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