December 2018 Recommendations
Basics: Cortese from Gavi, in southeast Piedmont (Alessandria)
Style: Unoaked, medium bodied white
Notes: Bright apples and melon give way to lightly chalky minerality and a clean finish
Why this wine matches you: The notes here are pretty similar to the Chardonnay below in that we’re finding stone fruits and minerals alongside a clean finish. However, as it is with wine, different styles can be described with identical words but mean different things. We just need granular modifiers. For example, we’re finding ‘chalky’ minerality here instead of ‘stony’ minerality as below, isn’t that cool? Made from Cortese grapes, this wine was fermented and aged in stainless steel, so has never been in contact with oak. At the same time, it holds true to its European restraint in that it’s not overly fruity, textural, or produced, and you’ll find a slight nuttiness that generally is not present in Newer Wold wines. A bit of background: the grapes come from a small production zone that includes the town of Gavi and ten surrounding communes. ‘Gavi’ or ‘Cortese di Gavi’ was granted DOC status in 1974 and promoted to DOCG in 1998. Historically, the area was more associated with Liguria and its fish-based cuisine, but since the phylloxera outbreak in Europe, it became part of Piedmont. You tend to enjoy wine that contain smoothing elements, and I’m hoping this one brings you back to our time in Piedmont since I can’t recommend a suitable Italian Arneis this month under $20.
Pairs well with: sipping on while cooking meals!!!, appetizers (antipasti!!), and lighter fare, especially fish
Basics: Easy drinking, every day Chard at a great price
Style: Varietally true, with a touch of texture
Notes: Stone fruit finishes with a touch of wet-stone minerality
Why this wine matches you: I thought of you when I bought this wine back in September for a class I taught for Wharton Business Schoo'l’s wine club. Not only is the style on point, the price is unbeatable!! I describe Novellum Chardonnay as ‘Southern France meets Northern California’. It was made in Roussillon, located near the Pyranees. This sunny, hilly area results in ripe grapes that capture the nearby Mediterranean air by way of stony minerality in the tasting notes. The wine is unoaked, but aged on Viognier lees, which gives noticeable texture and a surprising touch of complexity for something so straightforward, as well as a bit of weight. It echos Northern California by resembling a pricier, more serious Sonoma Chardonnay produced by Mark Aubert. Sonoma is the region from which Chateau Montelena (in Napa!!) bought its Chardonnay grapes that went on to win the Judgement of Paris in 1976. This wine is great match for you (and I think you liked it at Thanksgiving!!) given the European and California influences at play, its casual ease, and medium weight.
Pairs well with: This versatile wine walks the line between freshness and weight, meaning it goes well with a large variety. I served it with turkey breast and gravy on Thanksgiving but found it went just as well with cheese plates and sushi, as well as being very drinkable on its own!!
Basics: Red wine made of Agiorgitiko grapes, from Nemea Greece
Style: Fresh, with lower (but balanced) acid and round tannins
Notes: Red and black berry notes combine with black pepper, baking spices, and vanilla
Why this wine matches you: I am so pumped that this wine is available!!! Made from the impossible-to-pronounce or spell Aghiorghitiko grape, this wine undulates and lifts up the berries and spice with nice depth. The combination of the depth and freshness is what kept bringing me back when I tasted it with Marco several months ago. I think it fits your profile because it’s reminiscent of a higher-altitude Malbec (which was one of my first comments after the initial tasting), meaning that rich fruit and French oak spices are the stars of the show instead of zesty acid or grippy tannins, although the wine is well-balanced and not at all flabby. The grapes were fermented in stainless steel (to retain freshness), the must underwent full malolactic fermentation (for a bit of texture) and the new wine spent a year in two-year-old French oak barrels (for softening and spices) before being released. I think this is an excellent way to branch out a bit from Rhone and Bordeaux blends while staying true to your particular preferences.
Pairs well with: grilled meat, lamb in particular, and beef stew
Basics: Malbec from the Uco Valley in Mendoza, Argentina
Style: Medium to fuller bodied red
Notes: Find fresh black fruit, violets, and French oak spice.
Why this wine matches you: On to the real thing!! Malbec originated in France and is one of the five grapes included in a red Bordeaux blend. Its acreage is decreasing there but it is still popular in Cohors, France, where it is known as Cot. Brought to Argentina by a French winemaker when he noticed the favorable growing conditions in the mid nineteenth century, Mendoza is Malbec’s spiritual home. I chose this because it was described by James Suckling of Wine Spectator as having notes of violets and herbs (particularly thyme), which mentally brings me to younger Rhone Valley Syrahs, and also because he described the wine as having ‘linearity’, a characteristic that I find in traditional Bordeaux blends. Similar to the Skouras above, we will not find massive amounts of acid or tannin, although the tannins that do exist are described as ‘elegant’. This wine also has rich flavor, good weight, and a lingering finish.
Pairs well with: Spiced beef (brisket!!), sausages, and stronger cheeses
Basics: Red blend from the Douro Valley in Portugal
Style: Fuller bodied with high flavor concentration
Notes: Bright, dark fruit, spice and tobacco lead to a long, grippy finish
Why this wine matches you: Portugal and the Douro Valley are home to port wine, but more and more light (or ‘unfortified’) wine - made from port grapes - is being produced in the region. There are thirty-ish approved port grape varieties but the most popular are Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca, Tinto Roriz (Tempranillo), Tinta Barroca, and Tinta Cao. I thought we would expand your portfolio (‘port’- folio, get it???) to include this intensely flavored wines as a departure from the more mellow styles that so far have been listed. And don’t fear, even though it is made from port grapes, there is no sweetness to be found since the wine is fermented fully dry. Vale do Bomfim was not traditionally made for commercial purposes. Instead it was made for private use by the Symington Family, the owners of Dow’s, from grapes grown in the Bomfim vineyard located in the heart of the Upper Douro. Once wine merchants discovered the QPR (quality to price ratio) of this particular wine, the Family began producing it on a commercial level and worldwide exports have been growing. Some reviewers recommend cellaring this for up to a year, but I personally think it’s ready to drink now. I do not think it has the structure to improve with age, so it should be consumed while it retains freshness.