Classic wine drinking
Last week, I was thinking about how much the wine scene have changed in Montreal. The last 20 years have changed dramatically to the point that I ask myself if i am an anachronism. Back then in the late 1990’s, for instance I drank and study in reverence the great italian wine classics, much like a music student would study Mozart or Beethoven. With pleasure, I learnt the taste of Sangiovese and Nebbiolo with producers like Le Pergole Torte and Paolo
Scavino and made myself an idea of the greatness of Italian wine.
It was much the same thing with French wine. I learnt my Bordeaux with classified growths and the ABC’s of Burgundy with premier and grand cru wines. The method was the same with Spanish wine, surveying the great wines of Rioja, Ribera del
Duero and Jerez.
Today, the new generation of wine drinkers want to be all the way avant-garde. More often than seldom, I see this group of young wine lovers focusing on particular styles or obscure grape varieties, preaching that it is the true voice of wine and ostracizing the rest.This self established dogma has even been sanctioned by a part of our wine educators, as they too become tangled up in this frenziness.
The danger of this fallacy could be the possible extinction of our collective wine memory. Much of the cement of the wine regions lies on those classical estates that even paved the way for the avant-garde moment. My hope with this column is that you consider the classics to help preserve the wine legacy
Recently I had the chance to get reacquainted with two important wine estates in France and Spain. Delas has been making wine for the last 180 years in the Rhone Valley and they are specialists in the production of Northern Cru wines. Their motto is "Placing Man and Wine at the heart of the Terroir." With steeply sloping vineyards encompassing some 30 hectares of vines and specialized growing practices to each plot, Delas is able to craft some of the region's best wines.
In the company of Herve Robert, export director of Deals, I tasted a selection of 8 bottles from their labels in the Rhone. Here are my top picks:
From the vertiginous appellation of Condrieu, I tasted an illuminous Condrieu Clos Boucher 2015 ( Courrier Vinicole Rhône Nord 2018. SAQ # 13485342). Just ravishing with honeysuckle, ripe apricot and a chiseled minerality. Round and elegant, it was a garden of delights with its exotic notes of marzipan, white pepper and nutmeg. A confidential production of 7000 bottles, it's worth it's price tag, as it has a bright future ahead.
Another wine that fascinated me was the Crozes Hermitage Les Launes 2015. ( SAQ # 11544126, $26.00). Delas strives with this Crozes, carefully balancing oak and extraction to reflect the granitic soils of the appellation. A perfect introduction to the wines of the region, it captivate me with its pronounced dark fruit flavors, ferrous texture and punchy tannins. In my humble opinion, an undervalued bottle of wine.
My biggest surprise of the tasting was the Cornas Chante Perdrix 2015 ( SAQ # 13486581, $63.50). This wine was notorious since the X century, where it was appreciated by the European royal circuit. Usually the wines of Cornas are tough and austere taking many years to be appreciated. However, this Delas example proves the opposite A modern interpretation of Cornas with a sweet core of black fruits in a frame of mocha, black peppercorns and mint leaf. Polished, on the elegant side with silky tannins, it can be enjoyed now or keep for the next 10 years. If you want a Cornas that is ready now, this is your best bet.
The other wine that kept me dreaming about Delas was the Hermitage Domaine des Tourettes 2015. SAQ # 13486548. $115.25. This wine was born in 3 vineyards in the Drome, France: Tain-L’Hermitage, CrozesHermitage and Larnage. The soil is a playground for geologists consisting of micashiscts, gneiss and round pebbles. In addition, the vineyards are in abrupt hillsides oriented towards the south.
Ravishing nose of red and black currants, and intriguing spices such as dry coriander and black pepper with cohiba cigar tobacco and criollo-ghana cacao notes Very long and voluptuous with a feminine quality to it, silky tannins and a elegant finale.
A bodega of great prestige, Montecillo is one of the oldest wineries Rioja today, the winery is owned by the respected Osborne Group, one of Spain’s oldest and famous family-owned wine and spirits producers, in whose portfolio Montecillo is the jewel of the crown. Over a century after its founding, Bodegas Montecillo still remain focused on its original mission: to craft integral, age worthy wines that reflect their terroit, accomplished through careful selection of grapes, careful winemaking, and patient ageing.
Recently, I had a very pleasant encounter with the candid Rocio Osborne, PR and communication director of Bodegas Montecillo in which I tasted a selection of their wines. Here are the ones that caught most my attention.
A monument of a wine, the Gran Reserva Selección Especial 1994 ( SAQ # 10469339, $71) was grandiose with notes of black tea, bay leaves, porcini mushrooms and black prunes in brandy. Elegant and earthy with succulent and ripe tannins, it impressed me with tits notes of Montecristo cigar, christmas spice and dead mountain leaves. Will be a pleasure to drink now or can be kept for another 10 years, so get it while quantities last.
The Gran Reserva 2009 ( 2008 available in the SAQ, #239277, $34) was stunning as well with lots of depth. On the nose, spiced blue dark fruit with mint and nuances of black truffle. On the palate, classic Rioja character. Ripe tannins yet fluid with great acidity and concentration. It shined with its nuances of gunpowder, roasted herbs and game notes. It is pleasure to drink now but I suggest to keep it a few years so it can achieve its full potential.
If you are new to Rioja and want to get a good introduction to the region, I recommend the Reserva 2011 ( SAQ # 928440, $17.95). A great quality price to ratio with cigar box and black prune jam, Powerful yet elegant with ripe tannins and nuanced earthy flavours. Very long finale as well.
A modern take on Rioja was the Montecillo Edicion Limitada 2010 ( $23.95) to be available at the beginning of 2018. Potent nose reminiscent of brooding black fruits, floral undertones and pronounced mineral undertones. On the palate, creamy and spicy ( vanilla bean, cocoa) with silky tannins and a classical Riojan finish.
If you ever happen to be in Rioja don't forget to dine at the Cachetero restaurant. This dining establishment is considered to be one of the oldest in spain. Recently, Montecillo collaborated with the publication of a cookbook that features traditional recipes of the restaurant paired with Montecillo wines. The book features 41 recipes paired with diverse wines of Montecillo. It is an homage to some of the greatest dishes of Spanish gastronomy.