Foro Top wines 2020

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I always enjoy the best-of lists that circulate every January, bearing in mind that most of them are based on the subjective tastes or pleasures of a single or small group of individuals. Wine is one of the most subjective pleasures of all, as no two palates are alike. A well-made wine is, in a word, balanced. In other words, all of the components are in sync; beyond that it’s a matter of personal taste. In the two-plus decades that I have been writing this column, I have always striven to write about wines that have a sense of place, and the people who have devoted their lives to pursuing the passion that is winemaking. As such, this list is simply a collection of 10 wines I have enjoyed immensely over the last year; they offer solid value and should still available by the time this column goes to print. I hope you enjoy them as much as I have.

Piaggia Pietranera 2017 — $36

Piaggia is a relatively new winery by Italian standards, producing their first vintage in 1991 in the Carrmignano region just west of Florence. There is a lovely Sangiovese purity to this wine; smoky cherry fruit is complimented by notes of sweet herbs and cocoa with bright acidity to tie it all together. It’s an elegant expression of Sangiovese that would complement roast pork, chicken or hard ripened cheese such as Parmesan.

Brewer Clifton Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir 2016 — $43

My taste in Pinot Noir typically resides in the old world Burgundy realm and, as such, I find many California examples a little overripe for my tastes but there are exceptions to almost every rule and this is one of them. Greg Brewer and Steve Clifton founded this winery in 2005 and sold controlling interests to Jackson Family Wines in 2017 but remain on as part owners and winemaking team. This is really impressive Pinot crafted in the Burgundian mould with notes of cassis, dried figs, spice and cranberry. Try it with duck confit, roast chicken and baked salmon.

Sperling Okanagan Valley Pinot Noir 2017 — $28

Ann Sperling has left an indelible mark on Canada’s wine scene; her handiwork can be found in Nova Scotia, Ontario and even Argentina, but her family farm in East Kelowna must surely be where her winemaking heart resides. Her vineyards are among the oldest in Canada, all farmed organically and/or biodynamically (from three Dijon clones for this particular wine). It’s a pretty wine with wild strawberry and spice notes, a great example of what can be achieved in the Okanagan these days and at a price point that is very fair. Try it with charcuterie or grilled chicken.

Foradori Teroldego 2016 -$36

Teroldego is an ancient red variety native to the alpine Trentino region and is thought to be related to Pinot Noir, Lagrein and Syrah, among others. Elisabetta Foradori was thrust into the winemaking scene at the tender age of 19 following the death of her father in 1985. In 2000, she converted the farm to biodynamic viticulture and now produces what most would consider to be the benchmark wines in Trentino. Plum and blackcurrant fruit dominate along with notes of spice, cola, leather and earth. Try it with roast pork or beef tenderloin.

Champalou Vouvray 2017 — $28

The Champalou family vineyards are situated in the Loire Valley in the Vouvray appellation, a region synonymous with the benchmark examples of the Chenin Blanc grape, a white varietal that deserves far more attention than it gets. They farm 21 hectares of vineyards on clay, limestone, and siliceous soils. They practice organic and biodynamic viticulture and are certified sustainable; the house style produces elegant wines that are highly aromatic and beautifully balanced. It offers notes of honey, pears and acacia blossom with some earthy nuances, ideal with roast chicken or baked salmon.

Chateau-Fuissé Pouilly-Fuissé Tête de Cuvée 2017 — $42

The Vincent family has been making wines in Burgundy (and Beaujolais) since 1862, before Pouilly-Fuissé was even a designated appellation. At $42, it gets into a premium price bracket, but even still it over-delivers, standing up to some much more expensive Burgundian whites. It offers a core of honeysuckle and apricot fruit with some citrus and a whiff of oak. The bright acidity pulls it all together, all in all a really impressive expression of Chardonnay. It would go well with most fish and poultry dishes.

Saumur Les Epinats 2017 — $21

Cave de Saumur is a large co-operative based in France’s Loire Valley. It should be said that not all co-ops are created equal; some produce mass amounts of dreck while others, like Cave de Saumur, produce a wide array of wines that offer seriously good value. It is produced entirely from Cabernet Franc, offering notes of plum, blueberries, cassis, pepper and a hint of rosemary, a good bet with things like charcuterie, hard ripened cheeses or a burger.

Clarendelle Bordeaux Rouge 2014 — $32

Clarendelle’s wines are “inspired by Chateau Haut-Brion”, the illustrious first growth Bordeaux chateau. There is a connection in that Clarendelle is owned by Domaine Clarence Dillon who also happens to own Haut-Brion. It’s a blend of 82 per cent Merlot, 16 per cent Cabernet Sauvignon and two per cent Cabernet Franc, a plush expression of Bordeaux focusing on plum/blueberry fruits with silky tannins. Try it with beef or lamb tenderloin.

Reversanti Barolo 2015 — $36

Barolo for $36? Almost unheard of, but here you go, and from a very good vintage at that. Reversanti is produced from some exceptional vineyard sites in and around the towns of Castiglione Falletto, Barolo and La Morra. The winemaking duties are overseen by the Marcarini winemaking team and it represents remarkable value, offering up notes of minerals, tar, roses, and licorice in a core of black fruits. Try it with lamb and roast game meats.

Ca dei Zago Prosecco 2018 — $27

This wine is a far cry from your run-of-the-mill Prosecco. For a start, it’s fully dry, whereas most Prosecco has a noticeable — albeit small — amount of sweetness. It’s fermented in the bottle, much like Champagne, whereas most Prosecco is fermented in a large pressurized tank, a more affordable way of producing sparkling wine. The grapes are from a single vineyard (from 80-year-old vines) in the stunning hills of Valdobbiadene and the wine has a core of peach/pear fruit, with subtle notes of jasmine, minerals and a touch of salinity. Production levels are tiny relative to the ocean of Prosecco produced in Italy; as such it is not widely distributed but well worth searching for. It makes a lovely aperitif but could also be paired with shellfish or delicate white fish, such as sole.


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