first rate wine capable of competing with the world's best. A new "guard" has taken over with the latest in vineyard management and wine making. Add to that Romania's deep historical significance in and superb scenery and you have a top winner. Top sommeliers like Zoltan Szabo and Ioana Madalina Danila assist up and coming winemakers in producing great wine! 
Crama Histria (Dobrogea)
               Paul Fulea Winemaker/Owner
Crema Histria enjoys sunny days, rich terroir and healing breezes all of which grow healthy grapes which make great wine. However, this is just part of the story since the making of fine wine depends also on the skill of the winemaker.
Paul Fulea produced his first wine in 2015 on land that was already under vine since 1976 but needed his alteration. He renamed his winery "Crama Histria" which now covers some 200 hectares.
The winery produces wine from both international and indigenous grapes such as the (White) Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Muscat, Ottonel, Traminer, Fateaca Regela and (Red) Fateasca Neagra, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.
His red 100 percent Cabernet Sauvignon "Nikolaos" has already won international acclaim with a score of 94/100 points at the Decanter World Wine Awards in 2021! 
(Agent is Maison Nobleza in Montreal)