Thursday, August 18, 2011

My Picks: Vintages Release ─ August 20 2011

Number 250!

It’s Christmas in August! The main theme of the release features wines from one of my favourite regions: Languedoc-Roussillon. Half of My Picks come from there.  If you don’t know the wines of Languedoc-Roussillon, it's a great chance to introduce them to your table.  Known for aromas of black fruit, spices and, most distinctly, “Garrigue”, which is imparted by the wild herbs (think thyme and rosemary) that grow throughout the regional scrubland. Very food friendly and ideal with grilled meats, especially lamb.  Lots of different blends available and there’s a single Varietal Carignan to check out.

Plus there’s a Chinon (Cabernet Franc from the Loire Valley) and a Pinot Noir from the Mornington Peninsula.  Ozsome.

And 3 interesting organic wines.

Organic & Biodynamic

AMPELOS GAMMA SYRAH 2006, Santa Rita Hills (California); #239459; Price: $27.95; 14.3% ABV
100% Syrah from Santa Barbara (Sideways country). Cold-soaked for 3 days in open-top fermenters, then (surprisingly for a Biodynamic producer) inoculated with yeasts. After 12 days’ fermentation, transferred into oak barrels for Malolactic fermentation. Aged in 35% new oak (a combination of 100% French oak barrels and hybrid barrels that have American oak staves and French oak heads) and 70% in neutral oak (barrels used more than 3 times). Unfined and unfiltered, so decanting is a good idea. Certified Biodynamic by Demeter, certified organic by USDA, and certified “Sustainability in Practice” by the Central Coast Vineyard Team.

Here's one of the Languedoc wines:

HEGARTY CHAMANS NO. 1 SYRAH/CARIGNAN 2005, AC Minervois (France); #250605; Price: $24.95; 13.5% ABV
A blend of Syrah (60%) and Carignan (40%). Hand harvested. Fermented with indigenous yeasts. They fermented the Carignan and 25% of the Syrah at a cool temperature (which takes longer) and they fermented the remainder of the Syrah for 6 weeks in concrete tanks. Aged 16 months in new French oak and another 18 months on its lees in tanks. Unfined. The winemaker’s symbol is a black sheep. As they say, “We may not please everyone, but hopefully we can reward the adventurous.”  Be adventurous!  (They've had organic certification since 2007 and Biodynamic certification with the 2010 vintage.  This wine predates that but they were following organic and Biodynamic principles back then as well.)  As for a food match, I'm game for anything.

PARÉS BALTÀ MAS ELENA 2007, DOC Penedes (Spain); #687236; Price: $17.95; 13.5% ABV
There’s more to Penedes than Torres! A non-indigenous blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Cabernet Franc made by the two women oenologists: Marta Casas and María Elena Jimenez. Separate maceration and fermentation of the three varieties. Malolactic fermentation with indigenous yeasts. Aged 8 months in French oak barrels, then blended. No herbicides, pesticides or any chemical fertilizer. The sheep do the fertilizing in the off-season. Certified organic by CCPAE (Consell Català de la Producció Agrària Ecológica).  Why not try it with a grilled ribeye?  The sheep have contributed enough to the effort.

Off the Beaten Track 


JEANJEAN ORMARINE 2010, AOC Picpoul de Pinet (Languedoc); #525287; Price: $12.95; 12.5% ABV
100% Picpoul, the wonderfully fresh, acidic white wine from the shores of the Mediterranean. A great aperitif, but it’s amazing with raw oysters…or damn near anything else from the sea!


STONIER PINOT NOIR 2009, Mornington Peninsula (Australia); #25338; Price: $24.95; 13.0% ABV
From the cool climate just south of Melbourne, where they do amazing stuff with Pinot Noir. Fermented in both small open fermenters and larger closed fermenters, with 5% carbonic maceration. Malolactic fermentation, then aging for 10 months, in French oak (10% new).

DOMAINE BERNARD BAUDRY CHINON 2009, AC Chinon (France); #940783; Price: $19.95; 12.0% ABV
100% Cabernet Franc from the Loire Valley. Very underappreciated, thanks to the big US critics, who don't much like Cabernet Franc. Hand harvested. Fermented in concrete vats. Aged in neutral oak vats for 12 months. A good price too!  Great with roast chicken and veggies.

CHÂTEAU DE FLAUGERGUES CUVÉE SOMMELIÈRE 2007, AC Coteaux de Languedoc (France); #65896; Price: $17.95; 13.8% ABV
A classic blend of Grenache noir (50%), Syrah (30%), and Mourvèdre (20%) from vineyards right in Montpellier.  Fermented for 4 weeks. Aged in tanks for 9 months. Lamb (grilled, roasted, or braised) is the classic match. The producer says it’s a “red for laying down”. Interpret that as you will.

CHATEAU DE L'ILLE CUVÉE ANGÉLIQUE 2008, AC Corbières (France); #237578; Price: $15.95; 13.7% ABV
A blend of Syrah (60%) and Grenache noir (40%). Maceration for 15 days. They aged some of the Grenache in oak for 8 months before blending. Try it with grilled merguez.

DOMAINE DE BILA-HAUT OCCULTUM LAPIDEM 2008, AC Cotes du Roussillon-Villages (France); #643239; Price: $21.95; 12.0% ABV
A blend of Syrah, Grenache, and Carignan, my favourite blend from the south of France. (Carignan brings tannin and minerality to complement the fruit and spice of Syrah and Grenache.) Hand-harvested. Maceration of 4 weeks. Half aged concrete vats, half in oak casks. You can’t go wrong with grilled lamb.

L'ARGENTIER VIEILLES VIGNES DE CARIGNAN 2007, Vin de Pays du Gard (France); #250712; Price: $19.95; 14.0% ABV
100% Carignan from vines planted in 1935. Carignan is a traditional grape variety in Languedoc, much of it ripped out in the previous decades in a misguided marketing approach. Hand harvested. Fermented in concrete vats, then aged in those vats for 18 months. No oak. If you like your tannins, this one’s for you. Try it with duck confit.


MONCIGALE MINÉRAL ROSÉ 2010, AC Bandol (France); #226670; Price: $18.95; 13.5% ABV
Get a buzz with mon cigale. A blend of Mourvèdre, Grenache, and Cinsault. With that name, there’s got to be some minerality. Bouillabaisse!

ARGIOLAS SERRA LORI ROSÉ 2010, IGT Isola dei Nuraghi (Sardinia); #224931; Price: $13.95; 13.0% ABV
A blend of Cannonau (aka Grenache), Monica, Carignano, Bovale Sardo. Hand-harvested. Partial carbonic maceration and traditional maceration for just 3 hours for a touch of colour. Fermented for 4 weeks. It’s from an island, so match it with anything grilled from the sea. I have a craving for sardines.

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