I’m not going to say these three are necessarily special-occasion wines, though their prices will likely slide them into that category. You can certainly enjoy them any day of the week with whatever company you’re keeping, but I do want to be clear that, to me, these wines are worth extra consideration and care. They’re three of my absolute favourite recently tasted gems, tremendously fascinating, and not the kinds of bottles you should be pulling corks from near the end of boozy dinner parties, when you might not recall ’em the next day. Simply put, these are three incredibly charming bottles, and I hope you’ll enjoy them as much as I did.
Foradori 2011 Sgarzon Teroldego
(Trentino–Alto Adige, Italy; $55 and up, private liquor stores)
You’re 11 years old and growing up at your parents’ northern Italian estate winery when your father tragically succumbs to cancer. Even though you’re so young, you decide to carry on his legacy by devoting your life to wine. In the coming years you assist your mother, who’s now managing the winery, by helping out wherever you can in the vineyards and the cellar, eventually going to school to study the trade. At a mere 19 years old, you officially grab the reins as winemaker and continue on that path for the next decade and a half, until the cyclical nature of making wine, basically following the same “recipe” year in and year out, begins to wear on you and your passion starts to wane.
This is where Elisabetta Foradori found herself at the turn of this century, when she made the decision to reignite her enthusiasm by making wine in a more natural way, turning away from modern, conventional methods to biodynamic farming and incorporating ancient techniques such as clay-amphora aging. Wine lovers are all the better for it: Foradori’s wines are extremely charismatic and honest, as authentic as they come. She’s one of the only producers on the planet with a strong focus on Teroldego, an indigenous grape variety sometimes referred to as “the Syrah of the Dolomites” and one I’m increasingly becoming fascinated with. Indeed, you can think Syrah, but definitely more of a cooler-climate take and a little on the lighter side. This single-vineyard bottling offers fresh lilacs and black-tea aromatics, with Coronation grape, black plum, wild strawberry, and a smidge of white pepper on the palate, everything held in place by well-polished tannins.
If you want to experience Foradori’s wines and this unique grape variety, there’s a multivineyard version on B.C. Liquor Store shelves for $36.99 that’s aged in both stainless steel and oak rather than the amphora. It’s not quite as layered or nuanced as the Sgarzon label, but it’s still mighty delicious and could easily become a new favourite. As a side note, Stag’s Hollow Winery has planted a few Teroldego vines right here in B.C.’s Okanagan Valley; stay tuned for details as they come.
Roagna 2008 Pajè Barbaresco
(Piedmont, Italy; $98 and up, private liquor stores)
A similar honest approach to wine is maintained by the Roagna family, which has been making organically farmed wines in Barbaresco for five generations. The Nebbiolo grape is well taken care of by them, with extended maceration on skins for 60 to 90 days, natural fermentations, no fining, and no filtering. Some say Barolo’s for aging and Barbaresco’s for drinking; you can easily do either with this bottle. White truffle and dark chocolate mingle with fresh anise aromatics, while the velvety palate carries allspice, blackberry jam, trumpet mushrooms, and a slight balsamic note. Soft-to-medium tannins permeate the wine, nothing a wild-mushroom risotto or braised short ribs couldn’t easily handle.
Philippe Pacalet 2011 Pernand-Vergelesses Les Belles Filles
(Burgundy, France; $75 and up, private liquor stores)
Damn. Fine. Burgundy. The nephew of legendary Beaujolais producer Marcel Lapierre, Philippe Pacalet carries on the family tradition of natural, high-quality winemaking, resulting in vivid terroir expression. The Pernand-Vergelesses appellation has clay and limestone soils, both evident in this light and lively red, obviously made with a very gentle hand. I get distinct peppercress and horseradish notes on the nose, which elevate the mineral alpine strawberry, rhubarb, and huckleberry notes with such freshness, I found myself grinning at its breath-of-fresh-air life and loftiness. A very clean, unique, and authentic wine, perfect with simply grilled fish, vegetable-driven dishes, and soft cheeses. Do serve with a light chill.
Imported by Sedimentary Wines, these have been seen at Kitsilano Wine Cellar (2239 West 4th Avenue).