Wine Club MaY 2018

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Welcome to our May edition of Vine Arts Wine Club! This month we have a lineup on the esoteric side. There are some under the radar grape varieties, some lesser known wine regions, and even wine from Mexico. Enjoy! 

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2016 Monte Xanic Vina Kristel Sauvignon Blanc - Valle de Guadalupe, Mexico - $20.50

Where

Yes indeed, Mexico makes wine. The Spanish introduced the grape vine in the 16th century, the very first in the America’s. Spanish Conquistadors and Jesuit Missionaries carried the vine with them as they spread across the land. Indigenous varieties did not take well to winemaking, so European varietals were imported. Today around 2,500 hectares of vineyards are planted. Three main wine growing regions exist. The North includes the states of Baja and Sonora. This area accounts for 85% of all Mexican wine production. La Laguna, includes the states of Coahuila and Durango. This is the oldest winemaking region in Mexico. The Center includes the states of Zacatecas, Aguascalientes and Querétaro. In general Mexico’s wine regions enjoy warm weather, but there are many different microclimates producing a range of wine styles.

What

The wine industry in the state of Baja is booming! Many of the wineries here are less than 30 years old, family run,  and small in scale. The vineyards thrive with warm, sunny days and cool, fog enveloped nights. This ideal wine region is just over and hours drive from the border town of Tijuana. The still rustic quality of the area keeps the region under many a tourists radar. Grapes grown are hugely diverse. You are as likely to come across Tempranillo or Nebbiolo, as you’re to find Cabernet Sauvignon. Generally the red wines of the region are robust and ripe. White varieties are equally varied, with grapes like Fiano rubbing shoulders with Chasselas. In the case of the Monte Xanic Vina Kristel, we have a 100% Sauvignon Blanc from the “Napa Valley of Mexico”, Valle de Guadalupe. This wine is entirely fermented and aged in stainless steel tanks.

Who

Monte Xanic was founded by 5 friends (Hans, Ricardo, Eric, Manuel and Tomás) in 1987. Located 25 km from the coast, the estate benefits from a unique Mediterranean microclimate. The first wines produced at the winery, a Chenin Colombard and a Cabernet Sauvignon, came from the 1988 vintage. Monte Xanic has grown to be a reference for high quality Mexican wine, with four different labels: Gran Ricardo, Ediciones Limitadas, Monte Xanic and Calixa. Anybody thinking that this is a humble operation should think again, as the winery is as impressive as any winery in California. Total wine production remains only 50,000 cases made each year.

Taste

Tasting this wine blind, you would be very hard pressed to say it’s from Mexico. It shows all the classic characteristics of a New World Sauvignon Blanc. Silvery in color, on the nose and palate citric fruits dominate with crunchy acidity and minerality. A touch of grassiness is reminiscent of New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs. It’s the perfect wine to serve with a fresh salad

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2015 Chateau Pesquie Terrasses Blanc - Vin de France, France - $18.00

Where

The wine growing region of Ventoux, previously known as Côtes du Ventoux, is located 40 km north of the southeastern French city of Avignon. The region takes its name from Mont Ventoux, the “Giant of Provence” that towers over the fertile vines of the Rhône. Cycling fans will know this 2,000 meter high mountain as the scene for one of the most most grueling stages of the Tour de France. Like exhausted participants of the Tour, the vineyards of Ventoux creep up the western slopes of the mountain. There is a wildness to the terrain that’s well paired with a local sense of rebelliousness. It can come as a surprise that this area actually used to struggle ripening grapes, but warming temperatures have brought regularly successful harvests.

What

The wines of Ventoux are in many ways similar to the wines of neighbouring Côtes du Rhône. The classic Rhône red blend of Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvedre is often employed. This style of wine is typically fruit forward and meant for early consumption. A new development has been the growth of so called “Super-Rhône” wines, that disregard tradition in favour of more modern styles and grapes from outside of the region. Red wine production far outweighs white wines. The most common varietals for white wines are Clairette, Bourboulenc and Grenache Blanc. Although Viognier typically plays a supporting role, it makes up 70% of the Chateau Pesquie Terrasses Blanc. The remaining 30% of the blend is split equally between Roussanne and Clairette. As there is more than 50% Viognier in the blend, which is restricted in the appellation rules, this wine cannot actually be labelled as Ventoux. As such it carries the designation of Vin de France. Fermentation and elevage occur entirely in stainless steel tanks.

Who

Château Pesquie, one of the leading estates in Ventoux, has been owned by the Chaudière family since the early 1970s. The stunning château itself dates back to the 1750’s. The first wines from the estate first appeared in 1989. Today brothers Fred and Alex Chaudière manage the estates 100 hectares of vineyards, adhering to organic principles. Everything in the vineyard is done by hand, including manually turning the soil and harvesting the fruit. The terroir of the estate consists of rocky limestone clay, red clay and loamy gray clay. Vines planted to 10 different varieties (20-80 years old), ripen evenly and slowly thanks to a cool micro-climate. 

Taste

The Terrasses Blanc is your perfect Spring weather aperitif wine. Silvery in color, it shows floral notes of citrus blossom and fresh squeezed lime. A crispy palate is punctuated with flavours of white peach, mango, and lemon. Well paired with a traditional Provençal mussel bouillabaisse.

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2016 Quentin Jeannot Bourgogne Rouge - Burgundy, France - $30.00

Where

Burgundy’s clout transcends its small footprint. 30,000 hectares in size, every square inch of land is coveted. Every detail of the landscape has been studied, dissected, and scrutinized for hundreds of years. Cisterian monks were among the first to categorize Burgundy’s landscape. The main departments are Chablis, Côte de Nuits, Côte de Beaune, Côte Chalonnaise and Mâconnais. The continental climate is thoroughly unpredictable, with generally hot summers and cold winters. Subject to fickle conditions, the best vineyards are located on midlopes with sunny southeastern exposures. The concept of “terroir”, the uniqueness of place, runs deep through the Burgundian winemakers veins.        

What

Burgundy is the spiritual home of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. “Burghounds” will argue that there are no better examples to be found anywhere in the world. Where things tend to get confusing is trying to understand the regions elaborate classification system. In this system you have Regional Wines, Village Wines, Premier Cru Wines, and Grand Cru Wines. To further complicate things, Napoleonic inheritance laws subdivide already small vineyard holdings. A grape grower may own a single row of vines in one village, and another row in the neighbouring village. On top of this we can throw in drastic vintage variations for good measure. Yeah, you can see why Burgundy inspires both devotion and frustration.

The Quentin Jeannot Bourgogne Rouge is a Regional Wine. A Bourgogne Rouge can be made from grapes sourced anywhere in Burgundy. Quentin makes wine from vineyard holdings in the Côte Chalonnaise appellation of Maranges. The Pinot Noir grapes are hand harvested from 50 year old vines planted on limestone soil. Once in the cellar the clusters are destemmed and fermented in stainless steel tanks. The wine is then transferred to barrels for malolactic fermentation and 12 months elevage. Only 6000 bottles of this wine were made in 2016.

Who

Quentin Jeannot is a young winemaker who has been working alongside his parents at the family domaine in the village of Saint-Sernin-du-Plain. Valérie and Philippe Jeannot established their estate in 1995. At the time living elsewhere, they were finally able to move fulltime to the area in 1999. They purchased their first vines that same year. Today they have plots of vineyards in 10 different appellations, including the prestigious villages of Santenay and Pommard.

Taste

There’s a trend in Burgundy towards fermenting using whole clusters, keeping the stems for structure and character. These wines are often described as “traditional”. This wine is more flirtatious and youthful. Fermenting without stems in tank preserves bright notes of cherry and rose. A touch of bâtonnage (lees stirring) lends some volume to the body, extracting additional flavour and intensity. Elevage in barrel adds a light touch of clove. This is pretty Pinot. Serve slightly cooler with a simple duck terrine and crunchy baguette.

 

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2016 Cembra Cantina di Montagna Schiava - Trentino, Italy - $22.00

Where

Trentino is an autonomous wine region located in northern Italy. Until the Treaty of Saint-Germain in 1919, this province was officially part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. That is why even to this day Trentino doesn’t strike visitors as typically Italian. The Brenner Pass, a mountain corridor through the Alps, still makes this region Italy’s connection with northern Europe. Geographically and climatically, it is an alpine region. Although neighbouring Alto Adige is even 500 ft higher, Trentino is still very much influenced by the peaks of the Dolomites. A rain shadow shields the valleys, and warm breezes keep everything warm and dry. Surprising for an alpine area, the capital of Trento is actually one of the countries warmest cities during the summer.

What

Almost 75% of the wine produced in Trentino qualifies for DOC status (Italy’s designation for higher quality wines). This percentage is higher than almost anywhere else in Italy. Of the 20 approved varietals for the area, only three are indigenous: Nosiola, Teroldego Rotaliano and Marzemino. The weather conditions favour white varietals, which account for over 60% of all plantings. The most popular white varietal is Chardonnay, and Merlot the most popular red. For this months wine club we have sourced a red wine made from the lesser known Schiava grape. Also referred to as Vernatsch, or Trollinger in Germany, plantings in Trentino are unfortunately dwindling. The grapes for this wine come from hand harvested terraced vineyards in the Valle di Cembra. A youthful style, it is fermented and aged in a combination of stainless steel and fiberglass reinforced tanks.

Who

At 700 meter above sea level, Cembra Cantina di Montagna is the highest winery in Trentino. Established in 1952 by a few growers with small plots of vines, today this cooperative winery counts a total of 400 members. With such a diverse range of vineyard sites, the winery makes wines from more than 10 different varietals. Terraced plantings, on steep slopes, climb to over 872 meters above sea level. As the wineries oenologist explains, “These slopes can’t be tamed… Here we must work alongside nature.” Mechanical harvesting is impossible, so everything is done by hand. At harvest time, it’s all hands on deck. In little known areas like the Cembra Valley, this type of cooperation is insuring a lasting future.

Taste

You’ll be hard pressed to stop at one glass of Schiava. It is just so crushable! Light in color and body, it’s just a few notches above being a rosé. The nose and palate of this wine is all strawberry and cotton candy. That’s correct, cotton candy. A dash of tannin and good acidity, give this wine some pep in its step. Serve this elegant wine with a slight chill.

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2014 Reynolds Wine Growers Carlos Reynolds Red - Alentejano, Portugal - $23.50

Where

The wine region of Alentejo covers an entire one third of Portugal. Embodying much of the southern part of the country, it is composed of 8 subregions. Much of the landscape is gently rolling hills and plains. Only near the border with Spain do mountains appear. For a region with 170 kilometers of sandy beaches, Alentejo is known to few outside travellers. The interior is less influenced by the Atlantic, enjoying hot summers and chilly winters. In addition to growing grapes, this is Portugal’s “bread basket”, producing much of the countries wheat and olives.

What

Alentejo is Portugal’s “New World” wine region. A sparsely populated part of the country, vineyards holdings are typically owned by large estates. Traditional wineries, or “herdades” as they’re called, lean towards earthy and herbaceous styles. Modern wineries, in contrast, produce wines that are lush and oh so easy to drink. These plush wines are often compared with Australian Shirazes or California red blends. Given this duality of wine styles, it’s appropriate that the region endorses both local and international grape varieties. Aragonez (what the Spanish call Tempranillo) is the dominant local red variety. Although French varieties like Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon have proven successful, it’s the inky Alicante Bouschet that has really caught on. This robust varietal does particularly well in hot growing conditions. With the Carlos Reynolds Red we get a blend of grapes: 40% Alicante Bouschet, 40% Trincadeira, and 20% Syrah. The grapes are harvested at night when temperatures cool down, and are sorted by variety before entering the winery. Once destemmed, the grapes are dropped into Seguin Moreau French oak vats for fermentation. After a long period of maceration, the wines are blended and aged one year in wooden vats. This is followed by yet another year of ageing in bottle prior to release.

Who

The Reynolds family history in Portugal is an interesting one. Thomas Reynolds was an English merchant mariner who settled in Porto in 1820. Like other Englishman at the time, he was drawn to the growing Porto wine industry (some of the most famous names in Port are still English). He and his two sons would establish a trade network with their shop back in London. Thomas would eventually relocate first to Spain, and then to New Zealand. His second son Robert would stay in Portugal, expanding the family business. It was Robert who relocated the Reynolds family to Alentejo. Subsequent generations would firmly root the Reynolds name in the region. The 200 hectare estate (40 hectares of vineyards) of Figueira de Cima is still managed by Thomas’s descendants. The winery produces three groups of wines, named after the last three generations of the family: Gloria Reynolds, Julian Reynolds and Carlos Reynolds.

Taste

This red resides in the “modern” camp of Alentejo wine styles. Full bodied, it’s packed with dark blue/black berry fruit flavours. The round palate finishes off with a smooth, slightly smoky finish. Health gurus may be interested to know that Alicante Bouschet has both deep red skins and red flesh, giving high amounts of antioxidants. So it’s tasty and healthy. Score.

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2015 Cien y Pico Doble Pasta Garnacha Tintorera - Manchuela, Spain - $27.00

Where

The Meseta Central is the roof of Spain, a high central plateau of seemingly endless flatland. It is Spain’s “Big Sky Country”. With Madrid at its center, it extends over 81,000 square miles. It is home to some of the oldest geology in the Iberian Peninsula. Encircled by mountains, it’s red-brown soils bake under the intense summer sun. In the wine growing region of La Mancha drought may be an omnipresent threat, but vines benefit from 3,000 hours of sunlight per year. The largest continuous vine-growing area in the world, it produces vast amounts of wine, much of it very basic. In part because of La Mancha’s reputation for bulk-wine, the fringe area of Manchuela decided to split off and create its own appellation in 1982. Located inland from Valencia, it’s vineyards are mostly planted at an altitude of 600 – 700 meters above sea level. Some vineyards go as high as 1000 meters.

What

One reason that Manchuela growers felt confident enough to create their own appellation, was their extensive plantings of old-vine Bobal. A dark-skinned variety indigenous to southeastern Spain, it’s resistance to drought makes it the perfect grape for the Mesetas arid climate. It’s name derives from the latin word bovale, meaning bull. Other main red varieties grown include Cencibel (Tempranillo), Monastrell, Garnacha, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Syrah. The region also makes a distinctive style of wine called Doble Pasta. With this style, a wine is macerated and fermented with twice the normal amount of grape skins and pulp, to obtain high extract, colour and tannin. With the Cien y Pico Doble Pasta, Garnacha Tintorera (Alicante Bouschet) grapes are fermented over additional grape skins and pulp in small open vats for 10 days. 20% of this wine will then be aged for 19 months in Radoux oak barrels.

Who

Cien y Pico is something of an international affair. It’s four winemakers (Luis Juminez Garcia, Nicola Tuccci, Elena Golakova Brooks and Zar Brooks) hail from the countries of Spain, Italy, Bulgaria and Australia. Between them, they have worked as consultant winemakers all over the world. The first vintage was released in 2010. Their winery, based in the heart of the region in the village of Mahora, produces wines mainly from Garnacha Tintorera, plus Bobal and Syrah. The name Cien y Pico, meaning “Hundred & Something”, was a reference to the exceptionally old vines of Garnacha Tintorera planted in Manchuela. These gnarly old vines that appear to claw out of the arid soil and receive just 300mm of rain a year, produce tiny amounts of intense grapes that make intense wines. This exciting new winery is proving yet again that Spain is a wine producing country to be reckoned with.

Taste

This wine demands attention. Deeply coloured, it's packed with flavours of blackberry and plum, with a generous mouthfeel. Overflowing with richness, it has a pleasant roundness and subtly in its tannins. Very moreish. Certainly a fine candidate for any BBQ, but it would be next-level delicious with a plate Hong Shao Rou (Shanghai-Style Braised Pork Belly).