Wednesday, July 20, 2011

My Picks: Vintages Release ─ July 23 2011

This week’s major theme at Vintages is the signature grape varieties of Italy. For a new wine fan, understanding Italy can be a challenge. Full of indigenous varieties, many of which aren’t grown anywhere else. But that’s the fun! So much new stuff to try. And every year there seem to be more new varieties that Italy is exporting. Maybe confusing...but rewarding. I found 3 of the 22 featured wines worth recommending, all of them whites.  I remember an old wine book from the 1990s that stated that Italy made no good white wines.  Ah, how that has changed!

The minor theme is cool climate Chardonnay. Regular readers know that I don’t recommend too many Chardonnays…unless they happens to come from a lesser-known region. And that’s the case with the one that I’ve picked from Tasmania. Devilishly good.

But (surprise) I found another cool climate Chardonnay worth your consideration. Strangely, Vintages’ blurb about cool climate Chardonnays does not include one of the wine world’s most famous (but lately overlooked) cool climate regions – Chablis – even though they have a very good Chablis in the release. I’m sure there’s an explanation…

Organic & Biodynamic

LA CAPPUCCINA 2010, DOC Soave (Italy); #81489; Price: $13.95; 13.0% ABV
100% Garganega. Macerated on the skins, then fermented, followed by aging on its lees (spent yeast) for six months in stainless steel tanks. Organic since 1985. Many of us still think of Soave as an insipid wine (the Pinot Grigio of an earlier generation), but a good Soave is ideal as a refreshing aperitif or with antipasti.

CHÂTEAU LA GROLET 2009, AC Cotes de Bourg (France); #126615; Price: $17.95; 12.7% ABV
A blend of Merlot (70%) and Cabernet Sauvignon (30%). Hand harvested. No chaptalisation. Fermented with natural yeasts. No fining. Certified both organic (ECOCERT) and Biodynamic (Demeter).

Off the Beaten Track


JOSEF CHROMY CHARDONNAY 2009, Tasmania; #162982; Price: $29.95; 13.0% ABV
100% Chardonnay from northern Tasmania. Hand harvested. Barrel fermented in French barriques (one third new, the rest 1 and 2 years old). Aged 12 months in oak, then 12 months in bottle.

LOIMER TROCKEN GRÜNER VELTLINER 2009, DAC Kamptal (Austria); #142240; Price: $18.95; 13.0% ABV
100% Grüner Veltliner, the signature white Varietal of Austria. Hand harvested. Short maceration. Fermented in steel tanks. Aged on its lees for 4 months. Fresh, great acidity...makes a wonderful aperitif and is perfect with grilled trout.

LA CHABLISIENNE FOURCHAUME 2008, AC Chablis 1er Cru (France); #656835; Price: $28.95; 13.0% ABV
100% Chardonnay…but what a Chardonnay! Fermentation, Malolactic fermentation, and aging on its lees for 15 months all takes place in a combination of tanks and small barrels. From one of the biggest and best wine co-ops in the world, with over 300 growers.  The winemaker describes the wine as “feminine and floral”. Please, please, please let it age until at least 2014! It’s worth the wait as the citrus and buttery aromas mature yet the wonderful minerality will still be there.

TERREDORA LOGGIA DELLA SERRA 2009, DOCG Greco di Tufo (Italy); #983197; Price: $17.95; 13.0% ABV
100% Greco. Fermented using cultured yeasts, then aged on its lees in stainless steel. No oak. Another great summer sipper, and will match well with grilled fish or chicken.

MARCO FELLUGA MONGRIS PINOT GRIGIO 2009, DOC Collio (Italy); #230623; Price: $22.95; 13.2% ABV
$23 for Pinot Grigio?! Well yes, when it’s from Friuli in the northeast of Italy. An ideal climate to produce great minerally, pleasantly bitter white wine: tucked in between the Adriatic and the Alps with warm sunny days and cool nights. Cold maceration on the skins with fermentation in stainless steel tanks. Aged on its lees for several months. Try it with grilled tilapia.


TABALÍ RESERVA ESPECIAL SYRAH 2008, Limari Valley (Chile); #213538; Price: $19.95; 14.5% ABV
100% Syrah from the Limari Valley, way up north (hot) but only 29 km from the Pacific coast (cool). Sounds ideal for Syrah! Hand harvested. Cold maceration for 8 days. Fermentation in stainless steel tanks, with a further maceration afterwards. Aged 12 months in 100% French oak barrels (70% new, 30% second use).

HENRY FESSY 2009, AC Moulin-â-Vent (France); #233924; Price: $21.95; 13.5% ABV
100% Gamay. Hand harvested. Unlike much of ordinary Beaujolais, this cru Beaujolais (Moulin-â-Vent is one of 10 cru) does not use carbonic maceration, where they ferment whole bunches of grapes in closed vats. Instead, they use standard red winemaking techniques, including a short maceration. But no oak. You may want to save this for an autumn meal with roast game and mushrooms, or with Thanksgiving turkey. Or if you can’t wait, try it chilled with beer-can chicken.  Don't miss this 2009 Beaujolais!

CHÀTEAU DE NAGES JT 2007, AC Costières de Nîmes (France); #736876; Price: $20.95; 14.5% ABV
A blend of Syrah (95%) and Mourvèdre (5%). Hand harvested. Pre-fermentation maceration for 3 days, then fermentation, followed by further maceration for 30 days. Blending, then aging in French oak barrels (1/3 new, 1/3 first use, 1/3 second use) for 12 months. Bottled without filtration. JT stands for José Torrès, founder of the vineyard, located in south-west Rhone, just on the border with Languedoc. Definitely a wine to put away for a winter stew.  Great year!


DOMAINE MABY LA FORCADIÈRE TAVEL ROSÉ 2010, AC Tavel (France); #701318; Price: $16.95; 13.5% ABV
A blend of Grenache Noir (70%), Cinsault (10%), Grenache Blanc (10%), with Bourboulenc, Carignan, Clairette, and Mourvèdre (a combined 10%). Short maceration of one day for a typically Coho pink colour. Fermented and aged briefly in stainless steel. A classic. I agree with Vintages: A great match for gourmet sausages, grilled pork chops or barbecued chicken legs.

BARON DE LEY ROSADO 2010, DOCa Rioja (Spain); #117283; Price: $13.95; 13.0% ABV
100% Tempranillo from Rioja Baja. Hand harvested. The juice fermented in contact with the skins for about 8 hours, using the Saignée method. No oak.

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