Wine Club JUNE 2018

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Welcome to our June edition of Vine Arts Wine Club. This month we've teamed up with Vine Arts alumnus Erik Mercier to offer some great natural wines that have just recently arrived in Alberta. These wines are very limited in quantity, so we're happy to offer them to you. In juxtaposition, we have also selected some classic styles perfect for any occasion. Enjoy! 

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Meinklang Weiß - Burgenland, Austria $25.50

(description courtesy of  Erik Mercier)

Where

Burgenland is located a short drive south of Vienna, in Austria. The region surrounds a large shallow lake called the Neusiedlersee, which acts as a giant temperature regulator for the area. Soils here range drastically – you’ll see everything from Gneiss, dragged hundreds of kilometers by glaciers from the alps, to wind-blown dust called loess originating on the panonian plains of Hungary. This particular biodynamic vineyard is planted on sandy loam with a shallow rocky topsoil. The climate here is moderate and continental, with toasty summers and frigid winters.

What

This wine is a field-blend of Grüner Veltliner (50%), Welschriesling (40%), and Muskat (10%). The grapes were hand harvested, destemmed, and gently crushed in a pneumatic press. The juice wild-ferments in stainless steel tanks at a low temperature for several weeks. After a short rest period the wine is lightly filtered and protected with 71ppm of SO2 (half the legal limit). The final wine has 7g/l of residual grape sugars and is 11% alcohol – a perfect combination!

Why

Meinklang’s Farm is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever visited. Their vines are scattered over several kilometers and between them you’ll find wild orchards, grazing land, and waterways. Their obsession with biodiversity and holistic farming is incredibly inspiring. They raise a hundred or so angus cattle, purely to maintain the health of the soil and energy of the land (they don’t eat them; they are vegetarians). They grow native grasses between their vines which helps return nitrogen to the earth and houses benevolent insect species. They don’t spray herbicides or pesticides; instead they opt for teas made from fermented stinging nettle, horsetail, and chamomile. You can feel the pulse of their land in every sip. These are vineyards filled with life.

Taste

This wine is a pale lemon-green in the glass. The nose is reminiscent of spring: wildflowers, heather, sweetgrass, lilac trees, green apple skins, and lime zest. On the palate the wine is barely off dry with crisp acidity, and a mineral finish. It is light but not lacking flavour –morning sunshine is no less desirable than the afternoon glare, it’s the subtlety that makes this wine so splendid. You’ll find further flavours of ripe gooseberry, white-pepper, sweet-basil, and green figs. This wine is a shockingly good foil for fatty foods. When paired with Boudin Blanc it cuts through like a featherweight knife. When paired with country style pork pâté, you’ll discovery delicacy in a place where only gluttony existed. Conversely, it works wickedly well with Vietnamese food – try it with Pho, perfumed with lemongrass and fish sauce.

Ottoventi Grillo Punto 8 - Terre Siciliane, Italy

Ottoventi Grillo Punto 8 - Terre Siciliane, Italy $15.50

Where

Created in 2011, the Terre Siciliane IGT designation covers the entire island of Sicily. The name itself literally translates as 'Sicilian lands'. The largest island in the Mediterranean, Sicily is worlds away from fashionable northern Italy. It’s wilder, more rugged, slower, and a little edgy. Northern Africa is within eyesight on a clear day. Its central location has for centuries brought many different cultures, customs, and rulers. Abundant sunshine and low rainfall make it an ideal place to grow grapes.

What

Sicily has an amazing assortment of indigenous varieties. Grapes such as Nero d’Avola, Nocera, Frappato, and  Nerello Mascalese go into many of the islands sought after red wines. Strong examples balance fleshy ripeness and refreshing acidity. Sicily’s white varieties have mainly gone unnoticed. Catarratto, the most commonly grown white grape, is often used to bulk up lighter northern Italian white wines. Grillo, a crossing of Catarratto and Moscato di Alessandria, was once used exclusively for Marsala production (alongside Catarratto and Inzolia). Once nearly abandoned, Grillo is enjoying resurgent interest. A variety that can handle the scorching Sicilian sun, plantings increased 180% over the course of ten years. It’s well adapted to different approaches of vinification and élevage. The Ottoventi Grillo Punto 8, is made from 100% Grillo sourced from 16 year old vines planted at the northwestern tip of Sicily, close to the seaside city of Trapani. Fermentation and maturation occurs entirely in stainless steel tanks.

Who

Cantina Ottoventi (the “8 winds”) takes its name from the western Sicilian winds that bring sea breezes from seemingly every direction. These winds keep the estates 40 hectares of vineyards reliably dry and healthy. Owned by Antonino and his wife Giuseppina, this is the 4th generation of Mazzara’s to manage the estate. The next generation, Sara,  is actively involved with day to day operations. In contrast with tradition, where grapes were ripened to achieved maximum sugar levels, Ottoventi strives to ripen grapes fully while still maintaining acidity. Their harvest tends to occur 2 weeks earlier than neighbouring growers. Grapes are hand picked and carefully selected. Dry ice and nitrogen are used to insure that the harvested fruit is neither damaged or oxidized.            

Taste

The Grillo Punto 8 has vibrant aromas of white flowers, lemon peel, and peach pith. The palate is crisp and refreshing with a slightly saline finish. Toss this tangy little number into the bag for your next picnic in the park. 

Bodegas y Vinedos Verum La Posada Garnacha 2016 - Tierra de Castilla, Spain $16.00

Bodegas y Vinedos Verum La Posada Garnacha 2016 - Tierra de Castilla, Spain $16.00

Where

Known to the Moors as Manxa or 'parched earth', La Mancha is Spain’s sun scorched rooftop. Europe’s largest growing region, it ecompasses a vast 190,000 hectares of vineyards. This accounts for nearly half of the vines in Spain. Correspondingly, it’s also the source of 50% of all Spanish wine. The climate is extreme: extremely hot in the summer and extremely cold in the winter. Drought is a very real threat. The region itself is further broken down into seven D.O.s (wine appellations of protected origin).

What

With a total of 22,000 growers and over 300 wineries, there is a diverse range of wine styles. The most planted variety, Airen, is most commonly used to produce brandy. That being said, for a decade a movement towards higher quality has made impressive gains. Their champion of choice, old bush vine Garnacha. Also known as Grenache, this variety is widely planted in regions with mediterranean climates. Many of the vaunted wines of Châteauneuf-du-Pape are dominantly, or even 100%, Grenache. Spanish Garnacha tends to be riper and higher in alcohol, often topping 15% abv. The La Posada keeps the alcohol down to a more manageable 13% abv. It’s produced entirely from the estates younger vines (10 - 12 years old). Made from free run juice, fermentation and ageing occurs in stainless steel tanks. The pressed juice is used only for distillation.

Who

The Lopez-Montero family created Bodegas y Vinedos Verum in 2005. Located southeast of Madrid in the town of Tomelloso, the family have been making wine in the region for over 200 years. All of their wines are labelled as Tierra de Castilla, a type of classification that allows for greater experimentation and flexibility in winemaking. Many of the estates 250 hectares of vines are over 50 years old. Situated at an altitude of 650 meters, they receive only 250 mm of rainfall per square meter yearly. An abundance of sunshine and heat allow Bodegas y Vinedos Verum to practice organic farming. Thanks to their success, the estate has been able to sponsor the Verum Symphonic Orchestra, a cultural project that allows local musicians to have a steady group to perform with.

Taste

This versatile wine pleases with medium bodied notes of strawberry, plum and licorice. Fuchsia hued, it’s not overly tannic or heavy on the palate. Most certainly this is a more youthful interpretation of Garnacha. A touch of spiciness makes it a cheerful all rounder for all types of grilled meats.

 

Broadside Cabernet Sauvignon - Paso Robles, California $28.75

Broadside Cabernet Sauvignon - Paso Robles, California $28.75

Where

Viticulture in Paso Robles dates back to the late 18th century. This part of California was the stomping ground for vine planting and wine drinking Spanish missionaries. Located at the southern edge of Central Coast region and halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco, it has 13,000 hectares planted to vine. The climate is distinctly warm and continental, thanks in part to a range of coastal hills that moderate cooling oceanic influences. A handful of river valleys, collectively known as the “Templeton Gap”, allow some beneficial breezes to cool vineyards early and late in the day. Recognizing a variety of microclimates and terroirs, the region introduced 11 new sub-appellations in 2014. The best vineyards are located on rolling hillsides that sit between 500 and 1,000 feet above sea level.

What

The most commonly planted grapes in Paso Robles are Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Grenache and Mourvèdre. This is undoubtedly red wine country, with 8 in 10 vines being planted to red varietals. Thanks in part to a demand for opulent and plush red wines, the number of wineries in the region grew from 50 to 200 in under twenty years. With an average daily high of 40.6 °C, fruit ripeness is a near certainty. Mercifully cool nights maintain acidity and freshness. So while yes plush, wines in Paso Robles are not flabby. The Broadside Cabernet Sauvignon nicely illustrates this duality of richness and drinkability. The fruit for this wine, sourced from Paso Robles Santa Margartia Ranch and San Juan District AVAs, is harvested sooner for lower sugar levels. Oak use, 14 Months in mostly neutral French & American oak, is subtle.

Who

Margarita Vineyard in southern Paso Robles was first recognized by Robert Mondavi as a special place. Planting Cabernet Sauvignon in the 1990’s, it was meant to rival his famous To Kalon Vineyard in Napa. A decade later, Brian Terrizzi was able to swoop in and scoop up some parcels following a corporate buyout of the property. Brian, who previously worked with Rosenblum Cellars and Isole e Olena, capitalized on his friendship with vineyard manager Mike Sinor, who gave him first dibs on the best blocks. Alongside his wife Stephy, a leading figure of organic and sustainable agriculture, they were able to bottle their first vintage in 2006. Stephy’s minimalist approach in the vineyard is mirrored in the cellar, where Brian takes a hands off approach to winemaking.

Taste

This vintage was noted for low yields of intensely flavoured fruit. This shows on the palate with ample notes of black currant, sweet tobacco, and green olive. Fine tannins are softened by a small dollop of oak vanilla. This is a style of Cabernet that you can crack into with very little fuss. Rich and inviting, serve it in a big glass alongside a saucy stack of slow-cooked baby back ribs.

Château Vieux Poirier - Bordeaux, France $21.50

Château Vieux Poirier - Bordeaux, France $21.50

Where

A full hour drive from the Medoc, the Libournais is on the eastern fringe of Bordeaux. Within its borders, the grape growing areas of Pomerol and Saint-Emilion are the stars. Neighbouring areas enjoy less renown. One such area, Fronsac, is making a play for greater exposure. Located on the northern bank of the Dordogne river, its 800 hectares of vineyards dot a serene landscape of woodlands and hills. The ‘Tuscany of the Gironde’, its limestone soils are similar to the soils in Saint-Emilion. As the regions stunningly grand Châteaux suggest, the wines of Fronsac were once favoured by the elites of French society. A notoriety the region intends to regain.

What

Like in Pomerol and Saint-Emilion, Merlot is the dominant varietal in Fronsac (60% of all plantings). Late ripening Cabernet Sauvignon plays a supporting role. Comparatively, the wines of Fronsac are less plush and glossy. Their charm is in their grit and edginess. The Château Vieux Poirier takes the classic Merlot dominant model and flips it around. 40% Merlot is blended with 60% Malbec. It may come as a surprise that Malbec, synonymous with Argentina, has always been part of the classic Bordeaux blend. A severe frost in 1956 destroyed much of the Malbec in the region. Many growers decided to replant with either Merlot or Cabernet Sauvignon. Today few growers continue to cultivate it, and even fewer give it a starring role in a blend. The fruit for this wine is sourced from a small 2 hectare vineyard on a sandy-clay plateau near the town of Galgon. The 25 year old vineyard has been certified organic since 2010. Vinification occurs with indigenous yeast in cement tanks, in which the wine is aged 8 months. Only 12,000 bottles are produced each year.

Who

Jean Luc Thunevin has a total of 20 properties to his name. Purchasing his first plot of vines in 1989, he quickly stood out for his modernist approach. Very low yields, intensive barrel use, and extra extraction were his hallmarks. This was the era of ultra-rare “garage wines”. His flagship property, Château Valandraud, released its first vintage in 1991. Within 5 years it would out-price established Bordeaux classified growths. A true enfant terrible, Thunevin continues to ruffle the feathers of the Bordeaux establishment. He even once went as far as spreading plastic sheeting on the ground of one of his vineyards to stop rain and weeds. His continued pursuit of perfection and disdain for authority cements his reputation as the “Bad Boy” of Bordeaux.

Taste

Malbec is the muscle in this blend, lending notes of blackberry and sweet tannin. The Merlot dials things back a bit, with lush plummy flavours and a smooth texture. The combination adds up to something less fruity than a straight Argentine Malbec, and less gritty than a traditional Merlot dominant Fronsac. It’s a crowd pleaser. Both New World and Old World fans will have something to like here. Go old school when pairing with food, like a roast rack of lamb with mint sauce.

Testalonga ‘Chin Up’ Cinsault - Swartland, South Africa $38.00

Testalonga ‘Chin Up’ Cinsault - Swartland, South Africa $38.00

(description courtesy of  Erik Mercier)

Where

On South Africa’s western coast, north of Stellenbosch, you’ll find the region of Swartland. This desert-like appellation is extremely hot during the summer months, and not much cooler during the winter. Rain seldom falls during the growing season despite their proximity to the ocean. The only redeeming factor is the cool breeze caused by the Benguela Current. Soils here are quite ancient, mostly composed of decaying granite from the nearby mountain range.

What

This wine is made from Cinsault, a grape native to the Rhone Valley in France, but transplanted to South Africa over a hundred years ago. These little bush-vines were planted in 1981 and are farmed organically, without irrigation. The grapes are harvested super early to keep the alcohol low. The grapes were fermented in large open-top wooden fermenters, stems and all, without temperature control. After several months of settling, the wine is bottled with minimal sulphur, and without fining for filtering.

Why

Craig Hawkins, the proprietor and winemaker at Testalonga, is an incredible force in the South African wine industry. He is saving old organic vineyards from being ripped up and is paying top dollar for grapes, which helps make farming a viable career. He helped start the Swartland Revolution, a collective of winemakers in the region bent on making wines without additives, that truly show their unique terroir. He has received impressive accolades for his wines including high scores from Jamie Goode, and listings at restaurants like Noma and Eleven Madison Park. His production is tiny which means Alberta only received 120 bottles this year – available exclusively at Vine Arts.
 

Taste

This wine is a pale ruby in the glass with garnet inflections. The nose is paradoxical with bright fresh fruit, and an animal edge: wild cranberries, red currant, red plum skins, cured meat, warm leather, forest floor, and dried roses. The palate is exuberant with crunchy fruit flavours, ample spice, and subtle drying tannins on the finish. Further flavours of apple skins, dried shitake, violet, and blood orange make this an über fun sip. Last November I went to LA and discovered an unstoppable love for tacos. Usually I’m an advocate for off-dry white wines (kabinett Riesling) as a pairing, but this wine just screams for some slow-cooked, spicy, shredded pork wrapped in a tortilla. Gruuuuumble…. Making myself so hungry!