Century Varietal Club Tasting

February 6, 2014

Reported by Michelle Brynkus

The National Capital Sommelier Guild’s inaugural Century Varietal Club Tasting was attended by a sold-out crowd of Guild members and interested guests alike, all intrigued by the allure of esoteric grapes. The event was inspired by the New-York based Wine Century Club, who, in 2005, sought to expand their tasting horizons by trying over 100 grape varietals.

The Guild’s tasting, led by Alan Atkinson, did not disappoint with its offering of unusual varietals from diverse geographical locations. The featured wines were comprised of over 80% single-varietals, and took about a year to collect. Many of the varietals tasted were entirely new to the group of tasters.

The tasting began with seven white wines, the first two of which were dissimilar, light and crispy Grilllos from Sicily. What followed was a nutty Grasevina from Croatia and a moderately smoky Pecorino (no, it’s not just a cheese). The real crowd favourite was a Temjanika, a Macedonian treat with notes of mango and passion fruit. While many had tried the Assyrtiko varietal before, in this tasting its offering opened up a frank discussion of the strong correlation between price and quality in Greek wines. The final white wine tasted was Jean Perrier & Fils Apremont Cuvée Gastronomie Savoie 2011 made of 100% Jacquère grapes, a promising choice as it ranked #55 in the Wine Spectator’s Top 100 Wines of 2012. Surprisingly, this alpine wine was not well received at the tasting, with participants remarking that while it might be a complex wine, somewhat musty, with a short finish, it certainly was not pleasant (not a unique occurrence, as I have tasted this wine before and felt a similar abhorrence).

The tasting also featured seven red wines, with the crowd’s preferences varying greatly. The first red tasted was a pleasant cherry tasting, Agiorgitiko, the most widely planted red grape variety in Greece. Also tasted was a Corvina from Veneto, Italy, rich in aroma and flavours of spices and red fruit, and a Monica from Sardinia, Italy, that showed eathyness and red fruit. The group also tasted a 100% Feteasca Neagra from Romania that showed firm tannins and a slightly pickled flavour on the palate. The Xinomavro from Naoussa, Greece, had aromas and flavours of brown sugar, and earthiness, and sparked discussion about other Xinomavro wines that were more expressive and periodically available at the LCBO. While there was no clear winning favourite reds, the least favoured was easily the Vranac wine, a close relative of Primitivo, from Montenegro, which featured an almost tangy flavor, and had a much too short finish. The final red was an Aglianco from Puglia, Italy that had aromas and flavours of plums and vanilla and a medium plus body.

Look out for more Century Club Tastings over the coming year, as the Guild is committed to putting on events geared at broadening members’ wine knowledge and tasting dexterity. The Guild is also creating a certificate for those who complete the tasting of 100 wine varietals.

Flight 1: Whites

  • Di Giovanna Grillo, 2011, Grillo, Sicily, Italy, 343053, $15.95
  • Orestiadi Grillo, 2011, Grillo, Sicily, Italy, 348698, $17.95
  • Krizevci Grasevina, 2011, Grasevina, Kalnik, Croatia, 149724, $11.95

Flight 2: Whites

  • Ciù Ciù Merlettaie Pecorino Offida, 2011 , Pecorino, Marche, Italy, 245670, $16.95
  • Château Kamnik Temjanika, 2011, Temjanika, Skopje, Macedonia, 317305, $17.95
  • Santo Assyrtiko, 2011, Assyrtiko, Santorini, Greece, 627760, $16.95
  • Jean Perrier & Fils Apremont Cuvée Gastronomie Savoie, 2011, Jacquère, Savoie, France, 320093, $16.95

Flight 3: Reds

  • Boutari Agiorgitiko Nemea Red, 2011, Agiorgitiko, Nemea, Greece, 172148, $11.95
  • Riondo Castelforte Corvina, 2010, Corvina, Veneto, Italy, 230649, $14.95
  • Argiolas Perdera, 2010, Monica, Sardinia, Italy, 297556, $17.95

Flight 4: Reds

  • Prahova Valley Feteasca Neagra Special Reserve, 2011, Feteasca Neagra, Dealu Mare, Romania, 143628, $12.95
  • Boutari Naoussa, 2008, Xinomavro, Naoussa, Greece, 23218, $12.95
  • Plantze Monte Cheval Vranac, 2010, Vranac, Podgorica, Montenegro, 542498, $10.05
  • Girolamo Capa Di Gallo Aglianico, 2011, Aglianico, Puglia, Italy, 268367, $18.95