Tuscany: Tales of the Past, Present and Future
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Tuscany: Tales of the Past, Present and Future

By Mark DeWolf

National President Canadian Association of Professional Sommeliers, Manager Food & Drink at The Chronicle Herald

Tuscan Wine and Sun

While I live in Halifax, my heart and soul are in Tuscany.

With its relaxed landscape of rolling hills and cypress trees and mixed agriculture of vines and olive trees, nothing says “good living” like Tuscany. Not even Martha Stewart.

Steeped in the history of Renaissance art, and aristocracy, it is here that all things wonderfully Italian come together. It’s no surprise that Tuscany is the heart of both tradition and innovation in Italian wine culture due to the hills between Siena and Florence, a region better known as Chianti Classico.

In the last four decades a period of modernity was ushered in the mid-90s when the portion of International varietals (Cabernet, Merlot) was increased to up to 20 per cent of the blend of Chianti.

Many producers at the time also increased their use of barriques (small barrels). Now, the pendulum has swung back to traditional in terms of the blend and use of oak. The wines themselves are purer, fresher and more modern thanks to better winemaking techniques.

The results can be fantastic.

Traditional Tuscan Wines

A great representation of a wine with a mix of classic- and modern styling is San Fabiano Calcinaia Chianti Classico (Nova Scotia: NSLC, $26.98). San Fabiano Calcinaia Gran Selezione is also available in Ontario (LCBO, $42.95).

I may be biased as Caparzo Winery near Montalcino in Southern Tuscany is my home away from home.

Often, I bring groups to stay in a villa overlooking its vineyards. I love the wines of this hilltop town. These 100 per cent Sangiovese wines which must be aged for 4 years before release. They are ethereal, savoury, rich and well-structured.

One of my go-to Brunellos is Caparzo Brunello di Montalcino (Nova Scotia: Bishop’s Cellar $55.00/Ontario: LCBO, $49.95).

The 2013 Caparzo Brunello di Montalcino was given the #17 spot on Wine Spectator’s 2018 List of the Top 100 Wines of the Year.

The last time I tasted this wine it delivered on its promise of classicism. This is an elegant Brunello, made from 100% Sangiovese and aged only in large old barrels; no barrique. It showcased the coolness of the vintage, with lots of cherry fruit and savoury, herbal tones.

Non-Traditional Super Tuscans

Of course, much of the hoopla around Tuscan wines is centered on the non-traditional Super-Tuscans (containing varying amounts of non-traditional Cabernets, Merlot, Syrah, etc.) as it is for its great semi-traditional Chiantis, Brunellos, and other faithfully Sangiovese-based reds. The driving force behind the movement was Piero Antinori.

His launch of Tignanello in the early 1970s – on the heels of Sassicaia’s rise to fame – helped to propel the non-classic wines of Tuscany to international stardom.

At our recent tasting we sampled his 2016 Antinori Villa Rosso (Nova Scotia: NSLC, $32.79/Ontario: LCBO, $26.30), a mix of Cabernet, Sangiovese and Petit Verdot. It was the perfect modernist style with lots of polished red fruit, vanilla-like oak notes and soft tannins.

What would a good wine tasting be without a show stopper? Our final wine was the Castiglione del Bosco Prima Pietra (Nova Scotia: The Port by the NSLC, $64.81) made from grapes (Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot) sourced from the clay and fossil-rich soils of their vineyard which sits on a hill overlooking the Tuscan coast. The grapes for the wine are grown using organic and biodynamic methods and undoubtedly with care and attention to detail. The wine itself was dense and rich, showing lots of pure fruit flavours, complimented by mineral-edged notes and a powerful finish. Enjoy this wine with grilled T-Bone steak – it would make for a ‘delicioso’ combination.

The Prima Pietra is not available in Ontario, but the stunning Castiglione del Bosco Campo del Drago Brunello di Montalcino (Ontario: LCBO Vintages, $114.00) is.

What Is The Best Age To Lead?
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What Is The Best Age To Lead?

One of the most desired characteristics in new hires is leadership. It’s no surprise then that many executives define leadership as the capacity to translate vision into reality.

The means by which leaders translate ideas into outcomes are varied: emotional and social intelligence, comfort with ambiguity and conflict and the ability to focus on key items that could develop or damage a desired outcome.

So, when tasked with identifying leadership in candidates, are there any clues that managers, team leads and executives can look for?

Where Are Leaders Found?

Recent research suggests that the answer may be more obvious than we think. In fact, while several mental faculties decline as we age, other cognitive abilities can stay stable or even improve.

In 2009, Denise Park, a psychologist at the University of Texas at Dallas, and Patricia Reuter-Lorenz at the University of Michigan set out to show that the brain has more flexibility than previously thought.

They posited that as the brain’s cognition runs into challenges it will find new ways to work around them. This flexibility was called the Scaffolding Theory of Aging and Cognition (STAC).

In other words an older person may use more regions of the brain to accomplish a task than a younger individual, but both people could do the job equally well.

Judgement Like Wine

As companies wrestle with how best to identify and work with experienced professionals, the cognitive benefits associated with experience are particularly interesting:

As adults accumulate more experience, the cognitive function associated with solving interpersonal or abstract problems often improves.

Further, the ability to value and perceive the future equally to the present generally improves with age.

Finally, the ability to regulate emotions and cope with difficult situations and negative feelings also gets better with age.

What does this mean for employers? According to Quartz at Work’s article on the research of Darlene Howard, a psychologist emerita at Georgetown University, it means that for most people, the ideal time to tackle leadership roles is in their 50’s.

What about for boomers and experienced professionals? Although physical limitations increase as retirement draws near, seasoned individuals increasingly have the mental faculties required to lead others through abstract, complex and emotionally fatiguing problems.

Emerging science has proven that there is room to excel in the workforce for the 50+ crowd despite what the world might of those approaching retirement.

For the skeptics, a look at the CEOs of the top 10 companies in the world (Walmart, Apple, Amazon, General Motors, Exxon Mobil,CVS Health, Mckesson, UnitedHealth Group and Berkshire Hathaway) shows that nine of these companies had CEOs over 50 with seven CEOs in this list being between 50 and 60.

Whether it’s a short-term hire, a project lead or an executive, science seems to be showing that wisdom works.

How To Handle Multiple Generations in the Workplace
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How To Handle Multiple Generations in the Workplace

Technology and innovation have reinvented, extended and expanded the very notion of work. Coupled with the aftermath of the 2009 financial crisis, improved healthcare and extended life spans, it’s no surprise that employees are choosing to stay in the workplace longer.

As HR Advisor Daily reports, one of the most unique and challenging aspects of extended careers and pre-retirements is the number of generations working together.

In 1994, only about 12 percent of the workforce was aged 55 or over. By 2024, approximately 25% of the workforce is projected to be over the age of 55. This trend has created a powerful phenomenon – more generations than ever before in the workplace.

Today many workplaces span five generations:

Traditionalists – born before 1946

Baby Boomers – born between 1946 to 1964

Generation X – born between 1964 and 1976

Millenials (also known as Generation Y) – born between 1977 and 1997

Generation Z – born after 1997

Interestingly, an article in the Harvard Business Review articulates that for the first time in history, five generations will soon be working side by side. Learning to work with and manage multiple generations in the workplace will become essential for teams and individuals looking to thrive in the modern economy.

Corporate cultures and individuals who follow these five tenets will improve the likelihood of achieving harmonious working relationships across multiple generations:

  • Dwell on similarities, not differences
  • Build relationships through collaboration, both on-site and off-site
  • Study your team members to understand how they communicate
  • Create opportunities for cross-generational mentoring (as we like to call it, inter-generational knowledge transfer)
  • Listen to your team to understand where they are on their life path

In our experience, facilitating inter-generational knowledge transfer is one of the most powerful tools available to companies and individuals to adapt to the demands of the modern economy.

As more companies shift their thinking around diversity to be more inclusive of experience and age diversity, the workplace will begin to reflect the wealth of wisdom and talent of local communities.

The Challenges of Being a Young Boomer
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The Challenges of Being a Young Boomer

In addition to facing misconceptions around their youth in the workplace, a recent survey found that over one-fifth (21 percent) of Canadian young boomers (aged 55 to 64) have not saved anything for retirement. Interestingly, the figure is nearly identical in the United States, where nearly one-fifth (17 percent) focusing on increasing their earnings in pre-retirement to fund their retirements.

The 2019 Retirement Income Strategies and Expectations (RISE) survey by Franklin Templeton found that nearly half of Canadian and American young boomers (46 and 48 percent, respectively) would postpone retirement for financial reasons.

As the percentage of experienced professionals in Canadians aged 50+ reaches nearly 1 in every 3 Canadians, more young boomers are returning to the workforce on their terms, to continue to stay engaged and maintain their earning power.

As baby boomers continue to extend their working years companies will need to plan succession strategies that enable experienced professionals to work into retirement. A recent pool by Harris Insights & Analytics found that half of baby boomers don’t believe a proper successor is in place for when they retire. As well, 40 percent of working baby boomers indicated they would retire later than planned because they want to continue working and/or increase their savings.

Stock up on these wine styles
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Stock up on these wine styles

Written By Mark DeWolf, With Zest

Great wine is something to appreciate, but it’s also a luxury that can appreciate in value. The wine world isn’t that dissimilar to the stock market. There are your blue chips, speculative wines and the penny (in wine terms, less than $15) wines. In the case of wine investment, you can count on Bordeaux’s Grand Cru Classé to appreciate in value, but the gold standards like Château Margaux, Château Lafite Rothschild, Château Mouton Rothschild and Château Haut-Brion require major cash in for a moderate, but bankable, return on investment.

While top Bordeaux continues to represent a large percentage of investment wine, more recently the big money has been made on Burgundy. Unlike Bordeaux, where the great estates produce a lot of wine, Burgundy’s top wines are of extremely limited quantity. Consider less than 500 cases a year are produced of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti ‘Romanée-Conti’ Grand Cru. Supply and demand economics are at play here, leading to speculation and hedging. A little more challenging in Burgundy, where the more natural methods (i.e. they live and die by nature) provide terroir-driven wines, but can also lead to more vintage variation. Bordeaux’s great estates, on the other hand, are driven by technology. Some vineyards famously fly helicopters over the vineyard if wet weather hits during the harvest.

My money is placed in Italy, where the best wines command top dollar, but are comparatively accessible in relation to Bordeaux and Burgundy. Barolo and Barbaresco, the ethereal nebbiolo-based red wines of Piedmont, can be expensive, but rarely reach the same stratosphere as Bordeaux and Burgundy. With a movement to more single vineyard styles in the Burgundian tradition, there will be a time when the likes of Brunate, Monprivato and Rabajà (all acclaimed vineyards) could be spoken about in the same reverence as Romanée-Conti or Le Montrachet. While Tuscany’s Brunello di Montalcino isn’t as terroir focused (yet) as Barolo or Barbaresco, it does offer an incredible quality for the price. I can’t think of many wines that provide as much sheer pleasure for the dollar than these powerful yet savoury Sangiovese-based wines.

The Iberian Peninsula is also a place where I’d put my investment dollars. As Port producers react to the dwindling demand for their fortified wines, they are transitioning to dry table wine production. The steep, granitic slopes of the Douro produce grapes of immense concentration. At times, I am almost embarrassed by the quality of table wines to be had here for a fraction of the price of Bordeaux’s top estates. Across the border in Spain, Ribera del Duero — outside of Pingus and Vega Sicilia — provides immense speculative value. The richness and structure of the wines from this region can be mind blowing. For the pure pleasure value, I’ll happily drop a couple green notes on a Ribera del Duero. Whether or not I get a monetary return on investment, my palate is sure to be rewarded handsomely for it.

Mark’s top five investment picks

1. Single vineyard Barolo and Barbaresco

At the very top end, the single vineyards of Conterno, such as their Monfortino, are still significantly less than $1,000 a bottle. Bartolo Mascarello Monprivato is a steal for its sub $250 price point.

Investment tip: Seek out classic producers’ top single vineyards. You’ll be rewarded in all ways in a decade or more. For a steal of a deal, look for the wines of Produttori del Barbaresco.

2. Brunello di Montalcino

I am a bit biased, as I have spent an inordinate amount of time in this legendary wine town. If you want wines to age and appreciate, seek out classic producers such as Soldera and Biondi Santi.

Investment tip: Seek out top Riservas from great producers such as Biondi Santi, Casanova di Neri, Valdicava and others. A personal favourite is La Casa Brunello di Montalcino Riserva from Caparzo, as we stay on the vineyard on many of our tours of Tuscany.

3. Douro reds

Hands down some of the best value-priced red wines in the world.

Investment tip: While the Douro has a handful of wines priced in the hundreds of dollars, I would willingly roll the dice here on lesser-known wines in the $25 to $40 range. I am rarely disappointed.

4. Ribera del Duero

The Tempranillo dominant wines of Vega Sicilia and Pingus command hundreds and even thousands of dollars a bottle, but there are a lot of great wines to be had here at a fraction of the price. Neighbouring properties to these legends often sell for less than $50 a bottle.

Investment tip: My all-time favourite and completely bankable Ribera del Duero wine is Casajus Antiguos Vinedos (thecaseforwine.com (Ontario), bishopscellar.com (Nova Scotia)). At about $40, this is a steal. The winery had no reputation a decade ago, but now regularly receives top critic scores in the mid-90s. Buy!

5. Northern Rhone

Guigal’s “la las” along with Jaboulet and Chave’s Hermitage offerings command top dollar, but still are a good deal compared to the best of Bordeaux and Burgundy.

Seek top wines outside the most well-known for a good investment, such as cool kid favourite Joseph Jamet’s incredible Cote-Rotie.

Understanding the Modern Elder – A closer look at the 50+ Worker
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Understanding the Modern Elder – A closer look at the 50+ Worker

The Experienced Worker

As more than 10,000 people reach retirement age across North America daily, understanding the 50+ worker has never been more pressing for employers, governments and communities.

The growth of these segments is staggering. In the US alone, 16% of the population is retirement age and this number is expected to grow to 25% of the population by 2030. Currently, 50+ year olds account for 1 in every 3 American citizens.

In Canada, the population of experienced professionals is equally large with 1 in every 3 Canadians being aged 50 or older and 14% of the population being at retirement age.

The pressing question emerging from these trends is how will employers, governments and communities make the best use of the incoming wave of experienced professionals?

Understanding the 50+ Worker

A recent article by Forbes tries to address these concerns by laying out what needs to be understood to successfully work with the ‘50+ worker’.

– The first step to harnessing the power of this cohort is combatting ageism. Forbes stated that “interviewees bumped up against ageism at work (resulting in a lack of opportunities) and even when networking with their peers.” This trend is hard to stop with many experienced professionals working in environments that are managed by people who are 10-20 years their junior.

– The second step to re-engaging seasoned professionals is to refresh the services tailored toward helping them so that they are less focused on health issues and senior discounts and more focused on helping experienced professionals get back in the work force. A recent survey conducted by a Next For Me suggested that 50+ workers had “negative feelings about AARP and its ilk” due to an overt focus on senior-driven health tips and senior discounts instead of offering options to help them achieve “income continuity” into retirement.

– The last step is to recognize that experienced professionals are open to learning new skills and taking on new roles. Not everyone with a wealth of experience wants to work full time as an executive or a manager. Thousands of seasoned workers would happily engage with shorter-term projects, work part-time, mentor, volunteer and advise others at this stage of their lives. For some this means entrepreneurship, for others this means transferring old skills to new environments and teams.

As the working population loses experienced leaders, thinkers and doers, companies, governments and communities will continue to feel the pain of the baby boomer brain drain. Companies that focus on matching experienced professionals with companies looking to harness the power of wisdom at work will be able to improve the communities in which they operate by providing companies with seasoned leaders and skills and providing those workers with income continuity that suits their stage of life.