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Anthony Gismondi: Vancouver International Wine Festival an extraordinary week

Time:2018-03-17 19:20wine - Red wine life health Click:

Wine food life 1 Vancouver Sun

Looking back on the week that was the 40th Vancouver International Wine Festival was a good one, although I can’t help but think just when locals were beginning to feel comfortable in their wine knowledge they ran up against a barrage of unpronounceable grapes, and in some cases unknown wine styles, that had them cruising the internet between tasting tables.

It was a classic and humbling demonstration of the more you learn about wine, the less you know.

It’s clear the Europeans respect and champion their wine leaders, and in the case of Spain and Portugal they sent their best. You could have listened to Miguel Torres all day as he quietly and forcefully explained his family’s commitment to doing something about climate change, and how his company is reducing its carbon footprint at a rate that makes the North American effort look lame.

When the family isn’t busy making wine, or trying save mother earth, they keep busy working to recover some of the ancestral grape varieties that grew within their home region, Penedès.

The grapes disappeared in the late 19th Century when the microscopic phylloxera bug destroyed most of the vineyards of Europe, and were left out of the replanting schemes. Torres placed a number of ads in local newspapers some 30 years ago asking the locals to report any lone grape vines growing on the properties.

In the end 42 authentic Catalan grapes made the initial cut, each boasting a DNA structure unknown to any other varieties in the global databank. Cuttings were grown, vines were planted (and replanted) to deal with virus issues, different soils, and eventually to make wine. Three decades down the road Miguel Torres is preparing to release six yet-to-be-named ancestral varietals to be shared with the entire wine community.

Alvaro Palacios is one of nine children — “number seven,” he says with a twinkle in his eye. His wine  journey has been long and challenging but it’s safe to say no single grower/winemaker is more passionate about Spanish wine today.

Inspired by some graduate work in the great estates of Bordeaux and Burgundy, Palacios returned briefly to the family business in Rioja before setting out to find his mojo. It began in mountains of Priorat, a region he simply describes as mystical. He sold his motorbike and used the proceeds to start a weekend winery, while Monday to Friday he sold oak barrels to survive. Long story short his L’Ermita is one of the top two wines made in Spain.

From Priorat, Palacios spread to Bierzo, where he and his cousin Ricardo have taken the Mencia grape to dizzying levels of complexity in vineyards close to Camino de Santiago (Way of St. James), one of the most common paths of pilgrimage during the Middle Ages.

Following the monks has paid off big for Palacios, who eventually returned to home to revamp and relaunched the family vineyard Bodegas Palacios Remondo, now considered one of Rioja’s best.

Bruce Guimaraens, Rupert Symington, Cristiano Van Zeller and Miguel Roquette led a formidable group of Portuguese producers into the tasting room. And while much is changing all over Portugal it is fair to say the Douro was holding the fort for decades while the rest of the country got its act together.

The latter two “Douro boys,” poured some fabulous Douro reds. Roquette poured his Quinta do Crasto Douro Vinho Tinto Reserva Vinhas Velhas, a field blend mix of old vines (average age 70 years old) containing 25 to 30 different grape varieties. Van Zeller poured his magnificent Quinta Vale D. Maria Douro Red, whose 41 grape varieties come from the oldest plots of the quinta (farm). Both reds are symphony orchestras of flavour, full of outstanding individual musicians.

From the fortified port sector, Rupert Symington poured a glorious 20-Year-Old Graham’s Tawny Port to remind us all the you only get better as you get older, while his colleague David Guimaraens espoused the virtues of a 2015 Taylor Vargellas Single Quinta Vintage Port that hails from one of the three quintas (farms) that go into the flagship Taylor Fladgate Vintage Port in the greatest years.

It was an extraordinary week that showcased the diversity of the Iberian Peninsula and its wine to perfection. California is up next in 2018, with some very large footsteps to fill.

Aveleda Casal Garcia Vinho Verde N/V, Portugal

$11.49 | 87/100

UPC: 5601096208308

The hotter the weather the better this wine gets. Look for a light frizzante character on the palate, with lemon blossoms, green apple and light lees aromas. The attack is fresh and juicy with watery, pear, lemon, lees, quince and apple flavours. Light, delicate, juicy and fresh. Super value

Pétalos 2015, Bierzo, Castilla-Leon, Spain

$36.99 | 90/100

UPC: 8437004566089

Pétalos is all about old vines  — in this case 60-plus years old — and biodynamically farmed Mencia grapes spread across several small, rocky, hillside plots worked by Álvaro Palacios and his nephew and co-proprietor, Ricardo Perez Palacios. The attack is round and juicy, the nose aromatic with rich earthy, dark berry, fruit flavours and just the right amount of tannin and texture to support the fruit. It’s a playful, welcoming style meant to entice and complement your meal. You will drink the entire bottle.

Alvear Solera 1927 Pedro Ximenez N/V, Montilla-Moriles, Spain

$30 | 91/100

UPC: 00766238809777

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