Big Daddy loves Chinon

For those of you who regularly check this blog and read posts, you know my affinity for Cabernet Franc. So much so, that I call it by its moniker: Big Daddy.

It’s amazing how many people don’t know that Cabernet Franc (along with Sauvignon Blanc) is the parent to Cabernet Sauvignon. All these years, Franc has taken a backseat to his more famous son, watching in the wings while the famous offspring has been planted all over the world, in regions well-known, and made into world class wine by iconic producers. Today however, this humble daddy has been slowly rising in importance, making waves in parts of the world where it’s always been famous, and other places where it is moving from a blending grape to the undisputed star of the show.

A traditional grape is defined as being somewhere for 500+ years, as opposed to an international grape – one that is grown all over the world in every region that grows grapes. Cabernet Franc can absolutely take its place as a traditional grape; making its home in Italy, (mostly) in the northern regions of Friuli Venezia-Giulia and Trentino-Alto Adige, adapting to the terroir of the cooler northern regions; but also moving towards prominence and tradition in the Bolgheri region of Tuscany not only in the blends of some famous Super Tuscans, but also as a single varietal wine being made by such iconic producers as the Antinori family and Le Macchiole.

It is in France though, in the regions of Chinon and Bourgueil of the Loire Valley, where Cabernet Franc has been grown and made into wine for years, the true home of Big Daddy, and where some truly amazing examples have been made.

Domaine Olga Raffault, in the landscape of Chinon, is a producer spanning four generations of Cabernet Franc excellence. Like other lady proprietors before her, her husband was taken much too early, making her solely responsible for the estate, along with being a mother to two small children. Hard work, dedication, determination, and help from a German friend, kept this estate running and continuing to grow grapes, harvest them, and make wine. Today, the estate is managed by Olga’s granddaughter Sylvie, along with her husband Eric. They are combining the perfect blend of tradition and modernity to create wines of epic proportion.

From the Les Picasses vineyards, located in the Savigny-en-Véron village, the 60-year old vines are very much at home on the limestone rich soils. It is these soils that help to create an age-worthy wine rich in minerality and soft tannins. The grapes are harvested by hand, then fermented with only indigenous yeasts. Very much a “hands-off” approach, the wine is left in large barrels for up to 14 months and bottled unfiltered, then left in the bottle for additional ageing.

This wine was tasted upon opening, giving aromas and flavours of ripe green pepper, pencil shavings, mulberry and hints of licorice and pepper. I was told that more fruit would emerge with ageing, which seems backwards, but in tasting this wine, I would agree. The limestone soils is immediately evident with huge minerality notes like wet rock or metal shavings, but I would be confident in saying that not only would this wine morph in the glass while drinking it, but with a decant, trying it again the next day, or two or three; and yes, with even more age like 20-30 years, the true personality of this wine would most assuredly come shining through!

Big Daddy does it again…we shouldn’t be surprised.


Posted in Varietals, wine | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

September Newsletter

Look! I’ve started writing a newsletter!

I figured that since I did it for work, why can’t I do it for my own business? So, check it out, and then subscribe if it’s something you want to see every month! News, notes, and of course wine info will all be there for you! I might even add a food or cocktail recipe! Cheers everybody!

Posted in wine | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

VIA Italian Wine Maestro (IWM) Program

  Introducing the VIA Italian Wine Maestro Program!

Want to know more about indegenous Italian grape varieties? Are you a sommelier or server in an Italian restaurant? Do you sell a lot of Italian wines? If you have answered “yes” to any of these questions then this class is for YOU!

The Vinitaly International Academy Certification program was started in 2015 during Vinitaly in Verona, Italy. Courses were offered not only in Italy, but in the USA, Hong Kong, Russia and China. To date there are 202 VIA Italian Ambassadors and 14 VIA Italian Experts all over the world! It was always the goal to offer an “introductory” course in Italian Wine to prepare the student for the rigourous Ambassador program offered every year in April before Vinitaly. Rather than certify an institution, VIA has decided to certify the Educator which makes it possible to travel with this program where no certified educator may be.

Marcia J. Hamm, one of the 14 Italian Wine Experts (IWE) is now a Certified Educator, and ready to launch the Certified Italian Wine Maestro program starting in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada!

This is an eight session program giving the student a solid overview of Italian wine along with using a comprehensive tasting grid, specifically designed, to help taste and identify Italian native grape varietals. Here is a summary of what will be covered in the course:

  • Introduction, Families and Groups & Focus on Italian Sparkling Wine

  • Piedmont’s Native Grapes

  • Native Grapes of Veneto & Valle d’Aosta

  • Native grapes of Friuli-Venezia Giulia & Trentino-Alto Adige

  • Native Grapes of Liguria, Emilia-Romagna, Tuscany & Umbria

  • Native grapes of Le Marche, Molise, Abruzzo & Puglia

  • Native grapes of Lazio, Campania, Basilicata & Calabria

  • Native grapes of Sicily & Sardegna

The course will run over a four week period covering two sessions per week then giving you two weeks to study for the final exam.

Note that this course is designed for those with previous wine knowledge and WSET 2 or equivalent is recommended (but not required) as a prerequisite!Interested? For more details and to register for the course, head to the Education page on this website.

Posted in Education, wine | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Prosecco – What’s Really in the Glass – #ItalianFWT

I wrote an article about a year ago for our local provincial magazine called Culinaire – a magazine that focuses on both food and drink from local restaurants, cafes, pubs and wines from around the world. Since my specialty is Italian wines, I’m often pitching different grapes, wine, DOC, etc that I can write about. I’m attaching the article as part of this month’s #ItalianFWT, because I think it’s important for people to understand prosecco and all the good that comes with it!

Everyone loves bubbles right? From champagne all the way down to a simple, fruity sparkler, bubbles just make us happy!

Prosecco is often chosen above a champagne or cava, not only because of its price, but also because it has bigger, sharper bubbles than that of its sparkling counterparts. Champagne’s sparkling wine is made via the traditional method – a second fermentation in the bottle giving it a creamy mousse with fine bubbles – while prosecco is made via the tank, or Martinotti-Charmat method. The bubbles are created during the second fermentation in large stainless steel tanks or autoclaves, and bottled under pressure. That being said, there are many producers embracing the traditional method, and will have offerings in that style.

Before 2009, the grape used in making prosecco was actually called prosecco. With the complications of the area(s) the grape was grown in (which also bore the name prosecco), the name change also became necessary to reduce any possibility of sparkling wine outside of Italy to bear the name prosecco on the label.

Prosecco must be made with at least 85% glera (The prosecco grape’s new name),with additions of chardonnay and pinot bianco, along with lesser known Italian native grapes verdiso and bianchetta trevigiana; the former supplying extra acidity and the latter adding structure. Most producers, however will use 100% glera. You’ll also see varying degrees of sweetness too, with labels on the bottle stating: brut, extra brut, extra dry and dry, with the latter dry, ironically being the sweetest (i.e., higher levels of residual sugar). Having higher levels of residual sugar does not mean it will taste sweet, rather it gives a level of creaminess in the mouth with softer bubbles/mousse that you would not get with an extra brut!

Usually having strong aromas of white peach, apricot, and varying floral notes, one glass will rarely suffice. In terms of quality, one might think prosecco is prosecco and what might be the difference from one bottle to another? That’s where you couldn’t be more wrong!

The prosecco pyramid is made up of four (main) zones, representing various levels of quality. The bottom level is represented by Prosecco DOC (Denominazione di Origine Controllata), comprising 556 communes (villages). An area this large in size would most assuredly have varying levels of soil types, microclimates and exposures. There are many Prosecco DOC to be had and some can be lovely, however, there are also many that might be a cheap, industrial style available everywhere with nothing to set them apart. Next up on the pyramid is the Treviso Prosecco DOC that can be made in 95 townships. Like the basic Prosecco DOC, these wines can range from insipid to solid, and even outstanding. They will almost always have more texture and complexity of flavours than entry level Prosecco DOC, but the price point doesn’t always show that. Bellenda Prosecco in the Treviso DOC level is simply lovely with it being extra dry, it would sit around 12-21 g/L RS, which makes it perfect for your Bellini or Aperol Spritz! On it’s own, it showcases the typical white peach aromas and flavours that glera is responsible for.

Valdobbiadene-Conegliano Superiore is the DOCG (Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita) for a reason: in a band of both flatland and hillside vineyards that extend from the towns of Conegliano to Valdobbiadene, it’s here that some of the best prosecco is made. Located approximately 50 km north of Venice, the region boasts a unique microclimate with the Dolomites to the north keeping the cold breezes at bay, yet bringing in the warm winds from the southern Venice lagoon. The soils of Conegliano are rich in clay, providing firm, structured wines, whilst the higher hillsides of Valdobbiadene translate to highly aromatic and fresh wine because of sandier soils.

Producers will often blend grapes from these two areas to create the perfect wine.

In the Valdobbiadene zone, 43 single vineyard sites have been identified, being noted with the word rive on the label of the DOCG wine (part of the Cru level of prosecco). In other words, grapes from the steep hillsides – like Mosel in Germany – must be harvested by hand. There are lot of hours involved to make not just Valdobbiadene wines, but Valdobbiadene rive wines also. Ruggeri is a premier producer in the region and their Giall’Oro Extra Dry is a classic, award winning example of DOCG Valdobbiadene.

Adami Vigneto Giardino Rive Colbertado became one of my favourite prosecco during a tasting I delivered that showcased quality and sweetness levels in prosecco. Sitting around $41 CAD on the shelf, it’s prosecco at its finest with a label stating extra dry with a sweetness level around 21 g/l RS. Delivering acacia flowers, wisteria and white peach aromas and flavours along with some great minerality, it is solid with a full mouth filling creaminess, this prosecco is glera at its finest and purest and called Superiore for a reason.  Pair it with creamy risotto, melons, fruit tarts and foccacia! A simply stunning prosecco!

While rive prosecco certainly have a caché of their own, the top of the prosecco food chain undoubtedly belongs to Cartizze. With only 106 ha of land making up this Grand Cru, it’s here that you will find some of the most varietally correct, intensely perfumed, elegant (and expensive) prosecco. If you happen to have a spare $1.2 million lying around, you too can have a piece of Cartizze! Due to its great reputation, Cartizze is currently the most expensive vineyard land in all of Italy (in some cases even more than Barolo in Piemonte!) Keep your money though – there’s no land for sale anyway!

It just might be a life-changing moment when you taste Cartizze so ensure you’re in good company when you do! The iconic family producer Bisol is one of the originals and certainly know what they are doing when it comes to prosecco. They have been around since 1542 and with their rich history their Cartizze can be expressed with only one word: Elegance. This Cartizze Superiore has 25 g/l RS (so fully in the dry scale of sweetness) and is rich and creamy in the mouth with quintessential white flowers, white peach, pear, acacia blossom and hints of yellow apple. What can I say? Prosecco at its finest – share only with those who would appreciate its quality! Salute!


To learn more specifically about Prosecco Superiore and Prosecco DOCG, my colleagues at #ItalianFWT have been sponsored by the Prosecco Consorzio and have written on their findings. Have a read!

Posted in Education, Joy of Wine, Tasting, wine | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Lambrusco(s)- The Star(s) of Emilia-Romagna (#ItalianFWT)

Lambrusco, the main family of red grapes from the Emilia side of Emilia-Romagna, is gaining in trend and popularity. Even five years ago, no one had even heard of Lambrusco, let alone be drinking it!

Now, the family is gaining a lot of noteriety, and more people are asking for lambrusco wine when they shop! The question is: what lambrusco are you looking for? To say just lambrusco, is technically wrong. There are 17 different grapes with the name lambrusco, and when we talk about the lambrusco family, there are five main ones we talk about, and/or are available in many markets. From lightest to darkest:

Lambruso di Sorbara⇒Lambrusco Marani⇒Lambrusco Salomino⇒Lambrusco Grasparossa⇒Lambrusco Maestri

Being a family of grapes means they are all related. There is nowhere else in Italy where these grapes are grown other than in Emilia, so these grapes are truly autochothonous! They are traditionally made with the Martinotti method (tank) to obtain the bubbles, but more and more producers are making traditional method and even Metodo Ancestrale to make lambrusco.

Perhaps the most famous lambrusco to be seen in market is the Lambruso di Sorbara – the lightest of all the lambrusco, it delivers a pink, sometimes pale pink wine that has mouth scrubbing acidity and crunchy red fruit flavours like cranberry and red currant. This particular di Sorbara from Medici Ermete

was made in the Metodo Ancestrale Style – dry and full spumante, there’s also hints of vanilla and brioche to make this a full flavoured wine! Pair this with Gnocco Fritto – not gnocchi, the potato pasta, but rather “pillows of goodness” in the form of fried bread that is served warm, and then topped with prosciutto. The fat on the prosciutto melts, fold it in half then pop it in your mouth! You will NOT regret having Gnocco Fritto! Yum!

Lambrusco Salamino is named such because the bunches are shaped like salumi, a favourite meat of Italy. It is always planted in the same vineyards as di Sorbara because the di Sorbara vines are hermaphroditic; meaning they have both male and female flowers (but functions as a female) so they need another pollinating source in order to ripen. That’s Salamino’s job, so it’s quite a great match! Salamino strikes the balance between the elegance of di Sorbara and the power and tannic nature of the Grasparossa.

Lambrusco Marani is very rare and not seen in many markets. In fact, plantings are decreasing in favour of Lambrusco Maestri. The wines are very floral in nature, also with extremely high acidity. The colour is darker than di Sorbara, but lighter than Salamino.

Lambrusco Maestri is deep purple, frothy and tannic and gives the fruitiest, creamiest, and most complex wines with unique aromas and flavours of milk chocolate and bubblegum! I’ve tasted only a couple of these and it’s indeed the profile! I’m working hard on getting some importers to bring some Maestri into the Western Canadian market because I think they would be really popular! They are extremely quaffable, and I am 100% convinced the public would love this particular lambrusco!

Last, but certainly not least, is Lambrusco Grasparossa – considered to be the highest quality by many in Italy, the inky purple, frothy, tannic, creamy dry lambrusco has tons of black cherry, blackberry and lots of violet aromas and flavours.  The great match here? Tagliatelle of course! The long pasta with a bolognese sauce full of pork meat is perfect  for this dry tannic wine!

A serving of tagliatelle with freshly grated parmagiano reggiano cheese. Divine!

The Tenuta Pederzana Grasparossa organic lambrusco called Cantolibero is from the Castelvetro DOC and is made without the use of any sulphites making it a wine that many would approve of. Dark fruits, aromatic herbs and fleshy tannins make this a perfect match for that rich tomato and meat sauce of a tagliatelle and bolognese!

Interested in knowing more about the Lambrusco family? Check out my collegues of #ItalianFWT and learn more!

**(Please note: All photos of food and wine was from my trip to Emilia-Romagna – aka “Lambrusco Land” 🙂 in April, 2018)

  • Camilla from the Culinary Adventures with Camilla will be featuring “Every Wine Deserves a Second Look: Warmed Brie with Mulberry Chutney + Cleto Chiarli Lambrusco di Sorbara Vecchia Modena 2018”
  • Jill at L’Occasion shares “La Collina Biodynamic Bubbles — Lambrusco!
  • Wendy of A Day in the Life on the Farm highlights “Lambrusco? Really??”
  • Deanna from Asian Test Kitchen will showcase “Top 5 Fast Food Pairings with Lambrusco”
  • Jeff at Food Wine Click will share “Lambrusco Shines with Red Fizz and Fun”
  • Cindy of Grape Experiences will feature “Italian Old-School Classics: Easy Drinking Lambrusco with Spicy Vegetarian Pensa Romana”
  • Linda from My Full Wine Glass will be sharing “Drinking Lambrusco in Strawberry Season”
  • Pinny of Chinese Food and Wine Pairings  is focused on “Picnicking with Scarpetta Frico Lambrusco”
  • Lauren at The Swirling Dervish will be sharing “Revisiting Lambrusco with Francesco Vezzelli Rive dei Ciliegi”
  • Nicole with Somm’s Table shares “Cooking to the Wine: Pezzuoli Lambrusco Grasparossa di Castelvetro with Antipasto Pizza”
  • Gwendolyn of Wine Predator will be showcasing “Bugno Martino’s Organic Lambrusco Defy Expectations”
  • Susannah of Avvinare will be featuring “Sparkling Lambrusco from Vitivinicola Rota”
  • Host Jennifer of Vino Travels shares “Over 150 years of Dedication to Lambrusco with Cleto Chiarli”

Salute! And may all your lambrusco(s) be enjoyable!

Posted in Joy of Wine, Varietals, wine | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 12 Comments