Wine as an Art narrative

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My formal debut in the study of Art History has led to think about my current practice: the business of wine writing and how is related to art

What is art?. This is the question that I will ponder in the next three years.  For now, let’s say that Art is the production of a form or object that conveys a state of emotion, sensation or provokes insight of your human condition.

When we talk about an art object, we are assigning a specific aesthetic judgment and by doing so, a unique narrative is tagged  to it.  Basically, what recognition, appreciation or criticism you give to this object. This personal rendition is the magic that turns an object into a work of art. A painting by itself is  just a combination of paints layed out on a canvas. An sculpture is just a block of chiseled rock and so on. This is the separation of beauty and function from an object

It is the same principle with wine. By itself, wine  is the by product of fermented grape juice that results in the production of alcohol and a certain pigmentation of the liquid.

You give aesthetic worth to wine when you confer specific organoleptic qualities to it and as a result this makes it  an object of art. This is the judgment of the wine writer or the wine critic. By the way, a wine drinker becomes a de facto critic when he/she produces a judgement on wine.

Beyond the organoleptic, wine as an art object serves  the mean of catharsis about a certain human condition as well Let me ilustrate my point with a clip of one of the greatest wine movies Sideways:

Maya’s dialogue brings out to light the collective memory of a vintage and the cycle of life and death. The human feeling of empathy is also applied to wine. It is a beautiful personal fictional narrative.

There are no good or bad wines just our own narratives to specific bottles. How we form these narratives depends on our past relationship with wine but that’s another history.

Wine Review: Cascina Tavijn Ottavio 2018

As I get older and continue my exploration of Italian wines, purity and originality are two key qualities that set the standard for me in the wines of the Italian peninsula. Beyond aesthetics, I am searching for wines that speaks of the territory and tell the story of the people that make them.

After all wine is an object of art because it elicit powerful emotions. Piedmont in Italy is full of artisanal winemakers with a beautiful story to tell. These are the inspirings artists that brings us the great liquid canons that we enoy every night.

One of these protagonists is Cascina Tavijin. Nadia Verrua reminds me for a strange reason of the Countess of Castiglione. Maybe because she was flamboyant or plain original?. Cant pinpoint why, but her wines are truly beautiful and original.

It took me a while to get the Ottavio bottling ( which Nadia named after his father). It is a 100% Grignolino with great rustic Piedmont rustic roots. It is available by strict allocations only and it might be sold out by the time I am writing these lines. Represented by Oenopole, it has a great price tag ( $27.55. Case of 12)

Cascina Tavjin Vino Rosso Ottavio 2018 ( $27.55-Case of 12, private import-oenopole.ca)

100 % Grignolino. Aromas of dry redcurrants, roasted herbs complemented by delicate nuances of cacao buds and tobacco leaf. Medium to full body and quite earthy. Savoury animal notes with a killer finale that reminds me of labrador tea leaves. Quite harmonious wine. Well paired with a simple pasta consisting of spinach, mushrooms and pepperoncino with lots of Reggiano.

Natural wine at the SAQ

This is a piece of good news that I have been waiting for a while. Finally, the SAQ formally adds up the category of natural wine to it’s portfolio

An ambitious sale of 50 references online ( saq.com) today and in a SAQ branches as of next week.

The truth is that some natural wine references has been present at the SAQ for a number of years. This latest addition to the wine category is a step forward to recognize the existence of a niche market

Much of the natural wine trading happens in the private import market. Hopefully with this move the SAQ will attempt to democratize more the availability of natural wines to the general wine consumer

Traditionally, natural wines have been reserved for the flourishing Quebec artsy-hipster restaurant trade. This have created a polarization effect between wine consumers. Despite the rising private trading, there is a gap between the elite and general wine consumer

In a post COVID reality, much of the challenge of selling natural wines will rely on the marketing efforts of the importers, SAQ and the media journalists. A part of the challenge is demistifying natural wine and making it more simple for the general wine public.

Make natural wine more welcoming into Quebec homes. Sadly, the hipsters and the new moneyed young class have appropriated themselves of the category. The enjoyment of natural wine should not be limited to a fancy or pretentious setting. It could be as simple with your roasted chicken weekday meal or in a good conversation with a friend.

It is my general feeling that the Quebec natural wine trade is very arrogant. Of course, with a few exceptions. Importers need to get off from their high chair and stop with the attitude ” I am doing you a favor by selling you these wines”. A humble attitude will serve the natural producers best.

For the list of products please consult the following link below:

https://www.saq.com/fr/produits/vin-nature?p=1

For reccomendations, please write at productionslevin@gmail.com

Cheers and happy shopping

Full enjoyment of a bottle of wine

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At this point, it is not a mystery for you. I do love wine. As much as I love to taste it, there is no denying, that drinking it gives me the best satisfaction.

Wine is very special for me. It is my daily companion and the soother of my soul. A great bottle has the capacity to lift my spirits or give me a more positive outlook of life when it is needed it.

Every bottle has its own history to tell and each one foster a particular mood. There are wines that encourage happiness, others creativity and even sadness. So, it’s important to be ready to receive the proper attention that your glass gives you

The extension of pleasure of a bottle wine goes beyond a meal. A bottle of wine shines with food but it doesn’t have to end there. Most drinkers do not realize it and sometimes take for granted the precious liquid that we have in front us. Have you though about, how you treat your leftover wine after you finish a meal?. For instance, I used to do something very mundane after having some great wine with food such as watching a movie

What I am trying to say here is do an activity that is worthy of the wine you are having?. Lets say that you are an having a great aged Brunello. Wouldnt be awesome to enjoy the leftover wine contemplating some great works of the Uffizi gallery. Or if art is not your thing, how about reading some poetry of Cesare Pavese. Look for something that would create a rich symbiosys with the wine you are having.

For me wine drinking is very cerebral and at the same times, it gives me a lot of pleasure. I appreciate wine more these days since I am alone and it has become an infatuation along with art and poetry as well.

I will leave you tonight with a great wine from my cellar.

Les Eminades Sortilege Saint-Chinian 2009. The latest vintage 2017 can be bought private imported in Quebec via Agence Boires. ( $38.50+taxes, Six pack case)

Aromas of roasted herbs, olive tapenade with lots of blue fruit and evolved animal nuances. The bouquet is complemented as well by notes of flint and petrol ( asphalt comes to mind). Full body and quite structured. Retronasal flavours bring to mind spicy and umami flavours. Very tight finale. Another 5 years maybe more in the cellar.

The importance of mentorship in wine appreciation

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At one point or another in our existence, we had mentors that had a significant impact in our lives. It could have been the person that “taught you the ropes” of your first job or that academic advisor that guided you for that undergraduate program of studies.

We all need to relay on someone to show us the way or a glimpse of the light. After all, we are humans and need to reach out for nurturing and guidance

I didnt have any significant work or study mentors but I did have one that defined my early adulthood years. Her name was Christine and she ignited in me my wine and food passion.

I came to know Christine in my early twenties when I was an undergraduate student at Concordia University. She used to rent me a room in her apartment on Cote de Neiges in from of the Cemetery.

Christine embodied all the elements of the classic Parisian woman. From her approach to life to the way she dressed, ate, smoke and drank wine. I used to tell her that she had a flair of Francoise Dorleac and everytime she would crack up.

Her taste for food was undeniable French classical cooking. In the room, where I used to sleep, there were stacks of books from the greatest French chefs such as Bocuse, Escoffier and Robuchon. She had a great taste for wine and lay out the foundations of my classical wine education.

Sauvignon Blanc with goat cheese, Meursault with Lobster Thermidor, Pauillac with slow roasted leg of lamb. All this, I learnt from her. My eternal gratitude to this woman that made me the man of taste I am today.

However, the most important lesson learnt from her was the importance of wine in the table. A meal is icomplete in the absence of good wine. Good wine and food also mean nothing with no friends to celebrate.

There were other important mentors in my wine life that defined my wine personality. Moreno de Marchi ( The greatest Italian wine ambassador in Canada ever), Allan Laforest( a great wine taster that helped put words in wine pleasure),Jack Jacob from Glou ( the father of my natural wine passion) and Theo Diamantis from Oenopole ( learnt and keep on learning on Italian, French and Greek natural wines)

Overall, I was quite lucky to have such a special guidance. Today, it is a whole different ballgame. With the advent of technology and social media, there are so many false wine prophets. At times, it could be alienating and annoying. It is a paradox, because everyone claims to know everything but at the same know nothing.

Today, I try to give back by transmitting my wine passion to two very special people: my sister paola and her boyfriend Karim. They are my wine students. Basically, I am doing the same thing that Christine did for me. This is my way of giving back the vision that was transmitted for me. My only expectation is that with time they give back their own wine vision to somebody else

Until next time, I will leave you with that to think about. Do you have any wine mentors?

A special wine from my cellar..

Alain Graillot Saint Joseph 2010

A beautiful evolved Syrah that reminds me of black pepper, licorice with complex vegetable nuances that brings to mind dark green leafy vegetables and a combination of dry black fruits with savoury notes of meat. Full body, with cashmere like tannins. It is spicy but with a beautiful fruit crescendo. Bright and exciting, it is a wine that breathes vitality. Divine, poetry in motion.

Wine drinking, a highly subjective experience

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Sometimes wines or grape varieties need a second, third our four chance just like people. This is my personal approach to wine. Each of us is accountable for our opinions and there is no shame in taking back something that we realize that is wrong.

How does this relate to wine you may ask?. I love my wines to be unique and different just like people. To be standard, I despise and to be original I cherish. This mantra is what brought me to love natural wines. Each natural wine is unique and special in its own way. However, you must be ready to be pay attention to their nuances. Sometimes, the answer lies in front of our glass but we must be ready to take it.

However, there is no right or wrong answer. In my utopian state of mind, I would judge a wine depending on the positive or negative vibes it brings me. Examples of a positive vibe would include: Does this wine makes me happy? When i take a sip, does it make me dream of the place where it was made. A negative vibe could be a feeling of repellement or a hint of toxicity. Does this wine makes me want to run away. These are the questions that every night I ask when I open a bottle.

After all, a bottle of wine is a work of art. It is the way a vigneron interpreted a specific piece of land called a vineyard. Sometimes, the vision of the winemaker matches the vision of the drinker so quickly and boom!! you have a cosmic match. There are other times when it needs more reflection or solace. There are no misunderstood wines just misunderstood experiences.

To drink a wine bottle is a highly subjective experience that belongs to each and one of us. Adding up each experience will form the collective memory of a specific wine. When you approach a new wine, you are a spectator of this collective memory and as you drink tit, you become part of the memory. But this only happens if you allow yourself to be part of the experience.

Tasting notes and scores are very superficial. In my experience, they only give you a very limited window viewing of a wine. To really understand the emotions that a wine can bring you must drink the wine. In my mind, I compare the act of wine drinking to the act of lovemaking or going to a museum. It is very important to have closure with your wine. There is drinking for the sake of drinking but also very important is to drink with a purpose.

What is the purpose of drinking or buying this wine?. Nowadays, I am asking myself the purpose of doing everything including the act of wine drinking. I really want to stop the old pattern of walking the corridors of life with no purpose.

Enough of the talk and lets get down to some amazing soulfoul wines

Three highly emotional wines:

Axina e Ixinan Gianfranco Manca Panevino

On the nose, this wine brings to mind sweat and with time the finest barnyard aromas. With time, there is an explosion of black fruit and other je ne suis quoi nuances. A good emotional wine in so many levels. Beautiful acidity. A touch of volatile to keeps things interesting. This wine has an incredible wavelenght. A lovely red peach finale. Emotional feeling:I compare this wine to the state of falling in love but in a tiny version.

Vini Scirto Culonna. Terre Siciliane 2016

Spicy and quite sanguine wine. Very mineral with lots of dry flower character. On the palate, this wine has great precision and lenght. It is quite refined with flavours of cocoa and menthol. A very beautiful finale that brings a panoply of flavours that reminds me of cherry marmalade, funghi porcini and earthy dry tomato notes. Emotional feeling: Discovering the soft inner core of a person that is rough on the outside.

Domaine Ledogar Les Brunelles Cinsault 2018 Vin de France

Highly aromatic wine. It reminds me of wild thyme and oregano complemented by nuances of potted earth. On the palate, it is quite earthy with a bit of rugged tannins. A bit of a rebel wine but it is so lovely. Very sympathetic. Emotional feeling: A perfect day with your best friend.

Ampeleia Unlitro 2019

In Tuscany, there are those that vinify at 12.5% and the rest at 14.5%. Nowadays, my personal taste in wine goes with the former. Juicy, crunchy fruit with little or no oak at all. These are the Italian wines that grace my table every weekday

Ampeleia is the personal proyect of Elisabetta Foradori, Thomas Widmann, and Giovanni Podini. Miss Foradori is a well known figure to me. If you have not heard her name, it is time you explore her wines. She is responsible for the ascension of Teroldego Rotaliano grape in the Italian hall of fame.

With Ampeleia, Elisabetta aspires to represent the diversity and terroir of the Maremma specially the Colline Metallifere. The estates strives to craft traditional wines of the area rather than international versions.

Ampeleia Unlitro 2019. SAQ # 14110500, $24.95

This wine is a blend of varieties originating from the Mediterranean Basin: 40% Alicante Nero (aka Grenache), 25% Mourvedre, 15% Carignano, 15% Sangiovese, 5% Alicante Bouschet coming from vineyards at 180-250 meters above sea level.

Beautiful nose in synchronicity reminiscent of fresh red fruits, complemented by elegant gamey and floral notes. Fresh, with a beautiful acidity. Medium body. It was just perfect with Rotolo pasta on a Sunday night supper.

Represented by Oenopole in Quebec. Get it while you can. You won’t be disappointed!!

A nebbiolo for the Summer?

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Humm…Nebbiolo is not a grape that I usually associate with the summer season. It feels more at home from the fall to the winter. When i think of a Neb based wine, images of chilly fall evenings with beef roasts and luscious pastas come to mind..In a million years, i never you could have Nebbiolo for summer, especially by the side of the pool. It doesn’t fit into the laid-back estivale category.

Well..thats the beauty of wine. It sometimes makes you think outside the box. When I saw a ( girl) in the Vin dans Le Voiles website posing with a bottle of Rosso di Valtellina, it set an alarm in my mind.

Meet the Dirupi Ole bottle cuddling along the model from The Vin Dans Le Voiles.A boutique producer in the Valtellina, the northern most wine producing region of Lombardy in Italy. This is a beautiful and extreme wine making region with freezing temperatures in the vineyards in the winter followed by very hot summers with a light exposure similar to that in Sicily due to the steep aspect of their south facing vineyards.

The Dirupi winery is named after the steepness of their 4.5 hectares of vineyards. The yields and total production is very low, comprising only four labels and a overall production of closely 15000 bottles a year. Note that this is 100% exclusively artisanal winemaking. Davide Fasolini and Pierpaolo di Franco work the most natural way in the vineyard and cellar although not classified as organic wine makers.

The region’s location in northern Lombardy on the Italian/Swiss border produces a different style wine from this normally tannic grape. Higher altitude (approximately 2,220 feet), cooler climate and distinctive soil types (Sandstone and silt in the case of the Olé) deposited by glaciers over the years produce a less tannic, high-toned version of Nebbiolo (Chiavennasca in the Valtellinese dialect).

This is a delicious and fun wine packed with very savoury notes of red fruits, herbs and lots of yummy flower undertones. On the palate, very fresh and floral with notes of spices, strawberry pie filling and just slightly tannic.And yes….I completely understand why you would want to have this wine by the pool. It is just so fresh and mouthwatering.

It is available by the case via Le Vin dans Le Voiles ( $43.15. Six pack case)

Panevino Shugusucci 2017

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I am fairly new with the wines of Gianfranco Manca ( Panevino). My first Panevino was Alvas which actually was also my first orange wine tasted. Raisonnance, their importer in Quebec offered me a taste in the now defunct Montreal restaurant La Salle a Manger. During those years, I knew very little about natural wine and nothing about Orange wine.

This wine was so different and unique from others that made me think about the concept of transcendence in wine. This  is a seldom concept found in wine but more in art.

Deriving from the Latin transcendere, which means to climb beyondtranscendence implies the sensation  of having a sense of significance  beyond ourselves. There are as many ways of experiencing transcendence as there are people. It can be a religious experience or non-religious such as being  connected to other people, nature, or the universe, or it can apply to a wordly experience of passing through a difficult situation. In the end, transcendence relates to a feeling of purpose in the world or  the joy of being alive.

Great art is transcendent. It directs to something outside itself and the artist who made it.

A reason why the Greek civilization believed in gods and muses. They were in touch with something : Art describes the outer limits world; it points at the hidden story.

Can the same principle could be applied to wine?. Until that day, I wasn’t aware and was happy to discover it with Panevino.

There was something mystical about that alvas and to this day I cant forget. It went beyond the completely unique perfurm  and its marvelous texture on the palate. It was an experience greater than the sum of its parts. The wine elevated me and conncected me to the land but more important to the hidden soul of Gianfranco.

It was the same feeling with Shugussucci. A field blend of indigenous Sardegnan wine varieties, this wine display so much energy and vibrancy. It is hard to pinpoint that elusive feeling. It is truly an emoional wine, much the same feeling like looking at a canvas of Mark Rothko.

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Source:Britannica.com

Here is the formal tasting note for descriptive purposes with no intention of capturing the emotional wine aspect

Aromas of wild oregano, amaro herbs with dry dark fruit tones complemented by cured leather and hints of volatile acidity. On the palate, multilayered with snappy acidity. Deeep flavours of red flowers, Jamaican curry with currants. Raging finale reminiscent of animal notes such a cured meat and goat meat.

Panevino is represented by Raisonnance in Quebec, Canada by strict allocation only.

 

An anecdote of a brunch and wine pairing exercise

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These days we really have to be creative in the kitchen. The possibility of going out to eat has faded away and it represents a risk to be gastronomically bored. Of course, there is always the take out option but can you really put  a fine dining experience in a few boxes?. Montreal’s restaurants are set to be reopen on June 22th and who knows how fine dining will be living with Corona.

I miss the pre corona days where I could normally take my car and head to Montreal to eat out. After my separation eating out became a more frequent activity. However, the activity was reserved for the weekends when I had my 6 years old daughter Alessia. It is my strong opinion that children should start early their gastronomical education so they develop a palate.

With my daughter and Paola as a dining companion, I had some of the most memorable dining experiences. As these lines are written, fantasies come into my head about memorable skin contact wines and Elena pizza.

My recent culinary experiences are last minute improvisations of my head. But today post is my sister Paola that takes the credit. A neophyte home cook she surprised me with her reinvented version of a Venezuelan arepa. She also has great taste for natural wine and food.

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A very interesting spin off she puts flax seed and whole wheat in the corn dough. This gives a nice crunchiness and earthy nuance contrast to the sweetness of the dough. My filling consisted with a boiled egg, some turkey and aurugula. It was a great pairing with the petnat ( Pretty ) from Alex and Maria Koppitsch. Really fun sparkler reminiscent of lots of red fielberries. On the palate, really fun and quite refreshing with slight herbal flavours. It is represented in Quebec, Canada by the good people of Ward & Associates.

Looking foward to go out again with those two lovely girls and experience great restaurants