On October 18th, I attended the Grandi Marchi at the Royal Ontario Museum. I was going to break this into two posts to avoid readers nodding off but…..
What is the Instituto del Vino Italiano di Qualita Grandi Marchi? I had the same question. From the event pamphlet: “The Instituto del Vino Italiano di Qualita Grandi Marchi is the result of determination and enthusiasm of some of Italy’s most important producers to promote premium quality Italian wines to the world……..One of the Institute’s major goals is to provide leadership and direction in the development of quality Italian wine in world markets.” It’s kind of the Italian equivalent to the Union des Grand Crus de Bordeaux, it seems. And I suppose that, since the mother ship is the largest purchaser of wines and spirits, an appearance in Toronto was in order.
Royal Ontario Museum
Just a quick word about the venue. If you’ve been, I don’t need to say much. But, if you haven’t, think of a grand hall with marble statuary, a spectacular crystal treatment on Bloor, columns (Corinthian?), and old shit scattered about inside. Why don’t I just show you a picture of our host.
Now, the wines. Most Italian DOC’s and DOCG’s were represented. I’m only going to talk about the highlights and/or wines generally available in wider distribution. They are in no particular order but the more cryptic my notes get, the later in the evening they probably were. Sorry, but I did swallow much of it and it’s awkward holding your glass, juggling the tasting notes book, making notes, dropping your pen, picking it up, spilling your wine, stumbling into a well dressed woman – you get the picture.
Carpene Malvolti 1868 Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco Brut #727438 $18.95 this is a wine that I’ve recommended before and it was a great start to the evening. Extremely dry, toasty notes. Great value and a Prosecco to celebrate not berate. Available starting February 4, 2017
Carpene Malvolti Spumante Brut Rose #474460 $19.95 Liked this wine. Quite dry as well. Hint of red fruits – strawberries. Perfect holiday season bubbly. Available starting December 10, 2016. I’m going to get a few for the holidays.
2014 Donnafugata Sedara #900274 $16.95 A blend with Nero d’Avola and native varieties. Very dry, as in, “Please drink me with food”. Despite the fact that I had no food, I liked this medium-bodied red. Great value, particularly on a night like this. Available starting December 10, 2016. I’ll try to remember to recommend for you before that release.
2014 Donnafugata Ben Ryé #568063 $42.00 (375 ml) This is a wine from the DOC Passito di Pantelleria. Where is that, you ask? It’s a small historically strategically important island between Sicily and Tunisia. My archaeologist son has dug there and tells me that it’s particularly beautiful. The wine is a dessert wine – nutty, dried fruits, apricots. I’m not a big dessert wine fan but this was nice – just wish I’d waited until I was actually through with the others. Only available at the event.
2013 Gaja Barberesco #92080 $279.00 Here’s the thing: The Director was with me and she only drinks white wines due to a red wine headache issue. She sniffs the ones that I rave about and usually says, “Cannot see what you’re raving about. Smells awful.” The strategy that night when we went to a table that only had red wines was for her to ask for a sample of a red too, we’d step aside and I’d get to sample both. At Gaja, I suggested she get the Barberesco while I sampled the one below. She swirled the Barberesco, sniffed and said (I kid you not), “This smells very nice.” Ventured a sip and said, “If I didn’t get headaches, I think that I’d like to drink this.” Sure. The $279 wine, she likes! This wine was as promised. Powerful elegance if that”s possible. Perhaps the nicest wine of the night. Just wish I could pull the trigger on a wine this pricey.
2013 Gaja Ca’Marcanda Camarcanda #174342 $184.00 This is a wine from DOC Bolgheri in Tuscany. Like many people, I know Gaja as Langhe, Barolo, and Barberesco primarily. So, I was particularly interested in trying this wine and seeing if he brought the same attention to terroir to this effort. Bingo. This is a Super Tuscan – so Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and other international grapes rather than Sangiovese. Cassis overflowing on the swirl but hiding a bit on the sip and swish. Very present tannins and a nice acid kick on the finish. A food wine that requires a decent time in the basement. Only available at event.
I chatted up a guy at this table that had already tasted the Lungaotti offerings. I asked him what he thought of the four offerings. He said, “I’m going to wait until you taste, then we’ll talk.” I tasted and well we were in agreement on the best wine for us and it wasn’t what most others were expecting and assuming. A cool moment to be sympatico with another geek in front of thousands. Well, in front of The Director and this guy’s eye candy, at least.
2009 Lungarotti Rubesco Monticchio Riserva #51771 $51.00 This is a DOCG Torgiano Rosso Reserve wine and if that doesn’t get your heart racing, let me say that it is beautifully crafted. In the swish and swallow – spices, liquorice, and chocolate. Is that even possible? Man, I love this wine! And it still has loads of stuffing to get you through the next 10 years. Who am I kidding, this won’t last that long at my place. Only available at event.
1997 Lungarotti Rubesco Torgiano Riserva #473975 $51.00 As I stood at this table, people stepped up and were jonesing to try the oldest wine there – the 1997. Age is as seductive in wine as it is in male wine bloggers. The older we get, the more attractive we become. I can’t explain it – weird but true. Anyway, everyone wanted the 1997 – it had to be great, right? Many even seemed to nod and spit appreciatively. They were wrong. Oh, it is mature, spicy, but seemed to be getting to dried fruit a bit too much for me. It was very good but the 2009……… Only available at event.
I have several Antinori wines in my basement (Tignanello, Badia a Passignano among others). I like this family winery. But, this was a bit of a disappointment from a service perspective. The rep was buddying up with a crowd of guys off to the side (you wine geeks know what I mean – the guys that buy a shitload and know not what they buy aside from the badge). But I could be wrong. Well, that’s silly to say – I’m never wrong. Regardless, that didn’t detract from the wines.
2013 La Braccesca Vino Nobile di Montepulciano #473694 $25.00 This is another special wine I tasted. And, it’s not just because it was later in the night. I still had loads of palate agility and sensitivity left. Well, loads is overstating it a bit. This Sangiovese with a bit of Merlot had cherries – not the red sour type that seem to come with sangiovese but the black sweetish ones. Toasty notes. My notes say, “Cherries, cherries, cherries – and coffee.” This is a great value Tuscan. Only available at event.
2014 Prunotto Mompertone Monferrato Rosso #388587 $18.95 Quick review – burn some burgers or other red meats and pop a cork on this. Barbera and some other stuff. Available starting February 4, 2017.
This was the table that I was most interested in. We get a ton of wine from other Italian regions but Campania is underrepresented. I don’t get much opportunity to taste this stuff. Plus, I had a boatload of it two years ago when I was in Camopania. FYI, a ‘boatload’ is just a ‘tich’ less than a ‘shitload’. Never mind what a ‘tich’ is.
2014 Mastroberardino Greco di Tufo #568105 $19.95 This is a grape that even California doesn’t try to monetize. It must be difficult to manage and the payoff would require a massive marketing campaign – “greco de what?” This is a perfect summer white wine. Perfect is strong praise and this particular wine carries that label proudly. Light, yet flavourful. Crisp, yet cool and refreshing. Bring on the seafood! Love it! Available at LCBO locations now.
2009 Mastroberardino Radici Riserva Taurasi #683615 $56.00 I really like Taurasi. I’m not sure what it is that does it for me but it just seems to best represent the volcanic soils, mountains and beauty of Campania. It can be rough – Anglianico is like that, but I like it rough – wink, wink, nudge, nudge. However, this particular wine was a long, long way from ready to drink. I’m thinking 5 to 10. Liked the hint of dark fruits that it showed but wanted a little less obfuscation before it made the grade. Only available at event.
2011 Matroberardino Radici Taurasi #340562 $53.00 Now, here is the weird thing. This 2011 is good right friggin’ now while the more mature cuvée is many years off. I know the older one is a riserva but it shouldn’t make that much difference. This is an Aglianico bomb! Big, dark, earthy, anisey. Muscular, full-bodied and bringing little heat as it’s only 13.5% ABV. Now, we’re talking. I want this wine in my cellar. Only available at event.
Have I told you that a bucket list wine trip is Sicily? Well, it is. Cannot wait.
2014 Tasca d’Almerita Guarnaccio Perricone #473934 $21.00 This is a Sicilian beauty like Maria Grazia Cucinotta (at left). Only you get to actually keep this in your basement. That didn’t come out right but hopefully you get it. I wondered why they called it ‘Perricone’ until the penny dropped and I realized that the variety of grape is ‘Perricone”. This is full on. Loads of spunk from the alcohol (15% ABV) and dark, dark fruits. I loved this wine and felt at this price point – it’s great value. Super spicy and ready for some marinated grilled portobellos or red meat. Only available at event.
This table was a pleasant surprise! So, what does a white wine only drinker do at these events? Particularly when the bulk of the ‘cool’ wines are red? Well, they mill around at the tables that promote white wines – like Umani Ronchi. And, The Director did just that. This table was great in all areas. The rep was educational to a deep, deep (did I say it was deep?) level and the wines were just what the doctor or Director ordered.
2015 Casal di Serra Verdicchio Dei Castelli di Jesi Classico Superiore #268169 $18.00 This wine was the hit of the night. Given that we were tasting Pio Cesare Barolos, Gaja Barberescos, Sassicaia, Chiarlo Barolos, it’s a stretch to say that an $18 wine won the night. But, I am nothing if not attentive to the needs and wants of my wife. This particular wine was floral on the nose, round enough for a Chardonnay hound and ethereally light. I gave it three check marks on my scoring scheme of check marks and ‘blahs’. Pears and citrus are my main notes on this. Lovely sipping wine for white wine aficionados. Only available at the event.
So that’s it. What did I buy, you ask? Well, I had to have me (apologies to grammar teachers everywhere) the Umani Ronchi Verdicchio, the Mastroberardino Taurasi 2011, the Perricone, the Antinori La Braccesca, and the 2009 Lungarotti. I mean they took Visa and I have 21 days to clear the account, right?
In summary, if you get a chance to partake in this event in your hamlet, don’t hesitate. There are some wines that don’t show well in this type of event, as usual, and there will be human wine nuisances at many tables. But, plow through and enjoy the wines of the best wine country in the world, IMHO.