Wednesday, January 4, 2012

My Picks: Vintages Release ─ January 7 2012

Happy New Year!

This weekend, Vintages brings out its annual “cheap wines” release.  And after 3 successive pre-Christmas releases featuring expensive wines, it’s a welcomed change. 

Because not only are the wines are less expensive, but that usually means that they’ll feature wines from lesser-known varieties and obscure regions.  All in all, some good choices for My Picks, all but two under $20.

Even better, we have 4 organic wines!


RUNNING DUCK FAIRTRADE ORGANIC CHARDONNAY 2010, WO Western Cape (South Africa); #149856; Price: $12.95; 14.0% ABV
100% Chardonnay.  Cold-fermented with cultivated yeast.  Aged on its lees in American oak.  Filtered with bentonite.  Certified organic by the Control Union Certifications in The Netherlands:  no chemical pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, or fertilizers; only compost and organic materials are used, with indigenous vegetation for mulching.  Fair-trade-certified by Fair for Life.

Here are 2 wines from the very good 2009 vintage in Languedoc-Roussillon.  Both are ideal with braised meats.

HECHT & BANNIER SYRAH/GRENACHE/CARIGNAN 2009, AC Languedoc (France); #251587; Price: $15.95; 13.5% ABV
A blend of Syrah, Grenache, and Carignan.  Fermented and aged in concrete tanks.  No oak. Made with organic grapes, certified by Ecocert.

MAS DES HUPPES 2009, AC St-Chinian (Languedoc, France); #267930; Price: $16.95; 14.3% ABV
A blend of Grenache, Syrah, Carignan, and Mourvèdre.  Fermented and then aged for two years in stainless steel tanks.  No oak.  Certified organic by Ecocert.  Fresh and ready to drink. 

FATTORIA LA RIPA RISERVA 2007, DOCG Chianti Classico (Tuscany, Italy); #984401; Price: $24.95; 13.5% ABV
A “classico” blend of Sangiovese (90%) and Canaiolo (10%), fermented with the out-of-fashion Tuscan governo technique:  Once fermented, they add additional juice from dried grapes to induce a secondary fermentation and Malolactic fermentation, which should give the wine a softer, smoother mouthfeel.  Aged in oak.  Certified organic by Bioagricert.  Trivia:  Antonio Maria di Noldo Gherardini, the father of Mona Lisa, owned this estate.  Bistecca alla fiorentina!

Off the Beaten Track


DOMAINE DU CHARDONNAY 2009, AC Chablis (Burgundy, France); #183574; Price: $19.95; 12.5% ABV
100% Chardonnay.  Fermentation with cultured yeasts, followed by Malolactic fermentation.  Aged in stainless steel.  That’s how to produce “simple” Chablis:  no oak aging.  Crisp, fresh minerality, get some oysters! 

CHATEAU KSARA BLANC DE L'OBSERVATOIRE 2010, Bekaa Valley (Lebanon); #641704; Price: $15.95; 12.5% ABV
An interesting blend of Sauvignon Blanc, Muscat, and Clairette…the latter 2 varieties found in Languedoc.  No Malolactic fermentation, so look for a crisp mouthfeel.  Aged for 3 months in French oak casks, then blended and fined.  Chicken shawarma, anyone?


VIÑA ROBLES HUERHUERO RED 4 2008, Paso Robles (California); #261628; Price: $17.95; 14.8% ABV
A blend of Syrah (62%), Petite Sirah (34%), Grenache (2%), and Mourvèdre (2%).   Aged 16 months in French oak barrels, once or twice used.  The winemaker recommends pairing it with “from meatloaf to grilled ribeye”.  Think meat.

MONTES LIMITED SELECTION PINOT NOIR 2009, DO Casablanca Valley (Chile); #37937; Price: $14.95; 14.0% ABV
100% Pinot Noir from the Casablanca Valley near the Pinot-friendly Pacific coast due west of Santiago.  Cold maceration.  Aged 5 months in new and used French oak. Minimal filtration.   

CHAPEL HILL BUSH VINE GRENACHE 2008; McLaren Vale (Australia); #262105; Price: $24.95; 15.0% ABV
100% Grenache from vines planted in 1926.  Old vines = low yields = concentrated flavours.  Hand harvested.  Fermented in open tanks for 10 days.  Aged in 2- to 5-year-old French oak barrels.  No fining or filtering, so decant just to be sure.  15%!  It’s a meditation wine:  I’d drink this one by the fire on its own.     

PERRIN & FILS PEYRE BLANCHE 2009, AC Cairanne Côtes du Rhône-Villages (France); #650960; Price: $17.95; 14.0% ABV
A blend of Grenache (70-80%) and Syrah (20-30%)...the percentages depend on which Perrin webpage you go to!  Fermented in concrete (for the Grenache) and oak vats (Syrah).  A new property for one of the big names in the Southern Rhone Valley.  Organic farming but not yet certified.  Great value.  Cairanne should be on its way to AC status.  A lamb stew would be a good match. 

DOMAINE DE MIGNABERRY 2008, AC Irouléguy (Southwest France); #251611; Price: $18.95; 13.0% ABV
A blend of Tannat (60%), Cabernet Franc (30%), and Cabernet Sauvignon (10%).  Macerated for 3 weeks.  Aged in oak barrels (20% new) for 12 months.  Irouléguy is in Basque country, close to the Spanish border. It’s a wine region brought back from the dead.

Honourable Mentions:

A secondary theme of this release is unusual wines from obscure European regions.  They’re worth a try if you’re in the mood for something different and affordable (all are less than $20).  And 2 of these wines made My Picks, above. 

But I couldn’t find out much about others.  Either the winery doesn’t have a website (or Mr. Google couldn’t find it) or they just don’t have much to say about what goes on in the cellar.  But these 3 white wines are worth a quick look if you’re trying to fill your basket:

DOMAINE NIGRI RÉSERVE DE DOMAINE SEC 2008, AC Jurançon (Southwest, France); #255026; Price: $19.95; 13.9% ABV 
Some time ago, I wrote about some of the interesting traditional wines coming out of Southwest France.  We don’t see them often at Vintages, so here’s a chance to try a white wine with (mainly) the Gros Manseng variety.

These next 2 wines are both ideal regional matches with those winter classics of melted cheese, fondue and raclette.  These wines you should consume when they're young, so if you want to choose between the 2, go with the younger Swiss:

JEAN PERRIER & FILS CUVÉE RÉSERVÉE 2009, AC Roussette de Savoie (France); #254375; Price: $14.95; 11.8% ABV
100% Altesse, aka Roussette, the perfect match with cheese fondue.

CAVE CIDIS MORGES 2010, AOC La Cote (Switzerland); #123414; Price: $18.95; 13.1% ABV
100% Fendant, aka Chasselas (in France) aka Gutedel (in Germany).  The perfect match with raclette.

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