Feature Wine

Agustí Torelló Mata
Cava Kripta DO Gran Reserva
Spain, Penedes, Cava
$83.50 / bottle

Feature Restaurant

Bertoldi's
London, Central
Italian

TWC Blog

Here we'll provide you with information to help you discover incredible wines from around the world. Join us on our travels and learn more about our latest finds. We'll also share with you tips and tricks for selecting, storing, and enjoying your wine.

Everyone is talking about Mencia
January 18th, 2015

LosadaYou may have recently noticed some buzz around a little Spanish grape called Mencia (pronounced men-thee-a). This varietal is not new, in fact, it’s been planted in the Bierzo region of northwestern Spain for centuries and is thought to be a long-lost relative of France’s Cabernet Franc (see below). The reason for the recent buzz is that this grape is now being turned into some top quality wines. Mencia has a fruity and delicate tasting profile with great ageability. We also find it is a really versatile food wine.

According to Jancis Robinson et al (Wine Grapes, 2012, Harper Collins) Mencia probably came from Salamanca (in Bierzo) but it was not mentioned in the area until the late nineteenth century, after the arrival of phylloxera. It has been discovered (by DNA profiling) to be genetically identical to a grape called Jaen that is cultivated in Portugal in Dao, and considered native to that region.  The theory is that pilgrims on their return trip from Santiago de Compostela would have taken Mencia cuttings back to Dao.

The suggestion that Mencia is related to Cabernet Franc — that French pilgrims brought cuttings from France on their trip to Santiago de Compostela — has been ruled out by DNA studies. It makes agood story, but not a true one.

You can find Mencia from other regions in Spain such as Ribiera Sacra, Monterrei, and Valdeorras, and it is also authorized in Rias Baixas. However we find the best examples come from the old vine sites in Bierzo. Here the vines are planted on deep schist soils and yields are naturally low and the resulting wines more dense and concentrated.  We currently work with a high-quality producer of old-vine Mencia from the Bierzo DO — Finca Losada. The 2010 Losada Bierzo just returned to stock as part of our Consignment Program, and we now have an entry-level Bierzo called El Pajaro Rojo. Both come from old vines; the 2013 El Pajaro Rojo has spent less time in barrel.  The 2009 Altos de Losada again in the fall, and by early Spring the rare La Bienquerida.




Mmmm…Burgers!
January 18th, 2015

Burger PhotoWe thought we would give you an amazing recipe we found for — get this — Mocha Burgers. We use our outdoor grill all year round so it’s always a perfect time to grill some up.

Ingredients

  • 1 lb ground beef, or mix of ground beef and ground pork (better)
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • ¼ cup bread crumbs
  • 1 oz bittersweet chocolate, grated
  • 1 tbsp finely ground espresso or coffee
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 tsp cumin seed, crushed
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Mix all the ingredients together, form into four large patties, and let rest in fridge for about one hour before grilling. Grill until meat is cooked through, then top with caramelized onions, fresh tomatoes, herbed mayo, and your favourite toppings.

As for the wine match, look for something not too tannic (the meat is cooked through) with darker fruit notes (think cherry or plum) and smoky/chocolate notes. The Finca Losda wines from Spain’s Bierzo region (El Pajaro Rojo in particular) would be great matches, as well as Tribolo from Poggio Stenti or the Geoff Merrill SGM. If beer is your preferred choice, look for something darker, like a Porter. I just tried some interesting beer from Collingwood’s Northwinds Brewhouse, if you are in the area.




Getting the Respect…
August 20th, 2013

le-rive-di-ogliano cropped

For centuries, Prosecco “the grape” has been cultivated in the Province of Treviso in northeastern Italy. There were several distinct varieties of the grape and the name may have come from the village of Prosecco in the Province of Trieste (according to Jancis Robinson). It is one of the most widespread varieties in the Veneto region and is cultivated mainly to make the highly popular sparkling wine also called “Prosecco”.

However since quality varied between producers and regions,  the vines growing around the hills of Conegliano were deemed to be superior and so the wines from these vineyards were elevated to DOCG status. In 2009 the Conegliano-Valdobbiadene  DOCG was established, and all sparkling wines from the flatter areas (in nine Provinces) became Prosecco DOC.  In an somewhat confusing extra step, the Consorzio that promoted Prosecco to DOCG and expanded the DOC area also officially changed the name of the grape to Glera (its Friulian synonym) and reserved the name Prosecco for the designation of origin. This change, however, prevents any other region or country from taking the name Prosecco to designate a sparkling wine.

With the change of status to DOCG, many producers changed the way they bottled and presented their wines. Our Masottina Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG Extra Dry, for example, now comes presented in a elegant and larger bottle (image shown is for “Le Rive”, the vintage-dated Prosecco).




Umbria, the Green Heart of Italy
April 27th, 2010

Todini vineyardsSituated in the centre of the Italian peninsula – the only region which is both landlocked and doesn’t share a border with another country – Umbria is 16th (out of 20) in terms of size and 17th in terms of population.

Historically, viticulture has not been as important in Umbria as in neighbouring regions like Tuscany. Orvieto, however, the region’s best-known wine, was once the most celebrated Italian white wine, praised for its semisweet (abboccato) style. Today, Umbria produces approximately 6 million cases of wine annually (15th in Italy in terms of production), less than one third that of Tuscany. There are 2 DOCGs, 11 DOCs, and 6 IGTs in the region.

Geographically Umbria is mostly hilly or mountainous, dominated by the Apennines to the east, with the highest point in the region at Monte Vettore on the border of the Marche (at 2,476 m amsl.) In contrast, the Tiber valley basin forming the border with Lazio to the south is the lowest point in the region at 96 m amsl. The climate is Mediterranean (warm, dry summers and mild, wet winters), and the soils in vineyard sites mainly consist of calcareous clay and sand that is rich in limestone. Rainfall in the winter months is sufficient for the vines, and the region has many lakes – including Lake Trasimeno, Italy’s 4th largest lake – springs, and rivers, making it lusher than Tuscany

Principal wine centres include Assisi, Orvieto, Terni, Montefalco (known for Sagrantino) and Spoleto, all mainly in the western, and southwestern parts of the region. While slightly more than half of the region’s production is red wine, the white wine Orvieto represents over 80% of DOC production.  While Umbria is quickly realizing its potential, quality (DOCG and DOC) production currently accounts for only about one quarter of total annual production.

The flagship wine of Umbria is Orvieto – the region’s largest single DOC and produced near the medieval hill city of the same name – a blend of mostly Trebbiano, with Verdelho, Grechetto, Malvasia, and other local varieties allowed (up to a maximum of 60% in total.) There are two production zones, with Orvieto Classico representing more than 75% of total production. Sweet and semi-sweet versions of Orvieto no longer dominate, now making up less than 5% of total output. Typically dry, light and fresh, with aromas and flavours of ripe pear, apple with spice and mineral notes, more interesting (expressive) versions are a result of winemakers decreasing vineyard yields and using higher percentages of grapes like Grechetto in the blend.

Sangiovese, best known in neighbouring Tuscany for wines like Chianti and Brunello di Montalcino, is also the principal red-wine grape in Umbria, most notably in the Torgiano Rosso Riserva DOCG. It is also the main grape in most red DOC blends, many of which will age well for many years, while others are better consumed in their youth. Perhaps what differentiates Umbrian Sangiovese most is that it is blended with a range of different grape varieties, from the traditional indigenous Canaiolo (like Chianti) to French varieties like Gamay and Petit Verdot to international varieties like Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.

In the Montefalco DOC, Sangiovese is blended with a small percentage of the indigenous Sagrantino grape. Unique to Umbria, Sagrantino has ancient origins, that some say can be traced back to Spain. Total production of Sagrantino is small and mostly centred on the hilltop town of Montefalco, this tannic grape is capable of greatness in the right hands. It can constitute 100% of the blend of the much-coveted Montefalco Sagrantino DOCG, and sweet versions – made in passito style – can take on port-like status.

For white wines, Grechetto grapes show the most promise, while Chardonnay and Sauvignon can be good too. Our 100% Grechetto Bianco del Cavaliere Colli Martani DOC from Cantina Franco Todini is particularly good, and we urge you to consider giving it a try.

Umbria is also one of the most fertile regions in all of Italy, and is Italy’s prime source for black truffles. Umbria is also a major source of dried pasta (even though it’s homemade egg pastas have few rivals), legumes (lentils from the town of Castelluccio are protected by IGP), meat (beef and pork), olives (and DOP olive oil), and vegetables. Lake Trasimeno is a source of freshwater fish and eels.  

Typical dishes include hand-rolled egg pasta (cariole and stringozzi), Porchetta, unsalted breads baked in a wood oven (panne casereccio), and sweet buns like pan pepato (with almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts, and raisins). In Perugia, the home of the famous Baci kiss, chocolate is considered “food”.  




Puglia, the Heel of Italy’s Boot.
April 27th, 2010

Mediterranea vinesSituated at the south-eastern tip of the Italian peninsula – essentially the heel of Italy’s boot – Apulia (Puglia in Italian), is 7th (out of 20) in terms of size and population.

Southern Italy has a proud wine history, growing grapes and producing wine for over 4,000 years. In 2000 BCE, when the first traders arrived in what’s known today as Puglia, a local wine industry was already thriving. Today, Puglia produces approximately 50 million cases of wine annually (3rd in Italy in terms of production and larger than Chile’s total annual output), with quality rising with every vintage. There are 25 DOCs in the region, and 6 IGTs.

Geographically it is the least mountainous region in Italy, mainly made up of broad plains and low-lying hills, the highest parts (found in the north) only reach 1150 metres amsl. The climate is Mediterranean (warm, dry summers and mild, wet winters), and the soils mainly calcareous overlaid with iron-rich topsoil.

Despite being almost surrounded by water – Puglia is bordered by both the Adriatic and Ionian Seas, giving it one of the longest coastlines of any region in Italy – it is a very dry region. In fact the Roman’s named the region a-pluvia, which means “lack of rain.” Its few rivers are torrential and what rainwater there is permeates the bedrock to provide an abundant source of groundwater.

Principal wine centres include Lecce, Martina Franca, Manduria (known for Primitivo), and Salice Salentino. More than 60% of the production is red wine, and for years the region was known a supplier of bulk wine, much of which was sent to the north of Italy, and other parts of Europe, to be (legally and illegally) blended into local wines.  Today, while this practice has essentially stopped, only about 2-3% of production is DOC and still only a quarter of production is sold in bottle.

The flagship red grape of Puglia is Primitivo, a relative of California’s Zinfandel grape. Primitivo wines are luscious, rich and full, yet definitely “food wines”.  The best examples come from Primitivo du Manduria DOC, and if you haven’t tried our version from Vinicola Mediterranea it’s worth a look.

Negroamaro (literally meaning “black bitter”) is an indigenous grape, often found in the wines of the Salice Salentino and Squinzano DOCs in the south. It is Italy’s 6th most planted grape, and can produce full-bodied, intense, and spicy wines: dark fruit aromas and flavours, with just the right touch of acidity. The 2007 version from our producer is now on the list of a few restaurants in Toronto.  

Uva di Troia (literally “Grape from Troy”, reflecting the region’s Ancient Greek influence) is grown mainly in the north and centre of the region, near Foggia and Barletta, and represents the base of the Castel del Monte DOC wines. An interesting grape, it appears to be losing popularity amongst growers, who seem to prefer Puglia’s better-known red wine grapes.

For white wines, the Bombino Bianco and Verdeca grapes show the most promise, and Chardonnay can be good too, but there’s still a lot of bland Trebbiano planted. The rosés of Puglia (often made from Negroamaro) deserve more attention than the whites.

Puglia is also one of the most fertile regions in all of Italy, on a par with the Po Valley in Italy’s north. Olive trees, wheat, and vines, cover the land like a colorful patchwork: literally an immense farm producing tomatoes, artichokes, lettuce, fennel, peppers, and onions. Add to this being surrounded by a sea full of fish.

Typical dishes include seafood (raw and cooked), Orecchiette (literally “little ears”) pasta, roasted lamb, flavored breads, and fresh sheep’s milk cheese (ricotta, pecorino, and “Burrata di Andria,” which must be consumed within 24 hours to be properly appreciated).




Grechetto’s Coming Out Party
April 16th, 2010

Grechetto (pronounced greh-KEH-toh) is an Italian white-wine grape of (likely) Greek origins. The grape is planted throughout central Italy, particularly in the Umbria region where it is used in the region’s most important Denominazione di origine controllata (DOC) wine Orvieto.

Todini-BiancoDelCavaliere[1]As is often the case with indigenous Italian varietals, Grechetto is also known as, among other names, Greghetto, Greco Spoletino, Stroppa Volpe, Greco Bianco di Perugia, and, in Emilia-Romagna, Pignoletto. However despite having a synonym with a similar name, we are told that Grechetto is not related to the Greco Bianco grape of the Calabria region in the south, (where it made into the amazing Greco di Tufo). You would think there’s a link if they both have Greek origins, but there is research so suggest Grechetto is more closely related to Pignoletto than previously thought, and perhaps Ribolla Riminese, which would suggest Slavic roots.

There is consensus that it was brought to Italy, from Greece, by Etruscan traders some 3,000 years ago, but record keeping seems to end there. We’ll have to wait for more conclusive ampelographic research to confirm Grechetto’s origins.

What we do know is the Grechetto vine is low yielding and able to produce grapes with concentrated aromas and flavours. It is also a hearty vine and the grape’s thick skin provides good resistance to downy mildew, a fungal disease which can attack the vines late in the growing season. On a more positive note, this thick skin also makes Grechetto a suitable grape for the production of late harvest dessert wines, and in particular the famous Tuscan vin santo. In making this heavenly nectar (vin santo literally means “wine of saints” or holy wine), the grapes have to be air dried for 3-5 months to increase sugar levels, and grapes with thicker skins are prized for this purpose as there’s less risk of loss due to rot. But we digress.

In the past, Grechetto was primarily used as a blending grape for making dry table wines, often with Malvasia and/or Trebbiano, where it adds richness and structure to the wines. But because of the higher proportions of Trebbiano, Orvieto DOC was usually considered a somewhat bland wine, and popularity was dropping. By increasing the proportions of Grechetto in the blend, wines like Orvieto seemed more interesting, and therefore more marketable.

As winemakers began to see the potential for the grape on its own, more varietal-labeled Grechetto wines are now being produced in Umbria. The DOC of Colli Martani, for example, allows, and is often made from 100% Grechetto grapes. The key for the grape seems to be (low) temperature-controlled fermentation to enhance the unique aromatics of the wine.

Straw-yellow colour, with greenish tinges, typically, the aromas and flavours of Grechetto are reminiscent of apples, pears, white peaches, wild flowers, and lime citrus, with notes of almonds. Usually made in a medium- to full-bodied style, there’s sufficient acidity to make Grechetto a very good food wine – with seafood, chicken, Asian-style dishes, and mild hard cheese like Pecorino. Simple pasta with olive oil, garlic, and peppers is classic Umbria, and a perfect match for Grechetto.

Grechetto is certainly deserving of the attention it’s getting, and if you want to join its coming out party we have Todini’s Bianco del Cavaliere DOC back in stock: from the winery’s own clone of the grape (Grechetto di Todi) and one of the best versions of 100% Grechetto we’ve tasted.




One of Italy’s Best Kept Secrets
April 14th, 2010

Alberobello Truillo Close UpMost visitors to Italy are not familiar with Apulia (Puglia in Italian), or the wonderful beaches, architecture, food, and wines on offer. We visited the region in 2009, to see our friends at Vinicola Mediterranea, and found that after only a few days it was difficult to leave. We were hooked!

Situated at the south-eastern tip of the Italian peninsula – essentially the heel of Italy’s boot – Apulia is 7th (out of 20) in terms of size and population. Geographically it is the least mountainous region in Italy, mainly made up of broad plains and low-lying hills, the highest parts (found in the north) only reach 1150 metres amsl.

Despite being almost surrounded by water – it is bordered by both the Adriatic and Ionian Seas, giving it one of the longest coastlines of any region in Italy – Apulia is a very dry region. Its few rivers are torrential and what rainwater there is permeates the limestone bedrock to form underground watercourses. Groundwater is abundant, and the region is famous for the many caves and potholes that were formed by these subterranean processes.

Apulia is one of the richest regions in Italy archeologically speaking.  Initially settled around the 1st millennium BCE, a succession of conquests that followed by the Greeks, Romans, Hannibal, the Carthaginians, the Romans again, the Goths, the Lombards, the Byzantines, and in more recent times the Normans, Turks, and French, left notable reminders of the various cultures and civilizations, from distinctive pottery to buildings and structures.

Classic Apulian architecture reflects Greek, Arab, Norman, and Pisan influences, and Lecce – known as the Florence of the south – has some of the best examples of Baroque architecture in Italy.  We walked through the town for hours, and at almost every turn we would come across another building that was more breathtaking than the last. In the middle of town, in the Piazza Sant’ Oronzo, there’s a beautifully restored Roman amphitheatre used today for concerts and plays.

However there is probably nothing as unique architecturally as the “trulli” of Alberobello (see the photo), a UNESCO World Heritage site. There are many theories about the construction of these dwellings (it’s an active living community), and I think the one we loved most was that they were built without mortar so they could be easily dismantled when the taxman was coming, so that the owners could avoid paying property taxes!

Southern Italy has a proud wine history, growing grapes and producing wine for over 4,000 years. In 2000 BCE, when the first traders arrived in what’s known today as Apulia a local wine industry was already thriving. Today, Apulia produces approximately 50 million cases of wine annually (3rd in Italy in terms of production and larger than Chile’s total annual output), with quality rising with every vintage. There are 25 DOCs in the region, and 6 IGTs.

Principal wine centres include Lecce, Martina Franca, Manduria (known for Primitivo), and Salice Salentino. More than 60% of the production of wines in Apulia is red wine, and for years the region was known a supplier of bulk wine, much of which was sent to the north of Italy, and other parts of Europe apparently, to be (legally and illegally) blended into local wines.  Today, we are told this practice has stopped and more inspired winemaking is taking place. After numerous tastings we can certainly attest to the latter.

The flagship red grape of Apulia is Primitivo, a relative of California’s Zinfandel grape (more on that in a later post). Primitivo wines are luscious, rich and full, yet definitely “food wines”.  The best examples come from Primitivo du Manduria DOC, and if you haven’t tried our version from Vinicola Mediterranea it’s worth a look.

Negroamaro (literally meaning “black bitter”) is an indigenous grape, often found in the wines of Salice Salentino and Squinzano. It is Italy’s 6th most planted grape, and can produce full-bodied and intense wines. Dark fruit aromas and flavours, with just the right touch of acidity to help with food matching. The 2007 version from our producer is now on the list of a few restaurants in Toronto.

Uva di Troia (literally “Grape from Troy”, reflecting the region’s Ancient Greek influence) is grown in Foggia province to make the Castel del Monte DOC wines. While it’s an interesting grape, it appears to be losing popularity amongst growers, who seem to prefer Apulia’s better-known red wine grapes.

For white wines, the Bombino Bianco and Verdeca grapes show the most promise, and Chardonnay can be good too. But for lunch or a light dinner, the rosés of Apulia (often made from Negroamaro) are the best.

Apulia is also one of the most fertile regions in all of Italy, on a par with the Po Valley in Italy’s north. Olive trees, wheat, and vines, cover Apulia like a colorful patchwork: literally an immense farm producing tomatoes, artichokes, lettuce, fennel, peppers, and onions. Add to this a sea full of fish, restaurants don’t find it necessary to complicate things: they just combine the superb ingredients and the dishes seem create themselves.

Typical dishes in Apulia include seafood, Orecchiette (literally “little ears”) pasta, roasted lamb, flavored breads, and fresh sheep’s milk cheese (ricotta, pecorino, and “Burrata di Andria,” which must be consumed within 24 hours to be properly appreciated). Desserts are great, but two of the best gelataria in Italy were right in Lecce. Jocelyn is going to write about her gelati search in a future post.

We enjoyed a lovely seafood lunch with our friends from Vinicola Mediterannea at Ristorante Casablanca on the coast near San Cataldo, so close to the water that waves would occasionally break under the restaurant and splash inside. Lecce has a full range of restaurants, including casual family-oriented spots on the famous Via Vittoria Emanuelle, but we found a lovely spot tucked in an alleyway – called Volo Restaurant – just a few steps away from Sant Croce, and only open in the evening. There we enjoyed lovely fresh made pasta and regional specialties.

If you do get a chance to visit Lecce, we recommend staying at the Risorgimento Resort. Located just a few steps from Via Vittoria Emanuelle and Piazza Sant’ Oronzo, the staff were great, the rooms beautiful and well appointed, and the rooftop bar/restaurant was an amazing place for aperitivo as the sun starts to set. Just another reason to return to Apulia.

Closer to home, Bertoldi’s Restaurant in London just completed a Festa Regionale for Apulia, but many wines from the region are still available on their wine list. All selections are also available by the glass.




Great Discovery…
January 19th, 2010

DamascenoIn 2008 we started to work with Domingos Damasceno de Carvalho (SOTA) in Portugal by importing a few cases of their famous 2006 Damasceno Red (Aragonês, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot blend) through private order. In 2009, the winery became part of our Consignment Program. The wines were very popular and sold out quickly, and we are trying to organize our next order.




Does wine go with Chocolate?
June 20th, 2009

freeimages.co.uk food imagesMmmm, yes. Try sweet Muscat wine (Italy, Greece, Hungary), late-bottled vintage or tawny port (Portugal) or Banyuls from the south of France. Cabernet Sauvignon and dark chocolate brownies are also a good match – contact us if you want a great recipe!




Buying Wine With Confidence
June 18th, 2009

Welcome to TWC Imports’ new Web site.  If you are a new customer we hope it makes it easier for you to find an interesting new wine. If you have purchased from TWC Imports before you’ll soon notice the ordering process is more seamless.

If you haven’t already done so, please take a few moments to register on the site. When it comes time to order a wine, all the important details will be captured. We will not sell or give your information to anyone else, except the LCBO who requires it by Law in order to process your order.

At the top of every page is our wine search tool.  All our wines have been categorized and you can search by location (e.g. Spain, Galicia), type (e.g. sparkling wine), producer (a pull-down menu of all our producers), grape type (e.g. Barbera), and style (e.g. fresh and crisp). You can narrow your search by moving the tabs at each end of the price bar to only give results that are in your desired price range. We also have a quick search by food match (e.g. sushi), to provide results we think best complement that food. If you’ve tasted the wine somewhere before or had a recommendation from a friend, and know the wine, simply type what you know in the keyword Wine Search and it should show up in the results.

Once the results show up in the Browse Wines section, you can click the link to find out more about the wine. There is a description of the wine, with tasting notes from The Wine Coaches, information on the producer and any awards, and best of all links to the restaurants who have chosen to carry that wine as part of their wine list. That way you can try the wine with food to see if you really like it.

If you like what you see, all you need to place an order is indicate the number of cases you want to buy and click buy. If you have already resgistered with us, this action will generate a Pdf Order Form that you can check and fax into us for processing. If you are undecided, simply click on add it to You Cellar and you can revisit your selection at a later date. If you want to discuss your choice with us, send us an e-mail or give us a call. We have tasted every wine in our portfolio — most with the winemaker in the winery — and stand behind every one of them.

Don’t forget to visit the Learn page of our Web site to see other Blogs from The Wines Coaches, or to be linked to other places we’ve found interesting along the way.