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Wine Review: Sailing Off to Sardinia

Thursday, October 29, 2009 by Michal The Joggler Kapral

In this October tour of Italian wine, I’ve covered off a few interesting bottles from Puglia and Sicily. Now, it’s off to the island of Sardinia for the Crabilis Vermentino 1998 (about $11 US, $14 Cdn). Layers of ripe stone fruit, juicy pear and sweet apple mingle with lively unoaked acidity, creating a versatile white that can be appreciated on its own, but could pair up with chicken or whitefish. The Vermentino grape – an ancient variety planted throughout the western Mediterranean – is a welcome change from the norm.

Quaffability Rating: 89

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Wine Review: The Original Bellini Sparkler

Friday, October 23, 2009 by Michal The Joggler Kapral

Celebrate the end of the week with this classic Prosecco, a dry sparkling wine from northern Italy’s Veneto region. The Nino Franco Prosecco di Valdobbiadene Brut NV (about $15 US, $18 Cdn) is an attractive pale straw color, with floral, grassy and citrus aromas. A nice balance of fine bubbles and crisp acidity create a smooth mouthfeel (I hate that word, but I can’t think of a better substitute). The palette is dominated by green apple and straw. I called this wine a classic because it’s the same region listed in the original recipe for the Bellini cocktail that was served at Harry’s Bar in Venice in the early 1930s.

To make a Harry’s Bellini, mix ¼ cup (50 mL) chilled peach purée with 2/3 cup (150 mL) well-chilled Prosecco di Valdobbiadene. Put the purée in a chilled glass, top up with Prosecco, stir and serve immediately (Source: Vintages.ca).

Quaffability Rating: 89

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Hoorah for Syrah from Puglia

Thursday, October 22, 2009 by Michal The Joggler Kapral

Italy produces so many interesting wines outside the famous areas of Tuscany and Piedmont. I highly recommend exploring other provinces of the country to discover a wealth new wine-tasting experiences. There are many local grape varieties beyond Tuscany’s Sangiovese and Piedmont’s Nebbiolo, but you can also find new spins on classic varietals, as I did with the Vignamaggio Suhaili Syrah 2006 (about $15) from Puglia. The province of Puglia comprises the “heel” of Italy’s boot shape at the southeastern tip of the country, and its dry, hot climate is perfect for big red grapes. The Suhaili Syrah has a subtle nose, but the flavors pour off the tongue in waves. I detected ripe plums, chocolate, freshly baked soft pretzels, basil, mint and pink peppercorn. Hearty tannins will match well with spicy meat. Pair it with grilled spicy sausages or meatballs in chili tomato sauce.

Quaffability Rating: 87

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Red Wine Review: Second Fermentation First-Rate

Friday, October 16, 2009 by Michal The Joggler Kapral

Ripasso, made from the second fermentation – or “re-passing” – of the Amarone grape skins, is a consistent value performer. The northern Italian powerhouse Amarone wines cost a pretty penny, so it’s nice to have the option of buying a wine made using a similar technique. The Remo Farina Ripasso Valpolicella Classico Superiore 2005 (about $15 US, $18 Cdn) exudes rich aromas of currants and cherries, and deep, rich flavors of earthiness, chocolate, plum and more cherry. A very smooth a flavorful wine, and a fine example of the Ripasso style.

Quaffability Rating: 90

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Wine and Cheese Pairing: From Sicily to Belgium

Thursday, October 15, 2009 by Michal The Joggler Kapral

Wine: Fondo Antico Nero d'Avola 2007 (about $17)
Cheese: Maigre du Nord sheep’s cheese from Belgium

I have a weak spot for the Nero d'Avola grape. It’s named after the small town of Avola in the southeast tip of Sicily, but is now grown all over the island, mostly to produce big Syrah-like reds. In the late 1990s, I traveled across Sicily with my future wife and we have many good memories of drinking copious amounts of red wine made from the “Black of Avola” grape. The wines are usually loaded with peppery tannins reminiscent of Syrah, but with a distinctive stamp of southern Italian flavor. Sicilian wines have become more and more sophisticated in the decade that has passed since I was there, but they remain a great value. The Fondo Antico Nero d'Avola 2007 has a nose of pencil shavings, dark cherry, raspberry, black pepper and black leather. It has a tart and slightly bitter taste of liquorice, classroom eraser, black magic marker and minerals. Despite sharing good memories of Sicily, my wife Dianne wasn't a fan of this bottle, but I enjoyed it.

We paired the Fondo Antico, from the deep south of Europe, with a cheese from the other end of the continent – the Maigre du Nord from Belgium (15% MF). This low-fat, high flavor goat cheese softens the black pepper flavors of the wine, but has enough body and texture to punch through the mighty tannins of the Nero d’Avola.

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Wine Review: A Taste of Tuscany

Friday, October 9, 2009 by Michal The Joggler Kapral

Wine Review: Ornellaia Le Volte 2007 – about $23 ($28 Cdn)

A rich purple hue, the Ornellaia Le Volte 2007 is an austere Tuscan blend of Sangiovese, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, with perfumed aromas of matchstick, horse saddle, rose petal, raspberry and blackberry. Le Volte has an interesting mix of dark and bright flavors of juicy raspberries, cherry, leather and blackberry, and an underlying acidity that leads to a prolonged and pleasing finish.

Quaffability Rating: 88

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Banfi Light

Thursday, October 8, 2009 by Michal The Joggler Kapral

Wine Review: Castello Banfi Col di Sasso 2007 (about $12 US, $15 Cdn)

Castello Banfi produces some outstanding – and often very pricey – Brunellos and other sumptuous Italian reds from the storied Brunello region of Tuscany. With a price tag in the $10-12 range ($15 Cdn), Banfi’s Col di Sasso 2007 is an easy-sipping, no-nonsense red that features a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Sangiovese. It has attractive aromas of sour cherries, earth, marjoram, oak and eucalyptus. While it’s a little light on flavor, the wine has a good finish. Serve it with simple pasta dishes or appetizers. I drank it with a platter of Swiss cheese cubes, apple slices, grapes and chunks of bread.

Quaffability Rating: 88

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Wine Review: A Rustic Rhône

Friday, October 2, 2009 by Michal The Joggler Kapral

Terres d’Avignon Cardinalices Cotes du Rhône 2007 ($10)

Dipping down into serious bargain territory, the Terres d’Avignon Cardinalices 2007 ($10) doesn’t come close to the complexity and interest of yesterday’s featured Rhône wine, the Mas des Bressades Cuvée Excellence, but it’s still a good option if you’re on a budget. The nose has some cinnamon bread and dark fruit aromas, while the tasting unearthed a tannic punch of cassis, freshly ploughed farm soil (a little crazy, I know, but that’s what I smelled) and spice. It’s not perfectly balanced and it’s quite a rustic Rhône at 14% alcohol, so I’d pair this up with some hearty meat dishes. Overall, not a bad value for $10.

Quaffability Rating: 87

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Wine Review: Excellent Excellence

Thursday, October 1, 2009 by Michal The Joggler Kapral

Mas des Bressades Cuvée Excellence Cotieres de Nimes 2007 ($15)

This well-respected winery is known for producing top-value Viognier-based white wines. While I haven’t tried their whites, I’m surprised more people aren’t talking about this red, the Cuvée Excellence. It really is excellent. The Syrah-based Mas des Bressades Cuvée Excellence ($15), from the western side of the Rhône Valley in France, is the color of dark cherries. On the nose, there’s star anise, cloves, chocolate sauce and blackberries. The first sip of the wine surprised me in its complexity. I was expecting fruit with hints of other flavors, but instead, I was treated to a fascinating mix of black olives, bitter chocolate, spices and some dark fruit mixed in there to round out the rest of the rich flavours. The tasting experience is capped off with a very long and satisfying finish.

Quaffability Rating: 90

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Michal Kapral has been enjoying wine at home since way before he was of legal age. The editor-in-chief of Canadian Running magazine runs marathons to burn off all the calories he consumes on wine and cheese. Kapral spent some time living in Italy as a teenager, solidifying his appreciation for all things wine-related. In his days as a journalism student, he was likely one of the youngest – and poorest – subscribers to Wine Spectator magazine. In 1999, Kapral turned down a job at a winery to work at Captivate, where he spent 11 years as a news editor.


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The Quaffer

Highlighting the best new wines from around the world, in the price range of $10-40, Michal "The Quaffer" Kapral reminds viewers some of the finer things in life are most definitely within their reach. This feature focuses on North American wines and includes reviews, food pairings and news from the world of wine.