It was a recent rainy day when I found myself among many members of the local wine trade and media cloistered in one of the Fairmont Hotel Vancouver’s banquet rooms for a seminar produced by the Institute of Fine Italian Wines—Premium Brands. For the record, the moniker of this high-quality collective of producers from all over Italy sounds way more romantic in its native tongue: Istituto del Vino Italiano di Qualità Grandi Marchi.
Although this consortium of big names is known for producing excellent wine for generations, moderator (and European category manager for B.C. Liquor Stores) Barbara Philip brought up a very good point: the members of this group are important not only because of their wines but also for being great champions of their respective regions and being integral in putting them on the map. In many cases, their wines are the epitome of the classic styles of where they are grown.
This week, a half-dozen of my favourite wines are presented. If you are having trouble tracking some of them down or are looking to save yourself a few bucks (in many cases, what follows is each winery’s top-tier bottling), you can have faith that each producer is a solid steward of the land and faithful interpreter of its terroir. You can confidently purchase any available wine from each producer’s lineup knowing it will be an authentic representation of its place.
Argiolas Costamolino Vermentino di Sardegna DOC 2016
(Sardinia; $18.49, B.C. Liquor Stores)
Fermented in stainless steel with a little bit of time spent on the lees postfermentation, this vibrant white blooms with orange blossom and jasmine, leading to juicy mandarin orange, fresh lemonade, and hints of nougat on the palate. A light salinity is carried by fresh acidity; going seafood for food-pairing is automatic. From takeout sushi to homemade linguini and clams, this wine will come up a treat!
Marchesi Antinori Tignanello Toscana IGT 2014
(Tuscany; $92.99, B.C. Liquor Stores)
The Antinori family is synonymous with Italian wine, and no wonder: they’ve been at it for 26 generations. Honestly, that’s not a typo. Tignanello is a global success story, a style often referred to as a Super Tuscan. Sangiovese, Cabernet Franc, and Cabernet Sauvignon grown in calcareous soil are aged for 12 months in barrel, then another year in bottle before release. Pulling the cork and giving it a solid decanting unfurls plenty of dusty cocoa, violets, black berry fruit, roasted Italian plums, a gentle earthy character, and a fresh levity throughout.
Mastroberardino Radici Taurasi DOCG 2013
(Campania; $75.99, Liberty Wine Merchants, Commercial Drive)
There’s a decent diurnal temperature swing from day to evening in these vineyards, allowing this 100-percent Aglianico to maintain bright, juicy acidity from your first to last sip. On the nose, there are forest-floor notes of dried berries, herbs, and spices, but then waves of crunchy red berry fruit, like cranberries and raspberries, wash upon the palate, with some lightly grippy tannins holding everything together. Further sips bring a mix of ripe heirloom tomatoes, a hint of cedar, and a crack of peppermint on the finish. Hot tip: the 2008 vintage is currently on Liberty Wine Merchant’s shelves, and it’s totally hitting its stride.
Rivera Il Falcone Castel Del Monte Rosso Riserva DOCG 2011
(Puglia; availability TBD)
We’re a few weeks away from this wine arriving in stores like Firefly Fine Wines and Ales on Cambie Street, so consider this advance notice. (It’s gonna go quick; you’ve been warned.) Made from two indigenous grape varieties, Nero di Troia and Montepulciano, there are waves of minty black fruit up front, then umami notes of fresh-carved roast beef and sun-dried tomatoes toward the very long finish. It’s juicy and opulent, with just enough toasty French oak to provide that fruit a sturdy pedestal. Before opening the bottle, I’d ensure your lamb chops are already on the grill.
Michele Chiarlo Cerequio Barolo DOCG 2013
(Piedmont; $117.99, B.C. Liquor Stores)
A true family effort begun in 1956. Michele Chiarlo is the patriarch, with his sons Stefano and Alberto now at the helm and specializing in the big-four indigenous varieties of the region: Nebbiolo, Barbera, Cortese, and Moscato. This Nebbiolo is all plums, leather, cherries, and anise, swirled together and wonderfully perfumed. Elegant and ready to drink, though giving it a few years of age will come back to you in spades.
Pio Cesare Barolo DOCG 2013
(Piedmont; $121.65, Marquis Wine Cellars)
Five generations in, this producer offers a Barolo with textbook tar and roses in its aromatics, then peppery plums, black currants, and a splash of balsamic reduction. Limestone and clay soils bring crisp minerality, but 30 months in oak also bring a good dose of tannin. Lay this one down a few years.
To learn more about the institute and its producers, visit www.istitutograndimarchi.it/.