Tag Archives: Barolo

Italians Wines for Every Reason



1grandi marchiIt was a night to shine your bobbles, sharpen your pencils, and shake off your cares of the day. Some sexy Italians of all grapes and sizes came to town  leaving  tastebuds tantalized and palates pleasured.

 The event is called the Grandi Marchi and it brings together some of Italy’s greatest wine producers  representing some of the best known and lesser known regions in the country. 



2wine on iceThe evening, put together by the LCBO’s Vintages, is a chance to sample fantastic wines that might be out of your regular price range, and an opportunity to try different varieties that you can afford, but know nothing about.

I have been to a few of these events. They are not cheap. Typically tickets go for anywhere from $60-$125, but when you think of what you would spend on a great dinner, and the wines you get to taste, I have never left an evening disappointed.  There is no obligation or pressure to buy. Tina and I did buy once because they have some great finds that are not available at the LCBO, but be warned, don’t plan on serving your purchases at next month’s dinner party…our order came in 6 months later.

 You can tell the pros from the newbies, like me. The vets are systematic. They visit the tables in order, jot down their tasting notes and move to the next one.

Orneto pio cesare I make a beeline to the favourites that I do know, the Antinori wines, the Pio Cesares – the ones I  know, in advance,  that  they alone will make the evening worthwhile, and do they ever.

Pio Cesare’s Ornato Barolo 2008 DOCG, Piedmont shone like a diamond. Rich, elegant, powerful – I am talking Barolo royalty. The family has been producing top quality wines in the northern Piemonte region (home to Barolo and Barbaresco) for five generations. This is a single vineyard variety coming from grapes in the Serralunga d’Alba area, which is top tier terroir in the Barolo region. You will often recognize Pio Cesare as the label with all the gold award stamps on the front. I have tasted lower end and higher end wines from this producer and they have yet to disappoint. At $95 a bottle, a case is not in my future considering it is roughly the cost of airfare to Italy. 

 Affortable Finds:

While  Ornato was amazing, there were also some terrific wines that did not come anywhere near triple-digit price points.

 rovereto-gavi-di-gavi-docg-michele-chiarlo-6-bottle-caseMichele Chiarlo Rovereto Gavi Di Gavi 2011, DOCG, Piedmonte  Also from northwestern Italy, this white from the Cortese grape is fresh and  balanced with notes of grapefruit and At $17.95, This is an excellent choice if you are going to experiment with a GavI. The Rovereto is also available online at the SAQ for $20.40.




Lungarotti Rubesco Rosso Di Torgiano 2009 DOC,  Umbria   This is a wine that would cheerfully  make my Friday night take-home list. The blend is 70% Sangiovese and 30% Canaiolo, both grapes favoured by Umbria’s Tuscan neighbours. It is the most popular wine made by Lungarotti, a family business  run by Chiara  Lungarotti and her sister Teresa Severini.  Nicely priced at $20.00.

Masi Brolo Campofiorin Oro Appaxximento 2008 IGT, Veneto:

Heading north to the Veneto region, home to Amarone, this wine is a  Rosso del Veronese, made with  the same basic method used to create the gorgeous and most glorious Amarone. The technique is called appassimento and involves drying the grapes  on straw mats to concentrate the sugar and flavours. It  produced rich, full-bodied wines and often pricier wines. This is no exception but at a wallet-friendlier price. $24.95

nero di troiaRivera Violante Nero Di Troia 2009, DOC Puglia   Italy has thousands of grape varieties, and most of us recognize only the superstars like  Sangiovese, Nebbiolo, Pinot Grigio.  But  there are so many others that you could devote years to learning and tasting. The Nero di Troia is an ancient grape that legend has it was brought to the Puglia region by the Greek hero Diomedes – who fought in the Trojan War. Today it is used in single variety wines like this one, or blends. The result is a full bodied wine that is fruit forward with a heady aroma of violets. Available online at the SAQ for $17.95


 The Grandi Marchi, was a Grande Success for this visitor. I would definitely go again, maybe this time I won’t race to the favourite tables for a chance to taste the holy grail of wines, getting flushed as a teenager waiting for a Bieber sighting.  Then there will be no morning after regret when I review my notes and realized the gems I missed. Some of these wines are available at the LCBO, some by consignment, your local LCBO can help you.

If you are looking for  a list of upcoming events, you can check out Events at Vintages.com or sign up for their online catalogue


Discovering Gaja

Piedmonte’s Langhe Region

Discovering Gaja

Just when you thought all roads to Italy’s greatest wines end in Tuscany, welcome to Piedmonte’s  Langhe region.  This is home to two of the country’s greatest wines and some of its  greatest producers. Where the B’s that get  straight A’s are Barolo and Barbaresco.  My initiation to the Shangri-La of wine was no less breath-taking than the family vineyard responsible for putting two of Italy’s Super B’s on the map.

The history of Gaja is wrapped around the history of wine in this region.  Its ancestral tree belongs on a vine. Above all,  Gaja is about family.
Five generations of Gajas  have  produced wine here, each improving, innovating, and invigorating the vines, the grapes, the techniques.  They were equally committed to improving  the lives of families living in the region, giving them a trade, pride and most  important, a way to support their own families.
The valley, 40 minutes outside Torino,   looks like a postcard for  Lost Horizon, the novel by James Hilton published in 1933.  The lush green valley was once the pathway of pilgrims and warriors. Legendary military general Hannibal led his war elephants and  troops 40,000 strong from Barcelona down this valley to Rome in 218 B.C.
Today the only conquering that happens in this valley is in the field, nurturing  only the best quality grapes to create wines   celebrated around the world.
Gaja shares more than the Alps with  its French neighbors.   Patriarch Angelo Gaja’s grandmother Clotilde Rey brought style and a business acumen that helped secure the future of the winery.  Clotilde pushed her son  Giovanni to savour the tradition and focus on quality. She encouraged her son to  use the skills and techniques honed over generations to make only the best wines. Like a good Italian son, Giovanni listened to his mother and never looked back. But  it was really Giovanni’s son Angelo who took his grandmother’s principles and changed the industry.
Today the Nebbiolo grape (named from Nebbia or fog which descends on the valley) is one of a select few known for producing unforgettable wines.
My discovery of Gaja came accidentally. At a random wine-tasting, I sampled Ca’Marcanda – a wine produced in Tuscany’s Bolgheri region and sold at the LCBO. I felt like my taste buds had come home. I actually dreamed of this wine. It was when  I looked it up and learned about the legend that is Angelo Gaja and his influence on two of my favourite wines.  Since I would be in Northern Italy  visiting family in the next month, why not ?

Sonia Franco, personal assistant to Angelo Gaja

We could not have been made to feel more  welcome by our most gracious guide Sonia Franco, personal assistant to the man himself.  We  toured. We tasted. We bonded over the history of the region, the story of a family and wines that I will never forget.  Wines named after Angelo’s daughter Gaia and grandmother Clotilde Rey – the best of the past and the best of the future. A white wine so full-bodied it felt like a red. Or a Barolo  named Sperss, after the Piedmonte word for nostalgia, another coincidence since I had just left family members who I had not seen in a decade.

Angelo’s house overlooking the vineyard

Or my favourite “Darmagi” – the expression meaning “What a Pity” which apparently exactly is what Angelo’s father said when he found  out his son had replaced a field of beloved Nebbiolo grapes with, how dare you,  Cabernet Sauvignon vines.
I came away with one more thimble full of wine knowledge.  And I learned that wine will always be a  journey of discovery and if you are lucky enough to stumble upon a place like Gaja and a guide like Sonia you understand it is full of people only too willing to share.