Notes from a tasting (Soave, cru Beaujolais, Douro, Port)
In the order tasted. All prices are in Canadian dollars (C$1.00 = US$0.88 these days) and include sales taxes.
FLIGHT 1: 2004 SOAVES
Based on this sampling, 2004 appears to be an excellent vintage in Soave – a welcome change after 2003. All the wines were winners, though the Anselmi’s relative lack of personality was surprising. That quality probably makes it the best candidate for sipping on its own; the other wines almost demand to be consumed with food.
>Calvarino 2004, Soave Classico Superiore, Pieropan ($25.55)
70% garganega, 30% trebbiano. Waxy pear with a hint of vinyl. Rich but a welterweight, packing fruit and minerals and a refreshing acid bite. Long, creamy finish. Delicious.
>La Rocca 2004, Soave Classico Superiore, Pieropan ($36.00)
100% garganega, late harvested, aged one year in oak barrels. Heavier, headier, perfumier than the others: spice, minerals, pear and even some peach. Palate follows suit, showing less bright and richer, with honey-roasted white fruit and a savoury finish. Impressive.
>Vigneti Foscarino 2004, Soave Classico Superiore, Inama ($25.00)
100% garganega. Initial volatility gives way to honey, pear and straw aromas. Rich, honeyed but not heavy. Bitterish finish. Cries out for a piece of fish.
>Capitel Croce 2004, Veneto IGT, Anselmi ($24.50)
100% garganega. Dusty straw segueing to roasted pear. Simpler and more anonymous than the others but refreshing, the fruit more citrusy. Barrique-aged though no one at the tasting picked up any wood.
FLIGHT 2: 2005 CRU BEAUJOLAIS
Some of the first 2005 cru Beaujolais to show up on the SAQ’s shelves indicate that the vintage may actually live up to the hype. The organically farmed Boccards was my favourite, a slurper if ever there were one. Oddly, the estate is virtually unknown, whereas the Lassagne and Viornery, both darlings of the French wine media, were less enjoyable, at least at this stage in their lives.
>Chénas 2005, Château des Boccards ($19.20)
Juicy, sappy, very berry nose. Soft and caressing, structured as much by acid as tannins though there’s a tannic edge to the long, black raspberry-scented finish. Textbook cru Beaujolais.
>Côte-de-Brouilly 2005 Georges Viornery ($19.95)
Closed, grapy nose. Lacy tannins, velvety texture, intensely pure fruit but very dry. Long, red-fruity finish.
>Brouilly 2005, Château des Tours ($20.00)
Odd-man-out nose: sweaty, smoky, cheesy. Sappy, coarser than the other wines, not much depth but pure and delicious.
>St-Amour 2005, Vieilles vignes, Domaine Lassagne ($20.30)
An introvert. Little besides smooth black raspberry on the nose. Shy on the palate, too, with fine tannins and acidity but not much else. Lacks depth. Passing through a phase?
FLIGHT 3: 2003 DOUROS
Everyone at the tasting liked all these wines, though the Vale da Raposa was a disappointment given its price and reputation. While the Infantado is a crowd-pleaser, the Côtto strikes me as more authentic -- or at least more along the lines of what I'm looking for in a Douro. The high acidity levels were as surprising as they were welcome; apparently Douro suffered less than many appellations in that infernal vintage (or maybe the winemakers know a thing or two about handling hot weather?).
>Douro 2003, Grande Escolha, Quinta do Vale da Raposa ($26.85)
A field blend that spends six months in French oak. Spice, plum, wood and dried herbs. Surprisingly high acid and shallow fruit. Pleasant but simple.
>Douro 2003, Quinta de la Rosa ($19.40)
40% touriga nacional, 10% tinta roriz and 10% tinta cão. Engaging nose of spice, iodine and roasted plum. Flavours echo the bouquet. Bright acidity and soft tannins provide welcome structure.
>Douro 2003, Quinta do Infantado ($18.80)
30% touriga nacional, 30% tinta franca, 30% tinta roriz and 10% other varieties. Shoebox (leather and polish) and dark plum on the nose. Smooth, rich and deep on the palate, with velvety tannins and a dollop of oak. Low acidity not a problem now but probably means this isn’t a keeper. Long finish gets drier as it goes along.
>Douro 2003, Quinta do Côtto ($18.05)
A blend including tinta roriz, touriga nacional and francesca. Dried herbs, plum skin, earth and vanilla. Smooth and winey, with good acid, structure and length.
FLIGHT 4: PORT FROM QUINTA DO INFANTADO
The Ruby is an amazing bargain (the wines were served blind and I pegged it as the LBV). The Vintage is also a good buy, if one can say that about a $75 wine. Am mystified by the LBV, which in other vintages has been excellent. It was interesting to compare the ports side by side with Infantado's 2003 Douro; the similarity of flavours was immediately apparent.
>Late-Bottled Vintage Port 2000, Quinta do Infantado ($29.65)
Prune, ash and alcohol on the nose, spice and sweet plum on the palate. Rather faceless.
>Ruby Port, Quinta do Infantado ($15.85)
Maple-roasted plums. Smooth and velvety, more off-dry than sweet, not particularly deep but tasty.
>Vintage Port 2000, Quinta do Infantado ($76.00)
Fresh and complex nose: blackberry, sweet spice, grass, alcohol and eventually perfumy rose. In the mouth, a rich tapestry of fruit stretched over a delicate but solid frame of tannins and acid. Sweet but not cloying. Enduring finish. Overall balance augurs a long life.
re: Sam B
>>The Anselmi is technically no longer a Soave<<
Which is why I didn't list it as such (Veneto IGT). Unless you're nitpicking about the heading, that is, in which case I confess to choosing brevity over "Three 2004 Soaves and one 2004 Veneto IGT that is a Soave in everything but name."
>>with Anselmi going the way of Gaja, Allegrini and other producers who have chosen to go with a lesser classification in exchange for greater flexibility in the cellar.<<
Not exactly. Anselmi voluntarily stopped labelling his Soaves as such because he felt most of the appellation's other producers lacked ambition and were making high-volume, low-quality wines. In other words, he wanted the appellation rules to be less flexible, not more. As far as I know, he does nothing in the cellar that would disqualify the Capitel Croce, Capitel Foscarino or San Vincenzo from Soave status.
re: Sam B
First time I've heard anyone claim that. All of my print documentation says otherwise (e.g. "Anselmi quit the DOC(G) in disgust at the new regulations, so his wines are no longer labelled 'Soave'." -Belfrage's *Barolo to Valpolicella: The Wines of Northern Italy*), a position supported by a quick survey of wine websites. For example:
"At a time when wineries the world over are moving toward premium wines and away from the lower-end priced wines, a proposal to allow an increase in the crop level has created a controversy in the Italian DOC of Soave. The dispute has already led to a decision by Roberto Anselmi, one of Soave's most respected producers, to abandon the Soave DOC and reclassify all of his wines as Veneto table wine. ... Anselmi describes the move as a personal response to the dilemma of the minority of quality-oriented grower-producers in a DOC overwhelmingly dominated by an 'industrial' scale. Anselmi has expressed strong criticism of the direction in which he sees proposals for the new DOCG for Soave going: 'The DOCG offers the chance to finally establish the conditions for quality viticulture in Soave, but the Gonsorzio is interested only in promoting the DOCG as a commercial brand,' he says."
"Many producers, including Roberto Anselmi, also feel that changes made to the regulations during the years of Soave’s popularity – greater flexibility regarding varietals, a larger geographical area - have weakened the appellation by lowering the bar so far that it no longer guarantees a sufficient level of quality. In 2000 Anselmi even gave up using the appellation on his wines in protest, choosing to call his wines by the broader, Veneto IGT category; his 'Dear Jane' letter to the appellation was a passionate and public rejection in the Italian manner."
"'I am tired of belonging to an appellation which, instead of boosting my image, pulls me down,' said Roberto Anselmi, whose 170-acre estate is known for its Soave Classico Superiore Capitel Croce, Soave Classico Superiore San Vincenzo and Soave Classico Capitel Foscarino. He added, 'The Soave DOC is mainly sustained by small producers, many of whom think as I do, but none of them have the courage to voice their opinions.' The reputation of Soave, a dry white wine, has been damaged by the often-bland bottlings released by many large producers in the region. 'Ninety-eight percent of Soave production is mediocre,' Anselmi said. 'My aim is to make a better-quality wine. When the DOC quality improves, I may reconsider the DOC appellation.'"
"Frustrated by the low quality and general lack of ambition in the Soave region, in 2000 he chose to leave the Soave DOC, and his wines are now labelled as IGT Veneto. He takes a quality minded approach, starting in the vineyard with densely planted Guyot-trained vines and corresponding low yields (the typical pergola-trained vines in Soave can produce absolutely heroic yields, and correspondingly dilute wines)."
I don’t disagree with anything you’ve said except that he wants less flexibility. The following quotes (sorry, don’t know how to link them) don’t support the idea of less flexibility, but rather less regulation – Riesling? Gewurz? Sauvignon Blanc?, barrel fermentation combined with barrel aging? This is hardly a recipe for what we know as Soave. I think what he argued for was lower yields and higher quality, and while he was at it, he’d rather not have the government or a lackadaisical bunch of growers telling him how to make wine.
Palm Bay Imports (his U.S. importer) on Roberto Anselmi
“Then in 2000, Anselmi made headlines with a personal declaration of independence, choosing to label his wines Veneto IGT rather than continuing to work within the confines of the Soave DOC. It was a bold maneuver, taken to protect his unmitigated authority over winemaking practices”
Winebow ( his previous U.S. importer)on Capitel Croce
“Made from 100% Garganega grown in the Capitel Croce vineyard and harvested at less than 2 tons per acre. The wine is barrel fermented and remains in Allier and Troncais barriques for 12 months prior to an additional 9 months in bottle. Malolactic fermentation is carried out. Capitel Croce is pale yellow in color with a fruit forward nose that exhibits subtle nuances of French oak followed by rich, persistent flavors on the palate. “
Michele Shaw (your link) on San Vincenzo
“His 1999 vintage will contain the typical DOC blend of grapes, minus Pinot Blanc. In the future, Anselmi intends to add Sauvignon Blanc and more Chardonnay to his wine, and he is also thinking of planting Gewürztraminer and Riesling.”
Anselmi is a visionary winemaker, a leader in the region, and due to his efforts as well as others, the overall quality of Soave has increased. I happily buy and drink his wine (I like Foscarino), but Soave it is not.
Where we part ways is on the inclusion of Anselmi’s wines in a Soave tasting. If he does not want the image of Soave to drag his wines down, then logically he neither wants them to provide a frame of reference. I understand that given their historical labeling, one would make what seems a natural comparison, but I don’t think that it is fair to do so any longer. You may see them as “Soave in everything but name”, but likewise, Tignanello is Chianti Classico Riserva in everything but name – does it belong in a tasting of CCR’s? I don’t believe so.
In the end, the DOC(G) system has to mean something. Anselmi has chosen to go with the IGT designation, and I think his wines deserve to be recognized for what they are, not what they used to be.