Wednesday, February 1, 2012

My Picks: Vintages Release ─ February 4 2012

It’s another boatload of California Cabernet featured in this week’s release at Vintages.  Yawn.

Fortunately, the secondary theme features the wines of Greece.  Just a couple of years ago, I knew nothing about Greek wine (except for Retsina) but it’s a region that’s worth discovering.  Like Italy, it’s chock full of little-known native grape varieties that offer something new and interesting for your palate.  There’s been significant Euro-investment in the Greek wine industry in the past decade, resulting in a leap forward in quality.  Whether the Greeks can sustain that quality through the debt crisis will be worth watching.  Just in case things go south for a long time, seize this opportunity to taste some good wines now.  I found 2 whites and 2 reds for My Picks.  Definitely pick up the deliciously crisp Sigalas Assyrtiko, which I tasted at its Santorini winery.

Nothing organic this week.

Off the Beaten Track


GRAN LURTON CORTE FRIULANO 2010, (Uco Valley, Argentina); #66829; Price: $19.95; 13.0% ABV
A blend of Friulano (70%) with Pinot Gris and ─sigh─ Chardonnay.  Friulano is native to Friuli in northeast Italy and, like other Italian varieties, is known by other names:  Tocai and Sauvignonasse.  Fermented partly in stainless steel and partly in oak.  Aged in oak for 6 months.  We don’t see Friulano often here in Ontario, which is a shame, as I love its floral aroma and that almond note on the aftertaste.  But expect the Pinot Gris and Chardonnay characteristics to be evident as well.  Friulano came to Argentina with one of the waves of immigration from Italy.

DOMAINE FOUASSIER LES GRANDS GROUX 2009, AC Sancerre (France); #267948; Price: $24.95; 13.8% ABV
100% Sauvignon Blanc.  Fermented with native yeast. They use Biodynamic (work in the cellar is based on lunar calendar) and organic methods but are not certified.  Drink now with pan-fried scallops.

SIGALAS ASSYRTIKO 2010, AOQS Santorini (Greece); #74781; Price: $21.95; 14.4% ABV
100% Assyrtiko.  Fermented and aged in stainless steel tanks.  I tasted this wine at the Santorini winery back in September.  Pale yellow with a delicate citrus and floral nose.  Lemon-lime with a hint of white peach on the palate.  The minerality comes through on the back palate.  Fresh acidity; it makes a great match for grilled seafood or chicken.  Drink now but capable of aging for 10 years.

TSELEPOS MOSCHOFILERO 2010, PDO Mantinia (Greece); #724583; Price: $16.95; 12.5% ABV
100% Moschofilero, a pink-skinned variety that thrives in Mantinia.   
Skin contact for 8 hours, followed by fermentation and aging in stainless steel.  Look for floral aromas and a spicy note on the taste, a bit like Gewürztraminer.  Drink now.  Shrimp stir-fry, anyone?


DECERO REMOLINOS VINEYARD MALBEC 2008, (Mendoza, Argentina); #247304; Price: $22.95; 14.0% ABV
100% Malbec.  Handpicked.  Gravity fed into stainless steel tanks for cold maceration (5 days), fermentation (10 days), and further maceration (15 days).  Malolactic fermentation and then aging in French oak barrels (30% new) for 14 months.  Remolinos Vineyard takes its name from ‘Remolinos’ – whirlwinds that keep the grapes dry.  You can put this one down in the cellar for a few years.

MURATIE SHIRAZ 2007, WO Stellenbosch (South Africa); #663278; Price: $24.95; 14.5% ABV
100% Shiraz from 3 dry-farmed (no irrigation) vineyards.    Handpicked.  Fermented in open tanks.  Aged in 90% French oak and 10% American oak barrels.  Ideal with braised lamb shanks.  Ready to drink now.

M. CHAPOUTIER PETITE RUCHE 2009, AC Crozes-Hermitage (Northern Rhone, France); #264655; Price: $23.10; 13.0% ABV
100% Syrah from one of my favourite producers from one of my favourite regions!  Fermented in cement vats, followed by 2 weeks of maceration, then aged in those vats.  No oak.  Fresh and fruit forward.   Drink now with roast chicken.  Very good vintage.

KIR-YIANNI RAMNISTA XINOMAVRO 2008, PDO Naoussa (Greece); #178020; Price: $18.95; 14.0% ABV
100% Xinomavro (literally, acid black).  Handpicked.  Cold maceration for 4 days.  Fermentation for 12 days; 1/3 in open-top tanks.  Malolactic fermentation in stainless steel tanks.  Aged 60% in both French and American oak barrels (15% new) and 40% in 500-litre casks.  Lightly fined and filtered.  Match it to lamb or game (elk, bison).

TSANTALI RESERVE RAPSANI 2007; PDO Rapsani (Greece); #734855; Price: $15.95; 13.5% ABV
A blend of Xinomavro (1/3), Krassato (1/3), and Stavroto (1/3) from the slopes of Mount Olympus.  Handpicked.  They co-ferment the 3 varieties for 8 days in small open-top cement tanks. Following Malolactic fermentation, aged in French oak barrels for 12 months and another 12 months in bottle.  Definitely a winter wine made for braised meats.  Great value.

LEONE DE CASTRIS RISERVA 2007, DOC Salice Salentino (Puglia, Italy); #597534; Price: $17.95; 13.5% ABV
A blend of 90% Negroamaro (literally, black bitter) and 10% Malvasia Nera.  Handpicked.  Maceration and fermentation for 8 days.  Aged in large oak barrels for 12 months. With additional aging in the bottle to qualify for “Riserva” status.  Big wine that can handle a roast beast.

AMANTIS SANGIOVESE MONTECUCCO 2006; AC Montecucco (Tuscany, Italy); #234930; Price: $29.95; 14.3% ABV
A blend of Sangiovese (90%) with Colorino and Canaiolo.  Extended maceration with fermentation and aging in 50-hectolitre oak vats, with 10 months in the bottle.  Montecucco is a relatively new DOC, south of Montalcino.  Looks good, but where’s this wine been?  Try it with Veal Parmigiana.

MAETIERRA DOMINUM QUATRO PAGOS 2005, DOCa Rioja (Spain); #246660; Price: $19.95; 14.6% ABV
A bit of everything here.  A blend of Tempranillo, Graciano, and Grenache from old vines from vineyards in 4 districts.  Aged 15 months in new French oak casks made by different cooperages and with oak from forests of different origins, followed by prolonged aging in the bottle.  Done in the modern style but worth trying with Steak Frites.

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