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New winemakers receive rave reviews

It is mid-April of this year and, as I wander out of the Piazza della Repubblica in Florence and into a neighbouring courtyard, I am surrounded by so many statues, historic figures of the Renaissance.

Here is Amerigo Vespucci and nearby, I spot Galileo Galilei, but when I come to one particular sculpture I absolutely must take a photograph. As I focus, I think of Dante Alighieri writing: “Then beauty in a virtuous woman's face — makes the eyes yearn, and strikes the heart.”

Beyond that, I think of a time when he and his son were banished to Verona and of his son buying a vineyard there in 1353. This is a vineyard that today is still in the hands of the family and it supplies much of the fruit for a winery now called Masi.

I had met with the Masi folks the previous week in Verona as I attended Vinitaly, a great wine show where 4,000 producers show off their wares over a few days to about a quarter of a million of us in the trade. At our meeting I commented on some of the terrific reviews that their wines were now receiving and I was told that this was the result of new winemakers and state-of-the-art equipment.

Let me start by introducing their Masianco 2014 which is a white wine blend of 75 per cent pinot grigio and 25 per cent verduzzo.

This straw-yellow wine shows attractive, tropical fruit aromas and is rather full on the mid-palate with traces of honey.

Verduzzo is a grape native to Friuli, an area in the north east corner of Italy that is renowned for its white wines. Masi picks this grape slightly overripe and mature and, through a process they call appassimento, they dry them on bamboo mats for about three weeks. The process intensifies the flavour of the semi-dried grapes. They're then fermented and blended with pinot grigio.

You might like to think of this wine as a pinot grigio with more weight and body than most. $18.55.

Masi Campofiorin 2012 is the most popular wine that Masi produces and it is made by fermenting fresh grapes and then re-fermenting the wine along with some partially dried grapes to create rich and complex flavours. The grapes used are Corvina, Rondinella and Molinara, and together they give us predominate aromas of ripe cherries along with nuances of vanilla and cinnamon. The tannins are soft and velvety.

I would not be surprised if this is the most popular Italian red wine in Canada. Their critic Natalie Maclean writes: “Seductive black cherry and smoke aromas on the palate of this full-bodied wine; balanced and mouth-watering acidity for tomato sauce dishes 88/100.” $20.35.

I like to think of Campofiorin as “baby Amarone” and so if you would like to experience the big one, the one that Masi invented, then let's consider Amarone. It was Masi that came up with the idea of laying out the grapes on bamboo mats to dry for the winter. They would then press the intense shrivelled fruit and let it ferment slowly for roughly 80 days — many wines only take a week or two. They use the same three-grape varieties as they do for Campofiorin.

We stock more vintages of Masi Amarone than any other wine in our portfolio and also a selection from various vineyards. You can select from 1986, 1988, 1993, 1995, 2001, 2007, 2009, 2010 and 2011. What an exciting vertical tasting you could have; this is when you compare how age, weather and so on affect a wine.

Our go-to wine for lists and wine stores is our Masi Amarone “Costasera” 2011 that the Wine Enthusiast magazine rates 92/100 and describes as “crushed violets, baked plum, cake spice, ripe berry, fig, nutmeg and tobacco”. Not that I wish to frighten you away, as it is the most perfect wine to accompany a grilled beefsteak, but one writer pens: “Some wines can be described as big or powerful, but this wine is an absolute beast! Decant and brace yourself.” Once you experience the complex aromas of dried plums, anise, fennel, mint and even balsamic you will not let this glorious wine alarm you, especially when we add baked cherry, chocolate and cinnamon. $50.50.

I am back in that square in Florence and I must tell you of our Masi 2007 Serego Alighieri Vaio Amaron (Amarone della Valpolicella Classico). Again, to quote the Wine Enthusiast: “95/100, aged in cherry-wood casks, this opens with aromas of tilled soil, blue flower, leather, black cherry and baking spices.

“The delicious palate offers plum-cake, nutmeg, baked fruit, cocoa and cinnamon alongside velvety-smooth tannins. Drink 2015 — 2027.” $67.65.

•This column is a paid for advertorial for Burrows Lightbourn Ltd. Michael Robinson is Director of Wine at Burrows Lightbourn Ltd. He can be contacted at or 295-0176. Burrows Lightbourn has stores in Hamilton (Front Street East, 295-1554), Paget (Harbour Road, 236-0355) and St George's (York Street, 297-0409). A selection of their wines, beers and spirits is available online at

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Published July 08, 2016 at 9:00 am (Updated July 07, 2016 at 11:46 pm)

New winemakers receive rave reviews

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