Rethinking Primitivo with Cristiano Guttarolo



Primitivo is one of those grapes that you have high expectations but feel utterly dissapointed when didn’t deliver. Yep, that’s my experience with the poster grape of Puglia. I think the grape has always been having an identity crisis. As far as I known, It might be trying to produce a certified copy of a grotesque Zinfandel. Lots of Primitivo taste super oaky and jammy. You might be drinking a concoction of wood with different sort of black fruit marmalades.

For a while, I didn’t drink any Primitivo because it was so boring..until I discover the wines of Cristiano Guttarolo.

I never heard of this Cristiano fellow before. Actually, I bought by reputation only since the wines were featured in some of the best tables of Montreal that included Elena, Vin Papillon and Joe Beef. In addition, a few Italian natural wine cognoscenti were drinking Guttarolo so I went ahead and ordered my first cases. Now this was exactly last year.

I was hooked right away. Cristiano is like the horse whisperer for Primitivo and Negroamaro. He brings out a third dimension to the grapes. So much complexity bringing to mind layers of earth, vegetal undergrowth and succulent fruit. However, what’s more striking is the balance and elegance of the wines. This is just because Cristiano vineyards sit on a limestone plateau in Puglia 400 meters above sea level. Daytime temperatures are cooler than usual because of a strong influence from the sea.

Of course everything is done by hand and he is biological as well. Every Cuvée that he crafts is just electrifying. The latest one that I tried was it’s Amphora 2018 Primitivo. The wine spends a few days on skins before being pressed off in terracotta amphora to rest for 6 months.

I loved this wine. It was delicate and elegant displaying a floral side of Primitivo that I never experienced before. Very bright red fruit notes with a lovely juicy mouthfeel and a funky rustic feeling. It has a bit of volatile acidity that adds complexity to the wine.

It is available as a private import in Quebec, imported via Glou. $49.30. It is by case of 6 only. I paired it with ravioli with mushrooms in a tomato sauce

The painful aspect of cellaring wine

cellar with wine bottles

Photo by Bruno Cantuária on

Cellaring wine. It’s the dream of many wine lovers to have a cellar full of wine. A lot of them feel good about themselves by having a “collection” of favorites. It does not matter if you will drink them in the short term or eventually in a not too distant future. What matters is having the bottles.

When we start collecting we start with an idea of what we like and proyect this expectations in the future that we would enjoy the same styles. Of course, the wines will mature with time and you will rediscover again with age.

What happens when you have a bunch of wines in inventory that you dont necesarily enjoy anymore?

I spent the whole month of September and continue so in October doing some restructuring in my cellar. Got rid of stuff that doesn’t make sense to me anymore. Take for instance, Supertuscans. These were the wines that defined my early years of wine drinking. I romantically call this period my adolescence of wine. For a while these wines made sense to me but now they have lost meaning. To be frank, I bought them because they had a certain prestige attached to them.

Again you only realize this when you do a deep instropection. It is a heavy exercise that can leave you drained yet necessary to growth. Our palate changes and we dont like the same stuff of 20 years ago. Yet with hang on to them because its hard to let go. Believe, it was hard for me to trade some specific bottles. The process was painful at first but felt after a rush of satisfaction when I got the new wines that love at the moment. This is a recurring cycle that I welcome with open arms in the near future.

I am learning than cellaring wine is more than just throwing bottles in a temperature controlled closet or warehouse. It is a picture of what you like in a finite period of time. It is important to accept that your taste will change to become a better wine drinker. At the beginning, it was hard for me to grasp the concept. It was out of necessity that I had to do this exercise.Recently, I have been buying more wine than I can afford ( And I have a big pocket) so I had to let go of some liquid assets to accomodate the new arrivals. With this pragmatic exercise, I am learning if what I have on stock I really going to drink it or I am going to continue to sit on dust like the others bottles.

Eventually, I will have nothing to trade anymore and will have left the core of my cellar. These are the bottles that I hold dear to my heart and represent the styles that I love. These are the Rousillons, Rhones, certain Italian wines and a nice collection of natural wines that is expanding as I discover my palate. When that times come, I will rebuild my already extensive cellar to another glory to come!!!



Lykos Pop Art 2017



Here is an interesting white wine from Greece that you can grab at the SAQ for under $16.00( SAQ #  13481659)

Lykos Winery was created  in 1991 by Apostolos Lykos and is located Central Greece at theisland of Evia, just 80 km from Athens at the area of Malakonda- Eretria.

Its creation came as a natural consequence of the family’s restaurant, since the members of the family produced and served their own wine to their customers. Visitors can still find the restaurant running next to the winery.

Pop Art hails from vineyards located in Northern and Southern Aria. It is a blend of Athiri 60 % and Malagousia 40%. It was my favorite wine at the tasting of Noble Selection  ( Trialto in the past) and the most original in my opinion.

It had a lovely nose featuring aromas of freshy cut red apples with undertones of bread dough and earthy notes as well. On the palate, it was fresh and round, almost with an oily texture complemented my a medium plus acidity.  I particularly enjoyed its tangerine and cantaulope notes mingled with the roasted herbs and funghi porcini of the wine. A must buy white for your grilled fish preparations outdoors while it is still warm to do BBQ!!



A Cabernet for a rainy day


One of the things that enjoy about the fall is to enjoy a glass of wine on a rainy evening

Red wine, cool temperature and light rain is a holy Trinity for me.

I pull out an Argentinian Cabernet from my cellar and it was just what I needed for this pre-fall weather

The Terrazas de los Andes 2015 ( SAQ # 13551371, $19.95 for the 2016 vintage) is soulful with a rich nose redolent of cassis and black berry jam with touches of graphite and menthol. It’s structured with muscular tannins with a long finale. You can drink it now or buy a few bottles and cellar it for 5-7 years. It’s worth it!!.

I paired with BBQ pork tenderloin, grilled veggies and rapini with chickpeas

Olivier Pithon Lais 2017


One of my best wine purchases in 2018 was this amazing white from legendary winemaker Olivier Pithon, a wizard of the IGP Côtes Catalanes in Rousillon

Represented by Ward in Quebec, the 2017 was available in the private import market. Luckily for us in Quebec the current 2018 is now available at selected SAQ outlets. For $32 dolores, it is one best bottles of the Rousillon in the Quebec Market

A blend of Maccabeu, Grenache Gris and Blanc, this white left me speechless. It hs an incredible nose of wax bee, smoke with a hint of citronella complemented by camomile and white orchard fruit. On the palate, it has a medium to high acidity with a chewy finale and a very long aftertaste reminiscent of gunflint. Perfect pairing with a supper of grilled salmon.


Wine and vacations. Do they really go together?



two clear wine glasses

Photo by Vincent Rivaud on

As my family vacation came to and end, I cannot help to reflect about the hardships of not drinking proper wine and the lessons learnt by the absences of my favorite vino!!

Sophisticated wine drinkers like myself could be quite fuzzy so it could be quite challenging to find their favorite bottles in a non friendly wine environment. I would like that you think: Walt Disney and South Central Florida. Add to the equation a wife that does not drink wine and you are set for a partially frustrating holiday.

If you are going away to a non wine friendly wine destination, here is some practical tips that could make your life easier.

  • Research your area. This is the most important point and can’t stress it enough. Find out about potential wine and spirits stores and decide if their portfolio suits your taste. If you are lucky they may deliver to your hotel or airbnb in advance.
  • No expectations. Don’t make yourself ideas that you would drink special bottles in your vacation. You may arrived tired at your resort after a hard day sightseeing. This was my case every evening after visiting a theme park at Walt Disney
  • Bring your own booze. Most countries including the US and Canada would allow you up to two bottles of wine per person. If you are a person with special drinking needs ( natural wine drinkers) this is a pretty good solution
  • Try something new? The more you drink wine, the better would be your wine appreciation. If you really want to drink wine and find yourself on a tough spot, it could be a good opportunity to drink what’s available and that’s it!!
  • Wine Detox. Maybe that vacation to an unfriendly wine area is the perfect timing to quit drinking for a while. Every year, you should take some time off with booze. Trust me, you will feel better in your skin. My recent vacation was my second time this year that I took an abstinence period

When you come back to your real life, you would appreciate better the wine that you have on stock.

Were your vacations hard on your pocket? Did it cost an arm and leg and maybe one eye?. Well, here is an excellent wine reccomendation that won’t make you  pawn any additional body part!!


Bonpas Luberon Grande Réserve des Challières 2017. SAQ # 14056515. $12.30

A beautiful white to sip outside your patio while it is still warm enough. Lovely white peach aromas with a hint of dry jazmin leaves and lots of white peonies character.  A Rhone blend  of Grenache Blanc, Clairette, Ugni blanc and Vermentino  Medium body with a plesant acidity and  flavours reminiscent of fine herbs and mandarines. Long finale reminiscent of pineapple peel. This is way too much wine quality for under $15. Buy with your eyes closed.

I am an agent of change


person wearing mask holding colored smoke bomb

Photo by Connor Danylenko on

In my teenage years, I had left wing political inclinations. Growing up in Venezuela, it became almost an ardent religious belief that I could change everything that was wrong in Venezuelan society. This was the 90’s in Latin America and it was in fashion to listen Fito Paez, Soda Stereo, Enanitos Verdes and Soda Stereo. Feeling nostalgic now, I remember with candor how me and my friends used to drink cheap rhum and read passages of Che Guevara:The Motorcycle Diaries.

As I grew older and entered young adulthood, this romantic idealism faded away. The reality of the world was based on money and social status. My grandfather used to tell me: You know how to change an Italian communist?. Give him a good job, nice clothes, a car and sexy woman. Honestly, I felt that alone could not fight the whole system and became part of the establishment….until not long ago when I left it with flying colours

Rebel once, rebel forever. I guess that this idealism is still with me never went away. I do a job that I love, live a modest life and drink a fair amount of natural wine.

My wife once asked me: So if you like natural wine, are you against those that dont drink natural wine?. It’s not about a dogma or a principle war, its about a choice that I make.I favor natural, biological and biodynamic wines because they are good for me and strongly believe that I make a contribution to preserving the planet. I sttill review conventional or classical wines. Absotutely, I will favor those with the minimum footprint on the planet

My stand with natural wine makes me an agent of positive change. The bottles that I buy, my reviews and the impressions all help to protect the real culture of wine. Actually, I am voting with my buying dollar for a better and healthier wine world.

The greatest gift that natural wine has given me, it’s a voice to express my solidarity with those vignerons that craft beautiful bottles. A long time ago, someone told me that drinking wine is an act of humility and intimacy. The act of drinking a real wine is to peek into a secret window inside the mind the secret world of a winemaker.

I am a rebel at heart for the love of wine

Domaine La Grande Colline-Hirotake-Ooka


Le Canon 2015

One of the most emblematic wines that I have ever tried in the past years came from this man: Hirotake Ooka. It sounds odd that a Japanese guy makes natural wine in the Rhone but it is one of the weird beautiful things of life. The wines of Hirotake are available in Quebec, Canada via Primavin.

Le Canon is a tasty blend of Grenache and Syrah. It has delicious taste of leafy blackfruit with a touch of animal funk and spice. Its spritzy in the palate and it keeps really well the next day if you dont finish the bottle. The wine is born out of a soil of mica and granite and the vines have an average age of 30 years young. No oak in this wine, just steel tank. Price is under $30 per bottle and it comes in a case of 12. This bottle comes from my private collection.

I am looking foward to try its Cornas, once it becomes available via Primavin.


Sebastien Riffault-Les Quarterons 2016




This is the post of a modest wine lover who never was into Sancerre until the day he had a glass of Riffault

Generally speaking, Sancerre like Chablis are not wines that appeal to me. I can appreciate but they are very impersonal to me. They could be cold antipathic wines. I guess that I was drinking the wrong wines for many years. Not even a Sancerre from Mellot, a top producer in the appellation made my skin hair rise like the bottle of Riffault.

That’s the beauty of natural well made wine. It can break dogmas and make you see wine in a completely different optic.

They say that this way the way vignerons used to make Sancerre in the past. This wine is unique in all senses and reflect the strong opinions of the winemaker.

The nose is quite esoteric for the “real” Sancerres tasted and drank in the past. The bouquet had an enchanting taste reminiscent of passion fruit, mango with a touch of pineapple peel and even tamarind. In the palate, so fresh and delicious. It has a voloptous structure with an incredible mineral lingering finale. A beautiful wine that will go well with tuna or scallops or…

a simple meal of roasted chicken with pesto pasta and green beans.

I grabbed mine from a friend but you can get it through Vini-Vins if you live in Quebec. It retails for around $36. Highly Reccomend buy!!

Foradori Morei Teroldego 2017



I like wines that reflect a terroir and mirror the nature where they are born. As my wine taste matures , I definitely want wines that reflect typicity rather than too much expertise of the winemaker

The wines of Foradori are not new to me. In a previous wine drinker life, I used to be a big fan of Granato, the flagship wine of Elisabetta. This super Northern Italian red took Teroldego to International wine stardom. Don’t get me wrong, I still enjoy Granato but nowadays prefer a fresher natural version of Teroldego.

Morei represents for me an evolution in the style of Elisabetta. This single Vineyard Teroldego submerges the drinker right away into an Alpine haze. Here, we are far away from the concentration and flashiness of Granato and into a finer expression of Teroldego

This Teroldego spends 8 months in amphorae for fermentation and aging. Definitely this method contributes for the vibrancy and energy of this Dolomite Rosso. It has an incredible perfume of fresh mountain herbs and scrub. A sense impression so powerful that it brought out childhood summer vacations to the Dolomites.

On the palate, the wine mirrors well the stony Terroir of Campo Rotaliano. Beautiful crunchy red fruit with a delicious acidity and incredible finesse. But above all, is the mesmerizing minerality that Morei display that fascinates me. This wine is the unquestionable proof that biodynamics works in the vineyard ( if you ever wondered)

Elisabetta join ranks with Arianna Occhipinti and Elena Pantaleoni in a group of female Italian winemakers that are charting a new direction for Italian wine in the 21st century

Teroldego Morei 2017 is available through private import by Oenopole ( $58, 6 pack case)

Methode Sauvage Pinot Noir 2017




Just came back from a press trip and was delighted to drink this Californian Pinot Noir. I usually don’t drink Pinot from the Golden State. The selection at the SAQ is usually a showcase of wines heavily on steroids. Commercial Californian Pinot Noir is a tragic affair. In short: heavily oaked, rich in sugar and alcohol and with a dark colour. Am I drinking Syrah?. Not even, some of these so called “Pinots” are a monstrosity.

My wine buddy Philippe Morin, a great cognoscenti of wines bought a case and splitted with a small circle of friends. This is how I came to know the wines of Chad Hinds of Methode Sauvage.


Chad is working with some serious pedigree vineyards in California and is crafting some of the most exciting wines from California. The grand vent vineyard is the coolest spot in Sonoma County and it shows when you taste the wine. The pinot has crunchy red fruit with lovely herbal and floral undertones. It has a beautiful acidity and lenght. Overall is poetic and almost sensual. Its creamy texture reveals its Californian origin and in a blind tasting, for sure it could pass for a Premier Cru Burgundy from a richer vintage.  Chad Pinot is just perfect.

I am very excited and looking foward to try his other wines. We are very lucky that in Quebec we can find his wines via La Regie, an upcoming Montreal wine importing agency. I am delirious to try his Rhone and Jura varietals. Cant remember, how much I paid but I think it was between $40-$50. In general, the pricing is good as well.