Thursday, March 29, 2012

Mas de Gourgonnier Les Baux de Provence 2007

   The french word "terroir", when used in wine speak, refers to flavors that come from the soil. This elusive notion at times is a very clear reality, and when you find it, it makes your wine experience special. These flavors that are more than mere fruit are what give wine "a sense of place". In this case, the red blend from Mas de Gourgonnier is one of those wines that as soon as you smell it, your are transported to the rocky soils of Provence in the AOC known as Les Baux de Provence. Wine has been made here for at least 2,600 years and this interesting wine is comprised of Grenache, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon and Carignan. Lovers of the more new world fruity styles may not care for this wine, but for me, this is what great wine is all about, at any price point. Wild aromas of black pepper, licorice, leather and plummy fruit give you all the sensations of the French countryside...and I could sniff this wine all day. It's got wonderful, medium-bodied plum and black cherry flavors with a heavy dose of Provencal spiciness, all supported by good acidity and a mineral spine. It finishes long with perhaps a bit more tannin than you expect at this price point. Still, this is an excellent value that gives you plenty to talk about while you sip, and I'm sure the '09 and the'10 will be just as good when they hit the market. Imported by Michael Skurnick, this beauty cost me $12.99. Cheers.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Colosi Rosso 2009

   One of the first good, inexpensive wines I encountered on my wine journey was the Colosi Rosso. It delivered the goods at a very affordable price and it was a staple in my kitchen. Time and experience have taken me down many side roads on this journey but when I sampled the Colosi again recently, I was glad to see that things had not changed much. This bottling, which is made entirely from Nero d'Avola, the most important grape of Sicily, is almost a sure bet year in and year out. It's fermented entirely in stainless steel and sees a short 6 months in Slavonian oak. It's got attractive aromatics of plum, baked cherry and coffee, excellent medium-bodied dark cherry and over-ripe raspberry flavors and wonderful acidity which gives it lift. It finishes lightly tannic and long with some herbal notes. You can absolutely not do much better for $8.99 a bottle. Imported by one of my favorites, Vias, this is one bottle you should not hesitate to try with a tomato based pasta sauce or your favorite pizza. Cheers!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Domaine Labbe Vin de Savoie "Abymes" 2010

   The Savoy wine region of France is one of those out of the way regions that barely gets a mention anywhere, which I guess is understandable since there are few of these wines to be found on retailer's shelves. It's a pity because if you like clean, crisp, light whites with good fruit and balance then you should seek these wines out. Nestled in the foothills of the alps on the border with Switzerland, the Savoy region is a popular summer vacation destination. The main grapes for the whites are Jacquere, Roussanne, and Altesse and this wine from Domaine Labbe is 100% Jacquere fermented entirely in stainless steel with wild yeasts only. Yields are kept low by de-budding in the spring. This beauty features green apple and pear aromas with a subtle stony element. In the mouth it's got light-bodied, crisp, orchard fruit flavors with excellent acidity giving it lift. These wines are great with shellfish or as an aperitif and they are kind of low in alcohol - usually around 11%. Imported by one of my favorites, Michael Skurnick, this great little wine cost me $10.99. Cheers.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Finca Nueva Rioja Blanco 2009

   I've become a fan of white Riojas, whose purity of fruit and low cost fit perfectly at my dinner table. Viura is the main grape here along with 30% Malvasia and this version was partially barrel fermented and aged for 3 months in French oak. That makes this wine a bit different from the usual entry level white Riojas. The barrel treatment gives this wine wonderful toast and spice notes to go along with the pear and floral aromas. In the mouth, it's ripe and round with excellent concentration and good acidity. Here the wood and the fruit are in perfect balance with apple and spiced pear flavors. It finishes long with toast notes and an attractive mineral spine. Imported by perhaps the top importer of Spanish wine, Tempranillo and the broker Jorge Ordonez, this beauty cost me $13.99 at my local shop. Cheers.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Montebuena Rioja 2009

  Here's a lovely entry level Rioja produced by a very large co-op called the Uni├│n de Cosecheros of Labastida. Rioja can be a somewhat confusing area in that several varietals can be blended with the most important grape of the region, Tempranillo. Garnacha, Graciano, Mazuela and international varietals such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot can all be used in the blend. As such, there are many different styles of Rioja, so at times consumers don't really know what they are getting. This bottling is a step down from the "Crianza" designation which demands 2 years of aging, six months  of which has to be in oak. There is probably no wood on this wine, at least none that I could detect. That's fine with me. This wonderful wine features bright, black cherry and plummy aromas with a hint of earth. It's boldly fruity in the mouth with excellent balance and acidity. It finishes very smooth and long with notes of coffee and spice and is an excellent value at the $9.99 it cost me at my local store. It's imported by another high quality small importer Kysela Pere et Fils. Cheers!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Cantele Primitivo 2009

   Experts used to think that the Italian varietal Primitivo was the genetic ancestor of our American Zinfandel. Although DNA testing has since proven that false (they are both related to a Croatian varietal named Crljenak Ka┼ítelanski - don't ask me how to pronounce that), the taste similarities between the 2 grapes remains. They both produce wines that are quite dark in color and feature large scaled flavors of baked cherry and plum with notes of black pepper. There's a definite roasted quality to the fruit here as full ripeness is easily attained in a hot climate such as this. Primitivo is grown primarily in Puglia and this version by Cantele is from Salento, the southeastern most tip of Puglia. When it's all in balance and the alcohol isn't too prominent in the form of heat, these wines can be a perfect partner for your weeknight pasta or pizza. This quaffer delivers all the aforementioned aromas and flavors, and while there is a touch of that alcoholic heat on the back end, the fruit is sweet and the flavors are bold enough to balance it all out. An import of Vias, this brawny wine cost me $9.99. Cheers.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Argiolas Vermentino di Sardegna "Costamolino" 2010

   As a fan of indigenous grapes, there's always adventure lurking when it comes to quaffing. According to Wikipedia, Vermentino, here from the island of Sardinia, is the same grape as Pigato, which is usually found in Liguria. I know, it would be nice if one name could be used but Italians are territorial when it comes to their grapes. Either way, this beautiful white gives you all the flavors of the warm, sunny island from which it comes. Aromas of poached pear, honey and spice lead to round, creamy somewhat tropical flavors. This wine has a much more full-bodied texture than you expect, which reminds a lot of Chardonnay. But despite that, it still retains a vibrant acidity that keeps it fresh tasting and lively. It finishes beautifully long with notes of roasted almonds and stood up very well to a Thai-style chicken soup that my wife made. This Vermentino would certainly pair well with many richer styled fish dishes as well. Argiolas is a very solid producer whose wines are a sure bet year in and year out. Imported by one of my favorites, Winebow, this beauty cost me a mere $9.99. Cheers.