September Wines of the Month
The focus this month is on wines for the end of summer and the early part of fall!
Jelu Torrontés San Juan 2011 (Argentina) $12.99 - Year-after-year we love this wine! The 2011 is AWESOME! Torrontés is the grape and it is the dominant white grape in Argentina! This is really floral, kind of Muscat or Viognier like aroma. Lots of orange, apricot and some pineapple. That fruit is the first thing you taste, but then you get a hint of spice midway à la Gewürztraminer and then the finish is very clean and dry. Totally not what you expect from that first smell. Really cool wine! Food pairing – shellfish, seafood, lighter pasta dishes, grilled chicken or pork. Drinks well with or without food!
Hippodrome Côtes du Ventoux Rouge 2009 (France) $14.99 – One of the importers that Ned Swain of Devenish uses the most brought this delicious red in from Southern France. 2009 is an incredibly good, GREAT vintage from the South of France. This has aromas and flavors that are spicy, with rosemary and thyme. Ripe cherries, cooked cherries, roses, flowers and more! Bright fruit. It’s a pretty wine. It’s smooth, bright and almost lush. Slight pepperiness. Soft, slightly dry tannins on the finish. This wine is a “one-off” made by Marc Pichon for the importer in Manhattan. Marc bought a vineyard in the Ventoux region and has been reinvigorating it. The importer asked him to make a wine for them. So, they bought 1,000 cases of wine…..then they realized they were carrying it as inventory and they decided to make a move on it and mark it down. So, Ned made a deal for a bunch of it and we picked some up! I don’t know for sure, but I’d bet it is mostly Grenache with some Syrah blended in it. It’s only 12% alcohol, so it is not too heavy. This is a PERFECT fall wine! Organic & Sustainable Farming. Food pairing - poultry, grilled meats, duck.
This last winter/spring, Ned Swain of Devenish Wines, went to Galicia (Guh-lee-thia) in Spain courtesy of the local wine promotional board. At first, he wasn’t sure whether or not to go…..he made the trip and came back fired up about Galician wines. The wines are just beginning to come into Maine.
One of the many cool things about Galician wines is that they are made using grapes that are only grown in that part of Spain. The phylloxera pest hasn’t crossed the mountains into this part of Spain, so the “international” grapes such as Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc are not grown in this area. Instead the grapes are Mencia and Godello and Albarinho and others.
The part of Galicia that is home to these particular wines is Monterrei. This is an area in Galicia that borders Portugal. It’s a bit of a no man’s land because of its remoteness and recent lack of sophistication surrounding wine. During the 20th century, much of the winemaking in the area disappeared. .
The winery is Amizade. It’s a new project created by the region’s leading light, Gerardo Mendez of Do Ferreiro in the Rias Baixas. Mendez is one of the best Albarinho producers, if not the best. He farms organically and is borderline fanatical about using indigenous yeasts to really showcase the terroir (terruño) of his wines. His grapes are all hand-harvested.
Amizade is a collaborative effort of Mendez and the importer, De Maison Selection of Chapel Hill, North Carolina. The word, amizade, means “friendship” in Galician. Mendez and a few others have helped restore outstanding winemaking to the area.
These wines come from a single vineyard called Quinturus. The soil is sandy with a lot of slate. It’s in a valley where the cool nights extend the growing season. The vineyard is planted to the white grape, Godello, and the red grape, Mencia, with a little Caiño and Arauxa (a clone of Tempranillo). Almost all of the wine produced in this area is white, so the Mencia is even more unusual than the Godello.
Godello is the dominant white grape in the area.
Mencia (Men-thia) is the dominant red grape. It is quite similar to good Cabernet Franc.
Amizade Godello 2010 (Spain) $21.99 - This is a rich, ripe, lush, creamy wine froma grape you likely don’t know….but, will! This has ripe oranges, pineapple and a bit of yeasty fresh bread in the aromas. Really bright acidity with a zesty citrus peel kind of thing right up front. It’s almost chewy and meaty in its texture at times. Slight green apple notes to the flavors. Hint of pine in a nice way. Full, long round finish. 100% Godello. Stainless steel fermentation and aging. Aged on the lees for 6 months – thus the creaminess. Food pairing – rich seafood, duck, heftier chicken dishes.
Amizade Mencia 2010 (Spain) $21.99 – This smells like Mencia – which means it smells a lot like Cabernet Franc from the Loire Valley. It’s also similar in many ways to a Morgon or Moulin-a-Vent Cru Beaujolais, but more intense (if you are unfamiliar with Cru Beaujolais, don’t even compare this to Beaujolais Nouveau or Villages – think a fuller, more complex wine). This is a very complex wine that wants your attention! It lingers and engages. At the same time, it’s playful and fun! Bright, vibrant cherry and raspberry aromas. Hint of pepper and freshly mown grass. Subtle smoke and fresh anise. Very smooth in the mouth. Bright, fresh black raspberry and black cherry fruit. Really nice. Very fresh. Finish has a flavor that is reminiscent of a blueberry finish. Almost all Mencia, with a little Caiño and Arauxa (a clone of Tempranillo). Stainless steel fermentation and aging. Aged on the lees for 6 months. Fermented with indigenous yeasts. Food pairing – grilled and roasted meats, mushrooms, truffle dishes.
Baudouin Brut Prestige Champagne NV (France) $43.99 – Over the last few years, we’ve been seeing and tasting more and more “grower” Champagnes. What is “grower” Champagne? The person making the wine grows the grapes. Veuve Cliquot and Moet et Chandon, etc. all make good Champagne. Bear this thought in mind, though, much of what you are buying is marketing. They are well-advertised and promoted brands. With a “grower” Champagne, you are buying a wine made from grapes grown in a specific place. One unfortunate aspect of “grower” Champagnes is that they tend to be expensive, even for Champagne. Well, we’ve found a delicious one that isn’t expensive! This has wonderful lemon citrus, a hint of fresh bread and coconuts and pineapples in the aromas. It shows rich, creamy, powerful fruit that leans a bit to strawberry-like. 100% Pinot Noir.
Dominio do Bibei “Lalama” Ribeira Sacra (Spain) $39.99 – This wine is a RARITY. One, not much of it is made; two, little of it is exported; three, almost none of it makes its way to Maine; FOUR, and MOST rare, it is incredibly rich, ripe, full and bold and ONLY 12.5% alcohol. The wine is from Ribeira Sacra (Sacred Riverbank) in Galicia. This is the river that forms the east-west border between Portugal and Spain. This is a TINY winemaking area (2,500 acres and only 10% of its wine is exported). Aromas of cedar, toast, mocha, graphite, black cherry and black raspberry. The flavors are powerful, structured and balanced.
It’s 85% Mencia with the rest being 7% Garnacha, and Brancellao and Mouraton, local varietals that we rarely ever see. The wine is fermented in 500-liter barrels and it is aged on the lees for 21 months. The vines produce barely 1-2 pounds of grapes per vine and are 15-to-100 years-old. The old-vine Mencia and the slate in the soil combine to influence the aromas and flavors Bottle-aged for 18 months before release. Drink now through 2020. Robert Parker, Wine Advocate, 94 points