Wednesday, June 6, 2012

My Picks: Vintages Release ─ June 9 2012

I was excited when I saw the theme of this week’s release at Vintages.  Two of my favourite regions are front and centre:  Chile and the south of France.  But digging through the list, it turns out that this is one of the most interesting releases in quite a while, especially among the whites.

From Chile, there’s an organic white blend and a Syrah that made it to My Picks.  And from the south of France, there’s a white and a red from Languedoc, as well as a Vacqueyras.

But regular readers will know that I often find another theme in a release and so it is with this one.  It’s Viognier.  Viognier is a warm climate wine; its home is in the Rhone Valley, where they use it as a single varietal white wine and in blending with Syrah in many northern Rhone reds, such as Côte-Rotie.  Characteristically, it shows aromas and flavours of stone fruits (peaches, apricots) and floral aromas.  I love it and if you haven’t tried it yet, or lately, you have 4 different wines in My Picks that offer Viognier; 2 in a blend and 2 as a single varietal wine.  Months can go by without seeing a single wine with Viognier in a release…and now we have 4 in 1.

Also of particular note is a Godello from northwest Spain.  And don’t miss that Rkatsiteli from Georgia.

Organic & Biodynamic    

An interesting blend of Chardonnay (65%) and 3 south-of-France grapes: Viognier (20%), Marsanne (11%), and Roussanne (4%).  From the cool maritime climate of the Casablanca Valley.  Aged in French oak barrels for 10 months.  Certified organic by IMO of Switzerland. No pesticides.  Drink this year.

GRGICH HILLS FUMÉ BLANC DRY SAUVIGNON BLANC 2010, Napa Valley (California); #346296; Price: $29.95; 14.3% ABV
100% Sauvignon Blanc.  Fermented 80% in 900-gallon French oak casks (foudres) and 20% in previously-used small French oak barrels, all using indigenous yeasts.  Aged 6 months on its lees in neutral (used 3 or more times) barrels.  Certified organic and Biodynamic.  Loved the ’09!

Off the Beaten Track


SANDHILL SMALL LOTS VIOGNIER 2010, VQA Okanagan Valley (British Columbia); #126862; Price: $26.95; 14.0% ABV
100% Viognier.  Fermented and aged in stainless steel tanks.  No oak.  Sandhill experiments with Rhone varietals, like Viognier, in small lots at their Osprey Ridge location, just east of Oliver in southern Okanagan. Look for aromas of pineapple, exotic floral, and Bartlett pear with tropical fruit, apple and tangerine flavours.  The 2009 was delicious.  Drink now.

D'ARENBERG THE HERMIT CRAB VIOGNIER/MARSANNE 2010, McLaren Vale (Australia); #662775; Price: $17.95; 13.1% ABV
A Rhone Valley blend of Viognier (68%) and Marsanne (32%), one of my favourites.  Separately fermented; 6% with wild yeasts.  They aged 14% of the Viognier in used French and American oak barrels.  McLaren Vale’s vineyards are underlain with limestone, formed by the calcareous remains of the Hermit Crab.  Look for floral aromas with apricot, peach and nectarine and sweet spice.  Drink now.

LES PILIERS VIOGNIER 2010, Languedoc (France); #669531; Price: $15.95; 13.5% ABV
100% Viognier.  Manual harvest.  Maceration for 12 hours.  Fermented in stainless steel vats.  Aged on its lees.  Fined and filtered.  Food friendly, and would work well with shellfish, sushi, or curry dishes.  Drink this year.

VINOTERRA RKATSITELI 2008, Kakheti (Georgia); #278879; Price: $13.95; 12.5% ABV
100% Rkatsiteli, the signature white variety of Georgia.  Used to make a wide variety of wine styles.  Known for its crisp acidity.  Fermented in stainless steel tanks.  No oak.  Look for tree fruit flavours.  The winemakers suggest matching it with seafood and asparagus, so it’s an ideal springtime wine.

ABANICO TEMPESTAD GODELLO 2010, DO Valdeorras (Spain); #276071; Price: $17.95; 13.0% ABV
100% Godello from Valdeorras, which sits in the northwest corner of Spain between Beirzo and Rias Baixas.  Hand harvested.  Fermentation starts in stainless steel tanks, finishes in French oak barrels.  Aged on its lees for 3 months in French oak.  Known for its green apple flavour and minerality.  Ideal with full-bodied fish.  Best value in the release.


ALTOS LAS HORMIGAS RESERVA MALBEC 2008, Mendoza (Argentina); #678987; Price: $27.95; 14.5% ABV
100% Malbec.  Grapes from each vineyard vinified separately before blending.  Cold maceration for 5 days in small stainless steel tanks.  Fermented with native yeasts for 20 days, followed by Malolactic conversion.  Aged in French oak barrels for 18 months.  Steak on the grill!  Capable of aging another 5 years.

MAYCAS DEL LIMARÍ RESERVA ESPECIAL SYRAH 2008, Limarí Valley (Chile); #269423; Price: $19.95; 14.5% ABV
100% Syrah from way up north.  Aged in French oak barrels for 16 months and in bottle for 6 months before release.  Excellent with grilled lamb.

ROMAIN DUVERNAY 2009, AC Vacqueyras (Southern Rhone, France); #280966; Price: $24.95; 14.5% ABV
A blend of Grenache (65%), Syrah (20%), and Mourvèdre (15%).  Fermented for 30 days using artificial yeasts.  No oak.  Good now but can be cellared for another 5 years.

HEGARTY CHAMANS NO. 2 GRENACHE/MOURVÈDRE/CINSAULT 2009, AOC Minervois (Languedoc, France); #277061; Price: $21.95; 14.5% ABV
A blend of Grenache (70%), Mourvèdre (20%), and Cinsault (10%).  Hand harvested.  Fermented in small tanks for 6 weeks.  The Grenache and Cinsault are blended then matured for 12 months in a foudre. The Mourvèdre is aged in stainless steel tanks on its lees before final blending.  The winemaker follows organic and Biodynamic principles and certification is in progress.  Bottled according to the cycles of the moon.  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!

VILLA MATILDE ROCCA DEI LEONI AGLIANICO 2008, IGT Campania (Italy); #165035; Price: $19.95; 12.5% ABV
100% Aglianico.  Fermented for 20 days, followed by Malolactic conversion.  Aged in stainless steel for 6 months. A big wine.  Try the veal.

Extra!  Extra!

LA CADIERENNE CUVÉE GRANDE TRADITION BANDOL ROSÉ 2011, AC Bandol (Provence); #119453; Price: $17.95; 14.0% ABV
A blend of mostly Mourvedre with Grenache and Cinsault.

BOUTARI SANTORINI 2010, AOHQ Santorini (Greece); #47985; Price: $15.95; 13.5% ABV
100% Assyrtiko from sunny Santorini.  Ideal on the patio under a blazing blue sky.

DURIGUTTI BONARDA 2008, Mendoza (Argentina); #275164; Price: $17.95; 13.9% ABV
Bonarda...the mystery grape of Argentina.  Nobody’s quite sure where it’s from.

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