Sedimentary Wine Italian Portfolio Tasting: Growing Vancouver’s Natural Wine Scene
“I feel like I’m in Terroir”, I said. Terroir, the famous natural wine bar in San Francisco where I was first introduced to the likes of Paolo Bea, Breton, Nusserhof, and Zidarich, is an emblem for those who seek out boundary breaking, intelligent and provocative wines. Sedimentary has become this voice in British Columbia – pushing a stunted wine market way beyond what anyone thought was possible a couple years ago. This is a good thing as it is just this sort of wine and philosophy that grows a culture intellectually.
A Sedimentary portfolio tasting is thus always a mind-expanding event. They are also great to witness as more and more people in the industry start exploring serious natural wines from top producers, including styles many have not encountered (orange wine, amphora fermented, no sulphur).
An important caution. These are not wines that lend themselves well to broad tastings without food. You need a particular sensitivity to consider objectively how these wines will perform with others at the table. This has led me at times to give a slightly lower opinion to certain wines that are hard to drink in the large tasting context. I am sure it has done the same to others. Further, these are wines that change with each bottle and time of opening. Even a few months between opening one bottle over another can make a difference to the wine’s expressiveness. This is part of the price you pay with wines that are not stabilized in the traditional way, but are left more open to the vagueries of mother nature. I urge you to take time with these bottles, and never write them off. Always be open to trying them again and again. As with all challenging ideas, this is the only way to understand.
Sedimentary’s Italian portfolio now includes many of the top names in natural wine, and is a rare consolidation of such voices in a single place. The following are some of my favourites:
Camillo Donati Lambrusco 2010: Rinaldini is the jewel in Sedimentary’s lambrusco crown, but this Donati is also a fantastic beverage, with a richer, more powerful fruit driven approach than Rinaldi, but also delicious and surprisingly drinkable for such a heady wine. $29. Very Good.
Roagna is one of the most exciting producers in Piedmont right now. Known the best for their single vineyard Barbarescos, I found this white wine (a blend of 80% Arneis and 20% Chardonnay) extremely impressive. Waxy texture, soft and alluring – very easy drinking but plenty of interest. Very Good+. $27.50.
I have a soft spot for Bea. Why? He’s one of the very best producers in Italy and he makes wines from the indigenous grapes of Umbria, a land not traditionally known for truly great wine. In fact, the Umbrian producers that are getting recognition these days are miles from Bea, looking for power and structure rather than intellectual and flavour purity. Bea is one of the very best producers in the natural wine movement. Start here. This white wine sees extended skin contact, but not to the level of a full on orange wine. As such, it is accessible for those starting with this style. Various black tea notes on the nose, texturally brilliant – so soft, so easy. Excellent to Excellent+. $49
Bea’s orange wine, Arboreus, is a perfect example of the genre. Full orange wine aromatics like bergamot, orange peel, citrus pith. This wine is very well balanced and integrated without any of the harsh notes you get from other producers. I find this to be true of all of Bea’s whites and orange wines, which is why they are my favourites. Intellectually briliant but supple and available wines. Excellent+. $67.50
Cornelissen is probably the most challenging top natural wine producer out there. These wines are totally unpredictable and full of insanity. The textures and flavours are all over the place with tons of acid and can often seem harsh. However, Cornellisen somehow can pull all of this together. These are wines that need multiple attempts, and show best with food. I don’t always love these, but this entry level Rose made me think wood fired pizza. I will be grabbing one soon. Very Good+. $35.
Today the Ribolla Gialla Anfora was showing beautifully, much more so than the closed down Breg (which showed beautifully at the last Sedimentary tasting). A perfect example of how these wines evolve and change in the bottle. One of the world’s great orange wines. Excellent. $100.
Another one of the top orange wine producers – Radikon is a radical for sure. Like Gravner, I find these wines change considerably per bottle and time of year. Today the blend Oslavje was the most open. These are some of the most versatile food wines around. Drink this with small plates. You won’t need anything else. Very Good+. $51
San Valentino 2006. Noticing a theme? Yes I love Bea, but it is deserved. I first had this wine several years ago at Chez Panisse. Today it’s a stunning example of Sagrantino – the antithesis of everything else being made in Montefalco. Pretty, floral, light red berries, very pure fruit and well integrated tannins. Don’t let the prettiness fool you. This can age for many years. Excellent. $48.
Foradori is another one of my favourite Italian producers. What’s with Sedimentary grabbing all my favourite producers? The single vineyard Teroldegos, fermented in amphora, and the Nosiola white are where the producer truly shines. However, this entry level wine is very good value and authentic. A great weeknight wine.
Conclusion: Sedimentary continues to push boundaries. But more importantly, some of the world’s most experimental, mind bending wines are now available in B.C. Embrace them, learn from them, grow.