Wine Club May 2019

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Hello wine clubbers! Your May edition of Vine Arts Wine Club is now available for pickup. This month we explore some lesser known white varieties (Pansa Blanca or Friulano, anyone?) and some classic regional expressions from Touraine, the Willamette Valley, Puglia, and the Pays d’Oc. Cin cin!

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2018 Alta Alella PB Pansa Blanca - Alella, Spain $21.50

Where

Alella is a very small, little known, wine region in Catalonia. With only 300 hectares of vineyards, it is one of the smallest wine producing districts in Spain. A short twenty minute drive from Barcelona, Alella was first planted to the vine in the first century AD. Awarded D.O. (Denominación de Origen) protection in 1953, it is largely overshadowed by the neighbouring D.O. of Penedès. Vineyard plantings are concentrated along the coastline, but they also run up the foothills of the Sierra de Parpes range. Vines planted in the foothills enjoy a moderate climate and are sheltered from strong sea breezes, leading to structured and acidic wines. The coastal vines tend to produce softer wines with less structure and less acidity.
  

What

With only nine registered wineries, Alella produces a small amount of wine for distribution. The most important grape is Xarel.lo (known locally as Pansa Blanca). It is most often planted on the cooler north-facing slopes, while the south-facing slopes are planted to red varieties (mostly Mataró, Syrah, and Garnacha). As is the case in neighbouring Penedès, Xarel.lo is a favoured variety for the production of sparkling wine. A light skinned grape, it is usually blended with Macabeo and Parellada. When made into still white wine, Xarel.lo is notable for its bracing acidity and stone-fruit flavours. Thick skinned berries make Xarel.lo particularly high in the antioxidant, resveratrol.

The Alta Alella PB is made from 100% Pansa Blanca grown organically in granitic ‘saulo’ soil, at 150 to 300 meters above the Mediterranean Sea. The grapes were gently pressed and fermented at low temperatures in stainless steel tanks.

Who

Alta Alella is a family run winery that was founded two decades ago by Josep Maria Pujol-Busquets and his wife Cristina Guillen. The former nineteenth-century property is the closest cellar to Barcelona. Located in the Serralada de Marina natural park, the amphitheatre-shaped estate has a commanding view of the surrounding hills and the Mediterranean Sea two kilometres away. The 17 hectare estate has been fully organic since day one. In addition to bottling still Alella D.O. wines, the family also produce sparkling wines under the Cava D.O.

Taste

Light straw yellow in colour with a greenish hue, the PB Pansa Blanca is sharply focused and bracing. The nose shows a bouquet of cool white peach, lemon peel, green apple, lovage and ginger. Light in body, the palate is citrusy with a bitter almond finish. Exceedingly dry with nervy acidity and minerality, this wine has some similarities to another underrated white grape variety, Grüner Veltliner. Well paired to rich flavours, it is one of the few wines that goes well with grilled artichoke and grilled asparagus. Best served around 8°C.

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2016 Villa Locatelli Friulano - Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Italy $19.25

Where

Located at the northeastern tip of Italy, Friuli is Italy’s front door to eastern Europe. Bordering Austria and Slovenia, Friuli has for centuries been a passageway for goods travelling from east to west. Although the fifth smallest region in Italy, Friuli is diverse in climate and landscape. The heavily forested north climbs skyward to the slopes of Carnic Alps and Julian Alps. The center and south of the region are characterised by rolling hills and broad coastal plains. Generally temperate in climate, it is wise to pack a jacket when visiting Alpine Friuli.

What

An important stop along the ancient Mediterranean spice route, Friuli is planted to grapevines brought by long-ago travellers from distant countries. The signature grape of the region is Friulano. Once known as Tocai Friulano, it is thought to have originated in southwest France. In 1995 the European Court found in favor of the Hungarian region of Tokaj, and demanded that the word “Tocai” be removed from Friuli wines. Whatever the name (confusingly it can also be called Sauvignon Vert and Sauvignonasse), Friulano is often mistaken for Sauvignon Blanc thanks to its dry and zesty character.

The Villa Locatelli Friulano is made from 100% Friulano grown in the subregion of Friuli Isonzo. This small maritime DOC, a plain of alluvial soils, is located at the southeastern corner of Friuli. Harvested in early September, the grapes were destemmed and crushed (with a 2 hour cold soak), and then fermented in steel tanks for 10-12 days. Maturation was a short 5 months in contact with the lees.

Who

The Villa Locatelli sits at the center of the Tenuta di Angoris estate. It was first awarded to the Locatelli family by Emperor Ferdinand III in 1648 (Friuli was at that time controlled by the Hapsburg Empire) Located in an area of Cormòns known as “Langoris”, this bucolic estate is characterised by quiet woods, green hills and vineyards. The winery is today managed by Marta Locatelli and her family. Altogether Marta has 120 hectares of vineyards planted in 3 zones: Isonzo, Collio and Colli Orientali del Friuli.

Taste

Straw yellow in color, the Villa Locatelli Friulano is medium in body, and mouthwateringly crisp. The nose shows aromas of underripe green pear, citrus, and honeysuckle. The finish is dry with a slightly bitter note of anise. High in acidity and herbal, this Friulano is a versatile food pairing wine. Pithy enough to cut through fatty meats, it is an apt partner to spicy dishes such as Tom Yum Goong (Thai spicy shrimp Soup). Serve well chilled around 8°C.

 

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2016 Lionel Gosseaume Les Marcottes Gamay - Touraine, France $21.00

Where

The AOC (Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée) of Touraine sits at the very heart of the Loire Valley. Lying to the east of the city of Tours, the vineyards of Touraine look upon France’s longest river. Originating in the highlands of the Massif Central, the Loire river meanders some 1,000+ kilometres to the Atlantic Ocean. Located mostly on the southern side of the river, the best vineyards tend to be planted on free-draining soils rich in tuffeau (calcareous rock). This stark white rock was the favoured material of 17th century builders who erected stunning country châteaux for the French nobility. The remaining rock quarries made excellent wine cellars. A place where maritime and continental influences meet, Touraine enjoys a mostly moderate climate with warm and sunny summers.

What

The best known grape varieties in Touraine are Chenin Blanc and Cabernet Franc. These two varieties account for the largest percentage of plantings. Gamay is comparatively a minnow to these big fish. In the regions of Saumur and Anjou it is used mostly for the production of rosé, while in Touraine it is used to make red wine. This thin skinned variety first appeared in the Burgundian village of Gamay in the 1360’s. Best known as the grape of Beaujolais, a region just south of Burgundy, Gamay was cast out of Burgundy by Philippe the Bold in 1395. Outlawing its cultivation, Philippe referred to Gamay as “disloyal Gaamez". He would be shocked to know that today old vine Gamay is highly prized by many a top Burgundy domaine.

The Les Marcottes is made from Gamay grapes that were hand-harvested from 35 year old vines planted to clay/silt soils. The wine underwent carbonic maceration for 10 days prior to a 6 month spell in tank for maturation. This technique, where the wine is fermented in a carbon dioxide rich environment prior to crushing, results in a wine that is low in tannin and fruity.

Who

Lionel Gosseaume is a third generation winemaker with 9 hectares of vines located halfway between the famous Châteaux of Chambord and Chenonceaux. In addition to growing Sauvignon Blanc (¾ of his vines) and Gamay, Lionel also grows small amounts of Mesliers Saint François and Menu-Pineau. The vineyards, located just up the road from his parents domaine, were purchased by Lionel in 2007 from his father’s friend Jean-Claude. The average vine age is 25 years old, although many of his vines are 60+ years old.

Taste

Playful and vibrant, this Gamay is very easy to get into. Bright magenta in colour, its floral nose of fresh cut violets is accentuated by fresh aromas of currants and raspberries. You’ll want to serve this wine in a wide rimmed Burgundy glass to best appreciate just how pretty it is. In the mouth it is light bodied with delicate tannins and high acidity. The prevailing red fruit flavours lead into a slightly bitter finish. Very quaffable, we would suggest serving this wine a touch cooler around 13 ̊C alongside creamy Camembert cheese.

 

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2013 Twill Cellars Pinot Noir - Oregon, USA $42.00

Where

What California is to Bordeaux, Oregon is to Burgundy. Cool and often damp, its yearly wine production is small. There is in fact more wine being bottled in New York State than in Oregon. With 13,750 hectares of land planted to vine, it is ten times smaller than California’s vineyards. There are three main growing areas to speak of: the Willamette Valley AVA, the Southern Oregon AVA, and the Columbia Gorge AVA, which straddles the state border with Washington State. Overall the climate is moderated by the Pacific Ocean, which lends ample rainfall. Closer to the border with California, the climate is drier. Conditions can shift dramatically from vintage to vintage, and from vineyard to vineyard.

What

Oregon Pinot Noir ranks amongst the world's very best. Over half of the states vines are planted to this famously difficult grape variety. In a testament to what the state has achieved in less than 50 years, famed Burgundian families have joined in and purchased vineyards in the Willamette Valley, south of Portland. The OPC (Oregon Pinot Camp), a yearly Pinot Noir conference held in the Willamette Valley, draws many of the world’s top Pinot Noir winemakers. The word is clearly out.

The Twill Cellars Pinot Noir is a blend of Pinot Noir from three vineyards in the northern Willamette Valley: Stormy Morning vineyard (northwest of the Yamhill-Carlton area), Johan vineyard (southwest of Eola Amity), and Molly’s vineyard (located close to Portland). All three of the vineyards are either organically or biodynamically farmed. The wine was made with no added yeasts or enzymes, and matured for 22 months in 15% new oak barrels with minimal SO2 .

Who

Darrel and Molly Roby started out small with a mere 1.09 hectare vineyard that they planted in 2000. Initially selling the fruit, they decided to make their own wines and hired winemaker Chris Dickson. Well travelled, Chris had over ten years of winery experience with Matello, Evesham Wood, Penner-Ash, Betz Family, Framingham, Landmark, Lammershoek and Dr. Loosen. Darrel looks after everything in the vineyard, while Molly welcomes guests to the winery and handles day to day operations.

Taste

This Pinot Noir is very expressive with lots of character. Light chili red in color, it combines earthy rusticity with bright red fruit notes. The nose is dominated by aromas of cherry-coke, burnt blood-orange, and five-spice. The light-bodied palate is a touch chewy and sinewy, with flavours of cranberry compote, rooibos tea leaf, and truffle. The finish is taut and lingering. This wine served with a crunchy and fatty pork-belly porchetta sandwich would be absolute bliss. The ideal service temperature is around 15 ̊C.

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2017 Tenuta Viglione Nero di Troia - Puglia, Italy $27.00

Where

Located in the southeastern Italian region of Puglia, the DOC of Gioia del Colle was first introduced in 1987. Centered around the town of the same name on a 360 meter plateau known as the Murge, this area is situated around the “ankle” of the Italian boot. Deriving its name from the latin phrase a pluvia, meaning “without rain”, sunbleached Puglia is extremely hot and dry. First colonized by Mycenaean Greeks, today this remote place is colonized every summer by sun-seekers that are drawn to Puglia’s long coastline and slow pace.

What

The DOC’s of Gioia del Colle and Manduria are mostly known for the production of Primitivo, which accounts for around 39% of Puglia’s red wine production. In comparison, lesser known Nero di Troia (officially called Uva di Troia) accounts for only 3% of all Puglian wine. Sadly, plantings of this variety have been shrinking steadily over the past few decades. Today vineyards of Nero di Troia are one-fifth their 1970’s size. An ancient variety, it is uncertain where Nero di Troia originates from. The name itself comes from the Puglian town of Troia, which according to legend was founded by the Greek Hero Diomedes following the destruction of Troy.

The Tenuta Viglione Nero di Troia is made from grapes harvested from vines planted on pebbly- limestone soils, 450 meters above sea level on the Murgian plateau. The vines were first planted in 1999. Fermented in stainless steel tanks, 30% of the wine was aged in large oak barrels.

Who

Owned by Giovanni Zullo, Tenuta Viglione has been a family owned winery since the 19th century. Giovanni is the fourth generation to manage the estate, which has holdings between Gioia del Colle and Santeramo in Colle. The winery itself is located in the Viglione area, on the border between the provinces of Bari and Taranto. It sits at the highest point of the Murgian plateau and is fully organic certified. The brand new winery is entirely gravity-fed, with temperature controlled stainless steel fermenters that allow Giovanni to bottle refined wines that maintain their freshness.

Taste

Nero di Troia has a firm build. Unsurprisingly it is often enlisted as a blending partner to sure up less structured grape varieties. Later ripening than Primitivo, it shows less of the “baked fruit” qualities that can dog other hot climate wines. This wine from Tenuta Viglione shows a classic profile that is somewhere between Nebbiolo and Syrah. Crimson red in colour, it is savoury with notes of sour plum, black cherry, and tobacco. Gripping tannins and high acidity make this a wine best served with food. The classic match is lamb or goat that has been slow roasted in a wood-fire oven. Don’t have a wood-fire oven? Another tasty match is lamb ragu over orecchiette pasta. Decant and serve around 16 ̊C.

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2015 Michel Gassier Les Piliers Cabernet Sauvignon - Pays d’Oc, France $21.50

Where

The Pays d’Oc is an IGP (Indication Géographique Protégée) that covers a large swath of southern France. Sitting apart from the stricter AOC (Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée) system, IGP wines are often referred to as ‘country wines’ or ‘wines of the land’. A vast region that stretches along the Mediterranean coast to the Pyrenees, the Pays d’Oc has a generally Mediterranean climate with hot and dry summers and mild winters. Altogether there are around 120,000 hectares planted to vine, making this one of the largest wine regions in the world.

What

Winemakers will choose to label their wine as IGP when they want to have an indication of origin, but prefer looser restrictions. Growers who have planted their vineyards to non-traditional grape varieties will also decide to go in this direction. The largest of six regional zones, the Pays d’Oc is responsible for the majority of wine production. Used for red, white and rosé wines, IGP labelled wines can vary greatly in style.

The Les Piliers is made from 100% Cabernet Sauvignon from hand harvested, sustainably farmed vines. Following fermentation, the wine was aged for one year in French oak barrels

Who

Michel Gassier is the fourth generation of his family to operate Château de Nages in Costières de Nîmes. His great-great grandfather Joseph Torres, an Algerian national, bought the estate during World War Two. The Gassier’s vineyards are located at the most southern part of the Rhône Valley, close to the azure shores of Meditteranean Sea. Planted to traditional Rhône varieties, the vines exist within the Natura 2000 European Union protected zone. A man deeply attached to the land, Michel describes himself as a “peasant-researcher”. Prior to managing the family estate, Michel worked for the French agricultural attache in Washington D.C. and for a wine distributor in New York and New Jersey. When his father retired in 1993, Michel returned to the family business with his American wife Tina. He quickly introduced organic viticulture and expanded his holdings. Never afraid to tackle new challenges, Michel has also collaborated with winemaker Philippe Cambie to produce two other Rhône-style blends called Cercius. Michel is the ideal example of a modern-traditionalist.

Taste

Bold and silky-smooth, the Les Piliers Cabernet Sauvignon shows a lot of finesse for a so-called ‘country wine’. It is purple-carmine in colour, and has a bouquet of plum, black currant, and cedar aromas. The palate has soft tannins and a touch of bell pepper spice. It is an ample and friendly style of Cabernet. Serve straight from the bottle without decanting around 16 ̊C. Cabernet is more than just a steak grape. Try serving this wine with baked blue-cheese stuffed portobello mushrooms.